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gest themselves to the mind, on the conduct and catastrophe of this drama-but these will naturally spring from the feelings of the reader. We shall, therefore, conclude this article, by expressing our hope that it may contribute, by its details, to throw some additional light on the dispositions of the public in the reign of Charles I., and to elucidate an important incident in the history of our country.
Poésies de Dorat. 4 vols. 18mo. à Geneve. 1777.
It has often occurred to us, that a very simple theory will explain the prevalent distaste for French poetry amongst those of our countrymen who are disciples of the Shaksperian school, and to the numerous scions and offsets which that school has sent forth in so many various directions. We shall strip it as much as possible of its metaphysical dress, since nothing is held less appropriate by the purely literary class, than the use of scientific forms in critical discussion.
It seems, therefore, unnecessary to define, with metaphysical exactness, the meaning of the term emotion. What state of the mind is indicated by that term, the reader may be supposed to understand with at least tolerable accuracy. What is meant by the term idea, is also sufficiently precise. Now it seems to us, that the difference between that class of English poets we have alluded to, and the whole, or nearly the whole, body of the classical poets of France, consists in this;—that the effect of English poetry is produced by the emotions, that of the French by the ideas, they are respectively calculated to
It is well known, that by the utterance of a single phrase, or even a single word, to which, through the intervention of but one, or at least a very limited series of ideas, a certain kind of emotion has once been affixed, that same emotion may be subsequently recalled without the intervention of the idea, or, what is the same thing, without its sensible intervention. This gradually becomes a habit of the mind. Thus the single word assassination,-although, in the first instance, it undoubtedly required a process of thought, in which all the evils of that act were set in array before the judgment, before it could affect the imagination with the full emotion of horror, at last becomes so habitually connected with that emotion, as to excite it ever afterwards on the bare enunciation of the word. So, of other
terms of the same class, as love, beauty, and the like; and so, also, of others of a different order, in which, from the greater number of ideas originally intervening between the term and the emotion, the connection between the two, though felt to exist in equal force, is less easily traced. Thus, verdure, zephyr, and other words of similar import, inspire the mind with emotions of easy tranquillity, which may be hunted through distant associations of the warm air, and the sunshine, and the innocent pleasures which follow in the train of Spring,-but which attach themselves immediately to the term, and spare the poet the labour of metaphysical investigation. These terms may, of course, be so handled as to produce an infinite variety of agreeable emotions in a mind which gives freely into the illusion; and which, without busying itself with the severe exactness of the expression, is content to catch those emotions from the respective terms, as they glide through the passive intellect. We hold that they have so been handled by the order of English poets we describe; and every page of their works will illustrate the truth of our position. As no species of poetical composition can give so much pleasure, with so little trouble; and as no other can, by any possibility, produce such a constancy, and thereby intensity of excitement; so none seems so well calculated to captivate that state of the mind, in which poets, and their readers are habitually known to indulge.
The poetry of ideas, which is ascribed by this theory to the French school, supposes a pleasure resulting from a different state, and a different exertion of the intellect. It is, in fact, by supplying that chain of ideas between the abstract term and the emotion, by working out the problem-by entering into a detailed analysis, that this species of writing produces its effects on the reader. How the intensity of the emotion must be frittered away by this process, is sufficiently obvious. It does not permit us to shudder at the sound of murder;-we must first recollect the pangs inflicted on the victim-if necessary, the anatomical cause of his death,-the perforation of the lung, the opening of the artery, the wound of the brain, and the thousand minute circumstances which precede the phenomena of dissolution; we must pass in review the father's grief, the mother's agony, the wife's despair, the children's destitution ;we must advert to the horror of the neighbours, and the universal indignation of society ;-we must look to the fate of the assassin, the prison, the court of justice, the rack, the wheel, and the gibbet, and transfer the list of sufferings from the family of the buried victim to that of the dying felon ;—and after this ratiocinative detail, we are left to what share of emotion the catalogue of ideas may have left us. From this, however, it
must not be inferred, that no pleasure arises from the kind of writing we describe. On the contrary, it gives rise to one of a considerable magnitude-the pleasure of pursuing something like a chain of reasoning-a deduction of successive consequences from successive premises-a gratification in its nature metaphysical. It is true that this species of poetry requires, proportionally, more energy and attention; and, therefore, on the whole, is probably less amusing than the other. We need not say Boileau or Racine; let the reader try a page of Pope, and a scene of Shakspeare, and he will feel the difference between the poetry of idea and that of emotion.
From this, therefore, it seems to follow, we say seems, for we cannot swear on any critical theory-that the English poetry of emotion is productive of more amusement than the English or French poetry of idea. It also follows, that in as far as instruction can be predicated of any poetry whatever, the poetry of idea is more instructive than that of emotion.
Hence it is, that Shakspeare has been justly, though somewhat too vaguely, styled the poet of the heart; Voltaire, the poet of the head; Shakspeare, of the passions; Voltaire, of the moral feelings.
This also explains the reason why the disciples of Coleridge and Wordsworth, and the whole of the ultra-Shaksperians, have altogether denied the title of poet to Pope, and his French prototypes. They do not understand each other. For a man who looks for ideas, the terms of art of the school of emotion are without meaning; for the man of passion, so are the theorems of Boileau. To the Englishman, Boileau is somewhat worse than a bad philosopher; to the Frenchman, Shakspeare is little better than a madman.
Shall we give an example of what we mean? We will open the works of Voltaire, and the first we hit upon is his translation of the celebrated soliloquy,
"To be, or not to be-that is the question!"
This is by no means one of Shakspeare's flights; by no means a good specimen of the poetry of emotion; but even in translating this, the French writer has not ventured to do more than paraphrase the English. The reader will observe with what care he has rejected the exclamatory style of the original, and attempted to reduce it to the almost syllogistic regularity of the French theatre.
"Demeure; il faut choisir, et passer à l'instant
De la vie à la mort, et de l'être au néant.
Supporter ou finir mon malheur et mon sort?
Et d'un héros guerrier fait un Chrétien timide.”
These, and more especially the lines in italics, are fine, terse, flowing, forcible verses, possessing the greatest merit when interpreted according to the rules of the school of Idea; and although, as we remarked before, the original is, by no means, the kind of example we should have selected, as a striking specimen of the poetry of Emotion, both the French and English versions square exactly with our theory. Shakspeare has uttered a series of unconnected exclamations, which move and harrow the feelings, on the subject of the unknown hereafter. Voltaire has shewn why it is that our feelings are so moved, by a succession of logical proofs. He has been compelled, therefore, to omit the terms of Emotion, which lie thickly strewn in the original, and to adhere simply to the argument of the speech. Hence the beauties of the two versions are totally distinct; and we have no doubt, that in spite of the extraordinary vigour and felicity of the last two lines of the translation, the Shaksperian will persist in finding it not endurable—just as the school of Idea would be apt to decide of the original.
Having satisfied ourselves, however we may have failed with the reader, in accounting for the great diversity between the tastes for French and English poetry, we may now be permitted to give directions for the application of our theory. Like many other mis-called general rules, the exceptions to its application are far more numerous than the instances in which it may safely be adopted. If the reader, however, has gone with
us in our observations, we trust we shall find no difficulty in pointing out the mode of using it. The principles of Emotion and Idea are merely the most highly distinctive, and not universally characteristic of the two schools of poetry. Hence, much poetry of Idea in the English, much poetry of Emotion in the French school. Witness Shakspeare, passim; witness also Phèdre, Zaire, Tancrède, the Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady, and the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard. But as the leading character of each school is what we have described, the taste of the two parties is in effect decided by that circumstance. Still, however, it seems likely from the admixture of Idea and Emotion in both schools, that although the sectaries of each should respectively reserve their highest approbation for that leading excellence which distinguishes their particular sect from its opposite in the highest degree-still, we say, it seems likely they may attach some, however inferior a value, to the peculiar merits of the party to which they do not belong. In effect, we have numerous examples of Shaksperians, who take a certain pleasure in Pope and Racine; and of partizans of Pope and Racine, who are no small admirers of Shakspeare. If we thought otherwise, we should not have begun those critiques on the Minor French Poets, which we commenced in our sixteenth number, and propose, from time to time, to continue. We believe that some degree of pleasure, however small, is derived from the perusal of these authors; and acting on the principle, that the least possible pleasure is better than none at all, we shall proceed in our undertaking, without any apprehension of so seriously annoying the zealots of the school of Emotion, as to counterbalance the satisfaction we may be so fortunate as to contribute to the disciples of the sect of Idea.
We began with Bernard. Our present dish is of equal lightness, and of much the same goût and flavour-Dorat, a man of many volumes, but who will occupy our pages not much the more for his prolixity. A page a volume is all we shall allot to him; and as we have filled several already, by propitiating the ultra English reader, the only mode we can hit upon for keeping within our proposed limits, will be by omitting whatever has been written by our author in the shape of plays. This, as will be seen hereafter, is no very considerable sacrifice. It has been said, somewhat too harshly, of Dorat, as the reader will presently, we think, admit,
Qu'il eut des mots, des riens charmans,