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house of some friends, who were absent on a journey to England. It was on a beautiful summer evening, while wandering among the lanes where myrtle hedges were the bowers of the fire-flies, that we heard the carolling of the skylark, which inspired one of the most beautiful of his poems.”—Moxon's edition of 1840, p. 278.
Shelley chose the measure of this poem with great felicity. The earnest hurry of the four short lines, followed by the long effusiveness of the Alexandrine, expresses the eagerness and continuity of the lark. There is a luxury of the latter kind in Shakspeare's song, produced by the reduplication of the rhymes
Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
And Phæbus 'gins arise
On chalic'd flowers that lies ;
To ope their golden eyes :
My lady sweet, arise.
“ Chalic'd flowers that lies” is an ungrammatical licence in use with the most scholarly writers of the time; and, to say the truth, it was a slovenly one; though there is all the difference in the world between the licence of power and that of poverty.
I “In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.”—During the prevalence of the unimaginative and unmusical poetry of the last century, it was thought that an Alexandrine should always be cut in halves, for the greater sweetness; that is to say, monotony. The truth is, the pause may be thrown anywhere, or even entirely omitted, as in the unhesitating and characteristic instance before us. See also the eighth stanza. The Alexandrines throughout the poem evince the nicest musical feeling.
? Like a high-born maiden
In a palace tower. Mark the accents on the word “love-laden," so beautifully carrying on the stress into the next line
Soothing her love-làden
Soul in secret hour. The music of the whole stanza is of the loveliest sweetness; of energy in the midst of softness; of dulcitude and variety. Not a sound of a vowel in the quatrain resembles that of another, except in the rhymes; while the very sameness or repetition of the sounds in the Alexandrine intimates the revolvement and continuity of the music which the lady is playing. Observe, for instance (for nothing is too minute to dwell upon in such beauty), the contrast of the i and o in “high-born ;” the difference of the a in “maiden” from that in “ palace;" the strong opposition of maiden to tower (making the rhyme more vigorous in proportion to the general softness); then the new differences in soothing, love-laden, soul, and secret, all diverse from one another, and from the whole strain ; and finally, the strain itself, winding up in the Alexandrine with a cadence of particular repetitions, which constitutes nevertheless a new difference on that account, and by the prolongation of the tone.
“ It gives a very echo to the seat
There is another passage of Shakspeare which it more particularly calls to mind;—the
Ditties highly penu’d,
With ravishing division to her lute. But as Shakspeare was not writing lyrically in this passage, nor desirous to fill it with so much love and sentiment, it is no irreverence to say that the modern excels it. The music is carried on into the first two lines of the next stanza :
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew;
a melody as happy in its alliteration as in what may be termed its counterpoint. And the colouring of this stanza is as beautiful as the music.
3^ Thou scorner of the ground.”—A most noble and emphatic close of the stanza. Not that the lark, in any vulgar sense of the word, “scorns” the ground, for he dwells upon it: but that, like the poet, nobody can take leave of common-places with more heavenly triumph,
A GARISH DAY.
(SAID BY A POTENT RUFFIAN.)
The all-beholding sun yet shines ; I hear
corner, nook, and hole, Is penetrated with the insolent light. Come, darkness !
CONTEMPLATION OF VIOLENCE.
(BY A MAN NOT BAD.)
Spare me now.
A ROCK AND A CHASM.
I remember, Two miles on this side of the fort, the road Crosses a deep ravine : 't is rough and narrow, And winds with short turns down the precipice; And in its depth there is a mighty rock, Which has, from unimaginable years,
Sustain'd itself with terror and with toil
Sweet lamp! my moth-like muse has burnt its wings;