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Poetry is popular because it ministers to personal pleasure, its office being entertainment rather than discipline or instruction. It is so widely read because it is so thoroughly readable.
It is at this point that we meet one of the most radical differences between verse and prose, in that what is primary in the one-pleasure—is secondary in the other, and hence, the importance of emphasizing, as far as possible, any relation of helpfulness that may exist between them,-prose contributing to poetry some of its more stable and substantial qualities, while it, in turn, receives from poetry something of its lighter, more facile and attractive features. While insisting, throughout, that the didactic element is and should be the prominent one in prose style, it is still in place to press the claims of the popular element, especially in view of the growing tendency to make our prose writing too scientific, abstract and unreadable. Prose and poetry are alike in this respect—that they are written to be read, and fail of their respective purpose, in so far as they are difficult of reading. Popular prose, we submit, should not be confined to journalism, fiction and miscellany, but should have a much fuller expression than it now has in all the higher spheres of prose-in history and biography; in philosophy and criticism, and even in logical dissertation and discussion. Macaulay is none the less to be admired as an historian, nor Masson as a biographer, nor . Descartes as a philosophical author, nor Lowell as
a critic, because, in their respective writings, they are readable and evince the popular elements of authorship. In fact, much of their superiority in these departments of authorship to those who have written on similar topics lies in the fact that, with equal mental ability, they have been able to express it in more tangible and appreciable forms.
It is to be noted, just here, that while all poetry in its effect on prose is, to a degree, popularizing, the lighter forms of poetry, as seen in lyric and descriptive verse, are especially so, not excepting, of course, that division of dramatic art which comes under comedy. Here, therefore, as in the sphere of feeling, all the great lyrists of literature have a helpful mission to the writer of prose, as, also, the leading descriptive poets, such as Thomson and Cowper, Beattie and Campbell, Bryant and Whittier. To be thoroughly conversant with such poets as these is to see and appreciate that which makes their poetry pleasing, and thus to be incited to reproduce it to some extent within the sphere of prose. We gain thereby a freer play of power as authors, a somewhat lighter touch of hand, a flowing facility and scope of movement, whose effect upon our style will be liberative and healthful and go far to relieve it of any tendency to the uniform and unreadable. There is such a thing as prose license, though not so pronounced as license in verse. The writer, while substantially keeping within prescribed limits and observing the fundamental laws of prose expression, must yet be allowed and encouraged to be, at times, superior to his conditions-more unrestrained and popular, though none the less effective.
IV. The Literary Element. We are now brought to the most distinctive element of poetry, and to its most characteristic contribution to prose. It includes all that is embraced under the terms, æsthetic or artistic. It magnifies up to the fullest legitimate limit the form of verse as distinct from the subject matter, and insists that poetry, purely in its external or structural feature, has an important function to fulfil relative to all the varieties of prose expression. As the romantic school of the later Georgian era emphasized the impassioned quality of poetry, what is known as the critical or classical school of Augustan days emphasized the structure, as seen in Pope and Prior, and largely exhibited in the Modern Victorian school. In so far as Mr. Arnold has written poetry, he has done so from this point of view, and, in so far as he has given an estimate of other poets, has made his estimate dependent upon the presence or absence of this artistic feature. Keats and Gray he would rank above Byron, mainly on this principle; in that they display in a signal manner the technique of verse. Poetry, in this sense, is an art rather than an intuition or an inspiration. Verbal execution is its commanding characteristic. A poem is a some
A a thing architectural-built up after a design and
upon a well-defined method-and when finished, relatively faultless. The poet is an artist.
Conceding, as Mr. Arnold does, that there are other elements, mental and emotional, in verse, and conceding, as Mr. Arnold does not, that these have a larger place in verse than modern criticism allows, it is still correct to say, that if distinction is to be made, the most distinguishing feature of poetry is its metrical or structural feature, its specifically artistic form, so that whatever may be the indebtedness of prose to verse, as to intellectual, impassioned or popular qualities, its distinctive indebtedness is a literary one. and poetry are alike literary, poetry is more conspicuously so than prose, and while it may be obliged to borrow certain qualities from its kindred form, it is its unquestioned prerogative to minister to the prose author that type of product that we term, æsthetic.
Some of these literary qualities thus contributed to prose style may be briefly examined.
1. Beauty and Sublimity. Of these attractive characteristics, poetry, as we know, may be said to possess an especial measure. These eliminated, and poetry itself is virtually absent. Though, as a matter of theory, whatever is metrical is, thereby, constituted verse; as a matter of historical and practical moment, that only is poetry which is poctical in its nature or subject matter. In this respect-the supremacy of the sensc-poetry and prose stand on common ground, the difference being in the particular manner in which the idea is embodied and expressed. While in prose production, beauty of external form may or may not be prominent, in poetry, such a quality is radical and vital, and, in so far as it is prominent, marks the product as poetic. There is such a thing as beauty and sublimity of structure, germane to the very idea of verse, as clearness and mental vigor are germane to standard prose.
In speaking, therefore, of the relation of indebtedness of prose to verse, it is in place to state, that the element of beauty should exist, in some measure, in all acceptable writing, and that such writing is dependent for this quality especially upon verse.
The more fully they act and interact, the more fully will the æsthetic elegance of the one form pass over into the other and modify it. That ease and grace of movement which we find in such an essayist as Charles Lamb, was not due entirely to the fact that his very nature was poetic, but to his wide acquaintance with the best English verse of the time preceding him. He had so possessed himself of the meaning and inner spirit of the old English dramatists, that when he came to write prose, he wrote it with a poetic ease and naturalness, which, otherwise, he could not have evinced. This interaction is signally illustrated in those writers who have accomplished much alike in prose and verse. Whatever the effect of the prose on the verse may have been, that of the verse on the prose has been more decided and lasting. Who of us can tell how