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found to be strictly the language of prose, when prose is well written. The truth of this assertion might be demonstrated by innumerable passages from almost all 5 the poetical writings, even of Milton himself. To illustrate the subject in a general manner, I will here adduce a short composition of Gray, who was at the head of those who, by their reasonings, have attempted to widen the space of separation betwixt prose and metrical composition, and was more than any other man curiously elaborate in the structure of his own poetic diction.

to produce it; this has been done for the
reason already alleged, to bring my lan-
guage near to the language of men, and
further, because the pleasure which I
have proposed to myself to impart, is of
a kind very different from that which
is supposed by many persons to be the
proper object of poetry. Without being
culpably particular, I do not know how
to give my reader a more exact notion 10
of the style in which it was my wish and
intention to write, than, by informing him
that I have at all times endeavored to look

steadily at my
my subject; consequently,
there is, I hope in these poems little 15
falsehood of description, and my ideas
are expressed in language fitted to their
respective importance. Something must
have been gained by this practice, as it
is friendly to one property of all good 20
poetry, namely, good sense; but it has
necessarily cut me off from a large por-
tion of phrases and figures of speech
which from father to son have long been
regarded as the common inheritance of 25
poets. I have also thought it expedient
to restrict myself still further, having
abstained from the use of many expres-
sions, in themselves proper and beautiful,
but which have been foolishly repeated 30
by bad poets, till such feelings of disgust
are connected with them as it is scarcely
possible by any art of association to over-

If in a poem there should be found a 35 series of lines, or even a single line, in which the language, though naturally arranged, and according to the strict laws of meter, does not differ from that of prose, there is a numerous class of critics 40 who, when they stumble upon these prosaisms, as they call them, imagine that they have made a notable discovery, and exult over the poet as over a man ignorant of his own profession. Now 45 these men would establish a canon of criticism which the reader will conclude he must utterly reject, if he wishes to be pleased with these pieces. And it would be a most easy task to prove to 50 him, that not only the language of a large portion of every good poem, even of the most elevated character, must necessarily, except with reference to the meter, in no respect differ from that of good prose, 55 but likewise that some of the most interesting parts of the best poems will be

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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 rime, 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.

By the foregoing quotation I have shown that the language of prose may yet be well adapted to poetry; and it was previously asserted, that a large portion. of the language of every good poem can in no respect differ from that of good prose. We will go further. It may be safely affirmed, that there neither is, nor can be, any essential difference between the language of prose and metrical composition. We are fond of tracing the resemblance between poetry and painting, and, accordingly, we call them sisters: but where shall we find bonds of connection sufficiently strict to typify the affinity betwixt metrical and prose composition? They both speak by and to the


same organs; the bodies in which both of
them are clothed may be said to be of the
same substance, their affections are
kindred, and almost identical, not neces-
sarily differing in degree; poetry 1 sheds
no tears such as angels weep' but
natural and human tears; she can boast
of no celestial ichor that distinguishes
her vital juices from those of prose; the
same human blood circulates through the 10 temperate.
veins of them both.


his own with that which the passion naturally suggests: it is sufficient to say that such addition is unnecessary. And, surely, it is more probable that those 5 passages, which with propriety abound with metaphors and figures, will have their due effect, if, upon other occasions where the passions are of a milder character, the style also be subdued and

If it be affirmed that rime and metrical arrangement of themselves constitute a distinction which overturns what has just been said on the strict affinity of metrical 15 language with that of prose, and paves the way for other artificial distinctions which the mind voluntarily admits, I answer that the language of such poetry as is here recommended is, as far as is 20 possible, a selection of the language really spoken by men; that this selection, whereever it is made with true taste and feeling, will of itself form a distinction far greater than would at first be imagined, 25 and will entirely separate the composition from the vulgarity and meanness of ordinary life; and, if meter be superadded thereto, I believe that a dissimilitude will be produced altogether sufficient for the 30 gratification of a rational mind. What other distinction would we have? Whence is it to come? And where is it to exist? Not, surely, where the poet speaks through the mouths of his charac- 35 ters: it cannot be necessary here, either for elevation of style, or any of its supposed ornaments: for, if the poet's subject be judiciously chosen, it will naturally, and upon fit occasion, lead him to passions the language of which, if selected truly and judiciously, must necessarily be dignified and variegated, and alive with. metaphors and figures. I forbear to speak of an incongruity which would 45 shock the intelligent reader should the poet interweave any foreign splendor of


1 I here use the word 'poetry' (though against my own judgment) as opposed to the word ' prose,' and synonymous with metrical composition. But 50

much confusion has been introduced into criticism by this contradistinction of poetry and prose, instead of the more philosophical one of poetry and mat. ter of fact, or science. The only strict antithesis to prose is meter; nor is this, in truth, a strict antithesis; because lines and passages of meter 55 so naturally occur in writing prose, that it would be scarcely possible to avoid them, even were it desirable.

But, as the pleasure which I hope to give by the poems now presented to the reader must depend entirely on just notions upon this subject, and, as it is in itself of high importance to our taste and moral feelings, I cannot content myself with these detached remarks. And if, in what I am about to say, it shall appear to some that my labor is unnecessary, and that I am like a man fighting a battle without enemies, such persons may be reminded, that, whatever may be the language outwardly holden by men, a practical faith in the opinions which I am wishing to establish is almost unknown. If my conclusions are admitted, and carried as far as they must be carried if admitted at all, our judgments concerning the works of the greatest poets both ancient and modern will be far different from what they are at present, both when we praise, and when we censure and our moral feelings influencing and influenced by these judgments will, I believe, be corrected and purified.

Taking up the subject, then, upon general grounds, let me ask-what is meant by the word 'poet'? What is a poet?

To whom does he address himself? And what language is to be expected from him? He is a man speaking to men: a man, it is true, endowed with more lively sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, who has a greater knowledge of human nature, and a more comprehensive soul, than are supposed to be common among mankind; a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life that is in him; delighting to contemplate similar volitions and passions as manifested in the goings-on of the universe, and habitually impelled to create them where he does not find them. To these qualities he has added, a disposition to be affected more than other men by absent things as if they were present;

an ability of conjuring up in himself passions, which are indeed far from being the same as those produced by real events, yet (especially in those parts of the general sympathy which are pleasing and delightful) do more nearly resemble the passions produced by real events, than anything which, from the motions of their own minds merely, other men are accustomed to feel in themselves; whence, 10 excellencies of another kind for those

and from practice, he has acquired a greater readiness and power in expressing what he thinks and feels, and especially those thoughts and feelings which, by his own choice, or from the structure of his 15 feels that he must submit. But this

which are unattainable by him; and endeavors occasionally to surpass his original in order to make some amends for the general inferiority to which he

own mind, arise in him without immediate external excitement.


But it may be said by those who do not object to the general spirit of these remarks, that, as it is impossible for the poet to produce upon all occasions language as exquisitely fitted for the passion as that which the real passion itself suggests, it is proper that he should consider himself as in the situation of a translator, who does not scruple to substitute

would be to encourage idleness and unmanly despair. Further, it is the language of men who speak of what they do not understand; who talk of poetry as of a matter of amusement and idle pleasure; who will converse with us as gravely about a taste for poetry, as they express it, as if it were a thing as indifferent as a taste for rope-dancing, or frontiniac or sherry. Aristotle, I have been told, has said, that poetry is the most philosophic of all writing: it is so: its object is truth, not individual and local, but general, and operative; not standing upon external testimony, but carried alive into the heart by passion; truth which is its own testimony, which gives competence and confidence to the tribunal to which it appeals, and receives them from the same tribunal. Poetry is the image of man and nature. The obstacles which stand in the way of the fidelity of the biographer and historian and of their consequent utility, are incalculably greater than those which are to be encountered by the poet who comprehends the dignity of his art. The poet writes under one restriction only, namely, that of the necessity of giving immediate pleasure to a human being possessed of that information which may be expected from him, not as a lawyer, a physician, a mariner, an astronomer, or a natural philosopher, but as a man. Except this one restriction, there is no object standing between the poet and the image of things; between this, and the biographer and historian there are a thousand.



But, whatever portion of this faculty we may suppose even the greatest poet to possess, there cannot be a doubt but 20 that the language which it will suggest to him must often, in liveliness truth, fall far short of that which is uttered by men in real life, under the actual pressure of those passions, certain 25 shadows of which the poet thus produces, or feels to be produced, in himself.

However exalted a notion we would wish to cherish of the character of a poet, it is obvious, that, while he de- 30 scribes and imitates passions, his employment is in some degree mechanical, compared with the freedom and power of real and substantial action and suffering. So that it will be the wish of the 35 poet to bring his feelings near to those of the persons whose feelings he describes, nay, for short spaces of time, perhaps, to let himself slip into an entire delusion, and even confound and identify his own feelings with theirs; modifying only the language which is thus suggested to him by a consideration that he describes for a particular purpose, that of giving pleasure. Here, then, he will apply 45 the principle of selection which has been already insisted upon. He will depend upon this for removing what would otherwise be painful or disgusting in the passion; he will feel that there is no 50 necessity to trick out or to elevate nature: and, the more industriously he applies this principle, the deeper will be his faith that no words, which his fancy or imagination can suggest, will be to be compared with 55 those which are the emanations of reality and truth

Nor let this necessity of producing immediate pleasure be considered as a degradation of the poet's art. It is far otherwise. It is an acknowledgment of


the beauty of the universe, an acknowl-
edgment the more sincere, because not
formal, but indirect; it is a task light and
easy to him who looks at the world in the
spirit of love: further, it is a homage
paid to the native and naked dignity of
man, to the grand elementary principle
of pleasure, by which he knows, and
feels, and lives, and moves. We have no
sympathy but what is propagated by 10
pleasure: I would not be misunderstood;
but wherever we sympathize with pain,
it will be found that the sympathy is
produced and carried on by subtle com-
binations with pleasure. We have no 15
knowledge, that is, no general principles
drawn from the contemplation of par-
ticular facts, but what has been built up
by pleasure, and exists in us by pleasure
alone. The man of science, the chemist 20
and mathematician, whatever difficulties
and disgusts they may have had to
struggle with, know and feel this. How-
ever painful may be the objects with
which the anatomist's knowledge is con-
nected, he feels that his knowledge is
pleasure; and where he has no pleasure
he has no knowledge. What then does.
the poet? He considers man and the ob-
jects that surround him as acting and re- 30
acting upon each other, so as to produce
an infinite complexity of pain and pleas-
ure; he considers man in his own nature
and in his ordinary life as contemplating
this with a certain quantity of immediate 35
knowledge, with certain convictions, intui-
tions, and deductions, which from habit
acquire the quality of intuitions; he con-
siders him as looking upon this complex
scene of ideas and sensations, and finding 40
everywhere objects that immediately ex-
cite in him sympathies which, from the
necessities of his nature, are accompanied
by an overbalance of enjoyment.


converses with general nature with affections akin to those, which, through labor and length of time, the man of science has raised up in himself, by conversing with those particular parts of nature which are the objects of his studies. The knowledge both of the poet and the man of science is pleasure; but the knowledge of the one cleaves to us as a necessary part of our existence, our natural and inalienable inheritance; the other is a personal and individual acquisition, slow to come to us, and by no habitual and direct sympathy connecting us with our fellow-beings. The man of science seeks truth as a remote and unknown benefactor; he cherishes and loves it in his solitude: the poet, singing a song in which all human beings join with him, rejoices in the presence of truth as our visible friend and hourly companion. Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is the impassioned expression which is in the countenance of all science. Emphatically may it be said of the poet, as Shakspere hath said of man, 'that he looks before and after.' He is the rock of defence of human nature; an upholder and preserver, carrying everywhere with him relationship and love. In spite of difference of soil and climate, of language and manners, of laws and customs, in spite of things silently gone out of mind, and things violently destroyed, the poet binds together by passion and knowledge the vast empire of human society, as it is spread over the whole earth, and over all time. The objects of the poet's thoughts are everywhere; though the eyes and senses of man are, it is true, his favorite guides, yet he will follow wheresoever he can find an atmosphere of sensation in which to move his wings. Poetry is the first and last of all knowledge—it is as immortal as the heart of man. If the labors of men of science should ever create any material revolution, direct or indirect, in our condition, and in the impressions which we habitually receive, the poet will sleep then no more than at present, but he will be ready to follow the steps of the man of science, not only in those general indirect effects, but he will be at his side, carrying sensation into the midst of the objects of the science itself. The remotest discoveries of the chemist, the

Το this knowledge which all men 45 carry about with them, and to these sympathies in which without any other discipline than that of our daily life, we are fitted to take delight, the poet principally directs his attention. He con- 50 siders man and nature as essentially adapted to each other, and the mind of man as naturally the mirror of the fairest and most interesting qualities of nature. And thus the poet, prompted by this feel-55 ing of pleasure which accompanies him through the whole course of his studies,

botanist, or mineralogist, will be as proper objects of the poet's art as any upon which it can be employed, if the time should ever come when these things shall be familiar to us, and the relations under which they are contemplated by the followers of these respective sciences shall be manifestly and palpably material to us as enjoying and suffering beings.

men by a greater promptness to think and feel without immediate external excitement, and a greater power in expressing such thoughts and feelings as are pro5 duced in him in that manner. But these passions and thoughts and feelings are the general passions and thoughts and feelings of men. And with what are they connected? Undoubtedly with our moral

If the time should ever come when what 10 sentiments and animal sensations, and

is now called science, thus familiarized
to men, shall be ready to put on, as it
were, a form of flesh and blood, the poet
will lend his divine spirit to aid the trans-
figuration, and will welcome the being 15
thus produced, as a dear and genuine in-
mate of the household of man.- It is not,
then, to be supposed that any one, who
holds that sublime notion of poetry which
I have attempted to convey, will break
in upon the sanctity and truth of his
pictures by transitory and accidental
ornaments, and endeavor to excite ad-
miration of himself by arts, the necessity
of which must manifestly depend upon 25
the assumed meanness of his subject.


with the causes which excite these; with the operations of the elements, and the appearances of the visible universe; with storm and sunshine, with the revolutions of the seasons, with cold and heat, with loss of friends and kindred, with injuries and resentments, gratitude and hope, with fear and sorrow. These, and the like, are the sensations and objects which the poet describes, as they are the sensations of other men, and the objects which interest them. The poet thinks and feels in the spirit of the passions of men. How, then, can his language differ in any material degree from that of all other men who feel vividly and see clearly? It might be proved that it is impossible. But supposing that this were not the case, the poet might then be allowed to use a peculiar language when expressing his feelings for his own gratification, or that of men like himself. But poets do not write for poets alone, but for men. Unless therefore we are advocates for that admiration which subsists upon ignorance, and that pleasure which arises from hearing what we do not understand, the poet must descend from this supposed height, and, in order to excite rational sympathy, he must express himself as other men express themselves. To this it may be added, that while he is only selecting from the real language of men, or, which amounts to


What I have thus far said applies to poetry in general; but especially to those parts of composition where the poet speaks through the mouths of his charac- 30 ters; and upon this point it appears to authorize the conclusion, that there are few persons of good sense, who would not allow that the dramatic parts of composition are defective, in proportion as 35 they deviate from the real language of nature, and are colored by a diction of the poet's own, either peculiar to him as an individual poet or belonging simply to poets in general, to a body of men who, from the circumstance of their compositions being in meter, it is expected will employ a particular language.

It is not, then, in the dramatic parts of composition that we look for this dis- 45 the same thing, composing accurately in tinction of language; but still it may be proper and necessary where the poet speaks to us in his own person and character. To this I answer by referring my reader to the description which I have 50 as it may be proper to remind the reader,

the spirit of such selection, he is treading upon safe ground, and we know what we are to expect from him. Our feelings are the same with respect to meter; for,


before given of a poet. Among the qualities which I have enumerated principally conducing to form a poet, is implied nothing differing in kind from other men, but only in degree. The sum 55 of what I have there said is, that the poet is chiefly distinguished from other

the distinction of meter is regular and uniform, and not, like that which is produced by what is usually called poetic diction, arbitrary, and subject to infinite caprices upon which no calculation whatever can be made. In the one case, the reader is utterly at the mercy of the poet

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