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be that poetical figures are mixed up with, and lend a grace to speech; but the staple of the orator's pleadings must be prose, which he uses (or abuses) to convince the understandings of his hearers-or, at all events, to persuade them, by direct and substantial motives, to some actual and practical end. Demosthenes and Cicero were eloquent; but who will assert that they were poetical? They were rhetorical, vehement, ingenious: they reasoned, and thereby persuaded : but they would not have been persuasive, ha they made use of poetry, which is complicated, instead of prose, which is single and obvious, for the purpose of convincing their hearers.
If none of these intellectual qualities be essential to Poetry, we need scartely say that it is not simply verse ; although that may be useful, and perhaps even necessary to its existence. Verse is the limit, or shape by which poetry is bounded : it is the adjunct of poetry, but not its living principle. Neither is poetry music; so that, to try it by the laws, either of metre or of tone, must necessarily be fallacious. It is well enough, as a matter of amusement, to ascertain how the lines of our great poets have been fashioned ; but lo deduce authoritative rules from poems that have been written without rule, is plainly to derive an argument in favour of bondage, from the most splendid proofs of the benefits of freedom. Shakspeare most assuredly wrote without any reference to rule : he trusted to his ear, and produced the finest dramatic verse in the world. Milton also, beyond competition the greatest writer of epic verse of whom we can boast, learned as he was both in metres and music, and with the finest apprehension for harmony, evidently composed without rule, and trusted to his ear alone for those exquisite cadences with which, from his Lycidas to his Paradise Regained, all his poems abound. It is undeniable, indeed, that the verse which is most perfectly according to rule is uniformly the most disagreeable. We are speedily tired of lines where the meaning invariably ends with the tenth syllable : and if we admit this, and allow the poet to terminate his periods in the middle, or in any other part of the line, where is his privilege to cease? Verse, in its own nature, implies nothing but regularity, and any kind or degree of regularity that is found to be agreeable must be just as legitimate as any other. It might be rash, perhaps, to depart altogether from familiar models; but to insist that certain lines, with certain accents, should alone be held up as models, because they produce a good effect among others of a different modulation, is preposterous. Is it to be supposed that Milton did not know what he was about when he threw in that strange line
* And Tiresias and Plineus, prophets old” or when he speaks of
“ The secrets of the hoary deep; a dark
Mlimitable ocean or Shakspeare, when he addresses Earth, “our common mother,”
“ Whose womb unmeasurable and infinite breast
Teems and feeds all ?”–
And yet we think the critics would be perplexed, were they to attempt to subdue these lines to their canons of quantity. What would the painters say, if an amateur should stand forward and insist on their piling all their figures in a precise triangle? Yet we know that the pyramidal shape is the beau ideal of an artist. Variety, in short, is necessary in poetry as in other
things. It is the whole that should be harmonious; and it is not true that this large and effective harmony is to be attained by the absolute and exact uniformity of all the corresponding parts. The poets know this : and it will be well for us to leave them to the free practice of their art, instead of perplexing them with dogmas, which we are sure that the better part of them will never consent to follow. But to come a little nearer an affirmative.
Poetry is a creation. It is a thing created by the mind, and not merely copied either from nature, or facts in any shape. Next to this general but most correct and significant definition, if it can be so called, perhaps the best explanation is that given by Lord Bacon, where he says, that “poetry doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind;" though here, as in all the rest of the discussion, we should ever bear in mind, that poetry, after all, is the effect, and not the
It does not properly “ alter the shows of things,” but transcribes from the imagination the new form that results from the alteration. Its after effect upon the reader is produced by this transcript, and he sees merely the new poetic creation, and receives its effects. Poetry, then, is to be understood as a thing “ different from prose,” which is its antithesis ; that is to say, it is always something different from the literal prosaic fact, such as we contemplate it with the eye of sense or reason. However it may be true in itself and it ought to be true), as a compound image or signification of consistent ideas, it must not be in all respects literally true. The materials of poetry, as we have said, are to be found in nature or art, but not poetry itself; for, if poetry were strewn before us like flowers, or if it irradiated the heavens like sunshine or the stars, we should have nothing to do but to copy it as exactly as we could; and it would then be a “mimetic”* art only, and not“ a creation.” Prose, according to our conception of it, is in substance the presentment of single and separate ideas, arranged for purposes of reasoning, instruction, or persuasion. It is the organ or vehicle of reason, and deals accordingly in realities, and spreads ilself out in analysis and deduction-combining and disposing words, as figures are used by arithmeticians, to explain, or prove, or to produce some particular essect from established premises. It acts upon foregone conclusions, or tends by regular gradations to a manifest object; and in proportion as it fails in these, it is clouded or imperfect. Poetry, on the other hand, is essentially complicated. It is produced by various powers common to most persons, but more especially by those which are almost peculiar to the poet, viz. Fancy, and the crowning spirit- Imagination! This last is the first moving or creative principle of the mind, which fashions, out of materials previously existing, new conceptions and original truths, not absolutely justifiable by the ordinary rules of logic, but quite intelligible to the mind when duly elevated-intelligible through our sympathies, our sensibility, -like light or the balmy air, although not sufficiently definite or seltled into form to stand the cold calculating survey of our reason.
