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eminence, whom I have found it so delightful to must have been acknowledged for earnestness in read in, or so tedious to read through. Give me the greater question, might have been mistaken Chaucer in preference. He slaps us on the for captiousness in the less. His partisans, no shoulder, and makes us spring up while the dew one of whom probably ever read Chaucer, would is on the grass, and while the long shadows play be indignant at your preference. They would about it in all quarters. We feel strong with the wonder, but hardly with the same violence of freshness round us, and we return with a keener emotion, that he was preferred to Shakspeare. appetite, having such a companion in our walk. Perhaps his countrymen in his own age, which Among the English poets, both on this side and rarely happens to literary men overshadowingly the other side of Milton, I place him next to great, had glimpses of his merit. One would Shakspeare; but the word next, must have naturally think that a personage of Camden's nothing to do with the word near. I said before, gravity, and placed beyond the pale of poetry, that I do not estimate so highly as many do the might have spoken less contemptuously of some mushrooms that sprang up in a ring under the he lived among, in his admiration of Chaucer. great oak of Arden.
He tells us both in prose and verse, by implicaSouthey. These authors deal in strong distilla- tion, how little he esteemed Shakspeare. Speaktions for foggy minds that want excitement. In ing of Chaucer, he says, “ he, surpassing all others, few places is there a great depth of sentiment, but without question, in wit, and leaving our smattereverywhere vast exaggeration and insane display. ing poetasters by many leagues behind him, I find the over-crammed curiosity-shop, with its
· Jam monte potitus incommodious appendages, some grotesquely rich, Ridet anhelantem dura ad fastigia turbam."" all disorderly and disconnected. Rather would I find, as you would, the well-proportioned hall
, students in poetry and criticism :
Which he thus translates for the benefit of us with its pillars of right dimensions at right distances ; with its figures, some in high relief and
“ When once himself the steep-top hill had won,
At all the sort of them he laught anon, some in lower; with its statues and its busts of
To see how they, the pitch thereof to gain, glorious men and women, whom I recognise at
Puffing and blowing do climbe up in vain." first sight; and its tables of the rarest marbles and richest gems, inlaid in glowing porphyry, Nevertheless we are indebted to Camden for preand supported by imperishable bronze. Without serving the best Latin verses, and indeed the only a pure simplicity of design, without a just sub- good ones, that had hitherto been written by any ordination of characters, without a select choice of our countrymen. They were written in an age of such personages as either have interested us when great minds were attracted by greater, and or must by the power of association, without when tribute was paid where tribute was due, with appropriate ornaments laid on solid materials, no loyalty and enthusiasm. admirable poetry of the first order can exist. “ Drace! pererrati novit quem terminus orbis Porson. Well, we can not get all these things, Quem-que simul mundi vidit uterque polus,
Si taceant homines, facient te sidera notum; and we will not cry for them. Leave me rather
Bol nescit comitis immemor esse sui.” in the curiosity-shop than in the nursery. By your reference to the noble models of antiquity, Porson. A subaltern in the supplementary it is evident that those poets most value the company of the Edinburgh sharpshooters, much ancients who are certain to be among them. In prefers the slender Italians, who fill their wallets our own earlier poets, as in the earlier Italian with scraps from the doors of rich old houses. painters, we find many disproportions; but we To compare them in rank and substance with discern the dawn of truth over the depths of those on whose bounty they feed, is too silly for expression. These were soon lost sight of, and grave reprehension. But there are certain men every new comer passed further from them. I who are driven by necessity to exhibit some sore like Pietro Perugino a thousand-fold better than absurdity; it is their only chance of obtaining a Carlo Maratta, and Giotto a thousand-fold better night's lodging in the memory. than Carlo Dolce. On the same principle, the Southey. Send the Ismaelite back again to his daybreak of Chaucer is pleasanter to me than the desert. He has indeed no right to complain of hot dazzling noon of Byron.
you ; for there are scarcely two men of letters at Southey. I am not confident that we ever speak whom he has not cast a stone, although he met quite correctly of those who differ from us essen- them far beyond the tents and the pasturage of tially in taste, in opinion, or even in style. If his tribe ; and leave those poets also ; and return we cordially wish to do it, we are apt to lay a to consider attentively the one, much more restraint on ourselves, and to dissemble a part of original, on whom we began our discourse. our convictions.
