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I object, in the very first instance, to an equivocation in the use of the word “real.” Every man's language varies, according to the extent of his knowledge, the activity of his faculties, and the depth or quickness of his feelings. Every man's language has, first, its individualities ; secondly, the common properties of the class to which he belongs; and, thirdly, words and phrases of universal use. The language of Hooker, Bacon Bishop Taylor, and Burke, differs from the common language of the learned class only by the superior number and novelty of the thoughts and relations which they had to convey. The lan- . guage of Algernon Sydney differs not at all from that, which every well educated gentleman would wish to write, and (with due allowances for the undeliberateness, and less connected train of thinking natural and proper to conversation) such as he would wish to talk. Neither one nor the other differs half as much from the general language of cultivated society, as the language of Mr. Wordsworth's homeliest composition differs from that of a common peasant. For “ real,” therefore, we must! substitute ordinary, or lingua communis. And this, we have proved, is no more to be found in the phraseology of low and rustic life than in that of any other class. Omit the peculiari- . ties of each, and the result of course must be common to all. And assuredly the omissions and changes to be made in the language of rustics, before it could be transferred to any species of poem, except the drama or other professed imitation, are at least as numerous and weighty, as would be required in adapting to the same purpose the ordinary language of tradesmen and manufacturers. Not to mention, that the language so highly extolled by Mr. Wordsworth varies in every county, nay, in every village, according to the accidental character of the clergyman, the existence or non-existence of schools; or even, perhaps, as the exciseman, publican, and barber happen to be, or not to be, zealous politicians, and readers of the weekly newspaper pro bono publico. Anterior to cultivation, the lingua communis of every country, as Dante has well observed, exists everywhere in parts, and nowhere as a whole.
Neither is the case rendered at all more tenable by the addi. tion of the words, “ in a state of excitement." For the nature
of a man's words, when he is strongly affected by joy, grief, or anger, must necessarily depend on the number and quality of the general truths, conceptions, and images, and of the words ex. pressing them, with which his mind had been previously stored. For the property of passion is not to create, but to set in increased activity. At least, whatever new connexions of thoughts or images, or-(which is equally, if not more than equally, the appropriate effect of strong excitement)—whatever generalizations of truth or experience the heat of passion may produce; yet the terms of their conveyance must have pre-existed in his former conversations, and are only collected and crowded together by the unusual stimulation. It is indeed very possible to adopt in a poem the unmeaning repetitions, habitual phrases, and other blank counters, which an unfurnished or con. fused understanding interposes at short intervals, in order to keep hold of his subject, which is still slipping from him, and to give him time for recollection; or, in mere aid of vacancy, as in the scanty companies of a country stage the same player pops back. wards and forwards, in order to prevent the appearance of empty spaces, in the procession of Macbeth, or Henry VIII. But what assistance to the poet, or ornament to the poem, these can supply, I am at a loss to conjecture. Nothing assuredly can differ either in origin ur in mode more widely from the apparent tautologies of intense and turbulent feeling, in which the passion is greater and of longer endurance than to be exhausted or satisfied by a single representation of the image or incident exciting it Such repetitions I admit to be a beauty of the highest kind; as illustrated by Mr. Wordsworth himself from the
of Deborah. At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay down ; at her feet he bowed, he fell; where he bowed, there he fell down dead Judges v., 27.
Linguage of metrical composition, why and wherein essentially different
from that of piose_Origin and elements of metre-Its necessary cousequences, and the conditions thereby imposed on the metrical writer in the choice of his diction.
I CONCLUDE, therefore, that the attempt is impracticable; and that, were it not impracticable, it would still be useless. For the very power of making the selection implies the previous possession of the language selected. Or where can the poet have lived? And by what rules could he direct his choice, which would not have enabled him to select and arrange his words by the light of his own judgment ? . We do not adopt the language of a class by the mere adoption of such words exclusively, as that class would use, or at least understand ; but likewise by following the order, in which the words of such men are wont to succeed each other. Now this order, in the intercourse of uneducated men, is distin. i guished from the diction of their superiors in knowledge and power, by the greater disjunction and separation in the component parts of that, whatever it be, which they wish to communicate. There is a want of that prospectiveness of mind, that surview, which enables a man to foresee the whole of what he is to convey, appertaining to any one point; and by this means so to subordi. nate and arrange the different parts according to their relative importance, as to convey it at once, and as an organized whole.
Now I will take the first stanza, on which I have chanced to open, in the Lyrical Ballads. It is one the most simple and the least peculiar in its language.
“ In distant countries have I been,
And yet I have not often seen
But such a one, on English ground,
The words here are doubtless such as are current in all ranks of life; and of course not less so in the hamlet and cottage than in the shop, manufactory, college, or palace. But is this the order in which the rustic would have placed the words? I am grievously deceived, if the following less compact mode of commencing the same tale be not a far more faithful copy. “I have been in a many parts, far and near, and I don't know that I ever saw before a man crying by himself in the public road; a grown
mean, that was neither sick nor hurt, &c., &c.” But hen I turn to the following stanza in The Thorn:
“ At all times of the day and night
and compare this with the language of ordinary men; or with that, which I can conceive at all likely to proceed, in real life, froin such a narrator, as is supposed in the note to the poem ; compare it either in the successior of the images or of the sentences; I am reminded of the sublime prayer and hymn of praise, which Milton, in opposition to an established liturgy, presents as a fair specimen of common extemporary devotion, and such as we might expect to hear from every self-inspired minister of a conventicle! And I reflect with delight, how little a mere theory,
[The Last of the Flock, 1st stanza. P. W., vol. i., p. 169. S.C.] ? [P. W., vol. ii., p. 127. S. C.]
though of his own workmanship, interferes with the processes of genuine imagination in a man of true poetic genius, who possesses, as Mr. Wordsworth, if ever man did, most assuredly does possess,
“ The Vision and the Faculty divine.”3
One point then alone remains, but that the most important; its examination having been, indeed, my chief inducement for the preceding inquisition. “ There neither is nor can be any cssen. tial difference between the language of prose and metrical composition.”. Such is Mr. Wordsworth's assertion. Now prose itself, at least in all argumentative and consecutive works, differs, and ought to differ, from the language of conversation; even as'
3 [The Excursion, B. i. P. W., vi., p. 6. S. C.]
* [P. W., ii, p 315. Preface. The word essential is marked with italics in the edition of 1840. S. C.]
5 It is no less an error in teachers, than a torment to the poor children, to enforce the necessity of reading as they would talk. In order to cure them of singing as it is called, that is, of too great a difference, the child is made to repeat the words with his eyes from off the book ; and then, indeed, his tones resemble talking, as far as his fears, tears, and trembling will permit. But as soon as the eye is again directed to the printed page, the spell begins anew ; for an instinctive sense tells the child's feelings, that to utter its own momentary thoughts, and to recite the written thoughts of another, as of another, and a far wiser than himself, are two widely different things, and as the two acts are accompanied with widely different feelings, so must they justify different modes of enunciation. Joseph Lancaster, among his other sophistications of the excellent Dr. Bell's invaluable system, cures this fault of singing, by hanging fetters and chains on the child, to the music of which one of his school-follows, who walks before, dolefully chants out the child's last speech and confession, birth, parentage, and education. And this soul benumbing ignominy, this unholy and heart-hardening burlesque on the last fearful infliction of outraged law, in pronouncing the sentence to which the stern and familiarized judye not seldom bursts into tears, has been extolled as a happy and ingenious method of remedying-what? and how ?-why, one extreme in order to introduce another, scarce less distant from good sense, and certainly likely to have worse moral effects, by enforcing a semblance of petulant ease and seit sufficiency, in repression, and possible after-perversion of the nat aral feel ings. I have to beg Dr. Bell's pardon for this connexion of the two names, but he knows that contrast is no less powerful a cause of associa tion than likeness,