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UT POTERO, EXPLICABO; NEC TAMEN QUASI PYTHIUS APOLLO, CERTA UT SINT ET FIXA, QUÆ DIXERO.

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DISSERTATION

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T H E O CRI T U S.

THE literary produktions of every age have either exhibited the primary resemblances of nature, or reflected her features from each other, through the medium of secondary imitation. The greater number of compositions, constructed of these derivative materials, must be considered as artificial copies. Common abilities, invigorated by study, may be adequate to the task of modifying and expanding the works of others. But the sources of original writing can only be discovered in superior genius; and a peculiar concurrence of circumstances assisting its operations,

A happy coincidence, such as this, of external and internal causes, is necessary to poetic originality. For though genius seem absolutely independent on time or place, we can best contemplate it, as assuming a fixed and decisive character in connexion with composition; which must, of necessity, exhibit nature under her abstract or visible forms; and which

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generally represents the characteristics of the age or country where it first appears, in customs, manners, or religion.

The powers of man are variously modified by the adventitious circumstances of soil or climate; but they are chiefly affected by the increase of civilized manners. They are improved by Now gradations; and arrive, after the labor of ages, to maturity. The conceptions of the barbarian may indicate a fervid imagination; yet are they always expressed with that incoherence and extravagance which mark primæval rudeness. In the progress of society, when the obstacles which had circumscribed invention are removed, the prospects of literature grow more extensive and luminous ; whilst to the description of magnificent scenery and marvellous atchievement, are added the more particular delineations of nature, and the pictures of fluctuating manners.

There is little room for the calm contemplations and minute portraitures of the poet even in an age just emerged from barbarism, where the bold contrafted features of virtue and vice are almost the only discriminations of character; where none but the prominent appearances of the natural world can interest the fancy; and where the violent efforts of passion ftill give the principal coloring to every literary production. Such an age may be distinguished by the grandeur of poetic conception, by a striking boldness of combination. It may be termed indeed the very crisis of fublimities; since we find the sublime most commonly originating in dark and indistinct imagery. But to introduce into a picture the peculiar attributes of the object we paint; to hold up a

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