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Nec pluteum caedit, nec demorsos sapit ungues.

These exterior marks of enthusiasm may be illustrated by the following curious anecdote:–Domenichino, the painter, was accustomed to act the characters of all the figures he would represent on his canvas, and to speak aloud whatever the passion he meant to describe could prompt. Painting the martyrdom of St. Andrew, Carracci one day caught him in a violent passion, speaking in a terrible and menacing tone. He was at that moment employed on a soldier who was threatening the saint. When this fit of enthusiastic abstraction had passed, Carracci ran and embraced him, acknowledging that Domenichino had been that day his master; and that he had learnt from him the true manner to succeed in catching the expression–that great pride of the painter’s art.

Thus different are the sentiments of the intelligent and the unintelligent on the same subject. A Carracci embraced a kindred genius for what a Le Clerc or a Selden would have ridiculed.

Poets, I confess, frequently indulge reveries, which, though they offer no charms to their friends, are too delicious to forego. In the ideal world, peopled with all its fairy inhabitants, and ever open to their contemplation, they travel with an unwearied foot. Crebillon, the celebrated tragic poet, was enamoured of solitude, that he might there indulge, without interruption, in those fine romances with which his imagination teemed. One day when he was in a deep reverie, a friend entered hastily: “Don’t disturb me,” cried the poet; “I am enjoying a moment of happiness: I am going to hang a villain of a minister, and banish another who is an idiot.”

Amongst the anti-poetical may be placed the father of the great monarch of Prussia. George the Second was not more the avowed enemy of the muses. Frederic would not suffer the prince to read verses; and when he was desirous of study, or of the conversation of literary men, he was obliged to do it secretly. Every poet was odious to his majesty. One day, having observed some lines written on one of the doors of the palace, he asked a courtier their signification. They were explained to him; they were Latin verses composed by Wachter, a man of letters, then resident at Berlin. The king immediately sent for the bard, who came warm with the hope of receiving a reward for his ingenuity. He was astonished, however, to hear the king, in a violent passion, accost him, “I order you immediately to quit this city and my kingdom.” Wachter took refuge in Hanover. As little indeed was this anti-poetical monarch a friend to philosophers. Two or three such kings might perhaps renovate the ancient barbarism of Europe. Barratier, the celebrated child, was presented to his majesty of Prussia as a prodigy of erudition; the king, to mortify our ingenious youth, coldly asked him, “If he knew the law?” The learned boy was constrained to acknowledge that he knew nothing of the law. “Go,” was the reply of this Augustus, “go, and study it before you give yourself out as a scholar.” Poor Barratier renounced for this pursuit his other studies, and persevered with such ardour that he became an excellent lawyer at the end of fifteen months; but his exertions cost him at the same time his life!

Every monarch, however, has not proved so destitute of poetic sensibility as this Prussian. Francis I. gave repeated marks of his attachment to the favourites of the muses, by composing several occasional sonnets, which are dedicated to their eulogy. Andrelin, a French poet, enjoyed the happy fate of Oppian, to whom the emperor Caracalla counted as many pieces of gold as there were verses in one of his poems; and with great propriety they have been called “golden verses.” Andrelin, when he recited his poem on the Conquest of Naples before Charles VIII., received a sack of silver coin, which with difficulty he carried home. Charles IX., says Brantome, loved verses, and recompensed poets, not indeed immediately, but gradually, that they might always be stimulated to excel. He used to say, that poets resembled race-horses, that must be fed but not fattened, for then they were good for nothing. Marot was so much esteemed by kings, that he was called the poet of princes, and the prince of poets.