« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
"adverting to others which may chance to attend it; "as blue, green, hot, cold, and the like: these are capable of effecting all three of the purposes of "words; as the aggregate words, man, castle, horse, "&c. are in a yet higher degree. But I am of opi"nion, that the most general effect even of these words "does not arife from their forming pictures of the
feveral things they would reprefent in the imagina❝tion; because, on a very diligent examination of my "own mind, and getting others to confider theirs, I do "not find that once in twenty times any fuch picture "is formed; and when it is, there is most commonly "a particular effort of the imagination for that pur"pose. But the aggregate words operate, as I faid "of the compound abstracts, not by prefenting any "image to the mind, but by having from use the "fame effect on being mentioned, that their original "has when it is feen. Suppose we were to read a 64 paffage to this effect: "The river Danube rises in "a moift and mountainous foil in the heart of Ger.
many, where, winding to and fro, it waters feve"ral principalities, until turning into Auftria, and "leaving the walls of Vienna, it paffes into Hungary; "there with a vaft flood, augmented by the Saave " and the Drave, it quits Christendom, and rolling
through the barbarous countries which border on "Tartary, it enters by many mouths into the Black "Sea." In this defcription many things are mentioned; "as mountains, rivers, cities, the fea, &c. But let any body examine himself, and fee whether he has had impreffed on his imagination any pictures of a "river, mountain, watery foil, Germany, &c. Indeed, it
"is impoffible, in the rapidity and quick fucceffion of "words in converfation, to have ideas both of the "found of the word, and of the thing represented; "befides, fome words expreffing real effences,
are so mixed with others of a general and nominal import, that it is impracticable to jump from "fense to thought, from particulars to generals, "from things to words, in fuch a manner as to an "fwer the purposes of life; nor is it neceffary that "we fhould."
In farther confirmation of this do&rine, Mr. Burke refers to the poetical works of the late amiable and ingenious Dr. Blacklock. Here," fays he, “ is a poet, "doubtless as much affected by his oton defcriptions, as any that reads them can be; and yet he is affected "with this strong enthusiasm, by things of which he "neither has, nor can poffibly have, any idea, far"ther than that of a bare found; and why may not "those who read his works be affected in the fame "manner that he was, with as little of any real ideas "of the things described."
Before I proceed to make any remarks on these paffages, I muft obferve in general, that I perfectly agree with Mr. Burke, in thinking that a very great proportion of the words which we habitually employ, have no effect to "raife ideas in the mind;" or to ex ercise the powers of conception and imagination. My notions on this fubject I have already fufficiently explained in treating of Abstraction,
I agree with him farther, that a great proportion of the words which are ufed in poetry and eloquence, produce very powerful effects on the mind, by ex. Kk 3 citing
citing emotions which we have been accustomed to affociate with particular founds; without leading the imagination to form to itself any pictures or represent. ations and his account of the manner in which fuch words operate, appears to me fatisfactory. "Such "words are in reality but mere founds; but they are “sounds, which, being used on particular occasions, "wherein we receive fome good, or fuffer fome evil; "or fee others affected with good or evil; or which 66 we hear applied to other interesting things or 66 events; and being applied in such a variety of cases, "that we know readily by habit to what things they belong, they produce in the mind, whenever they "are afterwards mentioned, effects fimilar to those "of their occafions. The founds being often used "without reference to any particular occafion, and
carrying still their first impreffions, they at last utterly "lose their connexion with the particular occafions "that gave rise to them; yet the found, without any "annexed motion, continues to operate as before."
Notwithstanding, however, these conceffions, I cannot admit that it is in this way poetry produces its principal effect. Whence is it that general and ab ftract expreffions are fo tame and lifelefs, in comparison of those which are particular and figurative? Is it not because the former do not give any exercise to the imagination, like the latter? Whence the dif tinction, acknowledged by all critics, ancient and mo. dern, between that charm of words which evaporates in the process of tranflation, and thofe permanent beauties, which presenting to the mind the distinctness of a picture, may impart pleasure to the most remote
regions and ages? Is it not, that in the one case, the Poet addreffes himself to affociations which are local and temporary; in the other, to those effential principles of human nature, from which Poetry and Painting derive their common attractions? Hence, among the various fources of the fublime, the peculiar stress laid by Longinus on what he calls Vifions, (ouvracías) ——ὅταν ὁ λέγης, ὑπ' ἐνθουσιασμοῦ καὶ πάθους βλέπειν δοκῇς, καὶ ὑπ' ὄψιν τιθῇς τοῖς ἀκούουσιν *.
In treating of abftraction I formerly remarked, that the perfection of philofophical style is to approach as nearly as poffible to that fpecies of language we employ in algebra, and to exclude every expreffion which has a tendency to divert the attention by exciting the imagination, or to bias the judgment by cafual affociations. For this purpose the Philofopher ought to be sparing in the employment of figurative words, and to convey his notions by general terms which have been accurately defined. To the Orator, on the other hand, when he wishes to prevent the cool exercise of the understanding, it may, on the fame account, be frequently useful to delight or to agitate his hearers, by blending with his reafonings the illufions of poetry, or the magical influence of founds confecrated by popular feelings. A regard to the different ends thus aimed at in Philofophical and in Rhetorical compofition, renders the ornaments which are fo becoming in the one, inconfiftent with good taste and good fenfe, when adopted in the other.
* De Sublim. § xv.—Quas Parragia; Græci vocant, nos fané Vifiones appellamus; per quas imagines rerum abfentium ita repræfentantur animo, ut eas cernere oculis ac præfentes habere videamur. QUINCT. INST. Orat. vi. 2.
In Poetry, as truths and facts are introduced, not for the purpose of information, but to convey plea. fure to the mind, nothing offends more, than those general expreffions which form the great inftrument of philofophical reafoning. The original pleasures, which it is the aim of poetry to recal to the mind, are all derived from individual objects; and, of confequence, (with a very few exceptions, which it does not belong to my present subject to enumerate,) the more particular, and the more appropriated its language is, the greater will be the charm it poffeffes.
With respect to the defcription of the course of the Danube already quoted, I fhall not difpute the refult of the experiment to be as the author represents it. That words may often be applied to their proper purposes, without our annexing any particular notions to them, I have formerly fhewn at great length; and I admit that the meaning of this defcription may be fo understood. But to be understood, is not the fole object of the poet: his primary object, is to please; and the pleasure which he conveys will, in general, be found to be proportioned to the beauty and livelinefs of the images which he fuggefts. In the cafe of a poet born blind, the effect of poetry must depend on other caufes; but whatever opinion we may form on this point, it appears to me impoffible, that such a poet fhould receive, even from his own descriptions, the fame degree of pleasure which they may convey to a reader, who is capable of conceiving the scenes which are defcribed. Indeed this inftance which Mr. Burke produces in fupport of his theory, is fufficient of itself to fhew, that the