Page images

And lo! where, raving o'er a hollow course,
The ever-flowing flood
Foams in a thousand whirlpools. There adown
The perforated rock
Plunge the whole waters ; so precipitous,
So fathomless a fall,
That their earth-shaking roar came deadened up
Like subterranean thunders.

- Thalaba, 7: Southey. The following description, similar in general character, is more interesting, because it is more specific and shorter:

Onward amid the copse 'gan peep,
A narrow inlet, still and deep,
Affording scarce such breadth of brim,
As served the wild-duck's brood to swim.
Lost for a space, through thickets veering,
But broader when again appearing,
Tall rocks and tufted knolls their face
Could on the dark-blue mirror trace ;
And farther as the hunter strayed,
Still broader sweep its channels made.
The shaggy mounds no longer stood,
Emerging from entangled wood,
But, wave-encircled, seemed to float,
Like castle girdled with its moat ;
Yet broader fields extending still
Divide them from their parent hill,
Till each, retiring, claims to be
An islet in an inland sea.

-Lady of the Lake, I : Scott. But this is still more interesting, because it represents action that is closely connected with the plot.

Then did Apollo and the god of sea
Consult together to destroy the wall
By turning on it the resistless might
Of rivers.

.. nine days against the wall
He bade their currents rush, while Jupiter
Poured constant rain, that floods might overwhelm

The rampart; and the god who shakes the earth,
Wielding his trident, led the rivers on.
He flung among the billows the huge beams
And stones which, with hard toil, the Greeks had laid
For the foundations. Thus he levelled all
Beside the hurrying Hellespont, destroyed
The bulwarks utterly, and overspread
The long, broad shore with sand.

-Iliad, 12: Bryant's Trs. The principles that apply to these representations of persons and scenes in nature, apply also to conversations in dramatic poems. All lengthy descriptions or declamatory passages that have nothing to do directly with giving definiteness, character, and progress to the plot, detract from the interest of the poem, considered as a whole. The effect of these things upon the form is the same as that of rubbish thrown into the current of a stream-it impedes the movement, and renders the water less transparent. This is the chief reason why the works of the dramatists of the age of the history of our literature commonly called classical, like Dryden, Addison, Rowe, Home, and Brooke, notwithstanding much that is excellent in their writings, have not been able to maintain their popularity. Ordinary audiences do not go to the theatre to be preached at in this style:

These are all virtues of a meaner rank-
Perfections that are placed in bones and nerves.
A Roman soul is bent on higher views :
To civilize the rude, unpolished world,
And lay it under the restraint of laws;
To make man mild and sociable to man;
To cultivate the wild, licentious savage
With wisdom, discipline, and liberal arts,
The embellishments of life; virtues like these
Make human nature shine, reform the soul,
And break our fierce barbarians into men.

-Cato, 1, 4: Addison.

Some may suppose that the chief reason why such passages as these, and those quoted from Southey, are not popular, is because they manifest so few evidences of the work of constructive imagination, by which is meant mainly that they contain so little figurative language.

Yet, we have seen that some of Homer's descriptions are equally lacking in figures. It is not merely this that renders a description inartistic. It is its failure to be truly representative. For this reason the mere addition to it of figurative language would not remedy its defects.

This fact, however, will be considered at full in other chapters. The present chapter will be closed with a few quotations exemplifying, beyond what has been done in the preceding passages, how Homer carries the principles now under consideration into his illustrative representation. In the descriptions used in order to exemplify the main thought in the following, will be found the same characteristics as in those making up the main thought in most of the preceding quotations. It will be noticed that the items forming the features of every separate figure, mentioned for the sake of comparison, are presented in the same mental, fragmentary, specific, typical and progressive way with which we may now be supposed to have become familiar.

The hero was aroused
To fury fierce as Mars when brandishing
His spear, or as a desolating flame
That rages on a mountain-side among
The thickets of a close-grown wood. His lips
Were white with foam ; his eyes from underneath
His frowning brows streamed fire; and as he fought,
Upon the hero's temples fearfully
The helmet nodded...

Through the serried lines
He could not break; the Greeks in solid squares

Resisted, like a rock that huge and high
By the gray deep abides the buffetings
Of the shrill winds and swollen waves that beat
Against it. Firmly thus the Greeks withstood
The Trojan host, and fed not. In a blaze
Of armor, Hector, rushing toward their ranks,
Fell on them like a mighty billow raised
By the strong cloud-born winds, that flings itself
On a swift ship, and whelms it in its spray.

--Iliad, 15: Bryant's Trs.
Then Pallas to Tydides Diomed
Gave strength and courage, that he might appear
Among the Achaians greatly eminent,
And win a glorious name. Upon his head
And shield she caused a constant flame to play,
Like to the autumnal star that shines in heaven
Most brightly when new-bathed in ocean tides.
Such light she caused to beam upon his crest
And shoulders, as she sent the warrior forth
Into the thick and tumult of the fight.

-Iliad, 5: Idem All the Greeks Meanwhile came thronging to the appointed place. As swarming forth from cells within the rock, Coming and coming still the tribe of bees Fly in a cluster o'er the flowers of spring, And some are darting out from right to left. So from the ships and tents a multitude Along the spacious beach in mighty throngs Moved toward the assembly.

-Iliad, 2 : Idem.



Alloy introduces Unpoetic Elements into Verse—All Classic Representation

Pure-Tendencies in Poetic Composition leading to Alloyed Representation-In Direct Representation-In Illustrative RepresentationLawful to enlarge by Illustrations an Idea Great and Complex or Small and Simple-Descriptions of a Meal—Sunset—Peasant-Sailor-How these Tendencies may introduce Alloy that does not represent-Exaggerations in Love-Scenes-In Descriptions of Natural Scenery, etc.In Allegorical Poems and Sensational Plays.


E will examine now the form of representation

which, in contrast to pure, has been termed alloyed. This latter, as has been said, while following in the main the methods of picturing the thoughts that are used in pure representation, always introduces something into the picture in addition to what would naturally be perceived in connection with circumstances like those that are being detailed. At first thought, it might be supposed that these additions would not greatly impair the poetry in which we find them. But the fallacy of this supposition will appear, when we recall that poetry is an art, and that all art is representative. It follows from this that the purer the representation, the purer will be the art, and in the degree in which any thing is added to the representation,-any thing, that is, of such a nature that in like circumstances it could not presumably

« PreviousContinue »