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but the action of the mind, which compares the idea's that arise from words, with the ideas that arise from objects themselves; and why this operation of she mind is attended with so much pleasure, we have before considered. For this reason therefore, the description of a
represented to our minds by suitable expressions; thd* perhaps, this may be more properly called the pleasure of the understanding than of the fancy, because we are? not so much delighted with the image that is contained in the description, as with the aptness of the description to excite the image.
But if the description os what is little, common, or deformed, be acceptable to the imagination, the description of what is great, surprising, or beautiful, is much more so; because here we are not only delighted with comparing the representation with the original, but are highly pleased with the original itself. Most readers, I believe, are more charmed with Milton's description of paradise, than of hell t they are both, perhaps, equally perfect in their kind, but in the one the brim* stone and sulphur are not so refreshing to the imagination, as the beds of flowers and the wilderness of sweets io the other.
There is yet another circumstance which recommends a description more than all the rest, and that is if ic represents to us such objects as are apt to raise a secret ferment in the mind of the reader, and to work, with violence upon his passions. For, in this cafe, we are at once warmed and enlightened, so that the pleasure becomes more universal, and is several ways qualisied to entertain us. Thus in painting, it is pleasant to look on the picture of any face, where the resemblance is hit, but the pleasure increases, if it be the picture of a face that is beautiful, and is still greater, if the beauty be sostned with an air of melancholy or sorrow. The two leading passions which the more serious parts of poetry endeavour to stir up in us, are terror and pity. And here, by the way, one would wonder how it comes to pass, that such passions as are very unpleasant at all other times, are very agreeable when excited by proper descriptions. It is not strange, that we ihould take de
dunghil is pleasing to the i
light light in such passages as are apt to produce, hope, joy, admiration, love, or the like emotions in us, because they never rife in the mind without an inward pleasure which attends them. But how comes it to pass, that we should nke delight in being terrisied or dejected by a description, when we sind so much uneasiness in the fear or grief which we receive from any other occasion?
If we consider, therefore, the nature of this pleasure, we shall sind that it does not arise so properly from the description of what is terrible, as from the reflection we make on ourselves at the time of reading it. When we look on such hideous objects, we are not a litrle pleased to think we are in no danger of them. We consider them, at the same time, as dreadful and harmless; so that the more frightful appearance they make, the greater is the pleasure we receive from the sense of our own safety. In short, we look upon the terrors of a description, with the fame curiosity and satisfaction that we survey a dead monster.
Protrabitur: nequeunt exphri coria tuenit
Virg. Æn. 8. v. 264.
• They drag him from his den.
The wond'ring neighbourhood, withglad surprise,"! Beheld his shagged breast, his giant size, I
tf .1 .' _ i -Jl! ! :n.i j >
His mouth that flames no more, and his extinguished eyes. J
It is for the fame reason that we are delighted with the reflecting upon dangers that are past, or in looking on a precipice at a distance, which would sill us with a different kind of horror, if we saw it hanging over our heads.
In the like manner, when we read of torments, wounds, deaths, and the like dismal accidents, our pleasure does not flow so properly from the grief which such melancholy descriptions give us, as from the secret comparison which we made between ourselves and the
person person who suffers. Such representations teach us to set ajust value upon our own condition, and make us prize our good fortune, which exempts us from the like calamities. This is, however, such a-kind of pleasure as we are not'Capable of receiving, when we see a person actually lying under the tortures that we meet with in a description; because in this case, the object presses too dose upon our senses, and bears so hard upon us, that it does not give us time or leisure to reflect on ourselves. Our thoughts are so intent upon the miseries of the sufferer, that we cannot turn them upon our own happiness. Whereas, on the contrary, we consider the misfortunes we read in history or poetry, either as past, or as 'sictitious, so that the reflexion upon ourselves rises in us insensibly, and overbears the sorrow we conceive for the sufferings of the asflicted.
But because the mind of man requires something more perfect in matter, than what it sinds there, and can never meet with any sight in nature which sufsiciently answers its highest ideas of pleasantness; or, in other words, because the imagination can fancy to itself things more great, strange, or beautiful, than the eye ever saw, and is still sensible of some defect in what it has seen; on this account it is the part of a poet to humour the imagination in our own notions, by mending and perfecting nature where he describes a reality, and by adding greater beauties than are put together in nature, where he describes a siction.
He is not obliged to attend her in the flow advances which she makes from one season to another, or to observe her conduct in the successive production of plants and flowers. He may draw into his description all the beauties of the spring and autumn, and make the whole year contribute something to render it the more agreeable. His rose trees, wood-bines and jessamines may flower together, and his beds be cover'd at the fame time with lilies, violets and amaranths. His foil is not restrained to any particular set of plants, but is proper either for oaks or myrtles, and adapts itself to the products of every climate. Oranges may grow wild in it; myrrh may be met with in every hedge, and if he thinks it proper to have a grove of spices, he call quickly command mand sun enough to raise it. If all this will not furnish out an agreeable scene, he can make several new species of flowers, with richer scents and higher colours than any that grow in the gardens ot Nature. His consorts of birds may be as full and harmonious, and his woods as thick and gloomy as he pleases. He is at no more expence in a long vista, than a short one, and can as easily throw his cascades from a precipice of half a mile high, as from one of twenty yards. He has his choice of the winds, and can turn the course of his rivers in all the variety of meanders, that are moll delightful to the reader's imagination. In a word, he has the modelling op r.ati:re in his own hands, and may give her what chaims he pleases, provided he does not reform her too much and run into absurdities, by endeavouring to excel, Q
N? 419 Tuesday, July I.
—mentis gratijjimus error. Hor. F.p. 2. 1 2. v. 140; In pleasing error lost, and charmingly deceiv'd.
THERE is a kind of writing, wherein the poet quite loses sight of Nature, and entertains his readei's imagination with the characters and actions of such persons as have many of them no existence, but what he bestows on them. Such are fairies, witches, magicians, demons, and departed spirits. This Mr. Dryden calls The fairy way of writing, which is, indeed, more disficult than any other that depends on the poet's fancy, because he has no pattern to follow in it, and must work altogether out of. his own invention.
There is. a very odd turn of thought required for thjs fort of writing, and it is impossible for a poet to succeed in it, who has not a particular cast of fancy, and an imagination naturally fruitful and superstitious. Besides this, hie ought to be very well versed in legends and fables,, antiquated romances, -and the traditions of nurses
and old women, that he may fall in with our natural prejudices, and humour those notions which we have imbibed in our insancy. For otherwise he will be apt to make his fairies talk like people of his own species, and not like other sets of beings, who converse with dif>ferent objects, and think in a different manner from that of mankind.
Sylvis deduiJi datieam, me judice, Jim*!*,
Hor. Ars Poet. v. 2^4,
1 do not say, with Mr. Says in the Rehearsal, that spirits m«st not be -consined to speak sense, but it is certain their fense ought to be a little discoloured, that it may seem particular, and proper to the person and condition of the speaker.
Thele descriptions raise a pleasing kind of horror in the mind of the reader, and amuse his imagination with the strangeness and novelty of the persons who are represented in then*. They bring up into our memory the stories we have heard in our childhood, and favour those secret terrors and apprehensions to which the mind of man is naturally subject. We are pleased with surveying the different habits and behaviours of foreign countries; how much more must we be delighted and surprised when we are led, as it were, into a new creation, -and fee the persons and manners of another species? Men of cold fancies, and philosophical dispositions, object tt> this kind of poetry, that it has not probability enough to affect the imagination. But to this it may be answered, that we are sure, in general, there are many intellectual beings in the world besides ourselves, and several species of spirits, who are subject to different laws and occonomies from those of mankind; when we see. therefore, any of these represented naturally, we cannot look upon the representation as altogether impossible ; nay, many are prepossest with such false opi