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the sphere of our associations among objects so well calculated to excite them. It tends also to lessen our exclusive admiration of those great and elevated scenes of life, which we are too much accustomed to suppose, are alone worthy of our regard. This seems to be the general feeling which is excited : but towards the close of the poem, by a transition founded on this simple association, that, as the poet has not been “unmindful of the dead,” so his own death shall not pass without commemoration; by this poetical transition, the interest that had before been previously diffused over the fate of many, becomes now narrowed and directed to the fortune of one : the same train of feeling is preserved, but more precise in its circumstances, and more strong in its power of excitement; and thus, by the insertion of this pathetic episode, the descriptive poem closes with a highly dramatic effect.

V. After venturing to offer the foregoing remarks on Gray's poetry in general, I now come to the particular consideration of the poem of “The Bard.' It is well known, that this poem had been accused of obscurity; to obyiate which, Gray found it necessary to add some explanatory * notes. This

* " That Gray was conscious of the fault [obscurity] imputed to his ode, The Bard, (the finest, I believe, that was ever written in any language,) is manifest to me from two particulars. One is, his prefixing to it, for a motto, Dwvavra SUVETOLOWV, The other is, the explanatory notes,

charge has, however, been still repeated, upon the supposition that the poem should be sufficiently clear in its language and plan, without requiring additional assistance. But in the first place, it is to be considered that some degree of obscurity must always attend the prophetic poem; and that he who wishes it otherwise, does not demand a prophecy but a direct narrative. Such obscurity we find in many of the choral parts of Æschylus, particularly, as was required by the subject, in the Agamemnon; compared indeed with which, the ode of Gray possesses much advantage in point of perspicuity. It descends into minute particularities; while the sublime odes of the Grecian bard acquire their obscurity, from the very general and dark language, in which the coming events are foretold. I shall just mention in this place, that the distinctness or obscurity of a prophecy, will depend mainly for its propriety upon this consideration; whether it proceed from the lips of one whom the poet supposes by supernatural means to be gifted, as in the Bard of Gray, with visions of futurity; or whether, as is frequently the case in the choral odes of the Greek tragedians, the prophecy is uttered by those,

which with great reluctance he added at last by the advice of his friends, among whom was the writer of this letter ; who drew up an analysis of the ode, for his own use, as mentioned in the life of Gray.”--Remarks on the Pursuits of Literature by John Mainwaring, B. D. Margaret Professor of Divinity, p. 19.

to whom wisdom gives prescience, and experience imparts a knowledge of the natural order of events ;

“ Till old experience do attain*

To something like prophetic strain.” By those whose calm passions and clear sense foretell the effects of imprudence and sin; and who are able to see that, in the common analogy by which the world is conducted, punishment must follow guilt; that the furies will haunt the parricide; and that the crimes of adultery, or incest, will be attended with misery, remorse, and death.

The obscurity, however, complained of in Gray, is such only, as of necessity arises from the plan and conduct of a prophecy; for it does not proceed from any affected peculiarity of diction, or from a studied and intentional darkness, through which the reader is to seek his way, as in Lycophron; but to those who bring to the perusal of the Bard only the common outlines of English history, the ode is perfectly intelligible; as they must be acquainted with the history appertaining to the Trojan war, to understand the prophetic ode of Nereus in Horace. In the prophetic poem, one point of history alone is told, and the rest is to be acquired previously by the reader; as in the contemplation of an historical picture, which commands only one moment of time, our memory must supply us with

“ Et facile existimare potest Prudentiam esse quodammodo Divinationem.” Corn. Nepotis Vit. Attici, c. xvi.

the necessary links of knowledge ; and that point of time selected by the painter, must be illustrated by the spectator's knowledge of the past or future, of the cause or the consequences.

I am pleased to find in Dr. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric,* some corroboration of this opinion. “I know (he says) no style to which darkness of a certain cast is more suited than the prophetical: many reasons might be assigned, which render it improper, that prophecy should be perfectly understood, before it be accomplished. Besides, we are certain, that a production may be very dark before the accomplishment, and yet so plain afterwards, as scarcely to admit a doubt in regard to the events suggested. It does not belong to critics to give laws to prophets ; nor does it fall within the confines of any human art, to lay down rules for compositions so far above art.

Thus far, however, we may warrantly observe, that when the prophetic style is imitated in poetry, the piece ought, as much as possible, to possess the character above mentioned. This character, in my opinion, is possessed in a very eminent degree by Gray's ode, called “The Bard.' It is all darkness to one, who knows nothing of the English history posterior to the reign of Edward the First, and all light to one who is acquainted with that history: a kind of

* See Dr. Campbell's Philosophy of Rhetoric, vol. ii. p. 129, and Lowth. Prelect. Poes. Hebraicæ, p. 85, 4to.

writing, whose peculiarities can scarce be considered as exceptions from ordinary rules.”

This complaint, however, of obscurity, I suppose to have arisen partly from this circumstance, that in epic or dramatic compositions, the reader may come to the


without any previous knowledge of the subject; because the structure of those fables requires, that in the course of their actions, they should elucidate and unfold themselves. Every step that is taken, in some measure removes what is difficult, and brightens what is obscure; till at length the intention and unity of the whole is completed. The prophetic poem, of course, is formed upon a plan wholly different, leaving the reader by his own knowledge to explain the poet, and to look for a completion of the prophecy, not in the page of the writer, but among the stores of his own memory.

If the circumstances of the poem were too closely narrated, the prophetic character would be lost, and with it, the excitement of those powerful passions, hope and fear, the distant forebodings, the mystic grandeur, and the solemn shadowing of things to come.

Pauca tibi e multis; prohibent nam cætera fata

Scire Helenum, farique vetat Saturnia Juno. To the effect of such a poem upon the mind of the reader, the following passage from the preface*

See Discours sur la Fable, p 14, and Gerard on Taste,

P. 4.

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