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ORALISTS of all
mended Poetry as an art no lefs instructive than amufing; tending at once to improve the heart, and entertain the fancy. The genuine and original Poet, peculiarly favoured by nature, and intimately acquainted with the conftitution of the human mind, not by a long train of metaphyfical deductions, but, as it were, by immediate intuition, difplays the workings of every affection, detects the origin of every paffion, traceth its progrefs, and delineates its character. Thus, he teaches us to know ourselves, infpires us with magnanimous fentiments, animates our love of virtue, and confirms our hatred of vice. Moved by his ftriking pictures of the inftability of human enjoyments, we A moderate
moderate the vehemence of our defires, fortify our minds, and are enabled to fuftain adverfity.
Among the antient Greeks, the ftudy of the Poets conftituted an effential part in their celebrated fyftems of education. Plutarch obferves, in his treatise on this curious and interefting fubject, that, as mandrakes planted among vines, imparting their virtue to the grape, correct its acidity, and improve its flavour; fo the poetic art, adorning the precepts of philofophy, renders them eafy and agreeable. Socrates, according to Xenophon, was affiduous in applying the works of Homer and Hefiod to the valuable purposes of moral inftruction. Difcourfing on the character of Therfites, he displayed the meannefs of calumny, and the folly of prefumption; he argued, that modefty was the companion of merit, and that effrontery was the proper object of ridicule and reproach.
proach. Difcourfing on the ftory of Circe, he illuftrated the fatal effects of intemperance; and rehearfing the fable of the Syrens, he warned his difciples against the allurements of falfe delight. This great teacher of virtue was fo fully convinced of the advantages refulting from the connection of poetry with philofophy, that he affifted Euripides in compofing his trage dies, and furnished him with many excellent fentiments and obfervations. The propriety of beftowing attention on the ftudy of human nature, and of borrowing affiftance from the poets, and especially from Shakespeare, will be more particularly illuftrated in the following remarks.
The ftudy of human nature has been often and variously recommended. "Know thyfelf," was a precept so highly esteemed by the venerable fages of antiquity, that they afcribed it to the Delphian oracle *.
By reducing it to practice, we learn the dignity of human nature: Our emulation is excited by contemplating our divine. original: And, by discovering the capacity and extent of our faculties, we become defirous of higher improvement. Nor would the practice of this apophthegm enable us merely to elevate and enlarge our defires, but also, to purify and refine them; to withstand the follicitations of groveling appetites, and fubdue their violence For improvement in virtue confifts in duly regulating our inferior appetites, no less than in cultivating the principles of benevolence and magnanimity. Numerous, however, are the defires, and various are the paffions that agitate the human heart. Every individual is actuated by feelings peculiar to himself, infenfible even of their existence; of their precife force and tendency often ignorant. But, to prevent the inroads of vice, and preserve