In his essay on Tieck Carlyle remarks again upon this characteristic of the mind of the typical poet: "He is no mere observer and compiler; rendering back to us, with additions or subtractions, the Beauty which existing things have of themselves presented to him; but a true Maker, to whom the actual and external is but the excitement for ideal creations representing and ennobling its effects."
Coleridge's formula is briefer still; the imagination "dissolves, diffuses, dissipates, in order to re-create." [Footnote: Biographia Literaria.]
Such passages help us to understand the mystical moments which many poets have recorded, in which their feeling of "diffusion" has led them to doubt the existence of the external world. Wordsworth grasping "at a wall or tree to recall myself from this abyss of idealism to the reality," and Tennyson's "weird seizures" which he transferred from his own experience to his imaginary Prince in The Princess, are familiar examples of this type of mysticism. But the sense of the infinite fusibility and change in the objective world is deeper than that revealed in any one type of diffluent imagination. It is a profound characteristic of the poetic mind as such. Yet it should be remembered that the philosopher and the scientist likewise assert that ours is a vital, ever-flowing, onward-urging world, in the process of "becoming" rather than merely "being." "We are far from the noon of man" sang Tennyson, in a late-Victorian and evolutionary version of St. John's "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." "The primary imagination," asserted Coleridge, "is a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I am." [Footnote: Biographia Literaria, chap. 13.] Here, evidently, unless the "God-intoxicated" Coleridge is talking nonsense, we are in the presence of powers that do not need as yet any use of verbal symbols.
4. Verbal Images
The plasticity of the world as it appears to the mind of the poet is clearly evidenced by the swarm of images which present themselves to the poet's consciousness. In the re-presentation of these pictures to us the poet is forced, of course, to use verbal images. The precise point at which he becomes conscious of employing words no doubt varies with the individual, and depends upon the relative balance of auditory, visual or tactile images in his mind. Swinburne often impresses us as working primarily with the "stuff" of word-sounds, as Browning with the stuff of sharp-cut tactile or motor images, and Victor Hugo with the stuff of visual impressions. But in each case the poet's sole medium of expression to us is through verbal symbols, and it is hard to get behind these into the real workshop of the brain where each poet is busily minting his own peculiar raw material into the current coin of human speech.
Nevertheless, many poets have been sufficiently conscious of what is going on within their workshop to tell us something about it. Professor Fairchild has made an interesting collection [Footnote: The Making of Poetry, pp. 78, 79.] of testimony relating to the tumultuous crowding of images, each clamoring, as it were, for recognition and crying "take me!" He instances, as other critics have done, the extraordinary succession of images by which Shelley strives to portray the spirit of the skylark. The similes actually chosen by Shelley seem to have been merely the lucky candidates selected from an infinitely greater number. In Francis Thompson's captivating description of Shelley as a glorious child the reader is conscious of the same initial rush of images, although the medium of expression here is heightened prose instead of verse: [Footnote: Dublin Review, July, 1908.]
"Coming to Shelley's poetry, we peep over the wild mask of revolutionary metaphysics, and we see the winsome face of the child. Perhaps none of his poems is more purely and typically Shelleian than The Cloud, and it is interesting to note how essentially it springs from the faculty of make-believe. The same thing is conspicuous, though less purely conspicuous, throughout his singing; it is the child's faculty of make-believe raised to the nth power. He is still at play, save only that his play is such as manhood stops to watch, and his playthings are those which the gods give their children. The universe is his box of toys. He dabbles his fingers in the day-fall. He is gold-dusty with tumbling amidst the stars. He makes bright mischief with the moon. The meteors nuzzle their noses in his hand. He teases into growling the kennelled thunder, and laughs at the shaking of its fiery chain. He dances in and out of the gates of heaven: its floor is littered with his broken fancies. He runs wild over the fields of ether. He chases the rolling world. He gets between the feet of the horses of the sun. He stands in the lap of patient Nature, and twines her loosened tresses after a hundred wilful fashions, to see how she will look nicest in his song."
5. The Selection and Control of Images
It is easier, no doubt, to realize something of the swarming of images in the stream of consciousness than it is to understand how these images are selected, combined and controlled. Some principle of association, some law governing the synthesis, there must be; and English criticism has long treasured some of the clairvoyant words of Coleridge and Wordsworth upon this matter. The essential problem is suggested by Wordsworth's phrase "the manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement." Is the "excitement," then, the chief factor in the selection and combination of images, and do the "feelings," as if with delicate tentacles, instinctively choose and reject and integrate such images as blend with the poet's mood?
Coleridge, with his subtle builder's instinct, uses his favorite word "synthesis" not merely as applied to images as such, but to all the faculties of the soul:
"The poet, described in ideal perfection, brings the whole soul of man into activity, with the subordination of its faculties to each other according to their relative worth and dignity. He diffuses a tone and a spirit of unity, that blends, and as it were fuses, each into each, by that synthetic and magical power to which I would exclusively appropriate the name of Imagination." "Synthetic and magical power," indeed, with a Coleridge as Master of the Mysteries! But the perplexed student of poetry may well wish a more exact description of what really takes place.
An American critic, after much searching in recent psychological explanations of artistic creation, attempts to describe the genesis of a poem in these words: [Footnote: Lewis E. Gates, Studies and Appreciations, p. 215. Macmillan, 1900.]
"The poet concentrates his thought on some concrete piece of life, on some incident, character, or bit of personal experience; because of his emotional temperament, this concentration of interest stirs in him a quick play of feeling and prompts the swift concurrence of many images. Under the incitement of these feelings, and in accordance with laws of association that may at least in part be described, these images grow bright and clear, take definite shapes, fall into significant groupings, branch and ramify, and break into sparkling mimicry of the actual world of the senses—all the time delicately controlled by the poet's conscious purpose and so growing intellectually significant, but all the time, if the work of art is to be vital, impelled also in their alert weaving of patterns by the moods of the poet, by his fine instinctive sense of the emotional expressiveness of this or that image that lurks in the background of his consciousness. For this intricate web of images, tinged with his most intimate moods, the poet through his intuitive command of words finds an apt series of sound-symbols and records them with written characters. And so a poem arises through an exquisite distillation of personal moods into imagery and into language, and is ready to offer to all future generations its undiminishing store of spiritual joy and strength."
A better description than this we are not likely to find, although some critics would question the phrase, "all the time delicately controlled by the poet's conscious purpose." [Footnote: "Poetry is not like reasoning, a power to be exerted according to the determination of the will. A man cannot say, 'I will compose poetry.'. . . It is not subject to the control of the active powers of the mind. ... Its birth and recurrence have no necessary connection with the consciousness or will." Shelley, A Defense of Poetry.]
For sometimes, assuredly, the synthesis of images seems to take place without the volition of the poet. The hypnotic trance, the narcotic dream or revery, and even our experience of ordinary dreams, provide abundant examples. One dreams, for instance, of a tidal river, flowing in with a gentle full current which bends in one direction all the water-weeds and the long grasses trailing from the banks; then somehow the tide seems to change, and all the water and the weeds and grasses, even the fishes in the stream, turn slowly and flow out to sea. The current synthesizes, harmonizes, moves onward like music,—and we are aware that it is all a dream. Coleridge's "Kubla Khan," composed in a deep opium slumber, moves like that, one train of images melting into another like the interwoven figures of a dance led by the "damsel with a dulcimer." There is no "conscious purpose" whatever, and no "meaning" in the ordinary interpretation of that word. Nevertheless it is perfect integration of imagery, pure beauty to the senses. Something of this rapture in the sheer release of control must have been in Charles Lamb's mind when he wrote to Coleridge about the "pure happiness" of being insane. "Dream not, Coleridge, of having tasted all the grandeur and wildness of fancy till you have gone mad! All now seems to me vapid, comparatively so." (June 10, 1796.)
If "Kubla Khan" represents one extreme, Poe's account of how he wrote "The Raven" [Footnote: The Philosophy of Composition.] —incredible as the story appears to most of us—may serve to illustrate the other, namely, a cool, conscious, workmanlike control of every element in the selection and combination of imagery. Wordsworth's naive explanation of the task performed by the imagination in his "Cuckoo" and "Leech-Gatherer" [Footnote: Preface to poems of 1815-1845.] occupies a middle ground. We are at least certain of his entire honesty—and incidentally of his total lack of humor!
"'Shall I call thee Bird, Or but a wandering Voice?'
"This concise interrogation characterizes the seeming ubiquity of the voice of the cuckoo, and dispossesses the creature almost of a corporeal existence; the Imagination being tempted to this exertion of her power by a consciousness in the memory that the cuckoo is almost perpetually heard throughout the season of spring, but seldom becomes an object of sight....
"'As a huge stone is sometimes seen to lie Couched on the bald top of an eminence, Wonder to all who do the same espy By what means it could thither come, and whence, So that it seems a thing endued with sense, Like a sea-beast crawled forth, which on a shelf Of rock or sand reposeth, there to sun himself.
Such seemed this Man; not all alive or dead. Nor all asleep, in his extreme old age. * * * * * Motionless as a cloud the old Man stood, That heareth not the loud winds when they call, And moveth altogether if it move at all.'
"In these images, the conferring, the abstracting, and the modifying powers of the Imagination, immediately and mediately acting, are all brought into conjunction. The stone is endowed with something of the power of life to approximate it to the sea-beast; and the sea-beast stripped of some of its vital qualities to assimilate it to the stone; which intermediate image is thus treated for the purpose of bringing the original image, that of the stone, to a nearer resemblance to the figure and condition of the aged man; who is divested of so much of the indications of life and motion as to bring him to the point where the two objects unite and coalesce in just comparison."
