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love, and arithmetical understanding."* The poet's planting is the deep planting, and his teaching becomes a ministry within our inmost being, so that the oracle without and the response within are in marvellous unity. It is not like the lessons which, remaining outward to us and unrecognised by our deep sympathies, are easily intercepted by chance or blown away from us, but it is made part of our very life and taste, to give perpetual strength or welcome warning. I would rather a child of mine should know and feel the high, imaginative teachings of Wordsworth's “ Ode to Duty," than any piece of uninspired prose morality in the language, because the heart that will truly take that lofty lesson unto itself, however it may falter with frailty or fall short in the fulfilment, will fain not cast it out; it is teaching, that tempers the pride and wilfulness of manhood, showing how much more of moral beauty and strength and happiness there is in the spirit of willing obedience than in that of power or of liberty; nay, that the only genuine liberty is that which is in harmony with law and self-control; it is teaching fitted to give to womanhood a star-like life and motion, obedient to her orbit, and kindling the firmament of humanity with bright and benignant influences, radiant from that orbit alone ; for the poet, better than the prose moralist, by throwing the consecration of his art around the sense of duty, discloses its hidden power for suffering or for action, so that, if need be, the woman will bow, like “the gentle lady married to the Moor,” beneath the doom of some dark tragedy of home, or, if man's wrongs or his omissions should call her to other duties—for what a woman ought to do often depends on what man does or leaves undone-she will go forth, like Imogen, for womanly well-doing in the rude places of the open and unroofed world.
* Sartor Resartus, p. 228. Am. Ed.
When that accomplished lady, whose genius, with no ther instruments than the poet's text and her own voice, so finely illustrated the genius of Shakspeare, read in a neighbouring city, to an audience of teachers, some selections of English literature, she gave that eloquent tribute to the character of Washington, which occurs in the historical lectures of Professor Smyth, of the English University of Cambridge,* and also Wordsworth's Ode to Duty, to which I have made allusion. I was struck with I will not say the felicity of the choice, but with the wisdom of it—the one selection portraying the might and glory of duty as actualized in the life of the moral hero of modern times; the other showing them idealized by the imagination of the poet. I refer to this as an admirable combination of the deep teachings of prose and poetry.
In order to receive the true benefit of the discipline of poetry, and also the full enjoyment of it, there must be given to it much more of thought, of strenuous activity of the reader's own imagination, more caution of mind, than most people think it worthy of. It must be studied, and not merely read. There are some books which I wish to commend to you with a view to the proper culture and discipline of the imagination. I will take occasion to give an opportunity to those who desire to do so to take a note of them, on the next evening, before I proceed to the lecture for that evening ;—the subject of which will be “The Study of the English Language, considered as a source of enjoyment from its powers in prose and verse."
* Smyth’s Lectures, vol. ii. p. 486.
The English Language.*
Medium of ideas often forgotten-Witchery of English words_Analy
sis of good style difficult—The power of words–Our duty to the English language-Lord Bacon's idea of Latin-Milton-Hume's expostulation with Gibbon-Daniel's Lament—Extension of English language-French dominion in America-Landor's Penn and Peterborough-Duty of protecting and guarding language-Degeneracy of language and morals-Age of Charles II.-Language part of character-Arnold's Lectures on Modern History–Use of disproportionate words—Origin of the English language in the North-Classical and romantic languages-Saxon element of our language-Its superiority-The Bible idiom-Structure of sentences—Prepositions at the end of most vigorous sentences—Composite sentences, and the Latin element-Alliteration-Grandeur of sentences in old writers—Modern short sentences—Junius—Macaulay-No peculiar poetic diction-Doctor Franklin's rules—Shakspeare's matchless words—Wordsworth's sonnet Byron-Landor-Coleridge's Christabel—“The Song in the Mind”-Hood - The Bridge of Sighs.
The subject which I propose for this evening's lecture is the study of the powers of the English language in prose and verse. My desire to say something on this subject has been prompted by the conviction that some attention to it will increase our enjoyment of books, and will in fact give the reader a superadded pleasure. In our reading, we are very apt to content ourselves with the reception of such thoughts and feelings as pass into our minds from the silent page, unheeding the medium through which
* January 17, 1850.
they reach us; indeed, often, the purer and more excellent the style, the less conscious are we of its merits, so transparently does it let the writer's thoughts and emotions pass through it. We think of what is said or written, and feel it, but not how it is said or written : while the power which an author's meaning has upon our minds is intimately blended with the power his language exercises over us, of the latter we scarce have a conscious recoguition. Does not every one know how differently the same thing said in different ways affects us? We welcome it, perhaps, in one case, and we repel it in the other. There shall be in one man's language an air of truth, of earnestness, and reality, which will gain assent to what he tells us, while the same thing told in other words will sound vain and unreal. There is wondrous agency
and beauty in language, a winning witchery in words—grandly and beautifully so in our English speech. I desire to consider some of the elements of this, regarded as a source of intellectual enjoyment. In all intercourse with the best writers, whether in prose or verse, our minds have, no doubt, an unconscious perception of the goodness of the style, just as we have unconscious freedom of breath in a pure atmosphere; but if the perception of style be made reflective, it may come to have too much of consciousness in it: we may come to think too much of the instrument, and too little of the music; to be too critical of our own emotions of delight. I have, therefore, some apprehensions that in attempting any thing like an analytical exposition of the enjoyment of language, considered simply as an organ of expression, it may prove a little too much like parsing our pleasure. The happy, healthful-breathing asks for no analysis of the air; the mountain-spring is