Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

his creation, and the brightest of these to heighten the expressions by a poetical can only give us some faint shadows of his translation or paraphrase, have sunk in greatness and his glory. The strongest the attempt ; and all the decorations of figures are too weak, the most exalted lan- their verse, whether Greek or Latin, have guage too low, to express his ineffable ex. not been able to reach the dignity, the cellence. No hyperbole can be brought majesty, and solemnity of our prose : so to heighten our thoughts; for in so sub- that the prose of scripture cannot be imlime a theme, nothing can be hyperbolical. proved by verse, and even the divine po

The riches of imagination are poor, and etry is most like itself in prose. One oball the rivers of eloquence are dry, in sup- servation more I would leave with you: plying thought on an infinite subject. How Milton himself, as great a genius as he was, poor and mean, how base and grovel- owes his superiority over Homer and Virling, are the Heathen conceptions of the gil, in majesty of thought and splendour Deity! something sublime and noble must of expression, to the scriptures; they are needs be said on so great an occasion; the fountain from which he derived his but in this great article, the most cele- light; the sacred treasure that enriched his brated of the Heathen pens seem to flag fancy, and furnished him with all the and sink; they bear up in no proportion truth and wonders of God and his creato the dignity of the theme, as if they tion, of angels and men, which no mortal were depressed by the weight, and dazzled brain was ever able to discover or conwith the splendour of the subject. ceive: and in him, of all human writers,

We bave no instances to produce of any you will meet all his sentiments and words writers that rise at all to the majesty and raised and suited to the greatness and digdignity of the Divine Attributes, except nity of the subject. the sacred penmen. No less than Divine I have detained you the longer on this Inspiration could enable men to write wor- majesty of style, being perhaps myself carthily of God, and none but the Spirit of ried away with the greatness and pleasure God knew how to express his greatness, of the contemplation. What I have dwelt and display his glory: in comparison of so much on with respect to divine subjects, these divine writers, the greatest geniuses, is more easily to be observed with refera the noblest wits of the Heathen world, are ence to human: for in all things below low and dull. The sublime majesty and divinity, we are rather able to exceed than royal magnificence of the scripture poems fall short; and in adorning all other subare above the reach and beyond the power jects, our words and sentiments may rise of all mortal wit. Take the best and live in a just proportion to them: nothing is liest poems of antiquity, and read them as above the reach of man, but heaven; and we do the scriptures, in a prose translation, the same wit can raise a human subject, and they are flat and poor. Horace, and that only debases a divine. Felton. Virgil, and Homer, lose their spirits and their strength in the transfusion, to that

§ 103. Rules of Order and Proportion. degree, that we have hardly patience to After all these excellencies of style, in read them. But the sacred writings, even purity, in plainness and perspicuity, in orin our translation, preserve their majesty nament and majesty, are considered, a fiand their glory, and very far surpass the nished piece of what kind soever must shine brightest and noblest compositions of in the order and proportion of the whole; Greece and Rome. And this is not owing for light rises out of order, and beauty to the richness and solemnity of the eastern from proportion. In architecture and eloquence (for it holds in no other instance) painting, these fill and relieve the eye. A but to the divine direction and assistance of just disposition gives us a clear view of the the holy writers. For, let me only make this whole at once; and the due symmetry remark, that the most literal translation of and proportion of every part of itself, and the scriptures, in the most natural signifi- of all together, leave no vacancy in our cation of the words, is generally the best; thoughts or eyes; nothing is wanting, and the same punctualness, which debases every thing is complete, and we are satisother writings, preserves the spirit and fied in beholding. majesty of the sacred text: it can suffer no But when I speak of order and propor. improvement from human wit; and we tion, I do not intend any stiff and formal may observe that those who have presumed method, but only a proper distribution of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

rays.

But to

the parts in general, where they follow in a natural course, and are not confounded

$ 104. A Recapitulation. with one another. Laying down a scheme,

I shall make no formal recapitulation of and marking out the divisions and subdi- what I have delivered. Out of all these visions of a discourse, are only necessary rules together, rises a just style, and a perin systems, and some pieces of controversy fect composition. All the latitude that can and argumentation; you see, however, be admitted, is in the ornament of writthat I have ventured to write without any ing; we do not require every author to declared order; and this is allowable shine in gold and jewels; there is a modewhere the method opens as you read, and ration to be used in the

