Obrázky stránek

a poetical dialect, though far less extensive than the Italian, or even than the English. And it may, I think, be presumed, that in future ages they will have more of this dialect than they have at present. This I would infer from the very uncommon merit of some of their late poets, particularly Boileau and La Fontaine, who, in their respective departments, will continue to be imitated, when the present modes of French prose are greatly changed: an event that, for all the pains they take to preserve their language, must inevitably happen, and whereof there are not wanting some presages already.

The English poetical dialect is not character. ized by any peculiarities of inflection, nor by any great latitude in the use of foreign idioms. More copious it is, however, than one would at first imagine. I know of no author who has considered it in the way of detail.* What follows is but a very short specimen.

* Since writing the above, I have had the pleasure to read the following judicious remarks on this sub. ject. “ The language of the age is never the language " of poetry, except among the French, whose verse, “ where the sentiment or image does not support it, “ differs in nothing from prose. Our poetry, on the con

trary, has a language peculiar to itself; to which al“most every one that has wrtiten has added something,

1. A few Greek and Latin idioms are common in English poetry, which are seldom or never to be met with in prose. QUENCHED OF HOPE. Shakspeare.–SHORN OF HIS BEAMS. Milton.

Created thing nor VALUED HE NOR SHUNN'D. Milton.-'Tis thus we riot, while who sow it STARVE. Pope.--INTO WHAT PIT THOU SEE'ST FROM WHAT HEIGHT FALLEN. Milton.-He de

“ by enriching it with foreign idioms, and derivatives;

nay, sometimes words of their own composition or “ invention. Shakspeare and Milton have been great “ creators this way; and no one more licentious than

Pope or Dryden, who perpetually borrow expressions “ from the former. Let me give you some instances from “ Dryden, whom every body reckons a great master “ of our poetical tongue. Full of museful mopings-unlike “ the trim of love-a pleasant beverage-a roundelay of “ love-stood silent in his mood-with knots and knares “ deformed-his ireful mood—in proud array—his boon

was granted—and disarray and shameful rout-way“ ward but wise- furbished for the field-dodder'doaks _disherited-smouldering flames-retchless of laws

crones old and ugly—the beldam at his side-the grandam hag---villanize his father's fame. But they are infi“nite: and our language not being a settled thing, (like “ the French) has an undoubted right to words of an “ hundred years old, provided antiquity have not ren* dered them unintelligible.”

Mr. Gray's Letters, sect. 3. letter 4. ceived the mother of mankind, WHAT TIME HIS PRIDE HAD Cašt Him out of heaven. Milton. Some of these, with others to be found in Milton, seem to have been adopted for the sake of brevity, which in the poetical tongue is indispensable. For the same reason perhaps, the ar. ticles a and the are sometimes omitted by our poets, though less frequently in serious than burlesque composition.* In English, the adjective generally goes before the substantive, the nominative before the verb, and the active verb before (what we call) the accusative. Exceptions, however, to this rule, are not uncommon even in prose. But in poetry they are more frequent. Their homely joys, and DESTINY OBSCURE. Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight; and all

* In the Greek poetry, the omission of the article is more frequent than the use of it. The very learned and ingenious author of a Treatise on the Origin and Progress of Language, supposes, that in the time of Homer, who established their poetical language, the article was little used by the Greeks: and this supposition appears highly probable, when we consider, that in the Latin, which was derived from the Pelasgick tongue, (a very ancient dialect of Greek), there is no article. Yet, though the article had been in use in Homer's age, I imagine that he, and every other Greek poet who wrote hexameters, would have often found it necessary to leave it out.

the air a solemn stillness holds. In general, that versification may be less difficult, and the cadence more uniformly pleasing; and sometimes, too, in order to give energy to expression, or vivacity to an image, the English poet is permitted to take much greater liberties, than the prose writer, in arranging his words, and modulating his lines and periods. Examples may be seen in every page of Paradise Lost. ::2. Some of our poetical words take an additional syllable, that they may suit the verse the better; as, dispart, distain, disport, affright, enchain, for part, stain, sport, fright, chain. Others seem to be nothing else than common words made shorter, for the convenience of the versifier. Such are auxiliar, sublunar, trump, vale, part, clime, submiss, frolick, plain, drear, dread, helm, morn, eve, mead, and even, gan, illume and illumine, ope, hçar, hide, swage, scape; for auxiliary, sublunary, trumpet, valley, depart, climate, submissive, frolicksome, complain, dreary, dreadful, helmet, morning, meadow, evening, began or began to, illuminate, open, hoary, abide, assuage, escape. Of some of these the short form is the more ancient. In Scotland, even, morn, bide, swage, are still in vulgar use; but morn, except when contradistinguished to even, is synonymous, not with morning, (as in the English poetical dialect,) but with morrow. The Latin poets, in a way somewhat similar, and perhaps for a similar reason, shortened fundamentum, tutamentum, muni. mentum, &c. into fundamen, tutamen, munimen.*

3. Of the following words which are now almost peculiar to poetry, the greater part are ancient, and were once no doubt in common use in England, as many of them still are in Scotland. Afield, amain, annoy (a noun), anon, aye (ever), behest, blithe, brand (sword), bridle, carol, dame (lady), featly, fell (an adjective), gaude, gore, host (army), lambkin, late (of late), lay (poem), lea, glade, gleam, hurl, lore, mecd, orisons, plod (to travel laboriously), ringlet, rue (a verb), ruth, ruthless, sojourn (a noun), smite, speed (an active verb), save (except), spray (twig), steed, strain (song), strand, swain, thrall, thrill, trail (a verb), troll, wail, welter, warble, wayward, woo, the while (in the mean time), you, of yore.

4. These that follow are also poetical; but, so far as I know, were never in common use. Appal,arrowy, attune, battailous, breezy, car(chariot), clarion, cates, courser, darkling, flicker, floweret,

Quod poetæ alligati ad certam pedum necessitatem, non semper propriis uti possint, sed depulsi a recța vią necessario ad eloquendi quædam diverticula confugiant; nec mutare quædam modo verba, sed extendere, corripere. convertere, dividere, cojantur.


« PředchozíPokračovat »