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It is upon ludicrous subjects, however, and where there is some display of character, that the dialogue form has been most happily employed. It becomes in this instance a kind of little drama. Lucian will be read with admi. ration and pleasure, as long as there is a relish for wit and fancy in the world. His apatis love Gims Yor sale of the philosophers), is the best of his dialogues. Lucian has been successfully imitated by Fenelon, and Lord Lyttleton.
Description and Origin of Poetry.--Metre:
Rhyme.- English Metres.
MY DEAR JOHN, Having endeavoured to present you with a critical view of the various forms of prosaic composition, I shall proceed without further preparation to the enchanting regions of poetry; a fairy land with which, however, you can only become properly acquainted by visiting
it in person.
Dr. Blair observes, with some justice, that it is not easy to define " what is poetry;" and yet we may add there is no person of tolerable taste, and common attainments, who will mistake, poetry for prose, or prose for poetry. It would be perhaps to speak more correctly to say, it is not easy to define the limits between poetry and prose; for as I have shewn that all good prose, and oratorical prose particularly, falls naturally into a kind of metre, or musical ca
dence; so, on the other hand, if we admit metre as an essential adjunct in the definition of poetry, there is a kind of low and colloquial poetry, which is almost prose, and is even little distinguished from it even by the metre; such is the iambic verse of our own, and even of the Greek tragedies. There are many long speeches in Shakspeare, which a mere auditor could not possibly distinguish from prosaic composition. A specimen occurs this instant to my memory. It is Hotspur's reply to the king's ambassador, Sir Walter Blunt
“ The king is kind, and well we know, the king
My father gave himn welcome to the shore: " And, when he heard him swear, and vow to God, “ He came but to be duke of Lancaster, “ To sue his livery, and beg his peace; “ With tears of innocency, and terins of zeal,
My father, in kind heart and pity, mov’d, " Swore him assistance, and perform'd it too,
“ Now, when the lords and barons of the realm
Perhaps, however, we shall be best enabled to define, or at least to understand the nature of poetry, by reverting a little to its origin. Poetry has certainly originated in that instinctive love of barmony and music, which is implanted in the whole human race. It is im. possible to look back to any period of society for the first musical effusions. We find them among the savages of the lowest order, and we find them always there accompanied with words; for it is a depraved state of the public taste, when they attend to sound alone. This is the act of luxury and that sickliness of taste which perverts the very design of an art; and that of music was undoubtedly to give force and interest to sentiment and language.
Bishop Lowth has, with great labour, and not with less taste and discernment, traced the Hebrew poetry to a very early period of society;* to the exclamation of Lamech, the sixth from Adam, in the fourth chapter of Genesis, and also to the prophetic execration of Noah upon Ham. The inspired benedictions of the patriarchs Isaac and Jacob, he proves to have been altogether of the same description ; and, when we proceed a little further in the history of the Hebrew nation, we find the songs of Miriam and of Moses, who, it may be observed, was the reputed author of many of the Psalms now extant, and that of Deborah and Barak, &c. All these we know were adapted to musical notes, and there is undoubted evidence that a great part of the religious service of the Hebrews was performed by both vocal and instrumental music.
If we look into the history of other nations, We shall find all their early compositions to have been poetical, and actually set (as we should call it in modern language, perhaps composed) to music. Greece for successive ages was possessed of no records but the poetic. The laws themselves were metrical, as Aristotle proves by
* See Lectures of the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, Lect. iv. &c.