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parts. The reader should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly by the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasure

able activity of mind excited by the attractions of the 5 journey itself. Like the motion of a serpent, which the Egyptians made the emblem of intellectual power; or like the path of sound through the air ; at every step he pauses and half recedes, and from the retrogressive movement

collects the force which again carries him onward. “Præcipi. 10 tandus est liber spiritus,”says Petronius Arbiter most happily.

The epithet, liber, here balances the preceding verb; and it is not easy to conceive more meaning condensed in fewer words.

But if this should be admitted as a satisfactory character 15 of a poem, we have still to seek for a definition of poetry.

The writings of Plato, and Bishop TAYLOR, and the “Theoria Sacra” of BURNET, furnish undeniable proofs that poetry of the highest kind may exist without metre, and

even without the contra-distinguishing objects of a poem. 20 The first chapter of Isaiah (indeed a very large portion of the

whole book) is poetry in the most emphatic sense ; yet it would be not less irrational than strange to assert, that pleasure, and not truth, was the immediate object of the

prophet. In short, whatever specific import we attach to the 25 word, poetry, there will be found involved in it, as a neces

sary consequence, that a poem of any length neither can be, or ought to be, all poetry. Yet if an harmonious whole is to be produced, the remaining parts must be preserved in

keeping with the poetry; and this can be no otherwise 30 effected than by such a studied selection and artificial

rangement, as will partake of one, though not a peculiar property of poetry. And this again can be no other than the property of exciting a more continuous and equal atten

tion than the language of prose aims at, whether colloquial 35 or written.

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My own conclusions on the nature of poetry, in the strictest use of the word, have been in part anticipated in the preceding disquisition on the fancy and imagination. What is poetry ? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet ? that the answer to the one is involved in the solu- 5 tion of the other. For it is a distinction resulting from the poetic genius itself, which sustains and modifies the images, thoughts, and emotions of the poet's own mind.

The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole
soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its 10
faculties to each other, according to their relative worth and
dignity. He diffuses a tone and spirit of unity, that blends,
and (as it were) fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and
magical power, to which we have exclusively appropriated
the name of imagination. This power, first put in action by 15
the will and understanding, and retained under their irre-
missive, though gentle and unnoticed, controul (laxis effertur
habenis) reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of
opposite or discordant qualities : of sameness, with differ-
ence; of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the 20
image; the individual, with the representative; the sense
of novelty and freshness, with old and familiar objects; a
more than usual state of emotion, with more than usual
order ; judgement ever awake and steady self-possession,
with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement; and 25
while it blends and harmonizes the natural and the artificial,
still subordinates art to nature ; the manner to the matter ;
and our admiration of the poet to our sympathy with the
poetry. “Doubtless," as Sir John Davies observes of the
soul (and his words may with slight alteration be applied, 30
and even more appropriately, to the poetic IMAGINATION)
Doubtless this could not be, but that she turns

Bodies to spirit by sublimation strange,
As fire converts to fire the things it burns,
As we our food into our nature change.


From their gross matter she abstracts their forms,

And draws a kind of quintessence from things ;
Which to her proper. nature she transforms,

To bear them light on her celestial wings.

Thus does she, when from individual states 5

She doth abstract the universal kinds ;
Which then re-clothed in divers names and fates

Steal access through our senses to our minds." Finally, GOOD SENSE is the BODY of poetic genius, FANCY its DRAPERY, MOTION its LIFE, and IMAGINATION the SOUL that is everywhere, and in each; and forms all into one graceful and intelligent whole.


