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Tum mihi cæruleus supra caput astitit imber,
Æneid, lib. iii. 191.
Hinc tibi copia
Horat. Carn. lib. 1. ode 19:
Videre fessos vomerem inversum boves
Horat. epod. ïi. 63.
Here I can luckily apply Horace's rule against himself:
Ett brevitate opus, ut currat fententia, neu se
Serm. lib. 1. fat x. g.
I close this chapter with a curious inquiry. An object, however ugly to the sight, is far from being so when represented by colours or by words. What is the cause of this difference? With respect to painting the cause is obvious: a good picture, whatever the subject be, is agreeable, because of the pleasure we take in imitation; and this pleafure overbalancing the disagreeableness of the subject, makes the picture upon the whole agreeable. With respect to the description of an ugly object, the cause is what follows. To connect individuals in the social ftate, no particular contributes more than lan
guage, by the power it possesses of an expeditious communication of thought, and a lively representation of transactions. But nature hath not been satisfied to recommend language by its utility merely: independent of utility, it is made susceptible of many beauties, which are directly felt, without the intervention of any reflection *. And this unfolds the mystery; for the pleasure of language is so great, as in a lively description to overbalance the disagreeableness of the image raised by itt. This lowever is no encouragement to deal in disagreeable subjects; for the pleasure is incomparably greater where the subject and the description are both of them agreeable.
The following description is upon the whole agreeable, though the subject described is in itfelf dismal :
Nine times the space that measures day and night
Mix'd with obdurate pride and stedfast hate; - :* : At once as far as angels ken he views
The dismal situation waste and wild: Luis ;
As one great furnace flam'd; yer from those flames
An unmanly, depression of spirits in time of danger is not an agreeable light; and yet a fine defcription or representation of it will be relished:
K. Richard. What must the King do now? must he
Richard II. act 3. fc. 6.
Objects Objects that strike terror in a spectator, have in poetry and painting a fine effect. The picture, by raising a slight emotion of terror, agitates the mind; and in that condition every beauty makes a deep impression. May not contrast heighten the pleasure, by opposing our present security to the danger we would be in by encountering the object represented ?
The other shape,
Paradise Lost, book 2. I. 666.
Now storming fury rose,
Paradise Lost, book 6. I. 207.
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
Gratiano. Poor Desdemona! I'm glad thy father's
dead : Thy match was mortal to him; and pure grief, Shore his old thread in twain. Did he live now, This fight would make him do a desp'rate turn: Yea, curse his better angel from his side, And fall to reprobation. Othello, act 5. fc. 8.
Objects of horror must be excepted from the foregoing theory; for no description, however lively, is sufficient to overbalance the disgust raifed even by the idea of such an object. Every thing horrible ought therefore to be avoided in a description. Nor is this a severe law: the poet will avoid such scenes for his own fake, as well as for that of his reader; and to vary his descriptions, nature affords plenty of objects that dif. gust us in some degree without raising 'horror. I am obliged therefore to condemn the picture of Sin in the second book of Paradise Lost, though drawn with a masterly hand : the original would be a horrid spectacle; and the horror is not much softened in the copy :