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Would enter unawares into his mind
The second shall be that noble imitation of
which I certainly should not have made in the works of a poet less austerely accurate in the use of words, than he is, to his own great honor. It respects the propriety of the word, “ scene,” even in the sentence in which it is retained. DRYDEN, and he only in his more careless verses, was the first as far as my researches have discovered, who for the convenience of rhyme used this word in the vague sense, which has been since too current even in our best writers, and which (unfortunately, I think) is given as its first explanation in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary, and therefore would be taken by an incautious reader as its proper sense.
In Shakspeare and Milton the word is never used without some clear reference, proper or metaphorical, to the theatre. Thus Milton;
“ Cedar and pine, and fir and branching palm
I object to any extension of its meaning because the word is already more equivocal than might be wished ; inasmuch as in the limited use, which I recommend, it may still signify two different things ; namely, the scenery, and the characters and actions presented on the stage during the presence of particular scenes. It can therefore be preserved from obscurity only by keeping the original signification full in the mind. Thus Milton again,
Draytont (if it was not rather a coincidence) in the “ JOANNA.”
“When I had gazed perhaps two minutes space,
The third which is in rhyme I take from the Song at the feast of Broughham Castle, upon
+ Which COPLAND scarce had spoke, but quickly every hill
Upon her verge that stands, the neighbouring vallies fill; HELVILLON from his height, it through the mountains
threw. From whom as soon again, the sound DUNBALRASE drew, From whose stone-trophied head, it on the WENDROSS
went, Which, tow'rds the sea again, resounded it to Dent. That BROADWATER, therewith within her banks astound, In sailing to the sea told it to EGREMOUND, Whose buildings, walks and streets, with echoes loud and
long Did mightily commend old COPLAND for her song!
DRAYTON'S POLYOLBION : Song XXX.
the restoration of Lord Clifford the shepherd to the estates of his ancestors.”
“ Now another day is come
Fitter hope, and nobler doom :
Alas! the fervent harper did not know,
The words themselves in the foregoing extracts, are, no doubt, sufficiently common for the greater part. (But in what poem are they not so? if we except a few misadventurous attempts to translate the arts and sciences into verse ?) In the “ Excursion” the number of
polysyllabic for what the common people call, dictionary) words is more than usually great. And so must it needs be, in proportion to the number and variety of an author's conceptions, and his solicitude to express them with precision.) But are those words in those places commonly employed in real life to express the same thought or outward thing? Are they the style used in the ordinary intercourse of spoken words ? No! nor are the modes of connections: and still less the breaks and transitions. Would any but a poet—at least could any one without being conscious that he had expressed himself with noticeable vivacity–have described a bird singing loud by, “ The thrush is busy in the wood ?” Or have spoken of boys with a string of club-moss round their rusty hats, as the boys “with their green coronal ?" Or have translated a beautiful May-day into “ Both earth and sky keep jubilee ?" Or have brought all the different marks and circumstances of a sea-loch before the mind, as the actions of a living and acting power? Or' have represented the reflection of the sky in the water, as “ That uncertain heaven received into the bosom of the steady lake?” Even the grammatical construction is not unfrequently peculiar; as “ The wind, the tempest roaring high, the tumult of a tropic sky, might well be dangerous food to him, a youth to whom was given, &c.” There is a
peculiarity in the frequent use of the 'couvapantón i. e. the omission of the connective particle before the last of several words, or several sentences used grammatically as single words, all being in the same case and governing or governed by the same verb) and not less in the construction of words by apposition (to him, a youth.) In short, were there excluded from Mr. Wordsworth's poetic compositions all, that a literal adherence to the theory of his preface would exclude, two-thirds at least of the marked beauties of his poetry must be erased. For a fær greater number of lines would be sacrificed, than in any other recent poet; because the pleasure received from Wordsworth's poems being less derived either from excitement of curiosity or the rapid flow of narration, the striking passages form a larger proportion of their value. I do not adduce it as a fair criterion of comparative excellence, nor do I even think it such ; but merely as matter of fact. I affirm, that from no contemporary writer could so many lines be quoted, without reference to the poem in which they are found, for their own independent weight or beauty. From the sphere of my own experience I can bring to my recollection three persons of no every-day powers and acquirements, who had read the poems of others with more and more unallayed pleasure, and had thought