Page images

separation in the component parts of that, whatever it be, which they wish to communicate. There is a want of that prospectiveness of mind, that surview, which enables a man to foresee the whole of what he is to convey, appertaining to any one point; and by this means so to subordinate and arrange the different parts according to their relative importance, as to convey it at once, and as an organized whole.

Now I will take the first stanza, on which I have chanced to open, in the Lyrical Ballads. It is one the most simple and the least peculiar in its language.

“ In distant countries I have been,

I have not often seen
A healthy man, a man full

Weep in the public road alone.
But such a one, on English ground,
And in the broad highway I met;
Along the broad highway he came,
His cheeks with tears were wet.
Sturdy he seem'd, though he was sad,
And in his armis a lamb he had."


The words here are doubtless such as are current in all ranks of life, and of course not less so, in the hamlet and cottage, than in the shop, manufactory, college, or palace. But is this the order, in which the rustic would have placed the words? I am grievously deceived, if the following less compact mode of commencing the same tale be uot a far more faithful


"I have been in a many parts far and near, and I don't know that I ever saw before a man crying by himself in the public road; a. grown man I mean, that was neither sick nor hurt,” &c. &c. But when I turn to the following stanza in “ The Thorn :"

At all times of the day and night
This wretched woman thither goes,
And she is known to every star
And every wind that blows:
And there beside the thorn she sits,
When the blue day-light's in the skies;
And when the whirlwind's on the hill,
Or frosty air is keen and still;
And to herself she cries,
Oh misery! Oh misery!
Oh woe is me! Oh misery !"

And compare this with the language of ordinary men; or with that which I can conceive at all likely to proceed, in real life, from such a narrator, as is supposed in the note to the poem ; compare it either in the succession of the images or of the sentences, I am reminded of the sublime prayer and hymn of praise, which Milton, in opposition to an established liturgy, presents as a fair specimen of common extemporary devotion, and such as we might expect to hear from every self-inspired minister of a conventicle! And I reflect with delight, how little a mere theory, though of his own workmanship, interferes with the processes of genuine imagination in a man of true poetic geuius, who possesses, as Mr. Wordsworth, if ever man did, most assuredly does possess,


One point then alone remains, but that the most important; its .examination having been, indeed, my chief inducement for the preceding inquisition. “ There neither is or can be any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.Such is Mr. Wordsworth's assertion. Now prose itself, at least, in all argumentative and consecutive works differs, and ought to differ, from the language of conversation; even as * reading ought to differ from talking. Unless therefore the difference denied be that of the mere words, as materials common to all styles of writing,


* It is no less an error in teachers, than a torment to the poor children, to inforce the necessity of reading as they would talk. In order to cure them of singing as it is called ; that is, of too great a difference. The child is made to repeat the words with his eyes from off the book; and then indeed, his tones resemble talking, as far as his fears, tears and trembling will permit. But as soon as the eye is again directed to the printed page, the spell begins anew ; for an instinctive sense tells the child's feelings, that to utter its own momentary thoughts, and to recite the written thoughts of another, as of another, and a far wiser than himself, are two widely different things ; and as the two acts are accompanied with widely different feelings, so must they justify different modes of enunciation. Joseph Lancaster, among his other sophistications of the excellent Dr. Bell's invaluable system, cures this fault of singing, by hanging fetters and

and not of the style itself in the universally admitted sense of the term, it might be natu. rally presumed that there must exist a still greater between the ordonnance of poetic composition and that of prose, than is expected to distinguish prose from ordinary conversation.

There are not, indeed, examples wanting in the history of literature, of apparent paradoxes that have summoned the public wonder as new and startling truths, but which on examination have shrunk into tame and harmless truisms

; as the eyes of a cat, seen in the dark, have been mistaken for flames of fire. But Mr. Wordsworth is among the last men, «to whom a delusion of this kind would be attributed by any one, who had enjoyed the slightest opportunity of understanding his mind and character. Where an objection has been anticipated by such

chains on the child, to the music of which, one of his school fellows who walks before, dolefully chaunts out the child's last speech and confession, birth, parcntage, and education. And this soul-benumbing ignominy, this unholy and hearthardening burlesque on the last fearful infliction of outraged law, in pronouncing the sentence to which the stern and familiarized judge not seldom bursts into tears, has been extolled as a happy and ingenious method of remedying. what? and how ?-why, one extreme in order to introduce another, scarce less distant from good sense, and certainly likely to have worse moral effects, by enforcing a semblance of petulant ease and self-sufficiency, in repression, and possible after-perversion of the natural feelings. I have to beg Dr. Bell's pardon for this connection of the two names, but he knows that contrast is no less powerful a cause of association than likeness.


an author as natural, his answer to it must needs be interpreted in some sense which either is, or has been, or is capable of being controverted. My object then must be to discover some other meaning for the term “ essential difference” in this place, exclusive of the indistinction and community of the words themselves. For whether there ought to exist a class of words in the English, in any degree resembling the poetic dialect of the Greek and Italian, is a question of very subordinate importance. The number of such words would be small indeed, in our language, and even in the Italian and Greek, they consist not so much of different words, as of slight differences in the forms of declining and conjugating the same words ; forms, doubtless, which having been, at some period more or less remote, the common grammatic flexions of some tribe or province, had been accidentally appropriated to poetry, by the general admiration of certain master intellects, the first established lights of inspiration, to whom that dialect happened to be native.

Essence, in its primary signification, means the principle of individuation, the inmost principle of the possibility of any thing, as that particular thing. It is equivolant to the idea of a thing, whenever we use the word idea, with philosophic precision. Existence, on the other hand, is distinguished from essence, by

« PreviousContinue »