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quently, disappointment instead of pleasure is produced. The cretics also are not agreeable, because the movement is neither pleasing in itself, nor consonant to the character of our language. And in all these measures Glover has betrayed a want of skill in his art: he seems to have counted syllables, like a schoolboy, and to have been satisfied if the lines scanned upon his fingers : not considering that and and than, or and of, to and from, with all their little relations, are words ill fitted for occupying a prominent station in metre, he has loaded his conjunctions with a weight of emphasis which they are not able to support, and forced his prepositions into preposterous places. Even if the matter of these chorusses had been better, the manner would have ruined them. Dr. Sayers committed no such error. He never employed a strongly-marked measure unless it was peculiarly appropriate,
and then he constructed his verses so, (having the language at command,) that they required no humouring from an indulgent reader, but that in the easy and natural pronunciation of the words, the accent should necessarily fall where the harmony of the line required it. Neither did he err, like Glover, in subjecting his unrhymed lyrics to a rule of uniformity, rendering the composition more difficult
, and the effect less pleasing. He arranged them, according to his own perception of metrical harmony, in lines of such length and cadence, as, by suiting the matter and the passion, should at once satisfy the judgement and content the ear. Perhaps he thought that the Greek chorusses were composed upon no other principle, and that a rule of metre, which the ablest critics have been unable to determine, might with much probability be resolved into the will and pleasure of the writer.
It has been often said that the surest test to which poetry can be subjected is to see if it retain its poetical spirit when transposed into prose,—that is, if it remains poetry when divorced. from metre, which is surely no fair experiment for those poems of which metre is a constituent part. Blank verse of every kind, and more especially the irregular form which Sayers introduced, affords a better and not less certain test: it can never be supported by mere sound and verbiage, as rhymed poems frequently are ; unless it stands by its own strength, it must fall. Therefore it is that so many writers, who have displayed no inconsiderable facility and power in rhyme, have totally failed when they attempted blank verse; and that the attempts at naturalizing it have failed of success in those countries, where, owing to the euphony of the language and its abundant rhymes, and the sonorous character even of trivial words, the people have been accustomed to a style of poetry more harmonious, but less essentially poetical, than that of the northern nations, and especially than our own.
incidents which would delight an Italian or a Spaniard in the octave stanza, would give them no pleasure in their blank verse : they would perceive a difference not less great than that of an opera-dancer, in her stage-dress, moving on the light fantastic toe, --from the same person slip-shod and in dishabille. But if blank verse be much more difficult than couplets or stanzas, that measure is itself not so difficult as the verse of Sayers's choruses. The poet who rejects the aid of uniformity takes upon himself a task of more arduous execution. Sayers has been followed by Mr. Southey in the metre of Thalaba and of many minor poems : he would have found more followers if the model had been as easy as it may appear to those who have had no experience in composition.
The dramatic sketches were much admired in Germany; two translations speedily appeared, and the German critics said, that the curse which for many years seemed to have rested on English poets, had been dissolved by Sayers. He was too easily satisfied with his success: the ambition, with which his biographer tells us he had commenced his career, seemed to have attained its object; and he never afterwards attempted anything of equal magnitude. This may, in some degree, be explained by the habit of procrastination in which he indulged, for he was almost a systematic postponer, and would often smile in cordial sympathy with his biographer, at the maxim, that he who leaves a thing undone, has always something to do.? But he had also fallen into another habit which is not less unfortunate, and which may very probably be traced to the sort of critical education bestowed upon him in early youth ; numerous minute corrections of his poems were found among his papers ; 'some put affirmatively, some hypothetically;' and time, which might better have been devoted to the execution of new works, was consumed in the fruitless and endless labour of touching and re-touching the productions of his youth. He had even written down certain general rules, indicating his principles of correction : for example, ' In the poems lessen epithets where I can; and read words in the singular for the plural, correct the style of my poems, making it more strong and plain throughout, omitting superfluous or too numerous epithets, as far as I can.' Some lines are too like the places they were borrowed from-change therefore.' Yet after all, says Mr. Taylor, this self-counsel is also put on record : “ Notwithstanding, my proposed corrections in the manuscripts herewith, or elsewhere, do not alter what I think will do well, and is sufficiently correct in my works.' Goethe,' Mr. Taylor adds, 'somewhere announces a similar sentiment, and observes that the first impressions made by a fine writer on his reader's memory, are so tenacious, that even the wisest emendations of his subsequent
editions are approached with unwelcome perturbation on a second perusal. But this should be of little weight: for if the work becomes part of the standard literature of its country, the corrected text is that which will be perpetually reprinted. More valid is the consideration, that in this minute criticism there is danger of altering for the sake of alteration; of preferring the substituted reading, merely because it is new; and injuring the passage, by making such substitutions when the feeling with which it was originally composed has past away.
The German critics observed a resemblance between Sayers and Gray. Like Gray, he drew his allusions more from what he read than from what he saw; and may, therefore, more frequently be traced to books than to the poetry of nature.
The habit of careful and fastidious elaboration is another point of resemblance. Latterly he considered Dryden as the best model of a poet, saying that whoever wishes to acquire a skill in English versification must give his nights and days to the volumes of Dryden, for from no other writer can we derive an equally strong idea of the majesty, force, and sweetness of the English tongue. But it is unwise advice, to recommend this exclusive attention to the writings of any single author; nor is Dryden, with all his merits, the one to whom we should refer, as, either in verse or prose, best exhibiting the richness and the power of the English language. The young poet may derive more benefit from a remark of Sayers, when applying to poetry his theory of beauty, which was, that it is not inherent in forms, features, or complexions, but depends entirely upon the ideas associated with them : in application of this, he says, it is scarcely necessary to observe, that the beauty of a poem depends upon the pleasing ideas or emotions produced by the various expressions that are used in it; but the principle of association goes so far, that it is by no means unfrequent to find passages in our best English poets by which no clear or connected ideas are raised; or in which ideas even repugnant to sense or propriety are to be detected, but which, notwithstanding, merely from agreeable association with the words, are generally received as beautiful.' After some illustrations of this, he adds, ' I am far from intending to defend this practice in poetry, because it has in many cases succeeded : when the passages are considered, and their impropriety detected, the idea of imperfection or absurdity is found with them, and they are no longer beautiful.'
These remarks occur in a volume of disquisitions Metaphysical and Literary, which were his second publication. They were followed by one of Miscellanies, Antiquarian and Historical, and these by a little collection of his minor poems, under the title of * Nugæ Poeticæ.' The most remarkable of these is a fragment
upon Jack the Giant-killer, introduced by the following advertisement.
• The Luise of Voss, and the Herman and Dorothea of Goethe, (both professedly written in the manner of the first of poets,) having been much admired by the German public, I trust that the English reader will be disposed to receive, with some indulgence, the attempt which I have made to celebrate, in Homeric strains, one of the most noted achievements of a famous British hero.
• I have been so anxious to abide by my model on this occasion, that I have not hesitated to interweave, into the following composition, translations of a variety of passages, epithets, &c., which occur in the works of the great writer whom I have presumed to imitate.'
That species of burlesque which has been sometimes exhibited in travesties of Homer and Virgil is perfectly detestable; and when applied, as it has been in our days, to those works of Shakspeare which are the pride and glory of our literature, it offends the moral sense as much as it insults the national feeling. Men must be in a strange state of moral perversion and intellectual obliquity, who can contemplate the noblest productions of human genius, for no other purpose than that of finding in those thoughts and expressions, which thrill the heart and elevate the imagination of others, something whereon to fasten a fow jest, or ludicrous association, that may debase them. Sayers's pleasantry is of a very different kindthough neither the Luise of Voss, nor the Herman and Dorothea of Goethe, would have suggested it, had he perused them in the original : it was a pitiful translation of the latter poem by Holcroft, which made the minuteness of its details appear ridiculous. There are, and will continue to be, different opinions about the conception and about the tendency of many of Goethe's works : but on one point there is no dispute ;—in his execution there is uniformly the hand of a great artist. Those details, which are nieagre and worthless in a miserable version that has not even the common charm of metre to render it passable, (for Holcroft was actually ignorant of the common laws for blank verse,) are universally admired by the Germans, to whom the things themselves are familiar, as belonging to every-day usages of ordinary life. It is not, therefore, because the matter of these details was beneath poetry, that Sayers was displeased, but because in Holcroft's limping lines the poetry was beneath the subject. The original may be likened to one of Gainsborough’s pictures of rustic life; the translation is what a coarse engraving of that picture would be, bedaubed with colours for an alehouse parlour.
The humour, therefore, of this fragment, though satirically intended, fails in its satire, because neither Voss nor Goethe have
treated in grandiloquous verse those subjects which are essentially anti-poetical. It bears the same relation to the style of Cowper's Homer, that the · Splendid Shilling' does to the blank verse of Milton: and considered in that light, is, as the annexed extract will prove, excellent in itself.
• To whom the giant-killing Jack replied ;