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to the inmost nature of poetry, and the tests by which we try the highest forms of poetic expression, — and, accepting poetry as an element of human life, simply regard those facts in the different phases of poetry about which most men agree. Ben Jonson distinguishes “the thing fain'd, the faining, and the fainer : so the Poeme, the Poesy, and the Poet." All study of the first and last of these, the poem and the poet, whether it is in the domain of criticism, or in the school-room, should be based on a knowledge of “the faining,” of Poetry itself, its principles and divisions. It is the object of this little treatise to lay down those principles in as simple a way as possible. Great care should be taken to distinguish this science of poetry from the art of verse-making. Thus, there were OldNorse schools of poetry; and the same sort of instruction was given among the “ Meistersänger" of Germany. The science, on the other hand, aims to formulate, as far as it can, the principles of poetic expression. It has received special attention in modern times from the Germans ; but it is as old as Plato and Aristotle. Among the modern writers who have brought to its discussion a wealth of critical insight are Lessing (especially in his Laocoon, 1766), Kant, Goethe, the brothers Schlegel, Schiller, Hegel, and Vischer.
EVERYONE knows that two of the most important factors in human affairs are Church and State. Again, every student of history is aware that the further back we go, the more intimate are the relations between these two great powers. Looking towards the beginnings of civilization, we see the lines of statecraft and priestcraft steadily converging. Where a Gladstone stands to-day, stood, some three centuries ago, a Cardinal Wolsey. In the remote past, in the dawn of history (a relative term, differing with different nations), we find law and religion to be convertible terms. Even in highly-civilized Greece, the Laws — cf. Sophocles, Oed. Tyr. 864 sqq. — were sacred. So it was with our own ancestors, the Germanic tribes, whose nature and customs fell under the keen eyes of Tacitus, and are noted down in his Germania. Let us take his description of the Germanic custom of casting lots, -a ceremony at once legal and religious. He says (c. 10) that " a branch is cut from a fruit-bearing tree and divided into little blocks, which are distinguished by certain marks, and scattered at random
over a white cloth. Then the state-priest if it is a public occasion, the father of the family if it is domestic, after a prayer to the gods, looking toward heaven, thrice picks up a block. These he now interprets according to the marks previously made."
What renders the ceremony of importance to us is the fact that the “interpretation ” Tacitus mentions was poetical, and that the “marks” were runes, i.e., the rude alphabet employed by the Germanic tribes. According as these mystic symbols fell, the priest made alliterating verses declaring the result of the ceremony. The letters gave the key to the rimes. Since the beech-tree (Anglo-Sax. bôc, "book," but also “beech,” like German Buch and Buche) was a favorite wood for the purpose, and the signs were cut in (A.-S. wrîtan, “cut into,” then “write"), we win a new meaning for the phrase "to write a book.” Further, to read, really means to interpret, as in the common “rede the riddle.” So in the original, literal sense, the priest read the writing of the book. Since he read it poetically, and as a decree of the gods, and as something legally bind. ing on the people, we may assume (bearing in mind the antiquity of priestcraft) that poetry, the earliest form of literature, begins among the priesthood in the service of law and religion. [Cf. p. 3 of the Introduction.]
But this unit of sacred law had two sides. On the one hand were such ceremonies as the above, practical use, which concerned the people. Late “survivals" of these rites may still be found in the peasant's hut and in the modern nursery, e.g., the time-honored custom of saying a rime to see who shall be “it” for a game.
But on the other hand was formal
worship, -- the purely religious side. The tribe boasted its origin from a god, and at stated seasons joined in solemn worship of its divine ruler and progenitor. To this god the assembled multitude sang a hymn, - at first merely chorus, exclamation and incoherent chant, full of repetitions. As they sang, they kept time with the foot in a solemn dance, which was inseparable from the chant itself and governed the words (cf. our metrical term “foot”). As order and matter penetrated this wild ceremony, there resulted a rude hymn, with intelligible words and a connecting idea. Naturally this connecting idea would concern the deeds of the god, — his birth and bringing up and his mighty acts. Thus a thread of legend would be woven into the hymn, --a thread fastened at one end to the human associations of the tribe, but losing itself in the uncertainty of a miraculous and superhuman past.
But a third element comes in. Besides the legendary thread, we have the mythological. In order to explain the natural processes about him, early man peopled the universe with a multitude of gods. Or, to speak more clearly, he attributed will and passion to the acts of nature. Something dimly personal stood behind the flash of lightning, the roaring of the wind. The ways and doings of these nature-gods were set in order, and, of course, were in many cases brought in direct connection with the tribal or legendary god. Hence a second sort of thread woven into the hymn, mythology. But both legend and mythology are narrative. The hymn thus treated ceased to be a mere hymn. The chorus and the strophe were dropped ; instead of sets of verses (strophe) the verses ran on in