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joined together. "They owe no other dependence to the poet than what is common to the whole syntax of being." Glanville.-2. That part of grammar which teaches the construction of words. "I can produce a hundred instances to convince any reasonable man, that they do not so much as understand common grammar and syntax."-Swift. Surely the reader, as well as the writer, of the Antediluvians, ought to be "adepts" in both kinds of syntax-especially the latter; though we can easily believe that Dr M'Henry has often found such" adepts" but poor judges of poetry. If by the Pandects he means the Poetics of Aristotle, he has been more fortunate than us in meeting so frequently with the initiated; but probably he alludes to some other work of the Stagyrite; for if he do not, there is not even the shadow of a meaning in-" if they approve, I shall be safe in spite of philologists.'
The Doctor then enters into some explanation of the principles on which he has constructed his versification. "I have written it in blank verse, because I conceive that species of verse to be more suitable than rhyme for a long and narrative work. The frequent recurrence of similar sounds which constitutes rhyme, however ornamental and agreeable in short productions, becomes, from its monotony, fatiguing in works of much length. Rhyme has, besides, an artificial air, which does not suit well with the freedom and ease required in an extended narrative performance. It also causes the work to move more slowly, as if it were in fetters, than comports well with the usual impatience of a reader who is interested in the events narrated." We have not Dr Johnson's abhorrence of blank verse on the contrary, we love it dearly-when it is good; but poor blank verse is even the poorest of all poorest things and such, we fear, is the blank verse of the Antediluvians, or the World Destroyed, But, before we come to that, let us be allowed to say a word or two in season for "the frequent occurrence of similar sounds which constitutes rhyme." The proof of the pudding is in the eating of itand who in his senses ever wished that Ariosto, or Tasso, or Camoens, or Spenser, or Wieland, had written in blank verse? All great narrative
poems with hardly an exceptionare in rhyme; and, so far from moving as if in fetters, they flow freely as mountain-born rivers through a hilly country to the sea. Why should rhyme have more of "an artificial air" in "an extended narrative performance," than in an ode or hymn? All poetry is artificial—and therein lies its power, and the might of its majesty. The poet fills our souls with love and admiration of his beautiful and wonderful mastery over all the world of words -if it be his delight to rhyme his inspirations, it is ours-our ears are tuned by a few stanzas to the music it is his will to prefer and to prolong— and in that music we are made to feel that there is an inexhaustible variety combinations innumerable-and inconceivable by us till we heard them
through them they seem to speak to our experiences of sweet or solemn sounds-to awaken reminiscences of delight or awe felt in some other world -so softly do they touch, or so strongly do they smite, the chords that in every human heart are ready to respond to the breath of genius-" airs from heaven."
"The composition of the following work, it will be easily perceived, is not particularly modelled after that of any preceding author." The Doctor says he does not mention that as entitling him to credit; for that, in a literary composition, he feels that it would be more difficult for him to imitate others, than to follow the direction of his own views and impulses. "As I permitted my thoughts to arise spontaneously from my subject, so I permitted my language to flow spontaneously from my thoughts." Is is not easy to imagine a happier frame of mind than this-when all that is necessary to the production of "an extended narrative poem," is to permit it to arise, and go to press. "By this means I was enabled to avoid singularity on the one hand, and I hope I have avoided all appearance of imitation on the other." Besides, he is of opinion, that the blank verse of Milton, or Young, or Thomson, would one and all have been equally unsuitable for such a poem as The Antediluvians. That of Milton is "magnificently epic, but so consecrated by the halo of veneration which surrounds it, that I dared not approach it ;" and further, "if I had adopted any of its
peculiarities on account of my subject, I should have been accused by thoughtless critics of imitating it." That of Thomson he considered "too diffuse and florid"-- of Young, "too antithetical and sententious"-of Akenside, "too excursive and full of complication"of Cowper, "too sedate and didactic" -for his subject, The Antediluvians, or the World Destroyed.
We suspect that the Doctor laboured under a pretty considerable confusion of ideas while inditing the above caused by the affliction called in Scotland stupefication of the head. His intention was to characterise "the excellence of the versification of each of our great English writers of blank verse," but, at the same time, to show that the versification of none of them was suitable for his work-whereas, he says not a syllable about their blank verse, but maunders of their style and of what he conceives to be its characteristics. The verse of Milton, he says, is "magnificently epic ;" and so far well; but in the next sentence, without being in the least aware that he has shifted the subject, he says, "the style of none of our other poets;" and deals out his too this, and his too that, as profusely as if he were the spokesman at a consultation. It must be mighty pleasant to snub in this way a series of great poets, all the while complacently stroking your own chin. We admire The Seasons, Jemmy, but your style, however well suited to them, is too florid and diffuse for our Antediluvians. Mark! the Pleasures of Imagination do you credit but your style, allow us to whisper in your ear, is too excursive and full of amplification for the World Destroyed. "Ned, you are a nightingale," most musical, most melancholy," but your style, our moralizing youth, in the Night Thoughts, is too antithetical and sententious--indeed it is for "a long narrative poem, on a subject in the annals of mankind still unappropriated by the epic muse." Bill, my boy, you have completed your Task cleverly, and there is one sugar-plum for yourself and another for Mary Unwin, but your style is "too sedate and didactic" for a theme so "amply magnificent and universally interesting" as 66 THE For TUNES AND CATASTROPHE OF THE
ANTEDILUVIAN WORLD." So get along, ye diffuse, florid, antithetical, sententious, excursive, full-of-amplification,
sedate, and didactic dogs, while "I permit my thoughts to arise spontaneously from my subject, and my language to flow spontaneously from my thoughts," and thus produce "versification, which, it will be easily perceived, is not particularly modelled after that of any preceding author."
And what thinks the Doctor of the style or blank verse of his contemporaries? "A description of blank verse of a more loose character and languid movement than that of either of those writers, has been introduced into our language, by the poets of a well-known modern school, who, ever since the commencement of the present century, have been labouring to revolutionize our literature, and to infuse into our minds a poetical taste different from that which we inherited from our fathers, and to which every poet who has become the permanent favourite of mankind, has conformed his productions. If to the slow-moving and spiritless style of this new school, there be any resemblance in the versification of the following poem, I am as unconscious of it, as I am incredulous of the power of any innovators to infuse a new poetical taste into the mind of
Now, Doctor, chuck yourself under the chin with your left, and with your right tickle your organ of self-esteem; and then, let us gently tap your development with the padded horn of the Crutch, now on the peace establishment.
You mean Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge? Well, then, and you think their blank verse distinguished by the same characteristics? Well, then, your ears are leather-not buckskin breeches-leather-but shoe-leather-but not of the shoe-leather which upper-leathers are composed but of the leather which is dedicat to soles-double-soles, with tack (Scottice,sparables,) in which the angler fords the Tweed, waist-deep, yet stumbleth not once among the cobles till he gain the opposite bank-a broomy slope, crowned by an old Keep, dilapidated, but not seen to be so, in its bower of elms.
The worthy Doctor speaks of a "poetical taste which we inherited from our forefathers." Who were our forefathers?-Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Gray, Collins, Thomson, Goldsmith, Aken
side, Young, Cowper, Beattie, Burns, and a hundred others—" alike, but oh how different"-and from them we have experienced, according to McHenry, a poetical taste" one and the same a taste "to which every poet who has become the general favourite of mankind has conformed his productions." Every one of our greatest poets" revolutionized our poetical literature;" and yet, after all those glorious revolutions, its constitution remains the wonder of the world.
The Doctor is " incredulous of the power of any innovators to infuse a new poetical taste into the mind of man. Sophocles and Shakspeare constructed their tragedies on the same principles-and there is no difference whatever between Grecian and Gothic architecture.
He is unconscious of any resemblance in the composition of his Antediluvians "to the slow-moving and spiritless style" of the Excursion. So are we. We defy Wordsworth to point out a passage in his " Philosophical Poem" comparable in force and fire, rapidity and spirit, to the following flashes of inspiration that seem to set the highest heaven of the Doctor's invention in a blaze. Then, aided by angelic architects, Soon did they build that blest and wond'rous ark,
The ark of safety for all living things,
The spacious mansion was composed, of strength
Both wind and water to resist, though roused
To all the force of elevated strife.
Three hundred Hebrew cubits was its length,
The breadth was fifty, thirty was the length,
Divided into three successive floors.
In each, full many a various-structured cell Was form'd, the different animals to lodge,
From the bold lion and behemoth huge, To the dull beetle and the duller moth, And from the imperial eagle to the wren." "Animated and flowing diction," adds the Doctor," is indeed avowedly repudiated by the followers of this school, whose leading tenet is, that 'the real language of poetry does not differ from that of ordinary life, except in metrical arrangement.'
The Doctor is dosing-comatose. Nobody will believe that any school, old or new, ever avowedly repudiated animated and flowing diction." But William Wordsworth and James M'Henry may have different ideas of animation and flow-the one conceiving that he beholds those qualities in a Westmoreland river-the other in the Paddington Canal.
There is no such passage in Wordsworth's glorious preface to the Lyrical Ballads as that given above by Dr M'Henry, as containing "the leading tenet of the new school." That preface is full of the grandest truths: it expounds the eternal principles of all poetry, removes the rubbish, and shows the foundations in the rock of ages.
The Doctor" argufies the question ;" and absolutely, in opposition to Wordsworth, undertakes to expound the essential distinction between poetry and prose! As a clencher, he quotes Milton :
On his hill-top to light the bridal lamp.”
The italics are the Doctor's-and he exclaims, "every reader of taste will admit the uncommon beauty of the foregoing passage, placed as it is in a position where grandeur is natural, and decoration appropriate. Yet, who does not perceive that the splendid expressions which render it so remarkable, would, if employed in prose, be as offensive, as in poetry they are pleasing?" There is not one expression there that might not be used in elevated prose, provided only there were a departure from the metrical arrangement. In Milton's own prose there are hundreds as splendid-as poetical; and in the prose of Jeremy Taylor, and other great writers. Passion and imagination are not banished from prose-nor a sense of the su blime and beautiful;-nor are
banished from the breasts of men who are no writers at all, but who nevertheless, under their influence, speak as orators or poets speak-even as men and women are heard speaking through out all Shakspeare, in a style that must be most "offensive" to the Doctor, though" pleasing" to all the rest of the human race. True, 'tis a visionary world, and an enchanted floor -that Theatre. But the shadows seem to be of flesh and blood-to speak our language-to shed tears like ours -and utter what bears a dread resemblance to human groans.
The Doctor has the stupid impertinence to say, that Wordsworth has "strenuously recommended and practised a mode of writing, characterised by a meagre dryness of expression, and a diffuse languor of modulation, which has procured for it the epithet of " prose poetry." Where is the blockhead who applied that epithet? Let him show-and deep must be the shade that, after an interview with Us, will suffice to hide " his many-colour ed head."
Let us hear now our friend's opinion of his own poetry :-" The true style of good poetry is certainly one or other of these extremes; and a writer of judgment and good taste will as carefully avoid offending by the bare sterility, or by the meretricious gaudiness of his diction. great art is to know when, and in what degree, to decorate. Some topics require language altogether plain and perspicuous, while others will appear flat and barren, unless enriched with the flowers of speech. Description and sentiment seem to be peculiarly susceptible of ornament, and will bear it to an extent that would encumber dialogue, and impede the progress of the narrative. Throughout the following work, I trust it will be found that, while on every admissible occasion I have indulged in the decorative style, I have been sparing of it wherever employing it freely would have savoured of affectation, produced obscurity, or occasioned unnecessary and unseemly glare." In short, the author is of opinion that the Antediluvians is "written in the true style of good poetry." Nous verrons.
The Doctor holds that "the diction of a poem is of much less consequence than the ideas"-and that, "in estimating the merit of a long narrative poem in particular, its general plan
and scope, comprising the individuals, characters, sentiments, and scenery, ought never to be overlooked." Such dicta, so boldly announced, may appear paradoxical; but, on maturer reflection, the world will cheerfully admit their truth.