Porson. Thank you.
I have lain in ditches Porson. An error seldom committed.
ere now, but not willingly, nor to contemplate Southey. Sometimes, however. I for example the moon, nor to gather celandine. I am reluctdid not expose in my criticisms half the blemishes ant to carry a lantern in quest of my man, and I discovered in the style and structure of Byron's am but little contented to be told that I may find poetry, because I had infinitely more to object him at last, if I look long enough and far enough. against the morals it disseminated ; and what One who exhibits no sign of life in the duration
of a single poem, may at once be given up to the composed and complacent upon the cool clear undertaker.
eminence, and hears within himself, amid the Southey. It would be fairer in you to regard calm he has created, the tuneful pæan of a godthe aim and object of the poet, when he tells you like victory. Yet he loves the Virtue more what it is, than to linger in those places where he because he fought for her than because she appears to disadvantage.
crowned him. The scholar who has deducted Porson. My oil and vinegar are worth more from adolescence many hours of recreation, and, than the winter cabbage you have set before me, instead of indulging in it, has embarked in the and are ill spent upon it. In what volume of depths of literature; he who has left his own periodical criticism do you not find it stated, land far behind him, and has carried off rich that the aim of an author being such or such, the stores of Greek; not only values it superlatively, only question is whether he has attained it? Now, as is just, but places all those who wrote in it instead of this being the only question to be too nearly on a level one with another, and the solved, it is pretty nearly the one least worthy of inferior of them above some of the best moderns. attention. We are not to consider whether a Porson. Dignity of thought arose from the foolish man has succeeded in a foolish undertak. Athenian form of government, propriety of ex. ing; we are to consider whether his production pression from the genius of the language, from is worth anything, and why it is, or why it is the habitude of listening daily to the most elanot? Your cook, it appears, is disposed to fry borate orations and dramas, and of contemplating me a pancake ; but it is not his intention to sup at all hours the exquisite works of art, invited to ply me with lemon juice and sugar. Pastiness them by gods and heroes. These environed the and flatness are the qualities of a pancake, and aspiring young poet, and their chasteness allowed thus far he has attained his aim ; but if he means him no swerving. it for me, let him place the accessaries on the Southey. Yet weakly children were born to table, lest what is insipid and clammy, and (as Genius in Attica as elsewhere. housewives with great propriety call it) sad, grow Porson. They were exposed and died. The into duller accretion and inerter viscidity the Greek poets, like nightingales, sing “in shadiest more I masticate it. My good Mr. Southey, do covert hid ;" you rarely catch a glimpse of the not be offended at these homely similies. Socrates person, unless at a funeral or a feast, or where uses no other in the pages of the stately Plato; the occasion is public. Mr. Wordsworth, on the they are all, or nearly all, borrowed from the contrary, strokes down his waistcoat, hems gently artisan and the trader. I have plenty of every first, then hoarsely, then impatiently, rapidly, sort at hand, but I always take the most applica- and loudly. You turn your eyes, and see more ble, quite indifferent to the smartness and glossi- of the showman than of the show. I do not com. ness of its trim. If you prefer one from another plain of this; I only make the remark. quarter, I would ask, where is the advantage of Southey. I dislike such comparisons and similies. drilling words for verses, when the knees of those It would have been better had you said he stands verses are so weak that they can not march from forth in sharp outline, and is, as the moon was the parade?
said to be, without an atmosphere. Southey. Flatnesses are more apparent to us in Porson. Stop there. I discover more atmoour language than in another, especially than in sphere than moon. You are talking like a poet; Latin and Greek. Beside, we value things pro- I must talk like a grammarian. And here I am portionally to the trouble they have given us in reminded I found in his grammar but one prothe acquisition. Hence, in some measure, the noun, and that is the pronoun I. He can devise importance we assign to German poetry. The no grand character, and indeed no variety of meaning of every word, with all its affinities and smaller : his own image is reflected from floor to relations, pursued with anxiety and caught with roof in every crystallisation of the chilly cavern. difficulty, impresses the understanding, sinks Heshakes us with no thunder of anger; he leads deep into the memory, and carries with it more us into no labyrinth of love ; we lament on the than a column of our own, in which equal thought stormy shore no Lycidas of his; and even the is expended, and equal fancy is displayed. The Phillis who meets us at her cottage-gate, is not Germans have among them many admirable Phillis the neat-handed. Byron has likewise poets ; but if we had even greater, ours would been censured for egoism, and the censure is seem smaller, both because there is less haziness applicable to him nearly in the same degree. about them, and because, as I said before, they But so laughable a story was never told of Byron would have given less exercise to the mind. He as the true and characteristical one related of who has accumulated by a laborious life more your neighbour, who, being invited to read in than a sufficiency for its wants and comforts, company a novel of Scott's, and finding at the turns his attention to the matter gained, often commencement a quotation from himself, totally times without a speculation at the purposes to forgot the novel, and recited his own poem from which he might apply it. The man who early beginning to end, with many comments and more in the day has overcome, by vigilance and coinmendations. Yours are quite gratuitous ; restraint, the strong impulses of his blood toward for it is reported of him that he never was heard intemperance, falls not into it after, but stands to commend the poetry of any living author.
Southey. Because he is preparing to discharge mination : but Mr. Wordsworth has got into the the weighty debt he owes posterity. Instead of same habit on whatever he writes. Whortleberries wasting his breath on extraneous praises, we never are neither the better nor the worse for extending have been seated five minutes in his company, the hard slenderness of their fibres, at random and before he regales us with those poems of his own, riotingly, over their native wastes ; we care not how which he is the most apprehensive may have much of such soil is covered with such insipidislipped from our memory; and he delivers them ties; but we value that fruit more highly which with such a summer murmur of fostering modu- requires some warmth to swell, and some science lation as would perfectly delight you.
and skill to cultivate it. To descend from metaPorson. My horse is apt to shy when I hang phor: that is the best poetry which, by its own him at any door where he catches the sound of a powers, produces the greatest and most durable ballad;
and I run out to seize bridle and mane, emotion on generous, well-informed, and elevated and grow the alerter at mounting.
minds. It often happens that what belongs to Southey. Wordsworth has now turned from the the subject is attributed to the poet. Tenderness, ballad style to the philosophical.
melancholy, and other affections of the soul, atPorson. The philosophical, I suspect, is anta-tract us toward him who represents them to us; gonist to the poetical.
and while we hang upon his neck, we are ready Southey. Surely never was there a spirit more to think him stronger than he is. No doubt, it philosophical than Sbakspeare's.
is very natural that the wings of the Muse should Porson. True, but Shakspeare infused it into seem to grow larger the nearer they come to the living forms, adapted to its reception. He did ground ! Such is the effect, I presume, of our not puff it out incessantly from his own person, English atmosphere! But if Mr. Wordsworth bewildering you in the mazes of metaphysics, and should at any time become more popular, it will swamping you in sententiousness. After all our be owing in great measure to your authority and argumentation, we merely estimate poets by their patronage ; and I hope that, neither in health energy, and not extol them for a congeries of nor in sickness, he will forget his benefactor. piece on piece, sounding of the hammer all day Southey. However that may be, it would be unlong, but obstinately unmalleable into unity and becoming and base in me to suppress an act of cohesion.
justice toward hin withholding my testimony in Southey. I can not well gainsay it. But pray his behalf when he appeals to the tribunal of the remember the subjects of that poetry in Burns public. The reader who can discover no good or and Scott which you admire the most. What is indeed no excellent poetry in his manifold promartial must be the most soul-stirring.
