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select a single instance, verse, which constitutes an essential difference between both kinds of composition, is not in any respect of a licentious character, however included in this description. And on the other hand, those attempts at illustrating its nature, must be at once pronounced too confined in their application, which would straighten it (as is the case in some few tracts written expressly on the subject,) to the immunities of mere poetical diction.
From the insufficiency of these attempts, it is of course still necessary that some effort should be made to complete the definition of the terms under consideration. And in order to arrive at one more just and comprehensive, it is expedient to make a few preliminary observations; which, if they do not appear wholly adequate to the end of their application, will at least afford some assistance in arranging the scattered members of poetry, and thus bringing within the bounds of comprehension an art so apparently unlimited in its nature and varied in its appearance.
See particularly Christ. Ware, Senar, sine de Leg. et Liceat. Vet. Poetar.
The study of human nature, in which every poet should be read, is merely a contexture of different sciences. Every thing which regards man's state and situation, either has been made, or is capable of becoming the subject of such learned or philosophical investigation. To History is committed the perpetuation of his achievements in the inore active and splendid scenes of life. The circumstances not only of his nature and existence, but of those inferiour beings, and of that inanimate world, which becomes considerable from being connected with him, supply Natural History with its various speculations. From the varieties in his manners, his conduct, and his opinions, Ethicks derive their malter of discussion. The peculiarities of his language give to Grammar, and Rhetorick their scope and origin. And to Criticism is consigned the regulation of those finer productions of the art, which furnish his taste with the means of elegant gratification.
That each of these sciences enter the composition of poetry, is a truth so evident, as to need no proof in order to be admitted. And he who would succeed in this art, must nat only have his observation considerably
exercised in the different subjects of their investigation, but must have reduced his speculations in them under such general heads, as will give his thoughts the consistence and utility, which arise from system. He cannot hope, without being somewhat of a good historian, to succeed in those higher walks of his art, which take their subject from the oral or written annals of a nation. Without much of the skill and observation of a naturalist, his descriptions of rural scenery, and his delineation of life and manners, must be cold and uninteresting. That knowledge of the human heart and character, of the calm tenour of sentiment, and the warm ebullition of passion, which he is so frequently called upon to display, he must derive from the same study whence the moral philosopher constructs his system of ethicks. Over language
in all the varieties of sense, structure, embellishment, and harmony, he must exercise the skill of a grammarian and a rhetorician.' And he inust complete his education in this circle of sciences, by acquiring a perfect insight into those critical rules by which his art is to be tried on the touchstone of excellence.
But though the poet is thus brought within the fence of science, he is not confined to the narrow limits of its circumference. By a certain felicity of boldness, which has ever been the undisputed right of his art, he may break down that pale which would set bounds to his prerogative. To the language of history he is not always obliged to pay a rigid attention; he may often give to past events, a turn which is more suitable to the elevation of his ideas; and may represent things, not as they happened, but as he conceives they might have happened. In his delineation of natural scenery, and pictures of human life and action, descriptions and characters may rise from his creation, different from what nature any where unfolds to contemplation. The language in which he speaks, is particularly distinguished from that which occurs in reality; but setting aside the circumstances of its consisting of verse, and figurative expression, those marked peculiarities which characterize the diction of a poet, he may fashion his language with a frequent disregard to the minuter rules of grammar. Criticism alone assumes the right of restraining the licentiousness of poetical
ardour; but even from its dogmas, he possesses a right of appeal to the judgment, and the feelings.
Science, therefore, appears to constitute a standard, from which the poet may be
generally said to depart, in taking those liberties which are justified by licence. But that science is exclusively the standard from which he deviates, will be more admissible, on demonstrating the improbability of there being
On a casual view of the subject under consideration, art and nature may be thought to possess an equal or paramount claim to that of science, in forming the standard from which the poet possesses a liberty of deviating in his delineations. From the rank which his compositions hold, as the principal among the arts of taste, the intimacy which they possess to the former, may be thought even closer than that which they bear to the latter. Nay, in regarding poetry as strictly imitative, in which is inferred the notion of an original and a model, which the artist aims at copying or emulating, each may
be regarded as forming a standard, to which he must in some respects conform, and from which he may in others occasionally depart.