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breast of the bard alone that energy of thought which gives birth to poetry is an active principle; in all others it is only a passive sentiment. That alone is true poetry which makes the reader himself a poet for the time while he is under its excitement; which, indeed, constrains him to feel, to see, to thinkalmost to be what the poet felt, saw, thought, and was while he was conceiving and composing his work. And this theory is confirmed by the fact, that though original genius is wonderfully aided in its development and display by learning and refinement, yet among the rudest people it has been found, like native gold and unwrought diamond, as pure and perfect in essence, though incrusted with baser matter, as among the most enlightened nations. With the first, however, it is seldomer seen, not being laboriously dug from the mine, purified in the furnace, or polished on the wheel, but only occasionally washed from the mountains, or accidentally discovered among the sands.
It is a remarkable coincidence, that, with the exception of ancient Rome, the noblest productions of the Muses have appeared in the middle ages, between gross barbarism and voluptuous refinement, when the human mind yet possessed strong traits of its primeval grandeur and simplicity ; but divested of its former ferociousness, and chastened by courteous manners, felt itself rising in knowledge, virtue, and intellectual superiority. The poems of Homer existed long before Greece arrived at its zenith of glory, or even of highly advanced civilization.
Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto, in Italy ; Ercilla, in Spain; Camoens, in Portugal; as well as our own Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton ; flourished in periods far inferior to the present in wealth, luxury, general intelligence, and literary taste; yet in their respective countries their great poems have not since been equalled, nor is it probable that they will hereafter be surpassed by any of their successors.
To the peculiar good fortune which, in their respective countries, and independent of their abstract merits, has secured imperishable pre-eminence to a few early and great names, more particular allusion will be made in another place.
Poetry is not only the earliest and rarest, but also the most excellent of the fine arts. It transcends all other literary composition in harmony, beauty, and splendour of style, thought, and imagery, as well as in the vivacity and permanency of its impressions on the mind; for its language and sentiments are so intimately connected, that they are remembered together; they are soul and body, which cannot be separated without death,-a death in which the dissolution of the one causes the disappearance of the other; if the spell of the words be broken, the charm of the idea is lost. Thus nothing can be less adorned than the opening of “ Paradise Lost;" the cadence of the verse alone redeems the whole from being plain prose in the first six lines; but thenceforward it rises through every clause in energy and grandeur, till the reader feels himself carried away by the impetuosity of that
" adventurous song,
and experiences full proof of the poet's power to accomplish his purpose, so magnificently set forth in the crowning lines of the clause :
" That to the height of this great argument
Now, let any man attempt to tell to another the subject of Milton's exordium. This he might do very correctly, and in very apt words; yet his prose interpretation would be no more to Milton's stately
numbers, than the argument at the head of the first book is to the discussion of that argument in the poem itself.
Poetry and Music. Poetry transcends music in the passion, pathos, and meaning of its movements; for its harmonies are ever united with distinct feelings and emotions of the rational soul; their associations are always clear and easily comprehensible: whereas music; when it is not allied to language, or does not appeal to memory, is simply a sensual and vague, though an innocent and highly exhilarating delight, conveying no direct improvement to the heart, and leaving little permanent impression upon the mind. When, indeed, music awakens national, military, local, or tender recollections of the distant or the dead, the loved or the lost, it then persorms the highest office of poetry, -it is poetry, as Echo in the golden mythology of Greece remained a nymph, even after she had passed away into a sound. But the first music must have been vocal, and the first words sung to notes must have been metrical. “ Blest pair of Syrens, Voice and Verse !” exclaims the greatest of our poets (himself a musician, and never more a poet than when he chants the praises of the sister art, as he does in a hundred passages,)
“Blest pair of Syrens, Voice and Verse!
So sang Milton. Instrumental accompaniments were afterward invented to aid the influence of both; and when all three are combined in solemn league and covenant, nothing earthly so effectually presents to our "high-raised phantasy,"
“ That undisturbed song of pure consent,
To Him that sits thereon : * * * *
Touch their celestial harps of golden wires."
It may be observed here that the musical and the poetical ear are entirely distinct. Many musicians have disagreeably bad voices in conversation, and chatter in jig-time, or talk in staccato tones, unendurable to one who has a fine sense of the melody of speech. On the other hand, poets and declaimers have frequently had no ear at all for music. Pope had none; Garrick had none; yet in harmonious rhythmical composition the poet to this hour is
unexcelled: nor was the actor less perfect in managing the cadences and intonations of a voice “as musical as is A pollo's lute,” in the delivery of the most familiar, impassioned, or heroic speeches which the whole range of the British drama imposed, from King Lear to Abel Drugger.
It is a common complaint with ordinary composers, that poets do not write verses suitable for music. Though there is some truth in the statement, as refers to poets of the same class as such composers themselves are, yet it is the express business of those who set poetry at all to adapt their notes to the pitch of it, whereby their own melodies will be proportionately exalted; not to require that the poet's lay should be brought down to their standard of adaptation, and the nobler art be degraded by condescending to the inferior. That the most exquisite strains of English verse may be fitted to strains of music worthy of them, we have examples abundant in the present day, from the songs of Robert Burns to the melodies of Thomas Moore. Yet something must be conceded occasionally on the part of the poets, though no more than may, at the same time, improve their lines as verse, while it renders them more obedient subjects for music. Dryden, in the preface to one of his operas, gives vent to his impatience at being necessitated to make his noble but reluctant numbers submit to be drilled and disci. plined to the tactics of a French composer. After enumerating some of his miserable shifts, he says,“It is true, I have not often been put to this drudgery; but where I have, the words will sufficiently show that I was then a slave to the composition, which I will never be again. It is my part to invent, and the musician's to humour that invention. I may be counselled, and will always follow my friend's advice where I find it reasonable, but I will never part with the power of the militia."— Introduction to Albion and Albanus.