It is not so much, however, that imagination sees things differently from reason, as that it uses them differently; the one dealing with single ideas, and observing, if we may so speak, the naked reality of things; ihe other
We do not forget Aristotle's “ Mijnsex:"--but etymology and general opinion are clearly against the great Siagyrite. Neither he nor Lord Bacon were, in the usual acceptation of the term, poets ; and were therefore, perhaps, with all their great powers, less qualified 10 judge of 'ertain procesec's of the mind, thau inferior men who experienced them.
combining and reproducing them as they never appear in nature. Nevertheless, poetry, though creative in its principle, comprehends not so much what is impossible, as what is at present unknown ;and hence, perhaps, may be urged the claim of ils followers to the title of “Vates.” It is the harmony of the mind, in short, which embraces and reconciles its seeming discords. It looks not only at the husk and outward show of things, but contemplates them in their principles, and through their secret relations. It is brief and suggestive, rather than explicit and argumentative. Its words are like the breath of an oracle, which it is the business of prose to expound.
Imagination differs from fancy, inasmuch as it does by a single glance what the latter effects by deliberate comparison. Generally speaking, imagipation deals with the passions and the higher moods of the mind. It is the fiercer and more potent spirit; and the images are flung out of its burning grasp, as it were, molten, * and massed together. It is a complex power, including those faculties which are called by metaphysicians Conception, Abslraction, and Judgment. It is the genius of personification. It concentrates the many into the one, colouring and investing its own complex creation with the attributes of all. It multiplies and divides and remodels, always changing in one respect or other the literal fact, and always enriching it, when properly exerted. It merges ordinary nature and literal truth in the atmosphere which it exhales, úll they come forth like the illuminations of sunset, wbich were nothing but clouds before. It acts upon all things drawn within its range; sometimes in the creation of character (as in Satan and Ariel, etc.), and sometimes in figures of speech and common expression. It is different in different people; in Shakspeare, bright and rapid as the lightning, fusing things by its power; in Milton, awful as collected thunder. It peoples the elements with fantastic forms, and fills the earth with unearthly heroism, intellect, and beauty. It is the parent of all those passionate creations which Shakspeare has bequeathed to us. It is the origin of that terrible generation of Milton, Sin, and the shadowy Death, Rumour, and Discord with its thousand tongues, Night and Chaos, “ ancestors of Nature," down to all those who lie
“ Under the boiling ocean, wrapt in chains” of all phantasies born beneath the moon, and all the miracles of dreams. It is an intense and burning power, and comes
“ Wing'd with red lightning and impetuous rage”(which line is itself a magnificent instance of imagination and is indeed a concentration of the intellect, gathering together its wandering faculties, and bursting forth in a flood of thought, till the apprehension is staggered which pursues it. The exertion of this faculty is apparent in every page of our two great poets; from
« The shout that tore hell's concave," to the “care" that “sate on the faded cheek ” of Satan ; from the “wounds of Thammuz” which “ allured"
“The brain," as Hobbes says, “or spirit therein, having been stirred by divers objects composeth an imagination of divers conceptions, that appeared single to the sense.
As, for example, the sense showeth ai one time the figure of a mountain, and al another time the colour of gold; but the imagination afterwards hath them both at once in a • golden mountain."-Essay on Hreman Nature, ch.3.
“ The Syrian damsels to lament his fate,” to those
* Thoughts that wander through eternity;" from the “curses” of Lear upon his daughters, which
Stamp wrinkles in her brow of youth,” to Hamlet
“ Benetted round with villanies," and thousands of others which meet us at every opening of the leaves.
Fancy, on the other hand, is generally (but not always) glittering and cold—the preparatory machinery of poetry, without ils passion; sporting with sights which catch the eye only, and sounds which play but on the ear. It proceeds upon a principle of assimilation, and irradiates an idea with similes; but it leaves the original thought untouched, and merely surrounds it with things which ornament, without either hiding or changing it. Fancy seems like an after-thought, springing out of the original idea : but the Imagination is born with it, coequal, inextricable, like the colour and the shape of a flower. Imagination, indeed, is as it were a condensation of the Fancy; acting directly on the idea, and investing it with qualities to which it is the business of Fancy to compare it. The loftiest instances of the last-mentioned faculty are perhaps in Milton, as, where he describes " the populous North," when her“ barbarous sons
“ Came-like a deluge on the South!” or where he speaks of the archangel Satan, saying that
“ He stood-like a tower !” Here, although “ the populous North ”itself is imaginative, and the conception of Satan a grand fiction of the imagination, the likenesses ascribed to each are the work of Fancy. In both these cases, however, she soars almost beyond her region. Again, in the words of Lear,
“ Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm
Invades us to the skin;"
and the well-known line
“ How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank !" and in that fine expression of Timon, " the dying deck "—where he invests the mere planks of a vessel with all the deeds that have been acted upon them, and colours them with blood and death-it is the Imagination which is evidently at work : so is it also in the case of the “ wilderness of monkey8," where the inhabitants of the forest are made to stand for the forest itself
The grand distinction, in short, which exists between poetry and prose is, that the former (independently of its principle of elevation) presents two or more ideas, linked or massed together, where the latter would offer only
And hence arises the comparative unpopularity of the former with ordinary readers, who profer humble rhyme to poetry, and a single idea to a complicated one, inasmuch as it saves them from the fatigue of thinking. And the distinction between Imagination and Fancy is simply, that the former altogether changes and remodels the original idea, impregnating
it with something extraneous; the latter leaves it undisturbed, but associates it with things to which, in some view or other, it bears a resemblance.
In the foregoing examples of the operation of Imagination and Fancy, the effects produced by each are poetry. If Shakspeare had written
“ Thou think'st it much that this most violent storm
Should wet us to the skin," or
“ How sweet the moonlight shines upon this bank "_" (although the last line might still have been musical), he would certainly have written prose, and nothing more. When Cleopatra says,
“ Have I the aspic in my lips ?" the double idea may not be so obvious, but it is still there : the reptile is confounded with its power (its poison), and made one; the cause and the effect are amalgamated.
Truth was not made for the benefit of infidels, who are its foes; but for willing apprehensions; and, accordingly, it is to these only that Poetry addresses itself. It repels and recoils from the ignorant and the sceptical : the first, from some malformation or want of cultivation of the mind, are unable to comprehend it; and the latter try it by laws to which it is not lawfully subject. When Brutus, in Shakspeare's “ Tarquin and Lucrece,"
“ Began to clothe his wit in state and pride," we feel that this is not the language of prose ; and that, however pregnant the phrase may be to a willing ear, it is not the sober and severe language of a reasoner. Neither of these two last quotations are, as may be easily seen, absolute facts, because, as we have said, poetry is never literally true. Nevertheless, it must not be considered as void of truth because it is not a literal transcript of nature, or of ordinary life : were it so, we should never sympathise with it. On the contrary, it contains, as it were, the essence of truth, and is a concentration of its scattered powers. It is a world different from our own, but not in opposition to it; moved on the whole by the same passions, and subject to the same influences, as ourselves. It may be that some scene or character is listed entirely out of ordinary nature, as in the case of Satan, or the Red Cross Knight, Canibal, Ariel, and Oberon ; yet these, and all other grand fictions, are true to themselves, and maintain their proportions like a simple metaphor; and we shall generally find, that the natural passions prevail even in the most fantastic creations of the Muse.
Every one who has considered the subject will own that it is often impossible to justify the finest things in poetry to an unwilling mind, or upon ihe ordinary principles of logic. And the question which arises on this discovery is—which is imperfect? — the law, or the art? For our parts, we think the former. When Milton tells us of “ darkness visible!” we feel that he has uttered a fine paradox; we feel its truth, but cannot prove it. And when, in that appalling passage where the poet stands face to face with Night and Chaos, in their dark pavilion, " spread wide on the wasteful deep," and says that
"By them stood