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The men of the succeeding century (the fifteenth), felt that they could not rival their predecessors in invention, but might excel them in execution. Original thoughts belonging to this century are comparatively rare; even Raphael and Michael Angelo themselves borrowed all their principal ideas and plans of pictures from their predecessors; but they executed them with a precision up to that time unseen. You must understand by the word “drawing,” the perfect rendering of forms, whether in sculpture or painting; and then remember the fifteenth century as the age of Leonardo, Michael Angelo, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Raphael,—pre-eminently the age of Drawing.
The sixteenth century produced the four greatest Painters, that is to say, managers of color, that the world has seen; namely, Tintoret, Paul Veronese, Titian, and Correggio. I need not say more to justify my calling it the age of Painting.
“Poetry is the expression of the beautiful—by words—the beautiful o the outer and the inner world; whatever is delectable to the eye or the ear the every sense of the body and of the soul—it presides over veras dulcedines rerum. It implies at once a vision and a faculty, a gift and an art. A thought may be poetical, and yet not poetry; it may be a solution containing the poetical element, but waiting and wanting the precipitation of it, the crystallization of it.”—North British Review
I AM writing at a window which commands a view of the head of the Lake of Geneva; and as I look up from my paper, I see, beyond it, a blue breadth of softly moving water, and the outline of the mountains above Chillon, bathed in morn. ing mist. The first verses which naturally come into my mind are—
“A thousand feet in depth below
Det us see in what manner this poetical statement is distin. guished from a historical one.
It is distinguished from a truly historical statement, first, in being simply false. The water under the castle of Chillon is not a thousand feet deep, nor anything like it.” Herein, certainly, these lines fulfil Reynolds's first requirement in poetry, “that it should be inattentive to literal truth and minute exactness in detail.” In order, however, to make our comparison more closely in other points, let us assume that what is stated is indeed a fact, and that it was to be recorded, first historically, and then poetically.
* “MM. Mallet et Pictet, se trouvant sur le lac auprès du château de Chillon, le 6 Août, 1774, plongèrent à la profondeur de 312 pieds de un thermomètre,” &c.—SAUSSURE, Voyages dans les Alpes, chap. ii. § 33. It appears from the next paragraph, that the thermometer was “au fond du lac."
Historically stating it, then, we should say: “The lake was sounded from the walls of the castle of Chillon, and found to be a thousand feet deep.”
Now, if Reynolds be right in his idea of the difference between history and poetry, we shall find that Byron leaves out of this statement certain unnecessary details, and retains only the invariable,—that is to say, the points which the Lake of Geneva and castle of Chillon have in common with all other lakes and castles.
Let us hear, therefore.
“A thousand feet in depth below.”
“Below?” Here is, at all events, a word added (instead of anything being taken away); invariable, certainly in the case of lakes, but not absolutely necessary.
“The massy waters meet and flow.”
“Massy !” why massy? Because deep water is heavy. The word is a good word, but it is assuredly an added detail, and expresses a character, not which the Lake of Geneva has in common with all other lakes, but which it has in distinction from those which are narrow or shallow.
“Meet and flow.” Why meet and flow? Partly to make up a rhyme; partly to tell us that the waters are forceful as well as massy, and changeful as well as deep. Observe, a farther addition of details, and of details more or less peculiar to the spot, or, according to Reynolds's definition, of “heavy matter, retarding the progress of the imagination.”
“So far the fathom line was sent.”
Why fathom line? All lines for sounding are not fathom