Графични страници
PDF файл

However, when we reflect upon the close sympathy between the body and mind, upon the tendency of corporal debility to deaden the taste for simple pleasures, and for the charms of Nature, we perceive the necessity of city resources, for that varied amusement, which is necessary to every degree

of health.

“ If Nature pleases not, we fly to Art.”

For myself, I should be sorry to live in any place where the freshness, sweetness, and beauty of the vegetable world, might not daily meet my senses, and pour

their soft balms over the pains of disappointment, and the griefs of deprivation. Nature, even in her wintry garb, delights me. You know my situation, though on the edge of a little city, is perfectly rural, unheard its din, and surrounded by fields and groves. While amongst them

“ I find in winter many a scene to please;

The rude stone fence, with fragrant wall-flowers gay, The sun at noon, seen thro' the leafless trees,

The clear calm ether at the close of day.”

You have not, any more than myself, lost your taste for these pure delights of the eye and spirit, I regret that it has so seldom been allowed us to share them together.



Lichfield, March 25, 1787.

YOUR objection to the little discords which are, in some degree, inevitable to every language, and which, blending with the concords, rather increase than lessen the general harmony; your pettish quarrel with the letter s, which has very picturesque powers of sound; these, and other prejudices of the same sickly complexion, are unfortunate for your poetic pleasures, and render you, who are a man of genius and knowledge, a bad critic.

Shakespeare, Milton, Gray, &c.—even Pope, who is allowed to have carried the delicacy of harmonic refinement as far as it can safely go,— these poets have, in their best passages, a number of lines which contain similar discords to those with which you quarrel in this verse of Dryden's,

"Fed on the lawns, and in the forests rang'd."

It is agreed that the ne plus ultra of verbal melody, exists in the Eloisa to Abelard; yet, con

taining lines like these, your coy ear will doubt

less scarce endure it.

"What means this tumult in a vestal's veins ?”


"No weeping orphan saw its father's stores."
"Priests, tapers, temples, swim before my sight."
"No silver saints by dying misers given."


"If ever chance two wand'ring lovers brings."

Also, in Gray,

"And you that from the stately heights
Of Windsor's brow."

Your unclassical aversion to the letter s, for the Latin has it abundantly as our own language, must, I conclude, deaden your ear to the music of this line of Gray,

"Fields, that cool Ilissus laves."

And to these lines of Milton,


"Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.”

"On whose fresh lap the swart star sparely looks."

Also, to the celebrated couplet of Dryden's, when the lyre of Timotheus changes from rude and martial to delightful sounds.

"Softly sweet in Lydian measures,

Soon he sooth'd the soul to pleasures."

I know not lines in which the letter s is more liberally used, and they were chosen by Dryden to express the most agreeable sensations.

Those who desire to have a just perception of poetic excellence, must, with manly spirit, look for general harmony, superior to sickly niceties about verbal arrangement. They must have no squeamishness about the letters, since no consonant has more power of painting to the ear-instance from the Penseroso of Milton, a wintry morning of Spring,

"Usher'd with a shower still,
When the gust has blown its fill."

In that first line it is the repetition of the letter s, which enables it so exactly to represent, by sound, a silent shower, as it descends. I am not afraid to assert, that there is a similar instance of sound echoing sense in my poem Louisa, thus



"And tossing the green sea-weed o'er and o'er,
Creeps the hush'd billow on the shelly shore."

When a calin sea advances on the sands, we always hear a sound spelt thus, ush-ush-ush.

Garrick, whose ear was indisputable, certainly, since he composed the Jubilee himself, and was to speak it, took care that it contained no verse whose dissonance must unavoidably grate the ear of people of taste—yet has it this line,

""Tis Shakespeare!-Shakespeare !-Shakespeare!"

Harsh as it is, I dont believe it was disgustingly so from his lip-and a poet is always to suppose his verses will be read well. No reader that knows not how to cover these little asperities, and melt them, by judicious intonation, into the general harmony, will ever give the power and proper effect to the most musical couplets. Every poetic writer will exclaim

"O save my lines from being read by those,
Whose rapid accent makes verse senseless prose ?"

A good poet, committing himself to the skill of his reciter, will not scruple to use sounds in themselves unmusical, but in which more is gained on

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »