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enormous, the form seems so easy to handle ; but the really great sonnets are few. A sonnet must be transcendently good, or it ought not to exist.
Lately we have seen a number of new lyrical forms brought into English by the younger modern school of poets. The Rondeau, the Rondel, the Triolet, the Ballade, the Villanelle, were invented by French poets of the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth Centuries. They depend, like the sonnet, on arrangement of rimes in a fixed number of verses, and tend to be even more intricate, When handled by a master, however, they are very agreeable, and lend themselves admirably to the purposes of Vers de Société. [Cf. E. W. Gosse, Foreign Forms of Verse, Cornhill Magazine, 1877.]
The Epigram is less rigid in form than the above, but it rarely exceeds four lines. The name defines purpose and origin : verses written on something, — say with a diamond on a window-pane. An antithesis or pun is likely to be the base of the epigram. An Epitaph is something written on a tombstone, or supposed to be so written. Both epigram and epitaph may be serious or mocking. Serious is Landor's beautiful quatrain :
“ I strove with none, for none was worth my strife;
Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
It sinks, and I am ready to depart.” Mocking is Rochester's combined epigram and (quasi) epitaph on Charles II. :
“ Here lies our sovereign lord the king,
Whose word no man relies on:
Nor ever did a wise one."
A Cenotaph may be inscribed with verses as if it were the actual tomb ;-or else the fact may be told, as in those fine verses of Tennyson in Westminster Abbey on Sir John Franklin : "Not here! the white north holds thy bones," etc.
§ 9. LYRICAL BALLAD. We use this term, not in the sense of Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, but to indicate the folk-song, or ballad, that is lyrical rather than historical. Even the lyrical folk-song, like other forms of poetry, can be detected slipping back into the domain of religious rites and ceremonies. Thus we find rimed charms verses sung to expel sickness, drought, tempest, etc. These were once parts of public worship; Christianity banned them into all out-of-the-way corners, village customs, peasants' firesides, etc. They generally had an epic beginning, telling how the sickness was caused; this was followed by the regular lyric, meant either to curse or to flatter the evil out of the possessed subject. The Indian “ Medicine-man" with his charms [cf. etymology of charm) is a case in point.
But the pure lyric was early developed among the people. Thus the Cuckoo Song, quoted above (cf. § 4] is a joyous folk-song to the spring. — Prefixed to a song of the Thirteenth Century is a little refrain to be sung after each stanza. This refrain is not by the author of the song, but must have then been an old catch, sung by the peasants time out of mind :
“ Blow, northerne wynd,
Still, the lyric is essentially individual. We cannot claim, even for the so-called folk-lyric, or ballad, that spontaneous growth in the popular heart that we claimed for the epic folk-song. In nearly all cases we must assume individual authorship. So that the lyrical ballad is different from the lyrics we have just examined only in so far as the former catches a simple and popular tone. Thus, in the verses
“O waly waly, but love be bonny
A little time while it is new;
And fades awa’ like morning dew” we can very plainly hear this simple, popular tone; whereas in Byron's famous lines —
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
Are mine alone".
we recognize plainly the individual tone, though the sentiment is the same. And yet it is not impossible to put into a lyric that popular and simple beauty, as it is to put into an imitated ballad the sentiment of a whole people. Burns has caught the Scotch 'flavor,' if we may use such a term; and his best poems are truly national, truly popular. As soon as he leaves his native dialect he is flat, and full of uninteresting mannerisms. The lyrical ballad is judged by its simplicity and sincerity; in these qualities Burns and Wordsworth excel, though in very different ways. According to a German critic (Carriere), “in lyric poetry the highest result is reached when a great poet sings in the popular tone." This, certainly, is true of Burns, — as it is of Goethe.
CHAPTER III. — DRAMATIC POETRY.
THE Epic deals with the past, the Lyric with the present. The Drama unites the two conditions, and gives us the past in the present. Events are the epic basis; but they unroll themselves before our eyes. We have the epic objectivity — i.e., the sinking of the author's own thought and feeling in the work itselfin the lifelike course of events; we have lyric fire in the different characters. What lyric can match, for example, Hamlet's beautiful tribute to friendship (Ham. III. 2]; what love-songs compare with the passion of the exquisite little Tagelied, in Romeo and Juliet (III. 5] where the lovers part at daybreak ? What reflective lyric strikes a deeper note than Hamlet's famous soliloquy on death? — A drama, then, may be called an epic whole made up of lyric parts. Aristotle's definition is imitated action; which is about the same thing. The lyric element in the drama makes it more rapid, more tumultuous than the epic, which, at its best, holds an even and stately pace.
§ 1. BEGINNINGS OF THE DRAMA. The drama is no exception to the rule concerning the origin of poetry; it begins in religious rites. We shall here confine ourselves to the modern drama, particularly the English, and trace its beginnings and development up to the time of Shakspere. [For a wider survey of the drama in general, see Ward's article “ Drama” in the Encyclopædia Britannica; for the
English, see the same author's English Dramatic Literature.]
The Greek drama began in the Dionysian feasts; our modern drama in the rites of the early Christian church. These were elaborate and impressive. By certain ceremonies such as the Mass
effort was made to change the past history of the church into a present fact. The epic part, as Ward points out, was the reading of the Scripture narrative; the lyric was the singing; to these was added the dramatic. On certain church festivals, the clergy were wont to bring in actual form before the people the events which the day commemorated; e.g., the marriage at Cana. At first the dialogue was in Latin ; but little by little the speech of the folk was brought in. “The French mystery of La Resurrection (Twelfth Century) is regarded as the first religious drama in the vulgar tongue. Thus arose the so-called Mysteries and Miracle-Plays. (The name should be mistery, as it is a corruption of ministerium.) Later than these - which were dramatic representations either of the Gospel narrative or of legends of the church — came the Moralities, where virtues, vices, and other allegorical figures appeared in appropriate costume.
The only drama which our race knew before the Norman Conquest was of a rude kind. Until then, the old dialogues between Summer and Winter, and kindred attempts at dramatic representation, were all that English literature could boast in that direction. But when the churchmen brought in the Sacred Drama, there soon arose a class of secular performers. These secular performers were the successors to such as may