Wordsworth's analysis of the processes of his own imagination, like Poe's story of the composition of "The Raven," is an analysis made after the imagination had functioned. There can be no absolute proof of its correctness in every detail. It is evident that we have to deal with an infinite variety of normal and abnormal minds. Some of these defy classification; others fall into easily recognized types, such as "the lunatic, the lover and the poet," as sketched by Theseus, Duke of Athens. How modern, after all, is the Duke's little lecture on the psychology of imagination!
"The lunatic, the lover and the poet Are of imagination all compact; One sees more devils than vast hell can hold, That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic, Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt: The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven; And as imagination bodies forth The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name. Such tricks hath strong imagination, That, if it would but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of that joy; Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a bush supposed a bear!" [Footnote: Midsummer Night's Dream, v, i, 7-22.]
Shakspere, it will be observed, does not hesitate to use that dangerous term "the poet!" Yet as students of poetry we must constantly bring ourselves back to the recorded experience of individual men, and from these make our comparisons and generalizations. It may even happen that some readers will get a clearer conception of the selection and synthesis of images if they turn for the moment away from poetry and endeavor to realize something of the same processes as they take place in imaginative prose. In Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, for example, the dominant image, which becomes the symbol of his entire theme, is the piece of scarlet cloth which originally caught his attention. This physical object becomes, after long brooding, subtly changed into a moral symbol of sin and its concealment. It permeates the book, it is borne openly upon the breast of one sufferer, it is written terribly in the flesh of another, it flames at last in the very sky. All the lesser images and symbols of the romance are mastered by it, subordinated to it; it becomes the dominant note in the composition. The romance of The Scarlet Letter is, as we say of any great poem or drama, an "ideal synthesis"; i.e. a putting together of images in accordance with some central idea. The more significant the idea or theme or master image, the richer and fuller are the possibilities of beauty in detail. Apply this familiar law of complexity to a poet's conscious or unconscious choice of images. In the essay which we have already quoted [Footnote: Studies and Appreciations, p. 216.] Lewis Gates remarks:
"In every artist there is a definite mental bias, a definite spiritual organization and play of instincts, which results in large measure from the common life of his day and generation, and which represents this life—makes it potent—within the individuality of the artist. This so-called 'acquired constitution of the life of the soul'—it has been described by Professor Dilthey with noteworthy acuteness and thoroughness—determines in some measure the contents of the artist's mind, for it determines his interests, and therefore the sensations and perceptions that he captures and automatically stores up. It guides him in his judgments of worth, in his instinctive likes and dislikes as regards conduct and character, and controls in large measure the play of his imagination as he shapes the action of his drama or epic and the destinies of his heroes. Its prejudices interfiltrate throughout the molecules of his entire moral and mental life, and give to each image and idea some slight shade of attractiveness or repulsiveness, so that when the artist's spirit is at work under the stress of feeling, weaving into the fabric of a poem the competing images and ideas in his consciousness, certain ideas and images come more readily and others lag behind, and the resulting work of art gets a colour and an emotional tone and suggestions of value that subtly reflect the genius of the age."
6. "Imagist" Verse
Such a conception of the association of images as reflecting not only this "acquired constitution of the soul" of the poet but also the genius of the age is in marked contrast to some of the theories held by contemporary "imagists." As we have already noted, in Chapter II, they stress the individual reaction to phenomena, at some tense moment. They discard, as far as possible, the long "loop-line" of previous experience. As for diction, they have, like all true artists, a horror of the cliche—the rubber-stamp word, blurred by use. As for rhythm, they fear any conventionality of pattern. In subsequent chapters we must look more closely at these matters of diction and of rhythm, but they are both involved in any statement of the principles of Imagist verse. Richard Aldington sums up his article on "The Imagists" [Footnote: "Greenwich Village," July 15, 1915.] in these words:
"Let me resume the cardinal points of the Imagist style: 1. Direct treatment of the subject. 2. A hardness and economy of speech. 3. Individuality of rhythm; vers libre. 4. The exact word. The Imagists would like to possess 'le mot qui fait image, l'adjectif inattendu et precis qui dessine de pied en cap et donne la senteur de la chose qu'il est charge de rendre, la touche juste, la couleur qui chatoie et vibre.'"
In the preface to Imagist Poets (1915), and in Miss Amy Lowell's Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (1917) the tenets of imagism are stated briefly and clearly. Imagism, we are told, aims to use always the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact nor the merely decorative word; to create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods; to allow absolute freedom in the choice of a subject; to present an image, rendering particulars exactly; to produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred or indefinite; to secure condensation.
It will be observed that in the special sort of picture-making which Imagist poetry achieves, the question of free verse is merely incidental. "We fight for it as a principle of liberty," says Miss Lowell, but she does not insist upon it as the only method of writing poetry. Mr. Aldington admits frankly that about forty per cent of vers libre is prose. Mr. Lowes, as we have already remarked, has printed dozens of passages from Meredith's novels in the typographical arrangement of free verse so as to emphasize their "imagist" character. One of the most effective is this:
"He was like a Tartar Modelled by a Greek: Supple As the Scythian's bow, Braced As the string!"
Suppose, however, that we agree to defer for the moment the vexed question as to whether images of this kind are to be considered prose or verse. Examine simply for their vivid picture-making quality the collections entitled Imagist Poets (1915,1916,1917), or, in the Anthology of Magazine Verse for 1915, such poems as J. G. Fletcher's "Green Symphony" or "H. D.'s" "Sea-Iris" or Miss Lowell's "The Fruit Shop." Read Miss Lowell's extraordinarily brilliant volume Men, Women and Ghosts (1916), particularly the series of poems entitled "Towns in Colour." Then read the author's preface, in which her artistic purpose in writing "Towns in Colour" is set forth: "In these poems, I have endeavoured to give the colour, and light, and shade, of certain places and hours, stressing the purely pictorial effect, and with little or no reference to any other aspect of the places described. It is an enchanting thing to wander through a city looking for its unrelated beauty, the beauty by which it captivates the sensuous sense of seeing." [Footnote: Italics mine.]
Nothing could be more gallantly frank than the phrase "unrelated beauty." For it serves as a touchstone to distinguish between those imagist poems which leave us satisfied and those which do not. Sometimes, assuredly, the insulated, unrelated beauty is enough. What delicate reticence there is in Richard Aldington's "Summer":
"A butterfly, Black and scarlet, Spotted with white, Fans its wings Over a privet flower.
"A thousand crimson foxgloves, Tall bloody pikes, Stand motionless in the gravel quarry; The wind runs over them.
"A rose film over a pale sky Fantastically cut by dark chimneys; Across an old city garden."
The imagination asks no more.
Now read my friend Baker Brownell's "Sunday Afternoon":
"The wind pushes huge bundles Of itself in warm motion Through the barrack windows; It rattles a sheet of flypaper Tacked in a smear of sunshine on the sill. A voice and other voices squirt A slow path among the room's tumbled sounds. A ukelele somewhere clanks In accidental jets Up from the room's background."
Here the stark truthfulness of the images does not prevent an instinctive "Well, what of it?" "And afterward, what else?" Unless we adopt the Japanese theory of "stop poems," where the implied continuation of the mood, the suggested application of the symbol or allegory, is the sole justification of the actual words given, a great deal of imagist verse, in my opinion, serves merely to sharpen the senses without utilizing the full imaginative powers of the mind. The making of images is an essential portion of the poet's task, but in memorably great poetry it is only a detail in a larger whole. Miss Lowell's "Patterns" is one of the most effective of contemporary poems, but it is far more than a document of imagism. It is a triumph of structural imagination.
7. Genius and Inspiration
Whatever may be the value, for students, of trying to analyse the image-making and image-combining faculty, every one admits that it is a necessary element in the production of poetry. Let Coleridge have the final statement of this mystery of his art: "The power of reducing multitude into unity of effect, and modifying a series of thoughts by some one predominant thought or feeling, may be cultivated and improved, but can never be learnt. It is in this that Poeta nascitur non fit." We cannot avoid the difficulties of the question by attributing the poet's imagination to "genius." Whether genius is a neurosis, as some think, or whether it is sanity at perfection, makes little difference here. Both a Poe and a Sophocles are equally capable of producing ideal syntheses. Nor does the old word "inspiration" help much either. Whatever we mean by inspiration—a something not ourselves, supernatural or sub-liminal—a "vision" of Blake, the "voices" of Joan of Arc, the "god" that moved within the Corybantian revelers—it is an excitement of the image-making faculty, and not that faculty itself. Disordered "genius" and inspiration undisciplined by reason are alike powerless to produce images that permanently satisfy the sense of beauty. Tolstoy's common- sense remark is surely sound: "One's writing is good only where the intelligence and the imagination are in equilibrium. As soon as one of them over-balances the other, it's all up." [Footnote: Compare W. A. Neilson's chapter on "The Balance of Qualities" in Essentials of Poetry. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1912.]
8. A Summary
Let us now endeavor to summarize this testimony which we have taken from poets and critics. Though they do not agree in all details, and though they often use words that are either too vague or too highly specialized, the general drift of the testimony is fairly clear. Poets and critics agree that the imagination is something different from the mere memory-image; that by a process of selection and combination and re-presentation of images something really new comes into being, and that we are therefore justified in using the term constructive, or creative imagination. This imagination embodies, as we say, or "bodies forth," as Duke Theseus said, "the forms of things unknown." It ultimately becomes the poet's task to "shape" these forms with his "pen," that is to say, to suggest them through word-symbols, arranged in a certain fashion. The selection of these word-symbols will be discussed in Chapter IV, and their rhythmical arrangement in Chapter V. But we have tried in the present chapter to trace the functioning of the poetic imagination in those stages of its activity which precede the definite shaping of poems with the pen. If we say, with Professor Fairchild, [Footnote: Making of Poetry, p. 34.] that "the central processes or kinds of activity involved in the making of poetry are three: personalizing, combining and versifying," it is obvious that we have been dealing with the first two. If we prefer to use the famous terms employed by Ruskin in Modern Painters, we have been considering the penetrative, associative and contemplative types of imagination. But these Ruskinian names, however brilliantly and suggestively employed by the master, are dangerous tools for the beginner in the study of poetry.
If the beginner desires to review, at this point, the chief matters brought to his attention in the present chapter, he may make a real test of their validity by opening his senses to the imagery of a few lines of poetry. Remember that poets are endeavoring to convey the "sense" of things rather than the knowledge of things. Disregard for the moment the precise words employed in the following lines, and concentrate the attention upon the images, as if the image were not made of words at all, but were mere naked sense-stimulus.
In this line the poet is trying to make us see something ("visual" image):
"The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she."
Can you see her?
In these lines the poet is trying to make us hear something ("auditory" image):
"A noise like of a hidden brook In the leafy month of June That to the sleeping woods all night Singeth a quiet tune."
Do you hear the tune? Do you hear it as clearly as you can hear
"The tambourines Jing-jing-jingled in the hands of Queens"?
In these lines the poet is trying to make us feel certain bodily sensations ("tactile" image):
"I closed my lids and kept them close, And the balls like pulses beat; For the sky and the sea and the sea and the sky, Lay like a load on my weary eye, And the dead were at my feet."
Do your eyes feel that pressure?
You are sitting quite motionless in your chair as you read these lines ("motor" image):
"I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he; I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three!"
Are you instantly on horseback? If you are, the poet has put you there by conveying from his mind to yours, through the use of verbal imagery and rhythm, his "sense" of riding, which has now become your sense of riding.
If the reader can meet this test of realizing simple images through his own body-and-mind reaction to their stimulus, the door of poetry is open to him. He can enter into its limitless enjoyments. If he wishes to analyse more closely the nature of the pleasure which poetry affords, he may select any lines he happens to like, and ask himself how the various functions of the imagination are illustrated by them. Suppose the lines are Coleridge's description of the bridal procession, already quoted in part:
"The bride hath paced into the hall, Red as a rose is she; Nodding their heads before her goes The merry minstrelsy."
Here surely is imagination penetrative; the selection of some one characteristic trait of the object; that trait (the "redness" or the "nodding") re-presented to us, and emphasized by conferring, modifying or abstracting whatever elements the poet wishes to stress or to suppress. The result is a combination of imagery which forms an idealized picture, presenting the shows of things as the mind would like to see them and thus satisfying our sense of beauty. For there is no question that the mind takes a supreme satisfaction in such an idealization of reality as Coleridge's picture of the swift tropical sunset,
"At one stride comes the dark,"
or Emerson's picture of the slow New England sunrise,
"O tenderly the haughty day Fills his blue urn with fire."
Little has been said about beauty in this chapter, but no one doubts that a sense of beauty guides the "shaping spirit of imagination" in that dim region through which the poet feels his way before he comes to the conscious choice of expressive words and to the ordering of those words into beautiful rhythmical designs.
THE POET'S WORDS
"Words are sensible signs necessary for communication." JOHN LOCKE, Human Understanding, 3, 2, 1.
"As conceptions are the images of things to the mind within itself, so are words or names the marks of those conceptions to the minds of them we converse with." SOUTH, quoted in Johnson's Dictionary.
"Word: a sound, or combination of sounds, used in any language as the sign of a conception, or of a conception together with its grammatical relations.... A word is a spoken sign that has arrived at its value as used in any language by a series of historical changes, and that holds its value by virtue of usage, being exposed to such further changes, of form and of meaning, as usage may prescribe...." Century Dictionary.
"A word is not a crystal—transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought, and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used." Justice OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES, Towne vs. Eisner.
"I wish our clever young poets would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose = words in their best order;—poetry = the best words in the best order." COLERIDGE, Table Talk.
1. The Eye and the Ear
"Literary" language is commonly distinguished from the language of ordinary life by certain heightenings or suppressions. The novelist or essayist, let us say, fashions his language more or less in accordance with his own mood, with his immediate aim in writing, with the capacity of his expected readers. He is discoursing with a certain real or imaginary audience. He may put himself on paper, as Montaigne said, as if he were talking to the first man he happens to meet; or he may choose to address himself to the few chosen spirits of his generation and of succeeding generations. He trusts the arbitrary written or printed symbols of word-sounds to carry his thoughts safely into the minds of other men. The "literary" user of language in modern times comes to depend upon the written or printed page; he tends to become more or less "eye-minded"; whereas the typical orator remains "ear-minded"—i.e. peculiarly sensitive to a series of sounds, and composing for the ear of listeners rather than for the eye of readers.
Now as compared with the typical novelist, the poet is surely, like the orator, "ear-minded." Tonal symbols of ideas and emotions, rather than visual symbols of ideas and emotions, are the primary stuff with which he is working, although as soon as the advancing civilization of his race brings an end to the primitive reciting of poetry and its transmission through oral repetition alone, it is obvious that he must depend, like other literary artists, or like the modern musicians, upon the written or printed signs for the sounds which he has composed. But so stubborn are the habits of our eyes that we tend always to confuse the look of the poet's words upon the printed page with the sound of those words as they are perceived by the ear. We are seldom guilty of this confusion in the case of the musician. His "music" is not identified with the arbitrary black marks which make up his printed score. For most of us there is no music until those marks are actually translated into terms of tone— although it is true that the trained reader of music can easily translate to his inner ear without any audible rendering of the indicated sounds.
This distinction is essential to the understanding of poetry. A poem is not primarily a series of printed word-signs addressed to the eye; it is a series of sounds addressed to the ear, and the arbitrary symbols for these sounds do not convey the poem unless they are audibly rendered—except to those readers who, like the skilled readers of printed music, can instantly hear the indicated sounds without any actual rendition of them into physical tone. Many professed lovers of poetry have no real ear for it. They are hopelessly "eye-minded." They try to decide questions of metre and stanza, of free verse and of emotionally patterned prose by the appearance of the printed page instead of by the nerves of hearing. Poets like Mr. Vachel Lindsay—who recites or chants his own verses after the manner of the primitive bard—have rendered a true service by leading us away from the confusions wrought by typography, and back to that sheer delight in rhythmic oral utterance in which poetry originates.
2. How Words convey Feeling
For it must never be forgotten that poetry begins in excitement, in some body-and-mind experience; that it is capable, through its rhythmic utterance of words which suggest this experience, of transmitting emotion to the hearer; and that the nature of language allows the emotion to be embodied in more or less permanent form. Let us look more closely at some of the questions involved in the origin, the transmission and embodiment of poetic feeling, remembering that we are now trying to trace these processes in so far as they are revealed by the poet's use of words. Rhythm will be discussed in the next chapter.
We have already noted that there are no mental images of feeling itself. The images recognized by the consciousness of poets are those of experiences and objects associated with feeling. The words employed to revive and transmit these images are usually described as "concrete" or "sensuous" in distinction from abstract or purely conceptual. They are "experiential" words, arising out of bodily or spiritual contact with objects or ideas that have been personalized, colored with individual feeling. Such words have a "fringe," as psychologists say. They are rich in overtones of meaning; not bare, like words addressed to the sheer intelligence, but covered with veils of association, with tokens of past experience. They are like ships laden with cargoes, although the cargo varies with the texture and the history of each mind. It is probable that this very word "ship," just now employed, calls up as many different mental images as there are readers of this page. Brander Matthews has recorded a curious divergence of imagery aroused by the familiar word "forest." Half a dozen well-known men of letters, chatting together in a London club, tried to tell one another what "forest" suggested to each:
"Until that evening I had never thought of forest as clothing itself in different colors and taking on different forms in the eyes of different men; but I then discovered that even the most innocent word may don strange disguises. To Hardy forest suggested the sturdy oaks to be assaulted by the woodlanders of Wessex; and to Du Maurier it evoked the trim and tidy avenues of the national domain of France. To Black the word naturally brought to mind the low scrub of the so-called deer-forests of Scotland; and to Gosse it summoned up a view of the green-clad mountains that towered up from the Scandinavian fiords. To Howells forest recalled the thick woods that in his youth fringed the rivers of Ohio; and to me there came back swiftly the memory of the wild growths, bristling unrestrained by man, in the Chippewa Reservation which I had crossed fourteen years before in my canoe trip from Lake Superior to the Mississippi. Simple as the word seemed, it was interpreted by each of us in accord with his previous personal experience. And these divergent experiences exchanged that evening brought home to me as never before the inherent and inevitable inadequacy of the vocabulary of every language, since there must always be two partners in any communication by means of words, and the verbal currency passing from one to the other has no fixed value necessarily the same to both of them." [Footnote: Brander Matthews, These Many Years. Scribner's, New York, 1917.]
But one need not journey to London town in order to test this matter. Let half a dozen healthy young Americans stop before the window of a shop where sporting goods are exhibited. Here are fishing-rods, tennis racquets, riding-whips, golf-balls, running-shoes, baseball bats, footballs, oars, paddles, snow-shoes, goggles for motorists, Indian clubs and rifles. Each of these physical objects focuses the attention of the observer in more or less exact proportion to his interest in the particular sport suggested by the implement. If he is a passionate tennis player, a thousand motor-tactile memories are stirred by the sight of the racquet. He is already balancing it in his fingers, playing his favorite strokes with it, winning tournaments with it—though he seems to be standing quietly in front of the window. The man next him is already snowshoeing over the frozen hills. But if a man has never played lacrosse, or been on horseback, or mastered a canoe, the lacrosse racquet or riding-whip or paddle mean little to him emotionally, except that they may stir his imaginative curiosity about a sport whose pleasures he has never experienced. His eye is likely to pass them over as indifferently as if he were glancing at the window of a druggist or a grocer. These varying responses of the individual to the visual stimulus of this or that physical object in a heterogeneous collection may serve to illustrate his capacity for feeling. Our chance group before the shop window thus becomes a symbol of all human minds as they confront the actual visible universe. They hunger and thirst for this or that particular thing, while another object leaves them cold.
Now suppose that our half-dozen young men are sitting in the dark, talking—evoking body-and-mind memories by means of words alone. No two can possibly have the same memories, the same series of mental pictures. Not even the most vivid and picturesque word chosen by the best talker of the company has the same meaning for them all. They all understand the word, approximately, but each feels it in a way unexperienced by his friend. The freightage of significance carried by each concrete, sensuous, picture-making word is bound to vary according to the entire physical and mental history of the man who hears it. Even the commonest and most universal words for things and sensations—such as "hand," "foot," "dark," "fear," "fire," "warm," "home"—are suffused with personal emotions, faintly or clearly felt; they have been or are my hand, foot, fear, darkness, warmth, happiness. Now the poet is like a man talking or singing in the dark to a circle of friends. He cannot say to them "See this" or "Feel that" in the literal sense of "see" and "feel"; he can only call up by means of words and tunes what his friends have seen and felt already, and then under the excitement of such memories suggest new combinations, new weavings of the infinitely varied web of human experience, new voyages with fresh sails upon seas untried.
It is true that we may picture the poet as singing or talking to himself in solitude and darkness, obeying primarily the impulse of expression rather than of communication. Hence John Stuart Mill's distinction between the orator and the poet: "Eloquence is heard; poetry is overheard. Eloquence supposes an audience. The peculiarity of poetry appears to us to lie in the poet's utter unconsciousness of a listener. Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude, and embodying itself in symbols which are the nearest possible representations of the feeling in the exact shape in which it exists in the poet's mind." [Footnote: J. S. Mill, "Thoughts on Poetry," in Dissertations, vol. 1. See also F. N. Scott, "The Most Fundamental Differentia of Poetry and Prose." Published by Modern Language Association, 19, 2.] But whether his primary aim be the relief of his own feelings (for a man swears even when he is alone!) or the communication of his feelings to other persons, it remains true that a poet's language betrays his bodily and mental history. "The poet," said Thoreau, "writes the history of his own body."
For example, a study of Browning's vocabulary made by Professor C. H. Herford [Footnote: Robert Browning, Modern English Writers, pp. 244-66. Blackwood & Sons. 1905.] emphasizes that poet's acute tactual and muscular sensibilities, his quick and eager apprehension of space-relations:
"He gloried in the strong sensory-stimulus of glowing color, of dazzling light; in the more complex motory-stimulus of intricate, abrupt and plastic form.... He delighted in the angular, indented, intertwining, labyrinthine varieties of line and surface which call for the most delicate, and at the same time most agile, adjustments of the eye. He caught at the edges of things.... Spikes and wedges and swords run riot in his work.... He loved the grinding, clashing and rending sibilants and explosives as Tennyson the tender-hefted liquids.... He is the poet of sudden surprises, unforseen transformations.... The simple joy in abrupt changes of sensation which belonged to his riotous energy of nerve lent support to his peremptory way of imagining all change and especially all vital and significant becoming."
The same truth is apparent as we pass from the individual poet to the poetic literature of his race. Here too is the stamp of bodily history. Hebrew poetry, as is well known, is always expressing emotion in terms of bodily sensation.
"Anger," says Renan, [Footnote: Quoted by J. H. Gardiner, The Bible as Literature, p. 114.] "is expressed in Hebrew in a throng of ways, each picturesque, and each borrowed from physiological facts. Now the metaphor is taken from the rapid and animated breathing which accompanies the passion, now from heat or from boiling, now from the act of a noisy breaking, now from shivering. Discouragement and despair are expressed by the melting of the heart, fear by the loosening of the reins. Pride is portrayed by the holding high of the head, with the figure straight and stiff. Patience is a long breathing, impatience short breathing, desire is thirst or paleness. Pardon is expressed by a throng of metaphors borrowed from the idea of covering, of hiding, of coating over the fault. In Job God sews up sins in a sack, seals it, then throws it behind him: all to signify that he forgets them....
"My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.
"Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul.
"I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
"I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God."
Greek poetry, likewise, is made out of "warm, swift, vibrating" words, thrilling with bodily sensation. Gilbert Murray [Footnote: "What English Poetry may Learn from Greek," Atlantic Monthly, November, 1912.] has described the weaving of these beautiful single words into patterns:
"The whole essence of lyric is rhythm. It is the weaving of words into a song-pattern, so that the mere arrangement of the syllables produces a kind of dancing joy.... Greek lyric is derived directly from the religious dance; that is, not merely the pattering of the feet, but the yearning movement of the whole body, the ultimate expression of emotion that cannot be pressed into articulate speech, compact of intense rhythm and intense feeling."
Nor should it be forgotten that Milton, while praising "a graceful and ornate rhetoric," declares that poetry, compared with this, is "more simple, sensuous and passionate." [Footnote: Tract on Education. ] These words "sensuous" and "passionate," dulled as they have become by repetition, should be interpreted in their full literal sense. While language is unquestionably a social device for the exchange of ideas and feelings, it is also true that poetic diction is a revelation of individual experience, of body-and-mind contacts with reality. Every poet is still an Adam in the Garden, inventing new names as fast as the new wonderful Beasts—-so terrible, so delightful!—come marching by.
3. Words as Current Coin
But the poet's words, stamped and colored as they are by unique individual experience, must also have a general transmission value which renders them current coin. If words were merely representations of private experience, merely our own nicknames for things, they would not pass the walls of the Garden inhabited by each man's imagination. "Expression" would be possible, but "communication" would be impossible, and indeed there would be no recognizable terms of expression except the "bow-wow" or "pooh-pooh" or "ding-dong" of the individual Adam——and even these expressive syllables might not be the ones acceptable to Eve!
The truth is that though the impulse to expression is individual, and that in highly developed languages a single man can give his personal stamp to words, making them say what he wishes them to say, as Dante puts it, speech is nevertheless primarily a social function. A word is a social instrument. "It belongs," says Professor Whitney, [Footnote: W. D. Whitney, Language and the Study of Language, p. 404.] "not to the individual, but to the member of society.... What we may severally choose to say is not language until it be accepted and employed by our fellows. The whole development of speech, though initiated by the acts of individuals, is wrought out by the community."
... A solitary man would never frame a language. Let a child grow up in utter seclusion, and, however rich and suggestive might be the nature around him, however full and appreciative his sense of that which lay without, and his consciousness of that which went on within him, he would all his life remain a mute."
What is more, the individual's mastery of language is due solely to his social effort in employing it. Speech materials are not inherited; they are painfully acquired. It is well known that an English child brought up in China and hearing no word of English will speak Chinese without a trace of his English parentage in form or idiom. [Footnote: See Baldwin's Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology, article "Language."] His own body-and-mind experiences will be communicated in the medium already established by the body-and-mind experiences of the Chinese race. In that medium only can the thoughts of this English-born child have any transmission value. His father and mother spoke a tongue moulded by Chaucer and Shakspere, but to the boy whom we have imagined all that age-long labor of perfecting a social instrument of speech is lost without a trace. As far as language is concerned, he is a Chinaman and nothing else.
Now take the case of a Chinese boy who has come to an American school and college. Just before writing this paragraph I have read the blue-book of such a boy, written in a Harvard examination on Tennyson. It was an exceptionally well-expressed blue-book, in idiomatic English, and it revealed an unusual appreciation of Tennyson's delicate and sure felicities of speech. The Chinese boy, by dint of an intellectual effort of which most of his American classmates were incapable, had mastered many of the secrets of an alien tongue, and had taken possession of the rich treasures of English poetry. If he had been composing verse himself, instead of writing a college blue-book, it is likely that he would have preferred to use his own mother-tongue, as the more natural medium for the expression of his intimate thoughts and feelings. But that expression, no matter how artistic, would have "communicated" nothing whatever to an American professor ignorant of the Chinese language. It is clear that the power of any person to convey his ideas and emotions to others is conditioned upon the common possession of some medium of exchange.
