« 前へ次へ »
by Pride, in supercilious vaunting, had been put into the mouth of man himself, as the grateful beneficiary of his Maker. It is with the diction, not the morality, of this brief extract from a long and implicated argument that we have to deal at present; and I state this 66
new reading " for no other purpose than to show on what nice and subtle adaptation of sound to sound, not less than of sense to sense, depends the perfection of verse to the ear, through which it must (however we may reason against it) affect the mind. Let the amendment be put, and I am sure that it will be negatived without a division.
“ Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine ?
Earth for whose use ?- Man answers, 'Tis for mine."
Is not the sweet accordance of the whole clause marred by the jangle of “ Man answers," instead of the sharp, clear phrase, “ Pride answers,” &c.
6 Ask for what end the heavenly bodies shine ?
Earth for whose use ? — Pride answers, 'Tis for mine."
Blank verse is principally confined to the drama, and compositions in our five feet measure of ten syllables; nor is there any probability that it will ever much transgress those bounds; a circumstance which seems to establish rhyme as a vital principle in minor pieces,— songs, ballads, odes, and octo-syllabic effusions. There is, indeed, one splendid and victorious exception to the unmanageableness of
blank verse in metres of every kind, and this too in an epic poem. Concerning “ Thalaba,” - the “ wild and wondrous tale," as the admirable author, Dr. Southey, himself styles it,- whatever be thought of the eccentricities of the plot, or the moral to be deduced from fictions the most preternatural, the success of the experiment of framing that prodigy of song in numbers of all lengths and cadences, without rhyme, cannot be doubted, by those whose ears and hearts are tuned alike to all the varieties of rhythm of which our language is capable, associated with the most gorgeous imaginations that modern poetry has conjured up and converted into realities.
For myself, I am free to acknowledge, that the effect produced on my mind by the perusal resembled the dreams of the Opium-eater, especially that magnificent one, which commenced with a music of preparation and awakening suspense; a music like that of the Coronation anthem, and which, like that, gave the feeling of a vast march-of infinite cavalcades filing off; and the tread of innumerable armies. The morning was come of a mighty day,a day.of crisis and final hope for human nature, then suffering some mysterious eclipse, and labouring in some dread extremity. Somewhere, I knew not where ; somehow, I knew not how; by some beings, I knew not whom; a battle, a strife, an agony was conducting, was evolving like a great drama, or piece of music; with which my sympathy was the more insupportable from my confusion as to its place, its cause, its nature, and its possible issue. I, as usual in dreams, where of necessity we make our
selves central to every movement, had the power, and yet had not the power, to decide it. I had the power, if I could raise myself, to will it; and yet had not the power, for the weight of twenty Atlantics was upon me, or the oppression of inexpiable guilt.
“Deeper than plummet ever sounded,' I lay inactive. Some greater interest. was. at stake; some mightier cause than ever yet the sword had pleaded, or trumpet had proclaimed. Then came sudden alarms, and hurryings to and fro; trepidations of innumerable fugitives; I know not whether from the good cause or the bad ; darkness and lights; tempest and human faces; and, at last, with the sense that all was lost, female forms, and the features that were worth all the world to me, and but a moment allowed, - and clasped hands, and heart-breaking partings, and then everlasting farewells ! and with a sigh, such as the caves of hell sighed, when the incestuous mother uttered the abhorred name of Death, — the sound was reverberated — everlasting farewells ! — and again, and yet again, reverberated
everlasting farewells! And I awoke in struggles, and cried aloud · I will sleep no more !""
This dream has transported me too far:- I return. Such music, such mystery, such strife, confusion, agony, despair, with splendours and glooms, and alternations of rapture and horror, the tale of “ Thalaba the Destroyer," with its marvellous rhythm and Oriental pageantry, produces on the mind of the entranced, delighted, yet afflicted reader so, at least, it affected me. I have said that the
experiment was victorious, but the author himself has not ventured to repeat it ; like a wise man (which poets seldom are, especially successful ones), contenting himself with the glory of having performed an unprecedented feat, and which may very well remain an unrivalled one. He was probably aware that he could not excel it in a second attempt, and unless he did that (with the usual disheartening judgment of the multitude on like occasions), he would have been deemed to have fallen short of it, merely because the novelty being gone by, in which much of the pleasure of surprise at the performance necessarily consisted, it would only appear like an ordinary achievement.
In smaller poems, blank verse has been rarely tried, except in numerous and nameless imitations of an indifferent prototype by Collins, - a poet who had, indeed, a curious ear, as well as an exquisite taste in versification; but both were of so peculiar a kind, that neither the music of his numbers, nor the beauty, delicacy, and almost unearthly character of his imagery are always agreeable. The very structure of the stanza, in his “ Ode to Evening,” is so mechanical to the eye,
two long lines followed by two short ones, - that a presentiment (like an instinctive judgment in physiognomy) instantly occurs, that both thought and language must be fettered in a shape so mathematical, - wanting even the hieroglyphic recommendation of the metrical hatchets, wings, altars, and other exploded puerilities of the later Greek epigrammatists, and the elder English rhymers. Collins's Ode itself is a precious specimen of mosaic work, in which the pictures are set with painful and
consummate skill, but have a hard and cold effect, beyond the usual enamel of his style.
But Milton, the mighty Milton, has pronounced against rhyme, and in favour of blank verse, in the preamble to “ Paradise Lost,' either written by himself, or published with his express sanction: “ The measure is English heroic verse, without rhyme, as that of Homer in Greek, and Virgil in Latin; rhyme being no necessary adjunct, or true ornament, of poem or good verse, in larger works especially, but the invention of a barbarous age, to set off wretched matter and lame metre; graced, indeed, since, by the use of some famous modern poets, carried away by custom, but much to their own vexation, hinderance, and constraint to express many things otherwise, and for the most part worse, than else they would have expressed them. Not without cause, therefore, some, both Italian and Spanish poets of prime note, have rejected rhyme, both in larger and in shorter works; as have also, long since, our best English tragedies; as a thing of itself, to all judicious ears, trivial and of no true musical delight, which consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse to another; not in the jingling sound of like endings, – a fault studiously avoided by the learned ancients, both in poetry and all good oratory. This neglect, then, of rhyme, so little is to be taken for a defect, though it may seem so, perhaps, to vulgar readers, that it is rather to be esteemed an example set, the first in English, of