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SHELLEY'S prose, though by no means excessively cadenced or adorned, has yet some of the marks and qualities of poetry. It can scarcely be called poetic prose, as much of Ruskin's might not unfairly be styled; nor does it answer in all respects to the accepted notions of a poet's prose. Perhaps its characteristic has been sufficiently defined by himself in his own discussion of the 'vulgar error' that prose can never be the vehicle of an essentially poetic conception. In this discussion he does not shrink from definite statements and concrete examples (9 8-31): "Plato was essentially a poet-the truth and splendor of his imagery, and the melody of his language, are the most intense that it is possible to conceive. . . . He forbore to invent any regular plan of rhythm which would include, under determinate forms, the varied pauses of his style. Cicero sought to imitate the cadence of his periods, but with little success. Lord Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet and A majestic rhythm which satisfies the sense. All the authors of revolution in opinion are not only necessarily poets as they are inventors, . . . but as their periods are harmonious and rhythmical."
The author himself has thus enunciated two criteria which a. may be applied to the prose written by a poet or in a poetic mood:
1. Truth and splendor of imagery.
2. Melody or rhythm, varied, —indeterminate, and inimitable.
That Shelley's prose imagery possesses both truth and splendor there can be no question. Mrs. Shelley, surely not an incompetent critic, distinctly attributes to his language **** both the qualities just mentioned, and it needs no exhaustive scrutiny to determine that for these qualities his language is chiefly indebted to its figurative expressions. In the preface to her edition of his essays, she says: "Shelley commands language splendid and melodious as Plato.""
The imagery of this essay always completes, if it does not effect, the revelation of its author's thought. A mind of more prosaic temper might attain equal clearness without
Ah the employment of metaphorical language, but clearness
may in such cases be gained at the expense of suggestive-
Why then, you princes,
Do you with cheeks abashed behold our works,
And think them shames, which are indeed nought else
But the protractive trials of great Jove,
To find persistive constancy in men?
The fineness of which metal is not found
In fortune's love; for then the bold and coward,
The wise and fool, the artist and unread,
The hard and soft, seem all affined and kin;