Page images
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

honours some passages with particular praise, this first stanza, he says, consists of “sounds well chosen indeed, but only sounds." I have already admitted the danger of a too minute attention to the art of representative metre, as it may lead the poet to overlook far more important considerations, and to sacrifice sense to sound. A similar danger, however, is common to all other arts. The painter as well as the poet may make too much of his accessories, and too little of his main subject. This is no reason, however, why the painter's accessories or the poet's metrical details should be treated with indifference or contempt. The music of verse seems to have a natural affinity to what may be called the music of thought, and no reader of nice ear or poetical sensibility can fail to appreciate its worth, “ Harmony of period and melody of style," says Shenstone, “have greater weight than is generally imagined in the judgment we pass upon writing and writers. As a proof of this, let us reflect, what texts of Scripture, what lines in poetry, or what periods we most remember and quote, either in verse or prose, and we shall find them to be only musical ones.” Beautiful thoughts and exquisite emotions “ involuntarily move harmonious numbers."

One of Pope's best attempts at imitative harmony is his description of the labour of Sisyphus.

tanza

With many a weary step and many a groan,
Up the high hill he heaves a huge round stone ;
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound,
Thunders impetuous down and smokes along the ground.

To every reader, who has gentility enough to aspirate the h's, the second line is quite a task. He has given us another line that moves with the same difficulty.

“ And when up ten steep slopes you've dragged your thighs.”

Here indeed

The line too labours, and the words move slow.

Mr. Crowe, the author of Lewisdon Hill, has attempted a new version of this celebrated passage respecting Sisyphus, and it is not without great merit, though unequal perhaps to that of Pope.

Then Sisyphus I saw, with ceaseless pain
Labouring beneath a ponderous stone in vain.
With hunds and feet striving, with all his might
He pushed the unwieldy muss up a steep height;
But ere he could achieve his toilsome course,
Just as he reached the top, a sudden force
Turned the curst stone, and slipping from his hold
Down again, down the steep rebounding, down it rolled.

Paradise Lost abounds in examples of the beauty of which I am now treating. The toil of Satan perhaps even surpasses that of Sysiphus,

So he with difficulty and labour hard
Moved on : with difficulty and labour he-

Now for the harsh thunder" of the gates of Hell! With what rapidity they fly open !

On a sudden open fly
With impetuons recoil and jarring sound
The infernal doors; and on their hinges grate.
Ilarsh thunder.

Here is a happy imitation of an echo.

I fled and cried out, death!
Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed
From all her caves, and back resounded death!

The pause after the word shook in the next extract is very effective.

And over them triumphant Death his dart
Shook, but delayed to strike.

The quick and joyous movement of the ensuing verses is a particularly happy instance of representative harmony.

Let the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound,
To many a yonth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequered shade.

There is a watery music in the following lines.

Fountains ! and ye that warble as ye flow,

Melodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise. Here is a description of carriage wheels descending and ascending a hill. It is noticed by Mr. Crowe, but I know not who the author is.

Which in their different courses as they pass
Rush violently down precipitate,
Or slowly turn, oft resting, up the steep.

Dyer in his Ruins of Rome," a poem that Wordsworth remarks has been very undeservedly neglected, has a fine specimen of imitative harmony, in which the fall of ruins is represented with great effect. The passage is quoted by Johnson with commendation.

The pilgrim oft
At dead of night, ’mid his orison, hears
Aghast the voice of time; disparting towers
Tumbling all precipitate down dashed,
Rattling around, loud thundering to the moon.

The same poet well describes the sudden delay in a ship's progress on the Indian Ocean by a cessation of wind.

With easy course
The vessels glide; unless their speed be stopped

By deud calms, that oft lie on those smooth seas. The following remarkably successful adaptation of sound to sense is from Pope's Homer's Iliad. It has a greater freedom of versification than the translator usually exhibits.

As from some mountain's craggy forehead torn
A rock's huge fragment flies, with fury borne,

(Which from the stubborn stone a torrent rends)
Precipitate the ponderous mass descends ;
From steep to steep the rolling ruin bounds,
At every shock the crackling wood resounds ;
Still gathering strength, it smokes; und urged amain,
Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain ;

-&c.

There stops,

The ensuing lines from Shakespeare's " Troilus and Cressida” seem inflated with the bulky meaning.

The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling,

From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause.”

Cowley laboured hard to produce an echo to the sense, and sometimes succeeded, as the next four lines may show. The continuity of a stream is well represented.

Ile who defers his work from day to day,
Does on a river's brink expecting stay,
Till the whole stream that stopped him shall be gone,
Which runs, and as it runs, for ever will run on.

The progress of Milton's fiend is a very striking illustration of the effect to be gained by an artful and choice arrangement of words.

his way,

[ocr errors]

The fiend
O'er bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings or feet pursues

And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps or flies.”
I need hardly give any further specimens*, for every reader,
though he may not previously have studied the subject, must now
understand the nature of imitative harmony in verse. It de-
pends, it will be seen, sometimes on the sound of particular
words, sometimes on the management of the pauses, sometimes
on the length or shortness of the metrical feet, and sometimes on
all these circumstances artfully or happily combined.

A few of these examples have been noticed before by Johnson, Beattie and Crowe; but I have introduced as many new ones as I could recollect.

A SOLDIER'S DREAM.

The foulest stain and scandal of our nature
Became a boast ;-one murder made a Villain,
Millions a Hero!

Porteus.

The foe had fled the fearful strife had ceased-
And shouts arose of mockery and joy,
As the loud trumpet's wild exulting voice
Proclaimed the victory! With weary tread,
But spirits light and free, the victors passed
On to the neighbouring citadel. Nor deemed,
Nor recked they, in that moment's pride, of aught
But glory won.

Or if a tender thought
Recalled the fallen brave, 'twas like the cloud
On Summer's radiant brow-a flitting shade.

Yet on the battle-plain how many lay,
In their last dreamless sleep! Some too were there
Who struggled yet within the mighty grasp
Of that stern conqueror-Death. The fearful throes
Of parting life, at intervals, would wring,
E'en from the proudest heart, the piercing cry
Of mortal agony.

In pain I sunk,
Worn and disabled, ʼmid the dead and dying.
Night's shadows were around,—the sickly moon,
Dim and discoloured, rose, as if she mourned
To gaze upon a scene so fraught with woe!

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »