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nions, as dispose them to believe these particular delusions; at least we have all heard so many pleasing relations in savour of them, that we do not care for seeing through the falshood, and willingly give ourselves up to fo agreeable an imposture
The ancients have not much of this poetry among them; for, indeed, almost the whole substance of it owes its original to the darkness and superstition of later ages, when pious frauds were made use of to amuse mankind, and irighten them into a sense of their dutv. Our forefathers looked upon nature with more reverence and horror, before the world was enlightned by learning and philosophy, and loved to astonish themselves with the apprehensions of witchcraft, prodigies, charms and inchantments. There was not a village in England that had not a ghost in it, the churchyards were all haunted, every large common had a circle of fairies belonging to it, and there was scarce a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit.
Among all the poets of this kind our Englijh are much the best, by what I have yet seen; whether it be that we abound with more stories of this nature, or that the genius of our country is sitter for this sort of poetry. For the Englijh are naturally fanciful, and very often disposed by that gloominess and melancholy of temper, which is so frequent in our nation, to many wild notions and visions, to which others are not ib liable.
Among the Englijh, Sbakespear has incomparably excelled all others. That noble extravagance of fancy, which he had in so great perfection, thoroughly qualisied him to touch this weak superstitious part of his reader's imagination; and made him capable of succeeding, where he had nothing to support him besides the strength of his own genius. There is fometh ng so wild and yet so solemn in his speeches of his ghosts, fairies, witches and the like imaginary persons, that we cannot forbear thinking them natural, tho' we have no rule by which to judge of them, and must consess, if there are such beings in the world, it looks highly probable they mould talk and act as he has represented them.
There is another sort cf imaginary beings, that we sometimes meet with among the poets, when the author represents any passion, appetite, virtue or vice, under a visible shape, and makes it a person or an actor in his poem. Of this nature are the descriptions of Hunger and Envy in Ovid, ot Fame in Virgil, and of S;n and Death in Milton. We sind a whole creation of the like shadowy persons in Spenser, who had ankadmirable talent in representations of this kind. I have discoursed of these emblematical persons in former papers, and shall therefore only mention them in this place. Thus we fee how many ways poetry addresses itself to the imagination, as it has not only the whole circle of nature for its province, but makes new worlds of its own, shews us persons who are not to be found in being, and represents even the faculties of the foul, with the several virtues and vices, in a sensible shape and character.
I shall, in my two following papers, consider in general, how other kinds of writing are qualisied to please-, the imagination, with which 1 intend to conclude this essay. Q.
N? 420 Wednesday, July 2.
"2>uocunque voliwt tnentem auditoris agunto.
Hor. ArsPoet. v. 100.
.And raise mens passions to what height they will.
,- R OSCOMMON.
AS the writers in poetry and siction borrow their several materials from outward objects, and join. 1 them together at their own pleasure, there are
others who are obliged to follow nature more closely, and to take intire scenes out of her. Such are historians, natural philosophers, travellers, geographers, and in a word, all who describe visible objects of a real existence.
It is the moll agreeable talent of an historian to be able to draw up his armies and sight his battles in proper expressions, to set before our eyes the divisions, cabals and jealousies of great men, to lead us step by step into the several actions and events of hi? history. We love to fee the subject unsolding itself by just degrees, and breaking upon us insensibly, that so we may b'e kept in a pleasing suspence, and have time given us to raise our expectations, and to side with one of the parties concerned in the relation. I consess this shews more the art than the veracity of the historian, but I am only to Jpeak of him as he is qualisied to please the imagination. And in this respect Livy has, perhaps, excelled all who went before him, or have written since his time. He describes every thing in lo lively a manner, that his whole history is an admirable picture, and touches on such proper circumstances in every story, that his reader becomes a kind of spectator, and feels in himself all the variety of passions which are correspondent to the several parts of the relations.
But among this set of writers there arc none who more gratify and enlarge the imagination, than the authors of the new philosophy, whether we consider their theories of the earth or heavens, the discoveries they have made by glasses, or any other of their contemplations on nature. We are not a little pleased to sind every green leaf swarm with millions of animals, that at their largest growth are not visible to the naked eye. There is something very engaging to the fancy, as well as to our reason, in the treatises of metals, minerals, plants, and meteors. But when we survey the whole earth at once, and the several planets that lie within its neighbourhood, we are silled with a pleasing all nishinent, to see so many worlds hanging one above another, and Ailing round their axles in such an amazing pomp and solemnity If, after thL, we contemplate those wild sields of Æther, that reaeh in height as tar as from Saturn to the six'd stars, and run abroad almost to an insinitude, our imagination sinds its caj a it) silled with lo immense a prospect, and puts itself upon the stretch to comprehend it. But if .ve yet rise higher, and consider ihe six'd stars as so many vasts cceans of flame, "vol. VI. E that that are each of them attended with a disferent set of planets, and still discover new sirmaments and new lights that are funk farther in those unsathomable depths of Æther, so as not to be seen by the strongest of our telescopes, we are lost in such a labyrinth of suns and worlds, and consounded with the immensity and magnisicence of nature.
Nothing is more pleasant to the fancy, than to enlarge itself by degrees, in its contemplation of the various proportions which its several objects bear to each other, when it compares the body of man to the bulb of the whole earth, the earth to the circle it describes round the fun, that circle to the sphere os the six'd stars, the sphere of the Jix'd stars to the circuit of the -whole creation, the whole creation itself to the insinite space that is every where diffused about it; or when the imagination works downward, and considers the bulk of a human body, in respect of an animal a hundred times less than a mite, the particular limbs of such an animal, the disferent springs that actuate the limbs, the spirits which set the springs a going, and the proportionable minuteness of these leveral parts, before they have arrived at their full growth and perfection. But if, -after all this, we take the least particle of these animal spirits, and consider its capacity of being wrought int« a world that shall contain within those narrow dimensions a heaven and earth, stars and planets, and every disferent species of living creatures, in the fame analogy and proportion they bear to each other in our own universe; such a speculation,- by reason of its nicety, .appears ridiculous to those who have not turned their thoughts that way, though at the fame time it is founded on no less than the evidence of a demonstration. Nay, -we may yet carry it farther, and discover in the smallest particle of this little world a new exhausted fund of matter, capable of being spun out into another universe.
I have dwelt the longer on this subject, because 1 think it may shew us the proper limits, as well as the defectiveness of our imagination; how it is consined to a very small quantity of soace, and immediately stopt in its operations, when it endeavours to take in any thing that is very great, or very little. Let a man try to con1 ceive ceive the different bulk of an animal, which is twenty, from another which is an hundred times less than a mite, or to compare, in his thoughts, a length of a thousand diameters of the earth, with that of a million, and he will quickly sind that he has no different measures in his mind, adjusted to such extraordinary degrees of grandeur or minuteness. The understanding, indeed, opens en insinite space on every side of us, but the imagination, after a few faint efforts, is immediately at a stand, and sinds herself swallowed up in the immensity of the void that surrounds it: Our reason can pursue a particle of matter through an infinite variety of divisions, but the fancy soon loses sight of it, and feels in itself a kind of chasm, that wants to be silled with matter of a more sensible bulk. We can neither widen nor contrast the faculty to the dimension of either extreme. The object is too big for our capacity, when we would comprehend the circumference of aworld, and dwindles into nothing, when we endeavour after the idea of an atom.
It is possible this defect of imagination may not be in the soul itself, but as it acts in conjunction with the body. Perhaps there may not be room in the brain for such a variety of impressions, or the animal spirits may be incapable of siguring them in such a manner, as is necessary to excite so very large or very minute ideas. However it be, we may well suppose that beings of a higher nature very much excel us in this respect, as it is probable the soul of man will be insinitely more perfect hereafter in this faculty, as well as in all the rest; infomuch that, perhaps, the imagination will be able to keep pace with the understanding, and to form in itself distinct ideas of all the different modes and quantities of space. O