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vour to supply, in a very general way, the chasm in my last lecture between Pope and Cowper. Before proceeding to the chief subject of the present lecture, I wish to dispose in as short a space of some of the omitted subjects. The influence of Pope's poetry, or rather that school of poetry which began with Dryden and was completed by Pope, was unquestionably injurious on all the writers who came within its reach. It reduced poetry to mere versification, and thus, in the hands of pupils who were deficient in the natural powers of the masters, it became mechanical,—a thing of sound, and little else. Besides, the ear was habituated but to one fashion of sound; for Dryden and Pope had spent almost their whole effort upon one form of verse,_the rhyming couplet of the ten-syllable line. They had set English poetry to one tune in the position of its pauses and the balanced succession of the notes, so that every puny versifier could give; if not the same music, at least a very good echo of it. It became a kind of hand-organ operation, in which one hand could grind out the sounds nigh as well as another. Besides this levelling faculty, listening almost exclusively to one fashion of metrical sounds, the ear lost its power of receiving other metres. With the incessant, unrelieved tinkling of the heroic rhyming couplet, the sense of poetical music grew deaf to the richer and varied harmonies in which the elder poets had taken such delight and exhibited such manifold power both in the language and in themselves. The melody of Shakspeare's admirable dramatic blank verse, and the equally appropriate epic blank verse, and the variety of versifications in his smaller poems, ceased to be appreciated; and, when Pope is extolled as having brought verse to perfection, it is forgotten

MO NOTO NY OF POP E” S W ER SE. 11

that there is a multitude of other metrical constructions besides that on which he relied. Indeed, when he departed from the one tune he played so sweetly, in other measures he failed egregiously; for, when attempting an unwonted lyrical strain in honour of St. Cecilia, to whom certainly his best music was due, the strain he uttered was one from which the saint herself could scarce have extracted melody; and in that much overrated ode, “The Dying Christian to his Soul,” the sound of the verses is at once poor and inappropriate, falling greatly below the solemnity of the subject. But the imitators of Pope risked few such experiments, and followed their model in that species of verse in which he had been so successful that they were willing to consider it the chief and best of English measure, if not the only one worth cultivating. Prosperous as both Dryden and Pope had been in establishing each in his day, and though there have been critics who have praised that species of poetry as the highest order of poetry, it is a school in which not one poet of eminence has risen. In fact, it died with Pope; for, when carried to its legitimate results, it then became obvious how much nature had been sacrificed to art, and how, sooner or later, the heart of the nation craved that nature should be brought home to enjoy her own again. The truth was told in some lines by Dryden :

“There is music, uninformed by art,
In those wild notes which, with a merry heart,
The birds in unfrequented shades express,
Who, better taught at home, yet please us less.”

Giving to Pope all praise for skill as a versifier in one form of verse, I cannot but consider his metrical powers as greatly overrated, when I remember how limited they were in their application. Indeed, it seems to me conclusive of the sinking of English poetry during that period, that its music was monotonous. The Muse had given up many of her grandest and sweetest notes. Artificial poetical composition needs but a limited set of metres, like a musical instrument with its certain range of keys. But true poetry has its hundred, its unnumbered voices, like nature. The poet needs them all: each one in its true time is ready in his service. How narrow must the scope of poetry have grown when, as with the poets and critics of a considerable part of the eighteenth century, the high-wrought, one-toned verse of Pope attained such exaggerated and exclusive favour! It has not been so with the greatest of our poets; and it is indeed one proof of their greatness that there were perpetually rising, in their spirits, imaginations and thoughts and passions each naturally seeking and finding utterance in varied and appropriate measure. When calling quickly to my memory the vast variety of English metres, the compass of instrumental music seems an inadequate parallel to the many-toned voice of Poetry. I would find it rather in the multitudinous Sounds of nature herself

“For terror, joy, or pity,
Wast is the compass and the swell of notes;
From the babe's first cry, to voice of regal city,
Rolling a solemn sea-like bass, that floats
Far as the woodlands, with the trill to blend
Of that shy songstress whose love-tale
Might tempt an angel to descend
While hovering o'er the moonlight-vale;
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The heavens, whose aspect makes our minds as still
As they themselves appear to be,

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Innumerable voices fill
With everlasting harmony; -
The towering headlands, crowned with mist,
Their feet among the billows, know
That Ocean is a mighty harmonist;
Thy pinions, universal air,
Ever waving to and fro,
Are delegates of harmony, and bear
Strains that support the seasons in their round:
Stern winter loves a dirge-like sound.”

Turn to the pages of Pope or of his imitators: the sound comes like the melody from a well-tuned and well-touched musical instrument; but when you listen, with an ear well cultivated by the study of the metrical combination and flow of words, to the measured music that may be heard, either sensibly or imaginatively, from the pages of the greater poets, the sound comes with the touching and ever-varied harmony of nature, at one time with the loud voice of the stormy wind, again with the soothing murmur of a breeze blowing through the tops of pine-trees; at one time with surges like ocean angry and enchafed, again like the ripples of a lake or river touching the sides of an anchored ship, or the gentle sounds of a running brook.

I notice this subject of versification because the merits of Pope in this department have been, I think, exaggerated in a manner injurious to English poetry, as superseding its noblest and most varied metres. A style of versification was introduced which fascinated the ear, because the tune, though soon monotonous, was not only smooth but marked. If the ear once content itself with this form, it is apt to neglect that cultivation which is essential for the enjoyment of the finest poetical melody in the language. It was a sign of the coming regeneration of English poetry when some appeared who sought other forms of verse than that one which Pope had bequeathed to his imitators. Simultaneous with this was a returning sense of what was due to nature, an evident desire to quit the path which had been so artificially cut and beaten. Pope's immediate followers had pushed the system to its limits; and readers began at last to ask themselves whether something else was not wanted besides polished language, verse of an unrelieved smoothness, and a certain perpetually-recurring assortment of images, which had become so much the traditional property of the versifiers that a writer could set himself in the business, as any tradesman might supply himself with his stock in trade. People were growing weary of hearing nothing but cold mythological personifications. They scarcely ventured to say so; but, for all that, it was a relief to hear the sun called by his simple almanac-name instead of the loftier prescriptive title of Phoebus. The moon had been known only as Diana. Naiads were as plenty in every watercourse as fish. Dryads were as common as birds; and every west wind that blew, whether it was “the sweet south or the blustering northwester, was a gentle zephyr.” The versifiers who took Pope for their model were like the artists who illustrated his poems by carrying the system out to all its consequences. In one of the early editions of his poems there is an engraving prefixed to the “Essay on Criticism,” representing some venerable ancient introducing Pope, the little Queen Anne's poet, wrapped in a Roman toga, to the nine Muses, who are seated by the side of a kind of creek, clad in the usual amount of clothing deemed appropriate to the com

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