Графични страници
PDF файл



[ocr errors]

from realising it in perception as any of our ancestors were. The like remarks apply to sound, and probably to all sensations. It need not excite incredulity, therefore, if we find activities in the intellectual faculties of whose modus operandi we are unconscious, since even the senses themselves present us with performances so inconceivably marvellous.

When we look at the sun setting, our mind is the unconscious recipient of a vast number of suggestions, the unwitting subject of a crowd of latent associations. Let us disentomb a few of them in the interests of psychological beauty. “The clouds that gather round the setting sun may suggest sparkling fountains, or the spray of waterfalls, delicate heaps of swansdown, great volumes of wool, or hills of everlasting snow; they may suggest lace curtains, clusters of crystal, jasper, diamonds, gold and silver ornaments burnished and blazing; they may seem like a glittering strand, or foam on a stream, or the sea breaking on the shore; they may look like ladders bridging chasms of the sky, or like lighthouses or watch towers; they may suggest waves of milk, fleecy feathers from angels' wings, celestial robes and veils, or a silver wilderness of rocks; by and by they may suggest a raging furnace, or a conflagration, or a volcanic eruption, and the melting and seething of rocks and cliffs and mountains. All these similes are not present to the mind in words, no doubt; nevertheless we are filled with the combined effect of hundreds of such suggestions, and we feel their presence though we can discriminate but a few of them, should we go home and read a poet's liberation of such analogies—and we might find a precedent for each of the above named—we should at once recognise the likeness, though we ourselves could never have transcribed the scene in terms so faithful or so fine. The effect of latent influences is felt every day, and especially when any great emotion seizes hold upon the mind. If we hear suddenly of the death of a dear friend, we are instantly thrown into a paroxysm of grief by reason of the united effect of the multitude of latent suggestions which the event embodies; for we do not, we cannot, immediately calculate or state in words all the consequences of the calamity, or foresee in a moment the various and immeasurable ways in which the misfortune will assert itself, in different places and in different persons, for many months to come. Most of our permanent modifications of character are due to latent and obscure but very potent influences. We read a book on logic, and by and by forget its details completely, yet we apprehend and reason better ever afterwards; how, we do not perceive. We read a work on elocution and forget its rules, yet we speak and read more correctly ever afterwards; how, we do not perceive. We hear a sublime speech or sermon, and forget every maxim it inculcated, yet our aspirations are higher ever afterwards; how, we cannot tell; we only know that such things affect us permanently. Thus it is that “histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend;” but how, we cannot tell; the influences are latent and the suggestions undefinable.

All minds are not, of course, equally poetical; the faculties of some are adapted to seek after and appreciate analogies much more than others; but if the analogies be not present in some shape, forming part of our own experience, there will be no beauty and consequently no admiration; no sublimity, and therefore no awe. Milton's classical. allusions in “ Paradise Lost'


admirable for others, but if I am not conversant with the literature of ancient Greece and Rome, I cannot recognise the justness of the similes; I cannot discern any analogy; I do not understand, and therefore I do not admire, the images; while at the same time I may be quite capable of admiring sculpture and painting and flowers. Every several class of beauty, therefore, requires a several education.



It is the people's part to experience beautiful analogies, it is the poet's province to liberate those analogies, and it is the people's again to appreciate them. Poetry consists, as was before stated, in the liberation of beautiful analogies; and as poetry covers a very large section of beauty, it will be worth while and very proper to inquire more particularly into the truth of this position. Poetic analogies may be divided into four great classes, according to the character of the suggesting subject or of the suggested object-viz.:

1. Physical phenomena which suggest physical pheno


2. Physical phenomena which suggest moral phenomena. 3. Moral phenomena which suggest physical phenomena. 4. Moral phenomena which suggest moral phenomena.

I think, upon a close analytical examination, the spirit and essence of all poetical passages will be found to resolve themselves into one or other of these four classes. It is no part of my purpose to trespass on the domain of ethics, and as the second and fourth of the above divisions are complicated with moral questions, it will be necessary to guard against being led astray, beyond what is essential to the task in hand, into that tempting but forbidden territory. Having scheduled a number of poetical passages, let us parcel them out under the above heads, and endeavour to show that each is poetical because of its liberation and elaboration of beautiful analogies. We shall consider the four classes in order.


