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might not be supposed to prefer the rhythm in which it was written, abstractedly considered, to the regular blank verse, the noblest measure, in his judgment, of which our admirable language is capable: it was added, that the measure which was there used, had, in that instance, been preferred, because it suited the character of the poem, being, as it were, the Arabesque ornament of an Arabian tale. Notwithstanding this explicit declaration, the duncery of that day attacked me as if I had considered the measure of Thalaba to be in itself essentially and absolutely better than blank verse. The duncery of this day may probably pursue the same course on the present occasion. With that body I wage no war, and enter into no explanations. But to the great majority of my readers, who will take up the book without malevolence, and having a proper sense of honour in themselves, will believe the declarations of a writer whose veracity they have no reason to doubt, I will state what are the defects, and what the advantages, of the metre which is here submitted to their judgment, as they appear to me after this fair experiment of its powers. It is not a legitimate inference, that because the hexameter has been successfully introduced in the German language, it can be naturalized as well in English. The English is not so well adapted for it, because it does not abound in like manner with polysyllabic words. The feet, therefore, must too frequently be made up of monosyllables, and of distinct words, whereby the verse is resolved and decomposed into its component feet, and the feet into their component syllables, instead of being articulated and inosculated throughout, as in the German, still more in the Greek, and most in the Latin measure. This is certainly a great defect. " From the same cause the casura generally coincides with a pause in the sentence; but, though this breaks the continuity of the verse, it ought perhaps rather to be considered as an advantage : for the measure, like blank verse, thus acquires greater variety. It may possibly be objected, that the four first feet are not metrical cnough in their effect, and the two last too much so. I do not feel the objection; but it has been advanced by one, whose opinion upon any question, and especially upon a question of poetry, would make me distrust my own, where it happened to be different. Lastly, the double-ending may be censured as double rhymes used to be; but that objection belongs to the duncery. On the other hand, the range of the verse being from thirteen syllables to seventeen, it derives from that range an advantage in the union of variety with regularity, which is peculiar to itself. The capability which is thus gained, may perhaps be better appreciated by a few readers from their own sense of power, than it is exemplified in this experiment.
'It leads also to this inconvenience, that the English line greatly exceeds the ancient one in literal length, so that it is actually too long for any page, if printed in types of the ordinary proportion to the size of the book, whatever that may be. The same inconvenience was formerly felt in that fine measure of the Elizal ethan age, the seven-footed couplet; which, to the diminution of its powers, was, for that reason, divided into quatrains (the pause generally falling upon the eighth syllable), and then converted into the common ballad stanza. The hexameter cannot be thus divided, and therefore must generally look neither like prose nor poetry. This is noticed as merely a dissight, and of no moment, our poetry not being like that of the Chinese, addresse to the eye instead of the ear.
something better than our established metres, but as something different, and which therefore, for that reason, may sometimes advantageously be used. Take our blank verse, for all in all, in all its gradations, from the elaborate rhythm of Milton, down to its loosest structure in the early dramatists, and I believe that there is no measure comparable to it, either in our own or in any other language, for might and majesty, and flexibility and compass. And this is affirmed, not as the predilection of a young writer, or the preference of one inexperienced in the difficulties of composition, but as an opinion formed and confirmed during the long and diligent study, and the long and laborious practice of the art. But I am satisfied also that the English hexameter is a legitimate and good measure, with which our literature ought to be enriched. “I
I do not, however, present the English hexameter as
first adventure; follow me who list!»
III. I am well aware that the public are peculiarly intolerant of such innovations; not less so than the populace are | of any foreign fashion, whether of foppery or conve nience. Would that this literary intolerance were under the influence of a saner judgment, and regarded the morals more than the manner of a composition; the spirit rather than the form Would that it were directed against those monstrous combinations of horrors and mockery, lewdness and impiety, with which English poetry has, in our days, first been polluted! For more than half a century English literature had been distinguished by its moral purity, the effect, and in its turn the cause, of an improvement in national manners. A father might, without apprehension of evil, have put into the hands of his children any book which issued from the press, it if did not bear, either in its title-page or frontispiece, manifest signs that it was intended as furniture for the brothel. There was no danger in any work which bore the name of a respectable publisher, or was to be procured at auy respectable bookseller's. This was particularly the case with regard to our poetry. It is now no longer so; and woe to those by whom the offence cometh The greater the talents of the offender, the greater is his guilt, and the more enduring will be his shame. Whether it be that the laws are in themselves unable to abate an evil of this magnitude, or whether it be that they are remissly administered, and with such injustice that the celebrity of an offender serves as a privilege whereby he obtains impunity, individuals are bound to consider that such pernicious works would neither be published nor written, if they were discouraged as they might, and ought to be, by public feeling; every person, therfore, who purchases such books, or admits them into his house, promotes the mischief, and thereby, as far as in him lies, becomes an aider and abettor of the crime. The publication of a lascivious book is one of the worst offences which can be committed against the well-being of society. It is a sin, to the consequences of which no limits can be assigned, and those consequences no after repentance in the writer can counter act whatever remorse of conscience he may feel when his hour comes (and come it must!) will be of no avail. The poignancy of a death-bed repentance cannot cancel one copy of the thousands which are sent abroad,
and as long as it continues to be read, so long is he the
pander of posterity, and so long is he heaping up guilt upon his soul in perpetual accumulation. These remarks are not more severe than the offence deserves, even when applied to those immoral writers who have not been conscious of any evil intention in their writings, who would acknowledge a little levity, a little warmth of colouring, and so forth, in that sort of language with which men gloss over their favourite vices, and deceive themselves. What then should be said of those for whom the thoughtlessness and inebriety of wanton youth can no longer be pleaded, but who have written in sober manhood and with deliberate purpose? —Men of diseased hearts and depraved imaginations," who, forming a system of opinions to suit their own unhappy course of conduct, have rebelled against the holiest ordinances of human society, and hating that revealed religion which, with all their efforts and bravadoes, they are unable entirely to disbelieve, labour to make others as miserable as themselves, by infecting them with a moral virus that eats into the soul! The school which they have set up may properly be called the Satanic school; for though their productions breathe the spirit of Belial in their lascivious parts, and the spirit of Moloch in those loathsome images of atrocities and horrors which they delight to represent, they are more especially characterized by a Satanic spirit of pride and audacious impiety, which still betrays the wretched feeling of hopelessness where with it is allied. This evil is political as well as moral, for indeed moral and political evils are inseparably connected. Truly has it been affirmed by one of our ablest and clearest reasoners,” that “the destruction of governments may be proved and deduced from the general corruption of the subjects manners, as a direct and natural cause thereof, by a demonstration as certain as any in the mathematics.” There is no maxim more frequently enforced by Machiavelli, than that where the manners of a people are generally corrupted, there the government cannot long subsist,-a truth which all history exemplifies; and there is no means whereby that corruption can be so surely and rapidly diffused, as by poisoning the waters of literature. Let rulers of the state look to this, in time ! But, to use the words of South, if a. our physicians think the best way of curing a disease is to pamper it, the Lord "Summi poeta in omni poetarum seculo viri fuerunt probi: in nostris id widimus et videmus; neque alius est error a veritate longius quam magna ingenia magnis necessario corrumpi vitiis. Secundo plerique iosihabent primum, hi malignitate, illi ignorantia; et quuin aliquem inveniant styli inorumque vitiis notatum, nec inficetum tamen nec in libris cdendis parcum, eum stipant, prædicant, occupant, amplectuntur. Simores aliquantulum vellet corrigere, si stylum curare paululum, si servido ingenio temperare, si mora tantillum interponere, tum ingens nescio quid et were ac epicum, quadraginta annos natus, procuderat. Ignorant ver, febriculis non indicari wires, impatientiam ab imbecilitate non differre; ignorant a levi bomine et inconstante multa fortassé scribi posse plus quam mediocria, nihil compositum, arduum, a ternum. Savacous Lawton, De Cultu atque Umu Latini Sermonis. This essay, which is full of fine critical remarks and striking thoughts felicitously expressed, reached me from Pisa, while the proof of the present sheet was before me. Of its author (the author of Gebir and Count Julian), I will only say in this place, that, to have obtained his approbation as a poet, and possessed his friendship as a man, will be remembered amon, the honours of my life,
when the petty enmities of this generation will be forgotten, and its
ephemeral reputations will have past away. * South.
in mercy prepare the kingdom to suffer, what He by miracle only can prevent!” No apology is offered for these remarks. The subject led to them; and the occasion of introducing them was willingly taken, because it is the duty of every one, whose opinion may have any influence, to expose the drift and aim of those writers who are labouring to subvert the foundations of human virtue, and of human happiness. IV. Returning to the point from whence I digressed, I am aware not only that any metrical innovation which meets the eye of the reader generally provokes his displeasure, but that there prevails a particular prejudice against the introduction of hexameters in our language. The experiment, it is alleged, was tried in the Elizabethan age, and failed, though made under the greatest possible advantages of favour, being encouraged by the great patron of literature, Sir Philip Sidney, (in letters, as well as in all other accomplishments and all virtues, the most illustrious ornament of that illustrious court,) and by the Queen herself. That attempt failed, because it was made upon a scheme which inevitably prevented its success. No principle of adaption was tried. Sidney and his followers wished to subject the English pronunciation to the rules of Latin prosody: but if it be difficult to reconcile the public to a new tune in verse, it is plainly impossible to reconcile them to a new pronunciation." There was the farther obstacle of unusual and violent elisions; and, moreover, the easy and natural order of our speech was distorted by the frequent use of forced inversions, which are utterly improper in an uninflected language. Even if the subjects for the experiment had been judiciously chosen, and well composed in all other respects, these errors must have been fatal; but Sidney, whose prose is so full of imagery and felicitous expressions that he is one of our greatest poets in prose, and whose other poems contain beauties of a high order, seems to have lost all ear for rhythm, and all feeling of poetry,” when he was engaged in metrical experiments. What in Sidney's hands was uncouth and difficult, was made ridiculous by Stanihurst, whose translation of the four first books of the AEneid into hexameters is one of the most portentous compositions in any language. No satire could so effectually have exposed the measure to derision. The specimens which Abraham Fraunce produced were free from Stanihurst's eccentricities, and were much less awkward and constrained than Sidney's. But the mistaken principle upon which the metre was constructed was fatal, and would have proved so even if Fraunce had possessed greater powers of thought and of diction. The failure therefore was complete,” and for some generations it seems to have prevented any thought of repeating the experiment.
For example: Neither he bears reverence to a prince, nor pity to n beggar. That to my advancement their wisdoms have me abased. Well may a pastor plain; but, alas' his plaints be not esteemed. opprest with ruinous conceits by the help of an outcry. Despair most tragical clause to a deadly request. Hard like a rich marble; hard but a fair diamond. * That the reader may not suppose 1 have depreciated Sidney and his followers, by imputing to the faults of their execution a failure which the nature of the metre itself inight explain, I have added a few fair samples at the end of the Notes. * A writer in the Censura Literaria (vol. iv, 386) has said, that Goldsmith," in later days, delivered an opinion in its favour, observing, that all the feet of the ancient poetry are still found in the versification of living languages, and that it is impossible the same measure, composed of the same times, should have a tood effect upon the ear in one language, and a bad effect in another. He had seen, he says, several late specimens of English hexameters and sapphics, so happily composed, that they were, in all respects, as melodious and agreeable to the ear as the works of Virgil and Horace. What these specimens were I have not discovered:”—the sapphics may possibly have been those by Dr Watts. Proofs of the practicability of the hexameter were given about twenty years ago, by some translations from the Messiah of Klopstock, which appeared in the Monthly Magazine; and by an eclogue, entitled The Showman, printed in the second volume of the Annual Anthology. These were written by my old friend Mr William Taylor of Norwich, the translator of Bürger's Lenora:-of whom it would be difficult to say, whether he is more deservedly admired by all who know him for the variety of his talents, the richness and ingenuity of his discourse, and the liveliness of his fancy, or loved and esteemed by them for the goodness of his heart. In repeating the experiment upon a more adequate scale, and upon a subject suited to the movement, I have fulfilled one of the hopes and intentions of my early life.
hexameters were - much in vogue, owing to the pernicious example
of Spenser and Gabriel Harvey. They were never in vogue. There
is no reason to believe, that Spenser ever wrote an English hexameter;-aud Gabriel Harvey's example only incurred ridicule. With so little knowledge of facts, and so little regard to accuracy, are confident assertions sometimes made!
Galriel Harvey was one of the great promoters of the attempt; and Speuser, who was his intimate friend, is believed to have sanctioned it by his opinion—certainly not by his example. That great master of versification has left only one piece which is not written in rhyme. It was printed in Davison's Poetical Rhapsodie, and is inserted in Warton's observations on the Faery Queen, vol. ii, p. 243.-The author has called it an Iambic Elegy, but neither by any rule of quantity, or violence of accentuation, can it be reduced to iambics.
'• It is generally supposed," says Goldsmith, - that the genius of the English language will not admit of Greek or Latin measure; but this, we apprehend, is a mistake owing to the prejudice of education. It is impossible that the same measure, composed of the same times, should have a good effect upon the ear in one language, and a bad effect in another. The truth is, we have been accustomed from our infancy to the numbers of English poetry, and the very sound and signification of the words dispose the ear to receive them in a certain manner; so that its disappointment must be attended with a disagreeable sensation. In imbibing the first rudiments of education, we acquire it were, another ear for the numbers of Greek and Latin poetry; and this being reserved entirely for the sounds and significations of the words that constitute those dead languages, will not easily accommodate itself to the sounds of our vernacular tongue, though conveyed in the same time and measure. In a word, Latin and Greek have annexed to them the ideas of the ancient measure, from which they are not easily disjoined. But we will venture to say, this difficulty might be surmounted by an effort of attention and a little practice; and, in that case, we should in time be as well pleased with English, as with Latin hexameters."— Goldsmith's Essays, vol. ii, p. 265.
* Mr Park (Censura Literaria, vol. iv, 233) mentions an attempt to revive what he calls - this obsolete whimsey, by an anonymous writer in 1737, who translated the first and fourth Eclogues of Virgil, etc. into hexametrical verse; and prefixed a vin on of his attempt, with directions for the reader's pronunciation.”
I venture to hope that this excellent English scholar will no longer think the scheme of writing English hexameters a mere whimsey. Glad, indeed, should I be, if my old acquaintance were to be as well pleased with the present attempt, as I have been with some of his Morning Thoughts and Midnight Musings.
I. THE TRANCE.
"T was at that sober hour when the light of day is re
ceding, And from surrounding things the hues wherewith day has adorn'd them Fade, like the hopes of youth, till the beauty of earth is departed: Pensive, though not in thought, I stood at the window, beholding Mountain and lake and vale; the valley disrched of its verdure; Derwent retaining yet from eve a glassy reflection Where his expanded breast, then still and smooth as a mirror, Under the woods reposed: the hills that, calm and majestic, Lifted their heads in the silent sky, from far Glaramar, Bleacrag, and Maidenmawr, to Grizedal and westermost Withop. Dark and distinct they rose. The clouds had gather'd above them High in the middle air, huge, purple, pillowy masses, While in the west beyond was the last pale tint of the
twilight; Green as a stream in the glen whose pure and chrysolite waters Flow o'er a schistous bed, ° and serene as the age of the righteous. Earth was hushed and still; all motion and sound were suspended : Neither man was heard, bird, beast, nor humming of insect, Only the voice of the Greta, heard only when all is in stillness.
Answered; and therewithal I felt a stroke as of lightning, With a sound like the rushing of winds, or the roaring of waters. If from without it came, I knew not, so sudden the seizure; Or if the brain itself in that'strong flash had expended All its clectric stores. Of strength and of thought it bereft me; Hearing, and sight, and sense, were gone; and when I awaken'd, "T was from a dream of death, in silence and uttermost darkness; Knowing not where or how, nor if I was rapt in the body, Nor if entranced, or dead, but all around me was blackness, Utterly blank and void, as if this ample creation Had been blotted out, and I were alone in the chaos. Yet had I even then a living hope to sustain me Under that awful thought, and I strengthend my spirit with prayer.
