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improved by their total omission; he must advance reasons of no ordinary strength and evidence, reasons grounded in the essence of human nature. Otherwise I should not hesitate to consider him as a man not so much proof against all authority, as dead to it.
The second line,
“ And reddening Phoebus lifts his golden fire."
has indeed almost as many faults as words. But then it is a bad line, not because the language is distinct from that of prose; but because it conveys incongruous images, because it confounds the cause and the effect, the real thing with the personified representative of the thing ; in short, because it differs from the Janguage of GOOD SENSE! That the “ Phæbus” is hacknied, and a school-boy image, is an accidental fault, dependent on the age
in which the author wrote, and not deduced from the nature of the thing. That it is part of an exploded mythology, is an objection more deeply grounded. Yet when the torch of ancient learning was re-kindled, so cheering were its beams, that our eldest poets, cut off by christianity from all accredited machinery, and deprived of all acknowledged guardians and symbols of the great objects of nature, were naturally induced to adopt, as a poetic language,
those fabulous personages, those forms of the* supernatural in nature, which had given them such dear delight in the poems of their great masters. Nay, even at this day what scholar of genial taste will not so far sympatize with them, as to read with pleasure in PETRACH, CHAUCER, or SPENSER, what he would perhaps condemn as puerile in a modern poet ?
I remember no poet, whose writings would safelier stand the test of Mr. Wordsworth's theory, than SPENSER. Yet will Mr. Wordsworth say, that the style of the following stanzas is either undistinguished from prose, and the language of ordinary life? Or that it is vicious, and that the stanzas are blots in the Faery Queen?
By this the northern waggoner had set
Book I. Can. 2. St. 2.
* But still more by the mechanical system of philosophy which has needlessly infected our theological opinions, and teaching us to consider the world in its relation to God, as of a building to its mason leaves the idea of omnipresence a mere abstract notion in the state-room of our reason.
Will it be contended on the one side, that these lines are mean and senseless? Or on the other, that they are not prosaic, and for that reason unpoetic? This poet's well-merited epithet is that of the“ well-languaged Daniel ;" but likewise and by the consent of his contemporaries no less than of all succeeding critics,
prosaic Daniel.” Yet those, who thus designate this wise and amiable writer from the frequent incorrespondency of his diction to his metre in the majority of his compositions, not only deem them valuable and interesting on other accounts; but willingly admit, that there are to be found throughout his poems, and especially in his Epistles and in his Hymen's Triumph, many and exquisite specimens of that style which, as the neutral ground of prose and verse, is common to both. A fine and almost faultless extract, eminent as for other beauties, so for its perfection in this species of diction, may be seen in LAMB's Dramatic Specimens, &c. a work of various interest from the nature of the selections themselves (all from the plays of Shakspeare's contemporaries) and deriving a high additional value from the notes, which are full of just and original criticism, expressed with all the freshness of originality.
Among the possible effects of practical adherence to a theory, that aims to identify the style of prose and verse (if it does not indeed claim
for the latter a yet nearer resemblance to the average style of men in the vivâ voce intercourse of real life) we might anticipate the following as not the least likely to occur. It will happen, as I have indeed before observed, that the metre itself, the sole acknowledged difference, will occasionally become metre to the eye only. The existence of prosaisms, and that they detract from the merit of a poem, must at length be conceded, when a number of successive lines can be rendered, even to the most delicate ear, unrecognizable as verse, or as having even been intended for verse, by simply transcribing thein as prose : when if the poem be in blank verse, this can be effected without any alteration, or at most by merely restoring one or two words to their proper : places, from which they had been*
* As the ingenious gentleman under the influence of the Tragic Muse contrived to dislocate, “I wish you a good morning, Sir! Thank you, Sir, and I wish you the same," into two blank-verse heroics :
To you a morning good, good Sir! I wish.
In those parts of Mr. Wordsworth's works which I have thoroughly studied, I find fewer instances in which this would be praeticable than I have met in many poems, where an approximation of prose has been seduously and on system guarded against. Indeed excepting the stanzas already quoted from the Sailor's Mother, I can recollect but one instance: viz. a short passage of four or five lines in The BROTHERS, that model of English pastoral, which I never yet read with unclouded eye.- " James, pointing to its summit, over which they had all purposed to return together, informed them that
transplanted for no assignable cause or reason but that of the author's convenience; but if it be in rhyme, by the mere exchange of the final word of each line for some other of the same meaning, equally appropriate, dignified and euphonic.
The answer or objection in the preface to the anticipated remark “ that metre paves the way to other distinctions,” is contained in the following words.
“ The distinction of rhyme nd metre is voluntary and uniform, and not like that produced by (what is called) poetic diction, arbitrary and subject to infinite caprices, upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case the reader is utterly at the mercy of the poet respecting what . imagery or diction he may choose to connect
he would wait for them there. They parted, and his comrades passed that way some two hours after, but they did not find him at the appointed place, a circumstance of which they took no heed: but one of them going by chance into the house, which at this time was James's house, learnt there, that nobody had seen him all that day.” The only charge which has been made is in the position of the little word there in two instances, the position in the original being clearly such as is not adopted in ordinary conversation. The other
words printed in italics were so marked because, though good and genuine English, they are not the phraseology of common conversation either in the word put in apposition, or in the connection by the genitive pronoun. Men in general would
“ but that was a circumstance they paid no attention to, or took no notice of," and the language is, on the theory of the preface, justified only by the narrator's being the Vicar. Yet if any ear could suspect, that these sentences were ever printed as metre, on those very words alone could the suspicion have been grounded.