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såys, “ The Greeks, and other more ancient ( A poet is at perfect liberty to employ de-
"Westward a stimptuous frontispiece appear'd,
And sculpture rising on the roughen'd gold." “And now St. Peter at Heaven's 'wicket seems
Frieze again occurs in one of Shakespeare's To wait them with his keys, and now at foot
best-known and most beautiful passages, Of Heaven's ascent they lift their feet, when celebrated by Sir Joshua Reynolds as a lo!
fine example of what in painting is called A violent cross-wind from either coast
repose--the short dialogue between Duncan Blows them transverse, ten thousand leagues and Banquo as they approach Macbeth's away,
" This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
Hath made this pendent bed and procreant
cradle," Long after, now unpeopled and untrod.''
With regard to the astronomical ternis -Bk. iii. 481-97.
and phrases objected to by Addison the In a further criticism of the same passage, same reply is to be made. All of them, Addison again unconsciously reveals his ig- and many others of a like nature, are in vorance of the great writers of the previous common use amongst the poets, and espeage. He suggests that Milton fabricated the cially amongst the more distinguished of word eremite out of hermit for the conven- Addison's own day, Dryden being specially ience of his verse. But the form“ eremite," fond of astronomical allusions. so far from being peculiar to Milton, is in Addison applies the same restrictive rule common use amongst the Elizabethan wri- not only to words and phrases tinged with ters. In the same criticisin he tells us that an archaic or technical hue, but to words there are in Milton's great poem several and phrases of comparatively recent intrcwords of his own coining, and gives embryon duction, but which from their convenience and miscreated as illustrations. Both words had already come into general use. are however to be found in the Elizabethan lively Spectator paper he complains of a poets, the latter being used by Shakespeare jargon of French phrases describing milihimself, as well as by Spenser in his "Fairy tary operations, and introduced by the lato
war, which are now to be found in every The limitation of Addison's urban dialect newspaper and gazette, as well as in conis further seen in his urging as a fault in versation and private letters; and he gives Milton's style the use of such technical terms as specimens of them,
-reconnoiter, ponas Doric pillars, cornice, frieze, and archi-toon, defile, marauding, corps, gasconade, trave, in the description of buildings, and carte blanche, fosse, and commandant. Hé such phrases as dropping from the zenith, virtually admits, however, that the protest and culminating from the equator, in de- against these and other neologisms was too scribing the appearance of shooting stars late in emphasizing the fact of their uniand the sun's noonday rays. In objecting versal use. Many of them were indeed to such words and phrases, Addison clearly employed as good English terms by more has no perception of the true law with re than one of his own literary contemporagard to the literary use of technical terms. I ries.
Pope had the keenest natural instinct for “When Macbeth is confirming himself in the language, and, as a natural result of his ac- horrid purpose of stabbing his king, he breaks tive poetical labours, his range
out amidst his emotions into a wish natural to
expression is wider than Addison's. He is more
a murderer tolerant both of the older and newer ele
• Come thick night, ments of expressive diction; and with all
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell
That my keen knife see not the wound it their exquisite finish, there are words and
makes, phrases to be found in his poems which Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the Addison would probably never have used. dark, But a poet cannot wholly dissociate him- To cry, Hold, hold!' self from the dominant influences around In this passage is exerted all the force of poehim; and Pope still reflects the relative try, that force which calls new powers into limitation that marks the literary and po- being, wbich embodies sentiment and animates etical vocabulary of his duy. In a criti- matter. Yet perhaps scarce any man now cism of Phillip's Pastorals, for example, he peruses it without some disturbance of his censures the words sheen, whilom, welkin, to the ideas. What can be more dreadful than
attention from the counteraction of the words younglings, nurslings, witless, as antiquated to implore the presence of night, invested not English ; and elsewhere he condenins as in common obscurity, but in the smoke of hell? archaic, emprise, nathless, dulcet, paynim, Yet the efficacy of this in vocation is destroyed and umbrageous, with other words and by the insertion of an epithet now seldom heard phrases still belonging to the poetical vo- but in the stable, and dun night may come and cabulary of the language.