4. Words an Imperfect Medium
And it is precisely here that we face one of the fundamental difficulties of the poet's task; a difficulty that affects, indeed, all human intercourse. For words are notoriously an imperfect medium of communication. They "were not invented at first," says Professor Walter Raleigh in his book on Wordsworth, "and are very imperfectly adapted at best, for the severer purposes of truth. They bear upon them all the weaknesses of their origin, and all the maims inflicted by the prejudices and fanaticisms of generations of their employers. They perpetuate the memory or prolong the life of many noble forms of human extravagance, and they are the monuments of many splendid virtues. But with all their abilities and dignities they are seldom well fitted for the quiet and accurate statement of the thing that is.... Beasts fight with horns, and men, when the guns are silent, with words. The changes of meaning in words from good to bad and from bad to good senses, which are quite independent of their root meaning, is proof enough, without detailed illustration, of the incessant nature of the strife. The question is not what a word means, but what it imputes." [Footnote: Raleigh's Wordsworth. London, 1903.]
Now if the quiet and accurate statement of things as they are is the ideal language of prose, it is obvious that the characteristic diction of poetry is unquiet, inaccurate, incurably emotional. Herein lie its dangers and its glories. No poet can keep for very long to the "neutral style," to the cool gray wallpaper words, so to speak; he wants more color—-passionate words that will "stick fiery off" against the neutral background of conventional diction. In vain does Horace warn him against "purple patches"; for he knows that the tolerant Horace allowed himself to use purple patches whenever he wished. All employers of language for emotional effect—orators, novelists, essayists, writers of editorials—utilize in certain passages these colored, heightened, figured words. It is as if they ordered their printers to set individual words or whole groups of words in upper-case type.
And yet these "upper-case words" of heightened emotional value are not really isolated from their context. Their values are relative and not absolute. Like the high lights of a picture, their effectiveness depends upon the tone of the composition as a whole. To insert a big or violent word for its own potency is like sewing the purple patch upon a faded garment. The predominant thought and feeling of a passage give the richest individual words their penetrating power, just as the weight of the axe-head sinks the blade into the wood. "Futurist" poets like Marinetti have protested against the bonds of syntax, the necessity of logical subject and predicate, and have experimented with nouns alone. "Words delivered from the fetters of punctuation," says Marinetti, "will flash against one another, will interlace their various forms of magnetism, and follow the uninterrupted dynamics of force." [Footnote: There is an interesting discussion of Futurism in Sir Henry Newbolt's New Study of English Poetry. Dutton, 1919.] But do they? The reader may judge for himself in reading Marinetti's poem on the siege of a Turkish fort:
"Towers guns virility flights erection telemetre exstacy toumbtoumb 3 seconds toumbtoumb waves smiles laughs plaff poaff glouglouglouglou hide-and-seek crystals virgins flesh jewels pearls iodine salts bromide skirts gas liqueurs bubbles 3 seconds toumbtoumb officer whiteness telemetre cross fire megaphone sight-at-thousand-metres all-men-to-left enough every-man-to-his post incline-7-degrees splendour jet pierce immensity azure deflowering onslaught alleys cries labyrinth mattress sobs ploughing desert bed precision telemetre monoplane cackling theatre applause monoplane equals balcony rose wheel drum trepan gad-fly rout arabs oxen blood-colour shambles wounds refuge oasis."
In these vivid nouns there is certainly some raw material for a poem, just as a heap of bits of colored glass might make material for a rose-window. But both poem and window must be built by somebody: the shining fragments will never fashion themselves into a whole.
5. Predominant Tone-Feeling
If each poem is composed in its own "key," as we say of music, with its own scale of "values," as we say of pictures, it is obvious that the separate words tend to take on tones and hues from the predominant tone-feeling of the poem. It is a sort of protective coloration, like Nature's devices for blending birds and insects into their background; or, to choose a more prosaic illustration, like dipping a lump of sugar into a cup of coffee. The white sugar and the yellowish cream and the black coffee blend into something unlike any of the separate ingredients, yet the presence of each is felt. It is true that some words refuse to be absorbed into the texture of the poem: they remain as it were foreign substances in the stream of imagery, something alien, stubborn, jarring, although expressive enough in themselves. All the pioneers in poetic diction assume this risk of using "un-poetic" words in their desire to employ expressive words. Classic examples are Wordsworth's homely "tubs" and "porringers," and Walt Whitman's catalogues of everyday implements used in various trades. Othello was hissed upon its first appearance on the Paris stage because of that "vulgar" word handkerchief. Thus "fork" and "spoon" have almost purely utilitarian associations and are consequently difficult terms for the service of poetry, but "knife" has a wider range of suggestion. Did not the peaceful Robert Louis Stevenson confess his romantic longing to "knife a man"?
But it is not necessary to multiply illustrations of this law of connotation. The true poetic value of a word lies partly in its history, in its past employments, and partly also in the new vitality which it receives from each brain which fills the word with its own life. It is like an old violin, with its subtle overtones, the result of many vibrations of the past, but yet each new player may coax a new tune from it. When Wordsworth writes of
"The silence that is in the starry sky, The sleep that is among the lonely hills,"
he is combining words that are immemorially familiar into a total effect that is peculiarly "Wordsworthian." Diction is obviously only a part of a greater whole in which ideas and emotions are also merged. A concordance of all the words employed by a poet teaches us much about him, and conversely a knowledge of the poet's personality and of his governing ideas helps us in the study of his diction. Poets often have favorite words—like Marlowe's "black," Shelley's "light," Tennyson's "wind," Swinburne's "fire." Each of these words becomes suffused with the whole personality of the poet who employs it. It not only cannot be taken out of its context in the particular poem in which it appears, but it cannot be adequately felt without some recognition of the particular sensational and emotional experience which prompted its use. Many concordance-hunters thus miss the real game, and fall into the Renaissance error of word-grubbing for its own sake, as if mere words had a value of their own independently of the life breathed into them by living men. I recall a conversation at Bormes with the French poet Angellier. He was complaining humorously of his friend L., a famous scholar whose big book was "carrying all the treasures of French literature down to posterity like a cold-storage transport ship." "But he published a criticism of one of my poems," Angellier went on, "which proved that he did not understand the poem at all. He had studied it too hard! The words of a poem are stepping-stones across a brook. If you linger on one of them too long, you will get your feet wet! You must cross, vite!" If the poets lead us from one mood to another over a bridge of words, the words themselves are not the goal of the journey. They are instruments used in the transmission of emotion.
6. Specific Tone-Color
It is obvious, then, that the full poetic value of a word cannot be ascertained apart from its context. The value is relative and not absolute. And nevertheless, just as the bit of colored glass may have a certain interest and beauty of its own, independently of its possible place in the rose-window, it is true that separate words possess special qualities of physical and emotional suggestiveness. Dangerous as it is to characterize the qualities of the sound of a word apart from the sense of that word, there is undeniably such a thing as "tone-color." A piano and a violin, striking the same note, are easily differentiated by the quality of the sound, and of two violins, playing the same series of notes, it is usually possible to declare which instrument has the richer tone or timbre. Words, likewise, differ greatly in tone-quality. A great deal of ingenuity has been devoted to the analysis of "bright" and "dark" vowels, smooth and harsh consonants, with the aim of showing that each sound has its special expressive force, its peculiar adaptability to transmit a certain kind of feeling. Says Professor A. H. Tolman: [Footnote: "The Symbolic Value of Sounds," in Hamlet and Other Essays, by A. H. Tolman. Boston, 1904.]
"Let us arrange the English vowel sounds in the following scale:
[short i] (little) [long i] (I) [short oo] (wood) [short e] (met) [long u] (due) [long ow] (cow) [short a] (mat) [short ah] (what) [long o] (gold) [long e] (mete) [long ah] (father) [long oo] (gloom) [ai] (fair) [oi] (boil) [aw] (awe) [long a] (mate) [short u] (but)
"The sounds at the beginning of this scale are especially fitted to express uncontrollable joy and delight, gayety, triviality, rapid movement, brightness, delicacy, and physical littleness; the sounds at the end are peculiarly adapted to express horror, solemnity, awe, deep grief, slowness of motion, darkness, and extreme or oppressive greatness of size. The scale runs, then, from the little to the large, from the bright to the dark, from ecstatic delight to horror, and from the trivial to the solemn and awful."
Robert Louis Stevenson in his Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature, and many other curious searchers into the secrets of words, have attempted to explain the physiological basis of these varying "tone-qualities." Some of them are obviously imitative of sounds in nature; some are merely suggestive of these sounds through more or less remote analogies; some are frankly imitative of muscular effort or of muscular relaxation. High-pitched vowels and low-pitched vowels, liquid consonants and harsh consonants, are unquestionably associated with muscular memories, that is to say, with individual body-and-mind experiences. Lines like Tennyson's famous
"The moan of doves in immemorial elms And murmuring of innumerable bees"
thus represent, in their vowel and consonantal expressiveness, the past history of countless physical sensations, widely shared by innumerable individuals, and it is to this fact that the "transmission value" of the lines is due.
Imitative effects are easily recognized, and need no comment:
"Brushed with the hiss of rustling wings"
"The mellow ouzel fluting in the elm"
"The wind that'll wail like a child and the sea that'll moan like a man."
Suggestive effects are more subtle. Sometimes they are due primarily to those rhythmical arrangements of words which we shall discuss in the next chapter, but poetry often employs the sound of single words to awaken dim or bright associations. Robert Bridges's catalogue of the Greek nymphs in "Eros and Psyche" is an extreme example of risking the total effect of a stanza upon the mere beautiful sounds of proper names.
"Swift to her wish came swimming on the waves His lovely ocean nymphs, her guides to be, The Nereids all, who live among the caves And valleys of the deep, Cymodoce, Agave, blue-eyed Hallia and Nesaea, Speio, and Thoe, Glauce and Actaea, Iaira, Melite and Amphinome, Apseudes and Nemertes, Callianassa, Cymothoe, Thaleia, Limnorrhea, Clymene, Ianeira and Ianassa, Doris and Panope and Galatea, Dynamene, Dexamene and Maira, Ferusa, Doto, Proto, Callianeira, Amphithoe, Oreithuia and Amathea."
Names of objects like "bobolink" and "raven" may affect us emotionally by the quality of their tone. Through association with the sounds of the human voice, heard under stress of various emotions, we attribute joyous or foreboding qualities to the bird's tone, and then transfer these associations to the bare name of the bird.
Names of places are notoriously rich in their evocation of emotion.
"He caught a chill in the lagoons of Venice, And died in Padua."
Here the fact of illness and death may be prosaic enough, but the very names of "Venice" and "Padua" are poetry—like "Rome," "Ireland," "Arabia," "California."
"Where the great Vision of the guarded mount Looks toward Namancos and Bayona's hold."
Who knows precisely where that "guarded mount" is upon the map? And who cares? "The sailor's heart," confesses Lincoln Colcord, [Footnote: The New Republic, September 16, 1916.] "refutes the prose of knowledge, and still believes in delectable and sounding names. He dreams of capes and islands whose appellations are music and a song.... The first big land sighted on the outward passage is Java Head; beside it stands Cape Sangian Sira, with its name like a battle-cry. We are in the Straits of Sunda: name charged with the heady languor of the Orient, bringing to mind pictures of palm-fringed shores and native villages, of the dark-skinned men of Java clad in bright sarongs, clamoring from their black-painted dugouts, selling fruit and brilliant birds. These waters are rich in names that stir the blood, like Krakatoa, Gunong Delam, or Lambuan; or finer, more sounding than all the rest, Telok Betong and Rajah Bassa, a town and a mountain—Telok Betong at the head of Lampong Bay and Rajah Bassa, grand old bulwark on the Sumatra shore, the cradle of fierce and sudden squalls."
It may be urged, of course, that in lines of true poetry the sense carries the sound with it, and that nothing is gained by trying to analyse the sounds apart from the sense. Professor C. M. Lewis [Footnote: Principles of English Verse. New York, 1906.] asserts bluntly: "When you say Titan you mean something big, and when you say tittle you mean something small; but it is not the sound of either word that means either bigness or littleness, it is the sense. If you put together a great many similar consonants in one sentence, they will attract special attention to the words in which they occur, and the significance of those words, whatever it may be, is thereby intensified; but whether the words are 'a team of little atomies' or 'a triumphant terrible Titan,' it is not the sound of the consonants that makes the significance. When Tennyson speaks of the shrill-edged shriek of a mother, his words suggest with peculiar vividness the idea of a shriek; but when you speak of stars that shyly shimmer, the same sounds only intensify the idea of shy shimmering." This is refreshing, and yet it is to be noted that "Titan" and "tittle" and "shrill-edged shriek" and "shyly shimmer" are by no means identical in sound: they have merely certain consonants in common. A fairer test of tone-color may be found if we turn to frank nonsense-verse, where the formal elements of poetry surely exist without any control of meaning or "sense":
"The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame, Came whiffling through the tulgey wood, And burbled as it came!
"'T was brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe."
"It seems rather pretty," commented the wise Alice, "but it's rather hard to understand! Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don't exactly know what they are!"
This is precisely what one feels when one listens to a poem recited in a language of which one happens to be ignorant. The wonderful colored words are there, and they seem somehow to fill our heads with ideas, only we do not know what they are. Many readers who know a little Italian or German will confess that their enjoyment of a lyric in those languages suffers only a slight, if any, impairment through their ignorance of the precise meaning of all the words in the poem: if they know enough to feel the predominant mood—as when we listen to a song sung in a language of which we are wholly ignorant—we can sacrifice the succession of exact ideas. For words bare of meaning to the intellect may be covered with veils of emotional association due to the sound alone. Garrick ridiculed—and doubtless at the same time envied—George Whitefield's power to make women weep by the rich overtones with which he pronounced "that blessed word Mesopotamia."
The capacities and the limitations of tone-quality in itself may be seen no less clearly in parodies. Swinburne, a master technician in words and rhythm, occasionally delighted, as in "Nephelidia," [Footnote: Quoted in Carolyn Wells, A Parody Anthology. New York, 1904.] to make fun of himself as well as of his poetic contemporaries:
"Surely no spirit or sense of a soul that was soft to the spirit and soul of our senses Sweetens the stress of surprising suspicion that sobs in the semblance and sound of a sigh; Only this oracle opens Olympian, in mystical moods and triangular tenses,— 'Life is the lust of a lamp for the light that is dark till the dawn of the day when we die.'"
Or, take Calverley's parody of Robert Browning:
"You see this pebble-stone? It's a thing I bought Of a bit of a chit of a boy i' the mid o' the day. I like to dock the smaller parts o' speech, As we curtail the already cur-tail'd cur—"
The characteristic tone-quality of the vocabulary of each of these poets—whether it be
"A soul that was soft to the spirit and soul of our senses"
"A bit of a chit of a boy i' the mid o' the day"—
is as perfectly conveyed by the parodist as if the lines had been written in dead earnest. Poe's "Ulalume" is a masterly display of tone-color technique, but exactly what it means, or whether it means anything at all, is a matter upon which critics have never been able to agree. It is certain, however, that a poet's words possess a kind of physical suggestiveness, more or less closely related to their mental significance. In nonsense-verse and parodies we have a glimpse, as it were, at the body of poetry stripped of its soul.
7. "Figures of Speech"
To understand why poets habitually use figurative language, we must recall what has been said in Chapter III about verbal images. Under the heat and pressure of emotion, things alter their shape and size and quality, ideas are transformed into concrete images, diction becomes impassioned, plain speech tends to become metaphorical. The language of any excited person, whether he is uttering himself in prose or verse, is marked by "tropes"; i.e. "turnings"—images which express one thing in the terms of another thing. The language of feeling is characteristically "tropical," and indeed every man who uses metaphors is for the moment talking like a poet—unless, as too often happens both in prose and verse, the metaphor has become conventionalized and therefore lifeless. The born poet thinks in "figures," in "pictured" language, or, as it has been called, in "re-presentative" language, [Footnote: G. L. Raymond, Poetry as a Representative Art, chap. 19.] since he represents, both to his own mind and to those with whom he is communicating, the objects of poetic emotion under new forms. If he wishes to describe an eagle, he need not say: "A rapacious bird of the falcon family, remarkable for its strength, size, graceful figure, and extraordinary flight." He represents these facts by making a picture:
"He clasps the crag with crooked hands; Close to the sun in lonely lands, Ring'd with the azure world, he stands.
"The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls; He watches from his mountain walls, And like a thunderbolt he falls." [Footnote: Tennyson, "The Eagle." ]
Or suppose the poet is a woman, meditating upon the coming of old age, and reflecting that age brings riches of its own. Observe how this thought is "troped"; i.e. turned into figures which re-present the fundamental idea:
"Come, Captain Age, With your great sea-chest full of treasure! Under the yellow and wrinkled tarpaulin Disclose the carved ivory And the sandalwood inlaid with pearl, Riches of wisdom and years. Unfold the India shawl, With the border of emerald and orange and crimson and blue, Weave of a lifetime. I shall be warm and splendid With the spoils of the Indies of age." [Footnote: Sarah N. Cleghorn, "Come, Captain Age."]
It is true, of course, that a poet may sometimes prefer to use unornamented language, "not elevated," as Wordsworth said, "above the level of prose." Such passages may nevertheless be marked by poetic beauty, due to the circumstances or atmosphere in which the plain words are spoken. The drama is full of such instances. "I loved you not," says Hamlet; to which Ophelia replies only: "I was the more deceived." No figure of speech could be more moving than that.
I once found in an old graveyard on Cape Cod, among the sunny, desolate sandhills, these lines graven on a headstone:
"She died, and left to me This heath, this calm and quiet scene; This memory of what hath been, And nevermore will be."
I had read the lines often enough in books, but here I realized for the first time the perfection of their beauty.
But though a poet, for special reasons, may now and then renounce the use of figurative language, it remains true that this is the characteristic and habitual mode of utterance, not only of poetry but of all emotional prose. Here are a few sentences from an English sailor's account of the fight off Heligoland on August 28, 1915. He was on a destroyer:
"Scarcely had we started when from out the mist and across our front, in furious pursuit, came the first cruiser squadron—the town class, Birmingham, etc.—each unit a match for three Mainzes; and as we looked and reduced speed they opened fire, and the clear 'bang-bang!' of their guns was just a cooling drink....
"The Mainz was immensely gallant. The last I saw of her, absolutely wrecked alow and aloft, her whole midships a fuming inferno, she had one gun forward and one aft still spitting forth fury and defiance like a wildcat mad with wounds.
"Our own four-funnel friend recommenced at this juncture with a couple of salvos, but rather half-heartedly, and we really did not care a d——, for there, straight ahead of us, in lordly procession, like elephants walking through a pack of dogs, came the Lion, Queen Mary, Invincible, and New Zealand, our battle cruisers, great and grim and uncouth as some antediluvian monsters. How solid they looked! How utterly earthquaking!"
The use and the effectiveness of figures depend primarily, then, upon the mood and intentions of the writer. Figures are figures, whether employed in prose or verse. Mr. Kipling does not lose his capacity for employing metaphors as he turns from writing verse to writing stories, and the rhetorician's analysis of similes, personifications, allegories, and all the other devices of "tropical" language is precisely the same, whether he is studying poetry or prose. Any good textbook in rhetoric gives adequate examples of these various classes of figures, and they need not be repeated here.
8. Words as Permanent Embodiment of Poetic Feeling
We have seen that the characteristic vocabulary of poetry originates in emotion and that it is capable of transmitting emotion to the hearer or reader. But how far are words capable of embodying emotion in permanent form? Poets themselves, in proud consciousness of the enduring character of their creations, have often boasted that they were building monuments more enduring than bronze or marble. When Shakspere asserts this in his sonnets, he is following not only an Elizabethan convention, but a universal instinct of the men of his craft. Is it a delusion? Here are words—mere vibrating sounds, light and winged and evanescent things, assuming a meaning value only through the common consent of those who interchange them, altering that meaning more or less from year to year, often passing wholly from the living speech of men, decaying when races decay and civilizations change. What transiency, what waste and oblivion like that which waits upon millions on millions of autumn leaves!
Yet nothing in human history is more indisputable than the fact that certain passages of poetry do survive, age after age, while empires pass, and philosophies change and science alters the mental attitude of men as well as the outward circumstances of life upon this planet.
Some thoughts and feelings, then, eternalize themselves in human speech; most thoughts and feelings do not. Wherein lies the difference? If most words are perishable stuff, what is it that keeps other words from perishing? Is it superior organization and arrangement of this fragile material, "fame's great antiseptic, style"? Or is it by virtue of some secret passionate quality imparted to words by the poet, so that the apparently familiar syllables take on a life and significance which is really not their own, but his? And is this intimate personalized quality of words "style," also, as well as that more external "style" revealed in clear and orderly and idiomatic arrangement? Or does the mystery of permanence reside in the poet's generalizing power, by which he is able to express universal, and hence permanently interesting human experience? And therefore, was not the late Professor Courthope right when he declared, "I take all great poetry to be not so much what Plato thought it, the utterance of individual genius, half inspired, half insane, as the enduring voice of the soul and conscience of man living in society"?
Answers to such questions as these depend somewhat upon the "romantic" or "classic" bias of the critics. Romantic criticism tends to stress the significance of the personality of the individual poet. The classic school of criticism tends to emphasize the more general and universal qualities revealed by the poet's work. But while the schools and fashions of criticism shift their ground and alter their verdicts as succeeding generations change in taste, the great poets continue as before to particularize and also to generalize, to be "romantic" and "classic" by turns, or even in the same poem. They defy critical augury, in their unending quest of beauty and truth. That they succeed, now and then, in giving a permanently lovely embodiment to their vision is surely a more important fact than the rightness or wrongness of whatever artistic theory they may have invoked or followed.
For many a time, surely, their triumphs are a contradiction of their theories. To take a very familiar example, Wordsworth's theory of poetic diction shifted like a weathercock. In the Advertisement to the Lyrical Ballads (1798) he asserted: "The following poems are to be considered as experiments. They were written chiefly with a view to ascertain how far the language of conversation in the middle and lower classes of society is adapted to the purposes of poetic pleasure." In the Preface of the second edition (1800) he announced that his purpose had been "to ascertain how far, by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection of the real language of men in a state of vivid sensation, that sort of pleasure and that quantity of pleasure may be imparted, which a poet may rationally endeavour to impart." But in the famous remarks on poetic diction which accompanied the third edition (1802) he inserted after the words "A selection of language really used by men" this additional statement of his intention: "And at the same time to throw over them a certain colouring of the imagination whereby ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual aspect." In place of the original statement about the conversation of the middle and lower classes of society, we are now assured that the language of poetry "if selected truly and judiciously, must necessarily be dignified and variegated and alive with metaphors and figures.... This selection will form a distinction ... and will entirely separate the composition from the vulgarity and meanness of ordinary life."
What an amazing change in theory in four years! Yet it is no more remarkable than Wordsworth's successive emendations in the text of his poems. In 1807 his blind Highland boy had gone voyaging in
"A Household Tub, like one of those Which women use to wash their clothes; This carried the blind Boy."
In 1815 the wash-tub becomes
"The shell of a green turtle, thin And hollow—you might sit therein, It was so wide and deep."
And in 1820 the worried and dissatisfied artist changes that unlucky vessel once more into the final banality of
"A shell of ample size, and light As the pearly car of Amphitrite That sportive dolphins drew."
Sometimes, it is true, this adventurer in poetic diction had rather better fortune in his alterations. The much-ridiculed lines of 1798 about the child's grave—
"I've measured it from side to side, 'T is three feet long and two feet wide"—
became in 1820:
"Though but of compass small and bare To thirsty suns and parching air."
Like his friend Coleridge, Wordsworth forsook gradually his early experiments with matter-of-fact phrases, with quaintly grotesque figures. Revolt against conventional eighteenth-century diction had given him a blessed sense of freedom, but he found his real strength later in subduing that freedom to a sense of law. Archaisms, queernesses, flatly naturalistic turns of speech gave place to a vocabulary of simple dignity and austere beauty. Wordsworth attained his highest originality as an artist by disregarding singularity, by making familiar words reveal new potencies of expression.
For after all, we must come back to what William James called the long "loop-line," to that reservoir of ideas and feelings which stores up the experience of individuals and of the race, and to the words which most effectively evoke that experience. Two classes at Columbia University, a few years ago, were asked to select fifty English words of basic importance in the expression of human life. In choosing these words, they were to aim at reality and strength rather than at beauty. When the two lists were combined, they presented these seventy-eight different words, which are here arranged alphabetically: age, ambition, beauty, bloom, country, courage, dawn, day, death, despair, destiny, devotion, dirge, disaster, divine, dream, earth, enchantment, eternity, fair, faith, fantasy, flower, fortune, freedom, friendship, glory, glow, god, grief, happiness, harmony, hate, heart, heaven, honor, hope, immortality, joy, justice, knell, life, longing, love, man, melancholy, melody, mercy, moon, mortal, nature, noble, night, paradise, parting, peace, pleasure, pride, regret, sea, sigh, sleep, solitude, song, sorrow, soul, spirit, spring, star, suffer, tears, tender, time, virtue, weep, whisper, wind and youth. [Footnote: See Nation, February 23, 1911.]
Surely these words, selected as they were for their significance, are not lacking in beauty of sound. On the contrary, any list of the most beautiful words in English would include many of them. But it is the meaning of these "long-loop" words, rather than their formal beauty alone, which fits them for the service of poetry. And they acquire in that service a "literary" value, which is subtly blended with their "sound" value and logical "meaning" value. They connote so much! They suggest more than they actually say. They unite the individual mood of the moment with the soul of mankind.
And there is still another mode of union between the individual and the race, which we must attempt in the next chapter to regard more closely, but which should be mentioned here in connection with the permanent embodiment of feeling in words,—namely, the mysterious fact of rhythm. Single words are born and die, we learn them and forget them, they alter their meanings, they always say less than we really intend, they are imperfect instruments for signaling from one brain to another. Yet these crumbling particles of speech may be miraculously held together and built into a tune, and with the tune comes another element of law, order, permanence. The instinct for the drumbeat lies deep down in our bodies; it affects our mental life, the organization of our emotions, and our response to the rhythmical arrangement of words. For mere ideas and words are not poetry, but only part of the material for poetry. A poem does not come into full being until the words begin to dance.
RHYTHM AND METRE
"Rhythm is the recurrence of stress at intervals; metre is the regular, or measured, recurrence of stress." M. H. SHACKFORD, A First Book of Poetics
"Metres being manifestly sections of rhythm." ARISTOTLE, Poetics, 4. (Butcher's translation)
"Thoughts that voluntary move Harmonious numbers." MILTON
1. The Nature of Rhythm
And why must the words begin to dance? The answer is to be perceived in the very nature of Rhythm, that old name for the ceaseless pulsing or "flowing" of all living things. So deep indeed lies the instinct for rhythm in our consciousness that we impute it even to inanimate objects. We hear the ticking of the clock as tick-tock, tick-tock, or else tick-tock, tick-tock, although psychologists assure us that the clock's wheels are moving with indifferent, mechanical precision, and that it is simply our own focusing of attention upon alternate beats which creates the impression of rhythm. We hear a rhythm in the wheels of the train, and in the purring of the motor-engine, knowing all the while that it is we who impose or make-up the rhythm, in our human instinct for organizing the units of attention. We cannot help it, as long as our own pulses beat. No two persons catch quite the same rhythm in the sounds of the animate and inanimate world, because no two persons have absolutely identical pulse-beats, identical powers of attention, an identical psycho-physical organism. We all perceive that there is a rhythm in a racing crew, in a perfectly timed stroke of golf, in a fisherman's fly- casting, in a violinist's bow, in a close-hauled sailboat fighting with the wind. But we appropriate and organize these objective impressions in subtly different ways.
When, for instance, we listen to poetry read aloud, or when we read it aloud ourselves, some of us are instinctive "timers," [Footnote: See W. M. Patterson, The Rhythm of Prose. Columbia University Press, 1916.] paying primary attention to the spaced or measured intervals of time, although in so doing we are not wholly regardless of those points of "stress" which help to make the time-intervals plainer. Others of us are natural "stressers," in that we pay primary attention to the "weight" of words,—the relative loudness or pitch, by which their meaning or importance is indicated,—and it is only secondarily that we think of these weighted or "stressed" words as separated from one another by approximately equal intervals of time. Standing on the rocks at Gloucester after an easterly storm, a typical "timer" might be chiefly conscious of the steady sequence of the waves, the measured intervals between their summits; while the typical stresser, although subconsciously aware of the steady iteration of the giant rollers, might watch primarily their foaming crests, and listen chiefly to their crashing thunder. The point to be remembered is this: that neither the "timing" instinct nor the "stressing" instinct excludes the other, although in most individuals one or the other predominates. Musicians, for instance, are apt to be noticeable "timers," while many scholars who deal habitually with words in their varied shifts of meaning, are professionally inclined to be "stressers."
2. The Measurement of Rhythm
Let us apply these facts to some of the more simple of the vexed questions of prosody, No one disputes the universality of the rhythmizing impulse; the quarrel begins as soon as any prosodist attempts to dogmatize about the nature and measurement of those flowing time-intervals whose arrangement we call rhythm. No one disputes, again, that the only arbiter in matters of prosody is the trained ear, and not the eye. Infinitely deceptive is the printed page of verse when regarded by the eye. Verse may be made to look like prose and prose to look like verse. Capital letters, lines, rhymes, phrases and paragraphs may be so cunningly or conventionally arranged by the printer as to disguise the real nature of the rhythmical and metrical pattern. When in doubt, close your eyes!
We agree, then, that in all spoken language—and this is as true of prose as it is of verse—there are time-intervals more or less clearly marked, and that the ear is the final judge as to the nature of these intervals. But can the ear really measure the intervals with any approximation to certainty, so that prosodists, for instance, can agree that a given poem is written in a definite metre? In one sense "yes." No one doubts that the Odyssey is written in "dactylic hexameters," i.e., in lines made up of six "feet," each one of which is normally composed of a long syllable plus two short syllables, or of an acceptable equivalent for that particular combination. But when we are taught in school that Longfellow's Evangeline is also written in "dactylic hexameters," trouble begins for the few inquisitive, since it is certain that if you close your eyes and listen carefully to a dozen lines of Homer's Greek, and then to a dozen lines of Longfellow's English, each written in so-called "hexameters," you are listening to two very different arrangements of time-intervals, so different, in fact, that the two poems are really not in the same "measure" or "metre" at all. For the Greek poet was, as a metrist, thinking primarily of quantity, of the relative "timing" of his syllables, and the American of the relative "stress" of his syllables. [Footnote: "Musically speaking—because the musical terms are exact and not ambiguous—true dactyls are in 2-4 time and the verse of Evangeline is in 3-8 time." T. D. Goodell, Nation, October 12, 1911.]
That illustration is drearily hackneyed, no doubt, but it has a double value. It is perfectly clear; and furthermore, it serves to remind us of the instinctive differences between different persons and different races as regards the ways of arranging time-intervals so as to create the rhythms of verse. The individual's standard of measurement—his poetic foot-rule, so to speak—is very elastic,—"made of rubber" indeed, as the experiments of many psychological laboratories have demonstrated beyond a question. Furthermore, the composers of poetry build it out of very elastic units. They are simply putting syllables of words together into a rhythmical design, and these "airy syllables," in themselves mere symbols of ideas and feelings, cannot be weighed by any absolutely correct sound-scales. They cannot be measured in time by any absolutely accurate watch-dial, or exactly estimated in their meaning, whether that be literal or figurative, by any dictionary of words and phrases. But this is only saying that the syllables which make up the units of verse, whether the units be called "foot" or "line" or "phrase," are not dead, mechanical things, but live things, moving rhythmically, entering thereby into the pulsing, chiming life of the real world, and taking on more fullness of life and beauty in elastic movement, in ordered but infinitely flexible design, than they ever could possess as independent particles.
3. Conflict and Compromise
And everywhere in the arrangement of syllables into the patterns of rhythm and metre we find conflict and compromise, the surrender of some values of sound or sense for the sake of a greater unity. To revert to considerations dealt with in an earlier chapter, we touch here upon the old antinomy—or it may be, harmony—between "form" and "significance," between the "outside" and the "inside" of the work of art. For words, surely, have one kind of value as pure sound, as "cadences" made up of stresses, slides, pauses, and even of silences when the expected syllable is artfully withheld. It is this sound-value, for instance, which you perceive as you listen to a beautifully recited poem in Russian, a language of which you know not a single word; and you may experience a modification of the same pleasure in closing your mind wholly to the "sense" of a richly musical passage in Swinburne, and delighting your ear by its mere beauty of tone. But words have also that other value as meaning, and we are aware how these meaning values shift with the stress and turns of thought, so that a given word has a greater or less weight in different sentences or even in different clauses of the same sentence. "Meaning" values, like sound values, are never precisely fixed in a mechanical and universally agreed-upon scale, they are relative, not absolute. Sometimes meaning and sound conflict with one another, and one must be sacrificed in part, as when the normal accent of a word refuses to coincide with the verse-accent demanded by a certain measure, so that we "wrench" the accent a trifle, or make it "hover" over two syllables without really alighting upon either. And it is significant that lovers of poetry have always found pleasure in such compromises. [Footnote: Compare the passage about Chopin's piano-playing, quoted from Alden in the Notes and Illustrations for this chapter.] They enjoy minor departures from and returns to the normal, the expected measure of both sound and sense, just as a man likes to sail a boat as closely into the wind as he conveniently can, making his actual course a compromise between the line as laid by the compass, and the actual facts of wind and tide and the behavior of his particular boat. It is thus that the sailor "makes it," triumphantly! And the poet "makes it" likewise, out of deep, strong-running tides of rhythmic impulse, out of arbitrary words and rebellious moods, out of
"Thoughts hardly to be packed Into a narrow act, Fancies that broke through language and escaped,"
until he compels rhythm and syllables to move concordantly, and blend into that larger living whole—the dancing, singing crowd of sounds and meanings which make up a poem.
4. The Rhythms of Prose
Just here it may be of help to us to turn away for a moment from verse rhythm, and to consider what Dryden called "the other harmony" of prose. For no one doubts that prose has rhythm, as well as verse. Vast and learned treatises have been written on the prose rhythms of the Greeks and Romans, and Saintsbury's History of English Prose Rhythm is a monumental collection of wonderful prose passages in English, with the scansion of "long" and "short" syllables and of "feet" marked after a fashion that seems to please no one but the author. But in truth the task of inventing an adequate system for notating the rhythm of prose, and securing a working agreement among prosodists as to a proper terminology, is almost insuperable. Those of us who sat in our youth at the feet of German masters were taught that the distinction between verse and prose was simple: verse was, as the Greeks had called it, "bound speech" and prose was "loosened speech." But a large proportion of the poetry published in the last ten years is "free verse," which is assuredly of a "loosened" rather than a "bound" pattern.
Apparently the old fence between prose and verse has been broken down. Or, if one conceives of indubitable prose and indubitable verse as forming two intersecting circles, there is a neutral zone,
which some would call "prose poetry" and some "free verse," and which, according to the experiments of Dr. Patterson [Footnote: The Rhythm of Prose, already cited.] may be appropriated as "prose experience" or "verse experience" according to the rhythmic instinct of each individual. Indeed Mr. T. S. Omond has admitted that "the very same words, with the very same natural stresses, may be prose or verse according as we treat them. The difference is in ourselves, in the mental rhythm to which we unconsciously adjust the words." [Footnote: Quoted in B. M. Alden, "The Mental Side of Metrical Form," Modern Language Review, July, 1914.] Many familiar sentences from the English Bible or Prayer-Book, such as the words from the Te Deum, "We, therefore, pray thee, help thy servants, whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood," have a rhythm which may be felt as prose or verse, according to the mental habit or mood or rhythmizing impulse of the hearer.
Nevertheless it remains true in general that the rhythms of prose are more constantly varied, broken and intricate than the rhythms of verse. They are characterized, according to the interesting experiments of Dr. Patterson, by syncopated time, [Footnote: "For a 'timer' the definition of prose as distinguished from verse experience depends upon a predominance of syncopation over coincidence in the coordination of the accented syllables of the text with the measuring pulses." Rhythm of Prose, p. 22.] whereas in normal verse there is a fairly clean-cut coincidence between the pulses of the hearer and the strokes of the rhythm. Every one seems to agree that there is a certain danger in mixing these infinitely subtle and "syncopated" tunes of prose with the easily recognized tunes of verse. There is, unquestionably, a natural "iambic" roll in English prose, due to the predominant alternation of stressed and unstressed syllables in our native tongue, but when Dickens—to cite what John Wesley would call "an eminent sinner" in this respect—inserts in his emotional prose line after line of five-stress "iambic" verse, we feel instinctively that the presence of the blank verse impairs the true harmony of the prose. [Footnote: Observe, in the "Notes and Illustrations" for this chapter, the frequency of the blank-verse lines in Robert G. Ingersoll's "Address over a Little Boy's Grave."] Delicate writers of English prose usually avoid this coincidence of pattern with the more familiar patterns of verse, but it is impossible to avoid it wholly, and some of the most beautiful cadences of English prose might, if detached from their context, be scanned for a few syllables as perfect verse. The free verse of Whitman, Henley and Matthew Arnold is full of these embedded fragments of recognized "tunes of verse," mingled with the unidentifiable tunes of prose. There has seldom been a more curious example of accidental coincidence than in this sentence from a prosaic textbook on "The Parallelogram of Forces": "And hence no force, however great, can draw a cord, however fine, into a horizontal line which shall be absolutely straight." This is precisely the "four-stressed iambic" metre of In Memoriam, and it even preserves the peculiar rhyme order of the In Memoriam stanza: