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Democritus and Heraclitus.*
The vices and follies of men should excite compassion rather than ridicule. Democritus. I FIND it impossible to reconcile myself to a melancholy philosophy.
Heraclitus. And I am equally unable to approve of that vain philosophy, which teaches men to despise and ridicule one another. To a wise and feeling mind, the world appears in a wretched and painful light.
Dem. Thou art too much affected with the state of things; and this is a source of misery to thee.
Her. And I think thou art too little moved by it. Thy mirth and ridicule bespeak the buffoon, rather than the philosopher. Does it not excite thy compassion, to see mankind so frail, so blind, so far departed from the rules of virtue ?
Dem. I am excited to laughter, when I see so much impertinence and folly. Her. And yet, after all, they, who are the objects of thy ridicule, include, not only mankind in general, but the persons with whom thou livest, thy friends, thy family, nay, even thyself.
Dem. I care very little for all the silly persons I meet with; and think I am justifiable in diverting myself with their folly.
Her. If they are weak and foolish, it marks neither wisdom nor hu→ manity, to insult rather than pity them. But is it certain, thou art not as extravagant as they are?
Dem. I presume that I am not; since in every point, my sentiments are the very reverse of theirs.
Her. There are follies of different kinds. By constantly amusing thyself with the errours and misconduct of others, thou mayest render thyself equally ridiculous and culpable.
Dem. Thou art at liberty to indulge such sentiments; and to weep over me too, if thou hast any tears to spare. For my part, I cannot refrain from pleasing myself with the levities and ill conduct of the world about me. Are not all men foolish or irregular in their lives?
Her. Alas! there is but too much reason to believe they are so: and on this ground, I pity and deplore their condition.. We agree in this point, that men do not conduct themselves according to reasonable and just principles; but I, who do not suffer myself to act as they do, must yet regard the dictates of my understanding and feelings, which compel me to love them; and that love fills me with compassion for their mistakes and irregularities. Canst thou condemn me for pitying my own species, my brethren, persons born in the same condition of life, and destined to the same hopes and privileges? If thou shouldst enter a hospital, where sick and wounded persons reside, would their wounds and distresses excite thy mirth? And yet, the evils of the body bear no comparison with those of the mind. Thou wouldst certainly blush at thy barbarity, if thou hadst been so unfeeling, as to laugh at, or despise a poor miserable being who had lost one of his legs: and yet thou art so destitute of humanity, as to ridicule those, who appear to be deprived of the noble powers of the understanding, by the little regard which they pay to its dictates.
Dem. He who has lost a leg is to be pitied, because the loss is not to be imputed to himself: but he who rejects the dictates of reason and conscience, voluntarily deprives himself of their aid. The loss originates in his own folly.
* Democritus and Heraclitus were two ancient philosophers; the former of whom laughed, and the latter wept, at the errours and follies of mankind.
Her. Ah! so much the more is he to be pitied! A furious maniac who should pluck out his own eyes, would deserve more compassion than an ordinary blind man.
Dem. Come, let us accommodate the business. There is something to be said on each side of the question. There is every where reason for Jaughing, and reason for weeping. The world is ridiculous, and I laugh at it; it is deplorable, and thou lamentest over it. Every person views it in his own way, and according to his own temper. One point is unquestionable, that mankind are preposterous; to think right, and to act well, we must think and act differently from them. To submit to the authority, and follow the example of the greater part of men, would render us foolish and miserable.
Her. All this is, indeed, true; but then, thou hast no real love or feeling for thy species. The calamities of mankind excite thy mirth; and this proves that thou hast no regard for men, nor any true respect for the virtues which they have unhappily abandoned.
Dionysius, Pythias, and Damon.
Genuine virtue commands respect, even from the bad.
Dionysius. AMAZING! What do I see? It is Pythias just arrived. It is indeed Pythias. I did not think it possible. He is come to die, and redeem his friend!
Pythias. Yes, it is Pythias. I left the place of my confinement, with no other views than to pay to Heaven the vows I had made; to settle my family concerns according to the rules of justice; and to bid adieu to my children, that I might die tranquil and satisfied.
Dio. But why dost thou return? Hast thou no fear of death? Is it not the character of a madman, to seek it thus voluntarily ?
Py. I return to suffer, though I have not deserved death. Every principle of honour and goodness, forbids me to allow my friend to die for me. Dio. Dost thou, then, love him better than thyself?
Py. No; I love him as myself. But I am persuaded that I ought to suffer death, rather than my friend: since it was me whom thou hadst decreed to die. It were not just that he should suffer, to deliver me from the death which was designed, not for him, but for me only.
Dio. But thou supposest that it is as unjust to inflict death upon thee, as upon thy friend.
Py. Very true; we are both entirely innocent; and it is equally unjust to make either of us suffer.
Dio. Why dost thou then assert, that it were injustice to put him to death, instead of thee?
Py. It is unjust, in the same degree, to inflict death, either on Damon, or on myself; but Pythias were highly culpable to let Damon suffer that death, which the tyrant had prepared for Pythias only.
Dio. Dost thou then return hither on the day appointed, with no other view than to save the life of a friend, by losing thy own?
Py. I return, in regard to thee, to suffer an act of injustice which is common for tyrants to inflict; and with respect to Damon, to perform my duty, by rescuing him from the danger he incurred by his generosity to me.
Dio. And now, Damon, let me address myself to thee. Didst thou not really fear, that Pythias would never return; and that thou wouldst be put to death on his account?
Damon. I was but too well assured that Pythias would punctually return; and that he would be more solicitous to keep his promise, than to preserve his life. Would to heaven, that his relations and friends had forcibly detained him! He would then have lived for the comfort and benefit of good men; and I should have had the satisfaction of dying for
Dio. What, does life displease thee?
Da. Yes; it displeases me when I see and feel the power of a tyrant! Dio. It is well! Thou shalt see him no more. I will order thee to be put to death immediately.
Py. Pardon the feelings of a man who sympathizes with his dying friend. But remember, it was Pythias who was devoted by thee to destruction. I come to submit to it, that I may redeem my friend. Do not refuse me this consolation in my last hour.
Dio. I cannot endure men who despise death, and set my power at defiance.
Da. Thou canst not, then, endure virtue.
Dio. No; I cannot endure that proud, disdainful virtue, which contemns life; which dreads no punishment; and which is insensible to the charms of riches and pleasure.
Da. Thou seest, however, that it is a virtue, which is not insensible to the dictates of honour, justice, and friendship.
We shall see whether Da
Dio. Guards, take Pythias to execution. mon will continue to despise my authority.
Da. Pythias, by returning to submit himself to thy pleasure, has me rited his life, and deserved thy favour; but I have excited thy indignation, by resigning myself to thy power, in order to save him: be satisfied, then, with this sacrifice, and put me to death.
Py. Hold, Dionysius? Remember, it was Pythias alone who offended thee; Damon could not.
Dio. Alas! What do I see and hear? where am I? How miserable; and how worthy to be so! I have hitherto known nothing of true virtue. I have spent my life in darkness and errour. All my power and honours are insufficient to produce love. I cannot boast of having acquired a single friend, in the course of a reign of thirty years. And yet these two persons, in a private condition, love one another tenderly, unreservedly confide in each other, are mutually happy, and ready to die for each other's preservation.
Py. How couldst thou, who hast never loved any person, expect to have friends? If thou hadst loved and respected men, thou wouldst have secured their love and respect. Thou hast feared mankind-and they fear thee-they detest thee.
