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as imagination bodies forth
A local habitation and a name. Lowell gives an admirable concrete illustration of the difference between Fancy and Imagination when he says that Ariel is a creation of the Fancy and Prospero of the Imagination.
72-105. The vigor of this description of the rain-storm is somewhat impaired by the poet's occasional lapses into stilted phraseology. What do you think, for instance, of household feathery people’ (87)? Can you imagine Chaucer or Milton writing this? Compare the latter's description of country sights and sounds in L'Allegro, 49–68. There you see what Swift meant when he said that a good style consists in proper words in proper places. Perhaps you can find other places in these lines (72–105) where you can better the phraseology?
223-275. With this description of the snow-storm compare the beautiful opening of Whittier's Snow-Bound. Until that was written, there was nothing better on the subject than these lines of Thomson's. Both the Scotchman and the New Englander are able to interest us because their treatment is based upon Vision — that is, upon clear view and close observation. But Thomson is far inferior to Whittier in Imagination and in Human Sympathy. There is nothing in the Winter that can compare with Snow-Bound 41-65 and 100-115. the laborer ox demands The fruit of all his toils (239-241). This line, which has been 'severely criticised (why?), is almost paralleled by Whittier's
The oxen lashed their tails and hooked,
And mild reproach of hunger looked. In lines 261-263 the poet attributes to the bleating kind'an emotion of his own which they are incapable of feeling; moreover, were they in ' despair' (= utter lack of hope or expectation) they would not 'dig,' but would lie down and die. You will find this passage (223–275) furnishes an excellent Study in Epithet.
276-321. In this incident of the cottager lost in the snow we have a bit of genuine pathos, - a recollection, perhaps, of some tale that Thomson had heard when a boy among the Roxburgh hills. Deftly as the touches are laid on, we can hardly, with Christopher North, attribute sublimity (!) to the poet who introduced them, nor can we declare with that enthusiastic fellow-Scot that in this description not a word could be altered for the better. Such laudation argues a provincialism that British critics have been fond of pointing to
in the United States. Disastered. Look up the etymology of this word. shag = to roughen. This word is not uncommon in Milton and Spenser. In lines 297–302 the syntax is muddy, but you can clarify it by a careful study of the punctuation here given.
424-497 This enumeration of Greek Worthies is an evident imitation of Il Penseroso, 85-120. There is always danger for a man of talent when he tries to imitate a man of genius; Thomson's thought seems diffuse and his diction pedantic when put beside Milton's. His characterizations read like articles from the Classical Dictionary, with which they may profitably be compared. Line 456 refers to Leonidas; the haughty rival of 464 is Themistocles. The Theban pair = Epaminondas and Pelopidas. By comparing this passage (424-497) with the one immediately preceding (276– 321) you will perceive the difference between Poetry and Versified History. Thomson's sense of humor developed late in life or he might have perceived it himself.
691-759. With this description of Frost, compare that in Cowper's Winter Morning Walk, 104-168. ethereal nitre = frost. Nitre crystallizes in six-sided prisms. In the East Indies it is found on the surface of the ground. Compare lines 717-720.
Steamed (721). We must not read into this word our modern and unpoetic notions of steam as associated with intense heat and whirling engines. “To steam’in Spenser and Thomson means only to rise in vapor. But it must be confessed that in any correct sense steamed' goes badly with icy gale (723). the distant waterfall Swells in the breeze (735-6). This admirable poetic touch is but one of many in this description that it will repay you to study and verify, remembering that Poetry describes things as they seem, Science as they are.
760-777. Batavia (Holland), so called from the Batavi, a Keltic tribe who inhabited the regions around the mouth of the Rhine in the time of Cæsar.
988-1023. This description of the Thaw is quite as good as that of the Frost, - omitting Leviathan and his unwieldy train, whose clumsy gambols add nothing to the horror of the scene.
For a really poetical description of the Leviathan, see Job xli. 18–34.
1024-1046. The transition is awkward from the description of the Thaw to the Concluding Moral. Following the effects of the Thaw we should expect some reflections upon the newly awakened life of the Spring, such, for instance, as are introduced in 1041 et 599.; instead of this we are suddenly jerked back to Mid-Winter. 'Tis done! What is done? The Thaw? “No,' says the poet; not the thaw, but the work of dread Winter.' Then, in 1041, we are shot
back into Spring again. The force of dislocation could no further go. Disregarding the defective arrangement, we must confess that the portion of the conclusion here given contains some excellent lines; among these the best seems to be,
And reigns tremendous o'er the conquered year. This is, perhaps, as fine a line as Thomson ever wrote, and is one we may be glad to remember him by. Peace be to his ashes! He has shown us that in that 18th Century, so much abused for its Materialism, there lived at least one poet who was near to Nature's heart.
