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F the sciences were to be estimated by their antithe palm from all others, fince it is, we may fuppofe, nearly as old as the Creation, and had its being almoft with the firft breath of mankind.
When Adam came from the hands of his all-bountiful Creator, and found himself in the plains of Paradise, amidst an infinite number of creatures, fo fearfully and wonderfully made; when he faw every herb, plant, and flower rife up for his ufe and pleafure, and every creature fubmit to his will; when he heard the morning's dawn ushered in with the orifons of birds, and the evenings warbled down with notes of thanks and gratitude; when all nature exulted in praife of the omnipotent Creator; when the morning fars fang together, and all the fons of God fhouted for joy t, could man, thus highly favoured of heaven, withold his tribute?—No,
+ Job xxxviii. 7.
-when all things that breathe From th' earth's great altar fend up filent praife To the Creator, and his noftrils fill
With grateful fmell: forth came the human pair,
And join'd their vocal worship to the Choir
The God that made both sky, air, earth and heaven
Poetry in its infant state was the language of devotion and love. It was the voice and expreffion of the heart of man when ravished and transported with a view of the numberless bleffings that perpetually flowed from God the fountain of all goodness.
all things fmil'd
With Fragrance, and wiib foy their hearts d'erflow'd. †
Enraptured thus with the love of God, and filled with an awful idea of his power, glory, and goodnefs; the foul, incapable of finding words in common language fuitable to its lofty conceptions, and difdaining every thing low and vulgar, was obliged to invent a language intirely new. Tropes and figures were called in to exprefs its fentiments, and the diction was dignified and embellifhed with metaphors, beautiful defcriptions, lively images, fimilies, and whatever elfe could help to exprefs, with force and grandeur, its paffion and furprife: difdaining common thoughts and trivial expreffions, it explores all Nature and afpires at all that is fublime and beautiful, in order to approach perfection and beatitude. Nor was this fufficient.-The mind diffatisfied with culling only the most noble thoughts, arrayed in forcible and luxuriant terms, and perceiving the fweetness which arofe from the melody of birds, called in mufic to its aid; when thefe illuftrious thoughts, dignify'd and drefs'd with pomp and fplendor, were
*Milton's Para life Loft.
fo placed as to produce harmony: the long and short, the smooth and rough fyllables were variously combined to recommend the fenfe by the found, and elevation and cadence employed to make the whole more mufically expreffive.
Hence poetry became the parent of mufic, and indeed of dancing; for the method of measuring the time of their verles, per Arfin et Thefin, and of beating the bars or divifions of mufic, gave rife, we may fuppofe, to this art, and taught the feet alfo to exprefs the transports of the foul*. To the truth of thefe reflections, which are drawn from nature, every one will affent, who confiders how he is affected by poetry and mufic; for no man can refift the natural impulse he will have to dance, or agitate the body at certain combinations of words and of founds, unlefs he be unhappily poffeffed of one of thofe gloomy minds described by Shakespeare +. And this will in fome measure account, not only for the great antiquity of dancing, but for its application to religious ceremonies even in the firft ages of the world. Poetry, Mufic, and Dancing, were used by the Ifraelites of old in their worship, and are thus employ'd by many of the eastern nations, and by the Indians of America to this day.
What we have faid of the origin of poetry will account for the neceffity there is for that enthufiafm, that fertility of invention, thofe fallies of imagination, lofty ideas, noble fentiments, bold and figurative expreffions, harmony of numbers, and indeed that
*Ducunt Choreas et Carmina dicunt.
The man that hath no mufic in himself,
SHAKESPEARE's Merchant of Venice,
natural love of the grand, fublime, and marvellous, which are the effential characteristics of a good poet. The poet, not fatisfied with exploring all nature for fubjects, wantons in the fields of fancy, and creates beings of his own. He raises floating islands, dreary deferts, and inchanted caftles, which he peoples, by the magic of his imagination, with fatyrs, nymphs, fairies and gnomes; and from imaginary things excites real pleasure, and furnishes the mind with folid inftruction. He not only, like Midas, turns every thing he touches into gold, (but what has never yet been fabled) he foars beyond the regions of Ether, and brings gold out of nothing. From these bold and enthufiaftic flights, poets are faid to be divinely inspired, fince thefe qualifications are not to be obtained by art, but derive their fource from nature, and are the gifts of heaven alone.
But this divine fcience, originally intended for the worship of God, was in procefs of time debafed; and when men forfook the Lord of Life, apply'd to inferior purposes. It was call'd in to the praife of legiflators and great men. This ufe was made of it not only by the eaftern nations, but by the Greeks, Romans, and by the ancient bards in Britain, who, as hiftory tells us, made fongs in praife of their heroes, which they adapted to mufic, and fung to their harps. Of late indeed Poetry has been oft fhamefully proftituted; but that is no argument. against its excellency. Has not its filter Eloquence thared the fame fate, and been employ'd to unjuft purposes, and to obtain the moft wicked ends? This therefore it has in common with other fciences, and in confequence of the general depravity of mankind.
But the excellency of Poetry, and the attractive charms of the Mules, may be eftimated by the number of votaries they have obtained; fince there are few men, how cold and phlegmatic foever, but have fome time or other paid their court to the ladies
of Parnaffus. And this general affection for the art will render any apology needless that might be made for the publication of this volume; in which we have not fatisfied ourselves with writing dull receipts how poems may be made *, but have, (together with fuch rules as are neceffary for the conftruction of English verfe and of the various fpecies of Poetry) prefented the reader with variety of examples from our beft and most celebrated English poets.
What is faid on verfification is indeed but little, yet it is what was thought abundantly fufficient. In fhort, no more could be introduced that would be ufeful; and to incumber a young ftudent in any fcience with useless rules, is increafing his difficulty, retarding his progrefs, and like loading a man with arms which may hinder his march, but can afford him no defence or affiftance on the road.
The rules obferved by the ancient pocts were adapted to the ancient tongues, but will not fuit our language, fince the quantity, or that space of time, whether long or fhort, in which any fyllable is pronounced, is generally determined by the accents. And the harmony of Milton's numbers will be found not to depend on the rules of quantity, but on other principles. He has not confined himself to the Iambic, which is the measure adjudged to our Englifh heroics, but compounded his verfes with other feet, and fo diverfified his measures, by judicioufly varying the Cafural Paufe, that he has given them a variety of harmony not to be met with in other poets, and avoided a conflant tedious uniformity, that would have been ever lifeless, dull, and difagreeable.
I fhall conclude thefe reflections in the words of an author of great tafte and judgment §. Verfification, fays he, is in Poetry what colouring is in painting,
§ Lord LANSDOWN,
*POPE'S Efay on Criticism.