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“There, at the foot of yonder nodding beech,
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.
Muttering his wayward fancies, he would rove,
Or crazed with care, or crossed with hopeless love.
Along the heath, and near his favorite tree;
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he:
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne.
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”
Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth, to fortune and to fame unknown:
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Heaven did a recompense as largely send :-
He gained from Heaven — 't was all he wished – a friend
Nor draw his frailties from their dread abode, --
OF THE HIGHER SPECIES OF POETRY.
The tugher species of poetry embraces the three following Jivisions, namely:
1. Tales and Romances.
3. Dilactic and Descriptive Poetry.*
A Tale is, literally, any thing that is told, and may relate either real or fictitious events. When the cvents related in a tale are believed really to have happened, the tale is termed history.
A Romance is a tale of interesting, or wonderful adventures; and has its name from those that were recited by the Troubadours, (that is, inventors,) or wandering minstrels, of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
The tales of the Troubadours related principally to the military achievements of the crusading knights, their gallantry, and fidelity They were delivered in a corrupted Latin dialect, called Provençal, or Provincial, by the inhabitants of Rome, and Romanzo, or Romish, by the Gothic nations, and hence the tale itself was called a Romance. Some of them were prose, some in verse, and some in a miscellaneous union of prose narrative and song. But in neither form were they in all cases worthy of the name of poems.
Novels, (literally, something new,) are the adventures of imaginary persons, in which supernatural beings are not introduced. The novel is generally also in prose. Whenever a power is introduced superior to that of mortals, the novel is properly a romance. “The Epicurean," by Moore, is an example of this kind, which, although in the form of prose, is highly poetical in its character. It is full of imaginative power, and abounds in figures of the most beautiful kind, dressed in the most glowing colors.
That power, which the poet introduces, whatever it may be, to accom plish what mere human agency cannot effect, is called the machinery of
An Epic poem is a poetical, romantic tale, embracing many personages
many incidents. One general and important design must be apparent in its construction, to which every separate actor and action must be subservient. The accounts of these subordinate actions are called episodes, and should not be extended to a great length.
Examples of epic poems may be seen in the “Iliad,” and “Odyssey," of Homer, (translated by Pope,) the “ Æneid,” of Virgil
, (translated by Dryden,) the “ Pharsalia,” of Lucan, (translated by Rowe, and the “ Paradise Lost” of Milton. Epic poems are rare productions, and scarcely any nation can boast of more than one.
The word epic literally means nothing more than a tale. It is, how. ever, a tale concerning a hero or heroes, and hence epic poetry is also
* See the piece entitled “The Empire of Poetry,” by Fontenelle, pag 133, under the head of Allegory.
called heroic verse. Epopea, or Epopæia, is merely a learned name for
A Drama is a poem of the epic kind, but so conpressed and adapted, that the whole tale, instead of requiring to be read or recited at intervals, by an individual, may be exhib ited as actually passing before our eyes. Every actor in the poem has his representative on the stage, who speaks the language of the poet, as if it were his own; and every action is literally performed or imitated, as if it were of natural oc
As a dramatic writer, Shakspeare stands unrivalled, among English authors, and it may well be questioned, whether any nation has produced his superior.
In the construction of a Drama, rules have been laid down by critics, the principal of which relate to the three Unities, as they are called, of action, of time, and of place. Unity of action requires, that a single object should be kept in vicw. No underplot, or secondary action is allowable unless it tend to advance the prominent purpose. Unity of time requires, that the events should be limited to a short period ; seldom if ever more than a single day. Unity of place requires the confinement of the actions represented within narrow geographical limits. Another rule of dramatic criticism is termed poetical justice ; by which it is understood, that the personages shall be rewarded or punished, according to their respective desert. A regular drama is an historical picture, in which we perceive unity of design, and compare every portion of the composition, as harmo nizing with the whole.
Dramatic compositions are of two kinds, Tragedy and Comedy. Tragedy is designed to fill the mind of the spectators with pity and terror; comedy to represent some amusing and connected tale. The muse of tragedy, therefore, deals in desolation and death, that of comedy is surrounded by the humorous, the witty, and the gay. It is to tragedy that we chiefly look for poetical embellishment, and it is there only that we look for the sublime. Accordingly, it is, with few exceptions, still composed of measured lines, while comedy is now written wholly in prose.
A Prologue is a short poem, designed as an introduction to a discourse or performance, chiefly the discourse or poem spoken before a dramatic performance or play begins.
An Epilogue is a speech, or short poem, addressed to the spectators by one of the actors, after the conclusion of a dramatic performance. Sometimes it contains a recapitulati of the chief incidents of the play.
Farce is the caricature of comedy, and is restrained by no law, not even those of probability and nature. Its object is to excite mirth and uproarous laughter. But, in some of its
forms, such as personal satire, occasional grossness, and vul. garity, it has rendered itself so obnoxious to reprobation, that the very name is an abomination. It is commonly in prose.
Those compositions in which the language is so little in unison with the subject as to impress the mind with a feeling of the ridiculous, are called Burlesques.
The Burletta is a species of composition in which persons and actions of no value are made to assume an air of importance. Or, it is that by which things of real consequence are degraded, so as to seem objects of derision.
Parodies, Travesties, and Mock Heroics are ludicrous imi. tations of serious subjects. They belong to the burlesque.*
* As a happy illustration of burlesque writing in several different styles, the following are presented from Bentley's Miscellany, with the facetious introduction with which they are prefaced :
“But another class of persons claims our attention. We mean those who are, for some cause or other, constantly called upon to write verses. Now, many of these, when suddenly required to make a song to a given tune, to scribble a ci.orus for the end of a farce, or to jot down an impromptu on tb i blue leaf of an album, suddenly find themselves at a nonplus, - not because they are not masters of rhyme and metre, but simply because they cannot get a subject. We propose to show, that, far from this want being a just cause for embarrassment, it is absolutely impossible not to find a subject The first thing that catches the eye, or comes into the head, will do, and may be treated in every manner. In this age, although a chosen few can fill the post of fiddler, opera-dancer, juggler, or clown to the ring, these occupations requiring innate genius, he who cannot become a poet is a very poor creatu. e. But, to our task. We take the Dodo, that ugly bird, which every child knows from its picture in the books on natural history, as a subject that seems of all others the least promising, and we shall show oui readers how artistically we can manage it in all sorts of styles.
I. THE DESCRIPTIVE. — For this we must go to our encyclopedias, cram for the occasion, and attentively observe the picture. Our Rees' tells us that the Latin name for the bird is Didus,' that the Dutch are said to have found it in the Mauritius, and called it Dodaerts ;' while the French termed it Cygne a Capuchon ;' and the Portuguese, Dodo. Its exist ence, it seems, has been doubted, and at all events it is now supposed to be extinct.
In the island of Mauritius once a sturdy Dutchman found
Didactic poetry is that which is written professedly for the purpose of instruction. Descriptive poetry merely describes the person or the object.
Didactic poetry s.ould be replete with ornament, especially, where it can be done, with figurative language. This rule should be preserved in order to keep up the interest in the subject, which is usually dry. Not even the epic demands such glowing and picturesque epithets, such daring and forcible metaphors, such pomp of numbers and dignity of expression, as the didactic; for, the lower or more familiar the object described is, the greater must be the power of language to preserve it from debase ment. Didactic and descriptive poetry are so intimately allied, that the two kinds can rarely be found asunder, and we give a poem this or that denomination, according as the one or the other of these characteristics appears to predominate.
No one now can see the dodo, which the sturdy Dutchman found;
II. THE MELANCHOLY SENTIMENTAL. We need only recollect, that when the dodo lived, somebody else lived, who is not living now, anii we have our cue at once.
Oh, when the dodo's feet
His native island pressed,
Within a living breast,
But crumbles into dust,
As all things earthly must!
That gallant Portuguese ;
Of changes such as these ?
The dodo's gone beside ;
How vain is earthly pride!
The dodo vanished, as we must contess,
Ce ia, we all may swear, will live forever.
The dodo once lived, and he does n't live now;
Sing dodo – dodo — jolly dodo !