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N° 417 Saturday, June 28.
Shtem tu, Melpomine, semel
Non ilium lahor IJlbmius
tt spiffæ nemorum coinæ Fingent Æs.is carmine nobilem.
Hor. Od. 3 I. 4. v. 1.
At whose blest birth propitious rays
No dusky Isthmian game
Or, to reward his toil,
Shall raise a lasting name,
For Lyric verie. Cr E Ech.
WE may observe, that any single circumstance of what we have formely seen often raises up a whole scene of imagery, and awakens numberless ideas that before slept in the imagination; such a particular smell or colour'is able to sill the aiind, on a sudden, with the picture of the sields or gardens where we sirst met with it, and to bring up into view all the variety of images that once attended it. Our imagination takes the hint, and leads us unexpectedly into cities or theatres, plains or meadows. We may further observe, when the fancy thus reflects on the scenes that have past in it formerly, those, which were at sirst pleasant to behold, appear more so upon reflexion, and that the memory heightens the delightfulness of the original. A Cartejiaa would account for both these instances in the following manner.
The set of ideas which we received from such a prospect or garden, having entred the mind at the same time, have a set of traces belonging to them in the brain, bordering very near upon one another; when, therefore, any one of these ideas arises in the imagination, and consequently dispatches a flow of animal ipirits to its proper trace, these spirits, in the violence of their motion, run not only into the trace, to which they were more particularly directed, but into several of those that lie about it: By this means they awaken other ideas of the fame set, which immediately determine a new dispatch of spirits, that in the fame manner open other neighbouring traces, till at last the whole set of them is blown up, and the whole prospect or garden flourishes in the imagination. But because the pleasure we received from these places far surmounted, and overcame the little difagreeableness we found in them; for this reason there was at sirst a wider passage worn in the pleasure traces, and on the contrary, so narrow a one in those which belonged to the disagreeable ideas, that they were quickly stoptup, and render'd incapable of receiving any animal spirits, and-consequently of exciting any unpleasant ideas in the memory.
It would be in vain to inquire, whether the power of imagining things strongly proceeds from any greater perfection in the foul, or from any nicer texture in the brain of one man than of another. But this is certain, that a noble writer should be born with this faculty in its full strength and vigour, so as to be able to receive lively ideas from outward objects, to retain them long,, and to range them together, upon occasion, in such sigures and representations, as are most likely to hit the fancy of the reader. A poet should take as much pains in forming his imagination, as a philosopher in cultivating his understanding. He muft gain a due relish of the works of nature, and be thoroughly conversant in the various scenery of a country life.
When he is stored with cotmtiy images, if he would go beyond pastoral, and the lower kinds of poetry, he ought to acquaint himself with the pomp and magnisicence of courts. He should be very well versed in every thing that is noble and stately in the productions
of of art, whether it appear in painting or statuary, in the great works of architecture which are in their present glory, or in the ruins of those which flourished in former ages.
Such advantages as these help to open a man's thoughts, and to enlarge his imagination, and will therefore have their influence on all kinds of writing, if the author knows how to make right use of them And among those of the learned languages who excel in thi3 talent, the most perfect in their several kinds are perhaps Homer, Virgil, and Ovid. The sirst strikes the imagination wonderfully with what is great, the second with what is beautiful, and the last with what is strange. Reading the Iliad is like travelling through a country uninhabited, where the fancy is entertained with a thousand savage prospects of vast deserts, wide uncultivated marshes, huge forests, mishapen rocks and precipices. On the contrary, the Æneld is like a well ordered garden, where it is impossible to sind out any part unadorned, or to cast our eyes upon a single spot, that does not produce some beautiful plant or flower. But when we are in the Metnmorphofis we are walking on enchanted ground, and see nothing but scenes' of magic lying round us.
Homer is in his province, when, he is describing a battle or a multitude, a hero or a god. Virgil is never better pleased, than when he is in his Elyfium, or copying out an entertaining picture. Homer's epithets generally mark out what is great. Virgil's what is agreeable. Isiothing can be more magnisicent than the sigure Jupiter makes in the sirst Illiad, nor more charming than that of Venus in the sirst Æneid.
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Iliad lib. 1. v. 528.
He spoke, and awful bends his fable brows; Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod, The Hamp of fate, and sanction of the God: High heav'n with trembling the dread signal took, And all Olympus to the center Ihcok. Po?!.
Dixit y avert ens rose a cervice refulstt: Ambrojiæquc com e divinum <vertice cdorem ; Spiravere: Pcdes <vejiis defluxit ad imas, kt mera ince£'u patuit Dea—r Æn I. v. 406.
Thus having said, she turn'd and made appear
And widely spread ambrosial scents around:
Homer's persons are most of them godlike and terrible; Virgil has scarce admitted any into his poem, who are not beautiful, and has taken particular care to make his hero so.
Æn. i. v. 59c;
In a word, Hcmer sills his readers with sublime ideas, and, 1 believe, has raised the imagination of all the good poets that have come after him. I shall only instance Horace., who immediately takes sire at the sirst hint of any passage in the Iliad or Odyssey, and always rises above himself, when he has Homer in his view. Virgil has drawn together, into his Æn?id, all the pleasing scenes his subject is capable of admitting, and in his Georgia "has given us a collection of the most delightful landfkips that .can be made out of sields and woods, herds of cattle and swarms of bees.
Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, has shewn us how the imagination may be asfected by what is strange. He describes a miracle in every story,, and always gives us the sight of some new creature at the end of it. His art consists chiefly in well timing his description, before the sirst shape is quite worn off, and the new one perfectly sinished; so that he every where entertains us with something thing we never saw before, and shews monster after monster to the end of the Metamorphofis.
If I were to name a poet that is a perfect master in all these arts of working on the imagination, I think Milton may jass for one: And if his Paradiie. Lnji ialls short of the Æneid or ///Win this respect, it proceeds rather from the fault of the language in which it is written, than irom any defect of genius in the author. So -divine a poem in Englijh, is like a ltately palace built of brick, where one may fee architecture in as great a perfection as in one of marble, though the materials are of a coarser nature. But to consider it only as it regards our present subject ; what can be conceived greater than the battle of angels, the majesty of Messiah, the stature and behaviour oi Satan and his peers? What more beautiful than Pandam'.nium, paradise, heaven, angels, Adam and Eves Whaj more strange, than the creation of the world, the several metamorphoses of the fallen angels, and the surprising adventures their leader meets with in his search after paradise f No other subject could have furnished a poet with scenes so proper to strike the imagination, as no other poet coiild have painted those scenes in more strong and lively colours. O
No 418 Monday, June 30.
feret & rubus a/per amomum.
Virg. Eel. }. v. 89
The rugged thorn shall bear the fragrant rose.
THE pleasures of these secondary views of the imagination, are of a wider and more universal nature than those it has when joined With sight; for not only what is great, strange or beautiful, but any thing that is disagreeable when look'd upon, pleases us in an apt description. Here, therefore, we must in quire a new principle of pleasure, which is nothing else