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Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
(Book I., 1-22.)
O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
(Book I., 453–463.)
O love! how potent hast thou been to teach
Thou leddest Orpheus through the gleams of death,
(Book III., 92-102.)
[Song in Book IV.]
Why dost borrow
To give maiden blushes
To the white rose bushes ?
Why dost borrow
To give the glow-worm light?
Or, on a moonless night,
Why dost borrow
To give at evening pale
Unto the nightingale,
Why dost borrow
A lover would not tread
A cowslip on the head,
Nor any drooping flower
Held sacred for thy bower, Wherever he may sport himself and play.
In his preface to Endymion, Keats says: “ The two first books, and, indeed, the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as warrant their passing the press; nor should they if I thought a year's castigation would do them any good: it will not; the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away; a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting and fitting myself for verses fit to live.” Unfortunately, the opinion of the critics concurred with that which the author has here expressed in regard to the incompleteness of the poem; and the severe censure which it received from the Quarterly Review is said to have caused the illness which resulted in the poet's death.
Definition-Gower's Confessio Amantis–Nosce Teipsum, by Sir John
Davies—John Dryden's Religio Laici—The Hind and the PantherAlexander Pope's Essay on Criticism-Essay on Man-Edward Young -Night Thoughts — Dr. Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes – London-Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination-Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy-Rogers's Pleasures of Memory-Campbell's Pleasures of Hope—The Sabl by Grahame-Wordsworth's Excursion-Pollok's Course of Time.
The express object of didactic poetry is to teach. Strictly speaking, this kind of composition is not true poetry, since the supreme design of poetry is to administer to our emotive nature, and not to our reasoning powers. De Quincey says: “No poetry can have the function of teaching. It is impossible that a variety of species should contradict the very purpose which contradistinguishes its genus. Poetry, or any one of the fine arts (all of which alike speak through the genial nature of man and his excited sensibilities), can teach only as nature teaches, as forests teach, as the sea teaches, as infancy teaches; namely, by deep impulse, by hieroglyphic suggestion. Their teaching is not direct or explicit, but lurking, implicit, masked in deep incarnations. To teach formally and professedly, is to abandon the very differential character and principle of poetry. If poetry could condescend to teach anything, it would be truths, moral or religious. But even these it can utter only through symbols and actions. The great moral, for instance, the last result of the Paradise Lost, is once formally announced; but it teaches itself only by diffusing its lesson through the entire poem in the total succession of events and purposes; and even this succession teaches it only when the whole is gathered into unity by a reflex action of meditation; just as the pulsation of the physical heart can exist only when all the parts in an animal system are locked into one organization."
Connected with the subject of didactic poetry there are, in fact, many contradictions; but these it is not our purpose here to discuss. It is sufficient for us to assume that there is a species of composition known as didactic poetry; but whether it be poetry, or whether it be merely prose and reason, or whether it occupy a middle place distinct from either prose or poetry, we shall leave for the student's own good judgment to determine.
Very much of our best poetry has been written with a didactic intent, but its teaching has been, as De Quincey remarks above, “ by deep impulse and hieroglyphic suggestion.” Such was the poetry of Caedmon, and, in fact, all the religious poems of the Anglo-Saxons; such were all the allegorical poems of our language; such were Milton's Lycidas, Comus, and Paradise Lost; such were Cowper's Task, and a host of the noblest performances of our greatest poets.
The Confessio Amantis, written by John Gower in the fourteenth century, and printed by Caxton in 1483, was probably intended to serve, in a certain degree, the purposes of a didactic poem; for the author's notion of true
; poetry was that it should be
Wisdom to the wise,
The Confessio Amantis consists of a prologue and eight books. It is a kind of a didactic allegory, embracing seven sets of stories relating to the seven deadly sins. A lover seeks Cupid and Venus, and complains that he is dying of love. Venus, taking pity upon him, calls in her confessor, the Genius of Nature, to shrive him. To him the lover kneels, and begs of him to teach him the several