pomp and trappings the order discovers itself, in the progress of of a discourse : it is not necessary that the subject; but certainly, of all pieces every part should be embellished and adornthat were ever written in a professed and ed; but the decoration should be skilfully stated method, and distinguished by the distributed through the whole: too full and number and succession of their parts, our glaring a light is offensive, and confounds English sermons are the completest in or- the eyes: in heaven itself there are vacander and proportion; the method is so easy cies and spaces between the stars; and the and natural, the parts bear so just a pro- day is not less beautiful for being interportion to one another, that among many spersed with clouds; they only moderate others, this may pass for a peculiar com- the brightness of the sun, and, without dimendation of them; for those divisions minishing from his splendour, gild and and particulars which obscure and perplex adorn themselves with his other writings, give a clearer light to ours. descend from the skies: It is in writing as All that I would insinuate, therefore, is in dress; the richest habits are not always only this, that it is not necessary to lay the the completest, and a gentleman may make method we use before the reader, only to a better figure in a plain suit, than in an write, and then he will read, in order. embroidered coat; the dress depends upon

But it requires a full command of the the imagination, but must be adjusted by subject, a distinct view, to keep it always the judgment, contrary to the opinion of in sight, or else, without some method first the ladies, who value nothing but a good designed, we should be in danger of losing fancy in the choice of their clothes. "The it, and wandering after it, till we have lost first excellence is to write in purity, plainourselves, and bewildered the reader. ly, and clearly; there is no dispensation

A prescribed method is necessary for from these: but afterwards you have your weaker heads, but the beauty of order is choice of colours, and may enliven, adorn, its freedom and unconstraint: it must be and paint your subject as you please. dispersed and shine in all the parts through In writing, the rules have a relation and the whole performance; but there is no ne- dependence on one another. They are cessity of writingin trammels, when we can held in one social bond, and joined, like move more at ease without them: neither the moral virtues and liberal arts, in a sort is the proportion of writing to be mea- of harmony and concord. He that cansured out like the proportions of a horse, not write pure, plain English, must never where every part must be drawn in the pretend to write at all; it is in vain for minutest respect to the size and bigness of him to dress and adorn his discourse; the the rest; but it is to be taken by the mind, finer he endeavours to make it, he makes and formed upon a general view and con- it only the more ridiculous. And on the sideration of the whole. The statuary that other side, let a man write in the exactest carves Hercules in stone, or casts him in purity and propriety of language, if he has brass, may be obliged to take his dimen- pot life and fire, to give his work some sions from his foot; but the poet that de- force and spirit

, it is nothing but a mere scribes him is not bound up to the geo- corpse, and a lumpish, unwieldy mass of meter's rule: nor is an author under any matter. But every true genius, who is obligation to write by the scale.

perfect master of the language he writes These hints will serve to give you some in, will let no fitting ornaments and deconotion of order and proportion: and I rations be wanting. His fancy flows in must not dwell too long upon them, lest I the richest vein, and gives his pieces such transgress the rules I am laying down. lively colours, and so beautiful a com

Felton. plexion, that you would almost say hiş

a

.

own blood and spirits were transfused into are nothing but a Just discernment of what the work.

Felton. is excellent and most perfect in them. The

first depends entirely on the ear; a man $ 105. How to form a right Taste.

can never expect to be a master, that has A perfect mastery and elegance of style not an ear tuned and set to music; and is to be learned from the common rules, you can no more sing an ode without an but must be improved by reading the ora- ear, than without a genius you can write tors, and poets, and the celebrated masters one. Painting, we should think, requires in every kind; this will give you a right some understanding in the art, and exact taste, and a true relish ; and when you can knowledge of the best masters' manner, to distinguish the beauties of every finished be a judge of it; but this faculty, like the piece, you will write yourself with equal rest, is founded in nature: knowledge in commendation.

the art, and frequent conversation with the I do not assert that every good writer best originals, will certainly perfect a man's must have a genius for poetry; I know judgment; but if there is not a natural saTully is an undeniable exceptiou ; but I gacity and aptness, experience will be of no will 'venture to affirm, that a soul that is great service. A good taste is an argument not moved with poetry, and has no taste of a great soul, as well as a lively wit. It that

way, is too dull and lumpish ever to is the infirmity of poor spirits to be taken write with any prospect of being read. It with every appearance, and dazzled by is a fatal mistake, and simple superstition, every thing that sparkles: but to pass by

a to discourage youth from poetry, and en- what the generality of the world admires, deavour to prejudice them against it; if and to be detained with nothing but what they are of a poetical genius, there is no is most perfect and excellent in its kind, restraining them : Ovid, you know, was speaks a superior genius, and a true discerndeaf to his father's frequent admonitions. ment; a new picture by some meaner hand, But if they are not quite smitten and be- where the colours are fresh and lively, will witched with love of verse, they should be engage the eye, but the pleasure goes off trained to it, to make them masters of every with looking, and what we ran to at first kind of poetry, that by learning to imitate with eagerness, we presently leave with inthe originals, they may arrive at a right difference: but the old pieces of Raphael, conception and a true taste of their authors: Michael Angelo, Tintoret, and Titian, and being able to write in verse upon occa- though not so inviting at first, open to the sion, I can assure you is no disadvantage eye by degrees; and the longer and oftento prose : for without relishing the one, a er we look, we still discover new beauties, man must never pretend to any taste for and find new pleasure. I am not a man the other.

