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different ideas to it. When, therefore, we call the sun a sublime object, we deceive ourselves in supposing that the word sublimity has any meaning abstracted from the emotion which it produces in ourselves, as it would not produce the same emotion in any other being. If the sun then never shone upon man, it is absurd, in the highest degree, to say that it would still be stupendous and sublime, as these are terms that express emotions peculiar to man alone.
But to what purpose do you maintain that the sun would be stupendous and sublime, whatever it shone upon, or if it did not shine at all? Lord Byron never asserted the contrary : he only said, it would not be as poetical, if it had neither pyramids nor fleets, nor fortresses to shine upon. Is this assertion disproved by saying it would be stupendous and sublime? If you think there is no difference between a stupendous and a poetical object : if you claim the liberty of confounding terms so perfectly distinct in their nature, you may argue to eternity without any danger of being confuted; for there is no arguing with a man who attaches what ideas he pleases to the expressions which he makes use of. But the sun, you add, “ would be equally poetical, whether it shone on pyramids or posts, fortresses or pig-sties, a brass warming-pan, or a footman's livery.” It is curious, that you should quote two lines, almost immediately after making this assertion, which prove its absurdity. Trying the poetical effect of the sun, you compare the two following lines :
The Sun shines white upon the rocks
The Sun shines white upon the warming-pan. The first of these lines you consider poetical, but the second you do not, though you told us immediately before that the sun is equally poetical whether it shines upon pyramids or a brass warming-pan. Who can understand such logic? or to what purpose are we told, that the sun is poetical whatever it shines upon, whether on pig-sties or a brass warming-pan, when you
tell us, the moment you make it shine “ upon the warming-pan,” that
is no longer poetical? It seems then that a brass warming-pan, notwithstanding your logic, has the power of destroying the poetry
Yet I suspect that Pope could bring the sun and the warming-pan together in such a manner, that without destroying the poetry of the sun, he would make both it and the warmingpan poetical at the same moment, though they have both lost their poetry in your hands ;-a proof that the poetry of objects is neither to be sought for in themselves, nor in the mere act of bringing them together ; and that it has its origin in the manner alone in which they are associated.
of the sun.
Perhaps you will reply, that Pope could not make the sun poetical shining on a warming-pan, that it is poetical in verse only when it shines on natural objects, and that therefore though it is not poetical shining, upon the warming-pan, it is exceedingly so shining upon the rocks. To this I have only to reply, that if you will not admit the sun shining upon the warming-pan to be poetical, after telling us it would be poetical, stupendous, and sublime, whether it shines on warming-pans or pig-sties, or if it never shone at all upon man or any of his works ; at least you must admit that its being a work of art cannot prevent it from being a poetical object; unless you maintain, that the first of the two following lines is not poetical, though you have immediately after quoted it as such, in making an experiment with the “ evening beam,” for no purpose that I can perceive, but that of turning your own theory into ridicule ; or at least of placing its absurdity in the most conspicuous point of view.
Pale on the lone tower falls the evening beam
Pale on my grey wig falls the evening beam. The first of these lines you call poetical, and so it unquestionably is ; but is not the “lone tower," on which the evening beam rests, as much the work of art as your unpoetical grey wig? And is it not more poetical than the evening beam itself, though an image taken from one of the sublimest objects in nature ? Who then can decide when the sun is or is not poetical, if we are to be guided by your invariably erroneous and discordant principles?
“Mr. Campbell," you say, “ introduced the sun needlessly, if it did not make the ship more poetical.” But, as Lord Byron justly observes, if it makes one thing poetical, why not another ? The observation is philosophically just; and therefore the question may be repeated, if it has rendered Mr. Campbell's ship poetical, why has it not had the same effect on your grey wig and warmingpan? And yet you confidently tell us, this is an argument unworthy of Lord Byron. Would you condescend to tell us why it is unworthy of him ? I suspect you would more willingly have us believe it so, than be obliged to tell the reason.
You must, however, be content to admit with Lord Byron, that if the sun makes one thing poetical, it will have the same effect upon another, till you assign a reason for disagreeing with him. If you could evade the force of an argument by saying it is unworthy, it is absurd, you could easily confute all the logicians and metaphysicians that ever wrote. The truth is, you saw Lord Byron's argument unanswerable, and you dexterously slipped away from it, by affecting to think it unworthy of an answer.
