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that professed civility. The study of it offers to mankind a certain rule and pattern of living well and happily, disposing us to all civil offices of society. It nourisheth and instructeth our youth, delights our age, adorns our prosperity, comforts our adversity, entertains us at home, keeps us company abroad, travels with us, watches, divides the time of our earnest and sports, shares in our country recesses and recreations; insomuch that the wisest and best learned have thought her the absolute mistress of manners, and nearest of kin to virtue.


Poetry produces an illusion on the eye of the mind, as a magic-lantern produces an illusion on the eye of the body. And, as the magic-lantern acts best in a dark room, poetry effects its purpose most completely in a dark age. As the light of knowledge breaks in upon its exhibitions, as the outlines of certainty become more and more definite and the shades of probability more and more distinct, the hues and lineaments of the phantoms which the poet calls up grow fainter and fainter. We cannot unite the incompatible advantages of reality and deception, the clear discernment of truth and the exquisite enjoyment of fiction.


Poetry is not a branch of authorship: it is "the stuff of which our life is made.The rest is "mere oblivion," a dead letter; for all that is worth remembering in life is the poetry of it. Fear is poetry, hope is poetry, love is poetry, hatred is poetry; contempt, jealousy, remorse, admiration, wonder, pity, despair, madness, are all poetry. Poetry is that fine particle within us that expands, rarifies, raises our whole being; without it, “man's life is poor as beasts'."




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The following definitions are given here for the convenience of such students as may desire to refer to them:

Poetry may be defined as that division of literature which addresses itself to the imagination and the passions, and whose primary object is to please.

Versification has reference to the arrangement of the
words in poetry, so that the tones of the voice in reading
may harmonize with the thoughts expressed or the feeling
to be conveyed.

A verse is a single line of poetry.
A stanza is a collection of verses methodically arranged.

A poem is a collection of verses or stanzas written upon
some particular topic in accordance with the rules for
poetic composition.

Rhyme is the systematic repetition or recurrence of syllables having a certain similarity of sound.

It usually occurs at the end of a verse.

Rhythm is the arrangement of words by which the regular occurrence of accents or impulses of the voice is secured.

Metre is the division of a verse into parts called feet.

A foot is the combination of two or more syllables according to the rhythm accent.

A trochee is a foot of two syllables, the first being accented.

An iambus is a foot of two syllables, the second being accented. Iainbic poetry is the most common in the language.

A spondee is a foot of two syllables, both being accented alike.

A dactyl is a foot of three syllables, the first being accented.

An amphibrach is a foot of three syllables, the second being accented.

An anapest is a foot of three syllables, the third being accented.

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Verses are described according to the number of feet which they contain. As, a monometer is a verse of one foot; a dimeter, a verse of two feet; a trimeter, one of three feet; a tetrameter, one of four feet; a pentameter, one of five feet; a hexameter, one of six feet, etc.

Blank verse is poetry which has metre but not rhyme.

Heroic verse is a name applied to blank verse written in iambic pentameter measure.

An Alexandrine is an iambic verse of twelve syllables.


POETRY has been classified in a great variety of ways. No matter what may be the basis upon which the classification is made, the different divisions merge so imperceptibly into each other, that the same poem may often with propriety be said to belong to two or more classes. For convenience of treatment, we shall arrange all the poetry in our literature according to the following classification :

1. Anglo-Saxon Poetry, embracing that which was written during the Anglo-Saxon supremacy in England, A.D. 449 to 1066.

2. Poetry of the Transition Period, A.D. 1066 to 1362. 3. Poetical Romances. 4. Story-Telling Poetry. 5. Allegories. 6. Historical Poetry. 7. Epic Poetry. 8. Dramatic Poetry. 9. Lyrical Poetry. 10. Satirical Poetry. 11. Descriptive Poetry. 12. Pastoral Poetry. 13. Didactic Poetry. 14. Miscellaneous Poetry.


The first work on poetry, and, indeed, the first piece of literary criticism written in the English language, was The Defense of Poesie, by Sir Philip Sidney, published in 1595.

The History of English Poetry from the eleventh to the seventeenth century, by Thomas Warton, Poet Laureate, is a curious and valuable work.

For general criticisms and information, the student is referred to
Morley's English Writers.
Craik's English Literature.
Hallam’s Literature of Europe.
Wright's Biographia Poetica.
Taine's History of English Literature.
Leigh Hunt's Men, Women, and Books.
Hazlitt's Lectures on the English Poets.
Allibone's Dictionary of British and American Authors.
Grant Wilson's Poets of Scotland.
Macaulay's Essay on Milton.



A.D. 449-1066.

The Anglo-Saxon Language—The First Literature-Beowulf–Battle of Finnesburgh—Battle of Brunanburh-An Old Scandinavian Poem — Ragnar Lodbrok—Religious Poetry—Cædmon-Cædmon and Mil. ton-Aldhelm-The Grave—Exeter Book-Vercelli Book_Characteristics of Anglo-Saxon Verse—Alliteration.

RATHER more than fourteen hundred years ago the ancestors of the English race left their ancient homes in Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland, and emigrated to the island then known as Britain. They were variously designated among themselves and by the Britons as Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and, finally, as English. The country of which they took possession they called Angla-Land, or Engla-Land, and the language which they spoke they called Englisc. This language, to which scholars have now quite generally agreed to apply the name Anglo-Saxon, is not much like modern English. Indeed, it is as different from our language as the Latin of the time of Julius Cæsar is different from the French now spoken in Paris. And yet this Englisc or Anglo-Saxon language is the basis or groundwork upon which, by means of successive additions and alterations, the superstructure of modern English has been built. In our next chapter we shall endeavor to explain how this was brought about. To understand the Anglo-Saxon language requires as much special study and preparation as to understand any foreign tongue. For at least half of the words used by those who once spoke or wrote it have fallen into disuse, and are not known to the English language; while, on the other hand, more than half

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