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Heav'n first taught letters for some wretch's aid,
They live, they speak, they breathe what love inspires,
́Eloisa to Abelard, 1. 51.
These thoughts are pretty: they suit Pope, but not Eloisa.
Then when I am thy captive talk of chains,
From my prevailing arm, though Heaven's King
Paradise Lost, Book IV.
The concluding epithet forms a grand and delightful image, which cannot be the genuine offspring of rage.
Fourth. Sentiments too artificial for a serious passion. I give for the first example a speech of Percy expiring:
O, Harry, thou hast robb'd me of my youth:
I better brook the loss of brittle life,
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me;
They wound my thoughts, worse than thy sword my flesh.
But thought's the slave of life, and life time's fool;
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop.
First Part, Henry IV. Act V. Sc. 4.
Livy inserts the following passage in a plaintive oration of the Locrenses, accusing Pleminius the Roman legate of oppression.
In hoc legato vestro, nec hominis quicquam est, Patres Conscripti, præter figuram et speciem; neque Romani civis, præter habitum vestitumque, et sonum lingua Latina. Pestis et bellua immanis, quales fretum, quondam, quo ab Sicilia dividimur, ad perniciem navigantium circumsedisse, fabulæ ferunt.*
The sentiments of the Mourning Bride, are for the most part, no
The sighs, the tears, the groans, the restless cares,
Conscript fathers! in this your legate there is nought of man save his figure and species; nor is there ought of a Roman citizen save his habit and dress, and the sound of the Latin tongue. He is a pest and a great brute, such as those which the sea that drives us from Sicily is fabled to have engendered for the destruction of sailors. Titus Livius, 1. 29. § 17.
In the same play, Almeria, seeing a dead body, which she took to be Alphonso's, expresses sentiments strained and artificial, which nature suggests not to any person upon such an occasion.
Had they, or hearts, or eyes, that did this deed?
All things were well; and yet my husband's murder'd!
Act V. Sc. 2.
Lady Trueman. How could you be so cruel to defer giving me that joy which you knew I must receive from your presence? You have robb'd my life of some hours of happiness that ought to have been in it. Drummer, Act V.
Pope's Elegy to the memory of an unfortunate lady, expresses delicately the most tender concern and sorrow that one can feel for the deplorable fate of a person of worth. Such a poem, deeply serious and pathetic, rejects with disdain all fiction. Upon that account, the following passage deserves no quarter; for it is not the language of the heart; but of the imagination indulging its flights at ease; and by that means is eminently discordant with the subject. It would be a still more severe censure, if it should be ascribed to imitation, copy: ing indiscreetly what has been said by others:
What though no weeping loves thy ashes grace,
The ground, now sacred by they reliques made.
Fifth. Fanciful or finical sentiments. Sentiments that degenerate into point or conceit, however they may amuse in an idle hour, can never be the offspring of any serious or important passion. In the Jerusalem of Tasso, Tancred, after a single combat, spent with fatigue and loss of blood, falls into a swoon; in which situation, understood to be dead, he is discovered by Erminia, who was in love with him o distraction. A more happy situation cannot be imagined, to raise grief in an instant to its height; and yet, in venting her sorrow, she descends most abominably into antithesis and conceit, even of the Lowest kind:
E in lui versò d'inessicabil vena
Armida's lamentation respecting her lover Rinaldo,* is in the same vicious taste.
Queen. Give me no help in lamentation,
I am not barren to bring forth complaints:
King Richard III. Act II. Sc. 2,
Jane Shore. Let me be branded for the public scorn,
Or wrong the Orphan who has none to save him.
Give me your drops, ye soft-descending rains,
Jane Shore, Act V.
Jane Shore utters her last breath in a witty conceit.
Then all is well, and I shall sleep in peace
Was there not something I would have bequeath'd you?
Nothing but one sad sigh. Oh mercy, Heav'n! [Dies.