Lord Byron asks, “ Did any painter ever paint the sea only, without the addition of a ship, boat, wreck, or some such adjunct ?" To prove that such adjuncts are not necessary to render the sea poetical, you quote the following passage from Crabbe, in which there is neither ship nor wreck introduced :
With ceaseless motion comes and goes the tide ;
It rolls, in ebb, yet terrible and deep. A school-boy could perceive, that this is not a description of the sea, but of the flowing and ebbing of the tide up and down the channel ; which presents a picture to the mind very different from a broad, extended, monotonous sheet of water. This, however, you are pleased to call a description of the sea, and a description too, which “ might rival the greatest poet that ever lived.” And you particularly direct his Lordship's attention to its “ metre and imagery.” Now, Sir, without the remotest intention of derogating from the poetical powers of Crabbe, I must say, that the description appears to me totally destitute of imagery, and therefore so extremely bleak and cheerless, that it has scarcely any thing in it to constitute poetry but the metre itself. Imagery, in poetry, is not the mere picture or image of the object described, but kindred images, taken from other objects in the works of nature or of art, in which the object described is clothed and decorated. But what images are introduced into this description of the tide, but what absolutely belong to it, and which watermen and fishwomen are every day attributing to it, except the epithet “ majestic” alone? All the other qualities and attributes conferred upon it, such as coming, going, flowing, filling, vast, wide, deep, terrible, are only what strikes every observer the moment he looks upon it. Besides, though the description is so short, the poet, for want of imagery, has been obliged to express the same thought
First he represents the tide coming and going, and finishes his description by expressing the same thought over again in different words. The descriptive terms are all general, and an object described in general terms was never poetically described. Lord Kames, in his “Elements of Criticism,” lays it down as a rule, “to avoid, as much as possible, general and abstract terms. Images, which are the life of poetry, cannot be raised in any perfection, but by introducing particular objects.” This rule is completely violated in Crabbe's description of the tide, which, notwithstanding, you say, "might rival the greatest poet that ever lived." So you are pleased to think ; but I suspect few of your readers would compare it with the following description of a sea-view
from Dover-cliffs. Observe, en passant, how accurately Shakspeare observes Lord Kames' “ rule” though he had never read his “ Elements of Criticism."
King Lear, Act 4, sc. 6. This, Sir, is what I should call imagery ; and I believe you will yourself readily acknowledge, that it is infinitely more poetical than Crabbe's description, in which there is no image presented to the imagination but the tide coming and going, and coming and going, and consequently almost as monotonous as the sea itself, without a ship, boat, or any other adjunct.
But you have not yet done with the sea and the ships : you quote another passage from Lord Byron himself; but for what purpose it is doubtful whether any person can tell but yourself. Your object was to disprove his Lordship's argument, when he says, that no “painter ever painted the sea only without the addition of a ship, boat, wreck, or some such adjunct.” And in order to disprove the assertion, you quote the following description of the sea from “Childe Harold,” in which the imagery is highly and poetically enriched with ships, breezes, sails, masts, spires, bows, convoys, swans, sailors, waves, prows, &c. This indeed you might have justly called a description that “ might rival the greatest poet that ever lived.”
He that has sail'd upon the dark blue sea,
So gaily curl the waves before each dashing prow. Who can be so profoundly dull as not to perceive, that this passage glows with all the life and animation of poetry, and that it derives this animation from the picturesque imagery of the poet?
And yet you deny itto be more poetical than if the sea was described without a ship, boat, or any other adjunct : these, you say, make it only more picturesque, but not more poetical. Pray can you seriously talk thus after the following notice prefixed to your reply? « It would be important for the reader to keep in mind one plain distinction in reading what is here offered. Whatever is picturesque is so far poetical, but all that is poetical does not require to be picturesque.”. If then, Sir, whatever is picturesque be also poetical, how is it that a picturesque description of the sea does not render it more poetical than it is already; and how is it that this picturesque description of Lord Byron's is not more poetical than if it had been totally destitute of all imagery?
But the elements of discord have not yet ceased ; you add proposition to proposition only to fill up the measure of your absurdity. You tell us that Pope's descriptive poems « will always appear defective to a lover of nature," because from infirmities and from physical causes, he was particularly deficient in his picturesque descriptions; and yet, mirabile dictu, you maintain that Lord Byron's description of the sea is not rendered more poetical by its being picturesque. Lord Byron's poetry then gains nothing by his having that " attentive eye and familiarity with external nature,” the want of which is the only cause you ascribe for Pope's failure in descriptive poetry:
I will here, Sir, take leave of you, nor pursue you farther through the wilderness of argument that characterises your Reply to Lord Byron. I have, in the first place, proved the fallacy of your theory ;-I have proved that there is not a poetical object in the works of nature or of art; I have proved that the objects which you call poetical, have no poetry in description, abstracted from the manner in which they are associated by the poet; and that where the manner is not poetical, the description will be prosaic, however thickly it may be sown with your poetical images, and that consequently, in all cases, it is the manner alone that constitutes “poetical pre-eminence.” If I have proved these points clearly and satisfactorily, it follows, that your Reply to Lord Byron must be sophistical, in proportion as it is specious ; for where the fundamental principles of a theory are erroneous, it is obvious that it can be defended only by torture of expression, ambiguity of meaning, or that speciousness of argument which enrobes error in the vestments of truth, and conceals its fallacies by the lights and shades of an ingenious dialectic. To prove that this is the character of your Defence, I have given a specimen of the mode of reasoning which you have adopted in your Reply, first to Mr. Campbell, and afterwards to Lord Byron. His Lordship commenced