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them can be changed but for a worse. One would think, unlock the door, was a thing as vulgar as could be spoken'; and yet Seneca could make it sound high and lofty in his Latin :
Reserate clusos regii postes laris.
Set wide the palace gates. But I turn from this exception, both because it happens not above twice or thrice in any play that those vulgar thoughts are used ; and then too, were there no other apology to be made, yet the necessity of them, which is alike in all kind of writing, may excuse them. For if they are little, and mean in rhyme, they are of consequence such in blank verse. Besides that the great eagerness and precipitation with which they are spoken, makes us rather mind the substance than the dress; that for which they are spoken, rather than what is spoke. For they are always the effect of some hasty concernment, and something of consequence depends on them.
Thus, Crites, I have endeavoured to answer your objections : it remains only that I should vindicate an argument for verse, which you have gone about to overthrow. It had formerly been said, that the easiness of blank verse renders the
poet too luxuriant, but that the labour of rhyme - bounds and circumscribes an over-fruitful fancy;
the sense there' being commonly confined to the
7 The edition of 1684, and all the modern editions, read --"the scene there," &c. The true reading is found in the original copy of 1668.
couplet, and the words so ordered that the rhyme naturally follows them, not they the rhyme. To this you answered, that it was no argument to the question in hand; for the dispute was not which way a man may write best, but which is most proper for the subject on which he writes.
First, give me leave, Sir, to remember you, that the argument against which you raised this objection, was only secondary: it was built on this hypothesis,—that to write in versc was proper for serious plays. Which supposition being granted, (as it was briefly made out in that discourse, by shewing how verse might be made natural,) it asserted, that this way of writing was an help to the poet's judgment, by putting bounds to a wild overflowing fancy. I think, therefore, it will not be hard for me to make good what it was to prove on that supposition. But you add, that were this let pass, yet he who wants judgment in the liberty of his fancy, may as well shew the defect of it 'when he is confined to verse; for he who has judgment will avoid errors, and he who has it not, will commit them in all kinds of writing.
This argument, as you have taken it from a most acute person,* so I confess it carries much weight in it: but by using the word judgment here indefinitely, you seem to have put a fallacy upon us. I grant, he who has judgment, that is, so profound, so strong, or rather so infallible a judgment, that he needs no helps to keep it always
* See Sir Robert Howard's Preface, ante p. 21.
poised and upright, will commit no faults either in rhyme or out of it. And on the other extreme, he who has a judgment so weak and crazed that no helps can correct or amend it, shall write scurvily out of rhyme, and worse in it. But the first of these judgments is no where to be found, and the latter is not fit to write at all. To speak therefore of judgment as it is in the best poets ; they who have the greatest proportion of it, want other helps than from it, within. As for example, you would be loth to say, that he who is endued with a sound judgment has no need of history, geography, or moral philosophy, to write correctly. Judgment is indeed the master-workman in a play ; but he requires many subordinate hands, many tools to his assistance. And verse I affirm to be one of these : 'tis a rule and line by which he keeps his building compact and even, which otherwise lawless imagination would raise either irregularly or loosely; at least, if the poet commits errors with this help, he would make greater and more without it :-'tis, in short, a slow and painful, but the surest kind of working. Ovid, whom you accuse for luxuriancy in verse, had perhaps been farther guilty of it, had he writ in prose. And for your instance of Ben Jonson, who, you say, writ exactly without the help of rhyme; you are to remember, 'tis only an aid to a luxuriant fancy, which his was not : as he did not want imagination, so none ever said he had much to spare. Neither was verse then refined so much, to be an help to that age, as it is to ours. Thus then the second thoughts being usually the best, as receiving the maturest digestion from judgment, and the last and most mature product of those thoughts being artful and laboured verse, it may well be inferred, that verse is a great help to a luxuriant fancy; and this is what that argument which you opposed was to evince.
Neander was pursuing this discourse so eagerly, that Eugenius had called to him twice or thrice, ere he took notice that the barge stood still, and that they were at the foot of Somerset-stairs, where they had appointed it to land. The company were all sorry to separate so soon, though a great part of the evening was already spent; and stood a-while looking back on the water, upon which the moon-beams played, and made it appear like floating quicksilver : at last they went up through a crowd of French people, who were merrily dancing in the open air, and nothing concerned for the noise of guns which had alarmned the town that afternoon. Walking thence together to the Piazze, they parted there; Eugenius and Lisideius to some pleasant appointment they had made, and Crites and Neander to their several lodgings.8
8 This Essay is printed from the author's second edition, published in 1684, collated verbatim with the first edition of 1668. That collation furnished me with the correction of some gross errors of the press which are found in the second copy, and which have disfigured all the modern editions. See p. 40: “ We may guess at Menander's excellency by the plays of Terence, who translated some of his." The edition of 1684, and the modern editions, read some of them;" which renders the passage nonsense. The true reading is found in the first edition.So again, in p. 132:~" the sense there being commonly confined to the couplet,"—instead of which, we have in the second, and all the subsequent editions, “ —the scene there,” &c. In one other place also, I have adhered to the first copy : (see p. 115.) “ Now what is more unreasonable, than to imagine that a man should not only light upon the wit, but the rhyme too, upon the sudden ?"The revised edition reads—" Now what is more unreasonable, than to imagine that a man should imagine,” &c. This, I conceive, was not a correction of the author's, but an error of the press, in consequence of the word imagine having occurred just before. To imagine writ, is sufficiently intelligible; but to imagine a rhyme, is an expression that our author would hardly have used.
Between the first and second edition of this Essay sixteen years elapsed, in which interval he appears to have revised and corrected it with great care, various changes being made, chiefly in the language, in almost every page; a degree of solicitude and attention which, I believe, few of his poetical productions exhibit. As the progressive improvement of so great a writer may afford matter of curiosity and instruction to many readers. I subjoin the principal variations between the two copies, The passages printed chiefly in Italicks are given as they stand in the revised edition of 1684; those principally in the Roman character, as they appear in the original copy of 1668. The pages referred to are those of the present edition. P. 34. “ — so that all men being alarmed with it, and in
a dreadful suspence of the event which they knew
was then deciding.” (1684.) “ — which we knew was then deciding.” (1668).