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may be merely to facilitate the recollection of a given facts or observations by artificial arrangeme and the composition will be a poem, merely because is distinguished from prose by metre, or by rhyme, by both conjointly. In this, the lowest sense, a m might attribute the name of a poem to the well kno enumeration of the days in the several months;
'Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November," &c.
and others of the same class and purpose. And as particular pleasure is found in anticipating the recu rence of sounds and quantities, all compositions th have this charm super-added, whatever be their co tents, may be entitled poems.
So much for the superficial form. A difference object and contents supplies an additional ground distinction. The immediate purpose may be the con munication of truths; either of truth absolute and de monstrable, as in works of science; or of facts ex perienced and recorded, as in history. Pleasure, an that of the highest and most permanent kind, ma result from the attainment of the end; but it is no itself the immediate end. In other works the com munication of pleasure may be the immediate purpose and though truth, either moral or intellectual, ough to be the ultimate end, yet this will distinguish the character of the author, not the class to which the work belongs. Blest indeed is that state of society, in which the immediate purpose would be baffled by the perversion of the proper ultimate end; in which no charm of diction or imagery could exempt the BATHYL LUS even of an Anacreon, or the ALEXIS of Virgil, from disgust and aversion!
But the communication of pleasure may be the immediate object of a work not metrically composed; and that object may have been in a high degree attained,
as in novels and romances. Would then the mere superaddition of metre, with or without rhyme, entitle these to the name of poems? The answer is, that nothing can permanently please, which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise. If metre be superadded, all other parts must be made consonant with it. They must be such, as to justify the perpetual and distinct attention to each part, which an exact correspondent recurrence of accent and sound are calculated to excite. The final definition then, so deduced, may be thus worded. A poem is that species of composition, which is opposed to works of science, by proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth; and from all other species-(having this object in common with it)—it is discriminated by proposing to itself such delight from the whole, as is compatible with a distinct gratification from each component part."
Controversy is not seldom excited in consequence of the disputants attaching each a different meaning to the same word; and in few instances has this been more striking, than in disputes concerning the present subject. If a man chuses to call every composition a poem, which is rhyme, or measure, or both, I must leave his opinion uncontroverted. The distinction is at least competent to characterize the writer's intention. If it were subjoined, that the whole is likewise entertaining or affecting, as a tale, or as a series of interesting reflections, I of course admit this as another fit ingredient of a poem, and an additional merit. But if the definition sought for be that of a legitimate poem, I answer, it must be one, the parts of which mutually support and explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of metrical arrangement. The philosophic critics of all ages coincide with the ultimate judgment of all countries, in equally denying the praises
of a just poem, on the one hand, to a series of strik lines or distiches, each of which, absorbing the wh attention of the reader to itself, becomes disjoined fr its context, and forms a separate whole, instead o harmonizing part; and on the other hand, to an sustained composition, from which the reader colle rapidly the general result unattracted by the com nent parts. The reader should be carried forwa not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the fi solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind excit by the attractions of the journey itself. Like the m tion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the e blem of intellectual power; or like the path of sou through the air;-at every step he pauses and half ı cedes, and from the retrogressive movement colle the force which again carries him onward. Præci tandus est liber spiritus, says Petronius most happily The epithet, liber, here balances the preceding ver
8 [These words occur in the passage in which Petronius supposed to attack Lucan. Cæteri enim, aut non viderunt vid qua irietur ad carmen, aut visam timuerunt calcare. Ecce, be civilis ingens opus quisquis attigerit, nisi plenus literis, sub one labetur. Non enim res gesta versibus comprehendendæ sunt, qu longe melius Historici faciunt; sed per ambages, Deorumque mini teria, et fabulosum sententiarum tormentum præcipitandus est i ber spiritus; ut potius furentis animi vaticinatio appareat, qua religiosa orationis sub testibus fides: tanquam si placet hic impetu etiamsi nondum recepit ultimam manum. Satyric. p. 63. edi Lug. Bat. 1623. And then follows a specimen of a new Phar salia, which a great many learned critics, to the confusion ordinary readers, prefer to Lucan's. Douza says, se hunc impetur pluris facere, quam trecenta Cordubulensis illius volumina. Ed.] Petronius!-all the muses weep for thee,
But every tear shall scald thy memory.
So speaks Cowper in a strong passage upon this " polish'd and high-finish'd foe to truth," in his poem called The Progress o Error. Southey's edit. vol. viii. p. 155-6. S. C.]
and it is not easy to conceive more meaning condensed in fewer words.
But if this should be admitted as a satisfactory character of a poem, we have still to seek for a definition of poetry. The writings of Plato, and Jeremy Taylor, and Burnet's Theory of the Earth, furnish undeniable proofs that poetry of the highest kind may exist without metre, and even without the contradistinguishing objects of a poem. The first chapter of Isaiah-(indeed a very large proportion of the whole book)-is poetry in the most emphatic sense; yet it would be not less irrational than strange to assert, that pleasure, and not truth was the immediate object of the prophet. In short, whatever specific import we attach to the word, Poetry, there will be found involved in it, as a necessary consequence, that a poem of any length neither can be, nor ought to be, all poetry. Yet if an harmonious whole is to be produced, the remaining parts must be preserved in keeping with the poetry; and this can be no otherwise effected than by such a studied selection and artificial arrangement, as will partake of one, though not a peculiar property of poetry. And this again can be no other than the property of exciting a more continuous and equal attention than the language of prose aims at, whether colloquial or written.
My own conclusions on the nature of poetry, in the strictest use of the word, have been in part anticipated in some of the remarks on the Fancy and Imagination in the first volume of this work. What is poetry ?-is
9 [Telluris Theoria Sucra. London, 1681: by Thomas Burnet, D.D. The work was translated into English by order of King Charles, and was in a sixth edit. in 1726. The author, a native of Scotland, and Master of Sutton's Hospital, London, wrote also De Statu Mortuorum et Resurgentium, and several other books, died Sep. 27, 1715. S. C.]
so nearly the same question with, what is a poet that the answer to the one is involved in the solut of the other. For it is a distinction resulting from poetic genius itself, which sustains and modifies images, thoughts, and emotions of the poet's own mi
The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings whole soul of man into activity, with the subordinat of its faculties to each other according to their relat worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit unity, that blends, and (as it were) fuses, each into ea by that synthetic and magical power, to which I wou exclusively appropriate the name of Imagination. T power, first put in action by the will and understandin and retained under their irremissive, though gen and unnoticed, control, laxis effertur habenis, revea itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite discordant qualities of sameness, with difference; the general with the concrete; the idea with the imag the individual with the representative; the sense novelty and freshness with old and familiar objects; more than usual state of emotion with more than usu order; judgment ever awake and steady self-possessio with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement and while it blends and harmonizes the natural an the artificial, still subordinates art to nature; the man ner to the matter; and our admiration of the poet t our sympathy with the poetry. Doubtless, as Sir Joh Davies observes of the soul-(and his words may with slight alteration be applied, and even more appro priately, to the poetic Imagination)—
Doubtless this could not be, but that she turns
From their gross matter she abstracts their forms,