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intense and expressive passion for generous and lofty culture.
This in itself will make our literature and our criticism competent, catholic, discriminating, and conscientious. It will, also, serve to place us as a a people fairly in line with our "kin beyond the sea, who, even yet, with all their decline from earlier standards, continue to hold among the nations of modern times the enviable place of literary leadership.
THE CRITICAL STYLE.
Examples. It ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Shakespeare. Homer himself drew not his art so immediately from the fountains of nature; it proceeded through Egyptian channels. The poetry of Shakespeare was inspiration indeed; he is not so much an imitator as an instrument of nature; and 'tis not so just to say that he speaks from her as she speaks through him. His characters are so much nature, herself, that 'tis a sort of injury to call them by so distant a name as copies of her.—Pope's Preface to “ Tonson's Shakespeare.”
In Milton's mind itself there were purity and piety absolute; an imagination to which neither the past nor the present were interesting except as far as they called forth and enlivened the great idea in which and for which he lived; a keen love of truth which, after many weary pursuits, found a harbor in the sublime listening to the still small voice in his own spirit and a keen love of his country which expanded into a love of man. These alone could be the conditions under which such a work as Paradise Lost could be conceived and accomplished.--Coleridge's "Literary Remains."
I know not whether I have been so careful of the plot and language as I ought; but, for the latter, I have endeavored to write English as near as I could distinguish it from the tongue of pedants. Only I am sorry that we have not a more
Ι certain measure of it, as they have in France. I wish we might at length cease to borrow words from other nations which is now a wantonness in us, not a necessity. But I fear, lest, defending the received words, I shall be accused of following the new way, I mean, of writing scenes in verse. Though, to speak properly, it is not so much a new way amongst us, as an old way new revived; for, many years before Shakespeare's plays, was the tragedy of Queen Gorboduc in English verse.-Dryden's Dedication to the “Rival Ladies."
It is an open question, however, whether a poet need be conscious of the existence and being of the laws and conditions under which he produces his work. It may be a curb and detriment to his genius that he should trouble himself about them in the least. But this rests upon the character of his intellect and includes a further question of the effects of culture. Just here there is a difference between poetry and the cognate arts of expression, since the former has somewhat less to do with material processes and effects. The freedom of the minor sculptor's, painter's or composer's genius is not checked, while its scope and precision are increased, by knowledge of the rules of his calling and of their application in different regions and times. But in the case of the minor poet, excessive culture and wide acquaintance with methods and masterpieces, often destroy spontaneity.Stedman's “Victorian Poets."
PROSE STYLE AND POETRY.
(The Poetic Style.)
ONE of the most interesting and instructive studies in style and general literature is, what may be termed, the relation of literary forms,-that of the oral form of open address to the written form of the essay or article ; that of the didactic to the argumentative; that, especially, of prose to poetry.
There is in existing authorship, indeed, so large a border-ground between specific poetical and prose expression that the department of what the critics call, poetical prose, is one that is demanding and receiving an ever-increasing attention. It is that species of prose which, not being metrical, cannot, in any valid sense, be called verse, and, yet, which is possessed of such an unusual degree of rhythm or verse quality that it departs materially from prose proper and becomes a kind of separate
or intervening form—having its own distinctive character, attraction and purpose. Such is much of Hawthorne's prose-fiction, as expressed in such works as, “The Scarlet Letter” and “ The Marble Faun.” Indeed, so prevalent is this poetical quality in the novel as a specific class of literature, that the question is still an open one, whether fiction more accurately belongs to the realm of prose or verse, so able a writer as Moir contending with Minto and others for its classification with the latter. Minto deliberately excludes Fiction from his discussion of prose literature. Even so acute a critic as Masson divides literature so as to bring the Novel under Poetry; as he states, “The Novel, at its highest, is a Prose Epic.”
This discussion apart, however, the high poetic quality of much of our best English Prose still remains and marks it as belonging to a transitional era.
No more striking example of this order of prose can be found than some of the production's of Mr. Swinburne, as his “Victor Hugo,” “Study of Shakespeare," and "Miscellaneous Essays,” it being especially noticeable here, that this very prose which is so poetical is critical prose, in which we would expect to find the least possible expression of the verse quality.
So, at the other extreme, we note an order of poetry that may be called-Prose Poetry, as illustrated in much of the verse of Pope, Cowper, Thomson, Akenside, Pollock, Rogers and Tupper -a type of verse that is so didactic as to raise the