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O form a true judgment of the merit of any dramatic compofition, we fhould first confider the offices and ends of the Drama; what are its pretenfions, and for what purposes it affumes a manner so `different from any other kind of poetical imitation. The epic Poem and the Tragedy, fays Ariftotle, are purely imitations *; but the dramatic is an imitation of the actions of men, by the means of action itself. The epic is also an imitation of the actions of men, but it imitates by narration. The most perfect, and the best imitation, is certainly that which gives the most adequate, * Arift, Poet. C. 1. Chap. 3.
lively, and faithful copy of the thing imitated. Homer was fo fenfible of the fuperior force and efficacy of the dramatic manner, that he often drops the narrative to affume it; and Aristotle fays, that for having invented the dramatic imitation, and not on account of his other excellencies, He alone deferves the name of Poet *. It is apparent therefore, how far this great Critic prefers this, to every other fpecies of Imitation,
The general object of Poetry, among the ancients, was the inftruction of mankind, in religion, morals, philofophy, &c. To these great purposes were tuned the harps of Orpheus, Mufæus, Hefiod, Callimachus, &c. Nor in Greece alone was Poetry the teacher, and the guardian, of the fanctities of human fociety. +Our Northern bards affumed the fame holy offices; the fame facred character. They directed the modes of divine worship: they taught the moral duties; infpired and celebrated heroic deeds; fung the praises of valour, and the charms of * Chap. 4. +Hiftoire des Celtes, 1. 2. c. 9.