Poetry As An Art
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Poetry is acknowledged to be an art, ranking, like music, with the fine arts,—painting, sculpture, and architecture. It is acknowledged, also, that the peculiar characteristic of all these arts is that they have what is termed form (from the Latin forma, an external appearance). This form, moreover, is aesthetic (from a Greek word, perceived by the senses) ; and it is presented in such a way as to address the senses through the agency of an artist, who, in order to attain his end, represents the sounds or sights of nature. All these arts, therefore, in a broad sense of the term, are representative. What they represent is partly the phenomena of nature and partly the thoughts of man; partly that which is imitated from things perceived in the world with-out, and partly that which is conceived in the mind of him who, in order to express his conception, produces the imitation. Both of these factors are present in all artistic forms, and cause them to be what they are. That painting and sculpture represent, is recognized by all; that music and architecture do the same, needs to be proved to most men. As for poetry, with which we are now to deal, all perceive that it contains certain representative elements; but few are aware to what an extent these determine everything in it that is distinctive and excellent. — Idem, I.
"POETRY AS A REPRESENTATIVE ART, ANALYSIS OF THE BOOK."
(Recapitulation:) In the volume entitled "Poetry as a Representative Art," as well as in the essay on "Music as a Representative Art," it is shown, for instance,—to mention only a few particulars as illustrative of many more, that, both by way of suggestion and of imitation, solemnity, gravity, and dignity are represented by long syllables and notes causing slowness of movement as contrasted with the opposite; that self-assertion and vehemence are represented by distinctness of accent and loudness of tone as contrasted with indistinctness and softness; that conclusiveness, decision, affirmation, and satisfaction are represented by downward as contrasted with upward movements either in the tunes of verse or of song; and also that feelings like fright, amazement, indignation, contempt, horror, awe, surprise, solicitude, delight, admiration, and determination are each represented by different qualities of tone, whether indicated in vowels and consonants or in musical instruments.
In the last halves of the essays, both on poetry and on music, the elements which are considered separately in the first halves are examined as representing mental conceptions or material surroundings when combined in completed art-products, the purpose being to bring out clearly, if possible, as applied to both theme and treatment, whether plain or figurative, the distinctions between the poetic and the prosaic, the musical and the merely sonorous.—Proportion and Harmony of Line and Color, XXVI.
The theory. underlying all that has been said thus far is, that poetry is an artistic development of language; its versification, of the pauses of natural breathing; its rhythm and tune, of the accents and inflections of ordinary conversation; and the significance in its sounds, of ejaculatory and imitative methods actuating the very earliest efforts of our race at verbal expression. The inference suggested has been that these effects produced by sound are legitimate in poetry, because, like language, and as a part of it, and far more significantly than some forms of it, they represent thought. This inference necessarily carries with it another, which it seems important to emphasize before we leave this part of our subject. It is this,—that no effects produced by sound are legitimate in poetry, which fail in any degree to represent thought. If a man's first impression on entering a picture-gallery come from a suggestion of paint, he may know that he is not in the presence of the masters. So if his first impression on beginning to read verse come from a suggestion of jingle, of sound, or of form of any kind not connected in some most intimate way with an appeal to his thinking faculties, he may be well-nigh sure that the lines before him do not entitle their author to a high poetic rank. As I intend to show further on, all artistic poetry must produce the effects of form, but these include impressions recognized not only by the outer ear, but also by the inner mind. It is because of the exceeding difficulty of perfectly adjusting sound to thought and thought to sound, till, like perfectly attuned strings of a perfect instrument, both strike together in all cases so as to form a single chord of a perfect harmony, that there are so few great poets.—Poetry as a Representative Art, XIII.
POETRY AS PICTORIAL VS. MUSICAL (see also POETRY VS. MUSIC, GENESIS OF EACH).
In primitive times, the poetry of a word or phrase was determined by its appeal less to what we may term the ear of the mind than to its eye. By words appealing to the ear, I mean those like hiss, rush, roar, rattle, evidently originated by the recognition of resemblances between meaning and sound. By words appealing to the eye; I mean those like upright, shady, forerunner, turnover, used in what is termed a metaphorical sense, and evidently originated in a desire to represent or picture certain conditions or relationships of thought that are not visible, being in-side the mind, through references to conditions or relation-ships that are visible, because in the external world. It is words of this latter kind upon which the earliest poets seem to have depended mainly for their effects. . . . Attempts to cause poetry to represent its meaning through the use of mere sounds were very limited until long after the period of the most ancient poetry. Rhythm, assonance, alliteration, rhyme, and particularly what are termed the tunes of verse, and the selection of different metres for the presentation of different sentiments and subjects, were all of them more or less late developments in the history of the art.—Essay on Music as Related to the Other Arts.
The general result is represented in poetry through the use of articulated words, and in music through the use of inarticulated tones. Words represent conceptions which are sufficiently intelligible to be clearly defined. Tones represent conceptional tendencies, which are not always sufficiently intelligible to be clearly defined. The consequent difference between the effects of the two arts is this: Both influence the imagination, and, while doing so, conjure pictures which pass in review before it; but while poetry indicates definitely what these pictures shall be, music leaves the mind of the listener free to determine this, the same chords inclining one man, perhaps, to think of his business, and another of his recreation; one of a storm at sea, and another of a battle-field. Now notice a further fact,—that words make thought definite because they appeal to the imagination as is done through the sense not only of hearing but also of sight; and this, not only because they can be printed as well as spoken, but because, as a rule, they refer to objects, as in the cases of hut, farm, road, and horse; or to actions, as in the cases of come, go, stop, and hurry; or to other conditions, as in the cases of near, far, with, and by, that can be seen, and that are seen by imagination whenever the words are used. Musical tones, on the contrary, appeal to imagination almost exclusively as is done through the sense of hearing irrespective of sight. This is a difference which is radical, and extremely important. Poetry of the highest order, as we read it, calls attention to visible objects. Through doing so the lines transport us into a realm of imagination, and this not of our own making, as in music, but of the poet's making. So far as he fails to lift us into this realm, and to keep us in it, his poetry fails of one of its most important possibilities. Notice in the following how clean-cut and concrete every figure is, how it stands out in relief, rising visually before the mind, the moment that the words are heard.... In much modern poetry, musical effects are either entirely substituted for visual effects, or are allowed to overbalance the visual to such an extent as to obscure them. This is one reason why poetry is so little read, and has so little influence, in our own times.—Essentials of Aesthetics, ix.
One takes up a magazine or a book of the day, and sees type arranged in the form of verse. He notices in the successions of syllables an abundance of music, perhaps. But the writers have evidently forgotten—not wholly but largely—that which, when poetry began, gave it its nature and value. In what he reads, he finds little visualizing of invisible thought, little formulation of unformed suggestions, little projection of definite ideas from regions of in-definiteness, little illuminating truth shining out brilliant as a star from vague depths of apparently unfathomable significance. He can read page after page of this modern so-called poetry from which it is hardly possible to obtain by mining a single word or phrase such as is everywhere on the surface, and which the most casual glance reveals spark-ling like a gem, not only in the products of the ancient classic poets, but of all the great modern poets like Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe.—Essay on Music as Related to Other Arts.
I used to wonder why it was that foreign critics—French and German—almost universally fail to assign very high rank to the poetry of Tennyson, while they do assign it to that of Byron. I am quite sure now that the line of thought just suggested, explains, in part at least, both facts. The depreciation of Tennyson seems to be owing to his over-balancing appeal to the imagination through the methods of sound. Those not familiar with the sounds of English words and the more subtly associated suggestions of these sounds often fail to recognize his artistic qualities. Tennyson, however, was a great poet. His work very frequently appeals to the imagination through the methods of sight.—Essay on The Literary Artist and Elocution.
In the following, for instance, all of us will be conscious of a musical flow of syllables, but most of us will not be conscious of seeing images rise in succession before the imagination; we shall not be lifted into that realm of visual surroundings to which it is the peculiar province of poetry to transport one. On thinking it over, too, we shall probably recognize that the same could be said of much of the ordinary—the very ordinary—poetry of the present, though it, too, is often extremely musical.—Idem.
In poetry, the sounds of the words have little to do with poetic achievement except so far as by being picturesque—individually and collectively—they represent the forms—some of them audible it is true, but most of them merely visible—that are moving forward and carrying to successful development that which is in the poet's imagination. I once heard a remark attributed to the French dramatist, Scribe, to the effect that when he was composing he always seemed to be looking at his characters moving before him on the stage. This tendency to think by describing what appears to be seen, is common, in fact, probably necessary, to all those who produce works of the imagination. It is because of the ability to perceive inward experiences as if they were outwardly present, that many great poets—and some of the very greatest—poets like Dante and Milton, have been what we may term natural, if not proficient, mathematicians, or, at least, geometricians. In speaking of University experiences at Cambridge, you may recall what Wordsworth says of
The pleasures gathered from the rudiments Of geometric science. . . . —Essay on Teaching in Drawing.
POETRY AS PRODUCING MUSIC.
There is no doubt, too, that this influence of music upon poetry has, to an extent, been beneficial. At the same time nothing human, whether we apply the term to character or to characteristics, is ever wholly benefited in case external agencies be allowed to master traits peculiar to its own individuality. Poetry whose distinctive features are subordinated to those of music or of any other art, may become unpoetic; and if they be only partly subordinated, it may become partly unpoetic. No form of influence that a man can exert in this world is so certain to prove successful that, in his efforts to produce it, he can afford to ignore the importance of concentration. Essay on Music as Related to Other Arts.
How can one be expected to appreciate that which has caused poets like Shakespeare, Milton, or Tennyson to put their thoughts into verse, if his ear have never been made acquainted by nature or by training with the relations and the meanings of sounds? Upon such a man, all the time and the care that these poets have expended in arranging their words in another form than prose have been wasted.—Essay on The Literary Artist and Elocution.
With all this preponderating devotion to the supposed requirements of form, there appears to be, both in Pope and Dryden, a marked absence of any desire to produce the finer qualities of sound, like those of assonance, phonetic syzygy, and gradation, which make poetry really musical. With all their transpositions, they never succeeded in producing the purely melodious effects of Tennyson and Longfellow.—Poetry as a Representative Art, XIII.
POETRY, BASED ON COMPARISON.
Poetry results, ... when the motive which previously has influenced the thought indefinitely, and which therefore could be represented appropriately in only indefinite or inarticulate sounds, reaches the region of definite thought.
. It seems to be a necessary condition of definite thought, that there should be, in the first place, conceptions already in the mind, and, in the second place, a motive owing to the influence of which they are revealed to consciousness. Ordinarily a man conceives of both the conceptions and the motive as one. He does so, however, according to the same principle that leads him, when he sees ice moving in the river, to say that the water is moving. The two things, ice and water, are different. It is the mind that unites them. At the same time, thought is conscious, all the while, that they are two things, and not one. The motive in poetry, as in music, sweeps the emotions onward to instinctive action. But in poetry, the ideas, caught up in the tide, dearly repeat, or, as we may say, reinforce the motive; and that which causes the mind to consider both motive and idea as one thing and not two is the fact that, with, of course, some contrasts, they compare together, and also the fact that the mind is conscious that they do this. Conscious comparison, therefore, rather than the unconscious phases of it and of association that lead to the developments of music, lies at the basis of poetry.—A rt in Theory, XVIII.
POETRY, HOW DEVELOPED.
Similar facts are true of poetry. A man like an animal could express his actual wants in a few different sighs, cries, grunts, and hisses. But from these he develops, in their various forms, the innumerable words and phrases that render possible the nice distinctions of language. These words and phrases are often freshly invented by the poets, and they are almost always invented as a result of what is recognized to be the poetic tendency latent in all men. As for poems considered as wholes, their metres or rhymes are never produced as immediate subjective utterances, such as we hear in ordinary speech. They are always the work of the imagination, bringing together the results of experience and experiment, according to the method termed composition. In other words, even aside from the fact that they are usually written or printed, but necessarily when considered in connection with this, they evidently involve the construction of an external product. Nor can we explain their existence at all, except by attributing them to the intense and unadulterated satisfaction which the poet derives from elaborating them, not for ends of material utility, but for effects of beauty that pertain only to themselves.—Idem, VIII.
POETRY, HOW ITS REPRESENTATION INFLUENCES THOUGHT.
Poetry, as we have found, is an art; and art does not consist of thoughts, explanations, or arguments concerning things, but of substituted realities representing them; and there can be no legitimate re-presentation, except of what may be supposed to be perceived. If, for instance, certain persons are doing certain things, one will probably draw some inferences from their actions with reference to their motives, and he will have a right to tell his inferences—in prose; but not, as a rule, in poetry. In this, he must picture what he has observed, and leave others, as free as he himself has been, to infer what they choose. At the same time, in the degree in which he is an artist, his picture will be of such a character as to impel others to draw from it the same inference that he himself has drawn. Poetry as a Representative Art, XX.
POETRY, ITS LANGUAGE IN A SCIENTIFIC AGE.
As a language grows conventional and scientific, it loses much of its imaginative and poetic force. When men have arbitrary symbols to express precisely what they wish to say, their fancies do not search for others to suggest what, at best can but vaguely picture it. We hear them speak of engines and of locomotives, not of "horses breathing fire." ... Amid circumstances like these must poetry succumb? If not, in what way can the poet overcome them? Certainly in one way only—by recognizing his conditions, and making the most of the material at his disposal. He must use a special poetic diction. In doing this two things are incumbent on him. The first is to choose from the mass of language words that have poetic associations. All our words convey definite meanings not only, but accompanying suggestions; and some of these are very unpoetic. .
But there is a second thing incumbent on the poet. . . He must choose from the mass of language words that embody poetic comparisons,—choose them not only negatively, by excluding terms too scientific or colloquial, which, with material and mean associations, break the spell of the ideal and spiritual; but positively, by going back in imagination to the view-point of the child, and (either because arranging old words so as to reveal the pictures in them, or because originating new expressions of his own) by substituting for the commonplace that which is worthy of an art which should be aesthetic. Idem, XVII.
POETRY, ITS LANGUAGE NOT NECESSARILY FIGURATIVE.
Direct pure representative poetry, as has been intimated, pictures to the mind, without the use of figurative language, a single transaction or series of transactions in such a way as to influence the thoughts of him who hears the poetry, precisely as they would have been influenced had he himself perceived the transaction or series of transactions of which the poetry treats. The works of Homer, as in fact of all the classic writers, are filled with examples of this kind of representation. Poetry as a Representative Art, XX.
POETRY, ITS LANGUAGE VS. PROSE.
Poetic form necessitates a peculiar selection and arrangement of words and phrases. But if these violate the laws of natural expression or of grammatical construction, as exemplified in the language of prose, their meanings may be obscured entirely, or, if not so, will, at least, be conveyed through forms that seem artificial. It was for these reasons that Wordsworth argued that there should be no difference between the language of poetry and of prose. In his own practice he sometimes carried out his theory only too faithfully; but a truth underlay it, which always needs to be borne in mind. The problem in connection with all versification is, how to arrange words. .
so as to produce. . . . rhythmical and musical effects, without impairing, somewhat, the naturalness of the phraseology. The departures from naturalness, in order to satisfy the demands of sound, usually manifest themselves in one of five different ways, viz: in the insertion, the trans-position, the alteration, the omission, or the misuse of words. —Idem, XIII.
When we get to the bottom of the subject, that which distinguishes prose from poetry is that the latter influences us through the use of imitation or through imaging. As shown on pages 208 to 212 of " Poetry as a Representative Art," we can present the thoughts and feelings which an appearance of nature suggests, in ordinary language, i. e., in prose, if we choose. But if so, we seldom present them artistically, or poetically. We do the latter only when we repeat the methods of nature, and re-present that which nature presents. Just as we re-present the natural inflections of the voice in musical melody, the figures and scenes of nature in painting and sculpture, so in poetry, we re-present through descriptive or figurative language. In one sense it is true, as the modern so-called Aristotelians tell us, that the effects of art, even in poetry, do not depend upon the subject. They depend upon the appeal which the subject makes to the imagination, and this depends upon the imaging, or upon what Aristotle terms the imitation. At times, but only at times, the subject itself is such that necessarily, the moment it is presented, the imagination thinks of a picture. At other times this is not the case. When it is not, the poet, through the use of imitative or imaging language, or, as we say, of figurative language, must make the different parts of the subject seem picturesque. Art in Theory, Appendix III.
POETRY, ITS PRACTICAL UTILITY.
This interpretation of the meaning of nature, natural and human, by those who have learned to interpret it, while striving to have it convey their own meanings, lies at the basis of all the practical uses of poetry. Therefore it is that its products bring with them an atmosphere consoling and inspiring, both enlightening and expanding the conceptions and experiences of the reader. Just as each specific application of Christianity,—all its warnings, consolations, and encouragements, which develop purity within and righteousness without, in the individual, in society, or in the state, spring from the one general conception of universal and divine love manifested in the form of the Christ, so do all the specific applications of poetry spring from the one general conception of universal and divine truth manifested through the forms of material and human nature. Poetry as a Representative Art, XXVIII.
POETRY VS. ELOCUTION.
Viewed in itself, poetry is an end,—a series of words representing the comparative processes of imagination. Viewed in connection with elocution, poetry is a means. If a written product happen to suggest acting, this fact alone, irrespective of its merit as poetry, may commend it to the elocutionist. It follows therefore that the subject-matter of each of the two arts must be judged by a different standard,—a fact which, if regarded, would save our critics of poetry many a slip, and our orators many an hour uselessly employed in the vain attempt to produce an oratorical effect through the medium of that which is distinctively poetic. It is logic aimed to affect reason and will, rather than analogy aimed to affect imagination and sentiment, that renders the oration powerful. The poetic end is important ; but not in circumstances where the essential matter is to influence reason and will: The Representative Significance of Form, XXVI.
POETRY VS. LOGIC.
Poetry does not reveal truth to us in logic, but in light.—Poetry as a Representative Art, XXIV.
POETRY VS. MUSIC, GENESIS OF EACH.
When a man, or any living creature, gives vocal expression to moods that control him, there are two distinct forms which this may assume, both of which, however, all creatures cannot always produce. The sounds may be either sustained or unsustained. A dog, for instance, howls, and also barks; a cat purrs and also mews; a bird warbles and also chirps; a man sings and also talks. If these forms be at all representative, the sustained sounds must represent some-thing sustained, and the others something not sustained. As a rule, an internal mental process is continued or sustained because it is not interrupted. As a rule, too, that which interrupts is external to the thoughts and feelings which constitute the factors of this process. Interrupt the creature producing the sustained sounds,—go out at night and speak to your howling dog, take the milk from a purring cat, the nest from a warbling bird, or the plaything from a singing child, and at once you will hear sounds of the other form,—barking, mewing, chirping, or scolding in words. We may say, therefore, that the sustained form is mainly subjective, or spontaneous, and that the unsustained form is mainly relative or responsive. Birds and men instinctively sing to meet demands that come from within; they instinctively chirp or talk to meet those that come from without. The singing sounds continue as long as their producer wishes to have them; the chirping and talking sounds are checked as soon as they have accomplished their outside purpose, and are continued only by way of reiteration or else of change, in order to suit the changing effects that they are perceived to have upon the creatures or persons toward whom they are directed. It is not essential that the sustained, singing sounds should convey any definite intelligence to another, because there is no intrinsic necessity that he should understand them. But the unsustained sounds must convey definite intelligence, because this is their object.
These two conditions respectively correspond, as will be observed, to those that underlie effects in music and in poetry. It is to be shown, in the discussion which follows, that there is a sense in which the former art as well as the latter is representative; but it is important to notice that the two arts are not representative of the same conditions. Therefore they do not represent in the same way nor to the same degree either mind or nature. Music gives expression to certain classes of sustained and subjective moods, joyous or sad, concerning which there is no outside or objective reason for imparting any specific or definite information. The moment intelligence of a particular mood needs to be communicated thus, as in cases of outside emergency of an ordinary character, or of those exciting one to extraordinary petulance or rage, then the dog barks, the bird chirps, and the man, in order to make himself distinctly understood, uses his throat, tongue, and lips in the various ways that cause the distinct articulation which characterizes words.
It is important to notice, too, that this difference distinguishable between the lowest and most elementary forms of these two methods of vocal representation is the only one that is fundamental. All the other distinctions that can be made between sounds characterize alike those of song and of speech. As will be shown in the following chapter, sounds differ in time, force, pitch, and quality. According to the first, one sound may have more duration than another. Artistically developed, in connection with force, this difference leads to rhythm. But there is rhythm in poetry as well as in music. According to the second, one sound may be louder than another. But this kind of emphasis is as common in conversation as in chanting. According to the third, one sound may be higher in the musical scale than another. Artistically developed, this leads to tune. But the voice rises and falls in speaking as well as in singing. According to the fourth, one sound may be more sweet and resonant than another. But the differences between pure, orotund, guttural, pectoral, and aspirated tones, are as decided as are those between the tones in different parts in singing and between the characters of the sounds produced by different musical instruments.
When we come to use the word sustained, however, we can say that in music a tone is sustained in time, with a degree of force, at one pitch, and with one kind of quality, in a sense that is not true as applied to speaking. We may use articulated words in a song, yet there is a radical difference between singing them and talking them; and so far as concerns merely musical effects, these can be produced, as is often the case not only in instrumental but even in vocal music, without any of the effects produced by articulation.
It is possible to separate even more clearly the original germ of musical representation from that of poetry. As shown in Chapter XX. of "Art in Theory," the elementary tendency mainly developed in music, is found in those instinctive and always inarticulate ejaculations or more prolonged utterances, as of fright or of pleasure, which are natural to a man, and these utterances, when, intentionally or artistically repeated for purposes of expression, come to mean what they do in fulfilment of the principle of association. The elementary tendency mainly developed in poetry is found in those forms of articulation used after expression ceases to be wholly instinctive and becomes reflective; and in these forms of articulation, as shown in Chap-ter I. of " Poetry as a Representative Art," a man begins to imitate what he hears and to make his utterances mean what they do in fulfilment of the principle of comparison. At the same time, as pointed out in the same place, association and comparison are closely allied; and, even when they are most different, expression is developed with completeness in the degree only in which it manifests some traces of both.
Even speech, for instance, while meaning what it does on account mainly of articulation, is, in part, also dependent, precisely as is music, upon that which is not articulation —but what we term intonation. A babe too young to talk, a foreigner using a language unknown to us, or a friend talking at such a distance that his words are indistinguishable, can each, notwithstanding this disadvantage, reveal to us something of his meaning. We can tell from his tones, aside from his words, whether he be excited or calm, elated or depressed, pleased or angered, earnest or indifferent. The effects thus produced spring, evidently, from a natural tendency which causes the movements or directions—what we might term the general methods of the voice—to correspond to those of the motives that actuate one.
On account of this expressional tendency to fulfil, either by way of association or of comparison, what may be termed the principle of correspondence, the intonations of speech may be said to be, in a true sense, representative. All of us must be aware that an acquaintance can be recognized in the dark largely because his conversation is characterized by similar ways, at certain definite intervals, of moving and checking and pitching his utterances; in other words, be-cause he has a certain rhythm and tune of his own. Make one a public speaker or a reciter of stories, like the minstrel of former ages, and these movements of the voice will be made by him with more art and more regularity. Hence the origin of rhythm, as well as of chanting, among those story-tellers who were the first poets. Make the rhythm a little more marked and regular and arranged in clauses of the same length, on the principle of putting like with like, and we have verse. Make the rhythm still more marked, by the use of similar sounds at regular intervals, and we have rhyme. Vary the rhythm to express different ideas or classes of ideas, and we have the various kinds of metre. Vary the rhythm still more, as well as the upward and downward movements of the voice constituting the tune or chant, and, in connection with this, pass from unsustained to sustained tones, and we have a musical melody. "We are justified in assuming," says Helmholtz, in Part III., Chapter IX., of the "Sensations of Tone," "that, historically, all music was developed from song. Afterward the power of producing similar melodic effects was attained by means of other instruments, which had a quality of tone compounded in a manner resembling that of the human voice." Of course, in connection with the development of melody and the invention of musical instruments came the arrangement of notes in musical scales and the beginning of harmony; but these have to do not with representation in music, but with the methods of elaborating the form of representation. At present, it is sufficient to notice that, when once we have a melody sung in the notes of a scale, we have but to combine certain of these notes, that is, to sound do, mi, sol, not successively but simultaneously, and we have harmony. If, now, we produce both melody and harmony on different musical instruments, and, in connection with these, sing without articulating words, as, in fact, most singers do, we can yet produce intelligible music; or we can cease to use our voices at all, and still do the same.
Evidently, there is nothing to prevent the sounds as thus developed from continuing to be representative. At the same time, as has been intimated, there is no reason why they should be representative in a way as unmistakably distinct and definite as we find in language; and they are not so. Berlioz, we are told, used to amuse himself by singing tunes with Italian words, and waiting till his hearers had demonstrated how successfully the character of the Italian verse had inspired the composer, when he would inform them that the music was from a symphony of Beethoven. We must all have noticed, too, how scores of different sets of words, describing or expressing by no means the same experiences or conceptions, may often, with equal appropriateness, be sung to the same melody. But, while this is so, it is worthy of note that in certain general features, especially in expressing certain phases of feeling, all these verses must be alike. They must all, for instance, be either joyous or sad, or represent either elation or depression. With this general and mainly emotive method of representation, music must be content.—Rhythm and Harmony in Poetry and Music: Music as a Representative Art, I.
POETRY VS. PAINTING AND OTHER ART-FORMS (see FORM, STUDY OF).
Poetry bears the same relation to the arts of sound that painting and sculpture bear to those of sight. All three are largely imitative. Poetry reproduces in an artistic guise what might be heard in nature, if a man were telling a story, or if several men were conversing. Painting and sculpture reproduce in an artistic guise what might be seen in nature. For this reason it is possible to be interested, though not artistically interested, in the products of each of these arts, on account merely of that which they portray, irrespective of the style or form in which they portray it. But the converse is true with reference to music and architecture. These arts are only slightly imitative, and if we be interested in them at all, it is owing almost entirely to their style or form. But we must not make the mistake of inferring from this fact that style or form is unimportant in the former arts; in other words, that the laws of tone as tone must not be fulfilled in poetry, or of color as color in painting. It is chiefly with reference to poetry that this mistake is likely to be made. Admirers of Whit-man might possibly—were they logical, which, fortunately, they are not—be ready to deny that the laws of sound apply to poetry in the same sense as to music. And yet they are as imperative in the one art as in the other, though, of course, in a different degree and way.—Rhythm and Harmony in Poetry and Music, VII.