Page images
PDF
EPUB

creeping. Worse than this, certain words seem suggested merely by their sounds which alliterate with words near them. Now, suppose a man in conversation were to let his thoughts run on in this way, deviating from the line of his argument or description, whenever he happened to strike a word the sense or sound of which suggested something different from that of which he started out to speak. What should we think of him? One of two things,-either that he was insane, or had a very poorly disciplined mind. Precisely this is what is represented, so far as any thing is represented, by this kind of poetry. Yet, as we all know, the finest and highest art must represent the finest and highest efforts of the finest and highest powers of the mind. If this be so, then poetry modelled upon a form which is the legitimate and natural expression of an insane or a poorly disciplined mind, is not poetry of the finest and highest order.

CHAPTER XXVII.

REPRESENTATION IN POEMS CONSIDERED AS WHOLES.

Form in Words and Sentences-How Visible Appearances give an Impres

sion of Form-How Movable Appearances do the Same--Consistency and Continuity in a Sentence Necessary to give it an Effect of FormA Poem a Series of Representations and of Sentences-Must have Manifest Consistency and Continuity giving it Manifest Unity and Progress, also Definiteness and Completeness--Form modelled on Direct Representation-How Figures can be carried out with Manifest Consistency and Continuity-Complete and Broken Figures—Examples of Poems with Forms modelled on the Methods of Illustrative Representation-How Excellence of Form in all Poems of whatever Length should be determined—Certain Poems not representing Unity and Progress Great Poets see Pictures when conceiving their Poems; Inferior Poets think of Arguments—Same Principles applied to Smaller Poems-The Moral in Poetry should be represented not presented-Poetic Excellence determined not by the Thought but by the Form of the Thought, which must be a Form of Representation.

We have been considering the representative nature

of poetry. It remains for us to consider the representative nature of a poem. All the products of art, it was said at the opening of this work, are acknowledged to have what is termed a form. In what sense can a poem be said to have form, and what is necessary to cause the form to be what it should be? In order to determine this, let us go back for moment to the method in which thought attains form in ordinary language of which poetry is a development. When we have noticed the principles

that operate there, we shall have something to aid us in solving our question here.

These principles are very simple. Sounds, or letters symbolizing them in a material sphere, represent a thought in the immaterial mind, and thus give it a form embodied in a word. Two or more words put together give form to compound words, phrases, or sentences. Let us examine the last of these for a moment. It is the most complex of the three, yet very simple as compared with the collection of words in a whole poem. At the same time, too, it is the most complete form of expression of the three-in fact, in its way an absolutely complete form of expression. A whole poem is more complete only in the sense that it is composed of a large number of these sentences. As mere vehicles of expression, therefore, every principle that applies to them applies to the poem as a whole, and if we can find out in what sense they can be said to have form, we can have something to guide us in determining in what sense a poem can be said to have form.

What do we mean, then, by saying that a sentence has form? If it were a visible object we should say it had form in the degree in which it appeared to be one object, by which we should mean in the degree in which, owing to the effects of outlines, colors, or some other features, every part of the object seemed to be connected with every other part of it throughout the entire extent of space which it occupied. A sentence is not visible in space, but is apprehended in time,-in words that follow one another. Its substance is movement, and if we apply to it the same criterions as those usually applied to visible objects, changing only the terms that are necessary to refer to it as an object whose substance is movement,

we must say that it appears to have form in the degree in which it appears to be one movement by which we mean in the degree in which every part of its movement seems to be connected with every other part of it, and this throughout the whole extent of time which it occupies. The first of these conditions, when every part of the movement seems to be connected with every other part of it, gives to the whole the effect of consistency. The second of the conditions, when this connected movement seems to extend throughout the whole time occupied by it, gives to the whole the effect of continuity. In a perfect sentence, consistency is manifest, because every word or clause is related in some way to every other; and continuity, because every word or clause is related in some way to a subject which represents the beginning of a movement; to a predicate, which represents the continuation and sometimes the end of the movement; and also, when needed, to an object, which represents the end of the movement. It is for these reasons that a perfect sentence seems to us to have form : it has consistency and continuity.

If this be true of a sentence, which is a series of words representing thought, why should it not be true of a poem, which is also a series of words representing thought? A poem is made up of series of sentences, or, as we have found, of series of representations, some of them continuing through many sentences. If the poem, as a whole, is to have form, and one that can be readily recognized, it follows, from what has been said, that its different sentences or representations of movements or actions must all manifest their relationships to one another, thus producing the effect of consistency; and also their relationships to the general forward movement, thus producing the effect of continuity.

From its very nature a whole poem is always more or less complex; and the human mind is so constituted that one can never understand that which is complex until it has been analyzed sufficiently to make possible some kind of a classification of its parts. For this classification there is needed a basis, and this is always found primarily in some one feature which all the parts possess in common, as when the whole family of birds are classed together because they all have feathers. The mind cannot understand, therefore, that consistency exists in any complex series of sentences or thoughts represented by them, unless perceiving one kind of movement or action which all manifest; nor continuity unless perceiving one direction which all the movements or actions take. Hence it is that the action represented in art, if the art-product is to appear to have an artistic form, must be characterized by what are termed unity and progress, unity being the result of effects produced by apparent consistency, and progress, of the effects of apparent continuity.

Once more, unity as influenced by progress in an artproduct renders its æsthetic effects clearly distinguishable from all other effects produced side by side with it. In other words, progress in unity gives definiteness to form. On the other hand, progress as influenced by unity in an art-product renders its æsthetic effects clearly distinguishable from all other effects produced before or after it, because these are separated from it, both at its beginning and at its end. In other words, unity in progress gives completeness to form.

A poem is a development of language, and language is a representation of thought, and thought is always in motion. Every poem, therefore, must represent thought in motion. But more than this, it must manifest unity.

« PreviousContinue »