« הקודםהמשך »
in our presence. For the same reason, we are little moved by any distant event; because we have more difficulty to conceive it present, than an event that happened in our neighbourhood.
Every one is sensible, that describing a past event as present, has a fine effect in language : for what other reason than that it aids theconception of ideal presence ? Take the following example.
And now with shouts the shocking armies clos'd,
In this passage we may observe how the writer, inflamed with the subject, insensibly advances from the past time to the present; led to that form of narration by conceiving every circumftance as passing in his own fight: which at the fame time has a fine effect upon the reader, by presenting things to him as a spectator. But change from the past to the present requires some preparation; and is not sweet where there is no stop in the sense : witness the following passage.
Thy fate was next, O Phæftus ! doom'd to feel
Whom Borus sent (his son and only joy)
Iliad, v. 57.
It is still worse to fall back to the past in the same period; for that is an anticlimax in description :
Through breaking ranks his furious course he bends,
Iliad, v. 415.
Again, describing the shield of Jupiter,
Here all the terrors of grim War appear,
Iliad, v. 914.
Nor is it pleasant to be carried backward and forward alternately in a rapid succession :
Then dy'd Scamandrius, expert in the chace,
From Menelaus' arm the weapon fent,
Iliad, v. 65.
It is wonderful to observe, upon what flight foundations Nature erects fome of her moft folid and magnificent works. In appearance at least, what can be more flight than ideal presence; and yet from it is derived that extensive infuence which language hath over the heart; an influence which, more than any other means, strengthens the bond of society, and attracts individuals from their private system to perform acts of generosity and benevolence. Matters of fact, it is true, and truth in general, may be inculcated without taking advantage of ideal' presence; but without it, the finest speaker or writer would in vain attempt to move any pasfion: our sympathy would be confined to objects that are really present ; and language would lose entirely its signal power of making us sympathize with beings removed at the greateit distance of time as well as of place. Nor is the influence of language, by means of ideal prefence, confined to the heart: it reacheth also the understanding, and contributes to belief. For when events are related in a lively manner, and
every circumstance appears as paffing before us, · we suffer not patiently the truth of the facts to be
questioned. An historian, accordingly, who hath a genius for narration, seldom fails to engage our belief. The same facts related in a manner cold and indistinct, are not suffered to pass without examination : a thing ill described is like an object seen at a distance, or through a mit; we doubt whether it be a reality or a fiction. Cicero says, that to relate the manner in which an event passed, not only enlivens the story, but makes it appear more credible *. For that reafon, a poet who can warm and animate his reader, may employ bolder fictions than ought to be ventured by an inferior genius : the reader, once thoroughly engaged, is susceptible of the strongest impressions :
Veraque constituunt, quæ belle tangere possunt
Lucretius, lib. 1. l. 644.
A masterly painting has the same effect : Le Brun is no small support to Quintus Curtius : and among the vulgar in Italy, the belief of scripture-history is perhaps founded as much upon the authority of Raphael, Michael Angelo, and other celebrated painters, as upon that of the sacred writers t.
* De Oratore, lib. 2. sect. 81.
+ At quæ Polycleto defuerunt, Phidiæ atque Alcameni dantur. Phidias tamen diis quam hominibus efficiendis melior artifex traditur: in ebore vero longe
citra The foregoing theory must have fatigued the reader with much dry reasoning; but his labour will not be fruitless ; because from that theory are derived many useful rules in criticism, which shall be mentioned in their proper places. One fpecimen shall be our present entertainment. Events that surprise by being unexpected, and yet are natural, enliven greatly an epic poem : but in such a poem, if it pretend to copy human manners and actions, no improbable incident ought to be admitted ; that is, no incident contrary to the order and course of nature A chain of imagined incidents linked together according to the order of nature, finds easy admittance into the mind; and a lively narrative of such incidents occasions complete images, or, in other words, ideal presence : but our judgment revolts against an improbable incident; and, if we once begin to doubt of its reality, farewell relish and concern-an unhappy effect; for it will require more than an ordinary effort, to restore the waking dream, and to make the reader conceive even the more probable incidents as palfing in his presence.
I never was an admirer of machinery in an epic poem, and I now find my taste justified by
citra æmulum, vel fi nihil nisi Minervam Athenis, aut Olympium in Elide Jovem feciffet, cujus pulchritudo adjeciffe aliquid etiam receptæ religioni videtur; adeo majeftas operis Deum æquavit. Quintilian, lib. 12. cap. 10. § 1.