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"ought not to have made Othello black; for the hero of a tragedy ought always to be white." "Milton," says another critic, "ought not to have taken Adam for his hero; for the hero of an epic poem ought always to be vicought not Milton," says another, torious." to have put so many similes into his first book; for the first book of an epic poem ought There are always to be the most unadorned. no similes in the first book of the Iliad." Milton," says another, "ought not to have placed in an epic poem such lines as these:

'I also erred in overmuch admiring.'"

And why not? The critic is ready with a reason
-a lady's reason. "Such lines," says he, "are
not, it must be allowed, unpleasing to the ear;
but the redundant syllable ought to be confined
to the drama, and not admitted into epic poetry."
As to the redundant syllable in heroic rhyme,
on serious subjects, it has been, from the time
of Pope downward, proscribed by the general
consent of all the correct school. No
zine would have admitted so incorrect a coup-

let as that of Dayton,


see in old Bibles-an exact square, enclosed
by the rivers Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Eu-
phrates, each with a convenient bridge in the
centre-rectangular beds of flowers-a long
canal neatly bricked and railed in-the tree of
knowledge, clipped like one of the limes be-
hind the Tuileries, standing in the centre of
the grand alley-the snake twined round it-
the man on the right hand, the woman on the
| left, and the beasts drawn up in an exact cir-
correct enough. That is to say, the squares
cle round them. In one sense the picture is
are correct; the circles are correct; the man
and woman are in a most correct line with the
tree; and the snake forms a most correct

But if there were a painter so gifted, that he "dise seen by the interior eye of him whose outshould place in the canvass that glorious paraward sight had failed with long watching and labouring for liberty and truth-if there were the sapphire brook, the lake with its fringe of a painter who could set before us the mazes of myrtles, the flowery meadows, the grottoes overhung by vines, the forests shining with Hesperian fruit and with the plumage of gor geous birds, the massy shade of that nuptial bower which showered down roses on the Another law of heroic poetry which, fifty years sleeping lovers-what should we think of a ago, was considered as fundamental, was, that connoisseur who should tell us that this paintthere should be a pause-a comma at least, at ing, though finer than the absurd picture of the the end of every couplet. It was also provided old Bible, was not so correct? Surely we that there should never be a full stop except should answer, It is both finer and more corat the end of a couplet. Well do we remem-rect; and it is finer because it is more correct. ber to have heard a most correct judge of poe-It is not made up of correctly drawn diagrams, try revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness of that most sweet and graceful passage,

"As when we lived untouched with these disgraces,
When as our kingdom was our dear embraces."

Twas thine, Maria, thine, without a sigh, 20 At midnight in a sister's arms to die, Nursing the young to health."

Sir Roger Newdigate is fairly entitled, we think, to be ranked among the great critics of this school. He made a law that none of the poems written for the prize which he estab


tion of that which it is intended to represent. but it is a correct painting, a worthy representa

It is not in the fine arts alone that this false correctness is prized by narrow-minded men, by men who cannot distinguish means from ends, or what is accidental from what is essential. Mr. Jourdain admired correctness in fencing. "You had no business to hit me then. You must never thrust in quart till you have thrust in tierce." M. Tomès liked correctness

his law spard should exceed fifty lines. in medical practice. "I stand up for Artemius.

to us to have at least as much foundation in reason as any of those which we have mentioned; nay, much more, for the world, we believe, is pretty well agreed in thinking that the shorter a prize-poem is, the better.

That he killed his patient is plain enough. But still he acted quite according to rule. A But if rules are to be broken, man dead is a man dead, and there is an end of the matter. follow." We have heard of an old German there is no saying what consequences may We do not see why we should not make a officer, who was a great admirer of correctness few more rules of the same kind-why we in military operations. He used to revile Boshould not enact that the number of scenes in naparte for spoiling the science of war, which every act shall be three, or some multiple of had been carried to such an exquisite perfecthree; that the number of lines in every scene tion by Marshal Daun. "In my youth we used shall be an exact square; that the dramatis to march and countermarch all the summer, persona shall never be more nor fewer than six-without gaining or losing a square league, and teen; and that, in heroic rhymes, every thirty-then we went into winter-quarters. And now sixth line shall have twelve syllables. If we comes an ignorant, hot-headed young man, to lay down these canons, and to call who flies about from Boulogne to Ulm, and Pope, Goldsmith, and Addison incorrect wri- from Ulm to the middle of Moravia, and fights ters for not having complied with our whims, battles in December. The whole system of we should act precisely as those critics act his tactics is monstrously incorrect." who find incorrectness in the magnificent ima- world is of opinion, in spite of critics like these. medicine is to cure, that the end of war is t gery and the varied music of Coleridge and that the end of fencing is to hit, that the end of Shelley. conquer, and that those means are the mos And has poetry no end, no eternal and im correct which best accomplish the ends.



correctness which the last century prized so much resembled the correctness of those pictures of the garden of Eden which we I-16


flows into the gesture and the face-always an imperfect, often a deceitful sign of that which is within. The deeper and more complex parts of human nature can be exhibited by means of words alone. Thus the objects of the imitation of poetry are the whole external and the whole internal universe, the face of nature, the vicissitudes of fortune, man as he is in himself, man as he appears in society, all things of which we can form an image in our minds, by combining together parts of things which really exist. The domain of this imperial art is com mensurate with the imaginative faculty.

An art essentially imitative ought not surely to be subjected to rules which tend to make its imitations less perfect than they would otherwise be; and those who obey such rules ought to be called, not correct, but incorrect artists. The true way to judge of the rules by which English poetry was governed during the last century, is to look at the effects which they produced.

mutable principles? Is poetry, like heraldry, mere matter of arbitrary regulation? The heralds tell us that certain scutcheons and bearings denote certain conditions, and that to put colours on colours, or metals on metals, is false blazonry. If all this were reversed; if every coat of arms in Europe were new-fashioned; if it were decreed that or should never be placed but on argent, or argent but on or; that illegitimacy should be denoted by a lozenge, and widowhood by a bend, the new science would be just as good as the old science, because both the new and the old would be good for nothing. The mummery of Portcullis and Rouge Dragon, as it has no other value than that which caprice has assigned to it, may well submit to any laws which caprice may impose on it. But it is not so with that great imitative art, to the power of which all ages, the rudest and the most enlightened, bear witness. Since its first great masterpieces were produced, every thing that is changeable in this world has been changed. Civilization has been It was in 1780 that Johnson completed his gained, los, gained again. Religions, and Lives of the Poets. He tells us in that work languages, and forms of government, and that since the time of Dryden, English poetry usages of private life, and the modes of think- had shown no tendency to relapse into its oriing, all have undergone a succession of revo-ginal savageness; that its language had been lutions. Every thing has passed away but the great features of nature, the heart of man, and the miracles of that art of which it is the office to reflect back the heart of man and the features of nature. Those two strange old poems, the wonder of ninety generations, still retain all their freshness. They still command the veneration of minds enriched by the literature of many nations and ages. They are still, even n wretched translations, the delight of schoolBoys. Having survived ten thousand capricious fashions, having seen successive codes of criticism become obsolete, they still remain, immortal with the immortality of truth, the same when perused in the study of an English scholar as when they were first chanted at the banquets of the Ionian princes.

refined, its numbers tuned, and its sentiments improved. It may, perhaps, be doubted whether the nation had any great reason to exult in the refinements and improvements which gave it Douglas for Othello, and the Triumphs of Temper for the Faerie Queen.

It was during the thirty years which preceded the appearance of Johnson's Lives, that the diction and versification of English poetry were, in the sense in which the word is commonly used, most correct. Those thirty years form the most deplorable part of our literary history. They have bequeathed to us scarcely any poetry which deserves to be remembered. Two or three hundred lines of Gray, twice as many of Goldsmith, a few stanzas of Beattie and Collins, a few strophes of Mason, and a few clever prologues and satires, were the masterpieces of this age of consummate excellence. They may all be printed in one volume, and that volume would be by no means a volume of extraordinary merit. It would contain no poetry of the highest class, and little which could be placed very high in the second class. The Paradise Regained, or Comus, would outweigh it all.

Poetry is, as that most acute of human beings, Aristotle, said, more than two thousand years ago, imitation. It is an art analogous in many respects to the art of painting, sculpture, and acting. The imitations of the painter, the sculptor, and the actor are, indeed, within certain limits, more perfect than those of the poet. The machinery which the poet employs consists merely of words; and words cannot, even when employed by such an artist as Homer or Dante, present to the mind images of visible objects quite so lively and exact as those which we carry away from looking on the works of the brush and the chisel. But, on the other hand, the range of poetry is infinitely wider than that of any other imitative art, or than that of all the other imitative arts together. The sculptor can imitate only form; the painter only form and colour; the actor, until the poet supplies him with words, only form, colour, and motion. Poetry holds the outer world in common with the other arts. The heart of man is the province of poetry, and of poetry alone. The painter, the sculptor, and the actor, when the actor is unassisted by the poet, It was in a cold and barren season that the can exhibit no more of human passion and seeds of that rich harvest which we have character than that small portion which over-reaped were first sown. While poetry was

At last, when poetry had fallen into such utter decay that Mr. Hayley was thought a great poet, it began to appear that the excess of the evil was about to work the cure. Men became tired of an insipid conformity to a standard which derived no authority from nature or reason. A shallow criticism had taught them to ascribe a superstitious value to the spurious correctness of poetasters. A deeper criticism brought them back to the free correctness of the first great masters. The eternal laws of poetry regained their power, and the temporary fashions which had superseded those laws went after the wig of Lovelace and the hoop of Clarissa.

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every year becoming more feeble and more manliness of taste which approached to roughmechanical, while the monotonous versifica- ness. They did not deal in mechanical versition which Pope had introduced, no longer re-fication and conventional phrases. They wrote deemed by his brilliant wit and his compact- concerning things, the thought of which set ness of expression, palled on the ear of the their hearts on fire; and thus what they wrote, public, the great works of the dead were every even when it wanted every other grace, had that day attracting more and more of the admiration inimitable grace which sincerity and strong which they deserved. The plays of Shakspeare passion impart to the rudest and most homely were better acted, better edited, and better compositions. Each of them sought for inspiknown than they had ever been. Our noble ration in a noble and affecting subject, fertile old ballads were again read with pleasure, and of images, which had not yet been hackneyed. it became a fashion to imitate them. Many Liberty was the muse of Alfieri; religion was of the imitations were altogether contemptible. the muse of Cowper. The same truth is found But they showed that men had at least begun in their lighter pieces. They were not among to admire the excellence which they could not those who deprecated the severity, or deplored rival. A literary revolution was evidently at the absence of an unreal mistress in melodious hand. There was a ferment in the minds of commonplaces. Instead of raving about imamen, a vague craving for something new, a ginary Chloes and Sylvias, Cowper wrote of "Tutte le disposition to hail with delight any thing which Mrs. Unwin's knitting-needles. The only love might at first sight wear the appearance of verses of Alfieri were addressed to one whom originality. A reforming age is always fertile he truly and passionately loved. of impostors. The same excited state of pub-rime amorose che seguono," says he, "tutte lic feeling which produced the great separation sono per essa, e ben sue, e di lei solamente These great men were not free from affectafrom the see of Rome, produced also the ex- poichè mai d'altra donna per certo non canterò." cesses of the Anabaptists. The same stir in the public mind of Europe which overthrew tion. But their affectation was directly opthe abuses of the old French government, pro- posed to the affectation which generally preduced the Jacobins and Theophilanthropists. vailed. Each of them has expressed, in strong Macpherson and the Della Cruscans were to and bitter language, the contempt which he the true reformers of English poetry what felt for the effeminate poetasters who were in Cnipperdoling was to Luther, or what Clootz fashion both in England and Italy. Cowper was to Turgot. The public was never more complains that disposed to believe stories without evidence, and to admire books without merit. Any thing which could break the dull monotony of the correct school was acceptable.


"Manner is all in all, whate'er is writ,

The substitute for genius, taste, and wit." praised Pope; yet he regretted that Pope

"Made poetry a mere mechanic art,

And every warbler had his tune by heart." "Mi cadevano dalle Alfieri speaks with similar scorn of the trage dies of his predecessors. mani per la languidezza, trivialtà e prolissità dei modi e del verso, senza parlare poi della snervatezza dei pensieri. Or perchè mai questa nostra divina lingua, si maschia anco, ed energica, e feroce, in bocca di Dante, dovra elle farci così sbiadata ed eunuca nel dialogo tra

The forerunner of the great restoration of
our literature was Cowper. His literary ca-
reer began and ended at nearly the same time
with that of Alfieri. A parallel between Alfieri
and Cowper may, at first sight, seem as un-
promising as that which a loyal Presbyterian
minister is said to have drawn, in 1745, be-
tween George the Second and Enoch. It may
seem that the gentle, shy, melancholy Calvin-
ist, whose spirit had been broken by fagging at
school, who had not courage to earn a liveli-gico."
hood by reading the titles of bills in the House
of Lords, and whose favourite associates were
a blind old lady and an evangelical divine,
could have nothing in common with the
haughty, ardent, and voluptuous nobleman, the
horse-jockey, the libertine, who fought Lord
Ligonier in Hyde Park, and robbed the Preten-
der of his queen. But though the private lives
of these remarkable men present scarcely any
points of resemblance, their literary lives bear
a close analogy to each other. They both
found poetry in its lowest state of degradation,
feeble, artificial, and altogether nerveless.
They both possessed precisely the talents
which fitted them for the task of raising it
from that deep abasement. They cannot, in
strictness, be called great poets. They had
not in any very high degree the creative

"The vision and the faculty divine;"
but they had great vigour of thought, great
warmth of feeling, and what, in their circum-
stances, was above all things important, a

To men thus sick of the languid manner of their contemporaries, ruggedness seemed a venial fault, or rather a positive merit. In their hatred of meretricious ornament, and of what Cowper calls "creamy smoothness," they erred on the opposite side. Their style was too austere, their versification too harsh. It is not easy, however, to overrate the service which they rendered to literature. Their merit is rather that of demolition than that of construc tion. The intrinsic value of their poems is considerable. But the example which they set of mutiny against an absurd system was invaluable. The part which they performed was rather that of Moses than that of Joshua. They opened the house of bondage; but they did not enter the promised land.

During the twenty years which followed the death of Cowper, the revolution in English poetry was fully consummated. None of the writers of this period, not even Sir Walter Scott, contributed so much to the consummation as Lord Byron. Yet he, Lord Byron, con tributed to it unwillingly, and with constant

self-reproach and shame. All his tastes and inclinations led him to take part with the school of poetry which was going out, against the school which was coming in. Of Pope himself he spoke with extravagant admiration. He did not venture directly to say that the little man of Twickenham was a greater poet than Shakspeare or Milton. But he hinted pretty clearly that he thought so. Of his contempo-aries, scarcely any had so much of his admiration as Mr. Gifford, who, considered as a poet, was merely Pope, without Pope's wit and fancy; and whose satires are decidedly inferior in vigour and poignancy to the very imperfect juvenile performance of Lord Byron himself. He now and then praised Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Coleridge; but ungraciously and without cordiality. When he attacked them, he brought his whole soul to the work. Of the most elaborate of Mr. Wordsworth's poems he could find nothing to say, but that it was "clumsy, and frowsy, and his aversion.” Peter Bell excited his spleen to such a degree that he apostrophized the shades of Pope and Dryden, and demanded of them whether it were possible that such trash could evade contempt? In his heart, he thought his own Pilgrimage of Harold inferior to his Imitation of Horace's Art of Poetry-a feeble echo of Pope and Johnson. This insipid performance he repeatedly designed to publish, and was withheld only by the solicitations of his friends. He has distinctly declared his approbation of the unities; the most absurd laws by which genius was ever held in servitude. In one of his works, we think in his Letter to Mr. Bowles, he compares the poetry of the eighteenth century to the Parthenon, and that of the nineteenth to a Turkish mosque; and boasts that, though he had assisted his contemporaries in building their grotesque and barbarous edifice, he had never joined them in defacing the remains of a chaster and more graceful architecture. In another letter, he compares the change which had recently passed on English poetry, to the decay of Latin poetry after the Augustan age. In the time of Pope, he tells his friend, it was all Horace with us. It is all Claudian now.

much of his contempt for men, and though he boasted that amidst all the inconstancy of for tune and of fame he was all-sufficient to himself, his literary career indicated nothing of that lonely and unsocial pride which he affect ed. We cannot conceive him, like Milton or Wordsworth, defying the criticisms of his contemporaries, retorting their scorn, and labouring on a poem in the full assurance that it would be unpopular, and in the full assurance that it would be immortal. He has said, 17 the mouth of one of his heroes in speaking of poli tical greatness, that "he must serve who gain would sway;" and this he assigns as a reason for not entering into political life. He did not consider that the sway which he exercised in literature had been purchased by servitudeby the sacrifice of his own taste to the taste of the public.

He was the creature of his age; and wher ever he had lived he would have been the creature of his age. Under Charles the First he would have been more quaint than Donne. Under Charles the Second the rants of his rhyming plays would have pitted it, boxed it, and galleried it, with those of any Bayes or Bilboa. Under George the First the monotonous smoothness of his versification and the terseness of his expression would have made Pope himself envious.

As it was, he was the man of the last thirteen years of the eighteenth century and of the first twenty-three years of the nineteenth century. He belonged half to the old and half to the new school of poetry. His personal taste led him to the former, his thirst of fame to the latter; his talents were equally suited to both. His fame was a common ground on which the zealots of both sides—Gifford, for example, and Shelley-might meet. He was the representative, not of either literary party, but of both at once, and of their conflict, and of the victory by which that conflict was terminated. poetry fills and measures the whole of the vast interval through which our literature has moved since the time of Johnson. It touches the Essay on Man at the one extremity and the Excursion at the other.


For the great old masters of the art he had There are several parallel instances in liteno very enthusiastic veneration. In his Letter rary history. Voltaire, for example, was the to Mr. Bowles he uses expressions which connecting link between the France of Louis clearly indicate that he preferred Pope's Iliad the Fourteenth and the France of Louis the to the original. Mr. Moore confesses that his Sixteenth-between Racine and Boileau on the friend was no very fervent admirer of Shak- one side, and Condorcet and Beaumarchais on speare. Of all the poets of the first class, Lord the other. He, like Lord Byron, put himself at Byron seems to have admired Dante and Mil- the head of an intellectual revolution, dreadton most. Yet in the fourth canto of Childe ing it all the time, murmuring at it, sneering Harold he places Tasso, a writer not merely at it, yet choosing rather to move before his inferior to them, but of quite a different order age in any direction than to be left behind of mind, on at least a footing of equality with them. Mr. Hunt is, we suspect, quite correct in saying, that Lord Byron could see little or no merit in Spenser.

and forgotten. Dryden was the connecting link between the literature of the age of James the First and the literature of the age of Anne. Oromazdes and Arimanes fought for But Lord Byron the critic, and Lord Byron him-Arimanes carried him off. But his heart the poet, were two very different men. The ef- was to the last with Oromazdes. Lord Byron fects of his theory may indeed often be traced was in the same manner the mediator between in his practice. But his disposition led him two generations, between two hostile poetical to accommodate himself to the literary taste of sects. Though always sneering at Mr. Wordsthe age in which he lived; and his talents worth, he was yet, though perhaps uncon would have enabled him to accommodate him-sciously, the interpreter between Mr. Words self to the taste of any age. Though he said worth and the multitude.

In the Lyrica

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Ballads and the Excursion, Mr. Wordsworth appeared as the high priest of a worship of which Nature was the idol. No poems have ever indicated so exquisite a perception of the beauty of the outer world, or so passionate a love and reverence for that beauty. Yet they were not popular; and it is not likely that they ever will be popular as the works of Sir Walter Scott are popular The feeling which pervaded them was too deep for general sympathy. Their style was often too mysterious for general comprehension. They made a few esoteric disciples, and many scoffers. Lord Byron founded what may be called an exoteric Lake school of poetry; and all the readers of poetry in England, we might say in Europe, hastened to sit at his feet. What Mr. Wordsworth had said like a recluse, Lord Byron said like a man of the world; with less profound feeling, but with more perspicuity, energy, and conciseness. We would refer our readers to the last two cantos of Childe Harold and to Manfred in proof of these observations.

Lord Byron, like Mr. Wordsworth, had nothing dramatic in his genius. He was, indeed, the reverse of a great dramatist; the very antithesis to a great dramatist. All his characters-Harold looking back on the western sky from which his country and the sun are receding together; the Giaour, standing apart in the gloom of the side-aisle, and casting a haggard scowl from under his long hood at the crucifix and the censer; Conrad, leaning on his sword by the watch-tower; Lara, smiling on the dancers; Alp, gazing steadily on the fatal cloud as it passes before the moon; Manfred, wandering among the precipices of Berne; Azo, on the judgment-seat; Ugo, at the bar; Lambro, frowning on the siesta of his daughter and Juan; Cain, presenting his unacceptable The offering-all are essentially the same. varieties are varieties merely of age, situation, and costume. If ever Lord Byron attempted to exhibit men of a different kind, he always made them either insipid or unnatural. Selim is nothing. Bonnivart is nothing. Don Juan in the first and best cantos is a feeble copy of the Page in the Marriage of Figaro. Johnson, the man whom Juan meets in the slave-market, is a most striking failure. How differently would Sir Walter Scott have drawn a bluff, fearless Englishman in such a situation! The portrait would have seemed to walk out of the

it is not the business of the dramatist to ex-
hibit characters in this sharp, antithetical way.
It is not in this way that Shakspeare makes
Prince Hal rise from the rake of Eastcheap
into the hero of Shrewsbury, and sink again
into the rake of Eastcheap. It is not thus that
Shakspeare has exhibited the union of effemi-
nacy and valour in Antony. A dramatist can-
not commit a great error than that of follow-
ing those pointed descriptions of character in
which satirists and historians indulge so much.
It is by rejecting what is natural that satirists
and historians produce these striking charac-
ters. Their great object generally is to ascribe
to every man as many contradictory qualities
as possible; and this is an object easily al-
tained. By judicious selections and judicious
exaggeration, the intellect and the disposition
of any human being might be described as
being made up of nothing but startling con-
trasts. If the dramatist attempts to create a
being answering to one of these descriptions,
he fails; because he reverses an imperfect
analytical process. He produces, not a man,
but a personified epigram. Very eminent wri-
ters have fallen into this snare. Ben Jonson
has given us an Hermogenes taken from the
lively lines of Horace; but the inconsistency
which is so amusing in the satire appears un-
natural and disgusts us in the play. Sir Wal-
ter Scott has committed a far more glaring
error of the same kind in the novel of Peveril.
Admiring, as every reader must admire, the
keen and vigorous lines in which Dryden sa-
tirized the Duke of Buckingham, he attempted
to make a Duke of Buckingham to suit them-
a real living Zimri; and he made, not a man,
but the most grotesque of all monsters. A
writer who should attempt to introduce into a
play or a novel such a Wharton as the Whar
ton of Pope, or a Lord Hervey answering to
But to return to Lord Byron: his women,
Sporus, would fail in the same manner.
like his men, are all of one breed. Haidee is
a half-savage and girlish Julia; Julia is a civil-
ized and matronly Haidee. Leila is a wedded
Zuleika-Zuleika a virgin Leila. Gulnare and
Medora appear to have been intentionally op-
posed to each other. Yet the difference is a
difference of situation only. A slight change
of circumstance would, it should seem, have
sent Gulnare to the lute of Medora, and armed
Medora with the dagger of Gulnare.

It is hardly too much to say that Lord Byron could exhibit only one man and only one woman-a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his brow, and misery in his heart; a scorner of his kind, implacable in revenge, ye capable of deep and strong affection;-a woman all softness and gentleness, loving to caress and to be caressed, but capable of being transforme by love into a tigress.

Even these two characters, his only tw He exhibited them in the manner, not of Shal characters, he could not exhibit dramatically speare, but of Clarendon. He analyzed ther He made them analyze themselves, but he d not make them show themselves. He tells u for example, in many lines of great force a spirit, that the speech of Lara was bitterly sa castic, that he talked little of his travels, th

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