On the other go without any other notice than contempt." hand, in the preface to his translation of That Johnson should have been capable Homer, he rejects amongst other terms the of thus deliberately attributing to her husword campaign as too modern to be used band Lady Macbeth's celebrated soliloquy, in an epic poen.
shows, perhaps, a less intimate acquaintance Johnson's vocabulary and style consti- with the play than might have been fairly tute an indirect criticism of the language expected from an author who had recently quite as one-sided as Addison's, though in published a criticism of it, and already issued a very different direction. In his horror proposals for a new edition of Shakespeare
. of colloquial barbarisms and anxiety to But, apart from this, the criticisin itself is avoid a too familiar style of writing, he singularly unfortunate. The names of coladopted the over-Latinized swelling and ours have in themselves no inherent dignity sonorous diction that is identified with his or meanness, but depend for their suggestive name. In the words of Dryden criticising significance on the object to which they are the style of his namesake, Ben Jonson," he applied, and Johnson might just as pertidid a little too much Romanize our tongue, nently have objected to this particular colour leaving the words which he translated almost because it is associated in popular sayings, as much Latin as he found them, wherein, as well as in poetry, and that even by Shakethough he learnedly followed their language, speare himself, with the “magnanimous he did not enough comply with the idiom mouse. With regard to the word dun, of ours.”
But, unlike Addison, he could the truth is that, so far from being unfit for relish styles wholly different from his own, poetical use, it is habitually employed by and appreciate forms of literary and poeti- our best poets to paint a dusky brown of cal excellence opposed to the current taste dark grey, the heavy mixture of white and of his day, and in many cases openly con- black with a faint tinge of colour. Thus demned by its more artificial canons of Chaucer applies it to the eagle's feathers, literary judgment. His defence of Shake other writers to the dark marbled hue of speare's dramatic art against the charge of the sea-lion, the larger kind of seal, and being rude, irregular, and incongruous, urged others to the dusky tinge belonging to na by classical purists and pedants on both tives of the East. But the word has 3 sides of the Channel, shows a much wider special appropriateness in this passage, range of critical insight than was common cause it is chiefly used in poetry to describe at the time. But in dealing critically with heavy masses of moving cloud, especially as language he does not always show an equal seen in the obscurity of dawn or evening
, freedom from contemporary prejudice, and when faint light begins to fleck the darkened some of his incidental criticisms of Shake east, or the sombre west
still speare's diction strongly illustrate the ex- with some streaks of day." Chaucer uses clusive notions that prevailed. To enforce it to describe the gloanning, and Milton, the criticism that poetry is degraded, and both in Comus and in Paradise Lost, to the reader's mind alienated and disquieted picture the deepening shades of night. From by low and mean expressions, he takes the its use in this connexion dun was very following example:
urally employed to describe the dense roll- | the more cultivated readers, not only of ing columns of artificial cloud produced by Johnson's time, but of the whole period to the sulphurous smoke of hidden fires, and which he belonged. Even Dryden, for exof its application in this sense, the same as ample, seems to have a fellow-feeling with Shakespeare's, we have many good exam- Johnson in his objection to the poetical use ples in modern poetry. Thus in Bowles' of the word knife, for in remodelling ShakeBattle of the Nile
speare's Troilus and Cressida, he substitutes “But now the mingled fight
the word sword for it, and the change must Begins its awful strife again
be assumed to rauk amongst the improveThrough the dun shades of night
ments which he claims to have effected in Along the darkly-heaving main Shakespeare's language. In the preface to Is seen the frequent flash:
his revision, Dryden says, “I undertook to And many a tow'ring mast with dreadful crash
remove the heaps of rubbish with which Rings falling: Is the scene of slaughter o'er?
many excellent thoughts lay wholly buried;" Is the death-cry heard no more? Lo! where the East a glimn'ring freckle adding, “ I need not say that I hàve refined streaks,
his language, which before was obsolete." Slow o'er the shadowy wave the grey dawn The passages in question are worth quoting breaks."
as a specimen of the manner in which Dry
den did his work, and as throwing light on And in the better known poein of Hohen- the taste and feeling of the time, as reprelinden
sented by its foremost poet and critic. In " 'Tis morn, but scarce yon level sun Shakespeare, Troilus says :
Can pierce the war-clouds rolling dun,
“I tell thee, I am mad Shout in their sulph'rous canopy."