of so much severity in my temper as to Taste is a metaphor, borrowed from the allow you to be pleased with nothing but palate, by which we approve or dislike what is in the last perfection; for then, what we eat or drink, from the agree- possibly, so many are the infirmities of ableness or disagreeableness of the relish in writing, beyond other arts, you could neour mouth. Nature directs us in the com- ver be pleased. There is a wide difference mon use, and every body can tell sweet in being nice to judge of every degree of from bitter, what is sharp, or sour, or vapid, perfection, and rigid in refusing whatever or nauseous; but it requires senses more is deficient in any point. This would refined and exercised, to discover every only be weakness of stomach, not any taste that is more perfect in its kind; every commendation of a good palate; a true palate is not to judge of that, and yet drink- taste judges of defects as well as perfections, ing is more used than reading. All that I and the best judges are always the persons pretend to know of the matter, is, that wine of the greatest candour. They will find should be, like a style, clear, deep, bright, none but real faults, and whatever they and strong, sincere and pure, sound and dry, commend, the praise is justly due. (as our advertisements do well express it) I have intimated already, that a good which last is a commendable term, that taste is to be formed by reading the best contains the juice of the richest spirits, and authors : and when you shall be able to only keeps out all cold and dampness. point out their beauties, to discern the

It is common to commend a man for an brightest passages, the strength and eleear to music, and a taste of painting: which gance of their language, you will always

а

good.

а

write yourself, and read others, by that celebrated writer, whether ancient or mostandard, and must therefore necessarily dern.

Felton, excel.

Felton.

§ 107. On the Historical Style. § 106. Taste to be improved by Imitation.

History will not admit those decorations In Rome there were some popular ora- other subjects are capable of; the pastors, who, with a false eloquence and vio- sions and affections are not to be moved lent action, carried away the applause of with any thing, but the truth of the narthe people : and with us we have some ration. All the force and beauty must popular men, who are followed and ad, lie in the order and expression. To remired for the loudness of their voice, and late every event with clearness and pera false pathos both in utterance and writ- spicuity, in such words as best express ing. I have been sometimes in some con- the nature of the subject, is the chief fusion to hear such persons commended by commendation of an historian's style. Histhose of superior sense, who could distin. tory gives us a draught of facts and transguish, one would think, between empty, actions in the world. The colours these pompous, specious harangues, and those are painted in; the strength and signifipieces in which all the beauties of writing cancy of the several faces; the regular are combined. A natural taste must there confusion of a battle; the destructions of fore be improved, like fine parts, and a tumult sensibly depicted; every object great genius; it must be assisted by art, or

and every occurrence so presented to your it will be easily vitiated and corrupted. view, that while you read, you seem in

. , False eloquence passes only where true is deed to see them; this is the art and pernot understood; and nobody will com- fection of an historical style. And you mend bad writers, that is acquainted with will observe, that those who have excelled

in history, have excelled in this especially; These are only some cursory thoughts and what has made them the standards of on a subject that will not be reduced to that style, is the clearness, the life and rules. To treat of a true taste in a formal vigour of their expression, every where method, would be very insipid; it is best properly varied, according to the variety collected from the beauties and laws of of the subjects they write on: for history writing, and must rise from every mau's and narration are nothing but just and own apprehension and notion of what he lively descriptions of remarkable events hears and reads.

and accidents.

Ibid. It may be therefore of farther use,

and most advantage to yon, as well as a relief § 108. Of HERODOTUS and THUCYDIDES. and entertainment to refresh your spirits For this reason we praise Herodotus in the end of a tedious discourse, if, be- and Thucydides among the Greeks, for I sides mentioning the classic authors as will mention po more of them ; and upon

1 they fall in my way, I lay before you this account we commend Sallust and some of the correctest writers of this age Livy among the Romans.

