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life. But what I have here faid of epick and dramatick poems does not extend to fuch writings, the very frame and model of which is defigned to be Allegorical; in which, therefore, as I faid before, fuch unfubftantial and fymbolical actors may be very properly admitted.
Every Book of the Faerie Queene is fruitful of thefe vifionary beings, which are invented and drawn with a furprising ftrength of imagination. I fhall produce but one inftance here, which the reader may compare with that just mentioned in Virgil, to which it is no way inferior; it is in Book II. where Mammon conducts Guyon through a cave under ground to fhow him his treafure.
"At length they came into a larger space, ". That ftretcht itfelfe into an ample playne, "Through which a beaten broad high way did trace, "That ftreight did lead to Plutoe's griefly rayne:
By that wayes fide there fate infernall Payne, "And faft befide him fat tumultuous Strife;
"The one in hand an yron whip did strayne,
"And both did gnash their teeth, and both did threaten
"On the other fide in one confort there fate "Cruell Revenge, and rancorous Despight,
Difloyall Treafon, and hart-burning Hate; "But gnawing Gealofy, out of their fight "Sitting alone, his bitter lips did bight; "And trembling Feare still to and fro did fly, "And found no place wher fafe he shroud him might: "Lamenting Sorrow did in darknes lye; "And Shame his ugly face did hide from living eye.
"And over them fad Horror with grim hew
"Did alwaies fore, beating his yron wings;
"That hart of flint afonder could have rifte; "Which having ended after him the flyeth fwifte.
"All these before the gates of Pluto lay, &c."
The pofture of Jealoufy, and the motion of Fear, in this defcription, are particularly fine. These are inftances of Allegorical perfons, which are shown only in one tranfient view. The reader will every where meet with others in this Author, which are employed in the action of the poem, and which need not be mentioned here.
Having thus endeavoured to give a general idea of what is meant by Allegory in poetry, and fhown what kind of perfons are frequently employed in it, I fhall proceed to mention fome properties which feem requifite in all well-invented fables of this kind.
There is no doubt but men of critical learning, if they had thought fit, might have given us rules about Allegorical writing, as they have done about epick, and other kinds of poetry; but they have rather chofen to let this foreft remain wild, as if they thought there was fomething in the nature of the foil which could not fo well be reftrained and cultivated in enclosures. What Sir William Temple obferves about rules in general, may perhaps be more particularly applicable to this; that "they may poffibly hinder fome from being very bad poets, but are not capable of making any very good one." Notwithstanding this, they are ufeful to help our obfervation in diftinguifhing the beauties and the blemishes in fuch works as have been already produced. I fhall therefore beg leave to mention four qualities which I think are effential to every good Allegory; the three firft of which relate to the Fable, and the laft to the Moral.
The firft is, that it be lively and furprifing. The Fable, or literal fenfe, being that which moft immediately offers itself to the reader's obfervation, muft have this property, in order to raife and entertain his curiofity. As there is, therefore, more invention employed in a work of this kind than in mere narration, or defcription, or in general amplifications on any fubject, it confequently requires a more than ordinary heat of fancy in its firft production. If the Fable, on the contrary, is flat, fpiritlefs, or barrren of invention, the reader's imagination is not affected, nor his attention engaged, though the inftruction conveyed under it be ever fo useful or important.
The fecond qualification I fhall mention is elegance, or a beautiful propriety and aptnefs in the Fable to the fubject on which it is employed. By this quality the invention of the poet is reftrained from taking too great a compafs, or lofing itself in a confufion of ill-forted ideas. Such reprefentations as that mentioned by Horace, of dolphins in a wood, or boars in the fea, being fit only to furprise the imagination, without pleafing the judgment. The fame Moral may likewife be expreffed in different Fables, all of which may be lively and full of fpirit, yet not equally elegant, as various dreffes may be made for the fame body, yet not equally becoming. As it therefore requires a heat of fancy to raife images and resemblances, it requires a good tafte to diftinguish and range them, and to choose the most proper and beautiful, where there appears an almoft diftracting variety. I may compare this to Eneas fearching in the wood for the golden bough; he was at a lofs where to lay his hand, till his mother's doves, defcending in his fight, flew before him, and perched on the tree where it was to be found.
Another effential property is, that the Fable be every where confiftent with itself. As licentious as Allegorical fiction may feem in fome refpects, it is, nevertheless, fubject to this restraint. The poet is, indeed, at liberty in choofing his story, and inventing his perfons, but, after he has introduced them, he is obliged to fuftain them in their proper characters, as well as in more regular kinds of writing. It is difficult to give particular rules under this head; it may fuffice to fay that this wild nature is, however, fubject to an economy proper to itfelf; and, though it may fometimes feem extravagant, ought never to be abfurd. Moft of the Allegories in the Faerie Queene are agreeable to this rule; but in one of his other poems the Author has manifeftly tranfgreffed it; the poem I mean is that which is called Prothalamion. In this the two brides are figured by two beautiful fwans failing down the river Thames. The Allegory breaks, before the reader is prepared for it; and we fee them, at their landing, in their true shapes, without knowing how this fudden change is effected. If this had been only a fimile, the poet might have dropped it at pleasure; but, as it is an Allegory, he ought to have made it of a piece, or to have invented fome probable means of coming out of it.
The laft property I fhall mention is, that the Allegory be clear and intelligible; the Fable being defigned only to clothe and adorn the Moral, but not to hide it, fhould, methinks, refemble the draperies we admire in fome of the ancient statues, in which the folds are not too many, nor too thick, but fo judiciously ordered, that the shape and beauty of the limbs may be feen through them.
It must be confeffed, that many of the ancient Fables appear to us, at this diftance of time, very perplexed and dark; and, if they had any Moral
at all, it is fo clofely couched, that it is very difficult to difcover it. Whoever reads the Lord Bacon's Wifdom of the Ancients, will be convinced of this. He has employed a more than ordinary penetration to decipher the moft known traditions in the Heathen mythology; but his interpretations are often far-fetched, and fo much at random, that the reader can have no affurance of their truth. It is not to be doubted that a great part of thefe fables were allegorical, but others might have been ftories defigned only to amufe, or to practise upon the credulity of the vulgar; or the doctrines they contained might be purpofely clouded, to conceal them from common knowledge. But though, as I hinted in the former part of this difcourfe, this may have been a reafon among philofophers, it ought not to be admitted among poets. An Allegory which is not clear is a riddle, and the fenfe of it lies at the mercy of every fanciful interpreter.
Though the epick poets, as I have shown, have fprinkled fome Allegories through their poems, yet it would be abfurd to endeavour to understand them every where in a mystical fenfe. We are told of one Metrodorus Lampfacenus, whofe works are loft, that turned the whole writings of Homer
f turned the whole writings of Homer into an Allegory:] Mr. Hughes feems not to have known that another work of this kind exifted, which is in Greek, viz. " Allegoria Homerica quæ fub Heraclidis nomine feruntur, &c." This allegorical performance (of which the French criticks fpeak contemptuously) was first published by Aldus at the end of his edition of Æfop's Fables in 1505. Conrad Gefner republished this little tract, with a Latin verfion. It was again iffued from the prefs, at Gottingen in 1782, by N. Schow, M. A. To which is added, "Ejufdem Commentatio Critica in Stoicorum et Graminaticorum Allegorias Homericas, una cum adnotatione critica in lectionem libelli." A critical Letter from Heyne to the editor is prefixed. TODD.