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can be held to belong to poetry. Among the minor prophets, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Habakkuk, and especially Nahum, are distinguished for poetical spirit. In the prophecies of Daniel and Jonah, there is no poetry.
It only now remains to speak of the book of Job, with which I shall conclude. It is known to be extremely ancient; generally reputed the most ancient of all the poetical books; the author uncertain. It is remarkable that this book has no connection with the affairs or manners of the Jews or Hebrews. The scene is laid in the land of Uz, or Idumæa, which is a part of Arabia; and the imagery employed is generally of a different kind from what I before showed to be peculiar to the Hebrew poets. We meet with no allusions to the great events of sacred history, to the religious rites of the Jews, to Lebanon or to Carmel, or any of the peculiarities of the climate of Judæa. We find few comparisons founded on rivers or torrents; these were not familiar objects in Arabia. But the longest comparison that occurs in the book is to an object frequent and well known in that region, a brook that fails in the season of heat and disappoints the expectation of the traveler.
The poetry, however, of the book of Job, is not only equal to that of any other of the sacred writings, but is superior to them all, except those of Isaiah alone. As Isaiah is the most sublime, David the most pleasing and tender, so Job is the most descriptive of all the inspired poets. A peculiar glow of fancy and strength of description characterize the author. No writer whatever abounds so much in metaphors. He may be said not to describe, but to render visible whatever he treats of. A variety of instances might be given. Let us remark only those strong and lively colors with which, in the following passages taken from the eighteenth and twentieth chapters of his book, he paints the condition of the wicked; observe how rapidly his figures rise before us, and what a deep impression, at the same time, they leave on the imagination. “Knowest thou not this of old, since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach the clouds, yet he shall perish forever. He shall fly away as a dream, and shall not be found; yea, he shall be chased away as a vision of the night. The eye also which saw him shall see him no more; they which have seen him shall say: Where is he? He shall suck the poison of asps; the viper's tongue shall slay him. In the fullness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits; every hand shall come upon him. He shall fee from the iron weapon, and the bow of steel shall strike him through. All darkness shall be hid in his secret places. A fire not blown shall consume him. The heavens shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him. The increase of his house shall depart. His goods shall flow away in the day of wrath. The light of the wicked shall be put out; the light shall be dark in his tabernacle. The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down. For he is cast into a net by his own feet. He walketh upon a snare. Terrors shall make him afraid on every side; and the robber shall prevail against him. Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation. His remembrance shall perish from the earth, and he shall have no name in the street. He shall be driven from light into darkness. They that come after him shall be astonished at his day. He shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.”
TASTE AND GENIUS Taste and genius are two words frequently joined together;
and therefore by inaccurate thinkers, confounded. They
signify, however, two quite different things. The difference between them can be clearly pointed out; and it is of importance to remember it. Taste consists in the power of judging; genius, in the power of executing. One may have a considerable degree of taste in poetry, eloquence, or any of the fine arts, who has little or hardly any genius for composition or execution in any of these arts; but genius cannot be found without including taste also. Genius, therefore, deserves to be considered as a higher power of the mind than taste. Genius always imports something inventive or creative; which does not rest in mere sensibility to beauty where it is perceived, but which can, more. over, produce new beauties, and exhibit them in such a manner as strongly to impress the minds of others. Refined taste forms a good critic; but genius is further necessary to form the poet, or the orator.
It is proper also to observe that genius is a word, which, in common acceptation, extends much further than to the objects of taste. It is used to signify that talent or aptitude which we receive from nature for excelling in any one thing whatever. Thus we speak of a genius for mathematics as well as a genius for poetry; of a genius for war, for politics, or for any mechanical employment.
This talent or aptitude for excelling in some one particular, is, I have said, what we receive from nature. By art and study, no doubt, it may be greatly improved; but by them alone it cannot be acquired. As genius is a higher faculty than taste, it is ever, according to the usual frugality of nature, more limited in the sphere of its operations. It is not uncommon to meet with persons who have an excellent taste in several of the polite arts, such as music, poetry, painting, and eloquence, altogether; but to find one who is an excellent performer in all these arts is much more rare; or rather, indeed, such an one is not to be looked for. A sort of universal genius, or one who is equally and indifferently turned towards several different professions and arts, is not likely to excel in any. Although there may be some few exceptions, yet in general it holds that when the bent of the mind is wholly directed towards some one object, exclusive in a manner of others, there is the fairest prospect of eminence in that, whatever it be. The rays must converge to a point, in order to glow intensely. This remark I here choose to make, on account of its great importance to young people, in leading them to examine with care, and to pursue with ardor, the current and pointing of nature towards those exertions of genius in which they are most likely to excel.
A genius for any of the fine arts, as I before observed, always supposes taste; and it is clear that the improvement of taste will serve both to forward and to correct the operations of genius. In proportion as the taste of a poet, or orator, becomes more refined with respect to the beauties of composition, it will certainly assist him to produce the more finished beauties in his work. Genius, however, in a poet or orator, may sometimes exist in a higher degree than taste; that is, genius may be bold and strong, when taste is neither very delicate nor very correct. This is often the case in the infancy of arts; a period when genius frequently exerts itself with great vigor, and executes with much warmth; while taste, which requires experience, and improves by slower degrees, hath not yet attained to its full growth. Homer and Shakespeare are proofs of what I now
assert; in whose admirable writings are found instances of rudeness and indelicacy, which the more refined taste of later writers, who had far inferior genius to them, would have taught them to avoid. As all human perfection is limited, this may very probably be the law of our nature, that it is not given to one man to execute with vigor and fire, and, at the same time, to attend to all the lesser and more refined graces that belong to the exact perfection of his work; while, on the other hand, a thorough taste for those inferior graces is for the most part accompanied with a diminution of sublimity and force.
Having thus explained the nature of taste, the nature and importance of criticism, and the distinction between taste and genius, I am now to consider the sources of the pleasures of taste. Here opens a very extensive field; no less than all the pleasures of the imagination, as they are commonly called, whether afforded us by natural objects, or by the imitations and descriptions of them. But it is not necessary to the purpose of my lectures that all these should be examined fully; the pleasure which we receive from discourse or writing being the main object of them. All that I propose is to give some openings into the pleasures of taste in general, and to insist more particularly upon sublimity and beauty.
We are far from having yet attained to any system concerning this subject. Mr. Addison was the first who attempted a regular inquiry, in his essay on the “Pleasures of the Imagination,” published in the sixth volume of the Spectator. He has reduced these pleasures under three heads,— beauty, grandeur, and novelty. His speculations on this subject, if not exceedingly profound, are, however, very beautiful and entertaining; and he has the merit of having opened a track which was before unbeaten. The advances made since his time in this curious part of philosophical criticism are not very considerable, though some ingenious writers have pursued the subject. This is owing, doubtless, to that thinness and subtilty which are found to be properties of all the feelings of taste. They are engaging objects; but when we would lay firm hold of them, and subject them to a regular discussion, they are always ready to elude our grasp. It is difficult to make a full enumeration of the several objects that give pleasure to taste: it is more difficult to define all those which have been discovered, and to reduce them under proper classes; and, when we would go further, and investigate the efficient causes of the pleasure which we receive from such objects, here, above all, we find ourselves at a loss. For instance: we all learn by experience that certain figures of bodies appear to us more beautiful than others. On inquiring further, we find that the regularity of some figures, and the graceful variety of others, are the foundation of the beauty which we discern in them; but when we attempt to go a step beyond this, and inquire what is the cause of regularity and variety producing in our minds the sensation of beauty, any reason we can assign is extremely im. perfect. These first principles of internal sensation nature seems to have covered with an impenetrable veil.
It is some comfort, however, that although the efficient cause be obscure, the final cause of those sensations lies in many cases more open; and, in entering on this subject, we cannot avoid taking notice of the strong impression which the powers of taste and imagination are calculated to give us of the benignity of our Creator. By endowing us with such powers, he hath widely en. larged the sphere of the pleasure of human life; and those, too, of a kind the most pure and innocent. The necessary purposes of life might have been abundantly answered, though our senses of seeing and hearing had only served to distinguish external objects, without conveying to us any of those refined and delicate sensations of beauty and grandeur with which we are now so much delighted. This additional embellishment and glory, which for promoting our entertainment the Author of nature hath poured forth upon his works, is one striking testimony, among many others, of benevolence and goodness. This thought, which Mr. Addison first started, Doctor Akenside, in his poem on the “Pleasures of the Imagination,” has happily pursued:
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