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The analogy of the arts of ftatuary and painting, may be of use in illuftrating these remarks. The influence of antient times has extended to there, as well as to the art of writing ; and in this case, no less than in the other, the transcendant power of genius has established a propriety of choice in matters of indifference, and has, perhaps, consecrated, in the opinion of mankind, some of its own caprices.

Many of the ornaments of art,” (says Sir Joshua Reynolds, “ those at least for which no reason can “ be given, are transmitted to us, are adopted, and “ acquire their consequence, from the company in “ which we have been used to see them. As Greece 6 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 6 and knowledge which they have afforded us, we “ voluntarily add our approbation of every orna“6. ment and every custom that belonged to them, “ even to the fashion of their dress. For it may be " observed, that, not satisfied with them in their

own place, we make no difficulty of dressing ftat“utes of modern heroes or fenators in the fashion " of the Roman armour, or peaceful robe ; and e"ven go fo far as hardly to bear a statue in any oth“ er drapery."

“ The figures of the great men of those nations “ have come down to us in sculpture. In sculpture “ remain almost all the excellent ípecimens of ancient

We have so far associated personal dignity “ to the persons thus represented, and the truth of " art to their manner of representation, that it is not “ in our power any longer to separate them. This “ is not so in painting : because, having no excellent “ ancient portraits, that connection was never form"ed. Indeed, we could no more venture to paint “ a general officer in a Roman military habit, than “ we could make a statue in the present uniform.

66 art.

« But fince we have no ancient portraits, to fhew “ how ready we are to adopt those kind of prejudi.

ces, we make the best authority among the mod“ erns serve the same purpose. The great variety of « excellent portraits with which Vandyke has en« riched this nation, we are not content to admire « for their real excellence, but extend our approba« tion even to the dress which happened to be the “ fashion of that age. By this means, it must be “ acknowledged, very ordinary pictures acquired « something of the air and effect of the works of “ Vandyke, and appeared therefore, at first sight, “ better pictures than they really were.

They appeared so however, to those only who had the “ means of making this affociation."*

The influence of association on our notions concerning language, is still more strongly 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 grofsness of fenfible objects, and the vulgarity of common life, it becomes peculiarly necessary for him to reject the use 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 common. Milton prefers the words Rhene and Danaw, to the more common words Rhine aud Danube.

“ A multitude, like which the populous North
« Pour'd never from his frozen loins, to pass
“ Rhene or the Danaw.”+

In the following line,

« Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme,”

REYNOLD's Discourses, p. 313, et seq. + Paradise Lost, book i. 1. 331.

how much more suitable to the poetical style does the expression appear, than if the author had said,

“ Things unattempted yet in prose or verse."

In another paffage, where, for the sake of variety, he has made use of the last phrase, he acids an epithet, to remove it a little from the familiarity of ordinary discourse,

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In consequence of this circumstance, there arises gradually in every language a poetical diction, which differs widely from the common diction of prose. . It is much less subject to the vicissitudes of fashion, than the polite modes of expression in fa. miliar conversation ; because, when it has once been adopted by the poet, it is avoided by good prose writers, as being too elevated for that species of composition. It may therefore retain its charm, as long as the language exifts ; 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 set of words has been consecrated to poetry, the very found of them, independently of the ideas they convey, awakens, every time we hear it, the agreeable impressions which were connected with it when we met with them in the performances of our favorite authors. Even when strung together in sentences which convey no meaning, they produce some 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 copiouiness of their poetical diction. Our own pol

* Paradise Lost, book i. 1. 150. See Newton's Edit.

Our po

fesses, 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 scantiness of the French poetical diction is, probably, attended with the less inconvenience, that the phrases which occur in good prose writing are less degraded by vulgar application than in English, in consequence of the line being more distinctly and more strongly drawn between polite and low ex. pressions in that language than in ours. ets, indeed, by having a language appropriated to their own purposes, not only can preserve a dignity of expression, but can connect with the perufal of their compositions, the pleafing im. preffions which have been produced by those of their predecessors. And hence, in the higher forts of poetry where their object is to kindle, as much as possible, the enthusiasm of their readers, they not only avoid, ftudiously, all expressions which are vulgar, but all such as arc borrowed from falh. ionable life. This certainly cannot be done in an equal degree by a poet who writes in the French lariguage.

In English, the poetical diction is fo extremely copious, that it is liable to be abused; as it puts it in the power of authors of genius, merely by ringing changes on the poetical vocabulary, to give a certain degree of currency to the most unmeaning compositions. In Pope's Song by a Person of Quality, the incoherence of ideas is scarcely greater than what is to be found in some admired passages of our fashionable

poetry Nor is it merely by a difference of words, that the language of poetry is distinguished from that of profe. When a poetical arrangement of words has once been establihed by authors of reputation, the most common expressions, by being presented in this

consecrated order, may serve to excite poetical associations.

On the other hand, nothing more completely destroys the charm of poetry, than a string of words which the custom of ordinary discourse has arranged in fo invariable an order, that the whole phrase may be anticipated from hearing its commencement. A single word frequently strikes us as flat and prosaic, in consequence of its familiarity ; but two such words coupled together in the order of conversation can scarcely be introduced into serious poetry without appearing ludicrous.

No poet in our language has shewn so strikingly as Milton, the wonderful elevation which style may derive from an arrangement of words, which, while it is perfectly intelligible, departs widely from that to which we are in general accustomed. Many of his moft sublime periods, when the order of the words is altered, are reduced nearly to the level of profe.

To copy this artifice with success, is a much more difficult attainment than is commonly imagined ; and, of consequence, when it is acquired, it secures an author, to a great degree, from that crowd of imitators who spoil the effect of whatever is not beyond their reach. To the poet who uses blank verfe, it is an acquisition of ftill more effential consequence than to him who expresses himself in rhyme ; for the more that the structure of the verfo approaches to prose, the more it is necessary to give novelty and dignity to the composition. And accordingly, among our magazine poets, ten thousand catch the ftructure of Pope's versification, 'for one who apa proaches to the manner of Milton, or of Thomson.

The facility, however, of this imitation, like eve. ry other, increases with the number of those who have studied it with luccess; for the more numer. ous the authors who have employed their genius in any one direction, the more copious are the materi


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