Comfort I sought and support, and both were found ill retiring Into that inner world, the soul's stronghold and her kingdom. Then came again the Voice, but then no longer appalling, Like the voice of a friend it came : O son of the Muses! Be of good heart, it said, and think not that thou art abandon'd; For to thy mortal sight shall the Grave unshadow its secrets; Such as of yore the Florentine saw, Hell's perilous chambers He who trod in his strength; and the arduous Mountain of Penance, And the regions of Paradise, sphere within sphere inter
circled. Child of Earth, look up! and behold what passes before
So by the unseen comforted, raised I my head in obe
dience, And in a vault I found myself placed, arch'd over on all
Narrow and low was that house of the dead. Around it were coffins,
Each in its niche, and palls, and urns, and funeral hatchments;
Velvets of Tyrian dye, retaining their hues unfaded;
Blazonry vivid still, as if fresh from the touch of the limner;
Nor was the golden fringe, nor the golden broidery tarnish'd.
whence came the light whereby that place of death was discover'd : For there was there no lamp, whose wonderous flame inextinguish'd, As with a vital power endued, renewing its substance, Age after age unchanged, endureth in self-subsistence : Nor did the cheerful beam of day, direct or reflected,
Penetrate there. That low and subterranean chamber saw not the living ray, nor felt the breeze; but for ever closely immured, was seard in perpetual silence and darkness. whence then this lovely light, calm, pure, and soft, and cerulean, Such as the sapphire sheds? And whence this air that infuses Strength while I breathe it in, and a sense of life, and a stillness, Filling the heart with peace, and giving a joy that contents it? Not of the Earth that light; and these paradisiacal breathings, Not of the Earth are they ! These thoughts were passing within me, When there arose around a strain of heavenly music, Such as the hermit hears when Angels visit his slumbers. Faintly it first began, scarce heard; and gentle its rising, Low as the softest breath that passes in summer at evening O'er the Eolian strings, felt there when nothing is moving, Save the thistle-down, lighter than air, and the leaf of the aspin. Theu as it swell'd and rose, the thrilling melody deepen'd ; Such, methought, should the music be, which is heard in the cloister, By the sisterhood standing around the beatified Virgin, when with her dying eyes she sees the firmament open, Lifts from the bed of dust her arms towards her beloved, Utters his name adored, and breathes out her soul in a rapture.
Well could I then believe such legends, and well
could l credit All that the poets old relate of Amphion and Orpheus; How to melodious sounds wild beasts their strength have surrender'd, Men were reclaim'd from the woods, and stones in harmonious order Mov'd, as their atoms obey'd the mysterious attraction of concord. This was a higher strain; a mightier, holier virtue Came with its powerful tones. O'ercome by the piercing emotion, Dizzy I grew, and it seem'd as though my soul were dissolving. How might I bear unmov’d such sounds? For, like as the vapours Melt on the mountain side, when the sun comes forth in his splendour, Even so the vaulted roof and whatever was earthly
Heavenward his eyes were rais'd, and heavenward his arms were extended. Lord, it is past! he cried; the mist, and the weight and the darkness;– That long and weary night that long drear dream of desertion. Father, to Thee I come! My days have been many and evil; Heavy my burthen of care, and grievous hath been my affliction. Thou hast releas'd me at length. O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; Thou art my hope and my strength!—And then in profound adoration, Crossing his arms on his breast, he bent and worshipp'd in silence.
Presently one approach'd to greet him with joyful obeisance; He of whom in an hour of woe, the assassin bereav'd us When his counsels most, and his resolute virtue were needed. Thou, said the Monarch, here?—Thou, Perceval, summon'd before me?—Then as his waken'd mind to the weal of his country reverted, What of his son, he ask'd, what course by the Prince had been follow'd. Right in his Father's steps hath the Regent trod, was the answer: Firm hath he proved and wise, at a time when weakness or error Would have sunk us in shame, and to ruin have hurried us headlong. True to himself hath he been, and Heaven has rewarded his counsels.
Peace is obtain'd then at last, with safety and honour! the Monarch Cried, and he clasp'd his hands;– thank Thee, O merciful Father! Now is my heart's desire fulfill’d. - With honour surpassing All that in elder time had adorn'd the annals of England, Peace hath been won by the sword, the faithful minister answerd. Paris hath seen once more the banners of England in triumph Wave within her walls, and the ancient line is establish'd. While that man of blood, the tyrant, faithless and godless, Render'd at length the sport, as long the minion of Fortune, Far away, confined in a rocky isle of the ocean, Fights his battles again, and pleas'd to win in the chamber What he lost in the field, in sancy conquers his conqueror. There he reviles his foes, and there the ungrateful accuses For his own defaults the men who too faithfully serv'd him; Frets and complains and intrigues, and abuses the mercy that spared him.