Dio. Damon, Pythias, condescend to admit me as a third friend, in a connection so perfect. I give you your lives; and I will load you with
Da. We have no desire to be enriched by thee; and, in regard to thy friendship, we cannot accept or enjoy it, till thou become good and just. Without these qualities, thou canst be connected with none but trembling slaves, and base flatterers. To be loved and esteemed by men of free and generous minds, thou must be virtuous, affectionate, disinterested, beneficent; and know how to live in a sort of equality with those who share and deserve thy friendship.
ON THE SLIDES OR INFLECTIONS OF VERSE.
1. The first general rule for reading verse is, that we ought to give it that measured barmonious flow of sound which distinguishes it from prose, without falling into a bombastic, chanting pronunciation, which makes it ridiculous.
2. It will not be improper, before we read verse with its poetical graces, to pronounce it exactly as if it were prose: this will be depriving verse of its beauty, but will tend to preserve it from deformity: the tones of voice will be frequently different, but the inflections will be nearly the same.
3. But though an elegant and harmonious pronunciation of verse will sometimes oblige us to adopt different infections from those we use in prose, it may still be laid down as a good general rule, that verse requires the same inflections as prose, though less strongly marked, and more approaching to monotones.
4. Wherever a sentence, or member of a sentence, would necessarily require the falling inflection in prose, it ought always to have the same inflection in poetry; for though, if we we were to read verse prosaically, we should often place the falling inflection where the style of verse would require the rising, yet, in those parts where a portion of perfect sense, or the conclusion of a sentence, necessarily requires the falling inflection, the same infleotion must be adopted both in verse and prose.
5. In the same manner, though we frequently suspend the voice by the rising inflection in verse, where, if the composition were prose, we should adopt the falling; yet, wherever in prose, the member or sentence would necessarily require the rising inflection, this inflection must necessarily be adopted in verse.
6. It may be observed, indeed, that it is in the frequent use of the rising inflection, where prose would adopt the falling, that the song of poetry consists: familiar, strong, argumen tative subjects naturally enforce the language with the falling inflection, as this is naturally expressive of activity, force, and precision; but grand, beautiful, and plaintive subjects slide naturally into the rising inflection, as this is expressive of awe, admiration, and melancholy; where the mind may be said to be passive: and it is this general tendency of the plaintive tone to assume the rising inflection, which inclines injudicious readers to adopt it at those pauses where the falling inflection is absolutely necessary, and, for want of which, the pronunciation degenerates into the whine, so much and so justly disliked; for it is very remarkable, that if, where the sense concludes, we are careful to preserve the falling inflection, and let the voice drop into the natural talking tone, the voice may be suspended in the rising inflection on any other part of the verse, with very little danger of falling into the chant of bad readers.
OF THE ACCENT AND EMPHASIS OF VERSE.
In verse, every syllable must have the same accent, and every word the same emphasis, as in prose.
In words of two syllables, however, when the poet transposes the accent from the second syllable to the we may comply with him, without occasioning any harshness in the verse; but when, in such words, he changes the accent from the first to the second syllable, every reader who has the least delicacy of feeling will certainly preserve the common accent of these words on the first syllable.
In misaccented words of three syllables, perhaps the least offensive method to the ear of preserving the accent, and not entirely violating the quantity, would be to place an accent n the syllable immediately preceding that on which the poet has misplaced it, without dropping that which is so misplaced.
The same rule seems to hold good where the poet has placed the accent on the first and ast syllable of a word which ought to have it on the middle syllable.
Where a word admits of some diversity in placing the accent, it is scarcely necessary to bserve, that the verse ought, in this case, to decide.
But when the poet has, with great judgment, contrived that his numbers shall be harsh and grating, in order to correspond to the ideas they suggest, the common accentuation must be preserved.`
HOW THE VOWELS E AND O ARE TO BE PRONOUNCED, WHEN APOSTROPHIZED.
The vowel e, which, in poetry, is so often cut off by an apostrophe in the word the, and in unaccented syllables before 7, as dang'rous, gen'rous, &c. ought always to be preserved in pronunciation, because the syllable it forms is so short as to admit of being sounded with the succeeding syllable, so as not to increase the number of syllables to the ear, or, at least, to hurt the melody.
