POETRY . In
See also:criticism the word poetry (i.e. the
See also:art of the poet, Gr.7folrtrns, maker, from 7rote?v, to make) is used sometimes to denote any expression (
See also:artistic or other) of imaginative feeling, sometimes to designate a precise
See also:literary art, which ranks as one of the
See also:fine arts . As an expression of imaginative feeling, as the
See also:movement of an energy, as one of those
See also:great primal human forces which go to the development of the
See also:race, poetry in the wide sense has played as important a
See also:part as science . In some literatures (such as that of England) poetic energy and in others (such as that of Rome) poetic art is the dominant quality . It is the same with individual writers . In classical literature Pindar may perhaps be taken as a type of the poets of energy; Virgil of the poets of art . With all his
See also:wealth of poetic art Pindar's mastery over symmetrical methods never taught him to " sow with the
See also:hand," as
See also:Corinna declared, while his poetic energy always impelled him to " sow with the whole
See also:sack." In
See also:English poetical literature
See also:Elizabeth Barrett
See also:Browning typifies, perhaps, the poets of energy; while
See also:Keats (notwithstanding all his unquestionable inspiration) is mostly taken as a type of the poets of art . In French literature Hugo, notwithstanding all his mastery over poetic methods, represents the poets of energy . In some writers, and these the very greatest—in
See also:Shakespeare, Milton, and perhaps Goethe—poetic energy and poetic art are seen in something like equipoise . It is of poetry as an art, however, that we have mainly to speak here; and all we have to say upon poetry as an energy is that the critic who, like Aristotle, takes this wide view of poetry—the critic who, like him, recognizes the importance of poetry in its relations to man's other expressions of spiritual force, claims a place in point of true critical sagacity above that of a critic who, like
See also:Plato, fails to recognize that importance . And assuredly no philosophy of
See also:history can be other than in-adequate should it ignore the fact that poetry has had as much effect upon human destiny as that other great human energy by aid of which, from the
See also:discovery of the use of
See also:fire to that of the electric
See also:light, the useful arts have been
See also:developed . With regard to poetry as an art, most of the great poems of the
See also:world are dealt with elsewhere in this
See also:work, either in connexion with the names of the writers or with the various literatures to which they belong; consequently these remarks must be confined to general principles .
See also:VERSE the detailed questions of
See also:prosody are considered; here we are concerned with the essential principles which underlie the meaning of poetry as such . All that can be attempted is to inquire: (I) What is poetry ? (2) What is the position it takes up in relation to the other arts ? (3) What is its value and degree of expressional power in relation to these? and, finally, (4) What varieties of poetic art are the outcome of the two great kinds of poetic impulse, dramatic
See also:imagination and lyric or egoistic imagination ? r . What is Poetry?—Definitions are for the most part alike unsatisfactory and treacherous; but
See also:definitions of poetry are proverbially so . Is it possible to
See also:lay down invariable principlesof poetry, such as those famous " invariable principles " of
See also:Lisle Bowles, which in the earlier part of the century awoke the admiration of
See also:Southey and the wrath Definition. of
See also:Byron ? Is it possible for a critic to say of any metrical phrase, stanza or verse, " This is poetry," or " This is not poetry" ? Can he, with anything like the authority with which the man of science pronounces upon the natural
See also:objects brought before him, pronounce upon the qualities of a poem ? These are questions that have engaged the
See also:attention of critics ever since the
See also:time of Aristotle . Byron, in his rough and ready way, answered them in one of those letters to his publisher
See also:Murray, which,
See also:rich as they are in nonsense, are almost as rich in sense . " So far are principles of poetry from being invariable," says he, " that they never were nor ever will be settled .
These principles mean nothing more than the predilections of a particularage, and every age has its own and a different from its predecessor . It is now Homer and now Virgil; once
See also:Dryden and since
See also:Sir Walter
See also:Scott; now Corneille and now Racine.; now Crebillon and now Voltaire." This is putting the case very strongly—perhaps too strongly . But if we remember that Sophocles lost the first prize for the
See also:Oedipus tyrannus; if we remember what in Dante's time (owing partly, no doubt, to the universal
See also:ignorance of Greek) were the relative positions of Homer and Virgil, what in the time of Milton were the relative positions of Milton himself, of Shakespeare, and of
See also:Beaumont and
See also:Fletcher; again, if we remember
See also:Jeffrey's famous
See also:classification of the poets of his
See also:day, we shall be driven to pause over Byron's words before dismissing them . Yet some definition, for the purpose of this
See also:essay, must be here attempted; and, using . the phrase " absolute poetry " as the musical critics use the phrase " absolute
See also:music," we may, perhaps, without too great presumption submit the following: Absolute poetry is the concrete and artistic expression of the human mind in emotional and rhythmical language . This at least will be granted, that no literary expression can, properly speaking, be called poetry that is not in a certain deep sense emotional, whatever may be its subject-
See also:matter, concrete in its method and its diction, rhythmical in movement, and artistic in
See also:form . That the expression of all real poetry must be concrete in method and diction is obvious, and yet this dictum would exclude from the definition much of what is called didactic poetry . With abstractions the poet has nothing to do, save to take them and turn them into concretions; for, as artist, he is simply the man who by
See also:instinct embodies in concrete forms that " universal idea" which Gravina speaks of—that which is essential and elemental in nature and in man; as poetic artist he is simply the man who by instinct chooses for his concrete forms metrical language . And the questions to be asked concerning any work of art are simply these—Is that which is here embodied really permanent, universal and elemental? and, Is the concrete form embodying it really beautiful—acknowledged as beautiful by the soul of man in its highest moods ? Any other question is an impertinence . As an example of the
See also:absence of concrete form in verse take the following lines from
See also:Spanish Gypsy: " Speech is but broken light upon the
See also:depth Of the unspoken; even your loved words
See also:Float in the larger meaning of your
See also:voice As something dimmer." Without discussing the question of
See also:blank verse, cadence. and the weakness of a
See also:line where the
See also:accent falls upon a
See also:hiatus, " of the unspoken," we would point out that this powerful passage shows the spirit of poetry without its concrete form . The abstract method is substituted for the concrete . Such an abstract phrase as " the unspoken " belongs entirely to
See also:prose .
As to what is called ratiocinative poetry, it might perhaps be shown that it does not exist at all . Not by
See also:syllogism, but per saltum, must the poet reach in every case his conclusions . We listen to the poet—we allow him to address us in rhythm or in rhyme—we allow him to sing to us while other men are only allowed to talk, not because he argues more logically than they, but because he feels more deeply and perhaps more truly . It is for his listeners to be knowing and ratiocinative; it is for him to be gnomic and divinely wise . That poetry must be metrical or even rhythmical in movement, however, is what some have denied . Here we
See also:touch at once the very
See also:root of the subject . The difference between all literature and mere " word-kneading " is that, while literature is alive, word-kneading is without
See also:life . This literary life, while it is only bipartite in prose, seems to be tripartite in poetry; that is to say, while prose requires intellectual life and emotional life, poetry seems to require not only intellectual life and emotional life but rhythmic life, this last being the most important of all according to many critics, though Aristotle is not among these . Here indeed is the "
See also:fork " between the old critics and the new . Unless the rhythm of any metrical passage is so vigorous, so natural, and so
See also:free that it seems as though it could live, if need were, by its rhythm alone, has that passage any right to exist? and should it not, if the substance is
See also:good, be forthwith demetricized and turned into prose ?
See also:Thoreau has affirmed that prose, at its best, has high qualities of its own beyond the ken of poetry; to compensate for the sacrifice of these, should not the metrical gains of any passage be beyond all cavil ? This
See also:argument might be pressed farther still .
It might seem bold to assert that, in many cases, the
See also:mental value of poetry may actually depend upon form and
See also:colour, but would it not be true ? The mental value of poetry must be judged by a standard not applicable to prose; but, even with regard to the different kinds of poetry, we must not compare poetry whose mental value consists in a distinct and logical enunciation of ideas, such as that of Lucretius and
See also:Wordsworth, and poetry whose mental value consists partly in the suggestive richness of passion or
See also:symbol latent in rhythm (such as that of
See also:Sappho sometimes, Pindar often, Shelley always), or latent in colour, such as that of some of the importance Persian poets . To discuss the question, Which of these of Metrical twe kinds of poetry is the more precious ? would be Questions, idle, but are we not driven to admit that certain poems whose strength is rhythm, and certain other poems whose strength is colour, while devoid of any logical statement of thought, may be as fruitful of thoughts and emotions too deep for words as a shaken prism is fruitful of tinted
See also:lights ? The mental forces at work in the production of a poem like the Excursion are of a very different kind from the mental forces at work in the production of a poem like Shelley's "Ode to the West
See also:Wind." In the one case the poet's artistic methods, like those of the Greek architect, show, and are intended to show, the solid strength of the structure . In the other, the poet's artistic methods, like those of the Arabian architect, contradict the idea of solid strength—make the structure appear to hang over our heads like the
See also:cloud pageantry of
See also:heaven . But, in both cases, the solid strength is, and must be, there, at the
See also:base . Before the poet begins to write he should ask himself which of these artistic methods is natural to him; he should ask himself whether his natural impulse is towards the weighty
See also:iambic movement whose
See also:function is to state, or towards those lighter movements which we still
See also:call, for want of more convenient words, anapaestic and dactylic, whose primary function is to suggest . Whenever Wordsworth and Keats pass from the former to the latter they pass at once into doggerel . Nor is it difficult to see why English anapaestic and dactylic verse must suggest, and not state, as even so comparatively successful a tour de force as Shelley's " Sensitive Plant " shows . Conciseness is a primary virtue of all statement . The moment the English poet tries to "
See also:pack " his anapaestic or dactylic line as he can pack his iambic line, his versification becomes rugged, harsh, pebbly—becomes so of
See also:necessity . Nor is this all: anapaestic and dactylic verse must in English be obtrusively alliterative, or the same pebbly effect begins to be
See also:felt .
The anapaestic line is so full of syllables that in a language where the consonants dominate the vowels (as in English), these syllables
See also:grate against each other, unless their corners are artfully bevelled by one of the only two smoothing processes at the command of an English versifier —obtrusive alliteration, or an obtrusive use of liquids . Now these demands of form may be turned by the perfect artist to good account if his
See also:appeal to the listener's soul is primarily that of
See also:suggestion by sound or symbol, but if his appeal is that of
See also:direct and logical statement the diffuseness inseparable from good anapaestic and dactylic verse is a source of weakness such as the true artist should find intolerable . Using the word " form " in a wider sense still, a sense that includes " composition," it can be shown that poetry, to be entitled to the name, must be artistic in form . Whether a poem be a Welsh triban or a stornello improvised by an
See also:peasant girl,whether it be an ode by Keats or a tragedy by Sophocles, it is equally a work of art . The artist's command over form may be shown in the peasant girl's power of spontaneously rendering in
See also:simple verse, in her stornello or rispetto, her emotions through nature's symbols; it may be shown by Keats in that perfect
See also:fusion of all poetic elements of which he was such amaster, in the manipulation of language so beautiful both for form and colour that thought and words seem but one blended loveliness; or it may be shown by Sophocles in a mastery over what in
See also:painting is called composition, in the exercise of that wise vision of the artist which, looking before and after,
See also:sees the thing of beauty as a whole, and enables him to grasp the eternal
See also:laws of cause and effect in art and
See also:bend them to his own wizard will . In every case, indeed, form is an essential part of poetry; and, although George Sand's saying that " L'art est une forme " applies perhaps more strictly to the plastic arts (where the soul is reached partly through
See also:mechanical means), its application to poetry can hardly be exaggerated . Owing, however, to the fact that the word 700p-is (first used to designate the poetic artist by
See also:Herodotus) means maker, Aristotle seems to have assumed that the indispensable basis of poetry is invention . He appears to have thought that a poet is a poet more on account of the composition of the
See also:action than on account of the composition of his verses . Indeed he said as much as this . Of epic poetry he declared emphatically that it produces its imitations either by mere articulate words or by metre superadded . This is to widen the definition of poetry so as to include all imaginative literature, and Plato seems to have given an equally wide meaning to the word iroinoas . Only, while Aristotle considered rroi,ves to be an imitation of the facts of nature, Plato considered it to be an imitation of the dreams of man .
Aristotle ignored, and Plato slighted, the importance of versification (though Plato on one occasion admitted that he who did not know rhythm could be called neither musician nor poet) . Perhaps the first critic who tacitly revolted against the dictum that substance, and not form, is the indispensable basis of poetry wasDionysius of
See also:Halicarnassus, whose
See also:treatise upon the arrangement of words is really a very fine piece of literary criticism . In his acute remarks upon the arrangement of the words in the sixteenth
See also:book of the Odyssey, as compared with that in the
See also:story of
See also:Gyges by Herodotus, was perhaps first enunciated clearly the
See also:doctrine that poetry is fundamentally a matter of
See also:style . The Aristotelian theory as to invention, however, dominated all criticism after as well as before Dionysius . When
See also:Bacon came to discuss the subject (and afterwards) the only division between the poetical critics was perhaps between the followers of Aristotle and those of Plato as to what poetry should, and what it should not, imitate . It is curious to speculate as to what would have been the result had the poets followed the critics in this matter . Had not the instinct of the poet been too strong for the
See also:schools, would poetry as an art have been lost and merged in such imaginative prose as Plato's ? Or is not the instinct for form too strong to be stifled ? By the poets themselves metre was always considered to be the one indispensable requisite of a poem, though, as regards criticism, even in the time of the appearance of the Waverley Novels, the Quarterly Review would sometimes speak of them as " poems "; and perhaps even later the same might be said of romances so concrete in method and diction, and so full of poetic energy, as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, where we get absolutely all that Aristotle requires for a poem . On the whole, however, the theory that versification is not an indispensable requisite of a poem seems to have become nearly obsolete . Perhaps, indeed, many critics would now go so far in the contrary direction as to say with Hegel (Aesthetik, ii . 289) that " metre is the first and only
See also:condition absolutely demanded by poetry, yea even more necessary than a figurative picturesque diction." At all events this at least may be said, that the division between poetical critics is not now between Aristotelians and Baconians; it is of a different kind altogether .
See also:group of critics may still perhaps say with Dryden that " a poet is a maker, as the name signifies," and that " he who cannot make,
See also:Farm and Matter . that is, invent, has his name for nothing," another group
See also:con-tends that it is not the invention but the artistic treatment, the form, which determines whether an imaginative writer is a poet or a writer of prose—contends, in
See also:short, that emotion is the basis of all true poetic expression, whatever be the subject-matter, that thoughts must be expressed in an emotional manner before they can be brought into poetry, and that this emotive expression demands even yet something else, viz. style and form . Although many critics are now agreed that " L'art est une forme," that without metre and without form there can be no The Impor- poetry, there are few who would contend that poetry tame of can exist by virtue of any one of these alone, or Ideas and even by virtue of all these combined . Quite inde-Attitude. pendent of verbal melody, though mostly accompanying it, and quite
See also:independent of " composition," there is an atmosphere floating around the poet through which he sees everything, an atmosphere which stamps his utterances as poetry; for instance, among all the versifiers contemporary with
See also:Donne there was none so rugged as he occasionally was, and yet such songs as " Sweetest love, I do not go for weariness of thee " prove how true a poet he was whenever he could
See also:master those technicalities which far inferior poets find comparatively easy . While rhythm may to a very considerable degree be acquired (though, of course, the highest rhythmical effects never can), the power of looking at the world through the atmosphere that floats before the poet's eyes is not to be learned and not to be taught . This atmosphere is what we call poetic imagination . But first it seems necessary to say a word or two upon that high
See also:temper of the soul which in truly great poetry gives
See also:birth to this poetic imagination . The "
See also:message " of poetry must be more unequivocal, more thoroughly accentuated, than that of any of the other fine arts . With regard to modern poetry, indeed, it may almost be said that if any writer's verse embodies a message, true, direct and pathetic, we cannot stay to inquire too curiously about the degree of artistic perfection with which it is delivered, for Wordsworth's saying " That which comes from the heart goes to the heart " applies very closely indeed to modern poetry . The most truly passionate poet in
See also:Greece was no doubt in a deep sense the most artistic poet; but in her case art and passion were one, and that is why she has been so cruelly misunderstood . The most truly passionate nature, and perhaps the greatest soul, that in
See also:recent years has expressed itself in English verse is Elizabeth Barrett Browning; at least it is certain that, with the single exception of
See also:Hood in the "
See also:Song of the
See also:Shirt," no writer of the 19th century really touched English
See also:hearts with a hand so powerful as hers—and this notwithstanding violations of poetic form, or defective rhymes, such as would appal some of the contemporary versifiers of England and France " who lisp in numbers for the numbers [and nothing else] come." The truth is that in
See also:order to produce poetry the soul must for the time being have reached that state of exaltation, that state of freedom from self-consciousness, depicted in the lines: " I started once, or seemed to start, in
See also:pain, Resolved on
See also:noble things, and strove to speak, As when a great thought strikes along the
See also:brain, And flushes all the cheek." Whatsoever may be the poet's " knowledge of his art," into this
See also:mood he must always pass before he can write a truly poetic line . For, notwithstanding all that may be said upon poetry as a fine art, it is in the deepest sense of the word an " inspiration." No man can write a line of genuine poetry without having been "
See also:born again " (or, as the true rendering of the text says, " born from above ") ; and then the mastery over those highest reaches of form which are beyond the ken of the mere versifier comes to him as a result of the
See also:change .
Hence, with all Mrs Browning's metrical blemishes, the splendour of her metrical triumphs at her best . For what is the deep distinction between poet and proseman ? A writer may be many things besides a poet; he may be a
See also:warrior like Aeschylus, a man of business like Shakespeare, a courtierlike
See also:Chaucer, or a cosmopolitan philosopher like Goethe; but the moment the poetic mood is upon him all the trappings of the world with which for years he may perhaps have been clothing his soul—the world's knowingness, its cynicism, its self-seeking, its ambition—fall away, and the man becomes an inspired
See also:child again, with ears attuned to nothing but the whispers of those
See also:spirits from the
See also:Golden Age, who, according to
See also:Hesiod, haunt and bless the degenerate
See also:earth . What such a man produces may greatly delight and astonish his readers, yet not so greatly as it delights and astonishes himself . His passages of pathos draw no tears so deep or so sweet as those that fall from his own eyes while he writes; his
See also:sublime passages overawe no soul so imperiously as his own; his
See also:humour draws no
See also:laughter so rich or so deep as that stirred within his own
See also:breast . It might almost be said, indeed, that Sincerity and
See also:Conscience, the two angels that bring to the poet the wonders of the poetic dream, bring him also the deepest, truest delight of form . It might almost be said that by aid of sincerity and conscience the poet is enabled to see more clearly than other men the eternal limits of his own art—to see with Sophocles that nothing, not even poetry itself, is of any worth to man, invested as he is by the whole army of evil, unless it is in the deepest and highest sense good, unless it comes linking us all together by closer bonds of sympathy and pity, strengthening us to fight the foes with whom
See also:fate and even Nature, the
See also:mother who
See also:bore us, sometimes seem in league—to see with Milton that the high quality of man's soul which in English is expressed by the word virtue is greater than even the great poem he prized, greater than all the rhythms of all the tongues that have been spoken since Babel—and to see with Shakespeare and with Shelley that the high passion which in English is called love is lovelier than all art, lovelier than all the marble Mercuries that " await the
See also:chisel of the sculptor " in all the marble hills . 2 . What Position does Poetry take up in Relation to the other Arts?—Notwithstanding the labours of Lessing and his followers, the position accorded by criticism to poetry in poetry in relation to the other arts has never been so uncertain Relation to and anomalous as in recent years . On the one hand the other there are critics who, judging from their perpetual Art& comparison of poems to pictures, claim her as a sort of handmaid of painting and sculpture . On the other hand the disciples of Wagner, while professing to do homage to poetry, have claimed her as the handmaid of music . With regard to the relations of poetry to painting and sculpture, it seems necessary to glance for a moment at the saying of
See also:Simonides, as recorded by Plutarch, that poetry is a speaking picture and that painting is a
See also:mute poetry .
It appears to have had upon modern criticism as muchinfluence since the publication of Lessing's
See also:Laocoon as it had before . Perhaps it is in some measure answerable for the modern
See also:vice of excessive word-painting . Beyond this one saying, there is little or nothing in Greek literature to show that the Greeks recognized between poetry and the plastic and pictorial arts an
See also:affinity closer than that which exists between poetry and music and dancing . Understanding artistic methods more profoundly than the moderns, and far too profoundly to suppose that there is any
See also:special and
See also:peculiar affinity between an art whose
See also:medium of expression is marble and an art whose medium of expression is a growth of oral symbols, the Greeks seem to have studied poetry not so much in its relation to painting and sculpture as in its relation to music and dancing . It is matter of
See also:familiar knowledge, for instance, that at the Dionysian festival it was to the poet as " teacher of the
See also:chorus" (xopocItSaaKaXos) that the prize was awarded, even though the " teacher of the chorus " were Aeschylus himself or Sophocles . And this recognition of the relation of poetry to music is' perhaps one of the many causes of the superiority of Greek to all other poetry in adapting artistic means to artistic ends . In Greek poetry, even in Homer's description of the
See also:shield of Achilles, even in the famous description by Sophocles of his native woods in the Oedipus coloneus, such word-painting as occurs seems, if not inevitable and unconscious, so alive with imaginative feeling as to become part and parcel of the domain of articulate speech, as we perceive in the wonderful
See also:instrumentation of Wagner . Yet, while it can be shown that the place of poetry is scarcely so close to sculpture and painting as to music on the one side and loosened speech on the other, the affinity of poetry to music must not be exaggerated . We must be cautious how we follow the canons of Wagner and the more enthusiastic of his disciples, who almost seem to think that inarticulate
See also:tone can not only suggest ideas but
See also:express them—can give voice to the Verstand, in short, as well as to the Vernunft of man . Even the Greeks drew a fundamental distinction between melic poetry (poetry written to be sung) and poetry that was written 'to be recited . It is a pity that, while modern critics of poetry have understood, or at least have given attention to painting and sculpture, so few have possessed any knowledge of music—a fact which makes Dante's treatise De vulgari eloquio so important . Dante was a musician, and seems to have had a considerable knowledge of the relations between musical and metrical laws .
But he did not, we think, assume that these laws are identical . If it is indeed possible to establish the identity of musical and metrical laws, it can only be done by a purely scientific investigation; it can only be done by a most searching inquiry into the subtle relations that we know must exist throughout the universe between all the laws of undulation . And it is curious to re-member that some of the greatest masters of verbal melody have had no knowledge of music, while some have not even shown any love of it . All Greek boys were taught music, but whether Pindar's unusual musical skill was born of natural instinct and inevitable passion, or came from the accidental circumstance that his
See also:father was, as has been alleged, a musician, and that he was as a boy elaborately taught musical science by
See also:Lasus of Hermione, we have no means of knowing . Nor can we now learn how much of Milton's musical knowledge resulted from a like exceptional " environment," or from the fact that his father was a musician . But when we find, that Shelley seems to have been without the real passion for music, that Rossetti disliked it, and that
See also:Coleridge's apprehension of musical effects was of the ordinary nebulous kind, we must hesitate before accepting the theory of Wagner . The question cannot be pursued here; but if it should on inquiry be found that, although poetry is more closely related to music than to any of the other arts, yet the power over verbal melody at its very highest is so all-sufficing to its possessor, as in the case of Shelley and Coleridge, that absolute music becomes a superfluity, this would only be another
See also:illustration of that intense egoism and concentration of force—the impulse of all high artistic energy—which is required in order to achieve the rarest miracles of art . With regard to the relation of poetry to prose, Coleridge once asserted in conversation that the real antithesis of poetry was not prose but science . If he was right the difference in kind lies, not between the poet and the prose writer, but between the literary artist (the man whose instinct is to manipulate language) and the man of facts and of action whose instinct impels him to
See also:act, or, if not to act, to inquire . One thing is at least certain, that prose, however fervid and emotional it may become, must always be directed, or seem to be directed, by the reins of logic . Or, to vary the
See also:metaphor, like a
See also:balloon it can never really leave the earth . Indeed, with the literature of knowledge as opposed to the literature of power poetry has nothing to. do .
Facts have no place in poetry until they are brought into relation with the human soul . But a mere
See also:catalogue of
See also:ships may become poetical if it tends to show the strength and
See also:pride and
See also:glory of the warriors who invested Troy; a detailed description of the designs upon a shield, however beautiful and poetical in itself, becomes still more so if it tends to show the skill of the divine artificer and the invincible splendour of a hero like Achilles . But mere dry exactitude of imitation is not for poetry but for loosened speech . Hence, most of the so-called poetry of Hesiod is not poetry at all . The Muses who spoke to him about " truth " on Mt On the other hand, music can
See also:trench very far upon the Helicon made the
See also:mistake of confounding fact with dramatic or lyric movement itself . And whenever description is so introduced the reader of Greek poetry need not be told that the scenery itself rises before the listener's imagination with a clearness of outline and a vigour of colour such as no amount of detailed word painting in the modern fashion can achieve . The picture even in the glorious verses at the end of the eighth book of the Iliad rises before our eyes—seems actually to act upon our bodily senses—simply because the poet's eagerness to use the picture for merely illustrating the solemnity and importance of his story lends to the picture that very authenticity which the work of the modern word-painter lacks . That the true place of poetry lies between music on the one hand and prose, or loosened speech, on the other, was, we say, taken for granted by the one
See also:people in whom the artistic instinct was fully developed . No doubt they used the word music in a very wide sense, in a sense that might include several arts . But it is a suggestive fact that, in the Greek language, long before poetic art was called "making" it was called "singing." The poet was not serum* but aoul6s . And as regards the Romans it is curious to see how every now and then the old idea that poetry is singing rather than making will disclose itself . It will be remembered for instance how
See also:Terence, in the prologue of Phormio, alludes to poets as musicians .
That the ancients were right in this could well be shown by a history of poetry: music and the lyrical function of the poet began together, but here, as in other things, the progress of art from the implicit to the explicit has separated the two . Every art has its special function, has a certain work which it can do better than any one of its
See also:sister arts . Hence its right of existence . For instance, before the "
See also:sea of emotion " within the soul has become " curdled into thoughts," it can be expressed in inarticulate tone . Hence, among the fine arts, music is specially adapted for rendering it . It was perhaps a perception of this fact which made the Syrian Gnostics define life to be " moving music." When this sea of emotion has "curdled into thoughts," articulate language rhythmically arranged—words steeped in music and colour, but at the same time embodying ideas—can do what no mere word-less music is able to achieve in giving it expression, just as unrhythmical language, language mortised in a foundation of logic, that is to say prose, can best express these ideas as soon as they have cooled and settled and cleared themselves of emotion altogether . Yet every art can in some degree invade the domain of her sisters, and the nearer these sisters stand to each other the more easily and completely can this invasion be accomplished . Prose, for instance, can sometimes, as in the case of Plato, do some of the work of poetry (however imperfectly, and however trammelled by heavy conditions); and sometimes poetry, as in Pindar's odes and the waves of the Greek chorus, can do, though in the same imperfect way, the work of music . The poems of Sappho, however, are a good case in point . Here the poet's passion is expressed so completely by the mere sound of her verses that a good recitation of them to a
See also:person ignorant of Greek would convey something of that passion to the listener; and similar examples almost as felicitous might be culled from Homer, from Aeschylus and from Sophocles . Nor is this power confined to the Greek poets . The students of Virgil have often and with
See also:justice commented on such lines as Aen. v .
481 (where the sudden sinking of a stricken ox is rendered by means of rhythm), and such lines as Georg. ii . 441, where, by means of verbal sounds, the gusts of wind about a
See also:tree are rendered as completely as though the voice were that of the wind itself . In the case of Sappho the effect is produced by the intensity of her passion, in the case of Homer by the intensity of the dramatic vision, in the case of Virgil by a supreme poetic art . But it can also be produced by the mere ingenuity of the artist, as in Edgar
See also:Poe's " Ulalume." The poet's
See also:object in that remarkable tour de force was to express dull and hopeless gloom in the same way that the mere musician would have expressed it—that is to say, by monotonous reiterations, by hollow and dreadful reverberations of gloomy sounds—though as an artist whose vehicle was articulate speech he was obliged to add gloomy ideas, in order to give to his work the intellectual coherence necessary for its existence as a poem . He evidently set out to do this, and he did it, and Ulalume " properly intoned would produce something like the same effect upon a listener knowing no word of English that it produces upon us . truth . And here we touch upon a very important matter . The reason why in prose speech is loosened is that, untrammelled by the laws of metre, language is able with more exactitude to imitate nature, though of course speech, even when " loosened," cannot, when actual sensible objects are to be depicted, compete in any real degree with the plastic arts in accuracy of imitation, for the simple reason that its
See also:media are not
See also:colours nor solids but symbols—arbitrary symbols which can be made to indicate, but never to reproduce, colours and solids . Accuracy of imitation is the first requisite of prose . But the moment language has to be governed by the laws of metre—the moment the conflict begins between the claims of verbal music and the claims of colour and form—then prosaic accuracy has to yield; sharpness of outline, mere fidelity of imitation, such as is within the compass of prose, have in some degree to be sacrificed . But, just as with regard to the relations between poetry and music the greatest master is he who borrows the most that can be borrowed from music, and loses the least that can be lost from metre, so with regard to the relations between poetry and prose the greatest master is he who borrows the most that can be borrowed from prose and loses the least that can be lost from verse . No doubt this is what every poet tries to do by instinct; but some sacrifice on either side there must be, and, with regard to poetry and prose, modern poets at least might be divided into those who make picturesqueness yield to verbal melody, and those who make verbal melody yield to picturesqueness .
With one class of poets, fine as is perhaps the melody, it is made subservient to outline or to colour; with the other class colour and outline both yield to metre . Thechief aim of the first class is to paint a picture; the chief aim of the second is to sing a song . Weber, in
See also:driving through a beautiful
See also:country, could only enjoy its beauty by translating it into music . The same may be said of some poets with regard to verbal melody . The supreme artist, however, is he whose pictorial and musical power are so interfused that each seems born of the other, as is the case with Sappho, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and indeed most of the great Greek poets . Among English poets (leaving the two supreme masters undiscussed) Beats and Coleridge have certainly done this . The colour seems born of the music and the music born of the colour . In French poetry the same
See also:triumph has been achieved in Victor Hugo's magnificent poem " En marchant la nuit clans un bois," which, as a rendering through verbal music of the witchery of nature, stands alone in the poetry of France . For there the poet conquers that crowning difficulty we have been alluding to, the difficulty of stealing from prose as much distinctness of colour and clearness of outline as can be imported into verse with as little sacrifice as possible of melody . If poetry can in some degree invade the domain of prose, so on the other hand prose can at times invade the domain of poetry, and no doubt the prose of Plato—what is called poetical prose—is a legitimate form of art . Poetry, the earliest form of literature, is also the final and ideal form of all pure literature; and, when
See also:Landor insists that poetry and poetical prose are antagonistic, we must remember that Landor's judgments are mostly based on feeling, and that his hatred of Plato would be quite sufficient basis with him for an entire
See also:system of criticism upon poetical prose . As with Carlyle, there was a time in his life when Plato had serious thoughts of becoming a poet .
And perhaps, like Carlyle, having the good sense to see his true function, he himself desisted fromwriting, and strictly forbade other men to write, in verse . If we consider this, and if we consider that certain of the great 'English masters of poetic prose of the 17th century were as incapable of writing in metre as their followers
See also:Richter and Carlyle, we shall hardly
See also:escape the conclusion on the one hand that the
See also:faculty of writing poetry is quite another faculty than that of producing work in the arts most closely allied to it, music and prose, but that on the other hand there is nothing antagonistic between these faculties . 3 .
See also:Comparative Value in Expressional Power.—There is one great point of superiority that musical art exhibits over metrical art . This consists, not in the capacity for melody, but in the capacity for harmony in the musician's sense . The finest music of Aeschylus, of Pindar, of Shakespeare, of Milton, is after all only a succession of melodious notes, and, in endeavouring to catch the
See also:intent of
See also:anti-strophe and
See also:epode in the Greek chorus and in the true ode (thatof Pindar), we can only succeed by pressing memory into our service . We have to recall by memory the waves that have gone before, and then to imagine their harmonic power in relation to the waves at
See also:present occupying the ear . Counterpoint, therefore, is not to be achieved by the metricist, even though he be Pindar himself; but in music this perfect ideal harmony was fore-shadowed perhaps in the earliest writing . We know at least that as early as the 12th century counterpoint began to show a vigorous life, and the study of it is now a familiar branch of musical science . Now, inasmuch as " nature's own hymn " is and must be the harmonic blending of apparently Rhythm. independent and apparently discordant notes, among the arts whose appeal is through the ear that which can achieve counterpoint must perhaps
See also:rank as a pure art above one which cannot achieve it . We are of course speaking here of metre only . We have not space to inquire whether the counterpoint of absolute poetry is the harmony underlying apparently discordant emotions —the emotion produced by a word being more persistent than the emotion produced by an inarticulate sound .
But if poetry falls behind music in rhythmic
See also:scope, it is capable of rendering emotion after emotion has become disintegrated into thoughts, and here,. as we have seen, it enters into direct competition with the art of prose . It can use the emphasis of sound, not for its own
See also:sake merely, but to strengthen the emphasis of sense, and can thus give a
See also:fuller and more adequate expression to the soul of man than music at its highest can give . With regard to prose, no doubt such writing as Plato's description of the chariot of the soul, his description of the
See also:island of
See also:Atlantis, or of Er's visit to the place of departed souls, comes but a short way behind poetry in imaginative and even rhythmic appeal . It is impossible, however, here to do more than touch upon the subject of the rhythm of prose in its relation to the rhythm of poetry; for in this matter the
See also:genius of each individual language has to be taken into account . Perhaps it may be said that deeper than all the rhythm of art is that rhythm which art would fain catch, the rhythm of nature; for the rhythm of nature is the rhythm of life itself . This rhythm can be caught by prose as well as by poetry, such prose, for instance, as that of the English Bible . Certainly the rhythm of verse at its highest, such, for instance, as that of Shakespeare's greatest writings, is nothing more and nothing less than the metre of that energy of the spirit which surges within the bosom of him who speaks, whether he speak in verse or in impassioned prose . Being rhythm, it is of course governed by
See also:law, but it is a law which transcends in subtlety the conscious art of the metricist and is only caught by the poet in his most inspired moods, a law which, being part of nature's own sanctions, can of course never be formulated but only expressed, as it is expressed in the melody of the
See also:bird, in the inscrutable harmony of the entire bird-chorus of a thicket, in the whisper of the leaves of the tree, and in the song or wail of wind and sea . Now is not this rhythm of nature represented by that " sense rhythm " which prose can catch as well as poetry, that sense rhythm whose finest expressions are to be found in the Bible,
See also:Hebrew and English, and in the biblical movements of the English Prayer Book, and in the dramatic prose of Shakespeare at its best ? Whether it is caught by prose or by verse, one of the virtues of the rhythm of nature is that it is translatable .
See also:Hamlet's peroration about man and Raleigh's apostrophe to
See also:death are as translatable into other
See also:languages as are the Hebrew psalms, or as is Manu's magnificent passage about the singleness of man: " Single is each man born into the world; single he
See also:dies; single he receives the
See also:reward of his good deeds, and single the punishment of his evil deeds . When he dies his
See also:body lies like a fallen tree upon the earth, but his virtue accompanies his soul .
Wherefore let man
See also:harvest and garner virtue, so that he may have an inseparable
See also:companion in traversing chat gloom which is so hard to be traversed." Here the rhythm, being the inevitable movement of emotion and " sense," can be caught and translated by every literature under the
See also:sun . While, however, the great
See also:goal before the poet is to compel the listener to expect his caesuric effects, the great goal before the writer of poetic prose is in the very opposite direction; it is to make use of the concrete figures and impassioned diction of the poet, but at the same time to avoid the recognized and expected metrical bars upon which the poet depends . The moment the prose poet passes from the rhythm of prose to the rhythm of metre the apparent sincerity of his writing is destroyed . As compared with sculpture and painting the great infirmity of poetry, as an " imitation " of nature, is of course that the medium is always and of necessity words—even when Plastic Imitation. no words could, in the dramatic situation, have been spoken . It is not only Homer who is obliged some-times to forget that passion when at
See also:heat is never voluble, is scarcely even articulate; the dramatists also are obliged to for-get that in love and in hate, at their tensest, words seem weak and foolish when compared with the silent and satisfying triumph and glory of deeds, such as the plastic arts can render . This becomes manifest enough when we compare the
See also:Niobe group or the Lao-
See also:coon group, or the great dramatic paintings of the modern world, with even the finest efforts of dramatic poetry, such as the speech of
See also:Andromache to
See also:Hector, or the speech of
See also:Priam to Achilles,
See also:nay such as even the cries of
See also:Cassandra in the
See also:Agamemnon, or the wailings of
See also:Lear over the dead Cordelia . Even when writing the words uttered by Oedipus, as the terrible truth breaks in upon his soul, Sophocles must have felt that in the holiest
See also:chambers of sorrow and in the highest agonies of suffering reigns that awful silence which not poetry, but painting sometimes, and sculpture always, can render . What human sounds could render the agony of Niobe, or the agony of Laocoon, as we see them in the sculptor's rendering ? Not articulate speech at all; not words but wails . It is the same with hate; it is the same with love . We are not speaking merely of the unpacking of the heart in which the angry warriors of the Iliad indulge . Even such subtle writing as that of Aeschylus and Sophocles falls below the work of the painter .