BORN at Lichfield, 1709. His father was a book-seller, and in his shop the boy was able to indulge his insatiable desire for reading. From 1728 to 1731 Johnson at Oxford was among the poorest of the poor, ‘stoically shut up, silently enduring the incurable,' as Carlyle puts it. He left without taking his degree, and after two unsuccessful attempts at school-teaching came to seek his fortune in London, accompanied by his friend Garrick (1737). The next year appeared his poem, London, many passages of which — especially the famous SLOW RISES WORTH BY POVERTY DEPRESSED -- reflect his own bitter experiences as a starving author. At this date, twenty-four years of literary hackwork were ahead of Johnson, during which, however, he managed to make at least one 'honest strike for fame'in his poem The Vanity of Human Wishes. His Dictionary, his Rambler, his Rasselas, and his extraordinary conversational powers assisted him to rise to a position of literary dictatorship similar to that held in the seventeenth century by Dryden. In 1762 a small pension bestowed upon him by George III. of unblessed memory relieved him from the unjust ridicule of poverty. During the remainder of his life, he enjoyed a well-earned rest, broken only by the diversions of writing his Visit to the Hebrides and his Lives of the Poets. On this last-named work, it appears that Johnson's reputation as a prose-writer will chiefly rest.
Like to Achilles without his Homer, like to Æneas without his Vergil, like to Henry V. without his Shakespeare - such would Johnson have been to us without his Boswell. From 1763, when Boswell met Johnson, till 1784, when Johnson died, the daily walk and conversation of the great man have been preserved for us in those incomparable sketches which are at once the joy and the despair of all other biographers. To the reading of Boswell we might apply Hazlitt's description of the reading of a good comedy — it is like keeping the best company, where the best things are said and the most amusing things happen.
FRIENDS — Garrick, Burke, Goldsmith, Boswell, Reynolds, Robertson, Gibbon, Richardson.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. LIFE AND TIMES.- The best edition of Boswell is that by G. Birbeck Hill (Clarendon Press, 6 vols.). The same editor has also published The Letters of Samuel Johnson (excluding those published in Boswell) and a volume entitled Dr. Johnson, His Friends and his Critics.
A large portion of Leslie Stephen's Johnson (E. M. L.) is a condensation of Boswell, whose‘best things' are skilfully selected. Hawthorne's Our Old Home contains a charming account of his visit to Lichfield, Johnson's birth-place, and
to Uttoxeter, where Johnson did penance in the market-place. For the social life of the times, see Thackeray's Virginians and his George III. in The Four Georges. For the History, Green, Chapter X. Secs. 1-2.
CRITICISM.— The best criticism on Johnson has fortunately been brought together within the compass of a single volume by Matthew Arnold. His Johnson's Chief Lives has appended to it Macaulay's and Carlyle's Essays on Boswell's Johnson. Macaulay gives us the man Johnson objectively and materially, Carlyle gives us Johnson subjectively and spiritually. Not the least interesting thing in this book is Arnold's own preface, with his high estimate of Johnson as a prose-writer and his Lacustrine inability to see anything but 'mistaken poetical practice' in the eighteenth century poets.
THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES. This poem was published in 1749 and is imitated from the Tenth Satire of Juvenal (see Gifford's translation), as is the London from Juvenal's Third Satire. The diction and the constructions in the second poem are more highly Latinized than in the first; the thought is mellower and the tone more resigned.
I-10. Notice the curious tautology in lines 1-2. Survey (2), Remark (3), watch (4), and say (5) are all infinitives depending upon Let (1). Whitney, $$ 449, 477.
Snares is hardly a good metaphor with clouded.
The clauses beginning with How in 10 and 13 repeat the construction of line 5. Later in the poem the writer gives concrete illustrations of some of the general propositions here advanced.
21-28. the general massacre of gold = the general massacre which the desire for wealth causes. Wide wasting pest! The thought and the phraseology in this passage are less from Juvenal than from Vergil, Æneid iii. 56–7.
Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
29-36. madded, an obsolete form for • maddened.' In line 31, notice the abstractness of the diction. This use of abstract terms is so frequent in Johnson as to amount to a mannerism. Yet he can write very plain strong English when he wants to; see lines 33, 62, 78, 221. the Tow'r = the Tower of London, long used as a state prison.
37-44. The needy traveller, serene and gay, Walks the wide heath, and sings his toil away. A most happy rendering of one of Juvenal's most famous lines : ‘Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator.' Increase ; i.e., If you increase his riches you destroy his peace.
45-72. Democritus; notice the accent of this word as determined