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ore media ne on merBut the inity of ima profusio head
to you all the while. But in verse you must do more;—there the words, the media, must be beautiful, and ought to attract your notice-yet not so much and so perpetually as to destroy the unity which ought to result from the whole poem. This is the general rule, but, of course, subject to some modifications, according to the different kinds of prose or verse. Some prose may approach towards verse, as oratory, and therefore a more studied exhibition of the media may be proper ; and some verse may border more on mere narrative, and there the style should be simpler. But the great thing in poetry is, quocunque modo, to effect a unity of impression upon the whole; and a too great fullness and profusion of point in the parts will prevent this. Who can read with pleasure more than a hundred lines or so of Hudibras at one time? Each couplet or quatrain is so whole in itself, that you can't connect them. There is no fusion-just as it is in Seneca.
T. T. July 3, 1833.
Parodies Parodies on new poems are read as satires ; on old ones—the soliloquy of Hamlet, for instance—as compliments. A man of genius may securely laugh at a mode of attack by which his reviler, in half a century or less, becomes his encomiast.
Taste, an Ethical Quality Modern poetry is characterized by the poets' anxiety to be always striking. There is the same march in the Greek and Latin poets. Claudian, who had powers to have been anything-observe in him this anxious, craving vanity! Every line, nay,
every word, stops, looks full in your face, and asks and begs for praise ! As in a Chinese painting, there are no distances, no perspective, but all is in the foreground; and this is nothing but vanity. I am pleased to think that, when a mere stripling, I had formed the opinion that true taste was virtue and that bad writing was bad feeling.
Anima Poetae, p. 165.
Ancient Mariner Mrs. Barbauld once told me that she admired the Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it-it was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that that might admit some question ; but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgement the poem had too much; and that the only, or chief fault, if I might say so, was the obtrusion of the moral sentiment so openly on the reader as a principle or cause of action in a work of such pure imagination. It ought to have had no more moral than the Arabian Nights' tale of the merchant's sitting down to eat dates by the side of a well, and throwing the shells aside, and lo! a genie starts up, and says he must kill the aforesaid merchant, because one of the date shells had, it seems, put out the eye of the genie's son.
I took the thought of grinning for joy', in that poem, from my companion's remark to me, when we had climbed to the top of Plinlimmon, and were nearly dead with thirst. We could not speak from the constriction, till we found a little puddle under a stone. He said to me—“You grinned like an idiot!' He had done the same.
T. T. May 31, 1830.
Criterion of Genius You will find this a good gage or criterion of genius—whether it progresses and evolves, or only spins upon itself. Take Dryden's Achitophel and Zimri-Shaftesbury and Buckingham ; every line adds to or modifies the character, which is, as it were, a-building up to the very last verse; whereas, in Pope's Timon, &c., the first two or three couplets contain all the pith of the character, and the twenty or thirty lines that follow are so much evidence or proof of overt acts of jealousy, or pride, or whatever it may be that is satirized. In like manner compare Charles Lamb's exquisite criticisms on Shakespeare with Hazlitt's round and round imitations of them.
T. T. Aug. 6, 1832.
it may be overt achat follow characters three cohereas,
Talent and Genius Talent, lying in the understanding, is often inherited; genius, being the action of reason and imagination, rarely or never.
T. T. May 21, 1830.
Few Poets from the Lower Classes It is very singular that no true poet should have arisen from the lower classes, when it is considered that every peasant who can read knows more of books now than did Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Homer; yet if we except Burns, none such have been.
Add. T. T.
BIOGRAPHIA LITERARIA, CHAPTER IV
The lyrical Ballads with the preface—Mr. Wordsworth's earlier
poems-On fancy and imagination–The investigation of the distinction important to the fine arts.
I have wandered far from the object in view, but as I fancied to myself readers who would respect the feelings that had tempted me from the main road; so I dare calculate on not a few, who will warmly sympathize with them. At present it will be sufficient for my purpose, if I have proved, that Mr. Southey's writings no more than my own furnished the original occasion to this fiction of a new school of poetry, and to the clamors against its supposed founders and proselytes.
As little do I believe that Mr. Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads were in themselves the cause. I speak exclusively of the two volumes so entitled. A careful and repeated examination of these confirms me in the belief, that the omission of less than an hundred lines would have precluded nine-tenths of the criticism on this work. I hazard this declaration, however, on the supposition, that the reader has taken it up, as he would have done any other collection of poems purporting to derive their subjects or interests from the incidents of domestic or ordinary life, intermingled with higher strains of meditation which the poet utters in his own person and character; with the proviso, that they were perused without knowledge of, or reference to, the author's peculiar opinions, and that the reader had not had his attention previously directed to those peculiarities. In these, as was actually the case with Mr. Southey's earlier works, the lines and passages which might have offended the general taste, would have been considered as mere inequalities, and attributed to inattention, not to perversity of judgement. The men of business who had passed their lives chiefly in cities, and who might therefore be expected to derive the highest pleasure from acute notices of men and manners conveyed in easy, yet correct and pointed language; and all those who, reading but little poetry, are most stimulated with that species of it, which seems most distant from prose, would probably have passed by the volumes altogether. Others more catholic in their taste, and yet habituated to be most pleased when most excited, would have contented themselves with deciding, that the author had been successful in proportion to the elevation of his style and subject. Not a few perhaps, might by their admiration of the lines written near Tintern Abbey', those “left upon a Seat under a Yew Tree', the old Cumberland beggar', and 'Ruth', have been gradually led to peruse with kindred feeling the ‘Brothers', the • Hart leap well ', and whatever other poems in that collection may be described as holding a middle place between those written in the highest and those in the humblest style; as for instance between the "Tintern Abbey', and the Thorn', or the “Simon Lee'. Should their taste submit to no further change, and still remain unreconciled to the colloquial phrases, or the imitations of them, that are, more or less, scattered through the class last mentioned ; yet even from the small number of the latter, they would have deemed them but an inconsiderable subtraction from the merit of the whole work; or, what is sometimes not unpleasing