Page images

She had dreams all yesternight
Of her own betrothèd knight;
And shè in the midnight wood will pray
For the weal of her lover that's far away.

She stole along, she nothing spoke,
The sighs she heav'd were soft and low,
And nought was green upon the oak,
But moss and rarest misletoe;
She kneels beneath the huge oak tree,
And in silence prayeth she.

The lady sprang up suddenly,
The lovely lady, Christabel !
It moan'd as near as near can be,
But what it is, she cannot tell.
On the other side it seems to be
Of the huge, broad-breasted, old oak trèe.

The night is chill, the forest bare;
Is it the wind that moaneth bleak ?

(This “ bleak moaning" is a witch's)

There is not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl
From the lovely lady's cheek-
There is not wind enough to twirl
The dne rèd lèaf, the last of its clan,
That dàncěs ås often ås dànce it càn,
Hànging lìght and hànging high,
On the tòpmost twig thắt looks up at the sky.

Hush, beating heart of Christabel !
Jesu Maria, shield her well!
She folded her arms beneath her cloak,
And stole to the other side of the oak.

What sees she there?

There she sees a damsel bright,
Drest in a robe of silken white,
That shadowy in the moonlight shone:
The neck that made that white robe wan,
Her stately neck and arms were bare:
Her blae-vein'd feet unsandall'd were;
And wildly glitter'd, here and there,
The gems entangled in her hair.
I guess 'twas frightful there to see
A lady so richly clad as she -
Beautiful exceedingly.

The principle of Variety in Uniformity is here worked out in a style“ beyond the reach of art.” Every thing is diversified according to the demand of the moment, of the sounds, the sights, the emotions; the very uniformity of the outline is gently varied; and yet we feel that the whole-is one and of the same character, the single and sweet unconsciousness of the heroine making all the rest seem more conscious, and ghastly, and expectant. It is thus that versification itself becomes part of the sentiment of a poem, and vindicates the pains that have been taken to show its importance. / I know of no very fine versification unaccompanied with fine poetry; no poetry of a mean order accompanied with verse of the highest.

As to Rhyme, which might be thought too insignificant to mention, it is not at all so. The universal consent of modern Europe, and of the East in all ages, has made it one of the musical beauties of verse for all poetry but epie and dramatic, and even for the former with Southern Europe,-a sustainment for the enthusiasm, and a demand to enjoy. The mastery of it consists in never writing it for its own sake, or at least never appearing to do so; in knowing how to vary it, to give it novelty, to render it more or less strong, to divide it (when not in couplets) at the proper intervals, to repeat it many times where luxury or animal spirits demand it (see an instance in Titania's speech to the Fairies), to impress an affecting or startling remark with it, and to make it, in comic poetry, a new and surprising addition to the jest.

Large was his bounty and his soul sincere,

Heav'n did a recompense as largely send ;
He gave to misery all he had, a tear ;
He gain’d from heav'n ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

Gray's Elegy.
The fops are proud of scandal ; for they cry
At every lewd, low character, “ That's I.

Dryden's Prologue to the Pilgrim.
What makes all doctrines plain and clear?
About two hundred pounds a-year.
And that which was proved true before,
Prove false again? Two hundred more.


Compound for sins they are inclin'd to,
By damning those they have no mind to.


Stor’d with deletery med'cines,
Which whosoever took is dead since.


Sometimes it is a grace in a master like Butler to force his rhyme, thus.. showing a laughing wilful power over the most stubborn materials ::

The women, and make them draw in
The men, as Indians with a fèmale
Tame elephant inveigle the male.


He made an instrument to know
If the moon shines at full or no;
That would, as soon as e'er she shone, straight
Whether 'twere day or night demonstrate;
Tell what her diameter to an inch is,
And prove that she's not made of green cheese.


Pronounce it, by all means, grinches, to make the joke more wilful. The happiest triple rhyme, perhaps, that ever was written, is in Don Juan:

But oh! ye lords of ladies intellectual,
Inform us truly,—haven't they hen-peck'd you all ?

The sweepingness of the assumption completes the flowing breadth of effect.

Dryden confessed that a rhyme often gave him a thought. Probably the happy word “sprung” in the following passage from Ben Jonson was suggested by it; but then the poet must have had the feeling in him.

-Let our trumpets sound,
And cleave both air and ground

With beating of our drums.

Let every lyre be strung,
Harp, lute, theorbo, sprung

With touch of dainty thumbs.

Boileau's trick for appearing to rhyme naturally was to compose the second line of his couplet first! which gives one the crowning idea of the “ artificial school of poetry.” Perhaps the most perfect master of rhyme, the easiest and most abundant, was the greatest writer of comedy that the world has seen,-Molière.

If a young reader should ask, after all, What is the quickest way of knowing bad poets from good, the best

poets from the next best, and so on? the answer is, the only and two-fold way; first, the perusal of the best poets with the greatest attention; and, second, the cultivation of that love of truth and beauty which made them what they are. Every true reader of poetry partakes a more than ordinary portion of the poetic nature; and no one can be completely such, who does not love, or take an interest in, every thing that interests the poet, from the firmament to the daisy,- from the highest heart of man to the most pitiable of the low. It is a good practice to read with pen in hand, marking what is liked or doubted. It rivets the attention, realizes the greatest amount of enjoyment, and facilitates reference. It enables the reader also, from time to time, to see what progress he makes

« PreviousContinue »