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which he supposes to be taken from the following in Comus,
Of calling shapes, and beck’ning shadows dire,
is more probably taken from the commencement of Pope's elegy on an unfortunate lady
What beck’ning ghost, along the moonlight shade
The original idea was possibly taken from Comus by Pope, from whom Warton, to all appearance, again borrowed it.
Were the similarity of the passage in Gray, to that in Warton, less striking and verbal, I should be inclined to think it only a remarkable coincidence; for Gray's biographers inform us, that he commenced his elegy in 1742, and that it was completed in 1744, being the year which he particularly devoted to the muses, though he did not put the finishing stroke to it," until 1750. The Pleasures of Melancholy were published in 4to. in 1747. Therefore Gray might take his third stanza from Warton; but it is rather extraordinary that the third stanza of a poem should be taken from another, published five years after that poem was begun, and three after it was understood to be completed; one cir
cumstance, however, seems to render the supposition of its being a plagiarism somewhat more probable, which is, that the stanza in question is not essential to the connexion of the preceding and antecedent verses; therefore it might have been added by Gray, when he put the “ finishing stroke" to his piece in 1750.
CURSORY REMARKS ON TRAGEDY.
THE pleasure which is derived from the representation of an affecting tragedy, has often been the subject of enquiry among philosophical critics, as a singular phenomenon.-That the mind should receive gratification from the excitement of those passions which are in themselves painful, is really an extraordinary paradox, and is the more inexplicable since, when the same means are employed to rouse the more pleasing affections, no adequate effect is produced.
In order to solve this problem, many ingenious hypotheses have been invented. The Abbe Du Bos tells us that the mind has such a natural antipathy to a state of listlessness and langour, as to render the transition from it to a state of exertion, even though by rousing passions in themselves painful, as in the instance of tragedy, a positive pleasure. Monsieur Fontenelle has given us a more satisfactory account. He tells us that pleasure and pain, two sentiments so different in themselves, do not differ so much in their cause;—that pleasure, carried too far, becomes pain, and pain, a little moderated, becomes pleasure. Hence that the pleasure we derive from tragedy is a pleasing sorrow, a modulated pain. David Hume, who has also written upon this subject, unites the two systems, with this addition, that the painful emotions excited by the representation of melancholy scenes, are further tempered, and the pleasure is proportionably heightened by the eloquence displayed in the relationthe art shewn in collecting the pathetic circumstances, and the judgment evinced in their happy disposition.
But even now I do not conceive the difficulty to be satisfactorily done away. Adınitting the postulatum which the Abbe Du Bos assumes, that langour is so disagreeable to the mind as to render its removal positive pleasure, to be true; yet, when we recollect, as Mr. Hume has before observed, that were the same objects of distress which give us pleasure in tragedy set before our eyes in reality, though they would effectually remove listlessness, they would excite the most unfeigned uneasiness, we shall hesitate in applying this solution in its full extent to the present subject. M. Fontenelle's reasoning is much more conclusive; yet I think he errs egregiously in his premises, if he means to imply that any modulation of pain is pleasing, because, in whateverdegree it may be, it is still pain, and remote from either ease or positive pleasure: and if by moderated pain be means any uneasy sensation abated, though not totally banished, he is no less mistaken in the application of them to the subject before us.- Pleasure may very well be conceived to be painful, when carried to excess, because it there becomes exertion, and is inconvenient. We may also form some idea of a pleasure arising from moderated pain, or the transition from the disagreeable to the less disagreeable; but this cannot in any wise be applied to the gratification we derive from a tragedy, for there 'no superior degree of pain is left for an inferior. As to Mr. Hume's addition of the pleasure we derive from the art of the poet, for the introduction of which he has written his whole dissertation on tragedy, it merits little consideration. The self-recollection necessary to render this art a source of gratification, must weaken the illusion; and whatever weakers the illusion, diminishes the effect.
In these systems it is taken for granted that all those passions are excited which are represented in the drama. This I conceive to have been the primary cause of error, for to me it seems very probable that the only passion or affection which is excited, is that of sympathy, which partakes of the pleasing nature of pity and compassion, and includes in it so much as is pleasing of hope and apprehension, joy and grief.
The pleasure we derive from the afflictions of a friend is proverbial-every person has felt, and wondered why he felt, something soothing in the participation of the sorrows of those dear to his heart; and he might, with as much reason, have questioned why he was delighted with the melancholy scenes of tragedy. Both pleasures are equally singular; they both arise from the same source. Both originate in sympathy.
It would seemn natural that an accidental spectator of a cause in a court of justice, with which lie is perfectly unacquainted, would remain an uninterested auditor of