« PreviousContinue »
more deeply imprinted on the memory, and the fancy is amused and pleased by descriptions, episodes, and other embellishments, which the poet is at liberty to interweave into the thread of his discourse. Hence it is a field wherein he may gain great honour by the display of genius, knowledge, taste, and judgment.”
“I think you told me that episodes were embellishments introduced with the design of enlivening a dry subject, or relieving the ennui arising from a continuance of grave instruction."
“ Yes : and great licence is allowed in this particular to writers of didactic poetry. We soon become weary of a series of instruction, especially in a poetical work, where we look, as Rosina says, for entertainment. The great art of rendering a didactic poem interesting, is to relieve and amuse the reader by con
necting some agreeable episodes with the main subject. There is, indeed, nothing in poetry so entertaining or descriptive but what a didactic writer of genius may be allowed to introduce in some part of his work, provided always that such episodes be linked with sufficient connexion to the principal sub_ ject ; that they be not disproportioned in length to it, and that the author know how to detain his muse from soaring too high :. Upon the seraph wing of ecstacy,' :' as well as how to enable it to descend again with propriety to the plain and unornamented path of useful instruction. Virgil is justly considered as one of the first of didactic poets. His Georgics are intended to enforce the benefit arising from agricultural pursuits, to give profitable directions respecting them, &c., and he has the art not only of conveying
those instructions in a clear and agreea. ble manner, but also of raising and beautifying the most trifling circumstance in rural life. When he is informing the husbandman that the labour of the country, the tillage of the land, must begin in spring, he expresses himself thus : While yet the spring is young, while earth un
binds Her frozen bosom to the western winds; While mountain snows dissolve against the sun, And stream's yet new from precipices run ; E'en in this early dawning of the year, Produce the plough and yoke the sturdy steer, And goad him till he groans beneath his toil, Till the bright share is buried in the soil.
“Instead of desiring him in plain common-place language to water his grounds, he gives us a beautiful landscape: • Behold when burning suns, or Sirius' beams Strike fiercely on the field and withering stems,
Down from the summit of the neighbouring hills, O'er the smooth stones he calls the bubbling
rills; Soon as he clears whate'er their passage stayed, And marks their future current with his spade, Before him scattering they prevent his pains, And roll with hollow murmurs on the plains.'
“ Method and order are peculiarly requisite in didactic works of any kind whatsoever ; not so strict and formal as in a prose essay perhaps, yet such as may exhibit to the mind of the reader a regular and connected train of instruc
“Many of Cowper's poems are didactic compositions, interspersed with those beautiful images which give to all his writings a peculiar charm ; for no one better knew than he did how to delight the fancy and please the imagination, while, at the same time, he sought to improve the understanding and awaken the finest emotions of which the human
bosom is susceptible. Happy would it be were this the aim in every species of poetical composition! Let us endeavour to select and give the preference to such, and habitually remember that knowledge, whether derived from plain, unornamented prose, or from more entertaining poetical composition, is often, as Mrs. More remarks, the preservative of virtue ; and, next to right habits of sentiment and conduct, the best human source of happiness.''