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The Great Conversers: And Other Essays William Mathews

The Great Conversers: And Other Essays

William Mathews

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Purchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free.This is an OCR edition with typos.Excerpt from book:EPIGRAMS. TT7HY is it that good epigrams, at making which VV the witsMorePurchase of this book includes free trial access to www.million-books.com where you can read more than a million books for free.This is an OCR edition with typos.Excerpt from book:EPIGRAMS. TT7HY is it that good epigrams, at making which VV the wits of all ages have tried their hands, are so rare? Of the thousands that have been composed, it has been estimated that not over five hundred are good, and that of these not more than fifty meet all the conditions of excellence, and may be pronounced gems without a flaw. Martial, the Koman poet, who wrote fourteen books of epigrams, frankly confesses that of that vast number only a few are good, some passable, and the great majority utter failures. The reason is not far to seek. Though less genius is required to produce this species of literary composition than is demanded by asustained effort,— such as an ode, an elegy, or a lyric,— yet in certain respects it is as difficult and as exacting as an epic. In its very brevity lies its difficulty. Nobody expects an Iliad, or a Paradise Lost, to be one perpetual blaze of splendor- prosaic and even dull passages are not only excusable, but needed as foils- for nothing tires so soon as perpetual brilliancy and gorgeousness unrelieved. The more exquisite the enjoyment we derive from any source, the more imperiously is an occasional suspension required. We sicken at perpetual lusciousness- we loathe the unvarying atmosphere of a scented room, though all Arabia breathes from its recesses. But while good Homer may be allowed to nod occasionally, as Horace has told us, and even the rich illustrations which fancy scatters over the page of the orator or the poet may be crowded upon each other too fast, it is not so with the epigrammatist. He must condense his wit into a few brief lines- it must be intensely pungent,— like some extract which is the essence of a thousand roses, and is fraught with their accumulated odors, or the weight of a hundred pounds of bark i...