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"A little onward lend thy guiding hand,
Every good poem 2 that I know I recall by its rhythm also. Rhyme is a pretty good measure of the latitude and opulence of a writer. If unskillful, he is at once detected by the poverty of his chimes. A small, well-worn, sprucely-brushed vocabulary 5 serves him. Now try Spenser, Marlow, Chapman, and see how wide they fly 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 8 latitude: that is, the width of of "Marlow's mighty line"); and his poetic resources. Chapman was the earliest transla
4 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.
um), stock of words. What epithets does the writer join to these words? What are metaphorical?
6 Spenser, Marlow, Chapman. All English poets of the Eliza
8 Thomas Taylor (1758–1835) an English philosopher, is known as "the Platonist," because he translated the works of Plato, and others of the Platonic school.
say, "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 "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 2 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."
You shall not speak ideal truth in prose uncontradicted: you may in verse. The best thoughts run into the best words; 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,
1682), a very distinguished English
3 Titanian = Titanic, like the Titans: huge, colossal.
4 best thoughts... best words. 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 2 is the transparent frame that allows almost the pure architecture 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 odes on state occasions are written. Itself must be its own end, or it is nothing. The difference 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
1 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. a royal marriage, etc. Tennyson metaphor in this sentence? (see page 530) is the present poetlaureate.
3 architecture: that is, the structure.
4 brings you ... water. Translate this metaphor into plain prose.
7 stock-poetry: that is, poetry made to order, conventional, not inspired 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 the verse must be alive and inseparable from its contents, as the soul of man inspires and directs the body; and we measure the inspiration by the music. 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 the expression mounts. Indeed, the masters sometimes rise above themselves to strains which charm their readers, and which neither any competitor could outdo, nor the bard himself again equal. Keats disclosed, by certain lines in his Hyperion, this inward skill; and Coleridge showed at least his love and appetency 8 for it. It appears in Ben Jonson's songs, in Waller's 10 Go, lovely rose! in
1 as a jewel . . . case. What is the figure?
Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834): a distinguished Eng
2 must be alive. Explain this lish poet and metaphysician, author hyperbole. of the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. 8 appetency, strong natural propensity.
9 Ben Jonson (1573-1637), “rare Ben Jonson," a celebrated poet and dramatist, a contemporary and friend of Shakespeare.
10 Edmund Waller (1605-1687): an English poet. He was a friend and connection of Oliver Cromwell, the "Protector."
3 inspires, animates.
4 mounts. Supply a synonym from the next sentence.
5 competitor. See Webster.
6 Keats, born in 1796, and who died at the early age of twenty-five, was one of the most distinguished of the modern school of poets that marked the early part of the present century.
Herbert's Virtue and Easter, in Lovelace's 2 lines To Althea and To Lucasta, and in Collins's Ode to Evening. Perhaps this dainty style of poetry is not producible to-day, any more than a right Gothic cathedral. It belonged to a time and taste which is not in the world.
3.-GOOD-BY, PROUD WORLD.
GOOD-BY, proud world! I'm going home;
Good-by to Flattery's fawning face;
1 George Herbert (1503-1632): | English lyric poet; author of the
odes To the Passions and To the Brave.
an eminent English poet and divine. His verses are characterized by great sweetness and elevation of thought. Brother of Lord Herbert of Cherbury.
2 Richard Lovelace (1618-1658): an English poet, whose verses possess rare grace, simplicity, and sprightliness.
3 William Collins (1720-1756):
4 a river ark. Explain the metaphor.
5 Flattery's. What is the figure? (See Def. 7.) Point out in the same stanza other examples of this figure.
6 averted. See Glossary.