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Sonnet 16, line 5.

The patient beauty of the scentless rose.

The Chinese, or monthly rose, so frequently seen clustering round the cottage-porch, both in the remotest vales and in the immediate outskirts of busy, smoky towns, is almost destitute of scent. The manner in which this cheerful foreigner perseveres in the habits of a warmer climate, through all vicissitudes of ours, is a remarkable instance of vegetable nationality.


Sonnet 18, line 5.

The voiceless flowers

In the "Bride's Tragedy," by Thomas Beddoes, of Pembroke College, Oxon, occurs a hypothetical simile which some prose-witted dunce of a reviewer thought proper to assail with great animosity.


I forget what, is

Like flower's voices-if they could but speak. Whoever feels the beauty of that line, has a soul for poetry.


Sonnet 19, line 7.

Poor mortality

Begins to mourn before it knows its case,
Prophetic in its ignorance.

Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air

We waule and cry.

When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools.

Shakspeare: King Lear, Act 4.

The thought, which is obvious enough indeed, occurs in an older writer than Shakspeare, and might probably be traced to some of the fathers, or to Seneca. Robert Greene reproaches Shakspeare with reading Seneca done into English.


Sonnet 19, line 10.
The hospitalities of earth.

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own.
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And even with something of a mother's mind,

And no unworthy aim,

The homely nurse doth all she can

To make her foster-child, her inmate man,

Forget the glories he hath known,

And that imperial palace whence he came.- -Wordsworth.


Sonnet 20, line 9.

Love-sick ether.

Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
The winds were love-sick with them.

Shakspeare: Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2. Imitators and alterers do not often improve upon Shakspeare, but when they do, it is but fair to give them credit for it. Dryden, in his "All for Love," has omitted all the philosophy, and two thirds of the poetry of Shakspeare's play, but he has certainly made a much more compact and consecutive drama; and by putting the description of Cleopatra's "grand aquatic procession" into the mouth of Antony himself, has made it a natural and dramatic portion of the play; whereas, in Shakspeare, it has too much the air of a quotation from an epic or descriptive poem. Neither Shakspeare nor Dryden have done much more than versify Plutarch's, or rather Dr. Philemon Holland's prose, and they were wise in not hunting after useless originality : but Shakspeare has added some exquisitely poetical touches.

At the helm
A seeming mermaid steers; the silken tackles
Swell with the touches of those flower soft hands,
That yarely frame their office. From the barge
A strange invisible perfume hits the sense
Of the adjacent wharfs. The city cast

Her people out upon her; and Antony,
Enthroned i' the market-place, did sit alone,
Whistling to the air; which, but for vacancy,
Had gone to gaze on Cleopatra too,

And left a gap in nature.

If Antony owed to the Egyptian Queen the loss of his empire and life, he is indebted to her for a less hateful renown than would have clung to his name had she never "pursed up his heart on the river of Cydnus." The murderer of Cicero is merged in the lover of Cleo. patra.


Sonnet 20, line 10.

Middle earth.

The phrase occurs in a hymn of the Saxon poet Cædmon, and seems to imply, not the supposed centrality of the earth in the firmament, but the intermediate condition between the poles of good and evil. I have here adapted it to signify, that on earth we only contemplate objects in transitu, being unable to trace any process to its origin or its termination.


Sonnet 31, line 11.

The fell inherency of sin.

This ineradicable taint of sin.

Childe Harold: Canto IV., 126.

Sonnet 32.

In this and other translations from the Italian, I have not succeeded in preserving the simple purity of the original diction so completely as I could have wished. Italian words are so beautiful, that they are when "unadorned, adorned the most." English, with all its excellen

cies, is so deficient in euphony, and so large a part of its vocabulary is debased by association, that it always requires strong or deep pathos, beautiful images, profound thought, rapid and striking interest, or much artifice in composition; something, in short, to withdraw the attention from the coarseness of the vehicle. We cannot emulate the simplicity of the Greeks or the Italians. The poet, indeed, who can and dare, may be austere; but austerity and simplicity are different things. Simplicity is never, austerity is always, conscious of itself. The Sunday habit of a modest country girl is simple-the regulation dress of a nunnery is meant to be auştere. Simplicity does not seek what it feels no need of―Austerity rejects what it judges unfit.

But neither simplicity nor austerity are necessarily poetical. The simple must be beautiful, the austere must be great, or they have no place in genuine poetry. A daisy is simple, a turnip still simpler, yet the former belongs to the poetry of Nature, the latter to her most utilitarian prose.


Page 37, line 17.

The humbler spirit

Hears in the daily round of household things,

A low sweet melody, inaudible

To the gross sense of worldlings.

The still, sad music of humanity.

Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey.


Page 42, line 5.

The choicest terms are now enfeoff'd to folly.

Enfeoff'd himself to popularity.

Shakspeare, Henry IV. Part 1st.


Page 53. Song. "Tis sweet," &c.

Among the controversies of the day, not the least important is that respecting the song of the Nightingale. It is debated whether the notes

of this bird are of a joyous or a melancholy expression. He who has spoken so decisively of "the merry Nightingale," must forgive my somewhat unfilial inclination toward the elder and more common opinion. No doubt the sensations of the bird while singing are pleasurable, but the question is, What is the feeling which its song, considered as a succession of sounds produced by an instrument, is calculated to carry to a human listener? When we speak of a pathetic strain of music, we do not mean that either the fiddler or his fiddle are unhappy, but that the tones or intervals of the air are such as the mind associates with tearful sympathies. At the same time, I utterly deny that the voice of philomel expresses present pain. I could never have imagined that the pretty creature "sets her breast against a thorn," and could not have perpetrated the diabolical story of Terens. In fact, nature is very little obliged to the heathen mythology. The constant anthropomorphism of the Greek religion sorely perplexed the ancient conceptions of natural beauty. A river is turned into a god, who is still too much of a river to be quite a god. It is a statue of ice in a continual state of liquefaction.

Page 56.
Agony of prayer.

I know not who first used this expression, nor at what time it entered into my mind. It occurs where one should hardly expect to find itin Darwin's Botanic Garden; but I had never read the "Botanic Garden" at the time that I wrote this epitaph. Doubtless I have read the phrase elsewhere. It could not be of Darwin's invention.


Page 56, last line.

The marriage of pure minds.

Let me not to the marriage of pure minds
Admit impediments.

Shakspeare's Sonnets

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