We admire the genius displayed by many of the Poets of the Flood—yet are "free to confess," that, with the exception of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch, and old MethuselahNoah and his family, of course-we have never been able to bring ourselves to care much for the Antediluvians. There are grotesque images associated, in our fancy, with the very name. We know that we ought to be above such weakness-and we cheerfully acknowledge that the Deluge was great event in the annals of mankind." We have no doubt that the World before the Flood was a very poetical world--for we know it was a very wicked one. But commend us on that and every other account-to the World after the Flood. Let us first exhaust it, if you please—and when there is no more to be said about it, fall back on the ages that never saw the rainbow.
The Doctor says, that "in drawing the characters, and relating the transactions of the important era that preceded the Deluge, the heart of man, under the various modifications caused by the same passions which agitate it to this day, can be exhibited;" and doubtless it may, but at a great disadvantage. We would not give Crabbe's Borough for all that has been written or ever will be written about the Antediluvian world. We have been more affected by a paragraph in the Westmoreland Gazette, telling of the loss of a postchaise, horses, driver, and a pretty girl, in the sands between Lancaster and Ulverston, than by Byron's Heaven and Earth, or even by Poussin's or Martin's great picture.
"The awful event which terminated the first series of the human race, cannot fail," says the Doctor, "strongly to affect the mind, and awaken the sympathies of their descendants of every tribe, and in every clime, as well as to teach them a warning lesson of the most impressive character they could possibly learn." It does so in the Bible. But as we dislike and disavow all manner of affectation, we hope that we shall not give offence in
any quarter, by declaring in the July number of Blackwood, 1839, that though we are one of the most distinguished "descendants” "of the first series" of the human race," the event which terminated" that series does "fail strongly to awaken our sympathies” — and, shocking as it may seem, that we have not read Dr M'Henry's Antediluvians, or the World Destroyed, with a tithe of the interest we felt in Sir Thomas D. Lauder's Account of the Morayshire Floods.
The Doctor himself has some misgivings on the subject, and acknowledges" that it was, indeed, no slight task to bring before the public, the affairs and fortunes of a world, concerning which so few records remain.' The Public will, no doubt, try to look more than usually pensive on the Antediluvians and the World Destroyed, but will be sadder at heart for the sake of a party of apprentices and their sweethearts drowned on a holiday in rashly" shooting the bridge."
The Poem of The Antediluvians, or the World Destroyed, opens with a description of Armon, or Armonia, "beneath the rule of the righteous
"There flocks and herds Amidst the genial valleys, multiplied In joyous numbers; for no winter frost Nor summer scorching there was feared
Sickness, or pain, or premature decay; But every gale that fanned the fragrant air, Bore health and gladness on its balmy wings,
Giving duration to the life of man Tenfold the period of its present state."
Is this scriptural? "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and thou shalt eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return into the ground," &c. The winter frost may not then have been very severe in Armonia, though we believe that now it is occasionally rather sharp, with sleet, hail, and snow. "Summer scorching" there must have been- and frequent drought. On what authority does a medical man of our day aver that there was 66 no sickness, or pain, or premature de. cay" before the Flood? Children'
complaints especially teethingmust have carried off multitudes-and so must the measles; "girls of sweet sixty" died then in fact of consumption-and blooming and blushing brides were prematurely cut off ere they had reached their two-hundredth year. We are nowhere told that the longevity of the Antediluvians was owing to climate. There is every reason to believe that the Flood improved climate-and for that, and all other heaven's mercies, "our heart leaps up when we behold a rainbow in the sky."
In the 24th verse of the 5th chapter of Genesis you will find it thus writ ten: "And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him." Milton, remembering with awe that verse, and by it inspired, says,
"Him old and young Exploded, and had seized with violent hands,
Had not a cloud descending snatched him thence,
Unseen amid the throng.”
the translation of Enoch. Here is Dr M'Henry's picture of
"At length the patriarch of this happy race, By the command of his approving God,
Bade earth and all the sons of men adieu.
The tribes, assembled by the godlike man,
A radiant chariot of celestial mould,
By winged spirits drawn, and in its seat
Awe-struck the crowd at reverent distance
This chariot, and with me arise to Heaven,
Unrivalled symmetry his limbs adorned,