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a in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be
directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least
romantic ; yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a
human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to pro-
cure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension 5
of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.
Mr. Wordsworth, on the other hand, was to propose to him-
self as his object, to give the charm of novelty to things of
every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the super-
natural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy 10
of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders
of the world before us; an inexhaustible treasure, but for
which, in consequence of the film of familiarity and selfish
solicitude we have eyes, yet see not, ears that hear not, and
hearts that neither feel nor understand.

15
With this view I wrote“ The Ancient Mariner," and was
preparing among other poems, “The Dark Ladie," and the
"Christabel," in which I should have more nearly realized my
ideal, than I had done in my first attempt. But Mr. Words-
worth's industry had proved so much more successful, and 20
the number of his poems so much greater, that my com-
positions, instead of forming a balance, appeared rather
an interpolation of heterogeneous matter. Mr. Wordsworth

added two or three poems written in his own character, in 7th

the impassioned, lofty, and sustained diction, which is char- 25 acteristic of his genius. In this form the “ Lyrical Ballads" were published ; and were presented by him, as an experiment, whether subjects, which from their nature rejected the usual ornaments and extra-colloquial style of poems in general, might not be so managed in the language of ordi- 30 nary life as to produce the pleasureable interest, which it is the peculiar business of poetry to impart. To the second edition he added a preface of considerable length; in which, notwithstanding some passages of apparently a contrary import, he was understood to contend for the extension of 35 this style to poetry of all kinds, and to reject as vicious and indefensible all phrases and forms of style that were not included in what he (unfortunately, I think, adopting an equivocal expression) called the language of real life. From 5 this preface, prefixed to poems in which it was impossible to

deny the presence of original genius, however mistaken its direction might be deemed, arose the whole long-continued controversy. For from the conjunction of perceived

power with supposed heresy I explain the inveteracy and in Io some instances, I grieve to say, the acrimonious passions,

with which the controversy has been conducted by the assailants.

Had Mr. Wordsworth's poems been the silly, the childish things, which they were for a long time described as being; 15 had they been really distinguished from the compositions of

other poets merely by meanness of language and inanity of thought; had they indeed contained nothing more than what is found in the parodies and pretended imitations

of them ; they must have sunk at once, a dead weight, into 20 the slough of oblivion, and have dragged the preface along

with them. But year after year increased the number of Mr. Wordsworth's admirers. They were found too not in the lower classes of the reading public, but chiefly among

young men of strong sensibility and meditative minds; and 25 their admiration (inflamed perhaps in some degree by

opposition) was distinguished by its intensity, I might almost say, by its religious fervor. These facts, and the intellectual energy of the author, which was more or less con

sciously felt, where it was outwardly and even boisterously 30 denied, meeting with sentiments of aversion to his opinions,

and of alarm at their consequences, produced an eddy of criticism, which would of itself have borne up the poems by the violence, with which it whirled them round and round.

With many parts of this preface, in the sense attributed to 35 them, and which the words undoubtedly seem to authorize, I never concurred; but on the contrary objected to them as erroneous in principle, and as contradictory (in appearance at least) both to other parts of the same preface, and to the author's own practice in the greater number of the poems themselves. Mr. Wordsworth in his recent collection has, 5 I find, degraded this prefatory disquisition to the end of his second volume, to be read or not at the reader's choice. But he has not, as far as I can discover, announced any change in his poetic creed. At all events, considering it as the source of a controversy, in which I have been honored 10 more than I deserve by the frequent conjunction of my name with his, I think it expedient to declare once for all, in what points I coincide with his opinions, and in what points I altogether differ. But in order to render myself intelligible I must previously, in as few words as possible, explain my 15 ideas, first, of a Poem; and secondly, of POETRY itself, in kind, and in essence.

The office of philosophical disquisition consists in just distinction; while it is the priviledge of the philosopher to preserve himself constantly aware, that distinction is not division. In order to obtain adequate notions of any truth, we must intellectually separate its distinguishable parts; and this is the technical process of philosophy. But having so done, we must then restore them in our conceptions to the unity, in which they actually co-exist; and this is the 25 \ result of philosophy. (A poem contains the same elements as a prose composition; the difference therefore must consist in a different combination of them, in consequence of a different object being proposed. According to the difference of the object will be the difference of the combination. 30 It is possible, that the object may be merely to facilitate the recollection of any given facts or observations by artificial arrangement; and the composition will be a poem, merely because it is distinguished from prose by metre, or by rhyme, or by both conjointly. In this, the lowest sense, 35

20 10

a man might attribute the name of a poem to the well-known enumeration of the days in the several months;

“Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November," &c. 5 and others of the same class and purpose. And as a particular pleasure is found in anticipating the recurrence of sounds and quantities, all compositions that have this charm super-added, whatever be their contents, may be entitled poems.

So much for the superficial form. A difference of object and contents supplies an additional ground of distinction. The immediate purpose may be the communication of truths ; either of truth absolute and demonstrable, as in

works of science; or of facts experienced and recorded, as 15 in history. Pleasure, and that of the highest and most per

manent kind, may result from the attainment of the end ; but it is not itself the immediate end. In other works the communication of pleasure may be the immediate purpose;

and though truth, either moral or intellectual, ought to be 20 the ultimate end, yet this will distinguish the character of

the author, not the class to which the work belongs. Blest indeed is that state of society, in which the immediate purpose would be baffled by the perversion of the proper

ultimate end; in which no charm of diction or imagery 25 could exempt the Bathyllus even of an Anacreon, or the Alexis of Virgil, from disgust and aversion !

But the communication of pleasure may be the immediate object of a work not metrically composed; and that object

may have been in a high degree attained, as in novels and 30 romances. Would then the mere superaddition of metre,

with or without rhyme, entitle these to the name of poems ? The answer is, that nothing can permanently please, which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise. If metre be superadded, all other parts must

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be made consonant with it. They must be such, as to
justify the perpetual and distinct attention to each part,
which an exact correspondent recurrence of accent and
sound are calculated to excite. The final definition then,
so deduced, may be thus worded. A poem is that species 5
fof composition, which is opposed to works of science, by
proposing for its immediate object pleasure, not truth ; and
from all other species (having this object in common with
it) it is discriminated by proposing to itself such delight
from the whole, as is compatible with a distinct gratification 10
from each component part.

Controversy is not seldom excited in consequence of the
disputants attaching each a different meaning to the same
word; and in few instances has this been more striking,
than in disputes concerning the present subject. If a man 15
chooses to call every composition a poem, which is rhyme,
or measure, or both, I must leave his opinion uncontro-
verted. The distinction is at least competent to characterize
the writer's intention. If it were subjoined, that the whole
is likewise entertaining or affecting, as a tale, or as a series 20
of interesting reflections, I of course admit this as another
fit ingredient of a poem, and an additional merit. But if the
definition sought for be that of a legitimate poem, I answer,
it must be one, the parts of which mutually support and

explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing 25
with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of
metrical arrangement. The philosophic critics of all ages
coincide with the ultimate judgement of all countries, in
equally denying the praises of a just poem, on the one hand,
to a series of striking lines or distiches, each of which, 30
absorbing the whole attention of the reader to itself, dis-
joins it from its context, and makes it a separate whole,
instead of an harmonizing part; and on the other hand, to
an unsustained composition, from which the reader collects
rapidly the general result, unattracted by the component 35

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