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to secure the highest degree of melody. Again, an unusual and unexpected order of words may give rise to an agreeable surprise. If, therefore, the melody can be increased and a pleasing surprise effected by the same deviation, a double pleasure is afforded. The attainment of these objects, along with the requirements of measure, accounts for the inverted constructions of poetry. In prose, on the other hand, as the object is to inform the understanding, everything is made subservient to clearness, directness, and force of expression. Not that the prose writer has no ear for melody or no eye for beauty. He does not disdain to embody as much of music and of all the other beauties of composition as is consistent with the nature of the subject he is treating; but with him these are secondary objects.


Many words darken speech. Poetry seeks to present clear and distinct images to the mind-its diction is picturesque. Long sentences and involved constructions which convey the thought in such a manner that it cannot be grasped without an effort, require a labor that destroys the pleasure poetry is intended to impart; hence it makes use of the briefest forms of expression consistent with clearness. Many, if not all, of the expedients employed to attain brevity in poetry are also used in prose, but poetry, as will be seen, makes a still bolder use of them.

Among the means adopted to render the language of poetry picturesque may be mentioned

I. The omission of connectives; as,

"The dew was falling fast; the stars began to blink;

I heard a voice; it cried: 'Drink, pretty creature, drink!'"


On the o hand, the connectives are sometimes repeated in poetry where they would be omitted in prose.

2. Absolute constructions; as,

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"The hour concealed, and so remote the fear,

Death still draws nearer, never seeming near."

3. Adjectives instead of clauses. The adjective takes the place of a variety of kinds of clauses that would ordinarily be expressed at length in prose; as,—

"Lely on animated canvas stole

The sleepy eye which spoke the melting soul." i.e., the canvas which assumed life under his pencil.

4. Participial constructions; as,

"Nigh foundered, on he fares, Treading the crude consistence, half on foot, half flying." "My sudden hand Prevented, spares to tell thee yet by deeds what it intends." 5. Ellipses that would not be permissible in prose are frequently found in poetry; as,


a. Of the article; as,

"The why is plain as way to parish church."

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b. Of pronouns; as,

"It was a tall young gentleman lived by the riverside."

c. Of the verb; as,

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"Sweet the pleasure, rich the treasure."

d. Of the conjunction and verb; as,

"By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
The clock of history."

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a. Adjectives for adverbs; as,—

for "sweetly."

6. Poetic Grammar. For the sake of an agreeable surprise, and for the sake of brevity, liberties are taken with the rules of grammar, and deviations from them made, under the name of Poetic License.

"So sweet she sung";

b. One conjunction for another; as,

"Nor day nor night my heart has rest"; for "Neither day nor night my heart has rest."

c. One case for another; as,

"So you must ride on horseback after we." d. One part of the verb for another; as,"But saw her not Before his weary pilgrimage begun."

e. One pronoun for another; as,

f. Pleonastic pronouns; as,

"I will paint me with black."

"My banks they are furnished with bees."


7. Epithets. As poetry combines with the object of graphically presenting ideas and images, the still higher one of giving pleasure, it makes use of language at once instructive and pleasing. In this way, we find poetry coining new words, or combining other words into epithets in an original and delightful manner. These epithets often convey, in brief, a fulness of meaning that could be expressed only by a whole clause or sentence in the common prosaic style. Thus : —

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Grieving, if aught inanimate e'er grieves,
O'er the unreturning brave."

i.e., “The brave who are destined never to return.”

"New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill."

i.e., "A hill that reaches up to and kisses the heavens."

8. Pictorial Epithets. Sometimes epithets are used, not because they are necessary to the sense, but because they suggest som idea that helps to render the picture more complete. Thus :

"Under a spreading chestnut-tree."

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9. Epithet for Name. - The poet often goes further, and puts the epithet for the name of the thing, with a boldness that would not be allowable in prose. Thus :

i.e., "The sky."

"Below the chestnut when their buds
Were glistening to the breezy blue."

"The dead vast of night."

i.e., "Waste."

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Certain words and word-forms are peculiar to poetry.

1. Poetic Words. - Poetry, especially poetry of the elevated style, makes use of many words that may be called poetic, as they are seldom, if ever, admissible in prose of any kind. They are such as stilly, vasty, bewept, welkin, wend, meed, wilding, quoth.

Closely allied to these is another class, used in the higher kinds of prose, and also in poetry. They are such as isle, mount, betwixt, vale, nigh, ire, yore.

Again, words are often used in poetry in an unusual or improper

sense; as,

"Chill penury repressed their noble rage."

2. Altered Words. To suit the measure, words are frequently altered in form. This may be done by cutting off a syllable at the beginning (Aphæresis), or at the end (Apocope), or by throwing out a syllable from the middle (Syncope). Thus: 'plaint, 'gainst, 'gan; morn, eve, ope, vampire; ne'er, fav'rite.

3. Old Words. Because old words and archaic forms add dignity to the style, and because they are shorter than the modern, poetry makes frequent use of them, though they would not be allowed in prose. They are such as ween, whilom, clomb, hight, yclept, erst.

4. Proper Names.- In this connection, it may be mentioned that in the names of places, countries, or persons, old names or

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altered forms of modern names are very often employed for the sake of elevation or euphony; as,

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Though the last glimpse of Erin with sorrow I see,
Yet wherever thou art shall seem Erin to me."

In the same way, instead of the name of a person, place, or thing, is found in poetry some quality, characteristic, or accompaniment that suggests it; as, "He loves the Green Isle."


It has already been pointed out that both Strength and Clearness are promoted by the use of concrete terms instead of abstract, and of particular instead of generic. In poetry, where pleasure is the purpose of the language, it is natural that every word should as far as possible be adapted to call up some image. So we find that poetry even more than prose prefers specific and concrete terms to generic and abstract. Thus :

"The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade."

"The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies."


In the diction of poetry special attention is given to sound. For the purpose of heightening the music of the lines, free use is made of

1. Alliteration; as,

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"Bareheaded, breathless, and besprent with mire."

2. The most musical syllables and combinations that can be found; as,

“Oh! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest
When they promise a glorious morrow."

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