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into an Allegory: it was, doubtless, by some such means that the principles of all arts and sciences whatever were discovered in that single author; for nothing can escape an expositor who proceeds in his operations like a Rolycrucian, and brings with him the gold he pretends to find.
It is surprising that Taffo, whole Jerusalem was, at the time when he wrote, the best plan of an epick poem after Virgil, should be possessed with this affectation, and should not believe his work perfect till he had turned it into a mystery. I cannot help thinking that the Allegory, as it is called, which he has printed with it, looks as if it were invented after the poem was finished. He tells us that the Christian army represents man; the city of Jerufalem, civil happiness ; Godfrey, the understanding ; Rinaldo and Tancred, the other powers of the foul; and that the body is typified by the common soldiers; with a great deal more that carries in it a strong cast of enthusiasm. He is indeed much more intelligible when he explains the flowers, the fountains, the nymphs, and the mufical instruments, to figure to us sensual pleasures under the false appearance of good; but, for the rett, I appeal to any one who is acquainted with that poem, whether he would ever have discovered these mysteries if the poet had not let him into them? or whether even, after this, he can keep them long in his mind while he is reading it ?
Spenser's conduct is much more reasonable.. As he designed his Poem upon the plan of the Virtues by which he has entitled his leveral Books, he scarce ever loses fight of this design, but has almost every where taken care to let it appear. Sir Wil. liam Temple, indeed, censures this as a fault, and fays, that though his flights of fancy were very noble and high, yet his moral lay to bare that it loft the
effect: but I confess I do not understand this : a moral which is not clear is, in my apprehension, next to no moral at all.
It would be easy to enumerate other properties, which are various, according to the different kinds of Allegory, or its different degrees of perfection. Sometimes we are surprised with an uncommon moral, which ennobles the fable that conveys it; and at other times we meet with a known and obvious truth, placed in fome new and beautiful point of light, and made surprising by the fiction under which it is exhibited. I have thought it sufficient to touch upon such properties only as seem to be the most effential, and perhaps many more might be reduced under one or other of thefe general heads.
I might here give examples of this noble and ancient kind of writing out of the Books of Holy Writ, and especially the Jewish Prophets, in which we find a spirit of poetry surprisingly sublime and majestick; but these are obvious to every one's reading. The East seems indeed to have been principally the region of these figurative and emblematical writings. Sir John Chardin, in his Travels, has given us a translation of several pieces of modern Persian poetry, which fhow that there are traces of the same genius remaining among the present inhabitants of those countries. But, not to prolong this Discourse, I shall only add one instance of a very ancient Allegory, which has all the properties in it I have mentioned; I mean that in Xenophon, of the Choice of Hercules, when he is courted by Virtue and Pleasure, which is said to have been the invention of Prodicus. This fable is full of spirit and elegance; the characters are finely drawn, and consistent, and the moral is clear, I Thall not need to say any thing more of it, but refer the reader to the second volume of the Tatler, where he will find it very beautifully trantlated 5.
After what has been said, it must be confefied that, excepting Spenter, there are few extraordinary instances of this kind of writing among the Moderns. The great mines of invention have been opened long ago, and little new ore seems to have been discovered or brought to light by latter ayes. With us the art of framing fables, apologues, and allegories, which was to frequent among the writers of antiquity, feems to be, like the art of painting upon glass, but little practised, and in a great meafure loft. Our colours are not to rich and tranfparent, and are either fo ill prepared, or to untkilfully laid on, that they often fully the light which is to pass through them, rather than agreeably tincture and beautify it.
Boccalini must be reckoned one of the chief modern masters of Allegory; yet bis Fables are often flat and ill chofen, and his invention seems to have been rather fruitful than elegant. I cannot, however, conclude this Etlay on Allegory
, without observing, that we have had the fatisfaction to fee this kind of writing very lately revived by an excellent genius among ourfelves, in the true spirit of the Ancients. I need only niention the Visions in the Tatler and Spectator, by Mr. Addison, to convince every one of this: The Table of Fame, the Vision of Justice, that of the different Pursuits of Love, Ambition, and Avarice; the Vifion of Mirza, and several others; and especially that admirable Fable of the two Families of Pain and Pleasure, which are all imagined and
8 very beautifully translated.] The reader will find it tranlated, with new graces, since that period, by a scholar of the first rank, the late 'accomplished bishop Lowth. It appeared first in Spence's Polymetis; it will be moft eafy of access to readers, in Doddley's Collection of Poems, vol. iii. p.7. TODD.
writ with the greatest strength and delicacy, may give the reader an idea, more than any thing I can lay, of the perfection to which this kind of writing is capable of being raised. We have likewise, in the second volume of the Guardian, a very good example, given us by the same hand, of an Allegory in the particular manner of Spenser. Hughes.
ON THE FAERIE QUEENE.
BY what has been offered in the foregoing Difcourse on Allegorical Poetry, we may be able not only to discover many beauties in the Faerie Queene, but likewise to excuse fome of its irregularities. The chief merit of this poem consists in that furprising vein of fabulous invention which runs through it, and enriches it every where with imagery and descriptions more than we meet with in any other modern poem.
The Author seems to be poffeffed of a kind of poetical magick; and the figures he calls up to our view rise so thick upon us, that we are at once pleased and distracted by the exhaustlefs variety of them, so that his faults may, in a manner, be imputed to his excellencies: his abundance betrays hịm into excess, and his judgea ment is overborne by the torrent of his imagination.
That which seems the most liable to exception in this Work is the model of it, and the choice the Author has made of fo romantick a story. The several Books appear rather like so many several poems than one entire fable: each of them has its peculiar Knight, and is independent of the rest ; and though some of the persons make their appearance in different Books, yet this has very little effect in connecting thein. Prince Arthur is, indeed, the principal person, and has therefore a share given him in every Legend; but his part is not considerable enough in any one of them: he appears and vanishes again like a fpirit; and we lose sight of him too soon to consider him as the hero of the Poem.
These are the most obvious defects in the Fable of the Faerie Queene. The want of unity in the story makes it difficult for the reader to carry it in his mind, and distracts too much his attention to the several parts of it; and indeed the whole frame of it would appear monstrous, if it were to be examined by the rules of epick poetry, as they have been drawn from the practice of Homer and Virgil: but as it is plain the Author never designed it by those rules, I think it ought rather to be considered
as a poem of a particular kind, describing, in a series of Allegorical adventures or episodes, the moft noted virtues and vices. To compare it, therefore, with the models of Antiquity, would be like drawing a parallel between the Roman and the Gothick architecture. In the first there is, doubtless, a more natural grandeur and fimplicity ; in the latter we find great mixtures of beauty and barbarism, yet afsifted by the invention of a variety of inferiour ornaments; and, though the former is more majestick in the whole, the latter may be
very surprifing and agreeable in its parts.
It may seem strange, indeed, tince Spenser appears to have been well acquainted with the best writers of Antiquity, that he has not imitated them in the
as' a poem of a particular kind, &c.] Dr. Hurd has judiciously criticised it under the idea of a Gothick, not a classical, poem. See his REMARKS in the present volume, TopR.