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his first appearance, strains to make a figure, is too oftentatious to be relished. Hence the first sentences of a work ought to be short, natural and simple. Cicero, in his oration pro Archia poeta, errs against this rule : his reader is out of breath at the
very first period ; which seems never to end. Burnet bea. gins the History of his own Times with a period long and intricate.
A third rule or observation is, That where the subject is intended for entertainment folely, not for instruction, a thing ought to be described as it âppears, not as it is in reality. In running, for example, the impulse upon the ground is proportioned in some degree to the celerity of motion : though in appearance it is otherwise ; for a person in swift mo. tion seems to skim the ground, and scarcely to touch it. Virgil, with great taste, describes quick running according to appearance ; and raises an image får more lively than by adhering scrupulously to truth :
Hos fuper advenit Volsca de gente Camilla,
Æneid, vii. 803. This example is copied by the author of Telemachus :
Les Brutiens sont legeres à la course comme les cerfs, et comme les daims. On croiroit que l'herbemême la plus tendre n'est point foulée sous leurs pieds ; à peine laiflentils dans le fable quelques traces de leurs pas.
Liv. io. R2
Déjà il avoit abattu Eusilas si léger à la course, qu'à peine il imprimoit la trace de ses pas dans le sable, et qui devançoit dans son pays les plus rapides fots de l'Euroias et de l’Alphée.
Liv. 20. Fourth, In narration as well as in description, objects ought to be painted so accurately as to form in the mind of the reader distinct and lively images. Every useless circumstance ought indeed to be fuppressed, because every such circumstance loads the narration ; but if a circumstance be necessary, however flight, it cannot be described too minutely. The force of language consists in raising complete images ;* which have the effect to transport the reader as by magic into the very place of the important action, and to convert him as it were into a spectator, beholding every thing that passes. The narrative in an epic poem ought to rival a picture in the liveliness and accuracy of its representations: no circumstance must be omitted that tends to make a complete image ; bea cause an imperfect image, as well as any other imperfect conception, is cold and uninteresting. I shall illustrate this rule by several examples, giving the first place to a beautiful passage from Virgil :
Qualis populeâ morens Philomela sub umbra
Georg. 1:5. 4. l. 511.
The poplar, ploughman, and unfledged young, though not essential in the description, tend to make à complete image, and upon that account. are an embellishment.
Chap. 2. part 1. sc&t: 7.
Hic viridem Æneas frondenti ex ilice metam
Æneid, v. 129.
Horace, addressing to Fortune :
Carm. lib. 1. ode 35.
Prospiciens, et adulta virgo,
Carm. lib. 3. ode 2. Shakespear says,* “ You may as well go about to turn the sun to ice by fanning in his face with a peacock's feather.” The peacock's feather, not to mention the beauty of the object, completes the image: an accurate image cannot be formed of that fanciful operation, without conceiving a particular feather ; and one is at a loss when this is neglected in the de. scription. Again, “ the rogues flighted me into the river with as little remorse, as they would have drown'd a bitch's blind puppies, fifteen i' th’ litter."
Old Lady. You would not be a queen?
Old Lady. 'Tis strange : a threepence bow'd would hire me, old as I am, to queen it.
Henry VIII. acl 2. sc. 5.
Henry V. ad 4. fc. 4. + Merry Wives of Windsor, act 3.
In the following passage, the action with all its maa
He spake ; and to confirm his words, out-flew
Milton, b. I.
A passage I am to cite from Shakefpear, falls not
O you hard hearts ! you cruel men of Rome!
not made an universal hout,
Julius Cafar, act 1. fc. 1. The following passage is scarce inferior to either of those mentioned :
Far before the rest, the son of Orlian comes ; bright in the smiles of youth, fair as the firit beams of the fun. His
long hair waves on his back : his dark brow is half bcneath his helmet. The sword hangs loose on the hero's side ; and his spear glitters as he moves. I fled from his terrible eye, King of high Temora.
The Henriade of Voltaire errs greatly against the foregoing rulę : every incident is touched in a fummary way, without ever descending to circumstances. This manner is good in a general history, the purpose of which is to record important tranfactions : but in a fable it is cold and uninteresting ; because it is impracticable to form distinct images of persons or things represented in a manner so superficial.
It is observed above, that every useless circumstance ought to be suppressed. The crowding fuch circumstances, is, on the one hand, no less to be avoided, than the conciseness for which Voltaire is blamed, on the other. In the Æneid,* Barce, the nurse of Si.. chæus, whom we never hear of before nor after, is introduced for a purpose not more important than to call Anna to her sister Dido ; and that it might not be thought unjust in Dido, even in this trivial circumstance, to prefer her husband's nurse before her own,
poet takes care to inform his reader, that Dido's nurse was dead. To this I must oppose a beautiful passage in the same book, where, after Dido's last speech, the poet, without detaining his readers by describing the manner of her death, hastens to the lamentation of her attendants ;
Dixerat : atque illam media inter talia ferro
Lb. 4. 1. 663
As * Lib. 4,1, 622,