For though and the last, in several faculties, upon they all differ in their style, yet they all different subjects: Not that you should agree in these common excellencies. Hebe drawn into a servile imitation of any rodotus displays a natural oratory in of them: but that you may see into the the beauty and clearness of a numerous spirit, force, and beauty of them all, and and solemn diction; he flows with a seform your pen from those general notions date and majestic pace, with an easy curof life and delicacy, of fine thoughts and rent, and pleasant stream. Thucydides happy words, which rise to your mind does sometimes write in a style so close, upon reading the great masters of style that almost every word is a sentence, and in their several ways, and manner of ex- every sentence almost acquaints us with celling.

something new; so that from the multiI must beg leave, therefore, to defer a tude of causes, and variety of matter little the entertainment I promised, while crowded together, we should suspect him I endeavour to lead you into the true way to be obscure: but yet so happy, so adof imitation, if ever you shall propose mirable a master is he in the art of expresany original for your copy; or, which is sion, so proper and so full, that we cannot infinitely preferable, into a perfect mas- say whether his diction does more illustery of the spirit and perfections of every trate the things he speaks of, or whether

a

1

1

his words themselves are not illustrated enlarge the expressions, if it does not darkby his matter, so mutual a light do his en, does certainly make the light much expressions and subject reflect on each feebler. Sallust is all life and spirit, yet other. His diction, though it be pressed grave and majestic in his diction: his use and close, is nevertheless great and mag- of old words is perfectly right: there is nificent, equal to the dignity and import- no affectation, but more weight and sigance of his subject. He first, after Hero. nificancy in them: the boldness of his dotus, ventured to adorn the historian's metaphors are among his greatest beaustyle, to make the narration more pleas- ties; they are chosen with great judging, by leaving the flatness and nakedness ment, and shew the force of his genius; of former ages. This is most observable the colouring is strong, and the strokes in his battles, where he does not only re- are bold; and in my opinion he chose them late the mere fight, but writes with a mar- for the sake of the brevity he loved, to tial spirit, as if he stood in the hottest of express more clearly and more forcibly, the engagement; and what is most excel. what otherwise he must have written in lent as well as remarkable in so close a looser characters with less strength and style, is, that it is numerous and harmo- beauty. And no fault can be objected nious, that his words are not laboured to the justest and exactest of the Roman nor forced, but fall into their places in a writers. natural order, as into their most proper Livy is the most considerable of the situation.

Felton, Roman historians, if to the perfection of

his style we join the compass of his sub$ 109. Of Sallust and Livy.

ject; in which he has the advantage over Sallust and Livy, you will read, I hope, all that wrote before him, in any nation with so much pleasure, as to make a but the Jewish, especially over Thucydithorough and intimate acquaintance with des; whose history, however drawn out them. Thucydides and Sallust are gene- into length, is confined to the shortest perally compared, as Livy is with Herodo- riod of any, except what remains of Saltus; and, since I am fallen upon their lust. No historian could be happier in characters, I cannot help touching the the greatness and dignity of his subject, comparison. Sallust is represented as a and none was better qualified to adorn it; concise, a strong, and nervous writer; and for his genius was equal to the majesty of so far he agrees with Thucydides's man- the Roman empire, and every way capaner: but he is also charged with being ble of the mighty undertaking. He is not obscure, as concise writers very often so copious in words, as abundant in matare, without any reason. For, if I may ter, rich in his expression, grave, majes. judge by my own apprehensions, as I read tic, and lively: and if I may have liberty him, no writer can be more clear, more ob- to enlarge on the old commendation, I vious and intelligible. He has not,indeed, as would say his style flows with milk and far as I can observe, one redundant expres- honey, in such abundance, such pleasure sion; but his words are all weighed and and sweetness, that when once you are chosen, so expressive and significant, that proficient enough to read him readily, you I will challenge any critic to take a sen- will go on with unwearied delight, and tence of his, and express it clearer or bet- never

lay him out of your hands without ter; his contraction seems wrought and impatience to resume him. laboured. To me he appears as a man semble him to Herodotus, in the manner that considered and studied perspicuity of his diction; but he is more like Thuand brevity to that degree, that he would cydides in the grandeur and majesty of not retrench a word which might help expression; and if we observe the mulhim to express his meaning, nor suffer titude of clauses in the length of the peone to stand, if his sense was clear with- riods, perhaps Thucydides himself is not out it. Being more diffuse, would have more crowded; only the length of his weakened his language, and have made it periods is apt to deceive us; and great obscurer rather than clearer; for a multi- men among the ancients, as well as motude of words only serve to cloud or dis- derns, have been induced to think this sipate the sense; and though a copious writer was copious, because his sentences style in a master's hand is clear and beau- were long. Copious he is indeed, and tiful, yet where conciseness and perspi- forcible in his descriptions, pot lavish in cuity are once reconciled, any attempt to the aumber, but exuberant in the richness

We

may re

a

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »