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Poetry. The difficulty of giving a clear and succinct definition the most dangerously brutalized degree of the light of Poetry.
of the Art of Poetry is proportioned to the almost Nature, but in both instanees inculcating the loftiest distin- universal nature of its subjects. In common with the Principles of Ethics which its hearers had derived from
studies of Theology, Ethics, Oratory, History, and of that light. In spite therefore of the denunciations of
Her track, where'er the Goddess roves, persuasion nor of instruction. Its province, in the em
Glory pursue, and generous Shame, ployment of the common medium of Language, is imi- Thi unconquerable Mind, and Freedom's holy Aame.* tative and expressive, and its end is Pleasure ; of a
Nor again can it be properly said that Truth is one of How far refined and intellectual nature it is true, and capable of the objects of Poetry, further than as that probability, the laws of
amenable to promoting the highest Moral ends, but still exclusively which the Poet is bound not to violate, is founded on a Truth. Pleasure, as in the kindred Arts of Music and Painting. general induction from facts as they really take place in It is certain that Historical Truth, Moral instruction, or
the Moral or Visible World. The subject of his Art is not Oratorical persuasion, may be embodied in Poetry ; but that which is in any particular instance, but that which thus also do History, Ethics, and Rhetoric in their turn generally may be. In no case does he attempt to assert appeal to the Imagination by those graces and ornaments
or prove any specific matter of fact; and even in Didacwhich belong more peculiarly to Poetry; It is the tic and Reflective Poetry, which may be considered as a respective end sought by each Science, which must deter- mixed branch, he seldom aims at more than to shadow inine both its nature and the rules defining its peculiar out pleasurably certain general Principles. The most excellences.
perfect Tragedy or Epic Poem may not necessarily conolject
That Pleasure is the exclusive end of Poetry, does not tain a word of Truth in it, any more than the dreams usively necessarily compromise either its dignity or usefulness. which madmen often form with the most ingenious coisure, of As Mental Pleasure is the indication and the test of herency on an assumed hypothesis ; and in both cases rt con. the formation of those Moral habits on which it is there is a sound basis consisting in the experience which
attendant, an Art productive of this result from the the Mind has acquired as to the connection of causes representation of Moral sentiments, and the actions and circumstances. Thus, assume that Ulysses was a perarising from them, must be guided by those rules which son really existing, of the rank and character described by determine their merit. It will be in fact found, that Homer, and meeting with the persons and adventures with very few exceptions, Poetry has adapted itself to the exhibited in the Odyssey, and every thing which he does highest tone of Morality prevalent in the Country or
and says is admirably consistent with the inductive view Age wherein it has flourished. Mankind are obviously of Human Nature which the reader's previous experience inore Moral in theory than in practice, reprobating the enables him to take. Again, the wildest dreams of imaginary picture of vices even to which themselves Poetry cannot come home to the fancy with much pleaare prone, and delighting in the highest imaginary sure, unless they are founded on something analogous to model of such virtues as themselves possess in a minor Truth and Experience, or to some home-bred prejudice degree; and the fallacy of the vicious man arises not so
or recollection which has impressed itself previously on much from a denial of the Principles of Right and the Mind with the force of reality. The Fairies in the Wrong, as from a refusal to adapt them to his own case.
Midsummer Night's Dream act and speak in a manner Thus the difference between a man's real Moral merit, exactly conformable to the notions which superstition has and his own conception of it, will generally measure the gravely promulgated of such half-human elves, and superiority of the tone of popular Poetry over the existing which the playful legends of the ingle-nook and the standard of average Morality, regard being had to the greenwood tree made « familiar as household words” to spirit and Religious creed of the Age. The Greek and the imaginations of our ancestors
. Nay even in the
is the Metaphysical Truth which renders palatable a ficcement the Social compact
. The Scalds, on the con- possible. Once suppose a Being compounded of Demon trary, so far as we can judge from the relics of their rude and Savage, and according to the distinct ideas existing rhymes, strove to give the most exalted tone to what in our Minds respecting these, their actions and language were considered as the highest virtues among a Nation would mingle just in the proportion exhibited in the of Pirates, whose very Gods were fabled as living in a perpetual state of battle and mutual destruction, to be character of “ the poisonous slave, got by the Devil him
Suppose also a spark of Divine benevolence brought to a more perfect crisis by the coming of Lok. infused into a Spirit moulded from the essence of wild Their precepts are inhuman, simply because public flowers and zephyrs, tempering and humanizing the opinion then recognised Moral excellence as consisting in Fairy sportiveness which we should associate with such qualities the very reverse of humanity. Here we see Poetry adapting itself respectively to the highest, and to
* Gray, Progress of Poesy. 651
Poetry. a compound, and we have a Being answering to the tic Prose; which in respect to its matter and its end, has Prety
Familiar Spirit Ariel, whose lineaments and passions every feature in common with Poetry as an inventive and
sole object, and promoting that Pleasure through the Not only
The definition of Poetry recognised by the Ancients, medium of metrical language, by the imitation of such imitative as an Art imitative of Human manners, is obviously too things or events as affect the feelings and imagination, but expres- extensive to meet our modern ideas, inasmuch as it or by the expression of the sensations which they produce. sive.
equally applies to Prose fiction, an important branch Its origin, as inseparably connected with Metre, Origio di of Literature almost peculiar to modern times. Nor appears to us to have arisen from causes intimately its Metal again does it seem sufficiently extensive to include those allied with Human Nature even in the rudest stages of
farma. many varieties of metrical composition, equally common Society. It is in public that mankind instinctively seek to ancient and present times, which cannot be called to give vent to those emotions which arise from common initative in any other sense than Oratory or spontaneous subjects of interest; such as the worship of the Deity, Language can be so denominated; where, for instance, the commemoration of public benefactors, or of political some Moral Truth is inculcated by the Poet, or some events; a victory, or a reverse. In small and rude feeling congenial to the Mind of his readers is expressed States contending for very existence, such causes of by him in his own person. These are the sole elements of emotion would be most intensely felt. Every individual composition in Goldsmith's Poem of The Traveller, full in an assembled crowd would seek to join in the expresas it is of dignity, high feeling, and a Poetical spirit which sion of gratitude or deprecation to his Divinity, of never flags. And to instance a still higher style of com- honour to his chieftain, or of defiance to the common position, Milton's Hymn to the Deity, though introduced
enemy; and that in a manner expressive of his sympaas a part of his imitative fiction, is a composition com- thy with those around him. The most discordant shout plete in itself, as the exalted expression of a Religious bears thus as distinct a ineaning as a war-cry, or the feeling adapted to all times and situations, and is rather solemn assent to the supplication of the Priest, of which expressive of the sensations which the grand phenomena we have preserved a remnant in our Christian worship. of Nature are adapted to create in a well-constituted These were probably the earliest modes in which the Mind, than imitative of the objects which it invokes. It voice, the natural organ of emotion, sought to express is equally perfect without the assumption of any person itself in a great assembly; accompanied, perhaps, on or circumstance, though placed with great dignity and some occasions by such rough and primitive instruments propriety in the mouth of Adam during his state of in- of Music as were known to earlier times. Nothing nocence.
possesses in itself so imposing an effect on the imaginaThe same distinction may be laid down as to Elegy tion as a mighty and overpowering sound, such as that and Satire, and also as to Lyrical Poetry when not of thunder or a stormy sea; and when expressive of the mingled with the legends and narrative descriptions in unanimous feeling of the Many, the Moral grandeur which Pindar delights ; in short, as to all branches of superadded thereby renders it doubly animating. The composition in which the Poet addresses the reader in observance of this effect, and the improvement of the his own proper character, and without the intervention of rude drum or horn into instruments harmonizing with any fictitious personages or things. Here the office of the natural modulations of the human voice, would natoPoetry may be styled chiefly expressive, and no further rally lead inventive spirits to devise some means by imitative than as it employs sounds and metre adapted which human and artificial sound could be so blended to strengthen the image of the thing described. It is as to express more copiously and connectedly the conmost completely imitative in that branch which seems to mon feelings of large assemblies. It is obvious that have dwelt more peculiarly on the mind of Aristotle in this end could not be effected without something in the forming his definition, viz.—the Drama ; where the imi- shape of Metrical arrangement, analogous to those means tation is strengthened by the additional aid of vocal utter- by which multitudes must learn to execute any common
ance, personification, painting, and expressive music. bodily movement in concert, and without confusion, and As distin- The distinction of Poetical fiction from Imaginative adapted to assist the retentive powers of the Memory guished Prose is obvious enough, although the bounds which and the ear.
Thus, probably, rude war-cries and shouts from Ima- divide their departments are but small, and consist ginative
of victory were gradually blended into Triumphal choProse.
chiefly in circumstances belonging rather to manner ruses, and the Religious responses of the populace bethan to matter, connected with Poetry rather as inse- came connected Hymns; the Bard or Priest acting as the parable accidents than as essential parts. We mean Coryphæus, and regulating the voices of the singers as that metrical form which is the only visible sign distin- the file-leaders would arrange the march of an army. In guishing indifferent Poetry from Prose, while it is a
progress of time, the success and popularity of these first necessary feature in that of a superior sort; as well rude invocations to Gods and Heroes would naturally as those ornaments of figure and diction which increase lead their composers to enlarge gradually the sphere of the force of metrical composition, but in Prose would their efforts, according to their different bents of Mind. seem bombastic and extravagant.
The legends relative to Heroes of elder date, and the Fulgores nunc terrificos, sonitumque, merumque
fabled adventures and transmigrations of their Gods, Miscebant operi, flummisque sequucibus iras.
would afford a wide field for the first attempts at Nar
rative Poetry, to some of this privileged class; others of Of these we shall treat in their place, as connected with a more meditative turn would, like Orpheus, embody the external parts of Poetry, belonging as they do to the precepts of Ethics and Legislation in a form adapted to Art in every branch, and distinguishing it from Roman- impress itself on the Memory, and, as it were, conse
Puetry. crated by its connection with Divine subjects; while
Ούκ ανδριαντοποίος εί
Poetry those of a more enthusiastic and mystical frame of Mind
Ε', ώς' έλινύσσοντά μ' έργάζεwould proclaim through the same medium the results of
σεαι αγάλματ' επ' αυτάς βαθμίδος
Εσταός'. 'Αλλ' επί πάσας their auguries and fancied inspirations, to a people pre
“Ολκάδος έν τ' ακάτω, γλυκιι άοιδα pared to listen and flatter them in their belief of Divine
Στίχ’ απ’ Αιγίνας, διαγγέλrevelation. Hence was it in all likelihood, that the names
Nemea, V. of Poet and Prophet became synonymous in the Classic In the system of Heathen Polytheism, also, there was Fostered by Languages, by a sort of ancient prescription. Nay, it hardly a spot which had not its Local Genius, and scarcely the Poly.
theism of should seem that, even in the worship of the true God, a Principle of Human Nature which was not embodied
the Anthe same correspondence in name and vocation prevailed, in the imaginary shape of some one God or Goddess. cients. if, as has been conjectured with apparent truth, the Hence the pride felt in an Art difficult of acquirement Schools of the Hebrew Prophets were Institutions for in its first technical steps, was additionally flattered by the instruction of youths in the studies of Eloquence and the supposition of a Divine influence felt through every Sacred Poetry, as chosen vessels upon some one of whom branch of it ; and the ardour of composition (a feeling so the Divine gift of Prophecy might descend for some peculiar that it was honoured with a distinct name, special purpose.
Awen, among the Welsh Bards) was readily imagined radual The Art of Song being thus familiarized among Man- by the Heathens to arise from this influence. Thus the tension of kind as the expression of the greater and more sublime invocation of the Muse, which nothing short of the i subjects.
emotions of the Mind, would in process of time be gra- genius of Milton can in modern times make otherwise
in general, will, if correct, apply to the Epic, the Didac-
tic, the Elegiac, and indeed to all the leading branches
of the Art. Among the Greeks, to whom it is needless
to say that we are indebted for the most perfect early
specimens of all its essential departments, the Public
Games and National institutions contributed to draw
forth Poetic genius in every branch, more peculiarly in
the Epic, Heroic, and Lyrical. It should seem that the Burns.
public taste had been to a great degree developed in these Some of the noblest instances of this tone of feeling respects, before the Drama received much improvement Improve are to be found in the Odes of Pindar, where the some
from its rude and primitive state. If the early records ment of the what vain-glorious tone of the Poet is redeemed and which we possess on this subject are interpreted by simple
Drama. borne out by the passionate desire of immortality which common sense, they strip it of the fictitious importance breathes in every word, and his manly confidence in the which some are disposed to annex to it. From the dignity of an Art destined to confer that immortality on
name and history of both its branches, we know that the actions of the Wise, the Valiant, and the Just. the prize given to the successful candidate in the one Φιάλαν ως εί τις α
was the most carrion of domestic animals, and that the
other probably consisted of a string of such local jests as
might be more favourably received at the joyous seasons
of the vintage and the harvest-home. Thespis himself Οίκοθεν οίκαδε, πάγ
and his contemporaries, declaiming from a cart, and χρυσον, κορυφάν κτιάνων,
* The suicide of Lycombes was imputed to mortification caused Kad igas%. 5. d.
by the lambics of Archilochus, when disappointed of the hand of Olymp. carm. 7. his daughter.
Poetry. painted with lees of wine, appear very much on a footing Material World, and an impartial spirit of candour and Poetry
with the itinerant buffoons who still exhibit their red and good faith in entering into the different motives of party-coloured visages on similar occasions; and even Mankind by turns, is, as far as we can judge, that which the second character, introduced by them to complete constitutes a really great Poet, as distinct from the aids their interludes, was probably of no higher caste than which may be acquired by Study and Experience. Homer the Clown or Merryman, who is to serve as the butt of and Shakspeare appear to have been the persons most his principal's wit, and hardly on a footing with Arlequin, distinguished for this gift of mother-wit; the latter, Jocrisse, Sganarelle, and the joculators by prescription indeed, in a high and remarkable degree. How he on the stage of the modern Continent. The lively pos- soared from the Visible World to more subtle and immatures and gesticulations, however, which are natural to terial conceptions, is intelligibly shadowed out in the Southern people, and the obvious advantages of Dia- passage from his Works which has been too often quoted logue and personification even in their rudest form, must and repeated to need any repetition ; and in spite of the soon have naturally suggested to Æschylus and the real day-dreams of the more mystical and fanciful Critics, founders of Tragedy, the possibility of applying success- who would refine away common sense, we conceive that fully such aids to graver subjects. Thus is it the privi- there is nothing implied in such a process beyond those lege of Genius to avail itself of materials at first sight acute powers of conception and intellect which we have discordant with its object.
attempted to analyze. It is true that there are many It is not, however, so much our purpose to define or points relative to the nature of Mind, and to its connecminutely to descant on the different styles of Poetry, as tion with Matter, which if fully explained, might throw to state to the best of our power the general Principles a light on the subject of Poetical genius and invention. applicable to the Art in all its branches, by an adherence Such are the association of ideas, the state of the Mind to which its end as a source of intellectual pleasure will during dreams, the recurrence, at long intervals of time, be obtained.
of particular trains of thought, bringing back the visible Compo- That Fancy and Judgment are respectively the form and colouring of spots forgotten, and passing nents of moving and the regulating powers of the Poet's Mind, vividly for an instant like a momentary gleam of sunPoetical
it is unnecessary to demonstrate. The former strikes shine on a distant object in a landscape ; these, however, Genius.
out the material, or draws it by a sort of Chemical attrac- are rather to be explained by Psychologists, to whom
Poetry. grown man, present, as it were, a Fairy vista of pure him to load and mystify his theme with details fitter for Poetry.
Poetry. In childhood, when passed under circumstances a Scientific Work in Prose.
ciations, and all those circumstances which contribute
to form as it were the mental idiosyncrasy of the reader.
The skilful versification of Sir William Jones and Influence of Without adopting the entire theory of this amiable and original author, it may fairly be asserted, that our own
other Oriental translators has been exerted in vain to National early recollections, and the formation of ideas in the Minds awaken any interest in the ingenious conceits and tempera
ment. of children are not more beneath the study of a real voluptuous images which form the essence of Persian Poet, than the process of blowing air bubbles was incon- Poetry, and which, if we may judge from their effects clusive in establishing a point in the discoveries of a New
on a cultivated and imaginative People, were probably ton. If we could convey to our own imaginations the exact treated in a masterly manner by their Bards. And even impressions formed in the mind of a lively child, basking the favourite legends of Classic authors, familiar as they in apparent idleness on a green bank in June, amid the are in most cases to our early recollections, are in some hum of bees and the song of birds, they might be found respects a sealed book. The stories of Atys, of Adonis, to contain much of the real substance of what we admire of Pentheus, and the Bacchæ, which education and when expressed by Spenser or Theocritus. The percep- Religious prejudice appear to have rendered fascinating tions of all outward objects, and the feelings immediately and even affecting subjects to the Greeks, convey no sort resulting from them, possess at that age a clearness, a
of interest to a modern reader. How then, it may be strength, and a simplicity, akin to that mood in which asked, do we derive that interest from sources appawe most readily resign ourselves to Poetical illusions; rently no less foreign to our daily habits and ideas, and and the perfect leisure from more serious thoughts and as totally unconnected with our own History? The anprojects then enjoyed, leads to a hundred vague and
swer is plain. The Argonautic expedition exactly recalls undefinable musings, which, if they could be caught the adventures, on field and flood, of the “mighty and and treasured up for future years, would form an in- unconquered Goths,” the Vikingr and the Berserkir, exhaustible fund from which to refresh the imagination,
who with all their ferocity and lawlessness, claim a conbut which are generally effaced by the discipline of siderable share in our ancestry. The Siege of Troy in active or argumentative life.
almost every respect touches on our chivalrous associaıbjects Next, as to the subjects properly adapted for the ex
tions, as well as on the home-felt passions common to oper for ercise of the Poetical talent. These, if we may be
every Age and climate. Hector, Diomede, Patroclus, petry. allowed somewhat to extend the definition of Aristotle,
and Sarpedon, in no wise differ from the true Knights
Sweet in manners, fair in favour,
Mild in temper, fierce in fight. them, and those Moral and Physical causes which influence them immediately. For from sources directly And even Achilles himself, both in his faults and his or indirectly connected with our own mental habits must virtues, bears a strong likeness to the fiery and impebe derived, in every case, the Pleasure which it is the rious Norman Baron, or the Grandee of the days of office of Poetry to afford. When this Pleasure is not Don Pelayo. The labours of Hercules and Theseus felt, the fault must arise either from the nature of the sub- are precisely those of good Knights-errant, and Scyron ject, or from the defective mode of treating it. It is pro- and Polyphemus are in every particular the discourteous bable that were the highest powers of Poetry exhausted Giants of a Fairy Tale. on such subjects as the Monkish dogma of the Imma- As to the interest which arises from Imaginary Beings, Interest in culate conception, or the demonstration of Euclid's unconnected as they may seem at first with Human for. Imaginary. XLVIIth Problem, they would fail in producing any tunes and feelings, the question is in some degree Beings. effect; for although both subjects have respectively in answered already with reference to Shakspeare, whose fluenced Human life for Evil and Good, they possess forcible conceptions of the Immaterial, and whose intuitive nothing in themselves to affect the Moral and Sensitive knowledge of all the links of Thought and Association, parts of our natures. Again, the subject of the Universe, are ackuowledged as unrivalled. His Fairies were, as appealing to our highest conceptions of the Sublime long before the reign of Elizabeth, installed by houseand Beautiful, and our loftiest feelings of veneration hold superstition as the Dryads and Penates of our and gratitude, presents a task to be grasped, like the Island; and even Ariel and Caliban seem founded on bow of Ulysses, only by a master hand of the first order, the traditionary conceptions of the friendly Brownie and and that with a nicety of judgment which genius does the malignant Duergar. Nor is it too much to assert not always possess. Milton, accordingly, in the Hymn that in every instance, the Poet, even when launching already quoted, which perhaps may be said to exceed all into the remotest flights of fancy, in order to attain the Human Poetry in true grandeur, has embodied all these end of his Art, must adhere to those subjects which feelings and conceptions in comparatively a few lines, directly or indirectly come home to the “ business and taking his station like the Archangel between Heaven bosoms” of his readers. and Earth, above all associations exclusively Human. If, It must be granted that the Pleasure communicated How far on the contrary, we may guess from obscure tradition, by Poetry arises in a subordinate degree, but no incon- mere Imita.
tion is a it should seem that the long Poem of Empedocles on siderable one, from the skilful imitation of things not
source of the same subject led by its ill success to his suicide, necessarily interesting in themselves. Hence the whole Poetical probably because his superior Physical knowledge led merit of the Art has by some been conceived to exist in Pleasure.