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been struck out by the flash itself), there is scarcely a phrase which could not have been employed in the humblest prose record of this conversation. Try the experiment: break up the rhythm, the only thing that constitutes the lines verse, and mark the issue : the same sentiments will remain, in nearly the same words; yet the latter being differently collocated, and wanting the inimitable cadence of such verse as none but Shakspeare has been able to construct, the charm will be broken, and the pathos subdued, though no mutilation could destroy it. How much the power of poetry depends upon the nice inflections of rhythm alone may be proved, by taking the finest passages of Milton or Shakspeare, and merely putting them into prose, with the least possible variation of the words themselves. The attempt would be like gathering up dewdrops, which appear jewels and pearls on the grass, but run into water in the hand; the essence and the elements remain, but the grace, the sparkle, and the form are gone.
But, independent of the metrical arrangement of syllables, there is an indescribable mannerism which distinguishes poetry from prose. This may be best apprehended from an example, - it shall be an illustrious one, — of the same subject, treated with consummate ability by the same hand, in story and in song. The latter, however, though the poetry is manifest in every clause, is not metrically rendered in the only language through which it can be presented here. I allude to the escape of the children of Israel out of Egypt, and their passage through the Red Sea. The history of this event is given in the
fourteenth chapter of the Book of Exodus, and the choral celebration of it follows in the fifteenth. It must be confessed, in this instance, that there is such dignity in the strict narrative, that the song, which goes over the same ground step by step, scarcely produces an equal impression upon the mind of the reader. Two brief extracts may be contrasted, in which the mannerism, - it is a mean word, but I cannot find one nearer to the peculiar sense at which I aim,
the mannerism of the two distinct modes of human language, prose and verse, will be easily recognised.
66 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea, upon the dry ground, and the waters were a wall unto them, on the right hand and on the left.
“ And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea; even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
“ And it came to pass, that in the morning-watch, the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.
66 And took off their chariot-wheels, that they drave heavily; so that the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.'
66 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and upon their horsemen.'
66 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the
morning appeared, and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
66 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
66 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea-shore.”—Exodus, xv. 22—30.
I know nothing in human composition, nor even in the inspired volume itself, in majesty of fact equal to this; where the statement is so perfectly simple, and yet so strong, event after event in the series being developed without effort or exaggeration, while every sentence is a step onward to the awful unescapeable catastrophe, which is neither hurried by an elision, nor retarded by a pleonasm. I cannot proceed without reverting for a moment to the wonderful apparition in the third clause, on which the entire issue depends. No real or figurative manifestation of Deity in the Old or New Testament approaches this in circumstantial clearness of accompaniments.
“ And it came to pass, that in the morning-watch, the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.”
Here, indeed, as in the holy mount, there is no similitude of the Divine Presence ; yet the time, “the morning-watch,”- the station, “ the pillar of fire and of the cloud," — the act, “ the Lord looked out,"
are all so graphically given, that it may almost be said
• Invisible appears in sight
C. WESLEY. In the next chapter, the same events are celebrated in strains of the highest poetry; and mark the difference of manner. In the history, it is recorded for information, that so it came to pass ; in the song, the particulars are referred to as already known : what in prose is circumstantially narrated, in verse is merely touched on by allusion, or splendidly amplified for ideal effect. Thus in the one,
66 The waters were a wall unto them on their right hand and their left." This is plain fact, supported by an ordinary metaphor. But hear the poet:
6. With the blast of thy nostrils, the waters were gathered together; the floods stood upright in a heap; and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.” — The blast, the gathering together of the waters, the floods standing upright, and the congelation of the depths " in the heart of the sea,” are all acts, images, or consequences, in the boldest style of poetic conception. This single instance will exemplify the difference of handling in the two contrasted forms of prose and verse.
The historian confines himself wholly to what happened at the time and upon the spot. The poet, after having expatiated on these, becomes a prophet, looks to the issues, and foretells them. The enemies of Israel shall be smitten with terror when they hear these tidings; while to the ransomed tribes, their recent
deliverance through the Red Sea is a pledge that the Lord will accomplish the whole of the oath, which he sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to their posterity the land of Canaan for a possession. I quote the paragraphs without further comment:
66 The nations shall hear and be afraid; sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
“ The dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold of them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
“ Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone, till thy people pass over. O Lord ! till the people pass over which Thou hast purchased.
“ Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance; in the place, O Lord ! which thou hast made for thee to dwell in; in the sanctuary, O Lord! which thy hands have established.” — Exodus, xv. 14-17.
While we are considering poetry and prose as mighty, yea, and worthy competitors in the same field of action, equally employing weapons of finest temper, keenest edge, and brightest polish, we may state that those of our countrymen who have most excelled in that style of prose which nearest resembles poetry, are Jeremy Taylor, John Howe, and