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Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, That gives us back the image of our mind, 300
“ in the assemblage of ideas, and putting those together, with quickness and variety, wherein can be found any resemblance or congruity, whereby to make up pleasant pictures and agreeable visions in the fancy.” But that great Philosopher, in separating Wit from Judgment, as he does in this place, has given us (and he could therefore give is no other) only an account of Wit in general : In which false Wit, though not every species of it, is included. A striking image therefore of Nature is, as Mr. Locke observes, certainly Wit: But this image may strike on several other accounts, as well as for its truth and beauty; and the Philosopher has explained the manner how. But it never becomes that Wit which is the ornament of true Poesy, whose end is to represent Nature, but when it dresses that Nature to advantage, and presents her to us in the brightest and most amiable light. And to know when the Fancy has done its office truly, the Poet subjoins this admirable test, viz, When we perceive that it gives us back the image of our mind. When it does that, we may be sure it plays no tricks with us : For this image is the creature of the Judgment; and whenever Wit corresponds with Judgment, we may safely pronounce it to be true. “ Naturam intueamur, hanc sequamur: id facillime accipiunt animi quod agnoscunt."-Quint. lib. viii. c. 3.
Warburton. Ver. 298. What oft was thought,]. “ Pope's account of wit is undoubtedly erroneous; he depresses it below its natural dignity, and reduces it from strength of thought to happiness of language.
“ If by a more noble and more adequate conception that be considered as wit, which is at once natural and new, that which, though not obvious, is, upon its first production, acknowledged to be just ; if it be that, which he that never found it, wonders how he missed; to wit of this kind the metaphysical poets have seldom risen. Their thoughts are often new, but seldom natural; they are not obvious, but neither are they just ; and the reader, far from wondering that he missed them, wonders more frequently by what perverseness they were ever found.
As shades more sweetly recommend the light,
Others for Language all their care express, 305 And value books, as women men, for dress :
Ver. 305. Others for Language, &c.] He proceeds secondly to those contracted Critics, whose whole concern turns upon Lan
“ But wit, abstracted from its effects upon the hearer, may be more vigorously and philosophically considered as a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images, or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit, thus defined, they have more than enough. The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together ; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions ; their learning instructs, and their subtilty surprises ; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and, though he sometimes admires, is seldom pleased.
“ From this account of their compositions it will be readily inferred, that they were not successful in representing or moving the affections. As they were wholly employed on something unexpected and surprising, they had no regard to that uniformity of sentiment which enables us to conceive and to excite the pains and the pleasures of other minds; they never inquired what, on any occasion, they should have said or done ; but wrote rather as beholders than partakers of human nature; as beings looking upon good and evil, impassive and at leisure, as Epicurean deities, making remarks on the actions of men, and the vicissitudes of life, without interest and without emotion. Their courtship was void of fondness, and their lamentation of sorrow. Their wish was only to say what they hoped had never been said before.”
Johnson. Ver. 302. modest plainness] Xenophon in Greek, and Cæsar in Latin, are the unrivalled masters of the beautiful simplicity here
Their praise is still,—The Style is excellent ;
COMMENTARY. guage, and shews (from ver. 304 to 337.) that this quality, where it holds the principal place in a work, deserves no commendation ; 1. Because it excludes qualities more essential. And when the abounding Verbiage has choked and suffocated the sense, the writer will be obliged to varnish over the mischief with all the false colouring of eloquence. 2. Secondly, because the Critic who busies himself with this quality alone, is unable to make a right Judgment of it; because true Erpression is only the dress of thought; and so must be perpetually varied according to the subject, and manner of treating it. But those who never concern themselves with the Sense, can form no judgment of the correspondence between that and the Language.
“ Expression is the dress of thought, and still
Appears more decent, as more suitable,” &c. Now as these Critics are ignorant of this correspondence, their whole judgment in language is reduced to verbal criticism, or the examination of single words; and generally those which are most to his taste, are (for an obvious reason) such as smack most of antiquity: on which account our author has bestowed a little raillery upon it; concluding with a short and proper direction concerning the use of words, so far as regards their novelty and ancientry.
NOTES. recommended. We have no English, French, or Italian Writer that can be placed in the same rank with them, for this uncommon excellence.
Warton. Ver. 311. False eloquence, &c.] This simile is beautiful. For the false colouring given to objects by the prismatic glass, is owing to its untwisting by its obliquities, those threads of light which nature had put together, in order to spread over its work an ingenious and simple candour, that should not hide but only heighten
The face of Nature we no more survey,
the native complexion of the objects. And false Expression is nothing else but the straining and divaricating the parts of true Expression; and then daubing them over with what the Rhetoricians very properly term Colours, in lieu of that candid light, now lost, which was reflected from them in their natural state, while sincere and entire.
Warburton. Ver. 324. Some by old words, &c.] “ Abolita et abrogata retinere, insolentiæ cujusdam est, et frivolæ in parvis jactantiæ.” Quint. lib. i. c. 6.
“ Opus est, ut verba à vetustate repetita neque crebra sint, neque manifesta, quia nil est odiosius affectatione, nec utique ab ultimis repetita temporibus. Oratio cujus summa virtus est perspicuitas, quam sit vitiosa, si egeat interprete? Ergo ut novorum optima erunt maxime vetera, ita veterum maxima nova.”—Idem. P.
Quintilian's advice on this subject is as follows: “ Cum sint autem verba propria, ficta, translata ; propriis dignitatem dat antiquitas. Namque et sanctiorem, et magis admirabilem reddunt orationem, quibus non quilibet fuit usurus : eoque ornamento acerrimi judicii Virgilius unice est usus.
“ The language of the age (says Mr. Gray, admirably well,) is never the language of poetry; except among the French, whose
Such labour'd nothings, in so strange a style,
verse, where the thought or image does not support it, differs in nothing from prose. Our poetry, on the contrary, has a language peculiar to itself; to which almost every one that has written, has added something by enriching it with foreign idioms and derivatives: nay, sometimes words of their own composition or invention. Shakespear and Milton have been great creators this way; and no one more licentious than Pope or Dryden, who perpetually borrow expressions from the former. Let me give you some instances from Dryden, whom every body reckons a great master of our poetical tongue. Full of museful mopings,-unlike the trim of love, -a pleasant beverage,-a roundelay of love,--stood silent in his mood,-with knots and knares deformed,
his ireful mood,-in proud array,--his boon was granted,--and disarray and shameful rout, wayward but wise, -furbished for the field,--the foiled dodderd oaks, disherited, -smouldring flames,-retchless of laws,-crones old and ugly,—the beldam at his side, the grandam hag,-villanize his father's fame. But they are infinite; and our language not being a settled thing like the French), has an undoubted right to words of an hundred years old, provided antiquity have not rendered them unintelligible. In truth, Shakespear's language is one of his principal beauties; and he has no less advantage over your Addisons and Rowes in this, than in those great excellencies you mention. Every word in him is a picture.”
Warton. Ver. 328. Unlucky, as Fungoso, &c.] See Ben. Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour.