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an end of all fair argument. Beauty is the only magic of Shakespeare's expressions,—beauty, which often resulted equally from his novel, and happy epithets, and from the daring liberties he took with our language, as from the ideas upon which they threw their striking colouring ; and he has assuredly bequeathed to his successors the right of wearing his cestus. There is no spell, even in Shakespeare's name, which can give beauty to that which is not genuinely beautiful. When he says
“ Here lies Duncan,
We exclaim, execrable! But when he says
“ The glow-worm shews the morning to be near,
We cry out beautiful! If the change of the adjective pale into a verb active had not been happy, we should be as free to despise it as to despise silver skin laced with gold blood ; but it is illiberal to feel any expression to be fortunate, and not allow it to be authority. I pray you turn not such a tory in the chair of criticism,
GEORGE HARDINGE, Esg.
Lichfield, Dec. 10, 1786. INCONCEIVABLE ! that a gentleman, who himself writes poetry, with original spirit, and easy grace, can so reply to the extracts * I sent him from a beautiful, though yet unpublished poem ; novel as to subject, polished and harmonious in its numbers, and rich, even to luxuriance, in that faculty which transfers to the pen the powers of the pencil ; adapting, with yet unknown skill, and unattained happiness, philosophic science, and mechanic art, to the sportive warblings of the lyre! That a kindred spirit, which, being determined against publication, can have no warp from rival-hating envy, should turn with cold and sickly taste from such a banquet I must again exclaim, inconceivable !
You tell me the author is too much an epithetmonger to hit your taste. You must, perforce, al
* From Dr Darwin's Botanic Garden. It has been since published, and obtained very great celebrity.-S.
low, that epithets are the poet's colours, and that he can bring nothing to the eye, without a liberal use of them. When used merely to eke out the measure, without adding strength to the sense, or life to the image, they are superfluous and despicable; but not of that order are those of the Botanic Garden.
You bid me look at Shakespeare and Milton. I am familiar with their writings. When they mean to describe, they use as many epithets as Mason, or the author of the extracts I sent you, or as any other good poet of the present day; and of the compound epithet they are much more lavish. More frequently, also, than any modern, do they give us several epithets, in climatic succession, to a single substantive. Conversational poetry may be impressive, pathetic, and interesting, with a very sparing use of epithets; but descriptive poetry must abundantly have them, or it can, as was observed before, bring nothing to the eye of the reader. The Botanic Garden is a professedly descriptive composition. Lavish as are its epithets, many of them we find original, and all appropriate. Let us examine if Shakespeare and Milton are less lavish of them when imagery or scenery
is their theme. First for the bard of Avon,
" So are those crispy, snaky, golden locks, That make such wanton gambols in the wind."
“ Thy turfy mountains where live nibbling sheep,
« The seasons alter, hoary-headed frosts
“ By paved fountain, and by rushy brook,
“ E'en till the eastern gate, all fiery red,
_“ I warrant you
This even in common dramatic dialogue. And it is worth observation, that even the agitated state of Claudio's mind, at the time he makes the ensuing speech, does not prevent his using epithets lavishly. They are dictated by passion itself, if that passion wishes to give pathetic pictures of the evils it dreads.
“ Ay! but to die,
« Three glorious suns, each one a perfect sun,
Shew me passages, if you can, in a modern poet, more liberal of epithets than the above verses selected from Shakespeare. Let us look at Milton. .
“ His ponderous shield, Etherial temper, massy, large, and round Behind him cast.”
Five epithets in one line and half.
« Now to th' ascent of that steep savage hill
“ Yet not the more
“ As when Heaven's fire