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I am glad you like my word retributory, for which I know not that I have any poetical authority. Belford says to Lovelace, in the great work of Richardson, "something strangely retributive seems going forward.”
I confess that the second and eighteenth stanzas are prosaic; but, in argumentative verse, the occurrence, at intervals, of unornamented diction is not censurable, provided it does not degenerate into vulgarism. Those stanzas are necessary links in the chain of my reasoning;-but I found it impossible to make them take the poetic gilding.
It would jar me to part with the epithet 'natural for the temper of the dog.
I am proud of your praise of the *twentyfourth quatrain, which is one of my greatest favourites in the poem.
Stanza 25th, I think the word mark more spirited than see, and as such retain it; but I have adopted your alteration of the word fierce into savage.
In the 26th, your proposal of changing the word endeared to dear, in order to avoid the
* When unattach'd, and yet to man unknown,
Wolfish and wild, the wilderness he roves,
And stalks the terror of the desert groves.
elision, I reject, upon the principle of preferring sense to sound.
With honest joy th' endear'd commission brings.
To say "With honest joy the dear commission brings," would fail to express, by reference, that sentiment of affection to his master, which endeared conveys. That which is dear may be so for itself, and, in this case, for the mere exercise it gives. That which is endeared must have been made precious by some previous consideration. You see I have changed intrusive for intrusion. Whenever the modes of expression are equal in my own choice, I respect the preference of a friend.
* In the 29th, you wish the second line softened; but the harshness was purposed, as expressing fatigue by the dragging sound. I have made the slight change you suggested in the first line of the 30th; but in the following:-" Ha! does he pass the interdicted bounds!" I cannot expunge the interjection. Many, perhaps, may object to it; but there are who will think, with me, that it gives dramatic spirit to the description.
When night broods sullen o'er the drowsy earth,
* The first line of the 31st pleads the poetic privilege of being allowed to leave something to the imagination, by using a mode of expression not unfrequent with our best writers. In prose, I should have said, "Whether he be a beast of prey, or a man devoted to guilt." Permit me to give you instances of similar ellipsis. In the Fifth Book of Paradise Lost, Satan, addressing the forbidden fruit,
"Fair plant, with fruit surcharg'd,
"Whether it be envy or reserve that forbids others to taste of thee," is the implied meaning; and, to people used to poetry, surely sufficiently implied; while the ellipsis, by curtailing the words, gives rapid force to the meaning. Again, in the same poem, Book Tenth, line 245,
"Whatever draws me,
Or sympathy, or some connatural force."
* Or beast of prey or man, to guilt devote, With fangs terrific, and with burning eyes, Thy brave protector rushes on his throat,
And low, in blood, the dark destroyer lies.
Milton would have said in prose," by whatever I am drawn, whether by sympathy or by some connatural force."―Also,
"Or true, or false, to me it matters not."-Jephson's Narbon.
That is, whether it be true or false; and thus the ever accurate Pope,
"Alike or when, or where, they shone, or shine,
This is the most luxuriant use of the ellipsis I recollect in so short a limit the sense could not have been contained in one couplet, but for the lavish use of that privilege.
Johnson tells us, in his Dictionary, that "the particle or, sometimes, but rather inelegantly, stands for either, and sometimes for before, but the latter usage is obsolete." He mentions not that it more frequently supplies the place of four syllables, whether it be.
The use of the particle or might have been defined with more justness, thus: " It is one of the privileges of verse to condense expression, by making the little particle or supply the place, first, of four syllables, whether it be; second, of the double syllable, either; and third, of the word before, though this last usage is not common with
modern writers, but it is employed with fine effect by the ancient ones. The first usage might be illustrated by the above, or by similar quotations; and the second, where or is substituted for either, as follows:
"O Rossanno !
Or give me way, or thou art no more my friend.”
Rowe's Fair Penitent.
"Or grant me this, or with a monarch's claim,
My hand shall seize some other captive dame."
In the third and last instance, where this particle
is used for before,
"Or ever your pots be made hot with thorns."—Psalms.
"Learn before thou speakest, and use physic,
Or ever thou be sick."
Ecclesiastes, chap. xviii. verse 19.
"The dead man's knell
Is there scarce ask'd for whom; and good men's lives
Dying, or ere they sicken."-Shakespeare,
I did not expect you would like the * 37th stanza,
* Ah wretch ingrate! to liberal hope unknown,