ductions, must have lost the finer part of his senses. Porson. Sure enough, Mr. Wordsworth's is Porson. And he who fancies he has found it in neither martial nor mercurial. On all subjects all or in most of them, is just as happy as if his of poetry, the soul should be agitated in one way senses were entire. A great portion of his comor other. Now did he ever excite in you any positions is not poetry, but only the plasma or strong emotion? He has had the best chance matrix of poetry, which has something of the with me; for I have soon given way to him; and same colour and material, but wants the brilliancy he has sung me asleep with his lullabies. It is in and solidity. our dreams that things look brightest and fairest, Southey. Acknowledge at least, that what puriand we have the least control over our affections. fies the mind elevates it also; and that he does it.
Souhey. You cannot but acknowledge that the Porson. Such a result may be effected at a poetry which is strong enough to support, as his small expenditure of the poetical faculty, and indoes, a wide and high superstructure of morality, deed without any. But I do not say that he has is truly beneficial and admirable. I do not say none, or that he has little; I only say, and I stake that utility is the first aim of poetry; but I do my credit on it, that what he has is not of the say that good poetry is none the worse for being higher order. This is proved beyond all contronseful ; and that his is good in many parts, and versy by the effect it produces. The effect of the useful in nearly all.
higher poetry is excitement; the effect of the infePorson. An old woman who rocks a cradle in rior is composure. I lay down a general princi. a chimney-corner, may be more useful than the ple, and I leave to others the application of it, joyous girl who wafts my heart before her in the to-day, to-morrow, and in time to come. Little waltz, or holds it quivering in the bonds of har- would it benefit me or you to take a side; and mony; but I happen to have no relish for the old still less to let the inanimate raise animosity in woman, and am ready to dip my fork into the us. There are partisans in favour of a poet, and little well-garnished agro-dolce. It is inhuman oppositionists against him ; just as there are in to quarrel with ladies and gentlemen who are regard to candidates for a seat in Parliament; easily contented; that is, if you will let them and the vociferations of the critics and of the pohave their own way; it is inhuman to snatch a pulace are equally loud, equally inconsiderate and childish book from a child, for whom it is better insane. The unknown candidate and the unread than a wise one. If diffuseness is pardonable poet has alike a mob at his heels, ready to swear anywhere, we will pardon it in Lyrical Ballads, and fight for him. The generosity which the passing over the conceited silliness of the deno-political mob shows in one instance, the critical
mob shows in the other: when a man has been Southey. It is easier to show that he has bitten fairly knocked down, it raises him on the knee, it through, and made it unfit for curing. He may and cheers him as cordially as it would the most expect to be pelted for it. triumphant. Let similar scenes be rather our Porson. In cutting up a honeycomb, we are amusement than our business ; let us wave our sure to bring flies and wasps about us: but my hats, and walk on without a favour in them. slipper is enough to crush fifty at a time, if a flap
Southey. Be it our business, and not for one of the glove fails to frighten them off. The honeyday, but for life,“ to raise up them that fall” by comb must be cut up, to separate the palatable undue violence. The beauties of Wordsworth are from the unpalatable; the hive we will restore to not to be looked for among the majestic ruins the cottager; the honey we will put in a cool and under the glowing skies of Greece: we must place for those it may agree with; and the wax find them out, like primroses, amid dry thickets, we will attempt to purify, rendering it the mate rank grass, and withered leaves; but there they rial of a clear and steady light to our readers. are ; and there are tufts and clusters of them. Well ! I have rinsed my mouth of the poetry. There may be a chilliness in the air about them, This is about the time I take my ptisan. Be so there may be a faintness, a sickliness, a poverty in kind, Mr. Southey, as to give me that bottle the scent; but I am sorry and indignant to see which you will find under the bed. Yes, yes ; them trampled on.
that is it; there is no mistake. Porson. He who tramples on rocks is in danger Southey. It smells like brandy. of breaking his shins; and he who tramples on Porson, (drinks twice.) I suspect you may be sand or sawdust, loses his labour. Between us, in the right, Mr. Southey. Let me try it against we may keep up Mr. Wordsworth in his right the palate once more; just one small half-glass. position. If we set anything on an uneven basis, Ah! my hand shakes sadly! I am afraid it was a it is liable to fall off; and none the less liable for bumper. Really now, I do think, Mr. Southey, the thing being high and weighty.
you guessed the right reading. I have scarcely a Southey. The axiom is sound.
doubt left upon my mind. But in a fever, or Porson. Cleave it in two, and present the first barely off it, the mouth is woefully out of taste. If half to Mr. Wordsworth. Let every man have ever your hand shakes, take my word for it, this is his due : divide the mess fairly: not according to the only remedy. The ptisan has done me good the voracity of the labourer, but according to the already. Albertus Magnus knew most about these work. And (God love you) never let old women matters. I hate the houses, Mr. Southey, where poke me with their knitting-pins, if I recommend it is as easy to find the way out as the way in. them, in consideration of their hobbling and Curse upon the architect who contrives them! wheezing, to creep quietly on by the level side of Southey. Your friends will be happy to hear Mr. Wordsworth's lead-mines, slate-quarries, and from me that you never have been in better tarns, leaving me to scramble as I can among the spirits, or more vivacious and prompt in converAlpine inequalities of Milton and of Shakspeare. sation. Come now; in all the time we have been walking
Porson. Tell them that Silenus can still bridle together at the side of the lean herd you are driv- and mount an ass, and guide him gloriously. ing to market,
Come and visit me when I am well again ; and I “ Can you make it appear
promise you the bottles shall diminish and the The dog Porson has ta'en the wrong sow by the ear?" lights increase, before we part.
DEMOSTHENES AND EUBULIDES*. Eubulides. You have always convinced me, O Eubulides. In your language, O Demosthenes, Demosthenes, while you were speaking; but I had there is, I think, a resemblance to the Kephisos, afterward need to be convinced again ; and I whose waters, as you must have observed, are in acknowledge that I do not yet believe in the most seasons pure and limpid and equable in necessity, or indeed in the utility, of a war with their course, yet abounding in depths of which, Philip.
when we discern the bottom, we wonder that we Demosthenes. He is too powerful.
discern it so clearly: the same river at every Eubulides. This is my principal reason for storm swells into a torrent, without ford or recommending that we should abstain from hos- boundary, and is the stronger and the more tilities. When you have said that he is too power- impetuous from resistance. ful, you have admitted that we are too weak : we Demosthenes. Language is part of a man's chaare still bleeding from the Spartan.
racter. Demosthenes. Whatever I could offer in reply, Eubulides. It often is artificial. O Eubulides, I have already spoken in public, and Demosthenes. Often both are. I speak not of I would rather not enlarge at present on it. Come, such language as that of Gorgias and Isocrates tell me freely what you think of my speech. and other rhetoricians, but of that which belongs
* A philosopher of Miletus and a dramatic poet : Demos- to eloquence, of that which enters the heart howthenes is said to have been his scholar.
ever closed against it, of that which pierces like
the sword of Perseus, of that which carries us is fed incessantly by the fuel of slavish dealoft and easily as Medea her children, and holds sires, blown by fulsome breath and fanned by the world below in the same suspense.
cringing follies. It melts mankind into one inert Eubulides. When I had repeated in the morn- mass, carrying off and confounding and consuming to Cynobalanos part of a conversation I held ing all beneath it, like a torrent of Ætnean lava, with you the evening before, word for word, my bright amid the darkness, and dark again amid memory being very exact, as you know, and especi- the light. ally in retaining your phrases, he looked at me with Eubuliles. O for Cynobalanos ! how would he a smile on his countenance, and said, “Pardon me, stare and lift up his shoulders at this torrent. O Eubulides, but this surely is not the language Demosthenes. He never can have seen me but of Demosthenes.” In reality, you had then, as in the Agora; and I do not carry a full purse into you often do when we are alone together, given the crowd. Thither I go with a tight girdle round way to your genius, and had hazarded an exuber- my body : in the country I walk and wander ance of thought, imagination, and expression, about discinct. How I became what I am, you which delighted and transported me. For there know as well as I do. I was to form a manner, was nothing idle, nothing incorrect, but much with great models on one side of me, and nature both solid and ornamental; as those vases and on the other. Had I imitated Plato (the writer tripods are which the wealthy and powerful offer then most admired) I must have fallen short of to the gods.
