Page images

not proper to 1 one nation, but to mankind. I think you will also find a charm heroic, plaintive, pathetic, in these cadences, and be at once set on searching for the words that can rightly fill these vacant beats.

Another form of rhyme is iterations 2 of phrase, as the record of the death of Sisera :

“At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down: at her feet he bowed, he fell: where he bowed, there he fell down dead.”

The fact is made conspicuous, nay, colossal,by this simple rhetoric.

“They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end."

Milton delights in these iterations :

“Though fallen on evil days,
On evil days though fallen, and evil tongues.” 5
“Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth its silver lining on the night ? 6
I did not err, there does a sable cloud
Turn forth its silver lining on the night."?

1 zot proper to: that is, not the 3 iterations (from Latin iter, a exclusive property or possession of journey), repetitions. (Latin proprius, one's own).

4 colossal (Greek kolossos, a great 2 heroic, plaintive, pathetic. statue), of great size: the meaning Are these adjectives placed in the here is very emphatic, very apparent. strict or rhetorical order? (See Defi 5 From Paradise Lost. nitions 13, 14.) Place them in the 6 Was I ... night. Point out prose order, and determine which the examples of iterations. arrangement is the more effective. 7 Froni Comus.

“A little onward lend thy guiding hand,
To these dark steps a little farther on.” 1

Every good poem that I know I recall by its rhythm also. Rhyme is a pretty good measure of the latitude 3 and opulence of a writer. If unskillful, he is at once detected by the poverty of his chimes.4 A small, well-worn, sprucely-brushed vocabulary 5 serves him. Now try Spenser, Marlow, Chapman, and see how wide they flyi for weapons, and how rich and lavish their profusion. In their rhythm is no manufacture, but a vortex, or musical tornado, which, falling on words and the experience of a learned mind, whirls these materials into the same grand order as planets and moons obey, and seasons, and monsoons.

There are also prose poets. Thomas Taylor, the Platonist, for instance, is really a better man of imagination, a better poet, or perhaps I should say a better feeder to a poet, than any man between Milton and Wordsworth. Thomas Moore had the magnanimity to

1 From Samson Agonistes. bethan age, and contemporaries of

2 Every good poem, etc. Trans- Shakespeare. Spenser is the author pose this sentence into the direct of the “Fairy Queen;" Marlow was order.

a dramatist (an old poet speaks 3 latitude: that is, the width of of “Marlow's mighty line'); and his poetic resources.

Chapman was the earliest transla4 chimes. Explain the use of|tor of Homer into English. the word here.

7 how wide they fly. Explain 5 vocabulary (Latin vocabulari- the metaphor. uni), stock of words. What epithets 8 Thomas Taylor (1758–1835) an does the writer join to these words? English philosopher, is known as What are metaphorical:

“the Platonist," because he trans6 Spenser, Marlow, Chapman. lated the works of Plato, and others All English poets of the Eliza-l of the Platonic school.



“If Burke and Bacon were not poets (measured lines not being necessary to constitute one), he did not know what poetry meant."

It would not be easy to refuse to Sir Thomas Browne's 1 "Fragment on Mummies” the claim of poetry:

“Of their living habitations they made little account, conceiving of them but as hospitia, or inns; while they adorned the sepulchers of the dead, and planting thereon lasting bases, defied the crumbling touches of time, and the misty vaporousness of oblivion. Yet all were but Babel vanities. Time sadly overcometh all things, and is now dominant and sitteth upon a Sphinx, and looketh unto Memphis and old Thebes, while his sister Oblivion reclineth semi-somnous ? on a pyramid, gloriously triumphing, making puzzles of Titanian erections, and turning old glories into dreams. History sinketh beneath her cloud. The traveler as he paceth through those deserts asketh of her, Who builded them?' and she mumbleth something, but what it is he heareth not.”

[ocr errors]

You shall not speak ideal truth in prose uncontradicted: you may in verse. The best thoughts run into the best words ;4 imaginative and affectionate thoughts, into music and meter. We ask for food and fire, we talk of our work, our tools, and material neces

1 Sir Thomas Browne (1605- 2 semi-somnous,

half asleep 1682), a very distinguished English (Latin somnum, sleep). writer, author of Religio Medici, 3 Titanian=Titanic, like the TiVulgar Errors, and other works. tans: huge, colossal. His style is marked by a splendid 4 best thoughts ... best words. but pedantic diction.

Note the balance of phrase.

sities, in prose, that is, without any elevation or aim at beauty; but when we rise into the world of thought, and think of these things only for what they signify, speech refines into order and harmony.

Let poetry, then, pass, if it will, into music and rhyme. That is the form which itself puts on. We do not inclose watches in wooden, but in crystal cases;1 and rhyme ? is the transparent frame that allows almost the pure architecture 3 of thought to become visible to the mental eye. Substance is much, but so are mode and form much. The poet, like a delighted boy, brings you heaps of rainbow bubbles, opaline, air-borne, spherical as the world, instead of a few drops of soap and water. Victor Hugo says well, “ An idea steeped in verse becomes suddenly more incisive 5 and more brilliant: the iron becomes steel.”

Poetry will never be a simple means, as when history or philosophy is rhymed, or laureate 6 odes on state occasions are written. Itself must be its own end, or it is nothing. The differenee between poetry and stock-poetry is this, that in the latter the rhythm is given, and the sense adapted to it; while in the former


watches ... in crystal cases. 5 incisive. See Webster. Note the beauty of the implied com 6 laureate: in England the sovparison. What objects are com- ereign appoints a poet-laureate to pared?

celebrate any important event 2 rhyme: the author means (“state occasions") as a victory, rhythm as well as rhyme. What a royal marriage, etc. Tennyson metaphor in this sentence? (see page 530) is the present poet

3 architecture: that is, the struc- laureate. ture.

7 stock-poetry: that is, poetry 4 brings you ... water. Trans- made to order, - conventional, not late this metaphor into plain prose. Tinspired verse.

the sense dictates the rhythm. I might even say that the rhyme is there in the theme, thought, and image themselves.

Ask the fact for the form. For a verse is not a vehicle to carry a sentence, as a jewel is carried in a case :1 the verse must be alive and inseparable from its contents, as the soul of man inspires 3 and directs the body; and we measure the inspiration by the inusic. In reading prose, I am sensitive as soon as a sentence drags; but in poetry, as soon as one word drags.

Ever as the thought mounts 4 the expression mounts. Indeed, the masters sometimes rise above themselves to strains which charm their readers, and which neither any competitor 5 could outdo, nor the bard himself again equal. Keats 6 disclosed, by certain lines in his Hyperion, this inward skill; and Coleridge 7 showed at least his love and appetency 8 for it. It appears in Ben Jonson's 9 songs, in Waller's 10 Go, lovely rose! in




[ocr errors]

as a jewel ..

What is 7 Samuel Taylor Coleridge the figure?

(1772-1834): a distinguished Eng2 must be alive. Explain this lish poet and metaphysician, author hyperbole.

of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 8 inspires, animates.

appetency, strong natural pro4 mounts. Supply a synonym pensity. from the next sentence.

9 Ben Jonson (1573-1637), 5 competitor. See Webster. Ben Jonson," a celebrated poet and


6 Keats, born in 1796, and who dramatist, a contemporary and died at the early age of twenty-five, friend of Shakespeare. was one of the most distinguished 10 Edmund Waller (1605-1687): of the modern school of poets that an English poet. He was a friend marked the early part of the pres- and connection of Oliver Croment century.

well, the “ Protector."

« PreviousContinue »