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kind, than those which date their origin from the caprices of our own age are ever likely to be. An admiration for the claffical remains of antiquity is, at prefent, not lefs general in Europe, than the advantages of a liberal education: and fuch is the effect of this admiration, that there are certain caprices of Tafte, from which no man who is well educated is entirely free. A compofition in a modern language, which fhould fometimes depart from the ordinary modes of expreffion, from an affectation of the idioms which are confecrated in the claffics, would please a very wide circle of readers, in consequence of the prevalence of claffical affociations; and, therefore, fuch affectations, however abfurd, when carried to a degree of fingularity, are of a far fuperior class to those which are adapted to the fashions of the day. But ftill the general principle holds true, That whatever beauties derive their original merely from cafual affociation, muft appear capricious to those to whom the affociation does not extend; and that the fimpleft style is that which continues longeft to please, and which pleases moft univerfally. In the writings of Mr. Harris, there is a certain claffical air, which will always have many admirers, while antient learning continues to be cultivated; but which, to a mere English reader, appears fomewhat unnatural and ungraceful, when compared with the compofition of Swift or of Addison.
The analogy of the arts of ftatuary and painting, may be of ufe in illuftrating these remarks. The influence of ancient times has extended to these, as well as to the art of writing; and in this case, no lefs than in the other, the tranfcendent power of
379 ́genius has established a propriety of choice in matters of indifference, and has, perhaps, confecrated, in the opinion of mankind, fome of its own caprices.
"Many of the ornaments of art," (fays Sir Joshua Reynolds,)" thofe at least for which no reason can be "given, are tranfmitted to us, are adopted, and acquire their confequence, from the company in which ,66 we have been used to fee them. As Greece and "Rome are the fountains from whence have flowed "all kinds of excellence, to that veneration which they "have a right to claim for the pleasure and knowledge "which they have afforded us, we voluntarily add our "approbation of every ornament and every custom "that belonged to them, even to the fashion of their
dress. For it may be obferved, that, not fatisfied "with them in their own place, we make no difficulcc ty of dreffing ftatues of modern heroes or fenators "in the fashion of the Roman armour, or peaceful "robe; and even go fo far as hardly to bear a statue " in any other drapery.
"The figures of the great men of those nations "have come down to us in fculpture. In fculpture "remain almost all the excellent specimens of ancient We have fo far affociated perfonal dignity to "the perfons thus reprefented, and the truth of art "to their manner of reprefentation, that it is not in "our power any longer to feparate them. This is not "fo in painting: becaufe, having no excellent antient "portraits, that connection was never formed. In"deed, we could no more venture to paint a general "officer in a Roman military habit, than we could "make
"make a statue in the prefent uniform. But fince we "have no antient portraits, to fhew how ready we are "to adopt those kind of prejudices, we make the best "authority among the moderns ferve the fame pur"pose. The great variety of excellent portraits with " which Vandyke has enriched this nation, we are "not content to admire for their real excellence, but "extend our approbation even to the dress which hap"pened to be the fashion of that age. By this means, "it must be acknowledged, very ordinary pictures ac"quired fomething of the air and effect of the works "of Vandyke, and appeared therefore, at first sight, "better pictures than they really were. They ap"peared fo, however, to those only who had the "means of making this affociation *."
The influence of affociation on our notions concerning language, is still more ftrongly exemplified in poetry than in profe. As it is one great object of the poet, in his serious productions, to elevate the imagination of his readers above the groffness of fenfible objects, and the vulgarity of common life, it becomes peculiarly neceffary for him to reject the ufe of all words and phrases which are trivial and hackneyed. Among those which are equally pure and equally perfpicuous, he, in general, finds it expedient to adopt that which is the least com. mon. Milton prefers the words Rhene and Danaw, to the more common words Rhine and Danube :
"A multitude, like which the populous North
*REYNOLDS's Difcourfes, p. 313, et feq.
In the following line,
"Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme," how much more fuitable to the poetical style does the expreffion appear, than if the author had faid,
"Things unattempted yet in profe or verfe."
In another passage, where, for the fake of variety, he has made ufe of the laft phrafe, he adds an epithet, to remove it a little from the familiarity of ordinary discourse,
" in profe or numerous verfe*."
In confequence of this circumftance, there arifes gradually in every language a poetical diction, which differs widely from the common diction of profe. It is much less subject to the viciffitudes of fashion, than the polite modes of expreffion in familiar conversation; because, when it has once been adopted by the poet, it is avoided by good profe-writers, as being too elevated for that species of compofition. It may therefore retain its charm, as long as the language exists; nay, the charm may increase, as the language grows older.
Indeed, the charm of poetical diction must increase to a certain degree, as polite literature advances. For when once a fet of words has been confecrated to poetry, the very found of them, independently of the ideas they convey, awakens, every time we hear it, the agreeable impreffions which were connected with it when we met with them in the performances of our favourite authors. Even when ftrung together in fentences
*Paradise Loft, book i. l. 150. See NEWTON's Edit.
which convey no meaning, they produce fome effect on the mind of a reader of fenfibility: an effect, at least, extremely different from that of an unmeaning sentence in profe.
Languages differ from each other widely in the copioufness of their poetical diction. Our own poffeffes, in this respect, important advantages over the French: not that, in this language, there are no words appropriated to poetry, but because their number is, comparatively speaking, extremely limited.
The fcantinefs of the French poetical diction is, probably, attended with the lefs inconvenience, that the phrafes which occur in good profe-writing are lefs degraded by vulgar application than in English, in confequence of the line being more distinctly and more ftrongly drawn between polite and low expreffions in that language than in ours. Our poets, indeed, by having a language appropriated to their own purposes, not only can preserve dignity of expreffion, but can connect with the perufal of their compofitions, the pleafing impreffions which have been produced by those of their predeceffors. And hence, in the higher forts of poetry, where their object is to kindle, as much as poffible, the enthufiafm of their readers, they not only avoid, ftudioufly, all expreflions which are vulgar, but all fuch as are borrowed from fafhionable life. This certainly cannot be done in an equal degree by a poet who writes in the French language.
In English, the poetical diction is fo extremely co. pious, that it is liable to be abufed; as it puts it in the power of authors of no genius, merely by ringing changes on the poetical vocabulary, to give a certain