Imágenes de páginas

chanism, I regard as a highly favorable promise in the composi. tions of a young man.

The man that hath not music in his soul, can indeed never be a genuine poet. Imagery--(even taken from nature, much more when transplanted from books, as travels, voyages, and works of natural history)-affecting incidents, just thoughts, interesting personal or domestic feelings, and with these the art of their combination or intertexture in the form of a poem --may all by incessant effort be acquired as a trade, by a man of talent and much reading, who, as I once before observed, has mistaken an intense desire of poetic reputation for a natural poetic genius; the love of the arbitrary end for a possession of the peculiar means. But the sense of musical delight, with the power of producing it, is a gift of imagination ; and this, together with the power of reducing multitude into unity of effect, and modifying a series of thoughts by some one predominant thought or feeling, may be cultivated and improved, but can never be learned. It is in these that “ poeta nascitur, non fit.

2. A second promise of genius is the choice of subjects very remote from the private interests and circumstances of the writer himself. At least I have found, that where the subject is taken immediately from the author's personal sensations and experiences, the excellence of a particular poem is but an equivocal mark, and often a fallacious pledge, of genuine poetic power. We may perhaps remember the tale of the statuary, who had acquired considerable reputation for the legs of his goddesses, though the rest of the statue accorded but indifferently with ideal beauty ; till his wife, elated by her husband's praises, modestly acknowledged that she had been his constant model. In the VENUS AND ADONIS this proof of poetic power exists even to ex

It is throughout as if a superior spirit, more intuitive, more intimately conscious, even than the characters themselves, pot only of every outward look and act, but the flux and reflux of the mind in all its subtlest thoughts and feelings, were placing the whole before our view ; himself meanwhile unparticipating in the passions, and actuated only by that pleasurable excitement,



3 [“ The man that hath not music in himself.”—Merchant of Venice, r. sc. 1 Ed.]

which had resulted from the energetic fervor of his own spirit in so vividly exhibiting what it had so accurately and profoundly contemplated. I think, I should have conjectured from these poems, that even then the great instinct, which impelled the poet to the drama, was secretly working in him, prompting himby a series and never braken chain of imagery, always vivid and, because unbroken, often minute ; by the highest effort of the picturesque in words, of which words are capable, higher perhaps than was ever realized by any other poet, even Dante not excepted ; to provide a substitute for that visual language, that constant intervention and running comment by tone, look, and gesture, which in his dramatic works he was entitled to expect from his players. His Venus and Adonis seem at once the characters themselves, and the whole representations of those characters by the most consummate actors. You seem to be told

• ["Consider how he paints,” says Mr. Carlyle, “ he has a great power of vision; seizes the very type of a thing ; presents that and nothing more You remember the first view he gets of the Hall of Dite; red pinnacle red hot cone of iron glowing through the immensity of gloom ;—so vivid 80 distinct, visible at once and for ever! It is as an emblem of the whole genius of Dante.” “Milton,” says Lessing in his Laokoon, can indeed fill no galleries. Yet is the Par. Lost the first Epic after Homer no whi the less because it affords few pictures, than the History of Christ is Poem, because we cannot put so much as a nail's head upon it without hitting on a place which has employed a crowd of the greatest artists. “A poetic picture is not necessarily that which can be converted into a material picture ; but every stroke or combination of strokes, by which the Poet makes his object so sensuous to us, that we are more conscious of this object than of his words, may be called picturesque.” Thus Dante's squilla di lontano (Purg., c. viii., 1.5) may well be called a picture. His picture-words have not done much for the material painter's art, if we may judge by Flaxınan's illustrations. The famous image in the Purgatorio

solo guardando
A guisa di leon quando si posa,

is, as has been shown, not a mere presentation of " picturable matter," but a picture ready drawn and “ so clearly visible that the pencil cannot make its outline clearer.” (See Art on Pindar, Q. Review, March, 1834.) Yet it would be nothing in a material painting, because the illustration and the thing illustrated could not be given together. S. C.]

nothing, but to see and hear everything. Hence it is, from the perpetual activity of attention required on the part of the reader; from the rapid flow, the quick change, and the playful nature of the thoughts and images ; and above all from the alienation, and, if I may hazard such an expression, the utter aloofness of the

1 poet's own feelings, from those of which he is at once the painter ard the analyst ;—that though the very subject cannot but detract from the pleasure of a delicate mind, yet never was poem less dangerous on a moral account. Instead of doing as Ariosto, and as, still more offensively, Wieland has done, instead of degrad. ing and deforming passion into appetite, the trials of love into the struggles of concupiscence ;-Shakspeare has here represented the animal impulse itself, so as to preclude all sympathy with it, by dissipating the reader's notice among the thousand outward ima. ges, and now beautiful, now fanciful circumstances, which form its dresses and its scenery: or by diverting our attention from the main subject by those frequent witty or profound reflec. tions, which the poet's ever active mind has deduced from, or connected with, the imagery and the incidents. The reader is forced into too much action to sympathize with the merely passive of our nature. As little can a mind thus roused and awakened be brooded on by mean and indistinct emotion, as the low, lazy mist can creep upon the surface of a lake, while a strong gale is driv. ing it onward in waves and billows.

3. It has been before observed that images, however beautiful, though faithfully copied from nature, and as accurately repre. sented in words, do not of themselves characterize the poet. They become proofs of original genius only as far as they are modified by a predominant passion; or by associated thoughts or images awakened by that passion; or when they have the ef. fect of reducing multitude to unity,' or succession to an instant'; or lastly, when a human and intellectual life is transferred to them from the poet's own spirit,

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6 [" The truth is, he does not possess imagination in its highest form, that of stamping il più nell' uno." Table Talk, 281, 2d ed.

“ The Imagination modifies images, and gives unity to variety; it sees all things in one, il più nell uno." Ib., p. 306. Ed.]

Which shoots its being through earth, sea, and air.6 In the two following lines for instance, there is nothing objec. tionable, nothing which would preclude them from forming, in their proper place, part of a descriptive poem :

Behold yon row of pines, that shorn and bow'd
Bend from the sea-blast, seen at twilight eve.



But with a small alteration of rhythm, the same words would be equally, in their place in a book of topography, or in a descriptive tour. The same image will rise into a semblance of poetry if thus conveyed :

Yon row of bleak and visionary pines,
By twilight glimpse discerned, mark! how they flee
From the fierce sea-blast, all their tresses wild

Streaming before them. I have given this as an illustration, by no means as an instance, of that particular excellence which I had in view, and in which Shakspeare, even in his earliest, as in his latest works, surpasses 1 all other poets. It is by this, that he still gives a dignity and a passion to the objects which he presents. Unaided by any previous excitement, they burst upon us at once in life and in power,


“Full many a glorious morning have I seen

Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye.” “Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

of the wide world dreaming on things to come

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage ;
Incertainties now crown themselves assurd,
And Peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes.

• [France. An ode. Mr. C.'s P. W., i., p. 132. Ed.]

(Shakspeare's 33d Sonnet. Ed.]

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,

When tyrants' crests, and tombs of brass are spent." 5 As of higher worth, so doubtless still more characteristic of poetic genius does the imagery become, when it moulds and colors itself to the circumstances, passion, or character, present and foremost in the mind. For unrivalled instances of this ex. cellence, the reader's own memory will refer him to the LEAR, OTHELLO, in short to which not of the "great, ever living, dead man's” dramatic works? Inopem me copia fecit. How true it is to nature, he has himself finely expressed in the instance of love in his 98th Sonnet.

“ From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April drest in all its trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything;
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them, where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lilies white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were, tho'sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,

As with your shadow, I with these did play! Scarcely less sure, or if a less valuable, not less indispensable mark

Γόνιμου μέν ποιητού

όστις ρημα γενναιον λάκοι, 10 will the imagery supply, when, with more than the power of the painter, the poet gives us the liveliest image of succession with the feeling of simultaneousness :

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8 [Sonnet cvii. Ed.]

9 [See Table Talk, pp. 229-31, 2d edit., for Mr. Coleridge's general view of Shakspeare's Sonnets, and also Mr. Knight's valuable essay on the same subject in that beautiful edition of our great poet by which he has rendered so signal and enduring a service to the cause of English literature. Ed.]

10 (Aristoph., Rana, V., 96-7. Mr. Frere, in the tone of the Bacchus of the play, translates thus :

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