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dignify by partial representations, but to hold out the light of reason, whatever it may discover; and to promulgate the determinations of truth, whatever she shall dictate.
N° 94. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1751.
Bonus atque fidus
Explicuit sua victor arma.
Who keeps strict justice full in sight;
The resemblance of poetick numbers to the subject which they mention or describe, may be considered as general or particular; as consisting in the flow and structure of a whole passage taken together, or as comprised in the sound of some emphatical and descriptive words, or in the cadence and harmony of single verses.
The general resemblance of the sound to the sense is to be found in every language which admits of poetry, in every author whose force of fancy en. ables him to impress images strongly on his own mind, and whose choice aod variety of language readily supply him with just representations. To such a writer it is natural to change his measure with his subject, even without any effort of the une derstanding, or intervention of the judgmont. To
revolve jollity and mirth necessarily tunes the voice of a poet to gay and sprightly notes, as it fires his cye with vivacity; and reflection on gloomy situa. tions and disastrous events, will sadden his numbers, as it will cloud his countenance.
But in such pas. sages there is only the similitude of pleasure to pleasure, and of grief to grief, without any immediate application to particular images. The same flow of joyous versification will celebrate the jollity of marriage, and the exultation of triumph : and the same languor of melody will suit the complaints of an absent lover, as of a conquered king.
It is scarcely to be doubted, that on many occasions we make the musick which we imagine our. selves to hear, that we modulate the poem by our own disposition, and ascribe to the numbers the effects of the sense. We
may observe in life, that it is not easy to deliver a pleasing message in an unpleasing manner, and that we readily associate beauty and deformity with those whom for any reason we love or hate. Yet it would be too daring to declare that all the celebrated adaptation of har. mony are chimerical, that Ilomer had no extraor. dinary attention to the melody of his verse when he described a nuptial festivity;
Νύμφας δ' εκ θαλάμων, δαίδων υπολαμτόμινάω»,
that Vida was merely fanciful, when he supposed Virgil endeavouring to represent by uncommon sweetness of aumbers the adventitious beauty of Æneas :
Os, humerosque Deo similis: namque ipse decoram
Purpureum, d. lætos oculis afftárat honores ;
And breath'd a youthful vigour on his face. DRYDEN. or that Milton did not intend to exemplify the har. mony which he mentions:
Fountains! and ye that warble as ģe flow,
That Milton understood the force of sounds well adjusted, and knew the compass and variety of the ancient measures, cannot be doubted; since he was both a musician and a critick ; but he seems to have considered these conformities of cadence, as either not often attainable in our language, or as petty excellencies' unworthy of his ambition: for it will not be found that he has always assigned the same cast of numbers to the same objects. He has given in two passages very minute descriptions of angelick beauty ; but though the images are nearly the same, the numbers will be found upon comparison Tery different:
And now a stripling cherub he appears,
Some of the lines of this description are remark. ably defective in harmony, and therefore by no means correspondent with that symmetrical elegance and easy grace which they are intended to exhibit. The failure, however, is fully compensated by the representation of Raphael, which equally delights the ear and imagination:
A seraph wing'd : six wings he wore to shade
The adumbration of particular and distinct images by an exact and perceptible resemblance of sound, is sometimes studied, and sometimes casual. Every language has many words formed in imitation of the noises which they signify. Such are Stridor, Balo, and Beatus, in Latin; and in English to growl, to buzz, to hiss, and to jar.' Words of this kind give to a verse the proper similitude of sound, without much labour of the writer, and such happiness is therefore to be attributed rather to fortune than skill; yet they are sometimes combined with great propriety, and undeniably contribute to en. force the impression of the idea, We hear the passing arrow in this line of Virgil;
Et fugit horrendum stridens elapsa sagitta ;
Th’ impetuous arrow whizzes on the wing.
and the creeking of hell-gates, in the description by Milton;
Harsh thunder. But many beauties of this kind, which the moderns, and perhaps the ancients, have observed, seem to be the product of blind reverence acting upon fancy. Dionysius himself tells us, that the sound of Homer's verses sometimes exhibits the idea of corporeal hulk: is not this a discovery nearly approaching to that of the blind man, who, after long inquiry into the nature of the scarlet colour, found that it represented nothing so much as the clangour of a trumpet? The representative power of poetick barmony consists of sound and measure; of the force of the syllables singly considered, and of the time in which they are pronounced. Sound can resemble nothing but sound, and time can measure nothing but motion and duration.
The criticks, however, have struck out other similitudes; nor is there any irregularity of numbers which credulous admiration cannot discover to be eininently beautiful. Thus the propriety of each of these lines has been celebrated by writers whose opinion the world has reason to regard:
Vertitur interea cælum, fruit oceano nor.me
Sternitur, eranimisque tremens procumbit humi bos.-