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would, after all, be so extremely doubtful, that common sense could not fail to suggest immediately the idea of tracing the knot through all the various complications of its progress, by cautiously undoing or unknitting each successive turn of the thread in a retrograde order, from the last to the first. After gaining this first step, were all the former complications restored again, by an inverse repetition of the same operations which I had performed in undoing them, an infallible rule would be obtained for solving the problem originally proposed; and, at the same time, some address or dexterity, in the practice of the general method, probably gained, which would encourage me to undertake, upon future occasions, still more arduous tasks of a similar description.' pp. 359, 360.

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These are geometrical analysis and synthesis :--but the analysis and synthesis of the natural philosopher, are very different things,-so different indeed, that some persons, adhering to the ancient geometry, have made them change names. Analysis, to take Newton's own account of it, consists in making experiments and observations, and in drawing conclusions from them by induction, and admitting of no objections against the conclusions, but such as are taken from experiments, or other 'certain truths.' p. 366. Synthesis is the assuming of some hypothesis, and arguing from it to the explanation of known phenomena. The name analysis, with the geometer, is assumed from his untying the difficulty before him, with a view to knowing how to tie it again: with the natural philosopher, it is taken from his untying those bundles of facts which nature has bound together, in order to make use of certain ones separately. When the absurdity of supposing atoms, molecules, or minims of nature,' to have been moving, from all eternity, through infinite space, in directions slightly deviating from parallelism; shewing how, by such atoms, so moving, this world might have been formed; and thence inferring, that the world was so formed;--- of drawing cycles and epicycles on paper; shewing how the planets, by moving in such complicated diagrams, might produce the present heavenly appearances; and thence inferring that the planets do so move;-of perching the soul upon the pineal gland; shewing how it might thence produce all the functions of the body; and from this arguing that the soul is there placed :—when the absurdity of these and a thousand other hypotheses, had been pointed out, it was natural -it was to be expected, that philosophers would run into a contrary extreme, abide by facts, and disown all hypotheses whatever. Mr. S. has spent the second part of the fourth section of this chapter,* in a vindication of the right use of hypothesis. Sup

*We cannot but wish that this endless and perplexing division and subdivision of the work had been avoided,

pose that a number of well-attested facts, point to some general principle; the philosopher will assume it, doubtfully indeed, and as an hypothesis; from such assumed principle, he will argue downwards to consequences; if such consequences-a multitude of them-agree with the actual phenomena of nature, what farther can be desired, what farther can be had, for the establishment of the hypothesis? And whether the consequences deduced from assumption shall be found so to agree or not,-whether the hypothesis shall be established or disproved,-it has had its use; it has helped to arrange and combine facts; led to experiments; and thus perhaps discovered new and unexpected truths.

We do not find any thing else in this volume necessary to be laid before our readers. We cannot conclude without wishing the great and honourable Author health and leisure to finish his undertaking, as much to his own satisfaction as he has hitherto carried it on to that of others.

Art. III. Anster Fair, a Poem, in Six Cantos, with other Poems. Second edition, foolscap 8vo. pp. viii, 256. price 6s. Edinburgh, Goldie, 1814.

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OF all the pleasures derived from literary compositions,'

that which has its source in the ludicrous is the most difficult to be analyzed, and presents the most curious subject for disquisition. Upon what principle does the mind delight in that strange transposition of its ideas, by which the sublime and the mean, the beautiful and the misshapen, the solemn and the trifling, become grotesquely associated? By what process do we so abstract ourselves from the realities of our own consciousness, as to take pleasure in that masquerade appearance which they are made to assume in burlesque and humorous poetry? Is the mere sensation of surprise excited by wit, added to the pleasure derived from the dexterous display of art, sufficient to account for the effect of the ludicrous in poetry? Or is man such a laughing animal as naturally to derive gratification from that exaggerated mimicry of men and things, which constitutes caricature? Is incongruity in itself ludicrous, or does it only become so, when the elements of which it is composed, are such as are adapted to excite the imagination?-Whatever be the solution of the problem, it should seem to be a faculty rather dangerous in its application, since the combination of the serious with the trifling, of the elevated with the mean, must uniformly involve the degradation of the sublime or affecting class of subjects, and must tend, by checking the natural

operation of sensibility, to render the mind sceptical of its best feelings.

There are various methods by which the ludicrous may be produced; but all of them concur in producing this effect by some incongruity of association. When the effort is prodigious and the result insignificant,-when the style is pompous and the subject trivial,-or when a solemn subject is treated in a broadly familiar manner, the ludicrous will uniformly arise from the combination. This is the case with travesties, parodies, and other cheap exertions of wit, the whole secret of which lies in a coarse mimicry of the diction, sentiments, or subject, of serious poetry, and the particular effect of which is lost upon those who do not happen to be acquainted with the original of the imitation.

There is, however, a wide difference between the ludicrous or ridiculous, and the simply humorous. Humorous poetry, though, in general, it belongs to the lowest order, may yet possess, as in Tam o' Shanter,' a highly imaginative character. In such instances, the humorous is always a subordinate element in the composition; and is designed to relieve, or, by contrast, to heighten, the effect of the qualities with which it is combined. Thus, in Pope's "Rape of the "Lock," the vein of alternately playful and satiric humour, which runs through the poem, is so chastened by the exquisite elegance of the composition, and the imaginative character of the fable, that it never degenerates into the burlesque, or produces the impression of simple humour. The delicacy of humour, and its compatibility with poetry, will be in proportion as the associations of ludicrous incongruity are awakened in the mind of the reader by oblique allusions, by unexpected hints, or an equivocal phraseology which leaves the imagination to define and fill out the contrast. Thus, that species of satiric ridicule called irony, is with propriety employed in the most pathetic or most solemn compositions. An assumed gravity in treating of familiar subjects, and the use of a highly figurative diction either in treating of the lighter themes of pure fancy, or in describing scenes of low life, may, if the contrast is not too violent, produce a humorous effect, not inconsistent with the associations of poetry, which may therefore be ranked among imaginative pleasures.

Humorous poetry, to be so denominated with propriety, must, however, possess some of the distinguishing features of poetry. With regard to a large proportion of compo. sitions bearing this designation, but which really belong to the anomalous class of burlesque, the very merit and charm

consist in their not being poetry. Who would style a caricature, a portrait, or propria quæ maribus, a poem; or, to instance something more apposite, since there is nothing humorous in the last mentioned distinguished composition,who would call Hudibras poetry, although the term poem has come to be applied indiscriminately to every thing in rhyme? The truth is, that these writers succeed by employing the usual apparel of fancy and of feeling, to deck out the homely form of satiric humour, and the ludicrous results from the incongruous contrast. Rhyme itself, from its being so generally the adjunct, having become the general sign of poetry, and possessing besides some of the properties of wit,-that, in particular, of exciting pleasurable surprise by unexpected combinations,-powerfully contributes, by means of association, to the burlesque effect.

There is one feature of humorous poetry to which we have not adverted, namely, that ludicrous mixture of dignified and colloquial phraseology, alternately swelling into bombast and degenerating into coarseness, in which the Author of the poem before us, so freely indulges. In these introductory remarks, we have endeavoured to abstract ourselves from our particular feelings or taste on this subject, and to discuss the merits of this species of composition, purely as critics. We take it for granted, then, that the coarseness, so generally chargeable on the productions of wit and humour, in contrast or rather in combination with an assumed stateliness or elevation of style, is a source of pleasure, and gives a zest to the poem. The introduction of it by the poet, and the toleration of it by the reader, are to be accounted for only in this way. Now we might found upon this some formidable objections to this class of writings altogether. We cannot but think, that whatever leads us to take pleasure in coarse and vulgar ideas, tends to deprave the taste. But there may be a false delicacy on this subject. The most disgusting coarseness of humorous poetry, is infinitely less pernicious and less offensive to a pure mind, than the licensed and elegant covert indecencies of Pope or of Moore. There is a wide distinction to be made between what is simply coarse in expression, and what awakens impure ideas.

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ANSTER FAIR" is, a humourous poem, partly descrip'tive of Scottish manners.' It is divided into six cantos, and is written in stanzas of octave rhime, the ottava rima of the Italians; which was

First transferred into English poetry, by Fairfax, in his Translation of "Jerusalem Delivered." The stanza of Fairfam is

128

here shut with the Alexandrine of Spenser, that its close may be more full and sounding.'

'The transactions of ANSTER FAIR may be supposed to have taken place during the reign of James V. a Monarch, whom tradition reports to have had many gamesome rambles in Fife, and with whose liveliness and jollity of temper the merriment of the Yet a scrupulous congruity with the FAIR did not ill accord. modes of his times was not intended, and must not be expected. Ancient and modern manners are mixed and jumbled together, to heighten the humour, or variegate the expression.' pp. vi, vii.

The reader will now be prepared, without further comment from us, to enter upon the Poem, for so it undoubtedly may be entitled, and to judge of it from such extracts as we shall lay before him, according to his particular taste. If he should happen to take up the book in some idle half hour, when his mind is gasping for amusement, and not overnice about its fare, when he is not under the necessity of reading aloud, and may therefore pass over any unduly coarse expression that he may meet with, we think we can promise him considerable entertainment. We recollect, strange to say of a humorous poem of between three and four thousand lines, scarcely any thing to be called profane, and fewer approaches towards indecency than in any work of the kind; except that the nature of the prize, as broadly worded, may be chargeable with impropriety.

The argument is as follows. Miss Maggie Lauder, a fair heiress of the good town of Anster, in nowise unwishful of a mate, but much perplexed by the variety of suitors that cringe in lowly courtship at her gate, is described as sitting in her warm chamber, pensive and alone.

6

' ('Twas that hour when burgesses agree
To eat their supper ere the night grows

late ;')

She thought upon her suitors, that with love
Besiege her chamber all the livelong day,

Aspiring each her virgin heart to move,

With courtship's every troublesome essay,
Calling her, angel, sweeting, fondling dove,

And other nick-names in love's friv lous way;

While she, though their addresses still she heard,

Held back from all her heart, and still no beau preferr❜d.'

While she is soliloquizing upon each individual suitor, her attention is arrested by certain Galvanic movements of her mustard pot, which suddenly, "gan caper on her table 'to and fro.'

'Soon stopp'd its dance th' ignoble utensil,

When from its round and small recess there came

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