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matter into mind, and invest mind with the form and properties of matter.

On carrying up our inquiries into the nature of so extraordinary and considerable a portion of the materials of a poet to the source, and investigating the sentiments of the ancients on the subject before us, their opinions are found deserving of notice, more from the partiality which they have manifested towards this licentiousness in composition, than from the success which they have evinced in justifying or explaining it. In undertaking to account for those bolder effusions of the art, which they regarded as soaring too high for the controul of reason, or trammels of precept, they pronounced them to be the effects of a divine phrensy. Under this idea, which was no small favourite with antiquity, the votarist of the muse was feigned to receive by inspiration those sublime conceptions, which he imbibed with so much warmth, and delivered with so much enthusiasm. In vain did he, who was not thus favoured by heaven, endeavour to regulate his essays by art, or by labour; all his attempts must prove cold and lifeless, until animated with that effluence which could descend from the muse alone. While he

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Coments Then he was propitious. and Tote inder her immediate inspiration, possessed the right of giving utterance to her ictates. low little conformable soever her ment De found to the more rigid rincipies of enucism.

From the force of nese descriptions I poetical enthusiasm, much it is to pe remarked should be subducted. indtributed to he extravagance or ieciamatory exaggeration. There is evidently displayed inder the tissue of figurative language, an ambitious attempt at raising the description to the height or the subject described, and at accommodatmg it to the elevation or eucal expression. Το a certain degree lowever hev nav be d mitted: for the io not appear so difficult to be reconciled, as may be at rst magined, with notions which tre ut present ery renerally allowed. Few persons, it is presumed, will be found to deny the existence of that alent or antitude for excelling in any of the arts of design, vich ve term genius vilici, though capable of improvement or deterioraion. saturai endowment dispensed by the same awer vinch as bestowed on is

ur rosser gans As few, it is presumedt,

will be found to deny that it is to those persons alone, on whom this faculty is bestowed, that those happy irregularities of conception or execution, which we tolerate as licences, will be likely to occur. While they who are accustomed to attend to the motions of their minds, must have observed that there are propitious moments, when, from the accidental presentation of external objects to the senses, or the fortuitous recurrence of ideas previously acquired by sensation, those happy combinations of imagery arise, which cannot be created at pleasure.

But of these opinions of the ancients, even with the aid of this explanation, little use can be made in elucidating the nature of those licences of poetry which it is the purpose of these inquiries to investigate. They give the matter under discussion a dependance upon a mental faculty which is probably as inscrutable in its nature and movements, and as difficult to be brought within ascertainable limits, as these licences themselves. And surely if poetical genius or enthusiasm is of a nature which is difficult to be determined, much more difficult must it be to ascertain those effusions to which it gives birth, which are of themselves capable of an endless modification.

Neither does modern criticism afford us much greater assistance in entering on these inquiries. Though various writers have touched on the subject, and have sheltered many seeming anomalies in poetry, under the general term licence, yet they have no where defined with accuracy what the term signifies. Many expressions occur in the works both of poets and criticks, which infer the existence of such a principle in poetry as certain and acknowledged: some few passages might be pointed out, where a description of its nature is cursorily attempted, and others where bounds are partially prescribed to its power. But in the only attempts wherein they have undertaken to define its nature, they are found either to give too great a latitude to its meaning, or to circumscribe it within too narrow limits. The former seems to be the case, where poetick licence is described as being that particular character which distinguishes and sets bounds between poetry and mere prose: for to


• Mr. Dryden thus defines this term, "Poetical licence I take to be the liberty which poets have assumed to themselves, in all ages, of speaking things in verse, which are beyond the severity of prose. It is that particular character which distinguishes and sets the bounds betwixt oratio soluta and poetry."

Pref. to State of Innoc.

select a single instance, verse, which constitutes an essential difference between both kinds of composition, is not in any respect of a licentious character, however included in this description. And on the other hand, those attempts at illustrating its nature, must be at once pronounced too confined in their application, which would straighten it (as is the case in some few tracts' written expressly on the subject,) to the immunities of mere poetical diction.

From the insufficiency of these attempts, it is of course still necessary that some effort should be made to complete the definition of the terms under consideration. And in order to arrive at one more just and comprehensive, it is expedient to make a few preliminary observations; which, if they do not appear wholly adequate to the end of their application, will at least afford some assistance in arranging the scattered members of poetry, and thus bringing within the bounds of comprehension an art so apparently unlimited in its nature and varied in its appearance.

See particularly Christ. Ware, Senar, sine de Leg. et Licent. Vet. Poetar.

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