The same observations, in every respect, hold good in the pronunciation of the preposition to, which ought always to be sounded long, like the adjective two, however it may be printed.
OF THE PAUSE OR CASURA OF VERSE.
Almost every verse admits of a pause in or near the middle of the line, which is called the Cæsura; this must be carefully observed in reading verse, or much of the distinctness, and almost all the harmony, will be lost.
Though the most harmonious place for the capital pause is after the fourth syllable, it may, for the sake of expressing the sense strongly and suitably, and even sometimes for the sake of variety, be placed at several other intervals.
The end of a line in verse naturally inclines us to pause; and the words that refuse a pause so seldom occur at the end of a verse, that we often pause between words in verse where we should not in prose, but where a pause would by no means interfere with the sense this, perhaps, may be the reason why a pause at the end of a line in poetry is supposed to be in compliment to the verse, when the very same pause in prose is allowable, and, perhaps, eligible, but neglected as unnecessary; however this be, certain it is, that if we pronounce many lines in Milton, so as to make the equality of impressions on the ear distinctly perceptible at the end of every line; if by making this pause, we make the pauses that mark the sense less perceptible, we exchange a solid advantage for a childish rhythm, and, by endeavouring to preserve the name of verse, 'lose all its meaning and energy.
OF THE CADENCE OF VERSE.
In order to form a cadence in a period in rhyming verse, we must adopt the falling inflec tion with considerable force in the cæsura of the last line but one.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE A SIMILE IN POETRY.
A simile in poetry ought always to be read in a lower tone of voice than that part of the passage which precedes it.
This rule is one of the greatest embellishments of poetic pronunciation, and is to be observed no less in blank verse than in rhyme.
Where there is no pause in the sense at the end of a verse, the last word must have exactly the same inflection it would have in prose.
Sublime, grand, and magnificent description in poetry, requires a lower tone of voice, and a sameness nearly approaching to a monotone.
When the first line of a couplet does not form perfect sense, it is necessary to suspend the voice at the end of the line with the rising slide.
This rule holds good even where the first line forms perfect sense by itself, and is followed by another, forming perfect sense likewise, provided the first line does not end with an emphatic word, which requires the falling slide.
But if the first line ends with an emphatical word, requiring the falling slide, this slide must be given to it, but in a higher tone of voice than the same slide in the last line of the couplet.
When the first line of a couplet does not form sense, and the second line, either from its not forming sense, or from its being a question, requires the rising slide; in this case, the first line must end with such a pause as the sense requires, but without any alteration in the tone of the voice.
In the same manner, if a question requires the second line of the couplet to adopt the rising slide, the first ought to have a pause at the end, but the voice, without any alteration, ought to carry on the same tone to the second line, and to continue this tone almost to the end.
The same principles of harmony and variety induce us to read a triplet with a sameness of voice, or monotone, on the end of the first line, the rising slide on the end of the second, and the falling on the last.
This rule, however, from the various sense of the triplet, is liable to many exceptions; but, with very few exceptions, it may be laid down as a rule, that a quatrain, or stanza of four lines of alternate verse, may be read with the monotone ending the first line, the rising slide ending the second and third, and the falling the last.
The plaintive tone, so essential to the delivery of elegiac composition, greatly diminishes the slides, and reduces them almost to monotones; nay, a perfect monotone, without any inflection at all, is sometimes very judiciously introduced in reading verse.
A certain number of syllables connected form a foot. They are called feet, because it is by their aid that the voice, as it were, steps along through the verse, in a measured pace. All feet used in poetry consist either of two, or of three syllables, and are eight kinds; four of two syllables, and four of three, as follows:
marks a long, and the breve ~ a short syllable.
Such as wish to inform themselves more particularly concerning versification, sult the Author's Natural Grammar and Juvenile Expositor, where they will find the subject treated of at very considerable length.