his amplitude and dignity; and his sentences are Demosthenes. Cynobalanos is a sensible man, seldom such as could be admitted into a popular and conversant in style ; but Cynobalanos never harangue. Xenophon is elegant, but unimpashas remarked that I do not wear among my sioned, and not entirely free, I think, from affecfriends at table the same short dress I put on for tation. Herodotus is exempt from it: what the bema. A more sweeping train would be simplicity! what sweetness ! what harmony ! not trodden down, and the wearer not listened to, to mention his sagacity of inquiry and his accubut laughed at. Look into the field before you. racy of description. He could not however form See those anemones, white, pink, and purple, an orator for the times in which we live; nor fluttering in the breeze; and those other flowers, indeed is vigour a characteristic or a constituent whatever they are, with close-knotted spiral blos- of his style. I profited more from Isæus, from soms, in the form of a thyrsus. Some of both the study of whose writings, and attendance on species rise above the young barley, and are very whose pleadings, I acquired greater strength, pretty; but the farmer will root them out as a compression, and concentration. Aristoteles and blemish to his cultivation, and unprofitable in Thucydides were before me: I trembled lest they sustaining his family. In such a manner must should lead me where I might raise a recollection
We treat the undergrowth of our thoughts, pleas- of Pericles, whose plainness and conciseness and ! ing as they may be at their first appearance in the gravity they imitated, not always with success.
spring of life. One fellow thinks himself like Laying down these qualities as the foundation, Demosthenes, because he employs the same move I have ventured on more solemnity, more passion : ment of the arms and body: another, for no I have also been studious to bring the powers of better reason than because he is vituperative, action into play, that great instrument in excitacrid, and insolent, and, before he was hissed and ing the affections which Pericles disdained. He hooted from the Agora, had excited the populace and Jupiter could strike any head with their by the vehemence of his harangues. But you, thunderbolts, and stand serene and immovable; who know the face and features of Demosthenes, I could not. his joints and muscles and whole conformation, Eubulides. Your opinion of Pericles hath always know that nature hath separated this imitative been the same, but I have formerly heard you animal most widely from him.
mention Plato with much less esteem than to-day. Eubulides. Mischievous as an ape, noisy as a Demosthenes. When we talk diversely of the lap dog, and restless as a squirrel, he runs along same person or thing, we do not of necessity talk to the extremity of every twig, leaps over from inconsistently. There is much in Plato which a party to party, and, shaken off from all, creeps wise man will commend; there is more that will under the throne at Pella.
captivate an unwise one. The irony in his DiaDemosthenes. Philip is the fittest ruler for his logues has amused me frequently and greatly, and own people, but he is better for anyone else to the more because in others I have rarely found it dine with than to act or think with. His con- accompanied with fancy and imagination. If I versation is far above the kingly: it is that of an however were to become a writer of dialogues, I urbane companion, of a scholar, I was going to should be afraid of using it constantly, often as say of a philosopher, I will say more, of a sound I am obliged to do it in my orations. Woe betide unwrangling reasoner, of a plain, intelligent, and those who force us into it by injustice and preintelligible man. But those qualities, not being sumption! Do they dare to censure us? they glaring, do not attract to him the insects from who are themselves the dust that sullies the wing without. Even the wise become as the unwise in of genius. Had I formed my opinion of Socrates the enchanted chambers of Power, whose lamps from Plato, I should call Socrates a sophist. Who make every face of the same colour. Royalty would imagine on reading Plato, that his master,