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1. 12 the mountain nymph; compare Wordsworth's Sonnet, No. ccx. L. 33 is in apposition to the preceding, by a grammatical license not uncommon with Milton.
1. 1 tells his tale: counts his flock. Cynosure (1. 14) the Pole Star. Corydon, Thyrsis &c.: Shepherd names from the old Idylls.
1. 24 Jonson's learned sock:-the gaiety of our age would find little pleasure in his elaborate comedies. L. 28 Lydian airs: a light and festive style of ancient music.
1. 3 bestead: avail. L. 19 starr'd Ethiop queen: Cassiopeia, the legendary Queen of Ethiopia, and thence translated amongst the constellations.
1. 29 Cynthia the Moon: her chariot is drawn by dragons in ancient representations.
1. 16 Hermes, called Trismegistus, a mystical writer of the Neo-Platonist school. L. 27 Thebes &c.: subjects of Athenian Tragedy. Buskin'd (1., 30) tragic. L. 32 Musaeus: a poet in Mythology. L. 37 him that left half told. Chaucer, in his incomplete 'Squire's Tale.' 1. 2 great bards: Ariosto, Tasso, and Spenser, are here intended. L. 9 frounced: curled. The Attic Boy (1. 10) Cephalus.
100 CXIV Emigrants supposed to be driven towards America by the government of Charles I.
1. 9, 10 But apples, &c. A fine example of Marvell's imaginative hyperbole.
1. 6 concent: harmony.
Summary of Book Third
IT is more difficult to characterize the English Poetry of the eighteenth century than that of any other. For it was an age not only of spontaneous transition, but of bold experiment: it includes not only such divergences of thought as distinguish the Rape of the Lock' from the 'Parish Register,' but such vast contemporaneous differences as lie between Pope and Collins, Burns and Cowper. Yet we may clearly trace three leading moods or tendencies:-the aspects of courtly or educated life represented by Pope and carried to exhaustion by his followers; the poetry of Nature and of Man, viewed through a cultivated, and at the same time an impassioned frame of mind by Collins and Gray:-lastly, the study of vivid and simple narrative, including natural description, begun by Gay and Thomson, pursued by Burns and others in the north, and established in England by Goldsmith, Percy, Crabbe, and Cowper. Great varieties in style accompanied these diversities in aim: poets could not always distinguish the manner suitable for subjects so far apart; and the union of the language of courtly and of common life, exhibited most conspicuously by Burns, has given a tone to the poetry of that century which is better explained by reference to its historical origin than by
naming it, in the common criticism of our day, artificial. There is, again, a nobleness of thought, a courageous aim at high and, in a strict sense manly, excellence in many of the writers-nor can that period be justly termed tame and wanting in originality, which produced poems such as Pope's Satires, Gray's Odes and Elegy, the ballads of Gay and Carey, the songs of Burns and Cowper. In truth Poetry at this as at all times was a more or less unconscious mirror of the genius of the age and the brave and admirable spirit of Enquiry which made the eighteenth century the turning-time in European civilization is reflected faithfully in its verse. intelligent reader will find the influence of Newton as markedly in the poems of Pope, as of Elizabeth in the plays of Shakespeare. On this great subject, however, these indications must here be sufficient.
The Bard. This Ode is founded on a fable that Edward I after conquering Wales, put the native Poets to death.-After lamenting his comrades (st. 2, 3) the Bard prophesies the fate of Edward II and the conquests of Edward III (4): his death and that of the Black Prince (5): of Richard II, with the wars of York and Lancaster, the murder of Henry VI, (the meek usurper,) and of Edward V and his brother (6). He turns to the glory and prosperity following the accession of the Tudors (7), through Elizabeth's reign (8): and concludes with a vision of the poetry of Shakespeare and Milton. 113 cxxIII 1. 13 Glo'ster: Gilbert de Clare, son-in-law to Edward. Mortimer, one of the Lords Marchers of Wales.
1. 3 Arvon: the shores of Carnarvonshire opposite Anglesey. L. 25 She-wolf: Isabel of France, adulterous Queen of Edward II.
1. 16 Towers of Julius: the Tower of London, built in part, according to tradition, by Julius Caesar. L. 22 bristled boar: the badge of Richard III. L. 28 Half of thy heart: Queen Eleanor died soon after the conquest of Wales. L. 38 Arthur: Henry VII named his eldest son thus, in deference to British feeling and legend.
117 cxxv The Highlanders called the battle of Culloden, Drumossie.
118 cxxvi lilting, singing blithely: loaning, broad lane: bughts, pens: scorning, rallying: dowie, dreary: daffin' and gabbin', joking and chatting: leglin, milkpail: shearing, reaping: bandsters, sheaf-binders: lyart, grizzled: runkled, wrinkled: fleeching, coaxing: gloaming, twilight bogle, ghost: dool, sorrow.
120 CXXVIII The Editor has found no authoritative text of this poem, in his judgment superior to any other of its class in melody and pathos. Part is probably not later than the seventeenth century: in other stanzas a more modern hand, much resembling Scott's, is
traceable. Logan's poem (cXXVII) exhibits a knowledge rather of the old legend than of the old verses.Hecht, promised; the obsolete hight: mavis, thrush: ilka, every lav'rock, lark: haughs, valley-meadows: twined, parted from: marrow, mate: syne, then. 121 CXXIX The Royal George, of 108 guns, whilst undergoing a partial careening in Portsmouth Harbour, was overset about 10 A. M. Aug. 29, 1782. The total loss was believed to be near 1000 souls.
124 CXXXI A little masterpiece in a very difficult style: Catullus himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humour it is worthy of the Ancients; and even more so, from the completeness and unity of the picture presented. 128 CXXXVI Perhaps no writer who has given such strong proofs of the poetic nature has left less satisfactory poetry than Thomson. Yet he touched little which he did not beautify: and this song, with 'Rule Britannia' and a few others, must make us regret that he did not more seriously apply himself to lyrical writing.
1. 1 Aeolian lyre: the Greeks ascribed the origin of
1. 9 Theban Eagle: Pindar.
135 CXLI 1. 23 chaste-eyed Queen: Diana.
136 CXLII Attic warbler: the nightingale.
138 CXLIV sleekit, sleek: bickering brattle, flittering flight: laith, loth: pattle, ploughstaff: whyles, at times: a daimen icker, a corn-ear now and then thrave, shock lave, rest: foggage, aftergrass: snell, biting: but hald, without dwelling-place: thole, bear: cranreuch, hoarfrost: thy lane, alone: a-gley, off the right line, awry.
142 CXLVII Perhaps the noblest stanzas in our language. 146 CXLVIII stoure, dust-storm: braw, smart.
147 CXLIX scaith, hurt: tent, guard: steer, molest.
drumlie, muddy: birk, birch.
150 CLII greet, cry: daurna, dare not.
There can hardly
exist a poem more truly tragic in the highest sense than this: nor, except Sappho, has any Poetess known to the Editor equalled it in excellence. CLIII fou, merry with drink: coost, carried: unco skeigh, very proud: gart, forced: abeigh, aside: Ailsa craig, a rock in the Firth of Clyde: grat his een bleert,
cried till his eyes were bleared: lowpin, leaping: linn, waterfall: sair, sore: smoor'd, smothered: crouse and canty, blythe and gay.
151 CLIV Burns justly named this 'one of the most beautiful songs in the Scots or any other language.' One verse, interpolated by Beattie, is here omitted:-it contains two good lines, but is quite out of harmony with the original poem. Bigonet, little cap; probably altered from beguinette: thraw, twist: caller, fresh.
airts, quarters: row, roll: shaw, small wood in a hollow, spinney: knowes, knolls.
154 CLVI jo, sweetheart: brent, smooth: pow, head. - CLVII leal, faithful: fain, happy.
155 CLVIII Henry VI founded Eton.
160 CLXI The Editor knows no Sonnet more remarkable than this, which, with CLXII, records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petrarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish; Shakespeare's more passion; Milton's stand supreme in stateliness, Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the ancients would have called Irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to his loving and ingenuous nature. There is much mannerism, much that is unimportant or of now exhausted interest in his poems: but where he is great, it is with that elementary greatness which rests on the most universal human feelings. Cowper is our highest master in simple pathos. 163 CLXIII fancied green: cherished garden.
CLXIV Nothing except his surname appears recoverable with regard to the author of this truly noble poem. It should be noted as exhibiting a rare excellence,the climax of simple sublimity.
It is a lesson of high instructiveness to examine the essential qualities which give firstrate poetical rank to lyrics such as "To-morrow' or 'Sally in our Alley,' when compared with poems written (if the phrase may be allowed) in keys so different as the subtle sweetness of Shelley, the grandeur of Gray and Milton, or the delightful Pastoralism of the Elizabethan verse. Intelligent readers will gain hence a clear understanding of the vast imaginative range of Poetry;-through what wide oscillations the mind and the taste of a nation may pass ;-how many are the roads which Truth and Nature open to Excellence.
Summary of Book Fourth
IT proves sufficiently the lavish wealth of our own age in Poetry, that the pieces which, without conscious departure
from the standard of Excellence, render this Book by far the longest, were with very few exceptions composed during the first thirty years of the nineteenth century. Exhaustive reasons can hardly be given for the strangely sudden appearance of individual genius: but none, in the Editor's judgment, can be less adequate than that which assigns the splendid national achievements of our recent poetry to an impulse from the frantic follies and criminal wars that at the time disgraced the least essentially civilized of our foreign neighbours. The first French Revolution was rather, in his opinion, one result, and in itself by no means the most important, of that far wider and greater spirit which through enquiry and doubt, through pain and triumph, sweeps mankind round the circles of its gradual development: and it is to this that we must trace the literature of modern Europe. But, without more detailed discussion on the motive causes of Scott, Wordsworth, Campbell, Keats, and Shelley, we may observe that these Poets, with others, carried to further perfection the later tendencies of the Century preceding, in simplicity of narrative, reverence for human Passion and Character in every sphere, and impassioned love of Nature: -that, whilst maintaining on the whole the advances in art made since the. Restoration, they renewed the half-forgotten melody and depth of tone which marked the best Elizabethan writers-that, lastly, to what was thus inherited they added a richness in language and a variety in metre, a force and fire in narrative, a tenderness and bloom in feeling, an insight into the finer passages of the Soul and the inner meanings of the landscape, a larger and wiser Humanity,-hitherto hardly attained, and perhaps unattainable even by predecessors of not inferior individual genius. In a word, the Nation which, after the Greeks in their glory, has been the most gifted of all nations for Poetry, expressed in these men the highest strength and prodigality of its nature. They interpreted the age to itselfhence the many phases of thought and style they present:to sympathize with each, fervently and impartially, without fear and without fancifulness, is no doubtful step in the higher education of the Soul. For, as with the Affections and the Conscience, Purity in Taste is absolutely proportionate to Strength--and when once the mind has raised itself to grasp and to delight in Excellence, those who love most will be found to love most wisely.
166 CLXVI stout Cortez History requires here Balbóa: (A.T.) It may be noticed, that to find in Chapman's Homer the
pure serene' of the original, the reader must bring
with him the imagination of the youthful poet;-he must be a Greek himself,' as Shelley finely said of Keats.
170 CLXIX The most tender and true of Byron's smaller poems. 171 CLXX This poem, with CCXXXVI, exemplifies the peculiar skill with which Scott employs proper names:-nor is there a surer sign of high poetical genius.