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crowding together of thought and illustration in the form, in such a way that neither of the two stands forth in clear relief. Here the tendency is only slightly suggested :
O Mother State, how quenched thy Sinai fires !
Is there none left of thy staunch Mayflower breed ?
Of Virtue's altar-flame the kindling seed ?
Our frail-stemmed summer prosperings in their flower ?
With its stern Puritan besom, all this chaff
From the Lord's threshing-floor! Yet more than half
Through the fool's laughter and the traitor's scorn,
Beside thy sepulchre can abide the morn,
-To John G. Palfrey: Lowell.
Here there is a much further development of the tendency :
Meantime, just meditate my madrigal
Thereby, have Satan claim his carcass, and
-Sordello, 3: R. Browning. In addition to what has been said already, it will be noticed that in the first of these quotations, phrases like Sinai fires, Mayflower breed, whiff of Naseby, Puritan besom, etc., and in the second, words like Zin the Horrid, Potiphar's, ass, Gibeonites, Moses, Meribah, etc., call up no definite pictures, though at first they seem to do so. They merely call up ideas, which, in turn, call up pictures to the poet's mind, on account of the facts which he has come to associate with these words. They call up the same ideas in the minds of others, only so far as these happen to have the same associations with the terms that the poet has. But suppose the people of India or China, or of any clime or age having no such associations, were to read the poetry; for them there would be no pictures represented-scarcely any ideas presented by this kind of language. In saying this, it is not meant that all allusions to such things as are mentioned here for the sake of illustration should be banished from poetry ; it is meant merely that this sort of material should not be crowded into the form in such a way as to interfere with clearness of representation. Some of the allusions, with very slight alterations, might be made intelligible and forcible to readers the most ignorant of the facts mentioned, and the most devoid of sympathy with the principles exemplified by them. All of the allusions would injure the poetry less, if they stood in passages by themselves, instead of being crowded, as they are, into every part of it. In that case
there might be, aside from them, enough of pure representation in the poetry to render it of permanent and universal interest. Some of us, perhaps, have seen old paintings, the costumes in which, representing the fashions of the day, made the figures seem almost ridiculous; but, notwithstanding this, the faces of the forms thus clothed, because pure representations of nature, were beautiful or attractive. We have seen, also, pictures of North American Indians, in which not only the forms were so robed, but the faces so painted, that what may be termed the alloyed representation of their day, left in its portraiture no pure representation of nature whatsoever for us really to admire. The kind of poetry of which we have just been treating, is in danger at some time of producing similar effects. Often not even in small, scattered parts of it, is there any pure representation. When, therefore, the fashion of the time to which it is addressed goes by, nothing will be left to render it of permanent interest. We come back here, therefore, to the place where we started. Art is representative, and that which is not representative in the highest sense does not meet the requirements of art, and therefore cannot live as true art does. Allusions in poetry that lives are separated from the main thought, as in the following, which, though not wholly to be commended, can be read with intelligence even by one who does not recall the particulars of the myths to which reference is made.
Thus saying, from her husband's hand, her hand
But with such gard’ning tools as art, yet rude,
-Paradise Lost, 9: Milton.
-Idem, 9. Sometimes, too, such allusions in the best poetry, are explained or rendered picturesque, as in the following:
Do you believe me yet, or shall I call
- Comus : Milton. It is not merely in historical or mythological allusions, however, that the main thought of a passage can be so mixed with the illustrating figures as to destroy their representative character. The same tendency will be recognized in the following:
Yes, the pine is the mother of legends ; what food
From Michael's white shoulder-is hewn and defaced
- The Growth of the Legend : Lowell, In contrast with this, notice how clearly both thoughts and figures, and the thoughts by means of the figures, stand out in poetry that is truly representative:
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,-
- The Present Crisis : Lowell. Virtue ? a fig! 't is in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are gardens to the which our wills are gardeners ; so that if we will plant nettles, or sew lettuce ; set hyssop, and weed up thyme ; supply it with one gender of herbs, or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry ; why the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills.
--Othello, i., 3: Shakespear.
-Lear, iv., 3: Idem.
• Get thee glass eyes ;
- Idem, iv., 6.