Page images
PDF
EPUB

So these lives that had run thus far in separate channels,

Coming in sight of each other, then swerving and flowing asunder,
Parted by barriers strong, but drawing nearer and nearer,
Rushed together at last, and one was lost in the other."

155. The Sonnet. -Some of the most elegant and labored short poems have been in the form called a Sonnet. The following is a good specimen, from J. Blanco White:

"Mysterious Night! when our first parent knew
Thee from report divine, and heard thy name,
Did he not tremble for this lovely frame,
This glorious canopy of light and blue?
Yet 'neath a curtain of translucent dew,

Bathed in the rays of the great setting flame,
Hesperus, with the host of heaven, came,

And lo! creation widened in man's view.

Who could have thought such darkness lay concealed
Within thy beams, O Sun? or who could find,

Whilst fly, and leaf, and insect stood revealed,
That to such countless orbs thou mad'st us blind?
Why do we, then, shun death with anxious strife?
If light can thus deceive, wherefore not life ?"

156. Rhyme.-Rhyme is the correspondence in the sound of the terminating syllables of two lines in immediate succession, or not far removed from each other. Sometimes certain other syllables in two lines immediately succeeding each other correspond in sound, or constitute rhyme. This is by some said to be a modern invention, simply because the ancient Greek and Latin poets did not employ it, but it was employed in the Sanscrit and other early Asiatic literature long before the Christian era.

157. Alliteration.-Alliteration, or the repetition of the same sound at the beginning of successive words, has been used as an ornament in poetry, but never to

ALLITERATION-MERE VERSE.

so great an extent as rhyme, and, except to a very limited extent, it is regarded as of no value. Pope frequently employed it, as in this line:

299

66 Up the high hill he heaved a huge round stone."

Alliteration was very common in the old English ballads. The following verses from "The Marriage of Sir Gawaine" may be taken as a specimen:

"Kinge Arthur lives in merry Carleile,

And seemely is to see,

And there he hath with him Queene Guenever,

That bride soe bright of blee.

"And there he hath with him Queene Guenever,

That bride soe bright in bowre,

And all his barons about him stoode

That were both stiffe and stowre."

Rhymes and alliterations are often mingled in mod. ern poetry. The following verse employs both:

"Three kings there are to rule the world, and mightier none could be
Howe'er he strive, no man alive, from their control is free.
And one is yellow, and one is black, and one is white as snow-
The yellow one is the elder one, but not the stronger though—
By these and theirs the world's affairs are rigorously controlled;
And the names these mighty monarchs bear are Cotton, Coal, and
Gold."

158. Verse without true Poetry.We have spoken of Verse thus far as a dress assumed by Poetry; but it is oftener employed when the thought expressed is not poetical. Measured language is itself pleasing to the ear, and, especially when accompanied with rhyme, is more easily remembered than prose. It is therefore employed sometimes to express almost every variety of thought. Verse is often used as a mnemonic, for

the expression of facts which it is convenient always to have at command. Nearly all are familiar with the

stanza:

[merged small][ocr errors]

Attempts have been made to express in verse the rules of grammar and logic, and the leading facts in geography, but it is found that a healthy memory rejects a large quantity of mere jingle, that adds nothing to the naked facts.

159. Poetry used as synonymous with Verse. - Still by a very natural metonymy, the usual form of poetry, verse, stands for the substance in popular usage. Whately says: "Notwithstanding all that has been said by some French critics to prove that a work, not in metre, may be a poem (which doctrine was partly derived from a misinterpretation of a passage in Aristotle's poetics), universal opinion has always given a contrary decision."*

Poetry, as usually understood, includes all literary productions which are in the form of measured language or verse, and excludes all others.

It is evident from this definition that poetry nev er reveals its full power but when read aloud, with proper intonation and emphasis.

Children take great delight in verse, showing that there is a natural passion for measured language. Whately's Rhetoric, part iii. chap. iii. § 3.

NONSENSICAL VERSE..

301

"Mother Goose's Melodies," and other juvenile literature, illustrate this fact.

160. Importance of correct Measure.-All writers of correct Poetry in any form of verse should observe faithfully the laws of versification. Imperfect measure and faulty rhymes may indeed be found in some good poems, but young writers should not be excused for employing them.

161. Nonsensical Verse.-One of the greatest faults in poetry, so called, is the presentation of a body without any soul-a mere pleasing combination of sounds, with little meaning. This kind of composition is well illustrated in the following lines:

"How evanescent and marine
Are thy chaotic uplands seen,

Oh, ever sublapsarian moon;
A thousand viaducts of light
Were not so spherically bright

Or ventilated half so soon.
"And now again my bark is tost
Upon the raging holocaust

Of that acidulated sea;
And diapasons, pouring down,
With lunar caustic join, to drown
My transcendental epopee."

Much so-called poetry has but little more sense than this.

CHAPTER XVIII.

SPECIES OF POETRY.

162. Various Kinds of Poetical Composition.-THERE are several leading kinds of poetry, among which may be mentioned as most important, the Lyric, the Epic, the Dramatic, and the Humorous.

163. Lyric Poetry.-Lyric Poetry embraces all that is written to be sung, and which may be accompanied by a musical instrument, as odes, hymns, songs.

These are usually brief, and each one should express at least one leading thought, and inspire at least one passion. They are not always written to be sung, and may be of such a metre that it would be difficult to accompany them with music.

Among them may be mentioned hymns, patriotic songs, love-songs, and odes on almost all subjects that inspire enthusiasm or unwonted emotion.

Hymns are confessedly among the most difficult compositions to write. The best examples in the world are some of the Psalms of David-psalms which in various languages have been sung for thousands of years, and will never be forgotten. Some of the hymns of Luther, Watts, Charles Wesley, and other Christian poets, may be regarded as models. The hymns best adapted to the public worship of God are not highly

« PreviousContinue »