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Soft is the ftrain when Zephyr gently blows,

And the fmooth ftream in smoother numbers flows;
But when loud furges lafh the founding fhore,
The hoarfe rough verfe fhould like the torrent roar.
When Ajax ftrives fome rock's vaft weight to throw,
The line too labours, and the words move flow;
Not fo when fwift Camilla fcours the plain,

Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main.

But before we fpeak of the feveral forts of ftyle, it will be proper to take fome notice of the epithets, tropes and figures of which they are principally compounded; fince it is by thefe different modes of fpeech that the poet is enabled to vary a difcourfe almoft to infinity; to fhew the fame object in a thousand different forms, and all of them new; to prefent pleafing images to the fenfes and imagination, to addrefs them in the language they love, to exprefs fmall matters with grace, and the greatest with a nobleness and fublimity equal to their grandeur and majefty.

Nothing contributes more to the beauty of the poetic ftyle than epithets properly employed; and Quintilian, and Rollin after him, obferves, that poets make use of them more frequently and more freely than orators. More frequently, be cause it is a great fault to overload a discourse in profe with too many epithets; whereas in poetry, they always produce a good effect, though in ever fo great a number. More freely, because with the poets it is enough that the epithet is suitable to the word it is annexed to: But in profe, every epithet which produces no effect, and adds nothing to the thing spoken of, is vicious. Great deference fhould be paid to authors fo deservedly eminent in the literary world: we must however beg leave to observe, that the latitude they have given us for the use of Epithets, is a little too extensive; fince nothing tires a reader more than too great a redundancy of them, and especially when they are useless, and thrown in, as they too often are, to make out the measure of the verse. Epithets can never be admitted with propriety, unless they excite fome new idea, or give fome illuftration and ornament to the fubftantives to which they are annexed; and it is with this view that they are used in Milton, and our best poets; where we also find many that are compounded, such as bright-hair'd Vesta, smooth-fhaven green, cloud-capt towers, vale-dwelling lily, &c. which have a peculiar beauty when

properly applied, as indeed have those that are not compounded when they decorate and illustrate the substantive, or raise some new idea in the mind; but how absurd and ridiculous are many that we meet with in fome of the poets? fuch, for inftance, as watery floods, burning fire, cold ice, arrow-bearing quiver; which convey nothing to the mind of the reader, and when examined, carry no other meaning than watery water, hot heat, cold cold, arrow-bearing arrow-bearer. But even the best epithets may be fo frequently used as to overload a discourse, and make it heavy, languid, and difagreeable. A good poem, like a rich difh, confifts of many dainties fo judiciously mixed, as to form one compound that is perfect and pleasing; no ingredient should predominate; for too great a portion of any one, however palatable it may be in itself, will · rob the reft of their flavour. Befides, a luxuriancy of epithets tends to make the ftyle prolix and flaccid, and robs it of that ftrength and force with which every difcourfe fhould be animated; for the fhorter and clofer the ftyle the ftronger. And even where fome of the paffions are concerned, or the fubject is preceptive, and intended to inform the judgment, they are to be used very fparingly; for a redundancy of epithets will here break in upon perfpicuity, and render that obfcure, which would have been otherwife very plain and intelligible. In confirmation of this opinion, I muft beg leave to observe, that the funeral oration of Mark Anthony in Shakespear's Julius Cafar, which is one of the most artful, pathetic, and best fpeeches that ever was penned in the English language, has hardly an epithet from the beginning to the end. There are indeed adjectives and participles to the fubftantives, but thefe are not to be called epithets, fince they make up the effential part of the defcription; whereas, what we call epithets, are added only by way of ornament and illuflration.

But this is faid not with an intention to leffen the reader's esteem for epithets, fince it is certain, that they are most admirably adapted to defcription, and fo effential, to poetry, that the beauty of its ftyle depends in a great meafure on their ufe, which Homer, Virgil, and the best poets were fo fenfible of, that their works abound with them. And in fome places many epithets are joined to the fame

substantive without any conjunction between them, and are often thus more elegant and expreffive.

An eyeless monster, hideous, vaft, deform!

Immediately a place


Before his eyes appear'd, fad, noifome, dark.

-And the plain ox,


That harmless, honeft, guileless animal,
In what has he offended? He, whose toil,
Patient, and ever ready, cloaths the fields
With all the pomp of harveft; fhall he bleed,
And wrestling groan beneath the cruel hands
Even of the clowns he feeds?


What therefore we contend for, is their proper application; we would have the poet, like a good architect, diftinguish ornament from strength, and put each in its proper place; for as nothing adds more beauty to a poem than juft and ornamental epithets, fo nothing gives more grace to a building than windows well decorated; but no man would for that reason stick his houfe full of them, and difplace those pillars which should support the fabric, to let in more light than is necessary.

The poet indeed, as Quintilian has obferved, is here greatly indulged, and may afe thefe bewitching ornaments more frequently and more freely than the orator; but both ought to take care that they are not too redundant, for elegance abhors a verbose luxuriance either in profe or verse.

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We come now to speak of tropes and figures, materials which the poet handles very freely, but as we have treated largely of thefe in our volume of Rhetoric, we fhall not take up the reader's time with an illustration of them here befides, they are perhaps better and more eafily obtained from experience than precept; for every one who is converfant with the beft authors, and reads them with due attention, cannot be unacquainted with the figures of speech, and the art of applying them, though he never looked for them in the rhetoric of the

schools, or ever heard fo much as a definition of their names. Nor will this appear at all myfterious, when we confider, that the works of the antient poets and orators are the gardens from whence these flowers were taken.

Those which the young student will be most liable to err in, are the metaphor, the fimile, and the description, and therefore a few cautions respecting these may be necessary.

Metaphors are always agreeable, and have a good effect when they are drawn from nature, and connect ideas that have a due relation to each other; but when they are forced, foreign, and obfcure, they are altogether as infipid, abfurd and ridiculous.

In fimiles or comparisons, the chief and essential parts should bear an exact and true proportion. A small disagreement in a lefs confiderable circumftance, will not indeed spoil the figure; but the more exact the parallel is in every particular, the more perfect and lively it will be; and therefore fimiles are generally best when short; for, befides that tediousness tires, by running into minute circumftances, you are in danger of discovering fome unpleafing disproportion. Similes need not be always drawn from lofty subjects; for those taken from common things are fignificant and agreeable, if they are cloathed with proper expreffions, and paint in ftrong and lively colours the things we intend they should represent. In grand fubjects, fimiles that are drawn from lesser things relieve and refresh the mind.

Defcriptions, which by historians and orators are used cautiously and through neceffity, either to describe perfons, things and places, or to affect the paffions, are often in poetry introduced only by way of decoration, and that with fuccefs. Great judgment, however, is required in the diftribution of this figure. Whether it be intended to move the paffions, or to please the fancy, it must answer the end propofed; and therefore it is never to be admitted but when fome point can be obtained. A little wit never betrays himself more than when by attempting to display his genius, he throws in defcriptions that have no connection with the subject in hand, and are therefore a dead weight to it. Thefe verfifiers are likewife too apt to lay hold of every hint that prefents itself, and to run out into long common-places; whereas the man of real genius and

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judgment confiders that many things must be left to gratify the imagination of the reader, and therefore cuts off all fuperfluities, however pleafing, and rejects every thing that would feem abrupt and foreign to his fubject. He difcards likewise all low and vulgar circumftances, and employs his genius in beautifying the effential and more noble parts.

That painting as well as poetry so much affects us, is chiefly owing to the juftnefs and elegance of description. Pieces of portraiture and hiftory, as well as landscapes, if the figures are nobly defigned, and finely executed, if the perspective be good, the lights and fhades just and natural, and the whole bold and free, will always please ; and fo it is with poetry, the defcriptions in Homer, Virgil, Milton, and Shakespear, will live for ever, and, like the pieces of Raphael, always feed the imagination with pleasure.

The power of defcription in poetry is very great, and there is more ufe made of it than is generally imagined; for however the modes of expreffion have been multiplied, many of them will be found to be little more than descriptions: thus images are defcriptions only heightened and animated; allufions and fimiles, defcriptions placed in an oppofite point of view; epithets are generally descriptions of the fubftantives they precede, or fome of their properties ; every metaphor is a fhort defcription and comparison united; and the hyperbole is often no more than a description carried beyond the bounds of probability; and it is chiefly owing to their defcriptive power that these figures strike the imagination fo forcibly, and imprefs fuch lively images on the mind.

We are now to speak of the different forts of ftyle, which have been usually divided into the plain, mediate, and fublime. Virgil may be pointed out as a perfect pattern in each, that is to fay, his Bucolics have been esteemed for the plain ftyle, his Georgics for the mediate, and the Eneid for the fublime. Though in many parts of each, examples may be seen of them all; for there are few poems of any merit that can be wrote in the plain or mediate ftyle only, without partaking of the other; nor are there any that are in all places fublime. Even the epic poem and the tragedy have their under parts; common things as well as great

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