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the Greek and Roman classics than from our own ; yet even among our English writers some bold, and almost violent transpositions may be found; and particularly in Milton.
5th. The “os magna soniturum” must not be forgotten in poetry:
Where a word therefore may be made to have a fuller and more impressive application, that form should be in general preferred. Thus, instead of the adjective the participle is frequently employed; as for various, varying. In the same manner poetry transforms nouns into verbs and participles; as from the noun hymn, the poets have made a verb, to hymn; from picture," the pictured walls;" from cavern, "the cavern'd roofs," &c.
6th. The soul of poetry is particularizing and bring ing to view the minute circumstances which give local habitation and a name” to the subject, and animation to the picture.
“ Musis amicus, tristitiam et metus
“ While in the muses' friendship blest,
“ Full ten years slander'd, did I once reply?
Had the poet only said that “ he had been long calumniated without replying, and that much time had passed before he noticed the slanderous falsehood of Welsted,” it is evident that the thought would have wanted all that force and beauty which it derives from the happy expression of Mr. Pope.
It is for the same reason, namely, to give life to the picture, that poetry often uses a periphrasis, rather than a plain and simple description. Two lines of Virgil will give you a sufficient idea of this....
Depresso incipiet jam tum mihi taurus aratro
Ingemere, et sulco attritus splendescere vomer.” “ Then with the crooked plough the steers shall groan, “And the keen share shall brighten in the furrow."
Again in the 2d Æneid...
“Vertitur interea cælum, et ruit oceano nox.”
7th. Poetry admits of more and stronger figures than prose ; and particularly the prosopopeia. Thus Milton, describing the song of the nightingale, says “Silence was pleased ;” and on the approach of morning....
“Now morn her rosy steps in th' eastern clime
Advancing, sow'd the earth with orient pearl.”
The morning is a favourite topic with poets. Some will perhaps prefer to the imagery I have just now quoted, that of Shakspeare....
“ But look the morn in russet mantle clad,
But perhaps the most beautiful instance in our language of this fine figure is in the incomparable address to light in the opening of the third book of Paradise Lost; where, I may add, in little more than fifty lines you will find almost every poetical beauty concentrated.
8th. Epithets are allowed in greater abundance in poetry than in any description of prose, without excepting oratory itself. Even compound epithets are sometimes necessary adjuncts in poetry, though I do not know any.case where they can be legitimately admitted in prose. Such phrases as cloud-capt, many-twinkling, heaven-kissing, spirit-stirring, heaven-taught, brighthaired Vesta, vale-dwelling lily, would be wholly inconsistent with the gravity and sobriety of prose.
In the same "pomp and prodigality of phrase," poets frequently employ what I may call a string of epithets, while humble prose shrinks almost from the dangerous application of even a single one. Thus Virgil....
“Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademp
tum...... Æneid III.
“ A monster grim, tremendous, vast and high,
" And the plain ox,
There is not however a more delicate part of the poet's task, nor one that requires more caution, than the use of epithets. Unless they tell something, add something to the picture, they are mere expletives,
cold, and insipid. If again they are mean or colloquial, - they debase the subject. In the following lines you see
both these faults exemplified....
“ The chariot of the King of kings,
Tate and Brady.
Epithets also sometimes obscure the sense, by crowding too many thoughts or ideas together. A judicious poet will therefore never introduce an epithet, but when it is wanting, or when it adds something to the sense, by its sublimity or novelty.
9th. After all, the distinguishing character of poetry, as far as regards the style, lies more in the rejection than in the adoption of particular phrases or forms of speech. Whatever is technical, common, or colloquial, is inconsistent with the “os magna soniturum.” I must except the ludicrous, where the phraseology can scarcely be too common or vulgar, if happily introduced, as the readers of Hudibras and Peter Pindar must continually experience. But where dignity is expected, a phrase, though not low, or vulgar in itself, yet being common in prose writing or conversation, will commonly degrade. Two instances from a good writer will serve to convince you....
“ A tribe who singular religion love,
“ It look'd as fortune did in odds delight,
I must add another example where the word is not exceptionable in itself, for it is a word that must be used; but it is here introduced in a common colloquial way....
“ He copies from his master Sylla well,
Mark with what different effect the same little, and really mean word, is introduced by the taste of Pope, even at the end of a line....
“ If such there be, who lov'd so long, so well,
I cannot conclude this branch of my subject better than with a quotation from Dr. Johnson's Life of Dryden, which
almost every thing that can be said up“ There was, before the time of Dryden, no poetical diction, no system of words at once refined from the grossness of dometic use, and free from the harshness of terms appropriated to particular arts. Words too
familiar or too remote, defeat the purpose of a poet. From those sounds which we hear on small or coarse occasions, we do not easily receive strong impressions or delightful images; and words to which we are nearly strangers, whenever they occur, draw that attention to themselves which they should convey to things.
“ These happy combinations of words, which distinguish poetry from prose, had been rarely attempted; we had few elegancies or flowers of speech; the roses had not yet been plucked from the bramble, or different colours joined to enliven one another.”....Johnson's DRYDEN.
I do not conceive that much advantage can arise from an endeavour to class or to describe the different styles appropriate to each peculiar kind of poetry. Almost every subject, and every good author, will have a peculiar style; and no man of any taste would compose a pastoral in the style of Paradise Lost, or an heroic poem in that of Horace's epistles, or Swift's verses to Stella. Critics, however, have agreed to distinguish the gradations of poetical language into the sublime, the middle, and the plain or simple styles. Milton and Gray may be cited as examples of the first. Mr. Pope's Rape of the Lock, and his satires, for the Eloisa is of a sublimer character, may be referred to the second. The plain or simple style is almost wholly confined to songs and pastorals; but we have in English, though the Greeks and Romans had not, a low and familiar style, which is applicable to subjects of humour and burlesque, where cant phrases, proverbs and expressions peculiar to certain trades are introduced; such is the poem of Hudibras, many of Swift's satirical pieces, the burletta of Midas, and many similar dramatic productions.