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reading ought to differ from talking. Unless therefore the differ. ence denied be that of the mere words, as materials common to all styles of writing, and not of the style itself in the universally admitted sense of the term, it might be naturally presumed that there must exist a still greater between the ordonnance of poetic composition and that of prose, than is expected to distinguish prose from ordinary conversation.
There are not, indeed, examples wanting in the history of literature, of apparent paradoxes that have summoned the public wonder as new and startling truths, but which, on examination, have shrunk into tame and harmless truisms; as the eyes of a cat, seen in the dark, have been mistaken for flames of fire. But Mr. Wordsworth is among the last men, to whom a delusion of this kind would be attributed by any one, who had enjoyed the slightest opportunity of understanding his mind and character. Where an objection has been anticipated by such an author as natural, his answer to it must needs be interpreted in some sense which either is, or has been, or is capable of being controverted. My objeet then must be to discover some other meaning for the term “essential difference” in this place, exclusive of the indistinction and community of the words themselves. For whether there ought to exist a class of words in the English, in any degree resembling the poetic dialect of the Greek and Italian, is a ques. tion of very subordinate importance. The number of such words would be small indeed, in our language ; and even in the Italian and Greek, they consist not so much of different words, as of slight differences in the forms of declining and conjugating the same words; forms, doubtless, which having been, at some period more or less remote, the common grammatic flexions of some tribe or province, had been accidentally appropriated to poetry by the general admiration of certain master intellects, the first es. tablished lights of inspiration, to whom that dialect happened to be native.
Essence, in its primary signification, means the principle of individuation, the inmost principle of the possibility of anything, as that particular thing. It is equivalent to the idea of a thing, whenever we use the word, idea, with philosophic precision. Existence, on the other hand, is distinguished from essence, by
the superinduction of reality. Thus we speak of the essence,
, and essential properties of a circle ; but we do not, therefore, assert, that anything, which really exists, is mathematically cir. cular. Thus, too, without any tautology, we contend for the existence of the Supreme Being ; that is, for a reality correspon. dent to the idea. There is, next, a secondary use of the word essence, in which it signifies the point or ground of contra-distinction between two modifications of the same substance or sub. ject. Thus we should be allowed to say, that the style of archi. tecture of Westminster Abbey is essentially different from that of Saint Paul, even though both had been built with blocks cut into the same form, and from the same quarry. Only in this latter sense of the term must it have been denied by Mr. Wordsworth (for in this sense alone is it affirmed by the general opinion) that the language of poetry (that is the formal construc tion, or architecture, of the words and phrases) is essentially different from that of prose. Now, the burden of the proof lies with the oppugner, not with the supporters of the coinmon belief. Mr. Wordsworth, in consequence, assigns, as the proof of his position, “ that not only the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most elevated character, must neces. sarily, except with reference to the metre, in no respect differ from that of good prose, but likewise that some of the most inter. esting parts of the best poems will be found to be strictly the language of prose,
is well written. The truth of this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost all the poetical writings, even of Milton himself.” He then quotes Gray's sonnet
“ In vain to me the smiling mornings shine;
And reddening Phæbus lifts his golden fire;
The fields to all their wonted tribute bear;
and adds the following remark :-" It will easily be perceived, that the only part of this Sonnet which is of any value, is the lines printed in Italics; it is equally obvious, that, except in the rhyme, and in the use of the single word “fruitless' for fruitlessly, which is so far a defect, the language of these lines does in no respect differ from that of prose.'
An idealist, defending his system by the fact that when asleep we often believe ourselves awake, was well answered by his plain neighbor, “ Ah, but when awake do we ever believe ourselves asleep?" Things_identical must be convertible. The preceding passage seems to rest on a similar sophisin. For the question is not, whether there may not occur in prose an order of words, which would be equally proper in a poem ; nor whether there are not beautiful lines and sentences of frequent occurrence in good poems, which would be equally becoming as well as beautiful in good prose ; for neither the one nor the other has ever been denied or doubted by any one. The true question must be, whether there are not modes of expression, a construction, and an order of sentences, which are in their fit and natural place in a serious prose composition, but would be disproportionate .and heterogeneous in metrical poetry; and, vice versâ, whether in the language of a serious poem there may not be an arrangement both of words and sentences, and a use and selection of (what are called) figures of speech, both as to their kind, their frequency, and their occasions, which on a subject of equal weight would be vicious and alien in correct and manly prose. I con1 vend, that in both cases this unfitness of each for the place of the other frequently will and ought to exist.
And first, from the origin of metre. This I would irace to the balance in the mind effected by that spontaneous effort which strives to hold in check the workings of passion. - It might be easily explained likewise in what manner this salutary antagonism
is assisted ły the very state which it counteracts; and how this balance of intagonists became organized into metre (in the usual acceptation of that term), by a supervening act of the will and judgment, consciously, and for the foreseen purpose of pleasure. Assuming these principles, as the data of our argument, web deduce from them two legitimate conditions, which the critic is entitled to expect in every metrical work. First, that, as ine elements of metre owe their existence to a state of increased excitement, so the metre itself should be accompanied by the natural language of excitement. Secondly, that as these elements are formed into metre artificially, by a voluntary act, with the design and for the purpose of blending delight with emotion, so the traces of present volition should throughout the metrical language be proportionably discernible. Now, these two conditions must be reconciled and co-present.
There must be not only a partnership, but a union; an interpenetration of passion and of will, of spontaneous impulse and of voluntary purpose. Again, this union can be manifested only in a frequency of forms and figures of speech (originally the offspring of passion, but now the adopted children of power) greater than would be desired or endured, where the emotion is not voluntarily encouraged and kept up for the sake of that pleasure which such emotion, so tempered and mastered by the will, is found capable of communicating. It not only dictates, but of itself tends to produce, a mort frequent employment of picturesque and vivifying language than would be natural in any other case, in which there did not exist, as there does in the present, a previous and well understood, though tacit, compact between the poet and his reader, that the latter is entitled to expect, and the former bound to supply this species and degree of pleasurable excitement. We may, in some measure, apply to this union the answer of Polixenes, in the Winter's Tale, to Perdita's neglect of the streaked gilliflowers, because she had heard it said,
“There is an art, which, in their piedness, shares
Say there be ;
Which, you say, adds to nature, is an art
Secondly, I argue from the effects of metre. As far as metre acts in and for itself, it tends to increase the vivacity and susceptibility both of the general feelings and of the attention. This effect it produces by the continued excitement of surprise, and by the quick reciprocations of curiosity still gratified and still re-excited, which are too slight, indeed, to be at any one moment objects of distinct consciousness, yet become considerable in their aggregate influence. As a medicated atmosphere, or as wine during animated conversation, they act powerfully, though them. selves unnoticed. Where, therefore, correspondent food and appropriate matter are not provided for the attention and feelings thus roused, there must needs be a disappointment felt; like that of leaping in the dark from the last step of a staircase, when we had prepared our muscles for a leap of three or four.
The discussion on the powers of metre in the preface is highly ingenious, and touches at all points on truth. But I cannot find Lany statement of its powers considered abstractly and separately. On the contrary, Mr. Wordsworth seems always to estimate metre by the powers which it exerts during (and, as I think, in consequence of) its combination with other elements of poetry. Thus the previous difficulty is left unanswered, what the elements are with which it must be combined in order to produce its own effects to any pleasurable purpose. Double and tri-syllable rhymes, indeed, form a lower species of wit, and, attended to for their own sake, may become a source of momentary amusement; as, in poor Smart's distich to the Welsh Squire who had promised him a hare:
“ Tell me, thou son of great Cadwallader !
Hast sent the hare? or hast thou swallow'd her »