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an accompaniable solitariness, and of a civil wildness. I pray you, said Musidorus, (then first unsealing his long-silent lips) what countries be these we pass through, which are so divers in shew, the one wanting no store, the other having no store but of want. The country, answered Claius, where you were cast ashore, and now are past through is Laconia: but this country (where you now set your foot) is Arcadia."
One would think the very name might have lulled his senses to delightful repose in some still, lonely valley, and have laid the restless spirit of Gothic quaintress, witticism, and conceit in the lap of classic elegance and pastoral simplicity. Here are images too of touching beauty and everlasting truth that needed nothing but to be simply and nakedly expressed to have made a picture equal (nay superior) to the allegorical representation of the Four Seasons of Life by Georgioni. But no! He cannot let his imagination or that of the reader dwell for a moment on the beauty or power of the real object. He thinks nothing is done, unless it is his doing. He must officiously and gratuitously interpose between you and the subject as the Cicerone of Nature, distracting the eye and the mind by continual uncalled-for interruptions, analysing, dissecting, disjointing, murdering every thing, and reading a pragmatical, self-sufficient lecture over the dead body of nature. The moving spring of his mind is not sensibility or imagination, but dry, literal, unceasing craving after intellectual excitement, which is indifferent to pleasure or pain, to beauty or deformity, and likes to owe every thing to its own perverse efforts rather than the sense of power in other things. It constantly interferes to perplex and neutralise. It never leaves the mind in a wise passiveness. In the infancy of taste, the froward pupils of art took nature to pieces, as spoiled children do a watch, to see what was in it. After taking it to pieces they could not, with all their cunning, put it together again, so as to restore circulation to the heart, or its living hue to the face! The quaint and pedantic style here objected to was not however the natural growth of untutored fancy, but an artificial excrescence transferred from logic and rhetoric to poetry. It was not owing to the excess of imagination, but of the want of it, that is, to the predominance of the mere understanding or dialectic faculty over the imaginative and the sensitive. It is in fact poetry degenerating at every step into prose, sentiment entangling itself in a controversy, from the habitual leaven of polemics and casuistry in the writer's mind. The poet insists upon matters of fact from the beauty or grandeur that accompanies them; our prose-poet insists upon them because they are matters of fact, and buries the beauty and grandeur in a heap of common rubbish, “ like two
grains of wheat in a bushel of chaff.” The true poet illustrates for ornament or use: the fantastic pretender, only because he is not easy till he can translate every thing out of itself into something else. Imagination consists in enriching one idea by another, which has the same feeling or set of associations belonging to it in a higher or more striking degree; the quaint or scholastic style consists in comparing one thing to another by the mere process of abstraction, and the more forced and naked the comparison, the less of harmony or congruity there is in it, the more wiredrawn and ambiguous the link of generalisation by which objects are brought together, the greater is the triumph of the false and fanciful style. There was a marked instance of the difference in some lines from Ben Jonson which I have above quoted, and which, as they are alternate examples of the extremes of both in the same author and in the same short poem, there can be nothing invidious in giving. In conveying an idea of female softness and sweetness, he asks
“ Have you
felt the wool of the beaver,
Now “ the swan's down” is a striking and beautiful image of the most delicate and yield
ing softness; but we have no associations of a pleasing sort with the wool of the beaver. The comparison is dry, hard, and barren of effect. It may establish the matter of fact, but detracts from and impairs the sentiment. The smell of “the bud of the briar" is a double-distilled essence of sweetness : besides, there are all the other concomitant ideas of youth, beauty, and blushing modesty, which blend with and heighten the immediate feeling: but the poetical reader was not bound to know even what nard is (it is merely a learned substance, a non-entity to the imagination) nor whether it has a fragrant or disagreeable scent when thrown into the fire, till Ben Jonson went out of his way to give him this pedantic piece of information. It is a mere matter of fact or of experiment; and while the experiment is making in reality or fancy, the sentiment stands still; or even taking it for granted in the literal and scientific sense, we are where we were; it does not enhance the passion to be expressed: we have no love for the smell of nard in the fire, but we have an old, a long-cherished one, from infancy, for the bud of the briar. Sentiment, as Mr. Burke said of nobility, is a thing of inveterate prejudice, and cannot be created, as some people (learned and unlearned) are inclined to suppose, out of fancy or out of any thing by the wit of man. The artificial and na
tural style do not alternate in this way in the Arcadia: the one is but the Helot, the eyeless drudge of the other. Thus even in the above passage, which is comparatively beautiful and simple in its general structure, we have “ the bleating oratory” of lambs, as if any thing could be more unlike oratory than the bleating of lambs; we have a young shepherdess knitting, whose hands keep time not to her voice, but to her" voice-music,” which introduces a foreign and questionable distinction, merely to perplex the subject; we have meadows enamelled with all sorts of“ eye-pleasing flowers," as if it were necessary to inform the reader that flowers pleased the eye, or as if they did not please any other sense: we have valleys refreshed " with silver streams,” an epithet that has nothing to do with the refreshment here spoken of; we have
an accompaniable solitariness and a civil wildness,” which are a pair of very laboured antitheses; in fine, we have “want of store, and store of want."
Again, the passage describing the shipwreck of Pyrochles, has been much and deservedly admired : yet it is not free from the same inherent faults.
“But a little way off they saw the mast (of the vessel) whose proud height now lay along, like a widow having lost