Hate, though voluble perhaps, as Clytaemnestra's when hate is at that red-heat glow which the poet can render, changes in a moment whenever that redness has been fanned to hatred's own last complexion—whiteness as ofiron at the melting-point—when the heart has grown far too big to be " unpacked " at all, and even the bitter epigrams of hate's own rhetoric, though brief as the terrier's snap before he fleshes his teeth, or as the short snarl of the tigress as she springs before her cubs in danger, are all too slow and sluggish for a soul to which language at its tensest has become idle
See also:play . But this is just what cannot be rendered by an art whose medium consists solely of words . It is in giving voice, not to emotion at its tensest, but to the variations of emotion, it is in expressing the countless shifting movements of the soul from passion to passion, that poetry shows in spite of all her infirmities her superiority to the plastic arts . Hamlet and the Agamemnon, the Iliad and the Oedipus Tyrannus, are adequate to the entire breadth and depth of man's soul . Varieties of Poetic Art.—We have now reached the inquiry: What varieties of poetic art are the outcome of the two kinds of poetic impulse, dramatic imagination and lyric or egoistic imagination ? It would be impossible here to examine fully the subject of poetic imagination . In order to do so we should have to enter upon the vast question of the effect of artistic environment upon the development of man's poetic imagination; we should have to inquire how the instinctive methods of each poet and of each group of poets have been modified and often governed by the methods characteristic of their own time and country . We should have to inquire, for instance, how far such landscape as that of Sophocles in the Oedipus Coloneus and such landscape as that of Wordsworth depends upon difference of individual temperament, and how far upon difference of artistic environment . That, in any thorough and exhaustive discussion of poetic imagination, the question of artistic environment must be taken into account, the case of the Iliad is alone sufficient to show . Ages before Phrynichus, ages before an acted drama was dreamed of, a dramatic poet of the first order arose, and, though he was obliged to express his splendid dramatic imagination through epic forms, he expressed it almost as fully as if he had inherited the method and the stage of Sophocles . And if Homer never lived at all, then an entire group of dramatic poets arose in remote times whose method was epic instead of dramatic simply because there was then no stage . This, contrasted with the fact that in a single
See also:half-century the tragic art of Greece arose with Aeschylus, culminated with Sophocles, and decayed with
See also:Euripides, and contrasted also with the fact that in England at one time, and in Spain at one time, almost the entire poetic imagination of the country found expression in the acted drama alone, is sufficient to show that a poet's artistic methods are very largely influenced by the artistic environments of his country and time .
So vast a subject as this, however, is beyond our scope, and we can only point to the familiar instance of the troubadours and the trouveres and then pass on . With the
See also:trouvere (the poet of the langue d'oil), the story or situation is always the end of which the musical language is the means; with the
See also:troubadour (the poet of the langue d'oc), the form is so beloved, the musical language so enthralling, that, however beautiful may be the story or situation, it is felt to be no more than the means to a more beloved and beautiful end . But then nature makes her own troubadours and her own trouveres irrespective of fashion and of time—irrespective of langue d'oc and langue d'oil . And, in comparing the troubadours with the trouveres, this is what strikes us at once—there are certain troubadours who by temperament, by
See also:original endowment of nature, ought to have been trouveres, and there are certain trouveres who by temperament ought to have been troubadours . Surrounding conditions alone have made them what they are . There are those whose impulse (though writing in obedience to contemporary fashions lyrics in the langue d'oc) is manifestly to narrate, and there are those whose impulse (though writing in obedience to contemporary fashions fabliaux in the langue d'o'il) is simply to sing . In other words, there are those who, though writing after the fashion of their
See also:brother-troubadours, are more impressed with the
See also:romance and wonder-fulness of the human life outside them than with the romance and wonderfulness of their own passions, and who delight in depicting the
See also:external world in any form that may be the popular form of their time; and there are those who, though writing after the fashion of their brother-trouveres, are far more occupied with the life within them than with that
See also:outer life which the taste of their time and country calls upon them to paint—born rhythmists who must sing, who translate everything external as well as
See also:internal into verbal melody . Of the former class
See also:Pierre Vidal, of the latter class the author of Le Lay de l'oiselet, may be taken as the respective types . That the same forces are seen at work in all literatures few students of poetry will deny—though in some poetical groups these forces are no doubt more potent than in others, as, for instance, with the great parable poets of
See also:Persia, in some of whom there is perpetually apparent a conflict between the dominance of the
See also:Oriental taste for allegory and subtle suggestion, as expressed in the Zoroastrian definition of poetry—" apparent pictures of unapparent realities " —and the opposite yearning to represent human life with the freshness and natural freedom characteristic of Western poetry . Allowing, however, for all the potency of external influences, we shall not be wrong in saying that of poetic imagination there are two distinct kinds—(r) the kind of poetic imagina- Absolute tion seen at its highest in Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Relative Shakespeare and Homer, and (2) the kind of poetic vision. imagination seen at its highest in Pindar, Dante and Milton, or else in Sappho,
See also:Heine and Shelley . The former, being in its highest dramatic exercise unconditioned by the
See also:personal or lyrical impulse of the poet, might perhaps be called absolute dramatic vision; the latter, being more orless conditioned by the personal or lyrical impulse of the poet, might be called relative dramatic vision . It seems impossible to classify poets, or to classify the different varieties of poetry,, without
See also:drawing some such distinction as this, whatever words of definition we may choose to adopt .
For the achievement of all pure lyric poetry, such as the ode, the song, the
See also:elegy, the idyll, the sonnet, the stornello, it is It is to the first-named of these classes that most poets belong . With regard to the second class, there are not of course many poets
See also:left for it: the first absorbs so many . But, when we come to consider that among those who, with each his one voice, can sing many tunes, are Pindar, Firdausi, Jami, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Spenser, Goethe, Byron, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Schiller, Victor Hugo, the second class is so various that no generalization save such a broad one as ours could embrace its members . And now we come to class three, and must pause . The third class is necessarily very small . In it can only be placed such names as Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Homer and (hardly) Chaucer . These three kinds of poets represent three totally different kinds of poetic activity . With regard to the first, the pure lyrists, the impulse is pure egoism . Many of them have less of even relative vision at its highest than the mass of mankind . They are often too much engaged with the emotions within to have any deep sympathy with the life around them . Of every poet of this class it may be said that his mind to him " a
See also:kingdom is," and that the smaller the poet the bigger to him is that kingdom . To make use of a homely image—like the
See also:chaffinch whose eyes have been pricked by the bird-fancier, the pure lyrist is sometimes a
See also:warbler because he is
See also:blind .
Still he feels that the Muse loves him exceedingly . She takes away his eyesight, but she gives him sweet song . And his song is very sweet, very sad, and very beautiful; but it is all about the world within his own soul—its sorrows, joys, fears and aspirations . With regard to the second class the impulse here is no doubt a kind of egoism too; yet the poets of this class are all of a:different temper from the pure lyrists . They have a wide imagination; but it is still relative, still egoistic . They have splendid eyes, but eyes that never get beyond seeing general, universal humanity (typified by themselves) in the imagined situation . Not even to these is it given to break through that law of centrality by which every " me " feels itself to be the central " me "—the only " me " of the universe,
See also:round which all other
See also:spurious " me's " revolve . This " me " of theirs they can transmute into many shapes, but they cannot create other " me's "—nay, for egoism, some of them scarcely would, perhaps, if they could . The third class, the true dramatists, whose impulse is the simple yearning to create akin to that which made " the great Vishnu yearn to create a world," are " of imagination all compact "—so much so that when at work " the divinity " which Iamblichus speaks of " seizes for the time the soul and guides it as he will." The distinction between the pure lyrists and the other two classes of poets is obvious enough . But the distinction between the quasi-dramatists and the pure dramatists Examples o1 requires a word of explanation before we proceed Relative and to touch upon the various kinds of poetry that
See also:spring Absolute from the exercise of relative and absolute vision . Vision . Sometimes, to be sure, the vision of the true dramatists—the greatest dramatists—will suddenly become narrowed and obscured, as in that part of the Oedipus tyrannus where Sophocles makes Oedipus ignorant of what every one in
See also:Thebes must have known, the
See also:murder of Laius .
And again, finely as Sophocles has conceived thecharacter of
See also:Electra, he makes her, in her dispute with Chrysothemis, give expression to sentiments that, in another play of his own, come far more appropriately from the lofty character of
See also:Antigone in a parallel dispute with Ismene . And, on the other hand, examples of relative vision in its furthest reaches can be found in abundance everywhere, especially in Virgil, Dante, Calderon and Milton . Some of the most remarkable examples of that high kind of relative vision which may easily be mistaken for absolute vision may be found in those great prose epics of the
See also:North which Aristotle would have called poems . Here is one from the Volsunga Saga . While the
See also:brothers of
See also:Gudrun are about their treacherous business of murdering
See also:Sigurd, her
See also:husband, as he lies asleep in her arms, Brynhild, Sigurd's former love, who in the frenzy of evident that the imaginative force we have called relative vision will suffice . And if we consider the matter thoroughly, in many other forms of poetic art—forms which at first sight might seem to require absolute vision—we shall, find nothing but relative vision at work . Even in Dante, and even in Milton and Virgil, it might be difficult to trace the working of any other than relative vision . And as to the entire body of
See also:Asiatic poets it might perhaps be found (even in view of the
See also:Indian drama) that relative vision suffices to do all their work . Indeed the temper which produces true drama is, it might almost be said, a growth of the Western mind . For, unless it be Semitic, as seen in the dramatic narratives of the Bible, or
See also:Chinese, as seen in that remarkable prose story, The Two
See also:Cousins, translated by Remusat, absolute vision seems to have but small place in the literatures of
See also:Asia . The wonderfulness of the world and the romantic possibilities of fate, or circumstance, or chance—not the wonderfulness of the character to whom these possibilities befall—are ever present to the mind of the Asiatic poet . Even in so
See also:late a writer as the poet of the Shah Nameh, the hero Irij, the hero Zal and the hero Zohreb are in character the same person, the virtuous
See also:young man who combines the courage of youth with the wisdom and forbearance of age .
And, as regards the earlier poets of Asia, it was not till the shadowy demigods and heroes of the Asiatic races crossed the
See also:Caucasus, and breathed a more bracing air, that they became really individual characters . But among the many qualities of man's mind that were invigorated and rejuvenated by that great exodus from the dreamy plains of Asia is to be counted, above all others, his poetic imagination . The mere sense of wonder, which had formerly been an all-sufficing source of pleasure to him, was all-sufficing no longer . The wonderful adventure must now be connected with a real and interesting individual character . It was left for the poets of
See also:Europe to show that, given the interesting character, given the Achilles, the Odysseus, the
See also:Helen, the Priam, any adventure happening to such a character becomes interesting . What then is this absolute vision, this true dramatic imagination which can hardly be found in Asia—which even in Europe cannot be found except in rare cases ? Between relative and absolute vision the difference seems to be this, that the former only enables the poet, even in its very highest exercise, to make his own individuality, or else humanity as represented by his own individuality, live in the imagined situation; the latter enables him in its highest exercise to make special individual characters other than the poet's own live in the imagined situation . " That which exists in nature," says Hegel, " is a something purely individual and particular . Art, on the contrary, is essentially destined to manifest the general." And no doubt this is true as regards the plastic arts, and true also as regards literary art, save in the very highest reaches of pure drama and pure lyric, when it seems to become art no longer—when it seems to become the very voice of Nature herself . The cry of Priam when he puts to his lips the hand that slew his son is not merely the cry of a bereaved and aged
See also:parent; it is the cry of the individual
See also:king of Troy, and expresses above everything else that most naive, pathetic and winsome character . Put the words into the mouth of the irascible and passionate Lear and they would be entirely out of keeping . It may he said then that, while the poet of relative vision, even in its very highest exercise, can only, when depicting the external world,
See also:deal with the general, the poet of absolute vision can compete with Nature herself and deal with both general and particular .
If this is really so we may perhaps find a basis for a classification of poetry and of poets . That all poets must be singers has already been maintained . But singers seem to be divisible into three classes: first the pure lyrists, each of whom can with his one voice sing only one tune; secondly the epic poets, save Homer, the bulk of the narrative poets, and the quasi-dramatists, each of whom can with his one voice sing several tunes; and thirdly the true dramatists, who, having, like the
See also:nightingale of Gongora, many tongues, can sing all tunes . Lyric, Epic and Dramatic Singers . " love turned to hate " has instigated the murderers to the deed, hovers outside the chamber with Gunnar, her husband, and listens to the wail of her
See also:rival who is weltering in Sigurd's
See also:blood . At the sound of that wail Brynhild laughs: " Then said Gunnar to her, Thou laughest not because thy heart roots are gladded, or else why doth thy visage
See also:wax so wan ? "1 This is of course very fine; but, as any two characters in that dramatic situation might have done that dramatic business, fine as it is--as the saga;nan gives us the general and not the particular—the vision at work is not absolute but relative at its very highest exercise . But our examples will be more interesting if taken from English poets . In Coleridge's "
See also:Ancient Mariner " we find an immense amount of relative vision of so high a kind that at first it seems absolute vision . When the ancient mariner, in his narrative to the
See also:guest, reaches the slaying of the albatross, he stops, he can proceed no farther, and the wedding guest exclaims: "
See also:God save thee, Ancient Mariner, From the fiends that plague thee thus ! Why look'st thou so ? " " With my
See also:bow I shot the albatross." But there are instances of relative vision—especially in the great master of absolute vision, Shakespeare—which are higher still—so high indeed that not to relegate them to absolute vision seems at first sight pedantic .
