and yet there is enough of the merely pictorial to catch the eye. The poem lends itself readily to illustration. Before it had been out of the press a month, Longfellow wrote in his diary: "November 28, 1858: Ehringer has sent me a beautiful illustration of Miles Standish.' It is the bridal procession going through the woods, and is full of feeling." Many artists have since then embellished the story with pencil and brush.

The whole poem is sweetened and humanized by the many delightful sallies of humor, which is relieved now and then by touches of pathos. "Evangeline" is full of pathos, but "The Courtship" keeps us more cheerful than sad. Many of the speeches are bright with grave wit and pleasantries. The Puritans were not noted for their sense of the ludicrous, but the settlers at Plymouth were a shade less austere than those at Boston. That they had a species of grim humor, however, is evident from their methods of punishment. Thus one who had offended by the use of improper language had his tongue pinched for two hours in a cleft stick. The humor of the poem is of the quiet, homely sort, not broad nor forced. It scarcely makes us smile, so unobtrusive is it. It is just the sort of fun-making we should look for among a people with such strict religious views, and to whom life was such a serious business. The author has evidently put far more sunshine into his characters than he found in the originals. And yet there is throughout the poem that unobtrusive and pleasing under-note of sadness, deepening now and then into pathos, which is often noticed even in the happiest lives.

With one exception, the poem is singularly free from bookish influences. That exception is the Bible, from which there are a large number of quotations direct and indirect. The' phraseology is full of scriptural words and allusions. But we must remember that the language of the Bible is merely the English of the time of King James I., so that a large part of the vocabulary of the characters may be simply that of the

seventeenth century. The Puritans were not a literary people, but the effect of their one book upon their style was highly beneficial. "The Courtship" should be read Bible in hand. The pupil who wishes to know more about the religious atmosphere in which the Puritans lived, will do well to read Macaulay's brilliant essay on "Milton," especially the last ten pages. He will then understand what the sacred writings meant to a sect who found in them almost their sole means of intellectual and spiritual culture.

§ 6. Figures of Speech.

Imagery is frequently used in poetry. Its purpose is to ornament the style and to give life and vigor to the thought. Figures are to a poet what colors are to a painter. Poetic thought is, on the whole, more condensed, and appeals more to the imagination than prose work, and figures are a convenient means of reaching those ends. Sometimes they have an argumentative value, because they make the subject clearer and more convincing.

Longfellow's figures of speech are generally of a homely and familiar kind. They are pictorial in their effect, and give pleasure to the mind by suggesting a comparison between objects not usually associated together. Thus we find many striking similes. In these the resemblance is indicated by as or like, as in

[blocks in formation]


(b) "Where thumb-marks . . . like the trample of feet," I. 79, 80. (c) "To and fro in his breast his thoughts were heaving and dashing, As in a foundering ship, . . . washes the bitter sea," III. 8–10. (d)" The carded wool like a snow-drift," III. 44.

'In each of these examples two objects are brought together in thought and a ground of comparison is discovered. In (c) there is a relation of the objects something like a proportion with its equality of ratios—A : B :: C: D; thus, thought breast sea ship. In III. 16, 17, one member of

the proportion is implied-phantom : heart :: exhalation : [marsh]. It will be observed that each figure produces a certain definite effect, conveying a more vivid impression of color, number, size, shape, movement, etc.

There is a second class of figures called metaphors. Here the similarity of one object to another is more concisely stated with a gain in force. A metaphor is thus an abridged simile. For example, in I. 13, 14, a set of four objects are brought into relation to one another; viz., [gray hairs]: beard snowflakes hedges. Other uses are "sinews of iron," I. 12; "my brazen howitzer a preacher," I. 46, 47; "robins were building towns in the populous trees," III. 3, 4; "the mayflowers blooming around him. children lost in the woods," III. 26–28.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Still a different kind of figure is found in I. 81, "Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling. There the cause (the pen) is put for the effect (the sound). In VII. 80, "death unseen ran before it," the effect (death) is put for the cause (bullet). This figure is known as metonymy, which means a change of name, and the idea is named by an accompaniment which serves the writer's purpose better.

Another figure called synecdoche is seen in IV. 80, “You, who lived under my roof," and in IV. 81, "You, who have fed at my board," in which a part of some object or the material (roof, board) is put for the whole (house, table).

There is a figure called allegory, which is a sort of continued metaphor, used by Longfellow in IV. 105: "God hath sifted three kingdoms (i.e., England, Scotland, and Holland) to find the wheat for this planting, then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation." In a perfect allegory all mention of the real object in the writer's mind is omitted. A better illustration may be seen in Psalm lxxx., "Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt," etc.

In IV. 10, 11, "Welcome, O wind of the East!" etc., is a beautiful specimen of apostrophe, which consists in personi

fying some inanimate object and then addressing it. It thus includes the figure called personification. In the passage quoted Alden thinks of the wind as a living being, and calls upon it to wrap him in its mist-garments. Another similar use is seen in V. 99: "Float, O hand of cloud, and vanish away in the ether!"

[blocks in formation]

When we begin to read poetry aloud, we become aware that one of the great differences between poetry and prose lies in what is called meter. Another difference lies in rhyme; but although rhyme is common in poetry, it is not necessary. Much of the world's greatest poetry has no rhyme. The poetry of the Greeks and Romans had none; the poetry of the Hebrews had none. Much English poetry has none, as, for example, "Evangeline" and "The Courtship of Miles Standish." Modern English poetry, however, almost invariably has meter.

Meter is practically but another name for rhythm in poetry. We use the word "rhythm" for other things than poetry; we mean by it a regular recurrence of sounds and intervals. We might speak of "the rhythm of the surf upon the beach," meaning the regularly recurring sound of the breakers. In poetry the regular recurrence is called meter or rhythm, the former being a more definite word.

In English, rhythm is the regular recurrence of accented syllables among unaccented syllables. In prose the accent of the words is not regular; the accents in a sentence come at no fixed interval. But in poetry the accents come at intervals that we can realize.

"On the mountains of the Prairie, on the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry, Gitche Manito the Mighty, he the Master of Life descending, on the red crags of the quarry, stood erect and called the nations, called the tribes of men together."

1 Adapted by permission from the introduction to Evangeline, pp. 16-19. (S. L. Series, No. 21.)

In these lines from Longfellow's "Hiawatha," the fact that they are printed as prose will not conceal the fact that the accent falls regularly on every other syllable, beginning with the first. Sometimes it is not a very strong accent, as in the fourth word, of; but even on of there is more accent than on the syllables -tains and the just before and after it. In "Máster of Life" there are two syllables between the accents, but generally the recurrence is so regular that we become accustomed to it and hardly notice a slight variation. It is usual in writing and printing poetry to divide it into lines, commonly with an equal number of accents in each line, and the disposition of the accents in the line is taken as the basis for the meter.

There are many different arrangements of rhythms, differing in the arrangement of the accented and unaccented syllables. The meter of "The Courtship" is called hexameter, because there are six accents to the line. In the hexameter, as written in English, we have a recurrence of accented syllables, with sometimes one unaccented syllable following, sometimes two. It is also the rule of the meter that the line shall begin with an accented syllable, and that the last accent but one of each line shall be followed by two unaccented syllables and the last by one only. If, then, we represent an accented syllable by a, an unaccented syllable by x, we may write the scheme of the hexameter line as follows:

ax or axx, ax or axx, ax or axx, ax or axx, axx, ax.

To show how the meter really sounds, let us take the first line of "The Courtship of Miles Standish":


"In the Old Colony days in Plymouth the land of the Pilgrims."

The first syllable has the accent, and each accented syllable is followed by one or two unaccented syllables. The first, second, fourth, and fifth feet have one accented and two

« 上一页继续 »