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antiquity conferred upon them, and become precedents of indisputable authority.
It has, indeed, been advanced by Addison, as one of the characteristicks of a true critick, that he points out beauties rather than faults. But it is rather natural to a man of learning and genius, to apply himself chiefly to the study of writers who have more beauties than faults to be displayed; for the duty of criticism is neither to depre. ciate nor 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
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 pas.
sage 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 enables him to impress images strongly on his own mind, and whose choice and 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 understanding, or intervention of the judgment. To revolve jollity and mirth necessarily tunes the voice of a poct to gay and sprightly notes, as it fires his eye with vivacity; and reflection on gloomy situations and disastrous events, will sadden his numbers, as it will cloud his countenance. But in such passages 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 abBent lover, as of a conquered king.
It is scarcely to be doubted, that on many occasions we make the musick which we imagine ourselves 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 adaptations of harmony are chimerical : that Homer had no extraordinary attention to the melody of his verse when he described a nuptial festivity;
Νυμφας δ' εκ θαλαμων, δαιδων υπολαμπομεναων,
Here sacred pomp, and genial feast delight,
that Vida was merely fanciful, when he supposed Virgil endeavouring to represent, by uncommon sweetness of numbers, the adventitious beauty of
Os, humerosque Deo similis ; namque ipse decoram
The Trojan chief appear'd in open sight,
or that Milton did not intend to exemplify the harmony which he mentions :
Fountains ! and ye that warble as ye 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 angelic beauty; but though the images are nearly the same, the numbers will be found upon comparison very different.
And now a stripling cherub he appears,
Of many a colour'd plume sprinkled with gold. Some of the lines of this description are remarkably 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 car and imagination.
A seraph wing'd : six wings he wore to shade
The circuit wideThe adumbration of particular and distinct im. ages 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 his and to jarr. Words of this kind give to verse the proper
similitude of sound, without much labour of the writer, and such happiness is therefore rather to be attributed to fortune than skill; yet they are sometimes combined with great propriety, and undeniably contribute to enforce the impression of the idea. We hear the passing arrow in this line of Virgil;
Et fugit horrendum stridens clapsa sagitta ;
Th' impetuous arrow whizzes on the wing.
and the creaking of hell-gates, in the description by Milton;