In Cressid's love: thou answer'st 'She is fair,
Pour'st in the open uicer of my heart, A similar reply may be made to a further Her eyes, her hair, her cheek, her gait, her criticism of Johnson's on the same passage. Handlest in thy discourse, O, that her hand,
voice; “We cannot surely,” he says, “ but sym- In whose comparison all whites are ink, pathize with the horrors of a wretch about Writing their own reproach; to whose soft to murder his master, his friend, his bene
seizure factor, who suspects that the weapon will The cygnet's down is hard, and spirit of sense refuse its office, and start back from the Hard as the palm of ploughman ]—This tbon breast which he is preparing to violate. Yet this sentiment is weakened by the name
As true thou tell'st me, when I say I love her ; of an instrument used by butchers and cooks But saying this, instead of oil and balm, in the meanest employments. We do not Thou lay'st in every gash that love hath given immediately conceive that any crime of im- The knife that made it." portance is to be committed with a knife; or who does not at least, from the long habit
This exquisite passage is improved and of connecting a knife with sordid offices, feel
"refined" by Dryden as follows: sversion rather than terror ? It need “Oh, Pandarus, when I tell thee I am mnd hardly be said to those who know anything In Cressid’s lore, thou answer'st she is fair; of our early poetry, that the word knife is Praisest her eyes, her stature, and her wit; employed in exactly the same way, to But praising these, instead of oil and palm, designato the instrument of a murderer, Thou lay'st in every wound her love lias giren by Chaucer, and continually by Spenser, The sword that made it." to say nothing of its abundant use by Shakespeare's contemporaries, the Elizabethan In Shakespeare the two last lines are dramatists. It has, moreover, a peculiar grand personification of intense elemental appropriateness, being, from its facilities feeling, expressed in the simplest, most diof concealment, specially employed in con- rect, and poignant words. According to the nexion with stealthy crime, with swift and commonplace poetical machinery, Cupid is teacherous assassination. Shakespeare him- said to pierce the susceptible bosom with his self speaks more than once of a treason's arrows, but this cold and distant fancy pales knife,"
" " treason's secret knife," and in Lady before the white heat of Troilus' passion, Macbeth's terrible invocation no other word and love, transformed to a mortal foe, armed could be substituted for it without weaken with the murderer's weapon, rushes on bis ing the effect of the passage. But from defenceless victim, and with reiterated stabs want of farniliarity with the truth and fresh- gashes the suffering heart. But in Dryden's ness of our earlier poetry, these, and num- version, the whole force of the conception, berless other simple and expressive terms, as well as the fire of the words, is lost, by had lost their special significance even to the mere introduction of the propoun, and,
the passion gone, the further changes simply emancipated humanity. These great events reduce the concentrated utterance of intense stirred the intellect and heart, not only of emotion to a conventional sentiment clothed England but of Europe. But one of the in incongruous phrase. This illustrates the most striking effects on our literature of this process of improving Shakespeare's diction moral upheaval is the exuberance of origiby excluding common words" connected with nal poetic genius that marked the opening gordid offices,” which found favour not only decades of the present century. The names with the dramatists of the Restoration, who of Scott, Byron, Wordsworth, Southey, Colecould bardly be expected to appreciate the ridge, Campbell, Shelley, Keats, not to language of real passion, but to a certain mention others of equal rank though of more extent with Johnson bimself. At least, as recent fame, represent an age of original we have seen, Johnson unites with critics of imaginative power and productiveness second the same age and school in condemping the only to the Elizabethan. The literary inuse of such terms. The great critic was fluence of the profound reaction produced indeed baunted with the notion, common to by the critical movement of the eighteenth many of his immediate predecessors, of refin- century has however been often traced, and ing and fixing the language so as finally to ex. in its general outline is tolerably well known clude all rustic and vulgar elements from the to the majority of intelligent readers
, authorized vocabulary of the lettered and po- as in the case of the Elizabethan period, the lite. Dryden, as we have seen, had a vague influence on the national speech of this idea of establishing an academy for this great original movement of the national mind, purpose, and Swift formally addressed a let- has never yet been carefully analysed, and ter to the Earl of Oxford, suggesting that, only noticed at all in a very partial and imas a member of the Government, he should perfect manner. As might, however, hare take the initiative in devising some means been expected from the circumstances of the for “ascertaining and fixing the language case, the movement had a direct and power for ever, after such alterations are made in ful influence on the vocabulary of the lanit as shall be thought requisite.” This no- guage. The change is, moreover,
well worth tion of circumscribing the language within detailed notice, both for its own sake, and some artificial boundary was indeed the for the sake of the deeper tendencies and dominant conception on the subject of the characteristics of the modern period of which whole period, from the days of Dryden, who it is a striking sign and index. Though, reigned at its commencement, to those of like all natural developments, gradual and Johnson, who saw its close, and whose Dic- for the most part unperceived, it neverthetionary, the partial realization of his origin- less represents a revolution in the resources al plan, was published about the eighteenth of literary and current English, greater than century.
any that had taken place since the formation Early in the second half of the eighteenth of the language, with the exception of the century the tide of conventional restriction Elizabethan era. As the causes affecting began almost imperceptibly to turn. In the the national mind in the two periods were works of Collins, Goldsmith, and Thomson, to some extent similar, so there is a likeness the despotic influences of the town and in the effects. In both, the national intelthe Court are somewhat relaxed, and there lect was roused by the commanding impulse is, at least, a partial return to the simplicity of great public events, the national heart of nature-to the varied charm of rural stirred to its depths by fresh interests and sights and sounds, and the moving realities more generous sympathies, and the national of a more homely hunian experience. The imagination quickered by the exciting stimworks of Percy, Crabbe, Cowper, and Burns ulus of new and glorious hopes. But in the fed the rising tide until the fountains of the modern period the national movement had a great deep were once more broken up by the wider sweep, and was naturally of a more French Revolution following the American self-conscious and reflective character. ToWar. The criticism of the eighteenth cen- wards the close of the sixteenth century tury, cold and negative as it sometimes ap- dominant feeling was a national one, the peared, had at length done its work, and a strong, desire to secure and maintain comwork of unexpected magnitude it proved to plete independence,-scope for the free manbe. It struck a mortal blow at theories of ifestation of the nation's energies, and the feudal privileges and divine right, which had full development of its civil and ecclesiastibecome prolific sources of evil; and gradu- cal life. But at the end of the eighteenth ally undermined the despotic' institutions century, wider thoughts and sympathies, that were fatal barriers to human progress, quickened by the stirring of new life in other until at last they foll with a crash, and there lands than our own, modified the isolated swept over them the wild tumultuous tide of conception of nationality that had hitherto
ruled the English mind with indisputed tion between nations, to express the fact that
This new conception of nations being in particular, looked at nature and human bound together by common interests and life no longer through the medium of books relationships, soon enriched our own lap- and traditional representations, or artificial guage with a new word for its expression. lights and conventional draperies, but face Coleridge justly says that any new word ex to face; and in the growing light and kindpressing a fact or relationship, not expressed ling rapture of that open vision, the whole
other word in the language, is a new universe of life, including its most familiar organ of thought; and this is true of the objects and experiences, was completely term international, a coinage of our own cen- transfigured. The obscuring veil of custom tury, which aptly expresses one of its most was rent, the indurating scales of indiffercharacteristic and operative conceptions.ence fell away, and this goodly frame, the We are now so familiar with the term, and earth, o'ercanopied with this majestical roof, the idea it expresses, that it is difficult to "fretted with golden fire," and peopled by realize fully the extreme recentness of both. this quintessence of breathing dust, so noble Hardly any conception is however at once in reason and infinite in faculty, appeared more thoroughly novel, and more expressive once more, as it ever does to the purified
modern spirit, than that represented and observant eye, in all the dewy freshness by the term international. For though the and beauty of a new creation. The multiword, it is true, does not necessarily denote tude of new thoughts and feelings and exfriendly interests and relationships, it was periences arising from this quickened creaoriginally introduced to express them, and tive activity of the intellect, imagination, since its introduction has been largely used and affections, demanded to some extent, at for the same purpose. It was not, indeed, ) least, a new vehicle for their full and apprountil the perception of common interests and priate expression. The limited vocabulary connexions between nations had risen into of the satirical and didactic poetry of the importauce, and occupied the attention of eighteenth century was, in fact, almost ludi. public writers and speakers, that the want of crously inadequate to the larger wants and à term to express them was generally felt requirements of the lyrical, descriptive, and or adequately supplied. A more advanced dramatic poets of the nineteenth. Some of phase of the same conception is expressed its more conventional elements were moreby another word, wholly new, and less suit- over unsuitable from their artificial characed, perhaps, to the genius of the language, ter. Hence Wordsworth's vigorous protest but which, nevertheless, has already passed against what is usually called poetical dicinto reputable use, and will
, probably, on tion,” the adulterated phraseology arising account of its convenience, be ultimately from a lavish but wholly mechanical use of adopted. This is the word solidarity, as in figures of speech and sterotyped metaphorthe phrase "solidarity of the peoples," first ical phrases, as simply a hindrance and a popularized by Kossuth during his visit to spare to the true poet of nature. Throwing this country after the revolutionary move- aside this useless lumber, the representament of 1848. It is employed to denote tives of the new and natural school of poetry essential community of interest and obliga- I sought in all directions, wherever they could