Gilford to Lady Jane Gray, when both were condemned to die
Thou stand'st unmov'd;
Calm temper sits upon thy beauteous brow;
Lady Jane Gray, Act IV. near the end.
The concluding sentiment is altogether finical, unsuitable to the importance of the occasion, and even to the dignity of the passion of love.
Corneille, in his Examen of the Cid, answering an objection, that his sentiments are sometimes too much refined for persons in deep distress, observes, that if poets did not indulge sentiments more ingenious or refined than are prompted by passion, their performances would often be low, and extreme grief would never suggest but exclamations merely. This is in plain language to assert, that forced thoughts are more agreeable than those that are natural, and ought to be preferred.
The second class is of sentiments that may belong to an ordinary passion, but are not perfectly concordant with it, as tinctured by a singular character.
In the last act of that excellent comedy, The Careless Husband, Lady Easy, upon Sir Charles's reformation, is made to express more violent and turbulent sentiments of joy, than are consistent with the mildness of her character:
Lady Easy-O the soft treasure! O the dear reward of long-desiring love.Thus! thus to have you mine, is something more than happiness; 'tis double life, and madness of abounding joy.
If the sentiments of a passion ought to be suited to a peculiar character, it is still more necessary that actions be suited to the character. In the fifth act of the Drummer, Addison makes his gardener act even below the character of an ignorant credulous rustic: he gives him the behavior of a gaping idiot.
The following instances are descriptions rather than sentiments, which compose a third class.
Of this descriptive manner of painting the passions, there is in the Hippolytus of Euripides, Act V. an illustrious instance, namely, the speech of Theseus, upon hearing of his son's dismal exit In Racine's tragedy of Esther, the Queen hearing of the decree issued against her people, instead of expressing sentiments suitable to the occasion, turns her attention upon herself, and describes with accu racy her own situation:
Juste Ciel! tout mon sang dans mes veines sé glace.
Aman. C'en est fait. Mon orgueil est forcé de plier. L'inexorable Aman est réduit à prier. Esther, Act III. Sc. 5.
Athalie. Quel prodige nouveau me trouble et m'embarrasse?
Succéder-Je serois sensible à la pitié ?
Athalie, Act II. Sc. 7.
Titus. O de ma passion fureur désesperée!
Brutus of Voltaire, Act III. Sc. 6.
What other are the foregoing instances but describing the passion
A man stabbed to the heart in a combat with his enemy, expresses himself thus:
So, now I am at rest:
I feel death rising higher still, and higher,
Captain Flash, in a farce composed by Garrick, endeavors to hide his fear by saying, "What a damn'd passion I am in."
An example is given above of remorse and despair expressed by genuine and natural sentiments. In the fourth book of Paradise Lost, Satan is made to express his remorse and despair in sentiments, which, though beautiful, are not altogether natural: they are rather the sentiments of a spectator, than of a person who actually is tormented with these passions.
The fourth class is of sentiments introduced too early or too late. Some examples mentioned above belong to this class. Add the following from Venice Preserv'd, Act V. at the close of the scene between Belvidera and her father Priuli. The account given by Belvidera of the danger she was in, and of her husband's threatening to murder her, ought naturally to have alarmed her relenting father, and to have made him express the most perturbed sentiments. Instead of which he dissolves into tenderness and love for his daughter, as if he had already delivered her from danger, and as if there were a perfect tranquillity:
Canst thou forgive me all my follies past?
Dear as those eyes that weep in fondness o'er thee:
Immoral sentiments exposed in their native colors, instead of being concealed or disguised, compose the fifth class.
The Lady Macbeth, projecting the death of the King, has the following soliloquy:
This speech is not natural. A treacherous murder was never perpetrated, even by the most hardened miscreant, without compunction: and that the lady here must have been in horrible agitation, appears from her invoking the infernal spirits to fill her with cruelty, and to stop up all avenues to remorse. But in that state of mind, it is a never-failing artifice of self-deceit, to draw the thickest veil over the wicked action, and to extenuate it by all the circumstances that