CHAPTER XV The specific symptoms of poetic power elucidated in a critical

analysis of Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, and Lucrece. In the application of these principles to purposes of prac

tical criticism as employed in the appraisal of works more 15 or less imperfect, I have endeavoured to discover what

the qualities in a poem are, which may be deemed promises and specific symptoms of poetic power, as distinguished from general talent determined to poetic composition by

accidental motives, by an act of the will, rather than by the 20 inspiration of a genial and productive nature. In this

investigation, I could not, I thought, do better, than keep before me the earliest work of the greatest genius, that perhaps human nature has yet produced, our myriad-minded

Shakespeare. I mean the “ Venus and Adonis," and the 25 “ Lucrece"; works which give at once strong promises of the strength, and yet obvious proofs of the immaturity, of

* 'Avne uupuóvous, a phrase which I have borrowed from a Greek monk, who applies it to a Patriarch of Constantinople, I might have said, that I have reclaimed, rather than borrowed it: for it seems to belong to Shakespeare,“ de jure singulari, et ex privilegio naturæ.”

his genius. From these I abstracted the following marks, as characteristics of original poetic genius in general.

1. In the “Venus and Adonis,” the first and most obvious excellence is the perfect sweetness of the versification ; its adaptation to the subject; and the power displayed in 5 varying the march of the words without passing into a loftier and more majestic rhythm than was demanded by the thoughts, or permitted by the propriety of preserving a sense of melody predominant. The delight in richness and sweetness of sound, even to a faulty excess, if it be evidently 10 original, and not the result of an easily imitable mechanism, I regard as a highly favourable promise in the compositions of a young man. “The man that hath not music in his soulcan indeed never be a genuine poet. Imagery (even taken from nature, much more when transplanted from books, as 15 travels, voyages, and works of natural history); affecting incidents; just thoughts ; interesting personal or domestic feelings; and with these the art of their combination or intertexture in the form of a poem ; may all by incessant effort be acquired as a trade, by a man of talents and much 20 reading, who, as I once before observed, has mistaken an intense desire of poetic reputation for a natural poetic genius; the love of the arbitrary end for a possession of the peculiar means. But the sense of musical delight, with the power of producing it, is a gift of imagination; and this together 25 with the power of reducing multitude into unity of effect, and modifying a series of thoughts by some one predominant thought or feeling, may be cultivated and improved, but can never be learned. It is in these that “poeta nascitur

30 2. A second promise of genius is the choice of subjects very remote from the private interests and circumstances of the writer himself. At least I have found, that where the subject is taken immediately from the author's personal sensations and experiences, the excellence of a particular poem 35

non fit."

is but an equivocal mark, and often a fallacious pledge, of genuine poetic power. We may perhaps remember the tale of the statuary, who had acquired considerable reputation for the legs of his goddesses, though the rest of the statue 5 accorded but indifferently with ideal beauty ; till his wife, elated by her husband's praises, modestly acknowledged that she herself had been his constant model. In the “ Venus and Adonis” this proof of poetic power exists even to excess.

It is throughout as if a superior spirit more intuitive, more 10 intimately conscious, even than the characters themselves,

not only of every outward look and act, but of the flux and reflux of the mind in all its subtlest thoughts and feelings, were placing the whole before our view ; himself meanwhile unparticipating in the passions,

and actuated only by that 15 pleasureable excitement, which had resulted from the ener

getic fervor of his own spirit in so vividly exhibiting, what it had so accurately and profoundly contemplated. I think, I should have conjectured from these poems, that even then

the great instinct, which impelled the poet to the drama, 30 was secretly working in him, prompting him by a series and never

broken chain of imagery, always vivid and, because unbroken, often minute ; by the highest effort of the picturesque in words, of which words are capable, higher

perhaps than was ever realized by any other poet, even 25 Dante not excepted; to provide a substitute for that visual

language, that constant intervention and running comment by tone, look and gesture, which in his dramatic works he was entitled to expect from the players. His “Venus and

Adonis seem at once the characters themselves, and the 30 whole representation of those characters by the most con

summate actors. You seem to be told nothing, but to see and hear everything. Hence it is, that from the perpetual activity of attention required on the part of the reader ;

from the rapid flow, the quick change, and the playful nature 35 of the thoughts and images; and above all from the aliena

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