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our tragedies are usually composed in blank
Our comedy, indeed, is generally written in prose; but through the idleness, or ill taste,
of our writers, rather than from any other just cause, For, though rhyme be not necessary, or rather would be improper, in the comedy of our language, which can support itself in poetic numbers, without the diligence of rhyme; yet some sort of metre is requisite in this humbler species of poem; otherwise, it will not contribute all that is within its power and province, to please. And the particular metre, proper for this species, is not far to seek. For it can plainly be no other than a careless and looser lambic, such as our language naturally runs into, even in conversation, and of which we are not without examples, in our old and best writers for the comic stage. But it is not wonderful that those critics, who take offence at English epic poems in rhyme, because the Greek and Latin only observed quantity, should require English comedies to be written in prose, though the Greek and Latin comedies were composed in verse. For the ill application of examples, and the neglect of them, may be well enough expected from the same men, since it does not appear that their judgment was employed, or the reason of the thing attended to, in either instance.
And thus much for the idea of UNIVERSAL Poetry. It is the art of treating any subject
PROVINCES OF THE DRAMA.
IN the former Essay, I gave an idea, or slight sketch, of Universal Poetry. In this, I attempt to deduce the laws of one of its kinds, the Dramatic, under all its forms. And I engage in this task, the rather, because, though much has been said on the subject of the drama, writers seem not to have taken sufficient pains to distinguish, with exactness, its several species.
I deduce the laws of this poem, as I did those of poetry at large, from the consideration of its end: not the general end of poetry, which alone was proper to be considered in the former case, but the proximate end of
in such a way as is found most delightful to us; that is, IN AN ORNAMENTED AND NUMEROUS STYLE-IN
OF FICTION—AND IN Whatever deserves the name of POEM must unite these three properties; only in different degrees of each, according to its nature. For the art of every kind of poetry is only this general art so modified as the nature of each, that is, its more immediate and subordinate end, may respectively require.
We are now, then, at the well-head of the poetic art; and they who drink deeply of this spring, will be best qualified to perform the rest. But all heads are not equal to these copious draughts; and, besides, I hear the sober reader admonishing me long since
Lusisti satis atque BIBISTI; Tempus abire tibi est, ne POTUM LARGIUS
Rideat, et pulset lasciva decentius AETAS,