Such an example is the famous speech of
See also:Macbeth in the second act, where she says: " Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done 't." Marvellously subtle as is this speech, it will be found, if analysed, that it expresses the general human soul rather than any one special human soul . Indeed Leigh
See also:Hunt records the case of a bargeman who, charged with robbing a sleeping traveller in his
See also:barge, used in his confession almost identical words—" Had he not looked like my father as he slept, I should have killed as well as robbed him." Again, the thousand and one cases (to be found in every literature) where a character, overwhelmed by some sudden surprise or terror, asks whether the action going on is that of a dream or of real life, must all, on severe analysis, be classed under relative rather than under absolute vision—even such a fine speech, for instance, as that where
See also:Pericles, on discovering Marina, exclaims: " This is the rarest dream that e'er dull sleep Did
See also:mock sad fools withal " ; or as that in the third act of Titus Andronicus, where Titus, beholding his mutilated and ruined daughter, asks:—" When will this fearful slumber have an end?" even here, we say, the humanity rendered is general and not particular, the vision at work is relative and not absolute . The poet, as representing the whole human race, throwing himself into the imagined situation, gives us what general humanity would have thought, felt, said or done in that situation, not what one particular individual and he alone would have thought, felt, said or done . Now what we have called absolute vision operates in a very different way . So vividly is the poet's mere creative instinct at work that the ego sinks into passivity—becomes insensitive to all impressions other than those dictated by the vision—by the " divinity " which has " seized the soul." Shakespeare is full of examples . Take the scene in the first act of Hamlet where Hamlet hears for the first time, from Horatio, that his father's ghost haunts the
See also:castle . Having by short
See also:sharp questions elicited the salient facts attending the apparition, Hamlet says, " I would I had been there." To this Horatio makes the very
See also:commonplace reply, " It would have much amazed you." Note the marvellously dramatic reply of Hamlet —" Very like, very like ! Stayed it long ? " Suppose that this
See also:dialogue had been attempted by any other poet than a true dramatist, or by a true dramatist in any other mood than his very highest, Hamlet, on
See also:hearing Horatio's commonplace remarks upon phenomena which to Hamlet were more subversive '
See also:Translation of
See also:Morris and Magnusson . of the very order of the universe than if a dozen stars had fallen from their courses, would have burst out with: " Amazed me!" and then would have followed an eloquent declamation about the " amazing " nature of the phenomena and their effect upon him . But so entirely has the poet become Hamlet, so completely has " the divinity seized his soul," that all language seems equally weak for expressing the turbulence within the soul of the character, and Hamlet exclaims in a sort of meditative irony, " Very like, very like I " It is exactly this one man Hamlet, and no other man, who in this situation would have so expressed himself .
See also:Charles Knight has some pertinent remarks upon this speech of Hamlet; yet he misses its true value, and treats it from the general rather than from the particular side .
Instances of absolute vision in Shakespeare
See also:crowd upon us; but we can find
See also:room for only one other . In the pathetic speech of Othello, just before he kills himself, he declares himself to be: " One not easily jealous, but, being wrought, Perplexed in the extreme." , Consider the marvellous timbre of the word " wrought," as coming from a character like Othello . When writing this passage, especially when writing this word, the poet had become entirely the simple English soldier-hero, as the
See also:Moor really is—he had become Othello, looking upon himself " as not easily jealous," whereas he was " wrought " and " perplexed in the extreme " by tricks which Hamlet would have seen through in a moment . While all other forms of poetic art can be vitalized by relative vision, there are two forms (and these the greatest) in which absolute vision is demanded, viz. the drama, and in Drametle a lesser degree the Greek epic, especially the Iliad . /magina-This will be seen more plainly perhaps if we now lion• vary our definitions and call relative vision egoistic imagination; absolute vision dramatic imagination . Very much of the dramatist's work can be, and in fact is, effected by egoistic imagination, while true dramatic imagination is only called into play on comparatively rare occasions . Not only fine but sublime dramatic poems have been written, however, where the vitalizing power has been entirely that of lyrical imagination . We need only instance the
See also:Prometheus Bound of Aeschylus, the most sublime poem in the world . The dramas of Shelley too, like those of Victor Hugo and Calderon, are informed entirely by egoistic imagination . In all these splendid poems the dramatist places himself in the imagined situation, or at most he places there some typical conception of universal humanity . There is not in all Calderon any such display of dramatic imagination as we get in that wonderful speech of Priam's in the last book of the Iliad, to which we have before alluded . There is not in the
See also:Cenci such a display of dramatic imagination as we get in the sudden burst of anger from the spoilt child of gods and men, Achilles (anger which alarms the hero himself as much as it alarms Priam), when the prattle of the old man has carried him too far .
It may seem bold to say that the drama of Goethe is informed by egoistic imagination only—assuredly theprison-scene in
See also:Faust is unsurpassed in the literatures of the world . Yet, perhaps, it could be shown of the passion and the pathos of Gretchen throughout the entire play that it betrays a
See also:female character general and typical rather than individual and particular . The nature of this absolute vision or true dramatic imagination is easily seen if we compare the dramatic work of writers without absolute vision, such as Calderon, Goethe,
See also:Jonson, Fletcher and others, with the dramatic work of Aeschylus and of Shakespeare . While of the former group it may be said that each poet skilfully
See also:works his imagination, of Aeschylus and Shakespeare it must be said that each in his highest dramatic mood does not work, but is worked by his imagination . Note, for instance, how the character of Clytaemnestra grows and glows under the hand of Aeschylus . The poet of the Odyssey had distinctly said that
See also:Aegisthus, her paramour, had struck the
See also:blow, but the dramatist, having imagined the greatest tragic female in all poetry, finds it impossible to let a man like Aegisthus assist such a woman in a
See also:homicide so daring and so momentous . And when in that terrible speech of hers she justifies her
See also:crime (ostensibly to the outer world, but really to her own conscience), the way in which, by the sheer magnetism of irresistible
See also:personality, she draws our sympathy to herself and her crime is unrivalled out of Shakespeare and not surpassed even there . In the Great Drama, in the Agamemnon, in Othello, in Hamlet, in Macbeth, there is an imagination at work whose laws are inexorable, are inevitable, as the laws by the operation of which the
See also:planets move around the sun . But in this essay our business with drama is confined entirely to its relations to epic . Considering how large and on the whole how good is the body of modern criticism upon drama, it is surprising how poor is Epic and the modern criticism upon epic . Aristotle, compar- Drama
See also:ing tragedy with epic, gives the palm to tragedy compared. as being the more perfect art, and nothing can be more ingenious than the way in which he has marshalled his reasons . He tells us that tragedy as well as epic is capable of producing its effect even without action; we can
See also:judge of it perfectly, says he, by
See also:reading .
He goes so far as to say that, even in reading as well as in
See also:representation, tragedy has an
See also:advantage over the epic, the advantage of greater clearness and distinctness of impression . And in some measure this was perhaps true of Greek tragedy, for as
See also:Muller in his
See also:Dissertations on the Eumenides has well said, the ancients always remained and wished to remain conscious that the whole was a Dionysian entertainment; the quest of a commonplace a7rar77 came after-wards . And even of Romantic Drama it may be said that in the time of Shakespeare, and indeed down through the 18th century, it never lost entirely its character of a recitation as well as a drama . It was not till melodrama began to be recognized as a legitimate form of dramatic art that the dialogue had to be struck from the dramatic action " at full
See also:speed "—struck like
See also:sparks from the roadster's shoes . The truth is, however, that it was idle for Aristotle to inquire which is the more important branch of poetry, epic or tragedy . Equally idle would it be for the modern critic to inquire how much romantic drama gained and how much it lost by abandoning the chorus . Much has been said as to the scope and the limits of epic and dramatic poetry . If in epic the poet has the power to take the imagination of his
See also:audience away from the dramatic centre and show what is going on at the other end of the great
See also:web of the world, he can do the same thing in drama by the chorus, and also by the introduction into the dramatic circle of messengers and others from the outside world . But, as regards epic poetry, is it right that we should hear, as we sometimes do hear, the voice of the poet himself as chorus bidding us contrast the present picture with other pictures afar off, in order to enforce its teaching and illustrate its pathos ? This is a favourite method with modern poets and a still more favourite one with prose narrators . Does it not give an air of self-consciousness to poetry ? Does it not disturb the intensity of the poetic vision ?
Yet it has thesanction of Homer; and who shall dare. to
See also:challenge the methods of the great father of epic ? An instance occurs in Iliad v . 158, where, in the midst of all the stress of fight, the poet leaves the dramatic action to tell us what became of the
See also:inheritance of Phaenops, after his two sons had been slain by
See also:Diomedes . Another instance occurs in iii . 243-244, where the poet, after Helen's pathetic mention of her brothers, comments on the causes of their absence, " criticizes life " in the approved modern way, generalizes upon the impotence of human intelligence—the impotence even of human love—to
See also:pierce the darkness in which the web of human fate is
See also:woven . Thus she spoke (the poet tells us); but the life-giving earth already possessed them, there in
See also:Lacedaemon,in their dear native
See also:land: 6s (Piro' Toms 6' )1S7j KaTExEv 4UQt;'oos
See also:ala Fv AaKESatuopl alO(, c/itXv hi gar plat lads . This, of course, is " beautiful exceedingly," but, inasmuch as the imagination at work is egoistic or lyrical, not dramatic; inasmuch as the vision is relative, not absolute, it does not represent that epic strength at its very highest which we call specially " Homeric," unless indeed we remember that with Homer the Muses are omniscient: this certainly may give the passage a deep dramatic value it otherwise seems to lack . The deepest of all the distinctions between dramatic and epic methods has relation, however, to the nature of the dialogue . Aristotle failed to point it out, and this is remarkable until we remember that his work is but a fragment of a great system of criticism . In epic poetry, and in all poetry that narrates, whether the poet be Homer, Chaucer,
See also:Thomas the Rhymer, Gottfried von Strasburg, or Turoldus, the action, of course, moved by aid partly of narrative and partly by aid of dialogue, but in drama the dialogue has a quality of suggestiveness and subtle inference which we do not expect to find in any other poetic form save perhaps that of the purely dramatic ballad . In ancient drama this quality of suggestiveness and subtle inference is seen not only in the dialogue, but in the choral odes . The third ode of the Agamemnon is an extreme case in point, where, by a kind of
See also:double entendre, the relations of Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus are darkly alluded to under cover of - allusions to
See also:Paris and Helen .
Of this dramatic subtlety Sophocles is perhaps the greatest master; and certain critics have been led to speak as though irony were heart-thought of Sophoclean drama . But the suggestiveness of Sophocles is pathetic (as
See also:Campbell has well pointed out), not ironical . This is one reason why drama more than epic seems to satisfy the mere intellect of the reader, though this may be counterbalanced by the hardness of mechanical structure which sometimes disturbs the reader's imagination in tragedy . When, for instance, a dramatist pays so much attention to the
See also:evolution of the plot as Sophocles does, it is inevitable that his characters should be more or less plot-ridden; they have to say and do now and then certain things which they would not say and do but for the exigencies of the plot . Indeed one of the advantages which epic certainly has over drama is that the story can be made to move as rapidly as the poet may
See also:desire without these mechanical modifications of character . The only kind of epic for Aristotle to consider was Greek epic, between which and all other epic the difference is one of kind, if the Iliad alone is taken to represent Greek epic . The Greek In speaking of the effect that surrounding conditions El)" seem to have upon the form in which the poetic energy - - of any time or country should express itself, we instanced the Iliad as a typical case . The imagination vivifying it is mainly dramatic . The characters represent much more than the mere variety of mood of the delineator . Notwithstanding all the splendid works of Calderon, Marlowe,
See also:Webster and Goethe, it is doubtful whether as a born dramatist the poet of the Iliad does not come nearer to Aeschylus and Shakespeare than does any other poet . His passion for making the heroes speak for themselves is almost a
See also:fault in the Iliad considered as pure epic, and the unconscious way in which each actor is made to depict his own character is in the highest spirit of drama . It is owing to this speciality of the Iliad that it stands apart from all other epic save that of the Odyssey, where, however, the dramatic vision is less vivid .
It is owing to the dramatic imagination displayed in the Iliad that it is impossible to say, from internalevidence, whether the poem is to be classified with the epics of growth or with the epics of art . All epics are clearly divisible into two classes, first those which are a mere accretion of poems or traditionary
See also:ballads, and second, those which, though based indeed on tradition or history, have become so fused in the mind of one great poet, so stained, therefore, with the colour and temper of that mind, as to become new crystallizations—inventions, in short, as we understand that word . Each kind of epic has excellencies peculiar to itself, accompanied by peculiar and indeed necessary defects . In the one we get the freedom—apparently schemeless and motiveless—of nature, but, as a consequence,
See also:miss that " hard
See also:acorn of thought " (to use the picturesque definition in the Volsunga Saga of the heart of a man) which the mind asks for as the core of every work of art . In the other this great requisite of an adequate central thought is found, but accompanied by a constriction, a lack of freedom, a
See also:cold artificiality, the obtrusion of a pedantic
See also:scheme, which would be intolerable to the natural mind unsophisticated by literary study . The flow of the one is as that of a
See also:river, the flow of the other as that of a canal . Yet, as has been already hinted, though the great charm of Nature herself is that she never teases us with any obtrusive exhibitions of scheme, she doubtless has a scheme somewhere, she does somewhere hide a " hard acorn of thought " of which the poem of the universe is the
See also:expanded expression . And, this being so, art should have a scheme too; but in such a dilemma is she placed in this matter that the epic poet, unless he is evidently telling the story for its own sake, scornful of purposes ethic or aesthetic, must sacrifice illusion . Among the former class of epics are to be placed the great epics of growth, such as the Mahabharata, the Nibelung story, &c.; among the latter the Odyssey, the Aeneid,
See also:Paradise Lost, the Gerusalemme libesata, the Lusiadas . But where in this classification are we to find a place for the Iliad ? The heart-thought of the greatest epic in all literature is simply that Achilles was vexed and that the fortunes of the world depended upon the whim of a sulky hero . Yet, notwithstanding all the acute criticisms of
See also:Wolff, it remains difficult for us to find a place for the Iliad among the epics of growth .
And why ? Because throughout the Iliad the dramatic imagination shown is of the first order; and, if we are to suppose a multiplicity of authors for the poem, we must also suppose that ages before the time of Pericles there existed a group of dramatists more nearly akin to the masters of the Great Drama, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Shakespeare, than any group that has ever existed since . Yet it is equally difficult to find a place for it amongst the epics of art . In the matter of artistic
See also:motive the Odyssey stands alone among the epics of art of the. world, as we are going to see . It is manifest that, as the pleasure derived from the epic of art is that of recognizing a conscious scheme, if the epic of art fails T6eBplcot through confusion of scheme it fails altogether . What A is demanded of the epic of art (as some kind of compensa- tion for that natural freedom of evolution which it can never achieve, that sweet abandon, which belongs to nature and to the epic of growth alike) is unity of impression, harmonious and symmetrical development of a conscious heart-thought or motive . This being so, where are we to place the Aeneid, and where are we to place the Shah Nameh ? Starting with the intention, as it seems, of fusing into one harmonious whole the myths and legends upon which the
See also:Roman story is based, Virgil, by the time he reaches the
See also:middle of his epic, forgets all about this primary intent, and gives us his own thoughts and reflections on things in general . Fine as is the speech of
See also:Anchises to
See also:Aeneas in
See also:Elysium (Aen. vi . 724-755), its incongruity with the general scheme of the m as developed in the previous books shows how entirely Virgil reeked that artistic power shown in the Odyssey of making a story become the natural and inevitable outcome of an artistic idea . In the Shah Nameh there is the artistic redaction of Virgil, but with even less attention to a central thought than Virgil exhibits . Firdausi relies for his effects upon the very qualities which characterize not the epic of art but the epic of growth—a natural and not an artificial flow of the story; so much indeed that, if the Shah Nameh were studied in connexion with the Iliad on the one hand and with the Kalevala on the other, it might throw a light upon the way in which an epic may be at one and the same time an aggregation of the
See also:national ballad poems and the work of a single artificer .
That Firdausi was capable of working from a centre not only artistic but philosophic his Yusuf and Zuleskha shows; and if we consider what was the artistic temper of the Persians in Firdausi's time, what indeed has been that temper during the whole of the
See also:period, the subtle temper of the parable poet—the Shah Nameh, with its direct appeal to popular sympathies, is a
See also:standing wonder in poetic literature . With regard, however, to Virgil's defective power of working from an artistic motive, as compared with the poet of the Odyssey, this is an infirmity he shares with all the poets of the Western world . Certainly he shares it with the writer of Paradise Lost, who, setting out to " justify the ways of God to man," forgets occasionally the original worker of the evil, as where, for instance, he substitutes
See also:chance as soon as he comes (at the end of the second book) to the point upon which the entire epic movement turns, the escape of Satan from
See also:hell and his
See also:journey to earth for the ruin of man: " At last his
See also:sail-broad vans He spreads for
See also:flight, and, in the surging
See also:smoke Uplifted, spurns the ground; thence many a
See also:league, As in a cloudy
See also:chair, ascending rides Audacious; but, that seat soon failing, meets A vast vacuity; all unawares, Fluttering his pinions vain, plumb down he drops Ten thousand fathoms deep, and to this
See also:hour Down had been falling, had not, by
See also:ILL CHANCE, The strong rebuff of some tumultuous cloud, Instinct with fire and
See also:nitre, hurried him As many
See also:miles aloft." In Milton's case, however, the truth is that he made the mistake of trying to disturb the motive of the story for artistic purposes—a fatal mistake, as we shall see when we come to speak of the
See also:Nibelungenlied in relation to the old Norse epic cycle . Though
See also:Vondel's mystery play of Lucifer is, in its execution, rhetorical more than poetical, it did, beyond all question, influence Milton when he came to write Paradise Lost . The famous line which is generally quoted as the keynote of Satan's character " Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven " seems to have been taken bodily from Vondel's play, and Milton's entire epic shows a study of it . While Marlowe's majestic move- ments alone are traceable in Satan's speech (written some years before the
See also:rest of Paradise Lost, when the dramatic and not the epic form had been selected), Milton's Satan became afterwards a splendid
See also:amalgam not of the
See also:Mephistopheles but of the Faustus of Marlowe and the Lucifer of Vondel . Vondel's play must have possessed a peculiar attraction for a poet of Milton's views of human progress . Defective as the play is in execution, it is far otherwise in motive . This motive, if we consider it aright, is nothing less than an explanation of man's anomalous condition on the earth—spirit incarnate in matter, created by God, a little
See also:lower than the angels—in order that he may advance by means of these very manacles which imprison him, in order that he may ascend by the
See also:staircase of the world, the
See also:ladder of fleshly conditions, above those
See also:cherubim and
See also:seraphim who, lacking the
See also:education of sense, have not the knowledge wide and deep which brings man close to God . Here Milton found his own favourite doctrine of human development and self-education in a concrete and vividly artistic form . Much, however, as such a motive must have struck a man of Milton's instincts, his intellect was too much chained by Calvinism to permit of his treating the subject with Vondel's philosophic breadth . The cause of Lucifer's wrath had to be changed from
See also:jealousy of human progress to jealousy of the Son's proclaimed superiority .
And the history of poetry shows that once begin to tamper with the central thought around which any group of incidents has crystallized and the entire story becomes thereby rewritten, as we have seen in the case of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus . Of the motive of his own epic, after he had abandoned the motive of Vondel, Milton had as little permanent grasp as Virgil had of his . As regards the Odyssey, however, we need scarcely say that its motive is merely artistic. not philosophic . And now we come to philosophic motive . The artist's power of thought is properly shown not in the direct enunciation of ideas but in mastery over motive . Here Aeschylus is by far the greatest figure in Western poetry—a
See also:proof perhaps among many proofs of the Oriental
See also:strain of his genius . (As regards pure drama, however, important as is motive, freedom, organic vitality in every part, is of more importance than even motive, and in this freedom and easy
See also:abandonment the concluding part of the Oresteia is deficient as compared with such a play as Othello or Lear.) Notwithstanding the splendid exception of Aeschylus, the truth seems to be that the faculty of developing a poetical narrative from a philosophic thought is Oriental, and on the whole
See also:foreign to the genius of the Western mind . Neither in Western drama nor in Western epic do we find, save in such rare cases as that of Vondel, anything like that power of developing a story from an idea which not only Jami but all the parable poets of Persia show . In modern English poetry the motive of Shelley's dramatic poem Prometheus Unbound is a notable illustration of what is here contended . Starting with the full intent of developing a drama from a motive—starting with a universalism, a belief that good shall be the final goal of ill—Shelley cannot finish his first three
See also:hundred lines without shifting (in the curse of Prometheus) into a
See also:Manichaeism as pure as that of
See also:Manes himself " Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this curse, Ill deeds, then be thou damned, beholding good; Both infinite as is the universe." According to the central thought of the poem human nature, through the heroic protest and struggle of the human mind typified by Prometheus, can at last dethrone that supernatural terror and tyranny (
See also:Jupiter) which the human mind had itself installed . But, after its dethronement (when human nature becomes infinitely perfectible), how can the supernatural tyranny exist apart from the human mind that imagined it ? How can it be as " infinite as the universe " ?
The motive of Paradise Lost is assailed with much vigour by Victor Hugo in his poem Religions etReligion . But when Hugo, in the after parts of the poem, having destroyed Milton's " God," sets up an entirely French " Dieu " of his own and tries " to justify " him, we perceive how pardonable was Milton's failure after all . Compare such defect of mental grip and such nebulosity of thought as is displayed by Milton, Shelley and Hugo with the strength of hand shown in the " Salaman " and " Absal " of Jami, and indeed by the Sufi poets generally . There is, however, one exception to this
See also:rule that Western poetry is nebulous as to motive . There is, besides the Iliad, one epic that refuses to be classified, though for entirely different reasons . This is the Nibelung story, where we find unity of purpose and also entire freedom of movement . We find combined here beauties which are nowhere else combined—which are, in fact, at war with each other everywhere else . We find a scheme, a real " acorn of thought," in an epic which is not the self-conscious work of a single poetic artificer, but is as much the slow growth of various times and various minds as is the Mahabharata, in which the heart-thought is merely that the Kauravas defeated their relatives at dice and refused to disgorge their winnings . This
See also:Northern epic-tree, as we find it in the Icelandic sagas, the
See also:Norns themselves must have watered; for it combines the virtues of the epic of growth with those of the epic of art . Though not sisters of the Pojohla men . But from another point of view the written in metre, it may usefully be compared with the epics of universal struggle of the male for the female seems typified in this Greece and of India and Persia . Free in movement as the wind, so-called epic of the Finns by the picture of the ' Lady of the which " bloweth where it listeth," it listeth to move by law .
See also:Rainbow " sitting upon her glowing arc and
See also:weaving her golden action is that of free will, but free will at play within a
See also:ring of threads, while the hero is doing
See also:battle with the malevolent forces necessity . Within this ring there throbs all the warm and passionate of nature . life of the world outside, and all the freedom apparently . Yet But it is in the Nibelung story that the temper of Western epic from that world it is enisled by a cordon of curses—by a zone of is at its best—the temper of the simple fighter, whose business defiant flames more impregnable than that which girdled the it is to fight . The ideal Western fighter was not known in Greece beautiful Brynhild at Hindfell . Natural laws, familiar emotions, till ages after Homer, when in the pass of Thermopylae the comare at work everywhere in the story; yet the " Ring of Andvari," panions of
See also:Leonidas combed their long hair in the sun . The business whose circumference is but that of a woman's
See also:finger, encircles of the fighter in Scandinavian epic is to yield to no power whatsothe whole mimic world of the sagaman as the Midgard snake encircles ever, whether of earth or heaven or hell—to take a buffet from the the earth . For this artistic perfection in an epic of growth there Allfather himself, and to return it; to look Destiny herself in the are, of course, many causes, some of them traceable and some of
See also:face, crying out for quarter neither to gods nor demons nor Norns. them beyond all discovery—causes no doubt akin to those which This is the true temper of pure " heroic poetry " as it has hitherto gave birth to many of the beauties of other epics of growth. flourished on this side the Caucasus—the temper of the fighter Originally Sinfiotli and Sigurd were the same person, and note who is invincible because he feels that Fate herself falters when how vast has been the artistic effect of the separation of the two ! the hero of the true strain defies—the fighter who feels that the very Again, there were several different versions of the story of Brynhild . Norns themselves must cringe at last before the simple courage of The sagamen, finding all these versions too interesting and too man standing naked and
See also:bare of hope against all assaults, whether much beloved to be discarded, adopted them all—worked them up of heaven or hell or
See also:doom . The proud heroes of the Volsunga into one
See also:legend, so that, in the Volsunga Saga we have a heroine Saga utter no moans and
See also:shed no Homeric tears, knowing as they possessing all the charms of goddess, demi-goddess, earthly princess know that the day prophesied is sure when,
See also:shoulder to shoulder, and amazon—a heroine surpassing perhaps in
See also:fascination all other gods and men shall stand up to fight the entire brood of
See also:night and heroines that have ever figured in poetry. evil, storming the very
See also:gates of Asgard . It is when we come to consider such imaginative work as this That this temper is not the highest from the ethical point of that we are compelled to pause before challenging the Aristotelian view is no doubt true . Against the beautiful resignation of doctrine that metrical structure is but an accidental quality of epic .
See also:Buddhism it may seem barbaric, and if moral suasion could supplant In speaking of the Nibelung story we do not, of course, speak of
See also:physical force in epic—if Siddartha could take the place of Achilles the German version, the Nibelungenlied, a fine epic still, though a or Sigurd—it might be better for the human race. degradation of the elder form . Between the two the differences are fundamental in the artistic sense, and form an excellent illustra- But we must now give undivided attention to pure egoistic tion of what has just been said upon the disturbance of motive in or lyric imagination . This, as has been said, is sufficient to epic, and indeed in all poetic art . It is not merely that the endings vitalize all forms of poetic art save drama and the The Lyric of the three
See also:principal characters, Sigurd (Siegfried), Gudrun Greek epic . It would be impossible to discuss Imagina-(Kriemhilt), and Brynhild are entirely different; it is not merely adequately here the Hebrew poets, who have
See also:pro- tion . that the Icelandic version, by missing the blood-bath at
See also:Fafnir's lair, loses the pathetic situation of Gudrun's becoming afterwards duced a lyric so different in kind from all other lyrics as to an unwilling instrument of her husband's death; it is not merely stand in a class by itself . As it is equal in importance to that, on the other hand, the German version, by omitting the early the Great Drama of Shakespeare, Aeschylus and Sophocles, love passages between Brynhild and Sigurd at Hindfell, misses we may perhaps be allowed to call it the " Great Lyric." entirely the tragic meaning of her story and the terrible hate that is love resulting from the breaking of the troth; but the conclusion The Great Lyric must be religious—it must, it would seem, of each version is so exactly the opposite of that of the other that, be an outpouring of the soul, not towards man but towards while the German story is called (and very properly) " Kriemhilt's God, like that of the God-intoxicated prophets and psalmists Revenge," the , be called story Gurun's the Forgiveness . Saga might, with equal pro- of Scripture . Even the lyric fire of Pindar owes much to the p etIf it be said that, in both cases, the motive shows the same fact that he had a childlike belief in the myths to which so many Titanic temper, that is because the Titanic temper is the special of his contemporaries had begun to give a languid assent . But Temper of characteristic of the North-Western mind . The temper there is nothing in Pindar, or indeed elsewhere in Greek poetry, East and of revolt against authority seems indeed to belong West. to that energy which succeeds in the modern develop- like the rapturous song, combining unconscious power with ment of the great racial struggle for life . Although unconscious
See also:grace, which we have called the Great Lyric .
It no epic, Eastern or Western, can exist without a struggle between might perhaps be said indeed that the Great Lyric is purely good and evil—and a struggle upon apparently equal terms—it Hebrew . But, although we could hardly expect to find it among must not be supposed that the warring of conflicting forces which those whose language, complex of syntax and alive with self-is the motive of Eastern epic has much real relation to the warring of conflicting forces which is the motive of Western epic. conscious inflexions, bespeaks the scientific knowingness of the And, as regards the machinery of epic, there is, we suspect, a Western mind, to call the temper of the Great Lyric broadly deeper significance than is commonly apprehended in the fact that " Asiatic " would be rash . It seems to belong as a birthright the Satan or Shaitan of the Eastern world becomes in Vondel and to those descendants ofShem who, yearning always to look Milton.a sublime Titan who attracts to himself the admiration which in Eastern poetry belongs entirely to the authority of heaven. straight into the face of God and live, could (when the Great In Asia, save perhaps among the pure
See also:Arabs of the
See also:desert, underlying Lyric was sung) see not much else . all religious forms, there is apparent a temper of resignation to the Though two of the artistic elements of the Great Lyric, irresistible authority of heaven . And as regards the
See also:Aryans it is probable that the Titanic temper—the temper of revolt against unconsciousness and power, are no doubt plentiful enough in authority–did not begin to show itself till they had moved across India, the
See also:element of grace is lacking for the most part . The the Caucasus . But what concerns us here is the fact that the Vedic
See also:hymns are both nebulous and unemotional, as compared farther they moved to the north-west the more vigorously this with Semitic hymns . And as to the Persians, they, it would temper asserted itself, the prouder
See also:grew man in his attitude towards seem, have the grace always, the power often, but the uncorithe gods, till at last in the Scandinavian cycle he became their equal and struggled alongside them, shoulder to shoulder, in the defence sciousness almost never . This is inevitable if we consider for of heaven against the assaults of hell . Therefore, as we say, the a moment the chief characteristic of the Persian imagination—an student of epic poetry must not suppose that there is any real imagination whose wings are not so much " bright with beauty " parallel between the attitude of Vishnu (as Rama) towards as heavy with it—heavy as the wings of a golden pheasant—Ravana and the attitude of Prometheus towards
See also:Zeus, or the atti- tude of the human heroes towards Odirt in Scandinavian poetry. steeped in beauty like the "tiger-
See also:moth's deep
See also:dar*rasked wings." Had Ravana been clothed with a properly constituted authority, Now beauty of this kind does not go to the making of the Great had he been a legitimate god instead of a demon, the Eastern Lyric . doctrine of recognition of authority would most likely have come Then there comes that poetry which, being ethnologically in and the world would have been spared one at least of its enormous epics . Indeed, the Ravana of the Ramay¢na answers Semitic, might be supposed to exhibit something at least of the somewhat to the Fafnir of the Volsunga Saga; and to plot against Hebrew temper—the Arabian .
But, whatever may be said of demons is not to
See also:rebel against authority . The vast
See also:field of Indian the
See also:oldest Arabic poetry, with its deep sense of fate and pain, epic, however, is quite beyond us here, it would seem that nothing can be more unlike than the Hebrew Nor can we do more than glance at the Kalevala . From one point of view that group of ballads might be taken, no doubt, as a simple temper and the Arabian temper as seen in later poets . It is not record of how the men of Kalevala were skilful in capturing the with Hebrew but with Persian poetry that Arabian poetry can be usefully compared . If the wings of the Persian imagination an ode . All odes are, no doubt, divisible into two great classes: are heavy with beauty, those of the later Arabian imagination are bright with beauty—brilliant as an Eastern butterfly,
See also:quick and agile as a
See also:dragon-fly or a humming-bird . To the
See also:eye of the Persian poet the hues of earth are (as Firdausi says of the
See also:garden of Afrasiab) " like the
See also:tapestry of the
See also:kings of Ormuz, the air is perfumed with
See also:musk, and the
See also:waters of the brooks are the essence of
See also:roses." And to the later Arabian no less than to the Persian the earth is beautiful; but it is the clear and sparkling beauty of the earth as she " wakes up to life, greeting the Sabaean
See also:morning "; we feel the light more than the colour . But it is neither the Persian's instinct for beauty nor the Arabian's quenchless wit and exhaustless animal spirits that go to the making of the Great Lyric; far from it . In a word, the Great Lyric, as we have said, cannot be assigned to the Asiatic temper generally any more than it can be assigned to the
See also:European temper . In the poetry of Europe, if we cannot say of Pindar, devout as he is, that he produced the Great Lyric, what can we say of The Ode. any other European poet ? The truth is that, like the Great Drama, so straight and so warm does it seem to come from the heart of man in its highest moods that we scarcely feel it to be literature at all . Passing, however, from this supreme expression of lyrical imagination, we come to the artistic ode, upon which subject the present writer can only reiterate here what he has more fully said upon a former occasion .
Whatever may have been said to the contrary,
See also:enthusiasm is, in the nature of things, the very basis of the ode; for the ode is a mono-drama, the actor in which is the poet himself; and, as
See also:Marmontel has well pointed out, if the actor in the mono-drama is not affected by the sentiments he expresses, the ode must be cold and lifeless . But, although the ode is a natural poetic method of the poet considered as prophet—although it is the voice of poetry as a fine frenzy—it must not be supposed that there is anything lawless in its structure . Pindar," says the Italian critic Gravina, " launches his verses upon the bosom of the sea; he spreads out all his sails; he con-fronts the
See also:tempest and the rocks; the waves arise and are ready to engulf him; already he has disappeared from the spectator's view; when suddenly he springs up in the midst of the waters, and reaches happily the
See also:shore." Now it is this Pindaric discursiveness, this Pindaric unrestraint as to the matter, which has led poets to attempt to imitate him by adopting an unrestraint as to form . Although no two odes of Pindar exhibit the same metrical structure (the Aeolian and Lydian rhythms being mingled with the Doric in different proportions), yet each ode is in itself obedient, severely obedient, to structural law . This we feel; but what the law is no metricist has perhaps ever yet been able to explain . It was a
See also:strange misconception that led people for centuries to use the word " Pindaric " and irregular as synonymous terms; whereas the very essence of the odes of Pindar (of the few, alas! which survive to us) is their regularity . There is no more difficult form of poetry than this, and for this reason: when in any poetical composition the metres are varied, there must, as the present writer has before pointed out, be a reason for such freedom, and that reason is properly subjective—the varying form must embody and express the varying emotions of the
See also:singer . But when these metrical variations are governed by no subjective law at all, but by arbitrary rules supposed to be evolved from the practice of Pindar, then that very variety which should aid the poet in expressing his emotion crystallizes it and makes the ode the most frigid of all compositions . Great as Pindar undoubtedly is, it is deeply to be regretted that no other poet survives to represent the triumphal ode of Greece–, the digressions of his subject matter are so wide, and his volubility is so great . In modern literature the ode has been ruined by theories and experiments . A poet like La Mothe, for instance, writes execrable odes, and then writes a treatise to prove that all odes should be written on the same
See also:model . There is much confusion of mind prevalent among poets as to what is and what is not those which, following an arrangement in stanzas, are commonly called
See also:regular, and those which, following no such arrangement, are commonly called irregular .
We do not agree with those who assert that irregular metres are of necessity inimical to poetic art . On the contrary, we believe that in modern prosody the arrangement of the rhymes and the length of the lines in any rhymed metrical passage may be deter-
See also:mined either by a fixed stanzaic law or by a law infinitely deeper—by the law which impels the soul, in a state of poetic exaltation, to seize hold of every kind of metrical aid, such as
See also:rhyme, caesura, &c. for the purpose of accentuating and marking off each shade of emotion as it arises, regardless of any demands of stanza . But between the irregularity of makeshift, such as we find it in
See also:Cowley and his imitators, and the irregularity of the " fine frenzy " of such a poem, for instance, as Coleridge's Kubla Khan, there is a difference in kind . Strange that it is not in an ode at all but in this unique lyric Kubla Khan, descriptive of imaginative landscape, that an English poet has at last conquered the crowning difficulty of writing in irregular metres . Having broken away from all restraints of
See also:couplet and stanza—having caused his rhymes and pauses to fall just where and just when the emotion demands that they should fall, scorning the exigencies of makeshift no less than the exigencies of stanza—he has found what every writer of irregular English odes has sought in vain, a music as entrancing, as natural, and at the same time as inscrutable, as the music of the winds or of the sea . The prearranged effects of sharp contrasts and antiphonal movements, such as some poets have been able to compass, do not of course come under the present definition of irregular stanzaic metres at all . If a metrical passage does not gain Law and immensely by being written independently of stanzaic Emolonal law, it loses immensely; and for this reason, perhaps, that the great charm of the music of all verse, as distinguished Law . from the music of prose, is inevitableness of cadence . In regular metres we enjoy the pleasure of feeling that the rhymes will inevitably fall under a recognized law of couplet or stanza . But if the passage flows independently of these, it must still flow inevitably—it must, in short, show that it is governed by another and a yet deeper force, the inevitableness of emotional expression . The lines must be long or short, the rhymes must be arranged after this or after that
See also:interval, not because it is convenient so to arrange them, but because the emotion of the poet inexorably demands these and no other arrangements . When, however, Coleridge came to try his hand at irregular odes, such as the odes " To the Departing
See also:Year " and " To the Duchess of Devonshire," he certainly did not succeed .
As to Wordsworth's magnificent " Ode on Intimations ofImmortality," the
See also:impeachment of it, but it is a
See also:grave one, is that the length of the lines and the arrangement of the rhymes are not always inevitable; they are, except on rare occasions, governed neither by stanzaic nor by emotional law . For instance, what emotional necessity was there for the following rhyme-arrangement ? " My heart is at your festival, My
See also:head hath its coronal, The fulness of your
See also:bliss I feel—I feel it all . Oh, evil day! if I were sullen While earth herself is adorning, This sweet May morning; And the
See also:children are culling, On every side, In a thousand valleys far and wide, Fresh
See also:flowers." Beautiful as is the substance of this entire passage, so far from gaining, it loses by rhyme—loses, not in perspicuity, for Wordsworth like all his contemporaries_ (except Shelley) is mostly perspicuous, but in that metrical emphasis the quest of which is one of the impulses that leads a poet to write in rhyme . In spite, however, of its metrical defects, this famous ode of Wordsworth's is the finest irregular ode in the language; for, although Coleridge's " Ode to the De-parting Year " excels it in Pindaric fire, it is below Wordsworth's masterpiece in almost every other quality save rhythm . Among the writers of English irregular odes, next to Wordsworth, stands Dryden . The second stanza of the " Ode for St
See also:Cecilia's Day " is a great triumph . Leaving the irregular and turning to the' regular ode, it is natural to
See also:divide these into two classes: (I) those which are really Pindaric in so far as they consist of strophes, antistrophes and epodes, variously arranged and contrasted; and (2) those which consist of a regular succession of regular stanzas . Perhaps all Pindaric odes tend to show that this form of art is in English a mistake . It is easy enough to write one stanza and call it a strophe, another in a different movement and call it an
See also:antistrophe, a third in a different movement still and call it an epode . But in modern prosody, disconnected as it is from musical and froit terpsichorean science, what are these ? No poet and no critic can say .
What is requisite is that the ear of the reader should catch a great metrical scheme, of which these three varieties of movement are necessary parts—should catch, in short, that inevitableness of structure upon which we have already touched . In order to justify a poet in writing a poem in three different kinds of movement, governed by no musical and no terpsichorean necessity, a necessity of another kind should make itself apparent; that is, the metrical
See also:wave moving in the strophe should he metrically answered by the
See also:counter-wave moving in the antistrophe, while the epode—which, as originally conceived by
See also:Stesichorus, was merely a standing still after the balanced movements of the strophe and antistrophe—should clearly, in a language like ours, be a blended
See also:echo of these two . A mere metrical contrast such as some poets labour to effect is not a metrical answer . And if the reply to this criticism be that in Pindar himself no such metrical scheme is apparent, that is the strongest possible argument in support of our position . If indeed the metrical scheme of Pindar is not apparent, that is because, having been written for chanting, it was subordinate to the lost musical scheme of the musician . It has been contended, and is likely enough, that this musical scheme was simple—as simple, perhaps, as the scheme of a
See also:cathedral chant; but to it, whatever it was, the metrical scheme of the poet was subordinated . It need scarcely be said that the phrase " metrical scheme " is used here not in the narrow sense as indicating the position and movement of strophe and antistrophe by way of simple contrast, but in the deep metrical sense as indicating the value of each of these component parts of the ode, as a counter-wave balancing and explaining the other waves in the harmony of the entire composition . We touch upon this matter in order to show that the moment odes ceased to be chanted, the words strophe, antistrophe, and epode lost the musical value they had among the Greeks, and pretended to a complex metrical value which . their actual metrical structure does not appear to justify . It does not follow from this that odes should not be so arranged, but it does follow that the poet's arrangement should justify itself by disclosing an entire metrical scheme in place of the musical scheme to which the Greek choral lyric was evidently subordinated . But even if the poet were a sufficiently skilled metricist to compass a scheme embracing a wave, an answering wave, and an echo gathering up the tones of each, i.e. the strophe, the antistrophe and the epode, the ear of the reader, unaided by the musical emphasis which supported the rhythms of the old choral lyric, is, it should seem, incapable of gathering up and remembering the sounds further than the strophe and the antistrophe, after which it demands not an epode but a return to the strophe . That is to say, an epode, as alternating in the body of the modern ode, is a mistake; a single epode at the end of a group of strophes and antistrophes (as in some of the Greek odes) has, of course, a different function altogether . The great difficulty of the English ode is that of preventing the apparent spontaneity of the impulse from being marred by the apparent artifice of the form; for, assuredly, no writer subsequent to Coleridge and to Keats would dream of writing an ode on the cold Horatian principles adopted by War-ton, and even by
See also:Collins, in his beautiful Ode to Evening." Of the second kind of regular odes, those consisting of a regular succession of regular stanzas, the so-called odes of Sappho are, of course, so transcendent that no other amatory lyrics can be compared with them .
' Never before these songs were sung and never since did the human soul, in the grip of a fiery passion, utter a cry like hers; and from the executive point of view, in directness, in lucidity, in that high imperious verbal
See also:economy which only nature herself can teach the artist, she has no equal, and none worthy to take the place of second—not even in Heine, nor even in Burns . Turning, however, to modern poetry, there are some magnificent examples of this simple form of ode in English poetry—Spenser's immortal " Epithalamion " leading the way in point of time, and probably also in point of excellence . Fervour being absolutely essential, we think, to a great English ode, fluidity of metrical movement can never he dispensed with . The more billowy the metrical waves the better suited are they to render the emotions expressed by the ode, as the reader will see by referring to Coleridge's " Ode to France " (the finest ode in the English language, according to Shelley), and giving special attention to the first stanza—to the way in which the first metrical wave, after it had gently fallen at the end of the first
See also:quatrain, leaps up again on the double rhymes (which are expressly introduced for this effect), and goes bounding on, billow after billow, to the end of the stanza . Not that this fine ode is quite free from the great vice of the English ode, rhetoric . If we except Spenser and, in one instance, Collins, it can hardly be said that any English writer before Shelley and Keats produced odes independent of rhetoric and supported by pure poetry alone . But fervid as are Shelley's " Ode to the West Wirid " and Keats's odes " To a Nightingale " and " On a Grecian
See also:Urn," they are entirely free from rhetorical flavour . Notwithstanding that in the " Ode on a Grecian Urn " the first stanza does not match in rhyme arrangement with the others, while the second stanza of the " Ode to a Nightingale " varies from the rest by
See also:running on four rhyme-sounds instead of five, vexing the ear at first by disappointed expectation, these two odes are, after Coleridge's " France," the finest regular odes perhaps in the English language . With regard to the French ode, Maiherbe was the first writerwho brought it to perfection . Maiherbe showed also more variety of mood than it is the fashion just now to
See also:credit him with . This may be especially noted in his " Ode to
See also:Louis XIII." His
See also:Racan is not of much account . There is certainly much vigour in the odes of
See also:Rousseau, but it is not till we reach Victor Hugo that we realize what French poetry can achieve in this line; and con-temporary poetry can hardly be examined here .
We may say, however, that some of Hugo's odes are truly magnificent . ' As a pure lyrist his place among the greatest poets of the world is very high . Here, though writing in an inferior language, he ranks with the greatest masters of Greece, of England, and ofGermany . Had he attempted no other kind of poetry than lyrical, his would still have been the first name in French poetry . Whatever is defective in his work arises, as in the case of Euripides, from the importation of lyrical force where dramatic force is mainly needed . . The main varieties of lyrical poetry, such as the idyll, the satire, the ballad, the sonnet, &c., are treated in
See also:separate articles; but a word or two must be said here about the song The Song and the elegy . To write a good song requires that simplicity of grammatical structure which is foreign to many natures—that mastery over direct and simple speech which only true passion and feeling can give, and which "coming from the heart goes to the heart." Without going so far as to say that no man is a poet who cannot write a good song, it may certainly be said that no man can write a good song who is not a good poet . In modern times we have, of course, nothing in any way representing those choral dance-songs of the Greeks, which, originating in the
See also:primitive Cretan war-dances, became, in Pindar's time, a splendid blending of song and
See also:ballet . Nor have we anything exactly representing the Greek scolia, those short drinking songs of which
See also:Terpander is said to have been the inventor . That these scolia were written, not only by poets like
See also:Praxilla, Simonides, but also by Sappho and by Pindar, shows in what high esteem they were held by the Greeks . These songs seem to have been as brief as the stornelli of the Italian peasant . They were accompanied by the
See also:lyre, which was handed from singer to singer as the time for each scolion came round .
With regard to the stornello, many critics seem to confound it with the rispetto, a very different kind of song . The Italian rispetto consists of a stanza of inter-rhyming lines ranging from six to ten in number, but often not exceeding eight . The Tuscan and Umbrian stornello is much shorter, consisting, indeed, of a hemistich naming some natural object which suggests the motive of the little poem . The nearest approach to the Italian stornello appears to be, not the rispetto, but the Welsh triban . Perhaps the mere difficulty of rhyming in English and the facility of rhyming in Italian must be taken into account when we inquire why there is nothing in Scotland—of course there could be nothing in England—answering to the nature-poetry of the Italian peasant . Most of the Italian rispetti and stornelli seem to be improvisations; and to improvise in English is as difficult as to improvise is easy in Italian . Nothing indeed is more interesting than the improvisatorial poetry of the Italian peasants, such as the
See also:canzone . If the peasantry discover who is the composer of a canzone, they will not sing it . The speciality of Italian peasant poetry is that the symbol which is mostly erotic is of the purest and most
See also:tender kind . A peasant girl will improvise a song as impassioned as " Come into the Garden, Maud," and as free from unwholesome taint . With regard to English songs, the critic cannot but ask—Wherein lies the lost ring and charm of the Elizabethan song-writers ? Since the Jacobean period at least, few have succeeded in the art of writing real songs as distinguished from mere book lyrics .
Between songs to be sung and songs to be read there is in our time a difference as wide as that which exists between plays for the closet and plays for the boards . Heartiness and melody—the two requisites of a song which can never he dispensed with—can rarely be compassed, it seems, by one and the same individual . In both these qualities the Elizabethan poets stand pre-eminent, though even with them the melody is not so singable as it might be made . Since their time heartiness has, perhaps, been a Scottish rather than an English endowment of the song-writer . It is difficult to imagine an Englishman writing a song like " Tullochgorum " or a song like " MaggieLauder," where the heartiness and impulse of the poet's mood conquer all impediments of close vowels and rugged consonantal combinations . Of Scottish song-writers Burns is, of course, the head; for the songs of John Skinner, the heartiest song-writer that has appeared in Great Britain (not excluding
See also:Herrick), are too few in number to entitle him to be placed beside a poet so prolific in heartiness and melody as Burns . With regard to Campbell's heartiness, this is quite a different quality from the heartiness of Burns and Skinner, and is in quality English rather than Scottish, though, no doubt, it is of a fine and rare strain, especially in " The Battle of the Baltic." His songs illustrate an infirmity which even the Scottish song-writers
See also:share with the English—a defective sense of that true song-warble which we get in the stornelli and rispetti of the Italian peasants . A poet may have heartiness in plenty, but if he has that love of consonantal effects which Donne displays he will never write a first-
See also:rate song . Here, indeed, is the crowning difficulty of song-writing . An extreme simplicity of structure and of diction must be accompanied by an instinctive apprehension of the melodic capabilities of verbal sounds, and of what
See also:Lover, the Irish song-writer, called " singing " words, which is rare in this country, and seems to belong to the
See also:Celtic rather than to the Saxon ear . " The song-writer," says Lover, " must
See also:frame his song of open vowels with as few guttural or hissing sounds as possible, and he must be content sometimes to sacrifice grandeur and vigour to the necessity of selecting zinging words and not reading words." And he exemplifies the distinction between singing words and reading words by a line from one of Shelley's songs "' The fresh earth in new leaves drest,' " where nearly every word shuts up the mouth instead of opening it." But closeness of vowel sounds is by no means the only thing to be avoided in song-writing . A phrase may be absolutely unsingable, though the vowels be open enough, if it is loaded with consonants .
The truth is that in song-writing it is quite as important, in a consonantal language like ours, to attend to the consonants as to the vowels; and perhaps the first thing to avoid in writing English songs is the frequent recurrence of the sibilant . But this applies to all the brief and quintessential forms of poetry, such as the sonnet, the elegy, &c . As to the elegy—a form of poetic art which has more relation to the objects of the external world than the song, but less rela- T6e 6iegy. tion to these than the stornello—its scope seems to be wide indeed, as practised by such various writers as
See also:Tyrtaeus, Theognis, Catullus,
See also:Tibullus, and our own
See also:Gray . It may almost be said that perfection of form is more necessary here and in the sonnet than in the song, inasmuch as the artistic pretensions are more pronounced . Hence even such apparent minutiae as those we have hinted at above must not be neglected here . We have quoted Dionysius of Halicarnassus in relation to the arrangement of words in poetry . His remarks on sibilants are Phonetic equally deserving of attention . He goes so far as to Perfection. say that o is entirely disagreeable, and, when it often recurs, insupportable . The hiss seems to him to be more appropriate to the beast than to man . Hence certain writers, he says, often avoid it, and employ it with regret . Some, he tells us, have composed entire odes without it . But if sibilation is a defect in Greek odes, where the softening effect of the vowel sounds is so potent, it is much more so in English poetry, where the consonants dominate, though it will be only specially noticeable in the brief and quintessential forms such as the song, the sonnet, the elegy .
Many poets only attend to their sibilants when these clog the rhythm . To write even the briefest song without a sibilant would be a tour de force; to write a good one would no doubt be next to impossible . It is singular that the only metricist who ever attempted it was John Thelwall, the famous "
See also:Citizen John," friend of Lamb and Coleridge, and editor of the famous
See also:Champion newspaper, where many of Lamb's epigrams appeared . Thelwall gave much attention to metrical questions, and tried his hand at various metres . Though " Citizen John's " sapphics might certainly have been better, he had a very remarkable critical insight into the rationale of metrical effects, and his " Song without a Sibilant " is extremely neat and ingenious . Of course, however, it would be mere pedantry to exaggerate this objection to sibilants even in these brief forms of poetry . (T .
ALESSANDRO POERIO (1802-1848)
JOHANN CHRISTIAN POGGENDORFF (1796-1877)
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