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But for any poetic purposes, metre resembles (if the aptness of the simile may excuse its meanness) yeast, worthless or disagreeable by itself, but giving vivacity and spirit to the liquor with which it is proportionally combined.
The reference to The CHILDREN IN THE Wood' by no means satisfies my judgment. We all willingly throw ourselves back for awhile into the feelings of our childhood. This ballad, therefore, we read under such recollections of our own childish feel. ings, as would equally endear to us poems, which Mr. Words. worth himself would regard as faulty in the opposite extreme of gaudy and technical ornament. Before the invention of printing, and, in a still greater degree, before the introduction of writ. ing, metre, especially alliterative metre (whether alliterative at the beginning of the words, as in PIERCE PLOUMAN, or at the end, as in rhymes), possessed an independent value as assisting the recollection, and, consequently, the preservation, of any series of truths or incidents. But I am not convinced, by the collation of facts, that The Children IN THE Wood owes either its preser. vation or its popularity to its metrical form. Mr. Marshal's repository affords a number of tales in prose inferior in pathos and general merit, some of as old a date, and many as widely popular. TOM HICKATHRIFT, JACK THE GIANT-KILLER, GOODY Two-SHOES, and LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD, are formidable rivals. And that they have continued in prose, cannot be fairly explained by the assumption, that the comparative meanness of their thoughts and images precluded even the humblest forms of metre. The scene of Goody Two-SHOES in the church is perfectly susceptible of metrical narration ; and, among the Oavuara bavuaciórara, even of the present age, I do not recollect a more astonishing image than that of the “whole rookery, that flew out of the giant's beard,” scared by the tremendous voice with which this monster answered the challenge of the heroic Tom HICKATHRIFT !
If from these we turn to compositions universally, and inde. pendently of all early associations, beloved and admired; would
. [P. 333. S.C.)
The Maria, The Monk, or The Poor Man's Ass of Sterne,' be read with more delight, or have a better chance of immortality, had they, without any change in the diction, been composed in rhyme, than in their present state? If I am not grossly mis. taken, the general reply would be in the negative. Nay, I will confess that, in Mr. Wordsworth's own volumes, the ANECDOTE FOR FATHERS, Simon LEE, ALICE FELL, BEGGARS, and The Sailor's MOTHER," notwithstanding the beauties which are to be found in each of them where the poet interposes the music of hi own thoughts, would have been more delightful to me in prosi told and managed, as by Mr. Wordsworth they would have bee, in a moral essay or pedestrian tour.
Metre in itself is simply a stimulant of the attention, ar ! therefore excites the question—Why is the attention to be thui stimulated ? Now, the question cannot be answered by the pleasure of the metre itself: for this we have shown to be conditional, and dependent on the appropriateness of the thoughts and expressions, to which the metrical form is superadded. Neither v can I conceive any other answer, that can be rationally given, short of this :-[ write in metre, because I am about to use a language different from that of prose. Besides, where the language is not such, how interesting soever the reflections are, that are capable of being drawn by a philosophic mind from the thoughts or incidents of the poem, the metre itself must often become feeble. Take the three last stanzas of The Sailor's Mother, for instance. If I could for a moment abstract from the effect produced on the author's feelings, as a man, by the incident at the time of its real occurrence, I would dare appeal to his own judgment, whether in the metre itself he found a suffi. cient reason for their being written metrically?
[Sentimental Journey and Tristram Shandy. Works, 1i., pp. 247, 394, 271, 312. S. C.]
10 [P. W., i., p. 22. V., p. 17. i., p. 13. ii., p. 101. i., p. 282.
And I have travelled far as Hull, to see
I trail it with me, Sir! he took so much delight in it.” If, disproportioning the emphasis, we read these stanzas so as to make the rhymes perceptible, even tri-syllable rhymes could scarcely produce an equal sense of oddity and strangeness, as we feel here in finding rhymes at all in sentences so exclusively col. loquial. I would further ask whether, but for that visionary state, into which the figure of the woman and the susceptibility of his own genius had placed the poet's imagination—a state which spreads its influence and coloring over all, that co-exists with the exciting cause, and in which
“ The simplest, and the most familiar things
Gain a strange power of spreading awe around them,”) 12
11 [In the edit. of 1840,
If aught which he had owned might still remain or me."
“From bodings, as might be, that hung upon hi mind.” The end of stanza 6 has been altered thus:
“ And pipe its song in safety ;-there
I found it when my Son-was dead;
I bear it with me, Sir ;-he took so much deligh in it.” S. C.'' 12 Altered from the description of Night-Mair in the I (MORSE. “ Oh Heaven! 'twas frightful! Now run down and cared at
By hideous shapes that cannot be remembered;
I would ask the poet whether he would not have felt an abrupt
“ The ancient spirit is not dead ;
Old times, thought I, are breathing there;
It must not be omitted, and is besides worthy of notice, that
Thirdly, I deduce the position from all the causes elsewhere
While every goodly or familiar form
Had a strange power of spreading terror round me !"*
* [Coleridge's Poetical Works, il., p. 209. Act. iv., sc. 1. Altered thus:
O sleep of horrors! Now run down and stared at
lowed to imply and to produce, an unusual state of excitement, which of course justifies and demands a correspondent difference of language, as truly, though not perhaps in as marked a degree, as the excitement of love, fear, rage, or jealousy. The vivid. ness of the descriptions or declamations in Donne, or Dryden, is as much and as often derived from the force and fervor of the describer, as from the reflections, forms, or incidents, which constitute their subject and materials. The wheels take fire from the mere rapidity of their motion. To what extent, and under what modifications, this may be admitted to act, I shall attempt to define in an after remark on Mr. Wordsworth’s reply to this objection, or rather on his objection to this reply, as already an. ticipated in his preface.
Fourthly, and as intimately connected with this, if not the same argument in a more general form, I adduce the high spiritual instinct of the human being impelling us to seek unity by harmonious adjustment, and thus establishing the principle, that ] all the parts of an organized whole must be assimilated to the more important and essential parts. This and the preceding arguments may be strengthened by the reflection, that the composition of a poem is among the imitative arts; and that imita. tion, as opposed to copying, consists either in the interfusion
of the same throughout the radically different, or of the different throughout a base radically the same.
Lastly, I appeal to the practice of the best poets, of all coun. } tries and in all ages, as authorizing the opinion (deduced
from all the foregoing) that in every import of the word essential, which would not here involve a mere truism, there may be, is, and ought to be, an essential difference between the language of prose and of metrical composition.
In Mr. Wordsworth's criticism of Gray's Sonnet, the reader's sympathy with his praise or blame of the different parts is taken for granted rather perhaps too easily. He has not, at least, attempted to win or compel it by argumentative analysis. In my conception at least, the lines rejected as of no value do, with the exception of the two first, differ as much and as little from the language of common life, as those which he has printed in italics as possessing genuine excellence. Of the five lines thug