IST CLASS Physical phenomena suggesting physical phenomena. This class comprises those passages in which physical objects and actions are made to suggest other physical objects or actions. This is much the easiest department of the art, and the wealthiest in analogies, many of which, however, are very obvious: a star suggests a diamond and a diamond a star, flowers suggest each other, bird suggests bird, and so on. This is incipient poetry. Let us now see how recognised poets deal with this physical beauty. Oranges have been already mentioned ; how does the orange enter into poetry? Through the analogies which may be fathered on it, and no otherwise. Its appearance while hanging on the tree in the shade reminds Marvel of “golden lamps in a green night.” Let us take another object of beauty, a star, for example. Stars receive a bountiful measure of attention from the poets: with Shelley the midnight sky resembles a " mantle grey star-inwrought," wrapping the form of night; while Shakespeare finds "that the floor of heaven is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold.” Keats likens a bright star to a solitary hermit, or nature's “sleepless eremite . . . watching with eternal lids apart;” and Campbell calls the evening star "companion of retiring day.” Both these last analogies are complicated with ethics.

1 The purpose in citing the follow. miration, the passages are printed as ing and other passages from the works prose, and the analogies they contain of poets being analysis and not ad. are italicised by the writer.

Birds with their songs are an inexhaustible mine of similitudes. Note Shelley's treatment of the skylark: with him the song and soaring motion of the bird suggest "a cloud of fire” springing up from the earth, a “star of heaven” heard but unseen-as Shakespeare had previously told us that even the smallest star “in his motion like an angel sings, still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins"the empty air, being filled with the music, suggests a bare night, when "from one lonely cloud the moon rains out her beams;" the notes are drops “from rainbow clouds." Then the bird is like a poet hidden in the light of thought, . like a high-born maiden in a palace tower, ... like a glowworm golden in a dell of dew, ... like a rose embowered in its own green leaves;” its song suggests the “sound of vernal showers on the twinkling grass" or "rain-awakened

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

flowers-music to which “chorus hymeneal or triumphal chaunt” is but an empty vaunt, compared with which "all treasures that in books are found” would be inferior.

Flowers form another class of great physical beauty. When Wordsworth looks at the daffodils, they seem like a crowd, a host, fluttering and dancing in the breeze, continuous as the stars ; ten thousand he saw

tossing their heads in sprightly dance." Note the similes which, in the same author's hands, cluster round the daisy—“a nun demure, of lowly port; a sprightly maiden of love's court; a queen in crown of rubies drest; a starveling in a scanty vest ; a little Cyclops with one eye ; a silver shield with boss of gold; a pretty star, with glittering crest self-poised in air,” &c.; and when all this analysis of association is ended, we go back to synthesis again as the proper cover for these similitudes—“Sweet flower! for by that name at last, when all my reveries are past, I call thee, and to that cleave fast.”

Complex scenes in nature are, as might be supposed, a bottomless ocean of poetic beauty. Shelley's lines written in the Euganean Hills will be found instructive in this respect—“The waveless plain of Lombardy” is spread before him “like a green sea,” not unbroken by land, but islanded by cities fair.” Venice, the theme of so many apostrophes and the embodiment of so many types, is here" ocean's nursling; ocean's child and then his queen.These ideas lead to mythology and " Amphitrite's destined halls.The sun upsprings behind the city from a chasm of light,” while the towers and spires become “ obelisks of fire, pointing from the altar of dark ocean, as the flames of sacrificearose of old in Apollo's time; noon descends, and the soft purple mist is “like a vaporous amethyst or an air-dissolved star;” on the plains below lie leaves "where the infant frost has trodden with his morning-wingéd feet," while the vines, red and golden with their trellised lines, pierce the “dark-skirted wilderness ;” and in the south is dimly seen the “olive-sandalled Apennine." This is true

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »