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or the Argenis of Barclay, by the insertion of poems supposed to have been spoken or composed on occasions previously related in prose, but) the poet passing from one to the other as the nature of the thoughts or his own feelings dictated. Yet this mode of composition does not satisfy a cultivated taste, There is something unpleasant in the being thus obliged to alternate states of feeling so dissimilar, and this too in a species of writing, the pleasure from which is in part derived from the preparation and previous expectation of the reader. A portion of that awkwardness is felt which hangs upon the introduction of songs in our modern comic operas; and to prevent which the judicious Metastasio (as to whose exquisite taste there can be no hesitation, whatever doubts may be entertained as to his poetic genius) uniformly placed the Aria at the end of the scene, at the same time that he almost always raises and impassions the style of the recitative immediately preceding. Even in real life, the difference is great and evident between words used as the arbitrary marks of thought, our smooth market-coin of intercourse with the image and superscription worn out by currency; and those which convey pictures either borrowed from one outward object to enliven and particularize some other; or used allegorically to body forth the inward state of the person speaking ; or such as are at least the exponents
of his peculiar turn and unusual extent of faculty. So much so indeed, that in the social circles of private life we often find a striking use of the latter put a stop to the general flow of conversation, and by the excitement arising from concentered attention produce a sort of damp and interruption for some minutes after. But in the perusal of works of literary art, we prepare ourselves for such language; and the business of the writer, like that of a painter whose subject requires unusual splendor and prominence, is so to raise the lower and neutral tints, that what in a different style would be the commanding colors, are here used as the means of that gentle degradation requisite in order to produce the effect of a whole. Where this is not atchieved in a poem, the metre merely reminds the reader of his claims in order to disappoint them; and where this defect occurs frequently, his feelings are alternately startled by anticlimax and hyperclimax.
I refer the reader to the exquisite stanzas cited for another purpose from the blind Highland Boy; and then annex as being in my opinion instances of this disharmony in style the two following:
“ And one, the rarest, was a shell,
It was so wide, and deep."
“ Our Highland Boy oft visited
The house which held this prize, and led
And found the door unbarred."
“ 'Tis gone forgotten, let me do
My best. There was a smile or two
Or page 269, vol. I.
“ Thou hast a nest, for thy love and thy rest,
And though little troubled with sloth
Happy, happy liver
A's merry a brother
The incongruity, which I appear to find in this passage, is that of the two noble lines in
italics with the preceding and following. So vol. II, page 30.
“ Close by a pond, upon the further side
He stood alone ; a minute's space I guess,
Compare this with the repetition of the same image, in the next stanza but two.
« And still as I drew near with gentle pace,
Beside the little pond or moorish flood
Or lastly, the second of the three following stanzas, compared both with the first and the third.
“My former thoughts returned, the fear that kills;
He with a smile did then his tale repeat;
While he was talking thus, the lonely place
I seemed to see hiin pace
Indeed this fine poem is especially characteristic of the author. There is scarce a defect or excellence in his writings of which it would not present a specimen. But it would be unjust not to repeat that this defect is only occasional. From a careful reperusal of the two volumes of poems, I doubt whether the objectionable passages would amount in the whole to one hundred lines ; not the eighth part of the number of pages. In the ExcuRSION the feeling of incongruity is seldom excited by the diction of any passage considered in itself, but by the sudden superiority of some other passage forming the context.
The second defect I could generalize with tolerable accuracy, if the reader will pardon an uncouth and new coined word. There is, I should say, not seldom a matter-of-factness in
This may be divided into, first, a laborious minuteness and fidelity in the representation of objects, and their positions, as they appeared to the poet himself; secondly, the insertion of accidental circumstances, in order to the full explanation of his living characters, their dispositions and actions ; which circumstances might be necessary to establish the