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and in few instances has this been more striking, than in dis putes concerning the present subject. If a man chooses to call every composition a poem, which is rhyme, or measure, or both, I must leave his opinion uncontroverted. The distinction is at least competent to characterize the writer's intention. If it were subjoined, that the whole is likewise entertaining or affecting, as a tale, or as a series of interesting reflections, I of course adinit 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 unswer, it must be one, the parts of which mutually support and explain each other; all in their proportion harmonizing with, and supporting the purpose and known influences of metrical arrang ment. The philosophic critics of all ages coincide with the ultimate judgment of all countries, in equally denying the praises of a just poem, on the one hand, to a series of striking line or distiches, each of which, absorbing the whole attention of the reader to itself, becomes disjoined from its context, and forms a separate whole, instead of a harmonizing part; and on the other hand, to an unsustained composition, from which the reader collects rapidly the general result, unattracted by the component 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 pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the 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. Præcipitandus est liber spiritus," says Petronius most happily. The
8 [These words occur in the passage in which Petronius is supposed to attack Lucan. Cæteri enim, aut non viderunt viam qua irietur ad carmen, aut visam timuerunt calcare. Ecce, belli civilis ingens opus quisquis attigerit, nisi plenus literis, sub onere labetur. Non enim res gestæ versibus comprehendendæ sunt, quod longe melius Historici faciunt; sed per ambages, Deorumque ministeria, et fabulosum sententiarum tormentum præcipitandus est liber spiritus; ut potius furentis ainimi vaticinatio appareat, quam religiosæ orationis sub testibus fides: tanquam si placet hic impetus, etiamsi nondum recepit ultimam manum. Satyric, p. 63, edit. Lug. Bat., 1623. And then follows a specimen of a new Pharsalia, which
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 of a poem, we have still to seek for a definition of poetry. The writings of Plato, and Jeremy Taylor, and Burnet's Theory of the Earth, furnish undeniable proofs that poetry of the highest kind may exist without metre, and even without the contradistinguishing objects of a poem. The first chapter of Isaiah-(indeed a very large proportion of the whole book)-is poetry in the most emphatic sense; yet it would be not less irrational than strange to assert, that pleasure, and not truth, was the immediate object of the prophet. In short, whatever specific import we attach to the word, Poetry, there will be found involved in it, as a necessary consequence, that a poem of any length neither can be, nor ought to be, all poetry. Yet if an harmonious whole is to be produced, the remaining parts must be preserved in keeping with the poetry; and this can be no otherwise effected than by such a studied selection and artificial arrangement, as will partake of one, though not a peculiar property of poetry. And this again can be no other than the property of exciting a more continuous and equal attention than the language of prose ainds at, whether colloquial or written.
My own conclusions on the nature of poetry, in the strictest use of the word, have been in part anticipated in some of the remarks on the Fancy and Imagination in the first volume of this work. What is poetry ?-is so nearly the same question with,
a great many learned critics, to the confusion of ordinary readers, prefer to Lucan's. Douza says, se hunc impetum pluris facere, quam trecenta Cordubulensis illius volumina. Ed.]
Petronius!-all the muses weep for thee,
So speaks Cowper in a strong passage upon this" polish'd and high finish'. foe to truth," in his poem called The Progress of Error. Southey's edit., vol. iii., p. 155-6. S. C.]
9 [Telluris Theoria Sacra. London, 1681: by Thomas Burnett, D.D. The work was translated into English by order of King Charles, and was in a sixth edit. in 1726. The author, a native of Scotland, and Master of Sutton's Hospital, London, wrote also De Statu Mortuorum et Resurgentium, and several other books, died Sep. 27, 1715. S. C.3
what is a poet ?-that the answer to the one is involved in the solution 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 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 I would exclusively appropriate the name of Imagination. This power, first put in action by the will and understanding, and retained under their irremissive, though gentle and unnoticed, control, laxis effertur habenis, reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of opposite or discordant qualities; of sameness, with differ ence; of the general with the concrete; the idea with the 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; judgment ever awake and steady self-possession with enthusiasm and feeling profound or vehement; and 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, and even more appropriately, to the poetic Imagination)
10 [Of the
Doubtless this could not be, but that she turns
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,
Which to her proper nature she transforms
To bear them light on her celestial wings.
does she, when from individual states
She doth abstract the universal kinds;
then re-clothed in divers names and fates
Saccess through the senses to our minds. 10
Man, s 4. Mr. Coleridge's alterations are printed in
Finally, Good Sense is the Body of poetic genius, Fancy ite Drapery, Motion its Life, and Imagination the Soul that is everywhere, and in each; and forms all into one graceful and intelli. gent whole."
[The reader is referred generally to Mr. Coleridge's Literary Remains, vol. II. Ed.]
The specific symptoms of poetic power elucidated in a critical analysis o
IN the application of these principles to purposes of practical criti-
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 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 original, and not the result of an easily imitable me
[See Literary Remains, vol. II. Ed.]
2 'Avèp pvpióvous, a phrase which I have borrowed from a Greek monk, who applies it to a Patriarch of Constantinople. I might have said, that have reclaimed, rather than borrowed, it: for it seems to belong to Shakspeare, de jure singulari, et ex privilegio naturæ.