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the sheep at noon, counts the lambs, and observes the fences, and, where she finds a gap, stops it with a bush till it can be better mended. In harvest she rides a-field in the waggon, and is very liberal of her ale from a wooden bottle. At her leisure hours she looks goose eggs, airs the wool room, and turns the cheese.
When respect or curiosity brings visitants to her house, she entertains them with prognosticks of a scarcity of wheat, or a rot among the sheep, and always thinks herself privileged to dismiss them, when she is to see the hogs fed, or to count her poultry on the roost.
The only things neglected about her are her children, whom she has taught nothing but the lowest household duties. In my last visit I met Mrs. Busy carrying grains to a sick cow, and was entertained with the accomplishments of her eldest son, a youth of such early maturity, that, though he is only sixteen, she can trust him to sell corn in the market. Her younger daughter, who is eminent for her beauty, though somewhat tanned in making hay, was busy in pouring out ale to the ploughmen, that every one might have an equal share.
I could not but look with pity on this young family, doomed, by the absurd prudence of their mother, to ignorance and meanness ; but, when I recommended a more elegant education, was answered, that she never saw bookish or finical people grow sich, and that she was good for nothing herself till she had forgotten the nicety of the boarding school.
NUMB. 139. TUESDAY, July 16, 1751.
-Sit quod vis simplex duntaxat et unum.
Let every piece be simple and be one.
T is required by Aristotle to the perfection of a
tragedy, and is equally necessary to every other species of regular composition, that it should have a beginning, a iniddle, and an end.
“ The beginning,” says he, “is that which hath nothing ne
cessarily previous, but to which that which fol“ lows is naturally consequent; the end, on the
contrary, is that which by necessity, or at least
according to the common course of things, succeeds “ something else, but which implies nothing conse
quent to itself; the middle is connected on one side " to something that naturally goes before, and on the “ other to something that naturally follows it.”
Such is the rule laid down by this great critick, for the disposition of the different parts of a wellconstituted fable. It must begin, where it may be made intelligible without introduction ; and end, where the mind is left in repose, without expectation of any farther event. The intermediate passages must join the last effect to the first cause, by a regular and unbroken concatenation; nothing must be therefore inserted which does not apparently arise from something foregoing, and properly make way for something that succeeds it.
This precept is to be understood in its rigour only with respect to great and essential events, and cannot be extended in the same force to minuter circumstances and arbitrary decorations, which yet are more happy, as they contribute more to the main design ; for it is always a proof of extensive thought and accurate circumspection, to promote various purposes by the same act; and the idea of an ornament admits use, though it seems to exclude necessity.
Whoever purposes, as it is expressed by Milton, to build the lofty rhyme, must acquaint himself with this law of poetical architecture, and take care that his edifice be solid as well as beautiful ; that nothing stand single or independent, so as that it may be taken away without injuring the rest; but that, from the foundation to the pinnacles, one part rest firm
This regular and consequential distribution is, among common authors, frequently neglected ; but the failures of those, whose example can have no influence, may be safely overlooked, nor is it of much use to recall obscure and unregarded names to memory for the sake of sporting with their infamy. But if there be any writer whose genius can embellish impropriety, and whose authority can make errour venerable, his works are the proper objects of critical inquisition. To expunge faults where there are no excellencies, is a task equally useless with that of the chemist, who employs the arts of separation and refinement upon ore in which no precious metal is contained to reward his operations.
The tragedy of Samson Agonistes has been celebrated as the second work of the great author of Paradise Lost, and opposed, with all the confidence of triumph, to the dramatick performances of other nations. It contains indeed just sentiments, maxims of wisdom, and oracles of piety, and many passages written with the ancient spirit of choral poetry, in which there is a just and pleasing mixture of Seneca's moral declaration, with the wild enthusiasm of the Greek writers. It is therefore worthy of examination, whether a performance thus illuminated with genius, and enriched with learning, is-composed according to the indispensable laws of Aristotelian criticism ; and, omitting at present all other considerations, whether it exhibits a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning is undoubtedly beautiful and proper, opening with a graceful abruptness, and proceeding naturally to a mournful recital of facts necessary to be known:
Samson. A little onward lend thy guiding hand
In what part lodg’d, how easily bereft me,
His soliloquy is interrupted by a chorus or company of men of his own tribe, who condole his miseries, extenuate his fault, and conclude with a solemn vindication of divine justice. So that at the conclusion of the first act there is no design laid, no discovery made, nor any disposition formed towards the subsequent event.
In the second act, Manoah, the father of Samson, comes to seek his son, and, being shown him by the chorus, breaks out into lamentations of his misery, and comparisons of his present with kis former state, representing to him the ignominy which his religion suffers, by the festival this day celebrated in honour of Dagon, to whom the idolaters ascribed his overthrow :
Samson, touched with this reproach, makes a reply equally penitential and pious, which his father considers as the effusion of prophetick confidence :