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do not object to the "dagger," I object very much to the "knife," when Lady Macbeth says,
"Pall me in the deepest shroud of night,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes."
I object as much to "blanket," which renders the sublimest passage in the world ludicrous.
"Nor heav'n peep through the blanket of the dark !"
This I object to; and I object somewhat, not to the "dagger," or the "mantle," which are introduced, but to "peep through;" and I object, for the same reason, to
"See what a rent the envious CASCA made."
But so far from objecting to the mantle, when Antony says,
"You all do know this mantle,"
I think it most affecting; and how much more affecting is it rendered by the magic touch of Shakspeare, when, in conti-` nuation, Antony (how could you, a poet, omit these exquisite lines?) brings to the recollection of Cæsar's friends a particular and beautiful circumstance from nature; whilst the orator affects their hearts by the distinct image of the summer evening, and the very tent, connected with ideas of Cæsar's glory, and victorious arms.
"You all do know this mantle! I remember
'Twas on a SUMMER'S EVENING, in his TENT,
Any thing more beautiful as poetry, or more effective as oratory, designed to rouse the feelings, cannot be imagined.
Thus you see, my Lord, I can turn Shakspeare against you, as well as Milton against Campbell, and gain strength from your own quotations. Who that feels the circumstances I have mentioned thinks of the garment of Cæsar merely as a garment? It is the poetical sentiment, and the poetical imagery from NATURE, that fills the mind. But the case had been different, if the mantle had been too distinctly brought in sight.
I will illustrate this by a trifling circumstance. You recollect the passage,
"Life is a walking shadow, &c.
The passage is quoted in an edition of the Tatler, as follows,
The poetry of the "dagger" depends entirely upon its associating images. The dagger in Macbeth is sublime; in the Old Song it is ludicrous; because,
"When it had kill'd a Cheshire man,
"Life is a walking shadow; a poor player,
Now every one feels this absurdity; and yet brief is short, and short is brief. Why has it so ludicrous an effect? Because, when the word "brief" is used, the mind is fixed only upon the sentiment; when "short" is used, it is fixed only on the CANDLE!
If these observations are just, and I believe they will generally be found so, nothing more need be said of daggers, arms, shields, spears, &c.; or the bow of Ulysses.
The human hand may be poetical or not, as it is described. But a fist doubled up as in the act of committing an assault, complaint of which comes before a country justice, is not poetical; and I am afraid, my Lord, all you have said of "fists," and "fighting," and "gouging," must go for nothing.
"It grieves me much, replied the Clerk again,
I cannot put aside the bow of Ulysses without one more remark. I have spoken before of the affecting circumstance of Penelope weeping over the bow of her long-lost husband. Do you think that the effect would have been the same, if she had wept over his wig, provided he ever wore one?
Mrs. Unwin's "needles" were dangerous, and would have failed in any hands but Cowper's; and him you pronounce
no poet!" This is an autos en, which I could not have expected. He failed in Homer completely; but your assertion can only be met by another. He was a great, a sublime, an affecting, and, what is more, a truly ethical and religious poet, my Lord. But he lessened the effect of passages of the utmost sublimity of thought and language, by transitions to the familiar and to the artificial. Who can bear,
"Who loves an hot-house, loves a green-house too;"
because hot-houses and green-houses are not so poetical as "green-fields." And when you describe me as having "a heart of gall" for endeavoring to appreciate ("not depreciate") Pope, as a poet and a man, consider, my Lord, whether he be quite consistent, who talks of poetry without feeling Cowper's; who talks of ethics, without venerating him; and who severely judges him as guilty of a crime, the effect of that awful CALAMITY, with which it pleased the Almighty to afflict him! But to return, for a last grapple with
Achilles' spear is the only part of his armour that is unworthy of him; and this you select, instead of the emblazoned shield, so distinctly marked as a finished piece of art. Homer seemed to have paid so much attention to the other part of his favorite hero's armour, that he scarcely says any thing of this. But even this, my Lord, I can turn against you, as I did Satan's spear against Campbell. All that is said of this spear is, that it is paternal, and was cut from the mountain Pelion. What signifies where it was cut? you might say! So, when you observe there was no occasion for the "Norwegian pine," when you liked the "ammiral's" mast, with which to compare Satan's spear, better, I withdraw from the contest, and leave your Lordship to battle with Homer and Milton as to the propriety of any poetical addition to their similies. If the "grey-haired loon" did not skip from the staff, he remains equally sturdy against the " Achilles."
What I have said of the armour of Diomed and others in Homer, may be said of that of Achilles; and without expecting a coadjutor in Pope, I looked at the note on the passage, and found these words: "There is wonderful pomp in the description of Achilles arming himself, &c. &c. He is at first likened to the moonlight, then to the flames of a beacon, then to a COMET, and lastly to the SUN himself!"
Your Lordship thinks the execution of a poem all! This I deny; and affirm, that, comparatis comparandis, if an epic poem evince as consummate execution as a smaller poem, he who composes an epic poem, with this consummate execution, will be a greater poet, in every sense of the word, than he who evinces the utmost and most consummate skill on an inferior and less poetical subject. And I need not hesitate to affirm this, for it is the opinion of all critics, from Aristotle to Dr. Johnson.
As to Petrarch being equal, or reckoned, in Italy, superior, to Dante, it may be the consequence of some peculiar attachment of the Italians to the name of Petrarch; but of this they could never persuade me, though fulminated ex cathedra by all the Popes that Italy ever produced. And I may safely appeal to the universal opinion, not only of professed critics, but of all men of general common intelligence.
One word more will end all I have to say at present on ! What! is the conception of such a poem as the Paradise Lost nothing?
another subject,-the moral character of POPE. If it was not from want of " money," &c. that I wrote his life, and published an edition of his works, there is another circumstance that might have prevailed with me in giving my opinions, namely, a conscientious conviction of the truth of what I advanced; and what is biography, if failings are not to be mentioned? As to his "ethics," the poet, I admit, profanes the dignity of his high art, who does not apply the gifts he possesses to the furtherance of TRUTH and of VIRTUE. But I contend, that one epistle of ELOISA will counteract ten thousand of POPE's ethical epistles; and I wish your Lordship to look at that glorious passage in MILTON'S prose works, where he speaks of meditating some immortal strain, and you will confess, that so far from thinking he was telling "lies," his object was high and holy praise to that Being to whom he owed the power of praising him.
Whether it was wise to say all I did of POPE, I cannot tell. I spoke as I sincerely believed; that it was not wise to speak with candor, I have found to my cost.
FALCONER'S SHIPWRECK, DESERT, HOUNSLOW
What has been said, I conceive, will be sufficient to enable the commonest reader to see the weakness or irrelevancy of all your arguments. In looking back, I shall only notice shortly a few I have omitted. You have spoken of the poetical effect of terms of art in FALCONER'S Shipwreck. Nothing can have a greater effect than many, in bringing us as it were into the ship, and enabling us to see every action of the men employed in the hour of horror. Nothing can be more beautiful than the description" of weighing anchor:" the description of the stately Britannia, and her riding on "The pride and glory of the Ægean main."
The other parts of the landscape are purposely kept out of sight, that every eye and every heart may be fixed on this beautiful object, as she streams on the sight, departing for
But when you speak of the poetry of the tackle, bunt-line, clue lines, &c. do you really think these as poetical as the description of the tempestuous scene of darkness and distress itself? Do you think that when the ship is in the hollow of one of those enormous waves; when
"In that horrid vale, She hears no more the roaring of the gale;"
do you think this awful and novel image is not ten thousand times more poetical than such lines as,
"For he who seeks the tempest to disarm,
"Taught aft the sheet, they tally and belay?"
Your cannon itself, my Lord, has smoke and noise, but does no execution. I have spoken of this in my last pamphlet, on the subject of the "devilish artillery" in Milton. Your criticism, on this point, is sensible and judicious; but of your own cannon we cannot say, as one of the leaders did,
"The TERMS we sent were TERMS of WEIGHT!"
Much as I have said about the poetical effect of ships on their element, and although I have quoted your own striking description before, I cannot resist recalling to the reader's attention the animated picture of this kind from the publication before me:
"The aspect of a storm in the Archipelago is as poctical as need be, the sea being particularly short, dashing, and dangerous, and the navigation intricate and broken by the isles and currents. Cape Sigeum, the tumuli of the Troad, Lemnos, Tenedos, all added to the associations of the time. But what seemed the most poetical of all at the moment, were the numbers (about two hundred) of Greek and Turkish craft, which were obliged to cut and run' before the wind, from their unsafe anchorage, some for Tenedos, some for other isles, some for the main, and some it might be for eternity. The sight of these little scudding vessels, darting over the foam in the twilight, now appearing and now disappearing between the waves in the cloud of night, with their peculiarly white sails, (the Levant sails not being of coarse canvas, but of white cotton,) skimming along as quickly, but less safely, than the sea-mews which hovered over them; their evident distress, their reduction to fluttering specks in the distance, their crowded succession, their littleness, as contending with the giant element, which made our stout forty-four's teak timbers (she was built in India) creak again; their aspect and their motion, all struck me as something far more poetical' than the mere broad, brawling, shipless sea, and the sullen winds, could possibly have been without them."
This is a beautiful picture indeed; but the extraordinary circumstance is, that if I could have painted it, I could not have brought any thing in the world so much in favour of the principles of poetry I advocate, and AGAINST yourself. I will mention a few circumstances.
"The sight of these little scudding vessels, darting over the foam, in the TWILIGHT, now appearing and now disappearing between the waves in the cloud of night, with their peculiarly