Applied Criticism of Prose: Some SOLVED EXAMPLES

The rest of the small congregation was of no particular note. As I have said before, it had greatly fallen away, and all who remained clung to the chapel rather by force of habit than from any other reason. The only exception was an old maiden lady and her sister, who lived in a little cottage about a mile out of the town.

They were pious in the purest sense of word, suffering much from ill-health, but perfectly resigned, and with a kind of tempered cheer-fulness always appearent on their faces, like the cheerfulness of a white sky with a sun veiled by light and loftly clouds. They were the daughters of a gentleman farmer, who had left them a small annuity. Their house was one of the sweetest which I ever entered. The moment I found myself inside it, I became conscious of perfect repose. Everything was at rest ; books, pictures, furniture, all breath­ed the same peace. Nothing in the house was new, but everything had been preserved with such care that nothing looked old. Yet the owners were not what is called old maidish : that is to say, they were not supersitious worshippers of order and neatness. I remember Mrs. Snale’s children coming in one afternoon when I was there. They were rough and ill-mannered, and left traces of dirty footmarks all over the carpet, which the two ladies noticed at once. But it made no difference to the treatment of the children, who had some cake and currant wine given to them, and were sent away rejoicing. Directly they were gone, the eldest of my friends asked me if I would excuse her : she would gather up the dirt before it was trodden about. So she brought a dustpan and brush (the little servant was out) and patiently swept the floor. That was the way with them. Did any mischief befall them or those whom they knew, without blaming anybody, they immediately and noiselessly set about repairing it with the silent promptitude of nature which rebels not against a wound, but the very next instant begins her work of protection and recovery. W. Hale White : Two Maiden Ladies (The Autobiography of Mark Rutherford, 1881)

Comments : William Hale White was a Victorian writer but he is singularly free from the ponderousness that we find in many Victorians. The writing in this passage is simple, easy, and natural. It conveys exactly the impression of the two ladies that he wishes to convey. There is no trace of affectation or mannerism ; the writing nowhere calls attention to itself. The single image of ‘a white sky veiled by light and lofty clouds’ is all the more effective because it is not surrounded by other images. This is a sober and quiet prose, but it has the beauty of clear light and air. There are many short sentences but they are not overdone. There is nothing abrupt and jerky about the style. It flows easily and quietly, like the lives of the two ladies it describes.
In all these ways the parish, if not a true village, seemed quit a country place twenty years ago, and its people were country people. Yet there was another side to the picture. The charm of it was a generalized one—I think an impersonal one ; for with the thought of individual persons who might illustrate it there comes too often into my memory a touch of sordidness, if’ not in one connection, then in another ; so that I suspect myself, not for the first time, of senti­mentality. Was the social atmosphere after all anything but a crea­tion of my own dreams ? Was the village life really idyllic ?
Not for a moment can I pretend that it was. Patience and industry dignified it ; a certain rough jollity, a large amount of temper and natural kindness, kept it from being foul : but o the namby-pamby or soft-headed sentiment which many writers have persuaded us to attribute to old English cottage life I think I have not in twenty years met with a single trace. In fact, there are no people so likely to make ridicule of that sort of thing as my labouring-class neighbours have always been. They do not, like the middle classes, enjoy it. It is a commodity for which they have no use, as may appear in the following pages.
To say this, however, is to say too little. I do not mean that the prevailing temper in the village was sordid, bitter, cruel, like that, say, of the Norman peasantry in de Maupassant’s short stories. In by far the greater majority the people have usually seemed to me at the wrost a little suspicious a little callous, a little undemonstrative, and at the best generous and happy-go-lucky to a fault. Nevertheless, tales as repulsive as any that the French writer has told of his coun­try-people could have been collected here by anyone with a taste for that sort of thing. Circumstantial narratives have reached me of savage, or, say, brutish, doings ; of sons illtreating their mothers, and husbands their wives ; of fights and cruelties, and sometimes—not often-of infamous vice. The likelihood of these tales, which there was no reason to doubt, was strengthened by what I saw and heard for myself. Drunkenness corrupted and disgraced this village life, so that good men went wrong and their families suffered miserably.
I have helped more than one drunkard home at night, and seen a wretched woman or a frightened child come to the door to receive him. Even in the seclusion of my own garden I could not escape the evidences of mischief going on. For sounds echo up and down the valley as clearly as across the water of a lake ; and sometimes a quite evening would grow suddenly horrid with distracted noises of family quarrel in some distant cottage, when women shrilled and clamoured and men crushed, and all the dogs in the parish felt a-barking furiously. Even in bed one could not be secure. Once or twice some wild cry in the night—a woman’s scream, a man’s volley of oaths—has drawn me hurrying to my window in dread that outrage was afoot ; and often the sounds of obscene singing from the road, where men were blundering homewards late from the public-houses in the town, have startled me out of my first sleep. Then, besides the distresses brought upon the people by their own folly, there were others thrust upon them by their economic condition. Of poverty, with its attendant sicknesses and neglects, there has never been any end to the tales, while the desolations due to accidents in the day’s work, on the railway, with horse or upon scaffoldings of buildings, or in collapsing gravel-quarries, have become almost a commonplace. In short, there is no room for sentimentlity about the village lire. Could its annals be written, they would make no idyll ; there would be too much stained by tragedy and vice and misery.
[George Bourne : The Dark Side of Village Life (Change in the Village 1914]
Comments : The writer is endeavouring to give a true picture of what village life was like in the parish he knew about twenty years ago. He is anxious not to be sentimental nor to exaggerate the violence and curelty of the villagers. He chooses his words carefully to give us exactly the right impression. The villagers are not ‘sordid, better, cruel’ but a little suspicious, a little callous, a little un­demonstrative’. He avoids ‘writing up’ or dramatizing village life. He is nowhere concerned with creating an effect by his language, but only with giving as accurate and honest a picture as he can. Although at this point in the book he is generalizing and giving an overall impression of village life, yet there is plenty of concrete detail in this passage. The references to ‘a woman’s scream’, ‘a man’s volley of oaths’, and the ‘wretched woman’ or ‘frightened child’ coming to the door to admit the drunkard he has helped home, give us vivid glimpses of reality. We feel the writer is not simply offering no vague generalizations but writing of what he knows intimately.
A great deal of the world’s work is neither producing material things nor altering the things that Nature produces but doing services of one sort or another.
……Thoughtless people are apt to think a brick-maker more of
a producer than a clergyman. When a village carpenter makes a gate to keep cattle out of a field of wheat, he has something solid in his hand which he can claim for his own until the former pays him for it. But when a village boy makes a noise to keep the birds off, he has nothing to shew, though the noise is just as necessary as the gate. The pestman does not make anything ; he only delivers letters and parcels. The policeman does not make anything : and the soldier not only does not make things ; he destroys them. The doctor makes pills sometimes ; but that is not his real business, which is to tell you when you ought to take pills, and what pills to take, unless indeed he has the good sense to tell you not to take them at all, and you have the good sense to believe him when he is giving you good advice in-stead of bad. The lawyer does not make anything substantial, nor the clergyman, nor the member of Parliament, nor the domestic servant (though she sometimes breaks things), nor the Queen or King, nor an actor. When their work is done they have nothing in hand that can be weighed or measured ; nothing that the maker can keep from others until she is paid for it. They are all in service : in domestic service like the housemaid, or in commercial service, like the shop assistant, or in Government service like the postman, or in State service like the King ; and all of us who have full-size consciences consider ourselves in what some of us call the service of God.
And then, besides the persons who make the substantial things there must be persons to find out how they should be made. Beside the persons who do things there must be persons who know how they should be done, and decide when they should be done, and how much they should be done. In simple village life both the making or the doing and the thinking may be done by the same person when he is a black-smith, carpenter or builder ; but in big cities and highly civilized countries this is impossible : one set of people has to make and do whilst another set of people thinks and decides what, when, how much, and by whom. Shaw : Goods and Services (The intelligent Woman’s Guide to Socialism, 1928.)
Comments : Bernard Shaw is here making a general point in economic theory. He does it without using the jargon of the special­ist. His language is clear, simple and concrete. He illustrates his point by referring to actual things and people, such as the village carpenter with the gate. A modern economist might say that his picture of the world’s work is over-simplified, but this is perhaps justified at this point in his general argument. The writing has Shaw’s characteristic vigour and emphasis. We see this in the repeated pattern : ‘The postman does not make            The policeman does not Make……The lawyer does not make……’ We also see Shaw’s prejudice against doctors appearing in’ his remarks about pills.
There was a peasant near Jerusalem who acquired a young game cock which looked a shabby little thing, but which put on brave feathers as spring advanced, and was replendent with arched and orange neck by the time the fig trees were letting out leaves from their end-tips.
This peasant was poor, he lived in a cottage of mud-bricks, and bad only a dirty little inner courtyard with a tough fig tree for all his territory. He worked bard among the vines and olives and wheat of his master, then came home to sleep in the mud-brick cottage by the path. But he was proud of his young rooster. In the shut-in-yard were three shabby hens which laid small eggs, shed the few feathers they had, and made a disproportionate amount of dirt. There was also, in a corner under a straw roof, a dull donkey that often went out with the peasant’s wife, a black-browed youngish woman who did not work too hard. She threw a little grain, or the remains of the porridge mess, to the fowls, and she cut green fooder with a sickle for the ass.
The young cock grew to a certain splendour. By some freak of distiny, he was a dandy rooster, in that dirty little yard with three patchy hens. He learned to crane his neck and give shrill answer to the crowing of other cocks, beyond the walls, in a world he knew nothing of. But there was a special fiery colour to his crow, and the distant calling of other cocks roused him to unexpected outbursts.
‘How he sings’, said the peasant, as he got up and pulled his day-shirt over his head.
‘He is good for twenty hens’, said the wife.
The peasant went out and looked with pride at his young rooster. A saucy, flamboyant bird, that had already made the final acquaintance of three tattered hens. But the cockerel was his head, listening to the challenge of far-off unseen cocks, in the unknown world. Ghost voices, crowing at him mysteriously put of limbo. He answered with a ringing definace, never to the daunted.
‘He will surely fly away one of these days’, said the peasant’s wife.
So they lured him with grain, caught him, though he fought with all his wings and feet, and they tied a cord round his shank, fastening it against the spur and they tied the other end of the cord to the post that held up the donkey’s straw pent-roof.
The young cock, freed, marched with a pranching stride of indignation away from the humans, came to the end of his string ; gave a tug and a hitch of his tied leg, fell over for a moment scuffled frantically on the unclean earthen floor, to the horror of the shabby hens, then with a sickening lurch, regained his feet and stood to think. The peasant and the peasant’s wife laughed heartily, and the young cock heard them. And he knew, with a gloomy foreboding kind of knowledge, that he was tied by the leg.
D. H. Lawrence : A Peasant and the Cock (The Man Who Died, 1931).
Comments : The language of this passage is easy, natural, almost coiloquial. But it presents vividly the ‘dirty little yard’ and the young cock in it. The adjectives are exactly right :’dandy rooster’, ‘saucy, flamboyant bird’, ‘there was a special fiery colour in his crow’. The writer enters imaginatively into the feelings of the humiliated cock. The sentences are mostly simple and cumulutive in structure, but they are not monotonous and they flow easily. The writing in no way calls attention to itself, but it focuses our imagi­nation on the scene described.
There is a gnat, called anopheles, from the Greek word for ‘hurtful’. Many gnats have the mouth armed with stabbing and suck­ing styles. So this one. It stabs the skin and draws blood. There is an ‘anopheles’ with dappled wings. It bites men. Only the female bites. She has effs to nourish. She takes human blood once a day. She then flies to a shaded corner. For instance, having bitten some inmate of a dwelling, shaded for coolness in the tropics, she then settles in a dim corner of it to digest her meal.
The so-called ‘bite’ happens like this. The gnat when she alights on the skin tests the place with her Iabellum. Then steadying her head against the skin she stabs by styles with dagger points and saw-like edges. Swaying her head as she uses her mouth-parts she works these through the skin. They go through and among the blood-vessels, and carry with them a tiny tube like a hollow needle, close behind the stabbing style. It leads from a poison-gland. It injects a droplet of juice into the stabbed wound. This makes the blood-vessels flush ; they bring more blood in the stabbed spot. Also the juice delays the clotting short the yield of blood from the tiny wound. Nature has provided her with special tools and special zest for throughness. She sucks the blood by a tube which leads straight to her stomach. Rich food it is, human blood          
Our dapple-wing gnat when she “bites’ her human quarry, and injects as always her droplet of juice to make the blood flow better, may be healthy, or she may not. She may be infected with the parasite of malaria. In herself it seems to do little or no harm. She is what is called a ‘Carrier’. The parasite swarms especially in her poison-gland near the gnat’s head. The doblet of juice which the infected gnat injects swarms with little spindle-shaped wriggling creatures, the sporozoties of plasmodiun, the microscopic parasite of malaria. These enter the circulation of the ‘bitten’ person where the time blood-vessels have been laid open by the bite. Thus they are let loose within the circulating human blood. Then tragedy ensues. They lose no time. They attack and enter the red cells. Inside the red cell the parasite which has entered it sits quiet at first, a very minute amoeba-like thing. Later it crawls about in the red cell, the living house it has seized and is to ruin. It gradually eats out the inside of the cell, and it grows. When it has eaten out the whole of the human red cell it splits up into a family of young. The killed and distended reed cell bursts and lets the loose. Released into the blood, each of these young ones in its turn attacks a red cell as, its parent did ; it enters, grows and eats the re cell’s heart out, repeat ins the old cycle.
Sir Charles Sherrington : The Malaria Mosquito (Man on his Nature).
Comments : This passage shows that scientists, too, can write clean English. Although there are one or two technical words here they are easily absorbed by the reader. The language in general is not abstract or technical. The passage as a whole gives a remarkably clear and exact exposition of how malaria is transmitted. Moreover, the facts are not merely stated ; they are vividly imagined. The writer’s feelings are involved as well as his intellect. It might perhaps be objected that the sentences are too short and simple, and that the result is jerky. ‘It bites man. Only the female bites. She has eggs to nourish. She takes human blood once a day’. The writing does not flow as easily and smoothly as the first passage in this chapter, for example : but I think this slight jerkiness is excusable in the careful step by step analysis of the facts that this writer is making. A diagram is provided in the book, but the writer’s explanation is so clear that it can be followed without a diagram.
I have been told that the charge against me is based on the reports of these speeches I delivered in the Gorakhpur district early in October last. Copies of these reports, and in one case their trans­lation into English, have been given to me. I have read these, and I cannot congratulate the persons who were responsible for the reporting. These reports, though presumably taken down in short-hand, are scrappy and incomplete, confusing, and often making little sense……
It is not my intention to give details of the many errors end mistakes in these reports. That would mean re-writing them completely. That would waste your time, sir, and mine, and would serve little purpose. I am not here to defend myself, and perhaps what I say in this statement will make your task easier. I do not yet know the exact nature of the charge against me. I gather that it relates to my references, to war and the attempts being made to compel the people of India to take part in the war effort. If that is so, I shall gladly admit the charge. It is not necessary to go to garbled reports to find out what I or other Congressmen say in regard to India and the war. The Congress resolutions and statements, carefully and precisely worded, are there for all the world to know. By those resolutions and statements I stand, and I consider it my duty to take the message of the Congress to the people of India.
I stand before you, sir, as an individual being tried for certain offences against the State. You are a symbol of that State. But I am something more than an individual also. I, too, am a symbol at the present moment, a symbol of Indian nationalism, resolved to break away from the British Empire and achieve the independence of India. It is not me that you are seeking to judge and condemn, but rather the hundreds of millions of the people of India, and that is a large task even for a proud Empire. Perhaps it may be that, though I am standing before you on my trial, it is the British Empire itself that is on its trial before the bar of the world. There are more powerful forces at work in the world today than courts of law ; there are elemental urges for freedom and food and security which are moving vast masses of people, and history is being moulded by them. The future recorder of this history might well say that in the hour of supreme trial the Government of Britain and the people of Britain failed because they could not adapt themselves to a changing world. He may muse over the fate of empires which have always fallen because of this weakness and call it destiny. Certain causes inevitably produce certain results. We know the causes ; the results are inexorably in this train.
It is a small matter to me what happens to me in this trial or subsequently. Individuals count for little : they come and go, as I shall go when my time is up. Seven times I have been tried and convicted by British authority in India, and many years of my life lie buried within prison walls. An eight time or ninth, and a few mom years, make little difference.
But it is no small matter what happens to ‘India and her millions of sons and daughters. That is the issue before ‘me, and that ultimately is the issue before you, sir. If the British Government imagines it can continue to exploit them and play about with them against their will, as it has done for so long in the past, then it is grievously mistaken. It has misjudged their present temper and read history in vain.
(From Jawaharlal Nehru’s statement at his trial in 1940)
(A Nationalist on Tried)
Comments : Nehru, in this passage, was speaking at a solemn and historic moment. He might easily have been tempted to indulge in flights of rhetoric, in demagogy. Many nationalist speakers and writers do just that. Their speeches are full of high-flown phrases and well-worn cliches about colonial exploitation, freedom, democracy, and so on. Nehru avoids this. He speaks simply and clearly and with dignity. Only one phrase, in ‘in the hour of supreme trial’, comes near to being a cliche, and this may be excused by its aptness in this context. In general, his language is restrained and he avoids the hysteria and excitement that such a moment might bring. At the same time we are aware of the feeling he is controlling. The unselfish pride of a national leader, who puts his people’s future welfare before his own freedom, gives a depth sad poignancy to his words.
Already it becomes very hot here. In the trees the Hot Weather Bird calls and calls, like one heralding a disaster. Flying foxes hang head downwards in bunches in the trees around the courts, and the smell of them reaches into our office, so rank it is. All the world I now eating mangoes and throwing away the stones so that the ground is littered with them, and after the mangoes come many flies, and after the flies the cholera, which rages here every season without any failing.
Very sordid, very dirty a place is Myosenin, and yet along the river banks it is beautiful. Down on the tide come water hyacinths in purple and green masses, like pretty eiderdowns of flowers floating over the water. The sunset paints the river the colour of opals and in it the golden pagoda mirrors itself, a smaller replica of the golden pagoda in Rangoon. White paddy birds come winging along over the river, and for a little while the dirt and squalor of the bazaar fades from the mind.
To-day I went to a hanging.
It was Mr. Chelston who took me.
‘One of these days you will have to attend these things on your own. Better learn the ropes now’, he said to me. So we repaired to the jail. It is a sad place of brick, clean inside and standing amongst many acres of vegetables, which the convicts themselves bring up by hand. I do not think that prison is much deterrent to the Burman, nor as far as that goes, to the less educated Indian. There is no shame attached to sojourn there, and you get free and good food at regular intervals. Only the lack of women and tobacco are regarded as deprivations. Many of the older Burman, I learn, hastily commit some offence when they are liberated so that they may return there again……
For myself I had no wish to participate at the hanging and asked Mr. Chelston why this was necessary. He then informed me of strange custom amongst these people. They do not greatly object to being hanged so long as there is a Government Official present at the hanging. If no official is present, there may be a great deal of fuss. And the reason for this is a simple one. You can hang a man’s body and so be rid of it. But you cannot hang his soul. There his soul is, and must remain always in the jail, unless given special permission to depart by a Government Official or other authority.
The Burmese people are very particular about this, and Mr. Chelston told me how only the previous week the wife of Ba Hla, our clerk, deceased of cholera, had arrived in the office to ask him to dismiss her husband officially, as although his body was indeed dead, his soul still remained over the ‘Petty Cash Book’ because as yet he had not had the official sack.
Whereupon Mr. Chelston gave her a paper which said that Maung Ba Hla had been a good and faithful servant and left the situation through no fault, but with the Commissioner’s full permission and consent, and so the lady departed very happy’ taking away the soul of her husband with her.
All this Mr. Chelston told me while we waited for our hanging. The prisoner had done many cruel actions and looked at the last a trine ashamed of himself. As he stood upon the gallows, Mr. Chelston raised his topee in his polite manner and said in his quiet voice :
‘Maung Lu Gale, committed to death for murder, you may leave this jail with my full permission and consent’. After which Maung Lu Gale did so.
(Letters from an Indian Judge to an English Gentlewoman, 1934).
A Letter from Burma
Comments : There are some small faults of English in this passage. It is more idiomatic to Write, ‘without fail’ than ‘without any failing’ (end of first paragraph). At the beginning of the second paragraph the indefinite article is misplaced. It would be more correct to write : ‘A very sordid, very dirty place is Mysoein’. In spite of this the passage as a whole is clear and clean English. It con­veys a vivid impression of Myosein. ‘The writing is simple and concrete. Although an Englishman would not speak of bringing vegetables up by hand (paragraph 5), the phrase is both vivid and humorous.

Types of Prose

(i) Straightforward or Utilitarian Writing : The success with which a writer composes everyday prose depends on the skill, patience and experience with which he handles the language. This sort of prose has been called straightward and everyday. It is utilitarian prose. We do not look to it for style ; if it has style, it consists in the absence of literary devices ; the personality of the writer is best expressed when it does not obtrude itself.

(ii) Rhetorical Prose : In its most general meaning, the principles governing the use of language for effective speaking and writing. To the Classical theoreticians, the study of rhetoric was essential for effective oratory. To this end, such writers as Aristotle. Quintilian, and Longinus codified the theories of rhetoric, which, along with logic and grammar, became, during the Middle Ages, one of the basic studies of the trivium. The following passage illustrates the rhetorical style. The author gives hard-hitting argument, intended not so much to persuade by sweet reasonableness as to hammer home a point. It is rhetorical tub-thumping : its keynote is a manly scorn. The language is strong and vigorous ; there are very few adjectives—’ only one or two are used descriptively (e.g. ‘a base disposition’), the others for the most part being used predicatively (e.g. ‘the man that is poor and contented’).
I lay it down as a maxim, that for a family to be happy, they must be well supplied with food and raiment. It is a sorry effort that people make to persuade others or to persuade them-selves, that they can be happy in a state of want of the neces­saries of life. The doctrines which fanaticism preaches, and which teach men to be content with poverty, have a very perni­cious tendency, and are calculated to favour tyrants by giving them passive slaves. To live well, to enjoy all things that make life pleasant, is the right of every man who constantly uses his strength judiciously and lawfully. It is to blaspheme God to suppose that he created men to be miserable, to hunger, thirst, and perish with cold, in the midst of that abundance which is the fruit of their own labour. Instead, therefore, of applaud­ing ‘happy poverty’, which applause is so much the fashion of the present day, despise the man that is poor and contented ; for such is a certain proof of a base disposition, a disposition which is the enemy of all industry, all exertion, all love of independence.
(William Cobbett)
(iii) Plain Narrative : Here we have given the example of style of Mungo Park which is the standard prose of the late eighteenth century. This style is free from literary pretentions. Clarity and exactness were its aim, to be achieved while observing literary propriety : this meant using the lauguage and sentence-constructions which Dr. Johnson would have used. To us the sentences seem long and complex, the language in places stilled and latinized. In spite of all this, however. Park’s style was direct, and what is sometimes called ‘masculine’ free from affectation and obscurity. His story proceeds naturally and easily, without digressions and without excessive barrenness. He is never pompous and never dull. He never betrays an attitude of superiority or condescension towards the natives. If he is sometimes pious, his piety, is sincere. He writes frankly, but without exaggeration. He is modest hut without false modesty. He frequently refers to his own feelings. “To my great mortification.” I was weary and objected”, “the circumstance was affecting in the highest degree”, “oppressed by such unexpected kindness”— in such expressions he refers to his feelings leaving the reader to imagine the details.
(iv) Prose Saturated with Realism : Stephen Crane’s realistic prose is quoted below :––
The youth stared at the land in front of him. Its foliage now seemed to veil powers and horrors. Re was unware of the machinery of orders that started the charge, although from the corners of his eyes he saw in officer, who looked like a boy a-horse-back, come galloping, waving his hat. Suddenly he felt a straining and leaving among the men. The line fell slowly forward like a toppling wall, and, with a convulsive gasp that was intended for a cheer, the regiment began its journey.
The youth was pushed and jostled for a moment before he understood movement at all, but directly he lunged ahead-and began to run.
He fixed his eye upon a distant prominent clump of where he had concluded the enemy were to be met, and he toward a goal. He had-believed throughout that it was a mere question of getting over an unpleasant matter as quickly as possible, and he ran desperately, as if pursued for a murder. His face was drawn hard and tight with the stress of his endeavour. His eyes were fixed in a lurid glare. And with his soiled and disordered dress, his red and inflamed features surmounted by the dingy rag with its spot of blood, his wildly-swinging rifle and banging accountrements, he looked to be an insane soldier.
As the regiment swung from its position out into a cleared space, the woods and thickets before it awakened. Yellow flames leaped toward it from many directions. The forest made a tremendous objection.
The line lurched straight for a moment. Then the right wing swung forward : it in turn was surpassed by the left. Afterward the centre careered to the front until the regiment was a wedge-shaped mass, but an instant later the opposition of the bushes, trees and uneven places on the ground split the command and scanned it into detached clusters.
The youth, light-footed, was unconsciously in advance. His eyes still kept note of the clump of trees. From all places near it the clannish yell of the enemy could be heard. The little flames of rifles leaped from it. The song of the bullets was in the air, and shells snarled among the tree-tops. One tumbled directly into the middle of a hurrying group and exploded in crimson fury. There was an instants spectacle of a man, almost over it, throwing up his hands to shield his eyes.
Crane’s style is calm and objective. Yet the horror and destruction of war are all the more clearly expressed because of this dispassionate style of writing. The writer is not himself cold or detached ; he writes rather as if he were holding back his feelings and letting events make their own impression. Crane achieves his purpose by a skilful mixture of the concrete and the abstract. Consider on the one hand the vivid snapshots contained in the references to the officer waving his hat, the distant clump of trees, the eyes of the youth ‘fixed in a lurid glare’, his dingy tandem with its spot of blood, the yellow flames, the man shielding his eye: from the exploding shell ; and, on the other hand, consider the more abstract suggestion in ‘Its foliages now seemed to veil powers and horrors’ and ‘He had believed throughout that it was a mere questions of getting over an unpleasant matter as quickly as possible.’ Consider also in its context the statement, ‘The forest made a tremendous objection’. In terms of physical fact this means that the advancing men met with heavy gunfire from enemy positions in the forest. Expressed in the more abstract way, however, it implies that the forest itself resisted their advance in a terrifying way : it reinforces the previous observation, ‘Its foliages now seemed to veil powers and horrors’.
(James Reeves)
(v) Subjective and Personal Style : Here is the quotation from D. H. Lawrence’s prose :––
The car ploughed uphill through the long squalid straggle of Tevershall, the blackened brick dwellings, black slate roofs glistening their sharp edges, the mud black with coal-dust, the pavements wet and black. It was as if dismalness had soaked through and through everything. The utter negation of the gladness of life, the utter absence of the instinct for shapely beauty which every bird and beast has, the titter death of the human intuitive faculty, was appealing. The stacks of soap in the grocers’ shops, the rhubarb and lemons in the greengrocers ! the awful hats in the milliners ! all went by ugly, ugly, followed by the plaster and gilt horror of the cinema with its wet picture announcements, A Woman’s Love, and the new big Primitive chapel, primitive enough in its stark brick and big panes of greenish and raspberry glass in the windows. The Wesleyan chapel, higher up, was of blackened brick and stood behind iron railings and blackened shrubs. The Congregational chapel, which thought itself superior, was built of rusticated sand-stone and had a steeple, not a very high one. Just beyond were the new school buildings, expensive pink brick, and gravelled playground inside iron railings, all very imposing, and mixing the suggestion of a chapel and a prison.
This is a description of a mining village in the Midlands, of the kind which sprang up in the nineteenth century when the coal-fields were being exploited without regard for design or beauty. Lawrence is here concerned to give a picture of soul-destroying squalor and ugliness. He chooses a rainy-day, which adds to the effect of depression, but such days are common in the Midlands. He makes no attempt to be detached and objective, but stamps upon every sentence his own loathing and disgust. The objects in the description and the words used to project them on to the reader’s eyes are deliberately selected to heighten this impression. There is nothing for which he can find a good word. Not only does he describe the physical horror of Tevershall, he comments also on the social snobbery which exists between rival chapel congregations and the cultural philistinism which builds a new school in the likeness of a combined chapel and prison.
(James Reeves)
(vi) Psychological Narrative : The passage is quoted from Virginia Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse. The author is concerned with creating the right atmosphere and laying fundations of the characters. In this kind of writing, psychological speculation and the minute analysis of the characters’ states of mind are more important than narrative. In the second paragraph there is only one short sentence, in marked contrast to the immensely lengthy sentence which follows it. This final sentence of the second paragraph, although consisting of 105 words, contains only four clauses ; these are amplified by the inclusion of the list beginning with ‘The ‘wheel-barrow’, the appositional pharse his secret language’, descriptive phrases such as ‘with his high forehead’, etc., participial expression, like ‘frowning slightly’, etc., and ‘watching him guide his scissors’, etc., and the alternative ‘or directing a stern and momentous enterprise’, etc. The style, therefore, tends to be a rambling series of phrases 2nd expressions loosely strung together, with a minimum of finite verbs. It is especially adopted fog rendering the loosely connected, unhurrying impressions and sensations which flow through the mind. The passage discussed here is quoted below:––
‘Yes, of course, if its fine to-morrow’, said Mrs. Ramsay. ‘But you’ll have to be up with the lark’, she added.
To her son these words conveyed and extraordinary joy, as if it were settled the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward for years and years it seemed, was, after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail, within touch. Since he belonged even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let feature prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogues of the Army and Navy Stores, enowed the picture of a refrigerator as his mother spoke with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. The wheelbarrow, the lawnmower, the sound of poplar trees, leaves whitening before rain, rooks cawing, brooms knocking, dresses rustling—all these were so coloured and distinguished in his mind that he had already his private code, his secret language, though he appeared the image of stark and uncompromising severity, with his high forehead and his fierce blue eyes, impeccably candid and pure, frowning slightly at the sight of human frailty, so that his mother, watching him guide his scissors neatly round the refrigerator, imagined him all red and ermine on the Bench or directing a stern and momentous enterprise in some crisis of public affairs.
‘But’, said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, ‘it won’t be fine’.
Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it. Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr. Ramsay excited in his children’s breasts by his mere presence ; standing, as now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought), but also with some secret conceit at his own accuracy of judgment. What he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth ; never tempered with a fact : never altered a disagreeable word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being, least, of all of his own children, who, sprung from his loins, should be aware from childhood that life is difficult ; facts uncompromising ; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail barks founder in darkness (here Mr. Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon), one that needs, above all, courage, truth, and the power to endure.

When I Read a Prose…

When we approach prose for purposes of working out a literal appreciation, our main concern is with the kind of language use matching the kind of thought content which it indents to convey through the medium. However, the problem becomes relative in the sense that the reader has first to decide what is it that distinguish prose from the other medium of communication in language—poetry.

It is so difficult to draw a line between prose and poetry in the exact sense of the term that some critics have even pleaded for the abolition of this distinction. However, prose for purposes of literary criticise is just another way of expressing our thoughts in the form language. When we view it as a question of literary appreciation our main attention is first to the thought-content, which may differ its nature. The nature of the thought-content will determine first the register of the language. A technical idea would require a technic register in the language whereas a literary piece would require in altogether different language. The prose of a journalist would 1 guided by the requirements of the public to which it is addressed to it would mostly be simple language which even an ordinary read can make sense of. A literary writer, who has a special audience mind, would try to convey the depth of his mind, or would use t nuances of the language to convey the subtlety of emotional comp! that he sets out to convey. A critic would set out constructing we composed, economical sentences, without any sense of wasted effort. Thus, the purpose of the use of language is also important. The kind of reading public to which it is addressed is the third factor in t evaluation of prose. Facility of expression is another criteria in the matter. If the writer tends to labour hard and overwork his expression with bombastic words, it is obviously not going to make any impression on the readers’ minds in any case. There can many more factors for the kind of prose that a writer sets out write. But the main thing that a student of literary criticism ca for is the nature of the thought-content of the passage, for language must convey, with a sense of economy, facility of expression s exactness of approach the thought-content of the writer. ‘I failure to meet these demands means that the writer has not achieved that much command over the language which is expected of a stand writer.

Coming to the problem of definition of prose, can we really find a suitable definition for this ? It may be very easy to state the varieties of English prose style, but to give an exact definition of prose itself is pretty difficult. We can lay many negative restrictions while we set out to define prose : that the rhythm of prose is never regular, and such as the rules against archaisms, inappropriate accent, metaphor, affectation, sentimentality, confusion, etc. From this definition which is negative in character we can attempt an evaluation of the present prose-writers with a view to finding who out of all these writers meets these conditions. Then there is the problem of consistency within a writer ; can we assume that a writer writes with a consistency that we can evaluate all his work on the same assumption. Even in writers like Swift there are occasional lapses, due to anger or weariness ; in Sterne the conversational ease is an instrument of limited range.
A good literary critic when he is practising his art. or committing his criticism to paper, is characteristically engaged in doing two things : he gives us, as completely and as clearly as he can, his considered response to a writer and his work, and so can help us to a fuller enjoyment and understanding of the experience in and behind the writing ; or he reveals, by examining a piece of writing in detail, the elements in the writing which combine to make its particular quality. In practice, of course, these two activities usually go together, a good critic knowing that his account and evaluation of an author must depend on the actual words written by the author, supports his fundamental remarks and judgements with pieces of examined text, the text out of which his judgements arise. When we come across a hazy account, in general terms, of an author or of a piece of work, we may conclude that a mediocre critic is at work, and that he is probably approaching his author with some degree of predisposition, perhaps with some admixture of prejudice or favouritism. A critic should be as fully conscious as possible of what he is doing.
If we lake a characteristic passage from a work and find it to be muddled in thought, then it is no use abstracting and trusting to the ideas in that work ; if a characteristic passage is emotionally false or feeble, then we know it will be no use going to the whole work to enhance our emotional experience. These are very elementary considerations ; but some people seem to think, in fact, they will affirm, that a book can be valuable as literature even it its actual writing is weak or bad. They will give contents and writing separate treatments. Comments like the one taken from a newspaper, “This is a book that is full of the wisdom of the English countryside of humanity and humour, and of writing that could scarcely be bettered.” It is plain that the critic who wrote this, isolating certain qualities that he claims for his author, separating them off from the actual writing, has an inadequate conception of literature ; his praise is in fact worthless, for if the writing were poor, the wisdom and so on would not be there. But from the way the whole sentence is worded it seems certain that he is claiming for his author the great and rare quality of wisdom along with the humanity a humour.
A critic has to be careful not to use the jargon of criticism thoughtlessly. The student attempting practical criticism may enamoured of certain words and use them without any proper sense of discrimination. It is easy to collect a few words like “sensibility “awareness”, “consciousness” and to make a show of adequacy with them. And yet we must have some such terms for practical use, make the discussion possible. The good student will use them ca fully and honestly. It will not be out of place to refer here to one two of the current critical terms, especially as their meanings differ some cases considerably from that which the same word bears common use. “Subtle” for instance has not in criticism the commit understood meaning of “consciously calculating”, but implies son thing sensitively delicate in the sense of the opposition of crude ; the word “precise” which in everyday use tends to be connected of derogatorily, with a formal exactitude, is in criticism used as approving term for shades of emotion as well as for clarity thought ; “profound” is the antithesis of shallow as applied to emotion or intellect or to both working together ; “sophisticated” is r knowing up-to-date but implies in criticism the antithesis of native. The critic, then, especially when he is being explicitly educative, has to have recourse to some set of terms ; jargon cannot be avoided. But he will see to it, when he uses some of the accepted words that he has before him, the occasion for its use in the writing of the anti whom he is helping to reveal ; the critical word mates only because it helps to reveal the author. It may be useful, valuable for so purpose and in some cases it may not need any explanation elaboration in certain contexts. But the essential task of the critic is to discover, to uncover for us, those particular qualities and that particular working of the mind which justify the use of a particular kind language. He must show the “sophisticated” mind in all its interesting activity.
As the prose’s component consists of paragraphs, sentences and words in that descending order, it is very essential to understand basic nature of these linguistic units and the way in which these combined to create a unified impression. The art of writing prose may be studied from two points of view. The first, of these concerned with the objective use of language and may properly be called the composition ; the second or subjective use of language is persuasive in intention and may properly be called Rhetoric. By the art of composition alone a certain negative style may be attained, which is remarkable only for its sustained avoidance of the pitfalls of common speech ; for a positive style it is necessary to infuse the composition with those personal elements belonging to the art of rhetoric.
Words, the lowest in order of linguistic composition, a difinite, initial pointer to the bad style or the good style of the writer under consideration. We may treat words under their qualitative use. If the words are onomatopoeic indicating the sound like murmur, clatter, cuckoo, grunt and hiss, these indicate the imitation of natural sounds and of the sounds associated with things. They are primarily used to add vitality to the expression and thus become an element of style. The marked use of such words is not generally possible, for they stand not only for a limited group of direct sense perceptions, and do not reflect all the varieties of thought and feeling involved in even the simplest forms of expression. The use of work is some-times determined as to their vocal quality, not singly but in a se­quence ; this is where the use of the term ‘alliteration’ comes in. Here the choice of a particular work will depend on its containing the same letter or sound as its neighbours. Yet another test or criterion is the usage or the currency and congruity of the words. The state of a language is never constant and almost every year words lose their life and new words are formed adding to the lexical stock of a language. The study of the growth of a language requires finest sensibility and is perhaps peculiarly difficult for those who confine themselves to the reading of classical models. It is the changes in culture, modes of living that the language reflects and in order to perform this job he has to take in a new set of terms and a new set of grammatical conventions. We might come to find the use of archaic expression in a passage given to us for purposes of literary evaluation and it would become our duty to point out that the language belongs to an older period when this kind of usage was in vogue. Modern English prose demands simplicity of expression in case of subtlety of thought for language should not add to the complexity created by the current thought-content. Jargon is another way leading to the abuse of words in the language. The writer tends to feel a bit verbose and technical by making use of such terms, but does at the same time an avoidable harm to the language usage. A pseudo-scientific profundity is given to simple or even obvious statements by translating them into technical phraseology, or Merely by latinizing English words. The vulgarization of science, the limitations of technological education, and the practise of foreign-born American writers, are all influences that encourage this tendency. One may even make use of affected words which are generally associated with the affected personality. The style becomes coloured in this case by the particular affectation. This resides in the use of bombastic expression, pomposity, slang and euphuism. However, it must be pointed out that we cannot evaluate words in isolation, they have to be judged in the largest context of their occurrence and the purpose to which they are directed to.
Metaphor, which stands for the synthesis of several units of observation into one commanding image, is another single unit or device in language that helps to brighten the expression of a writer. It is the expression of a complex idea, but by analysis not by abstract statement but by a sudden perception of an objective relation. The complex idea is translated into a simple concrete equivalent. Aristotle defined it as : “…much the most important point is to be able to use metaphors, for this is the one thing that cannot be learned from others ; and it is also a mark of genius, since a good metaphor implies an intuitive perception of the similarity in dissimilars.” However, the ability to use metaphors or to create these is the job of a poetic mind. Thus its use gets directed to poetry, for prose by its very nature is essentially the art of analytical description, it may obscure the essential nature of prose, because it substitutes a poetic equivalent for a direct statement. Simile and metaphor differ only in degree of stylistic refinement. The simile, in which a comparison is made directly between two objects, belongs to an earlier stage of literary expression ; it is the deliberate elaboration of a correspondence, often pursued for its own sake. But a metaphor is the swift illumi­nation of an equivalence. Two images, or an idea and an image, stand equal and opposite ; clash together and respond significantly, surprising the reader with a sudden light. The main functions of the use of metaphor being illuminative and decorative, the first function is found appropriate in pure prose style. Whenever abstract language is inadequate to express a meaning clearly, and the metaphor if used can help a clearer understanding of the subject, it becomes an added asset to the prose style of a writer. The language of the scientific disciplines is an example for the point.
The sentence, next important unit in the hierarchy of linguistic components, is a single cry and a unit of expression with its various qualities as reflected in length, rhythm and structure are determined by a right sense of unity of these qualities. A series of short sentences will convey an impression of speed and are therefore suited to the narration of action or historical events ; while longer sentences give an air of solemnity and deliberation to writing. The danger with the long and complex sentences is that they may lack balance. The sense may be logically clear, the rhythm may be easy, but still they try out our patience or offend our sensibilities. There may be a want of proportion between the subject and the predicate or between either of these and the verb—not so much a proportion of sense, which would result in humour, but a proportion of structure, the simple against the complicated, the devious against the direct. The use of complex sentences involves a correct usage of punctuations as well.
The paragraph, which marks in itself a unit of thought as represented in the essay or the book, has been a subject of great linguistic discussion as to whether it is a complete unit in itself representing a thought or is just a sub-unit. If it were to be treated as a complete unit, then the whole essay should run into one paragraph, and if it were to be treated as a sub-unit within a unit, it fits’ into the present scheme of granting independence within the larger framework of a thought-content complete in itself and showing logical development of the thought-content. The rhythmical unity of the paragraph may be a unity of actual composition : compare Gibbon’s conscious practise, the conscious practise of many writers but perhaps more often an unconcious instinct. It is in this manner that the arrangement of paragraphs within a larger unit of composition become a question of rhetoric, and should actually be dealt under the aspect of rhetoric. Arrangement of paragraphs is either intuitive or constructive. Intuitively the writer feels that his theme has a certain broad rhythm, and that the rhythm of his paragraphs is subordinate to this broader effect. We speak of the course of exposition, of the speed of narrative, the flow of eloquence, the flight of imagination and all these dead metaphors originally expressed the qualities of different methods of composition. Intuitive arrangement is appropriate to the short composition such as the essay and short story.
It is by looking at these elements and other terms which have been explained in an earlier chapter that the student of literary appreciation of a prose passage can comment. It is however essential to keep in mind certain basic guidelines not more in the nature of literary guidelines but rather in the sense of general observations that the student of literary criticism should keep in mind. It is also essential that be should have in his mind the framework of a plan to be able to start his work in his examination hall with a sense of progression in this attempt.
Plan for Practical Criticism of Prose :
Try to work out the thought-content in simple statement form ;
Try to determine the nature of the thought content and give an idea of the kind of language it will require for a clear expression;
Test the expression as found in the given passage and see if it meets the requirements that you have set out, in your earlier part of the answer ;
In case there is divergence in the use of language and the requirements of language expression set out by you, it is quite possible that you have been able to evaluate the nature of the thought-content in a liquid manner and requires a reconsideration. It is also possible that the writer has a particular habit of understatement or overstate­ment to press his point, or may be that the writer has an illustrative and decorative bent of mind which would either lead to a superficial use of language or a powerful use of language ;
Try to look up if there is any use of critical terminology which tends to verge on the border of being a jargon use. Some writers have the habit of loading their prose with too many technical terms and it tends to hurt the understanding of the written passage in an unneces­sary manner;
Find out how far the language succeeds in conveying the unified impression of thought-content and logical development of the thought-content. It is quite possible that there may be an abrupt use of language without paying any attention to the exemplificatory aspect of the complex thought content unit ;
If there are many complex sentences within the passage, see if they clearly stand to represent sub-units of the thought-content or they tend to confuse or burden the reader with too many complexities. In case of complex idea is to be conveyed, it is better to be short in the use of sentences which would help a reader to progress at a satisfactory place in his attempt at understanding ;
Try to look up if there are any onomatopoeic works––words denoting the sound qualities of certain objects. Also check up if there is any alliteration within a sentence or a paragraph as a whole ; this tends to aid to the musical quality of the language which may or may not be suitable to the requirements of the thought-content under consideration.
Finally, try to work out what is the general quality or bent of the writer’s mind as reflected in the passage under consideration ; remember that it will only be a tentative opinion as you have not had access to the other writing of the writer. You can never expect a writer to be consistent in his use of the language or in his style.
AIai, Warner has given below the following clear-cut suggestions or practical criticism in prose :
(i) Please do not spit: If you adopt the style of ‘please do not spit’, and avoid the style of ‘expectoration is forbidden’, you will go a long way towards writing clear English. You may think that this is so easy as to be not worth mentioning. It might never have occurred to you to write in the style of the first notice. But language of that kind is still common enough in official letters and documents, and is not always easy to escape from its influence without making a conscious effort. It is easy enough to write ‘please do not spit’, but it is only by hard and clear thinking that we can make all our statements and directions as clean and simple and pointed as this one.
(ii) Cat the cackle : There is an old English saying ‘Cut the cackle’ and come to the ‘oases (horses). It means, ‘Cut out your silly chatter, or your introductory flourishes, and come to the point.’ This is sound advice, both for the whole of what you are writing whether essay, article, or report, and for the separate sentences that make it up. Avoid vague introductions ; come to your point ; keep your writing taut : free of unnecessary words and circumlocutions ; be as concrete and definite as you can. All this means harder and straighter thinking, and may take more time, but you will be rewarded by a firmer grip on your own thoughts and a sharper point to your pen.
(iii) Call a spade a spade : To ask you to calla spade a spade is just another way of asking you to be concrete and definite. But there is one particular weakness in writing that I want to call your attention to in this section, the habit of using euphemisms instead of plain words. A euphemism is ‘the substitution of a mild or vague expression for a harsh or blunt one’ (Flowers). The word is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to speak favourably’. The Greek prefix ‘eu’ means ‘well’, and we find it in other English words, such as ‘eulogy’, which means ‘praise’, ‘a speaking well’ of someone or something, and ‘euphony’, the quality having a pleasant sound. Don’t confuse ‘euphemism’ with ‘Euphuism’, a word used to describe a certain style of English that had a vogue in Elizabethan England, and was started by John Lyly’s Euphues. Euphemism and soft-pedalling not only lead to a distorted and muddy style, but they serve to muffle and hide reality from us. Words are used to conceal things rather than to express them. In Ezra Pound’s phrase ‘the application of word to a thing becomes slushy and inexact’.
(iv) Keep your ears open: In addition to being clear and accurate, and as concrete, as possible, really good clean English should have a pleasing sound. It may seem strange to suggest that the sound of written English is important, but we do in fact read with our ears as well as our eyes. You can sometimes sea an unpractised reader voicing. the words to himself as he reads. Most of us soon leave this stage behind but we never cease to be aware of the sound of the words we read. ‘A cluster of clumsy ‘s’ sounds, for example, will jar the ear even though it is read silently :
King James’s countiers’ cloaks were worn short.
This is clumsy : it offends the ear and does not flow cleanly. It is much better to turn it round and avoid ‘James’s countiers’ cloaks :
The courtiers of King James wore their cloaks short.
Nearly all writing has some kind of pattern that we can rhythm. In poetry this is clearly marked, by rhyme, mere allitera­tion and other literary devices. In the two lines being from Alexander Pope, the pattern is very clear. He is specialist of a timid but jealous critic, who is afraid to attack openly but slyly hints his disapproval :
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.
In prose the rhythmic pattern is much less marked. Rhyme and metre are not used, though alliteration frequently is, but rhythm is present to a greater or lesser degree. Alfred. Doolittle, the dustman in Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, says to Higgins : ‘I’m willing to tell you. I’m wanting to tell you, I’m waiting to tell you.’ Here a marked rhythmic pattern is created by the reception and alliteration, and the grouping of the statement into three equal units. The great English prose-writers make effective and significant use of rhythm, sometimes consciously and sometime unconsciously. There should be less deliberate use of rhythm for effect than with the avoidance of awkwardness in sound and pattern. Such awkwardness may be caused by accidental use of literary devices, such as repetition and rhyme, or it may be due to simple clumsiness in handling words and constructing sentences, so that there is a halting, tangled movement in the writing, instead of an easy, agreeable flow.
Good prose always has a harmony of its own. Its rhythm plays an important part in its meaning. If you re-read the passages from Jane Austen and Dickens you will see that each has a characteristic rhythm of its own. But this is to go beyond the limits of clean English. Only the best writers can achieve a true harmony in their style, but all of us, even in the most workaday and ordinary writing, can avoid disharmony and cacophony (an ugly displeasing sound). Keep your ears open when you are writing. Reread what you have written, aloud if possible, and do not always be content with the first words that come into your head.
(v) Don’t Mix your Drinks : If you wish to keep a clear head at a party and to avoid a hang. over next morning, don’t mix beer with sherry, or gin with whisky. If you wish to keep a clear and clean English style, don’t mix poetic devices with business jargon, or slangy colloquialisms with formal standard English. With reasonable limits, keep to the same style.
(vi) Suit the Word to the Occasion : Although it is unwise to mix drinks or styles, this does not mean that we must always drink the same drink or write in the same style. Certain drinks are appro­priate to certain occasions. Beer goes with bread and cheese for lunch: champagne is suitable for a wedding ; rum is good drink for a bitterly cold night. In advising you to be clear and concrete in your writing, to cut the cackle and call a spade a spade, I have not yet considered the different uses to which your pen may be put. I stand by my advice in general, but in particular cases it may need modification.
(vii) Hit the Nail on the Head : Have you ever watched a clumsy man hammering a nail into a box. He hits it first to one side, then to another, perhaps knocking it over completely, so that in the end he only got half of it into the wood. A skilful carpenter, on the other hand, will drive home the nail with a few firm, deft blows, hitting it each time squarely on the head. So with language ; the good craftsman will choose words that drive home his point firmly and exactly. A word that is more or less right, a loose phrase, an ambiguous expression, a vague adjective, will not satisfy a writer who aims at clean English. He will try always to get the word that is completely right for his purpose. A good carpenter is not distinguished by the number of his tools, but by the craftsmanship with which he uses them. So a good writer is not measured by the extent of his vocablulary but by his skill in finding the ‘most juste’, the word that will hit the nail cleanly on the head.
(viii) Some Pitfalls in Journalism : The journalist earns his living by his pen. His has to write a great deal and he has to write quickly. He wants his articles and reports to be as readable and interesting as he can make them. It is an excellent thing to aim at being readable and interesting, and I wish all writers of books would keep this aim in sight, but the journalist is often tempted to be merely popular and showy. Hence the journalist’s trade has fallen into disrepute, in spite of the fact that many journalists still write clean and vigorous English. The term ‘journalise’ is use in a derogatory sense to suggest a bad style. Webster’s Dictionary describes it as : “English of a style featured by use of collquialisms, superficiality of thought or reasoning, clever or sensational presentation of material, and evidences of haste in composition, considered characteristic of newspaper writing”. But it should not be thought that journalism always leads to bad writing or that all journalists are guilty of slang, sensationalism, and vulgarity. On the contrary, some of the best English today is written by journalists. Many newspaper reports and articles contain clean and vigorous English, and the more serious English dailies would not admit writing of the sort.
(ix) Too Little or too Much: Between understatement and overstatement there are innumerable variations. It is not wrong to be extravagant with words ; you need not make a mode! of English caution ; but you must be guided by your feelings and intelligence, your sense of the fitness of your words to their purposes.
(x) Place yourself the background : Write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author. If the writing is solid and good, the mood and temper of the writer will become revealed finally, and not at the expense of the work. Therefore, the first piece of advice is this : to achieve style, begin by affecting none—that is, place yourself in the background. A careful and honest writer does not need to worry about style. As he becomes proficient in the use of the language, his style will emerge, because he himself will emerge, and when this happens, he will find it increasingly easy to break through the barriers that separate hilt) from other minds, other hearts- which is, of course, the purpose & writing, as well as its principal reward. Fortunately, the act of composition, or creation, disciplines the mind ; writing is one way to go about thinking and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too.
(xi) Write in a way that comes naturally : Write in a way that comes easily and, naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand. But do not assume that because you have acted naturally, your product is without flaw. The use of language begins with imitation. The infant imitates the sounds made by its parents ; the child imitates first spoken language, then the stuff of’ books. The imitative life continues long after the writer is on his own in the language, for it is almost impossible to avoid imitating what one admires. Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitatory: take pains instead to admire what is good. Then, when you write in a way that comes naturally, you will echo the halloos that bear repeating.

Distinguishing between Poetry and Prose

Difficulties of distinguishing between poetry and prose : It is difficult to put into exact words the difference between poetry and prose. The dividing line is often shadowy because much so-called prose has poetic qualities and much so-called poetry, prosaic qualities. A good deal of what we commonly regard as prose is, in essence, poetry, and a good deal more of what we commonly regard as poetry is, in essence, prose.

We are likely to classify any writing that has rhyme and rhythm as poetry, and any other writing as prose. The two examples given below seem to refute his theory. The one in rhyme and metre has not a spark of poetic fire ; in the one without rhyme and metre the poetic fire is unquestionable. A recent critic pointed out that David’s lament over Jonathan :
The love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women,
is instinct with the breath of poetry, whereas Pope’s metrical para­phrase of it.
The love was wondrous, soothing all my care,
Passing the fond affection of the fair,
is not much more than artificial affectation. The same critic suggests that the hopeless pathos of Isaiah’s
The sun shall be no more thy light by day ; neither for bright­ness shall the moon give light unto these,
is shattered forever in Pope’s rhymed version.
No more the rising Sun shall gild the morn
Nor ev’ning Cynthia fill her silver born.
The same observation must strike you at once when you compare Addison’s hymn,
The specious firemament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim
with its Biblical equivalent,
The heavens declare the glory of God ; and the
firemament sheweth His handywork.
It is clearly evident that many of the beautiful passages in the King James version of the Bible, though they are not in metrical form, are more eloquently poetical than all the rhymed couplets in existence. These verses from the twelfth chapter of Ecclesiastes you have only to read aloud to feel the power of their rhythm :
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy Youth, while the evil days come not, the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them ;
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not
darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain :
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves……and those that look out of the
windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets…and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall he brought low ;
And when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grass-hopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail : because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets :
On ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken
……or the wheel broken at the cistern
Then shall be dust return to the earth as it was ; and the spirit shall return upto God who gave it.
There is hardly an element of all that we usually regard as poetry which is not found in this passage. Here are pictures, symbols, images, phrases haunted with the accumulated connotations of man’s centuries of experience with life and death. Nor is the Bible alone in possessing this poetic quality. It is found in a good deal of the hest English prose, from the glowing pulsations of the finest para­graphs of Ruskin and Carlyle to the elusive list in the dialogue of the Irish plays of Yeats and Synge. Such passages illustrate the difficulty distinguishing between poetry and prose. There are, however, three general characteristics of poetry, one specific, the others neces­sarily vague.
Regularity of metrical pattern : The most tangible characteristic of poetry is rhythm secured by regularity of metrical pattern. Much prose has every element of poetry except this of metrical pattern. But all poetry, even free verse, has some pattern of recurrent rhythm or rhyme, or both.
The poet’s use of words : The second characteristic of poetry is that the poet uses words with imaginative insight to suggest more than they may be defined to mean. In general the main function of words in prose is to make statements, to convey ideas and facts clearly; in poetry the main function of words is to arouse moving suggestions. This use of suggestive words stirs our feelings and imaginations. We have all experienced the baffled sensation of lacking appropriate words with which to express our feelings or thoughts: and most of us have found these feelings and thoughts expressed definitively in a passage from one of the great poets. The essence of a thousand love stories, for instance, is suggested—not stated— in a single stanza by Robert Burns
Had we never loved sae kindly,
Had we never loved sae blindly,
Never met—or never parted,
We had ne’er been broken-hearted.
The staggering conception of eternal damnation has been summed up in a few words in Dante’s Inferno. Over the gates of Hell, Dante says, are these words’ :
All hope abandon, ye who enter here.
The thundering significance of these few words has caught and held the imagination of generations. Such passages as these are remarkable for what they suggest rather than for what they directly state.
Poetic language in prose : Many prose writers also use words which arouse our feelings and our imagination by the power of suggestion. For instance, Hawthrone’s choice of figurative language to suggest his meaning is often instinctively poetic. When he says that Phoebe was as ‘pleasant about the house as a gleam of sunshine falling on the floor through a shadow of twinkling leaves’ ; when he describes the garden as a ‘green-play-place of flickering light and shade, and the humming bird as ‘a thumb’s bigness of burnished plumage’, he is using words much as a poet does, to suggest moods and pi . But as his words have no metrical pattern, they are not poetry Moreover, poetical prose, however beautiful, does not usually 1’ er in the memory as does poetry. It is the poet rather than the prose writer who uses words primarily for purposes of suggestion instead of primarily for purposes of direct statement. To the poet, words in themselves are beautiful.

Some Critical Terms

(I) Prosody
Here are the four commonest feet in English poetry :
(1)  Iambus            / (tee-tum)
(2)  Trocher /   (tum-tee)
(3)  Anapaest   / (tee-tee-turn)
(4)  Dectyl /             (tum-tee-tee)
Occasionally the following are used :

(5)  Amphibrach /
(6)  Spondee / /
(7)  Pyrrhic
In marking the stressed syllables, the “macron” sign—may be employed instead of the symbol used here, but it is useful to be able to indicate a syllable which while not “slack” (unstressed), neverthe­less does not carry a full stress. By using this sign for a fully stressed syllable, we are enabled to make a clear distinction between full and half stresses by \ for the latter. For example, a true Pyrrhic foot rarely occurs ; it is much more frequently a slack syllable followed by a lightly stressed one : \.
In Sprung Rhythm and Free Verse. stress is still the basis of the rhythm, but here, three, four, or more slack syllables may be grouped with each stressed one.
The metre of a poem depends on the number of feet to the line and the pattern of the stanzas as well as the kind of feet used.
A line containing one foot is called a monometer.
A line containing two feet is called a dimeter.
A line containing three feet is called a trimeter.
A line containing four feet is called a tetrameter.
A line containing five feet is called a pentameter.
A line containing six feet is called an hexameter.
A line containing seven feet is called an heptameter.
A line containing eight feet is called an octameter.
The chief English Stanzas are :
(a) Ballad Metre.
Four line stanzas consisting of alternate iambic tetrameters and trimeters and riming a b c b.
Childe Maurice hunted the Silver Wood
He whistled and he sang :
‘I think I see the woman yonder
That I have Iove’d lang.”
(“Childe Maurice”)
(b) The Heroic Couplet.
Iambic pentameters timing aa bb, etc. (i.e. in couplets)
And now, unveiled, the toilet stands displayed,
Each silver vase in mystic order laid,
First, robed in white, the Nymph intent adores,
With head uncovered, the Cosmetic Pow’rs.
(“The Rape of the Lock”)
(c) Blank Verse.
Unrimed iambic pentameters.
Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit
Of that forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste
Brought death into the world and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,
Sing, Heavenly Muse.
(“Paradise Lost”)
(d) Spenserian Stanza
Nine-lined stanza consisting of eight iambic pentameters followed by one Alexandrine (iambic haxameter). Rimes ab ab be bc c.
Lo I the man, whose Nurse whilome did maske,
As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds !
Am now enforst a far unfitter taske,
For trumpets sterne to change mine Oaten deeds,
And sign of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds !
Whose prayses having slept in silence long,
Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds
To blazon broad amongst her learned throng :
Fierce warres and faithful loves shall moralize my song.
(“Faerie Queene”)
(e) Sonnet.
Petrarcan, Shakespearian or Miltonic.
(f) Rime Royal.
Seven iambic pentameters riming ab ab bc c.
The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
That was the kyng Priamus sone of Troye,
In lovynge, how his aventures fellen
From wo to wele, and after out of joie,
My purpose is, er that I parte fro ye.
Thesiphone, thow help me for t’endite
This woful vets, that weapon as I write.
(“Troilus and Criseyde”)
(g) Ottava Rims.
Eight iambic pentameters riming ab ab ab cc.
My poem’s epic, and is meant to be
Divided in twelve books ! each book containing,
With love, and war, a heavy gale at sea,
A list of ships, and captains, and kings reigning,
New characters ; the episodes are three :
A panoramic view of hell’s in training,
After the style of Virgil and of Homer,
So that my name of Epic’s no misnomer.
(“Don June”)
(2) Technical Devices
(a) Caesura. The pause dividing a line of verse into two parts.
Satan exalted sat ççby merit raised.
(“Paradise Lost”)
(b) End-stopped line. A line ending in a pause.
Whereto with speedy words the Arch-Fiend replied :
Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering.
(“Paradise Lost”)
(c) Run-on line enjambment. Here the sense comes straight through without a pause from the end of one line to the beginning of the next.
But see ! the angry victor hath recalled His ministers of vengeance and pursuit Back to the gates of Heaven.
(“Paradise Lost”)
(d) Weak Ending. The slack, or unstressed, tenth syllable in an unrimed iambic pentameter.
Since what I am to say must be but that
Which contradicts my accusation, and
But what comes from myself.
(“The Winter’s Tale”)
(e)  Feminine Ending. The slack, or unstressed, eleventh syllable in an unrimed iambic pentameter.
If you would not so,
You pity not the state, nor the remembrance
Of his most sovereign name.
(“The Winter’s Tale”)
(3) Kinds of Poetry
(a) Lyrical Poetry
Short and intensely personal and passionate poems (e.g., sonnet, ode (extended lyric), elegy, song).
(b) Dramatic Poetry
Comedy, Tragedy, Masque, Monodrama. All these have in common the use of characters and an attempt to represent the speech and actions of human beings.
(c) Narrative Poetry
Poetry which tells a story (e.g. short tales in verse ; epic, romance).
(d) Didactic Poetry
Poetry which teaches. Allegory and Satire.
(e)  Descriptive Poetry
Direct description of scenes and places as well as :
Pastoral : Poetry dealing with a “golden age” in which the main characters are idealized ; shepherds and shepher­desses.
Eclogue : consisting of dialogues between “pastoral” shepherds.
Idyll : smooth and idealized description of rural or domestic life.
(f)  Humorous Poetry
Burlesque : poetry which” ridicules ideas or things ; mock-heroic.
Parody : poetry which imitates the style of another poet with the intent to poke fun at it.
(4) The Science of Rhetoric In Prose
(i)  Metaphor
Most people know roughly what a Metaphor is ; it is the most important figure of speech, and the commonest. Even in the most ordinary conversation we often use metaphors without knowing that we do so : ‘You are a donkey !’, ‘I am in the soup’. ‘We shall have to wait for that till our ship comes in.’ Metaphor is that figure of speech in which one thing (or idea, place, person, deed and so forth) is compared to another, without acknowledging in a form of words (‘Like’, ‘as’, ‘as if’, ‘even as’…) that any comparison is being made.
‘My Love is like a red, red rose’
is a simile, but
‘For nothing this wide universe I can
Save thou, my Rose’ is a metaphor
‘Boys and girls tumbling in the street, and
playing, were moving jewels’.
(ii) Simile
A simile is very like a metaphor, in that it makes a comparison, but in simile we use a word, generally ‘like’ or ‘as’, to show that it is a comparison. This figure too is common in ordinary speech, many similes has cliches : ‘He is as fit as a fiddle’ : ‘The cat is as black as ink and as fat as butter’ ; ‘He drinks like a fish’. A simile may be used in order to make something clearer or merely as an ornament. For example :
(a)  You will be overwhelmed, like Tarpeia, by the heavy wealth which you have extracted from tributary genera­tions.’
(Newman : “The Scope and Nature of Universiiy Education.”)
(b)  ‘In the distance beyond the blue waters of the lake, and nearly screened by intervening foliage, was seen a shining speck, the rival capital of Tezcuco, and, still further on, the dark belt of porphyry, gridling the valley around like a rich setting which Nature had devised for the fairest of her jewels.’
(Prescott : “History of the Conquest of Mexico”.)
In poetry there are often long, sustained similes that are known as Epic Similes; the same kind of device may occur in prose :
(c)  Too generally the very attainment of any deep repose seemed as if mechanically linked to some fatal necessity of self-interruption. It was as though a cup were gradually filled by the sleepy overflow of some natural fountain, the fulness of the cup expressing symbolically the completeness of the rest: but then, in the next stage of the process, it seemed as though the rush and torrent like babbling of the redundant waters, when running over from every part of the cup, interrupted the slumber which in their earlier stage of silent gathering they had so naturally produced.’
(De Quincey : “Confessions of an English Opium-Eater.”)
(iii)           Analogy
In English we need some word for a figure of speech that seems to be half-way between a simile and a metaphor ; perhaps Analogy will serve. This is a comparison in which some acknowledgement is made, but, as it were, indirectly ; perhaps two examples will make this distinction clear.
(a)  ‘I do not believe that Rafael taught Mich. Angelo, or that Mich. Angelo taught Rafael, any more than I believe that the Rose teaches the Lilly how to grow, or the Apple tree teaches the Pear tree how to bear Fruit.’
(William Blake : “In marginal note on Reynold’s Discourses”).
(b)  ‘Let me make use of an illustration. In the combination of colours, very different results are produced by a difference in their selection and jurtaposition ; red, green, and white change their shades, according to the contrast to which they are submitted. And, in like manner, the drift and meaning of a branch of knowledge varies with the company in which it is introduced to the student.’
(Newman : “The Scope and Nature of University Education”)
Analogy may extend over several pages. Its proper function is to make something clear, but the trick of making something less clear by an analogy that is not really illuminating and only appears to be so is so common that in logic it is given the special name of false analogy.
(iv) Personification.
This is another very common figure of speech and is really a typical kind of metaphor, in which some object, place or abstract idea is turned into a person with human attributes so that we can talk about it more intelligibly or vigorously. This too is often used in common speech : ‘America is concerned about the Far Eastern question’ or ‘Charity seeketh not its own’ and the personification of God as a male figure has led to much eccentricity of speech and theology.
(a)  ‘The old houses can always chatter of what as fallen from them by indiscreet neglect or foolish care and all must regret the blotting of the little unnecessary trifles that were part of their nobility, like the grassy spaces between the garden wall and the public road, where the fowls paraded, and the ivy was plaited with periwinkle to-the edge of the gutter. These middle-aged houses make no such appeal. They gibber in premature senility, between tragedy and comedy.’
( Edward Thomas : “Rain”)
(b)  ‘But the iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her Poppy, and deals with the memory of men without distinction to merit of perpetuity’.
(Sir Thomas Browne : “Urn Burial”)
(v) Euphemism
This is usually a form of Metonymy or Metaphor, but the figure is often defined by its purpose rather than by the technique used. It is the device of using a substituted expression to disguise some fact or idea that is distressing, offensive, or embarrassing. We say someone is ‘tight’ or ‘tiddly’ when we mean ‘drunk’ ; a friend may have ‘passed away’ or be leading a ‘wild’ life. Euphemism is rather overdone in English ; it is sometimes desirable to avoid causing pain, but can become mealy-mouthed and silly. Sensible people will be guided by the society they are in ; some expressions may be acceptable in the family circle or private conversation, but not in a public lecture, but not in the pulpit. It is as rude to use euphemisms that other people do not understand, and so perhaps cause them embarrassment, as to use language that is too crude for the occasion.
(vi) Hyperpole.
Deliberate exaggeration for the sake of effect. Most of us use hyperbole every day without realizing that we are doing it, in such expressions as ‘I nearly died of laughing’, “Thank you a thousand times’ or ‘You could have knocked me down with a feather’. The device is commoner in verse than in serious prose, but is also fairly common in prose, though not at the present day.
(a)  ‘Like other amphibious animals, we must come occasionally on shore : but the water is more properly our element, and in it, like them, as we find our great security, so we exert our greatest force.’
(Bolingbroke : “The Idea of a Patriot King”)
(b)  ‘The whole house was constantly in an inundation, under the discipline of mops and brooms and scrubbing-brushes ; and the good housewives of those days were a kind of amphibious animal, delighting exceedingly to be dabbling in water—insomuch that a historian of the day gravely tells us, that many of his townswomen grew to have webbed fingers like unto a duck ; and some of them, he had little doubt, could the matter be examined into, would be found to have the tails of mermaids—but this I look upon to be a mere sport of fancy, or what is worse, a wilful mis­representation’.
(Washington Irving : “A History of New York”)
(c) ‘The blue bird carries the sky on his back’.
(vii) Pun.
(The early critics called this Paronomasia).
A play upon words, usually for comic effect, though there are serious puns in such writers as Shakespeare and Donne. The pun is regarded as vulgar because many bad ones are made, and a person who is always making puns is a social nuisance ; but a good pun in the right place may be amusing and clever.
‘I might suspect his thermometer (as indeed I did, for we Harvard men are apt to think ill of any graduation but out own) ; but it was a poor consolation. The fact remained that his herald Mercury, standing tiptoe, could look down on mine. I seem to glimpse something of this familiar weakness in Mr. White. He, too, has shared in these mercurial triumphs and defeats’.
(James Russell Lowell : “My Study Windows”)
(viii) Alliteration.
The use of two or more words, near to each other, beginning with the same letter. This is much more common in verse than in prose and can be overdone in both, especially ; but it is agreeable in small quantities.
‘It is he that puts into a man all the wisdom of the world with-out speaking a word…(‘‘He” is Death).
(Sir Walter Raleigh : “A History of the World”)
(ix) Assonance.
Similarly of vowel sounds. This is commoner in poetry than in prose and can be a fault if it is too obvious in prose.
(x) Onomatopoeia.
Language in which the actual sound of the words suggests their meaning.
‘The bees are buzzing and humming with great zest ; the doves are cooing : and the children chatter as they clatter downstairs to come and dabble in the cool, stream’.
(xi) irony.
This is one of the most important figures of speech in English and one of the hardest to define accurately. The definition ‘saying one thing while meaning another’ is too wide ; it is not ironical, merely civil, to say ‘1 am so glad to see you’ when we are thinking, ‘I wish you had chosen a more convenient time to call’. Irony is saying one thing while meaning another, not in the sense of untruth or of the kind of double meaning found in pun and metaphor, but in the sense of meaning something different to someone else who hears the speech and is intelligent enough to see the further meaning, or equipped with the knowledge to do so. The tone of voice or form of words shows what is intended. Meiosis may often be a form of irony. It is a highly sophisticated device and is found in many of the greatest writers. Fielding’s “Jonathan Wild”, Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and Defoe’s “The Shortest Way With the Dissenters” are examples of whole books which are ironical.
“But dismissing Mrs. Slipslop was a point not so easily to be resolved upon : she had the utmost tenderness for her reputation, as she knew on that depended many of the most valuable blessings of life ; particularly cards, making curt’sies in public places, and, above all, pleasure of demolishing the reputations of others, in which innocent amusement she had an extraordinary delight”.
(Fielding : “Joseph Andrews”)
Here Fielding is speaking half through Lady Booby’s mouth directly, half in his own person, ironically. His phrasing makes it clear that he himself thinks the pleasures Lady Booby regards as supreme are trivial and the destruction of reputations far from innocent.
Dramatic irony is the special kind of irony often found in a play, an irony of situation in which what is said on the stage means more to the audience than to the person who says it, or hears it. The Greek tragedies and Macbeth are full of dramatic irony. A living English writer who is a constant user of irony in his prose and dramas, irony both of language and of situation, is Somerest Maugham. Thomas Hardy made very great use of ironies of situation and even called a book of short stories Life’s Little Ironies. Irony is favoured by the French even more than by the British.
Irony, which gives pleasure, relief or stimulus and is a friendly device, seeming to take people into the writer’s or speaker’s confi­dence, should not be confused with sarcasm, which needs a victim, is used for the deliberate infliction of pain and is not a weapon for civilized people.
(xii) Antithesis.
Emphasizing ideas by placing them in clear, direct contrast. This device may consist of a single sentence, or a pair of words or phrases in a sentence ; or it may extend over several paragraphs. The Book of Proverbs is full of antitheses.
(a)Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge ; it is thinking makes what we read ours’.
(John Locke : “Of the Conduct of the Understanding”)
(b)  ‘When a servant is called before his master, he does not come with an expectation to hear himself rated for some trivial fault, threatened to be stripped, or used with any other unbecoming language, which mean masters often give to worthy servants ; but it is often to know, what road he took that he came so readily back according to order : whether he passed by such a ground ; if the old man who rents it is in good health ; or whether he gave Sir Roger’s love to him, or the like.
‘A man who preserves a respect founded on his benevolence to his dependants, lives rather like a prince than as a master in his family : his orders are received as favours rather than as duties ; and the distinction of approaching him is part of the reward for executing what is commanded by him.’
(Steel: “The Spectator”)
(xiii) Epigram.
A short, pointed saying that may be more emphatic than a whole paragraph on the subject would be. An Aphorism is much the same thing, but does not necessarily have the touch of wit we find in an Epigram. Most proverbs are epigrams. Examples of prose epigrams will be found in large quantities in the essays of Francis Bacon and the stories and plays of Oscar Wilde.
(xiv) Paradox.
This is generally epigrammatic in form and implies a strong antithesis, it is a statement that on a first hearing sounds self- contradictory. It can be a very good device for provoking people to think about something afresh, and was much used for this purpose by O.K. Chesterton.
‘Truth makes the greatest libel’.
(Harlin : On Wit and Humour)
‘Nothing is so much to be feared as fear. Atheism may com­paratively be popular with God himself’.
(xv) Oxymoron.
This is a paradox compressed into very few words. As a highly concentrated device, it is more suited to poetry :
‘I could have been
A traitor then, a glorious, happy traitor       
(Dryden : “All for Love”)
‘Thou pure impiety and impious purity !’
(Shakespeare : Much Ado About Nothing)
It is, however, sometimes used in prose, in such phrases as ‘an open secret’ or ‘the widest fool in Christendom’.
(xvi) Repetition.
It is natural and usual, in common speech, to repeat things for emphasis or emotional effect. In the minute subdivisions of rhetorical devices used in the sixteenth-century critical books, repetition was divided into many classes. Abraham France speaks of Epizeuxis or Palilogia—the simple reptition of words or phrases in the same form ; Anadiplosis—that kind of repetition in which the last words of one sentence or phrase are repeated at the beginning of the next ; Anaphora—the repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of several sentences ; Epistrope—the repetition of words or phrases at the ends of sentences or shorter groups : Symploce—repetition at both the beginning and the end of a sentence ; Epanalepsis––the same word or phrase repeated at the end and the beginning of the same sentence Epanodos—the same word or phrase repeated at the beginning and middle and end of a sentence ; Polyoptoton—the use of a word in several of its grammatical forms. Here are some of Abraham France’s examples (with modernized spelling) :
(a)  ‘The time is changed, my lute, the time is changed’.
(b)  ‘O stealing time the subject of delay,
Delay the rack of unrefrain’d derire,
What strange design hast thou my hopes to stay ?
My hopes which do but to mine own aspire ?’
(c) ‘Old age is wise, and full of constant truth,
Old age will stayed from ranging humours lives,
Old age hath knowen, whatever was in youth,
Old age o’ercome the greater honour gives’.
(d)  ‘O no, he can not be good, that knows not why he is good
But stands so far good, as his fortune may keep him unassailed’.
(xvii) Plimax.
The arrangement of words, ideas and so on in order of increas­ing importance.
(a)  “What is become of my rare jewels, my rich array, my sumptuous fare, my waiting servants, my many friends and all my vain pleasures : my pleasure is banished by displeasure, my friends fled like foes, my servants gone, my feasting turned to fasting, my rich array consumed to rags, and my jewels deck out my chiefest enemies”.
(Thomas of Reading : “anonymous”, 1623)
(b) “All that most maddens and torments ; all that stirs tip the less of things ; all truth with malice in it ; all creacks the sinews and cakes the brain ; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought ; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made partically assailable in Moby Dick”.
(Herman Melville : Moby Dick)
(xviii) Anti-Climax.
(It is sometimes called Bathos). The arrangement of ideas, words or phrases so that the very last item is less important than those that have gone before. The reader is, as it were, Jet down with a bump. When this is done accidentally out of carelessness the effect is comic and the passage is spoilt.
“Because one person dropped a cigarette end, three houses were burned to the ground, a collection of irreplaceable books and curios was destroyed, four people lost their lives and Mrs. Robinson’s washing was spoilt by the smoke.”
It may be used deliberately for an ironical purpose.
Here is an interesting passage in which the order of ideas seems like anti-climax, but the actual emotion effect is of climax ; in the ironic manner of Fielding, the implication is that the last occurrence, though the least important, would be the most astonishing :
‘Suppose a stranger, who entered the chambers of a lawyer, being imagined a client, when the lawyer was preparing his plan for the fee, should pull out a writ against him. Suppose an apothecary, at the door of a chariot containing some great doctor of eminent skill, should, instead of directions to a patient, present him with a portion for himself. Suppose a minister should, instead of a good round sum, treat my Lord……or Sir……or Esq……with a good broomstick. Suppose a civil companion, or a led captain, should, instead of virtue, and honour, beauty, and parts, and admiration thunder vice, and infamy, and ugliness, and folly, and contempt, in his patron’s ears. Suppose when a tradesman first carries in his bill, the man of fashion should pay it ; or suppose, if he did so, the tradesman should abate what he had overcharged, on the supposition of waiting.’
(Fielding : Joseph Andrews)
(xix) Innuendo.
Hinting at something without actually saying it. We all know the difference between, ‘she looks a nice girl’ and ‘she looks a nice girl’. Irony may be a form of innuendo.
(xx) Periphrasis or Circumlocution.
This is seldom desirable. It is the trick of style used by Polonius and by bad journalists and public speakers, of saying in many words what could be better said in a few. Its use in artistic writing is generally for comic effect or euphemism. Redundancy is the use of two words where either of them carries the meaning adequately, as in ‘grateful thanks’ or ‘two equal halves’. When the two words are the same part of speech as in ‘I am thankful and grateful’ it is called Tautology. One form of Tautology that can be beautiful, is the ‘doublet’ of a Latin and Saxon word in a solemn context, which may produce a beautiful rhythm : ‘We acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickednesses.’
(xxi) Surprise Ending.
We are waiting for the end of a sentence and it is not what we expected ; this may emphasize the point ; it is fairly common as a device in English.
“Bartholomew Fair” is chiefly remarkable for ‘the exhibition of odd humours and tumbler’s tricks, and is on that account amusing to read once.’
(Hazlitt : Lectures on the English Comic Writers)
(xxii) Playful use of Colloquialism
It is possible to write a piece of prose, especially an eassy, in quite a grave and formal style, then suddenly to lighten the atmos­phere by some colloquial expression. There is no special name in English for this device. Churchill’s famous ‘Some chicken !’ is one of the best imaginable examples of this device. In written prose too it usually has a mildly comic effect, or suggests that the writer feels friendly towards the reader. This is probably a colloquialism :
“They say the quickness of repartees in argumentative scenes receives an ornament from the verse. Now what is more unreasonable than to imagine that a man should not only light upon the wit, but the rhyme too, upon the sudden ? This nicking of him who spoke before both in sound and measure, is so great a happiness, that you must at least suppose the persons of your play to be born poets           “.
(Dryden : Essay of Dramatic Poesy)
(xxiii) Conscious use of Cliche.
I suppose this might be classified as a form of irony. It is possible to take some expression that everyone takes for granted and repeats, often as an excuse for not thinking, and to play with it so as to expose its emptiness or falsity. Here is an example from a book of political exposition ; it is somewhat emotional as compared with the rest of the book, but very successful as the dramatic climax to a dignified argument :
‘Whenever I hear this suggestion that socialism is contrary to human nature, I want to ask the opposite question : Is capitalism contrary to human nature ? Is it contrary to human nature to give the highest pay to those who do no work at all ; to give the lowest pay to those who do the heaviest work ? Is it contrary to human nature to pay ninety percent of the population so little that they cannot buy enough to keep them-selves in employment ? Is it contrary to human nature keep several million people permanently idle, while they, and many others, lack the very goods that they ought to be producing ? Is it contrary to human nature deliberately to destroy food, clothes and many other forms of wealth, in order to render the production of further wealth profitable again ? Is it contrary to human nature so to arrange things that the only job on which men can get employment is building armaments with which to kill each other ? Is it contrary to human nature to send millions of men out to slaughter each other in order to decide who shall possess the markets of the world ? Is all this contrary to human nature ? I think it is.”
(John Strachey : Why you should be a Socialist)
The gentle modesty of the last sentence makes the climax more convincing. Cobbett is another writer who is very fond of turning some catch-phrase against his adversary. It is also possible to take some insult or invective hurled at us by an opponent and modify it for our own use.
(xxiv) Literalism.
This trick is well suited to English as we have so many cliches and familiar idioms. The writer takes a familiar expression and plays with it, taking it in its literal sense instead of in its usual metaphorical sense. This can be irritating and profane when done too often, like the mannerism of a habitual punster, but the trick can be a useful counter-attack to rhetorical devices unskilfully used. It is frequently found in humorous prose passages in Shakespeare and in some of the modern light essaylists.
Curtis   :  All ready ; and therefore, I pray thee, news ?
Grumio :  First, know, my horse is tired, my master and mistress fallen out.
Curtis   :  How ?
Grumio :  Out of their saddles into the dirt ; and thereby.
Curtis   :  Let’s halt, goad Grumio.
Grumio :  (Striking him) : There.
Curtis   :  This is to feel a tale, not to hear a tale.
Grumio    :  And therefore it is called a sensible tale.
(Shakespeare : “The Taming of the Shrew”)
The first joke is literalism ; the final joke is a pun.
(The Anatomy of Prose : Marjorie Boulton)

Some Critical Appreciation SOLVED EXAMPLES

Ott When my spirit doth spred her bolder wings,
In mind to mount up to the purest sky,
It down is weighd with thought of earthly things,
And clogd with burden of mortality :

Where, when that soverayne beauty it doth spy,
Resembling heavens glory in her light
Drawne with sweet pleasures bayt, it back doth fly,
And unto heaven forgets her former flight.
There may fraile fancy, fed with full delight,
Doth bath in blisse, and mantlenth most at ease ;
Me thinks of other heaven, but how it might
Her harts desire with most contenment please.
Hart need not wish none other happinesse,
But here on earth to have such hevens blisse.
(Amroetti-LXXII—Edmund Spencer)
Critical Appreciation
In the first four lines Spenser presents the theme……In the next
four lines the reader expects to find some exploration of the theme, but finds, instead, simply further statement……In the well constructed lyric one would expect in the last lines to discover the intellectual resolution. Here, however, there is no dramatic emotional situation to be resolved. There is merely further explanation couched in terms of graceful tribute…The difference between the poems of Herrick and Stevens and Spencer is the distinction between poetry of explo­ration and the poetry of exposition. Herrick and Stevens present material for the reader to work through ; Spenser presents an ima­gined experience unequivocally stated. There is in the first two poems an intellectual and emotional problem to be settled in terms of the materials presented. Spenser, as a Christian, represents and illustrates a Christian attitude ; he does not re-experience it. He does not earn his attitude.
This does not arouse spirited defence of the Amoretti of all Spenser’s mature poems the least exciting, especially if one agrees that Herrick’s Mad Maid’s Song and Stevens’ Peter Quince at the Clavier are finer poems than this particular sonnet. The sonnet, however, is in its way well constructed and contains more of the qualities which O’Connor demands than he seems to realize. It is dramatic, yet there is more sinew in the convolutions of its neo-Platonic thought than casually appears ; there is even more surprise and tension, since underlying the whole sonnet is the pull between heaven and earth. The first four lines express the soul’s aspirations heavenward defeated by mortality ; the next four are statement, but “exploratory state­ment” essential to particularize “mortality”, showing the soul, snared by desire, accepting a substitute heaven. The octave leaves us with a sense of true heaven forgotten in early illusion. The opening lines of the sestet, expatiating on this earthly bliss,, are the only part of the poem which can be dismissed as merely “further explanation”, since the concluding couplet suddenly reverses the neo-Platonism and the substitute nature of earthly love, proclaiming the paradox of heaven on earth. In thus forcing a system of philosophy to bow to his mistress, Spenser shows no intense spiritual conflict ; he stays, as he intends to stay, within the bounds of graceful, playful tribute. Is there no room in poetry for this ? (W.B.C. Watkins)
Leave me, O love which reachest but to dust ;
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things ;
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust,
Whatever fades but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be ;
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light
That doth both shine and give us sight, to see.
O take fast hold ; let that light be thy guide.
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide,
Who seeketh heav’n, and comes of heav’nly breath.
Then farewell, world ; thy uttermost I see ;
External Love, maintain thy life in me.
(Leave Me, O Love : Sir Philip Sydney).
Critical Appreciation
Though the Christian feeling of the poem has often been noticed, the Christian thought and Biblical allusions have not, so far as we know, been made clear. The poem has been associated with Petrarch’s “solemn and impressive renunciation of love’s empire” and more often with Renaissance Platonism. But these associations are vague and conjectural, while the Biblical background of the sonnet is unmistakable and the Christian meaning paramount.
The contrast emphasized throughout the sonnet is between the brevity of the things of this world and the duration of things heavenly. In lines 1—2, the renunciation of Earthly Love is sufficienty contrasted with the aspiration toward Heavenly Love, despite the gene­rality of “higher things,” by the phrase “which reachest but to dust.” All the things of this world must pass and return to the dust of which God made man even the love of a man for a woman. The allusion to Mathew, vi. 19-21 in line 3 is apparent. The image of “fading” in line 4 may be suggested by Mathew, vi, 22-24, where the idea of “darkness” is associated with self-seeking and worldliness and “light” with the steadfast aspiration of the Christian soul toward eternal salvation. This thought is likewise suggested by the first quatrain of Sidney’s poem.
“Draw in thy beams……” The association in lines 1-4 of
worldly love and its objects with the lustrelessness of that “which moth and rust doth corrupt”, of that which “fades” and brings ‘‘fading pleasures”, may suggest that the mind of the worldly man bent upon worldly pleasures tries to emit its own light (dark though this be in comparison with the light of God), to live by this false light, competing, as it were, with God’s light. The true peninent will want to foresake the feeble “light” of his own mind (which is really the darkness of willfulness and sin) and will submit himself in all humi­lity to God’s light. The act of submission and the accompanying mood of humility are further enforced from two other texts. Jesus said : “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me : for I am meek and lowly in heart : and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. And Jesus also said : “I the light of the world he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life”. The reason for associating “that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be” with the breaking forth of light “that doth both shine and give us sight to see” in lines 6-8 is now clear and indeed compelling.
Sidney has brought into conjunc­tion two of the most memorable texts in the Gospels, and they are beautifully consistent with each other. We may then paraphrase lines 5-8 somewhat as follows : Cease to follow the pitiful illumination of your own mind in its worldness, for its light is but darkness. ‘ Sub­mit humbly to the yoke that Jesus lays upon men for He has promised that by assuming this yoke you will find the only lasting freedom, freedom to follow the path that leads to eternal life by the light of Jesus who is the light of the world.
“O take fast hold……” Of what ? The answer is, of Christian
faith and eternal life. The image is a favourite of
St. Paul’s though it also occurs elsewhere in the scriptures. The imagery and allusions of the first two quatrains are all related to the Gospels. In the third quatrain the mood and imagery become predominantly Pauline. The Pauline texts I Timothy, vi, 12 and II Timothy, vi, 7 suggest the image, in lines 9-10, of the Christian who takes fast hold ,on his faith as running a course, a brief course of human life, which only God can light to a successful end. The image of “sliding” in lines 11-12 is not Pauline. The concluding couplet is a prayer to the eternal God who is love ; for it is by the grace of the Eternal Love that the Christian finds salvation.
The sonnet is thus a very careful and beautiful expression of Christian doctrine and Christian feeling. It is an important commentary upon Sidney’s Christian experience and attitude.
(Harold S. Wilson)
When to her lute Corinna sings,
Her voice revives the leaden strings,
And doth in highest notes appear
As any challenged echo clear ;
But when she doth of mourning speak,
E’en with her sighs the strings do break.
And has her lute doth live or die,
led by her passion, so must I :
For when of pleasure she doth sing,
My thoughts enjoy a sudden spring ;
But if she doth of sorrow speak,
E’en from my heart the strings do break.
(Of Corinna’s Singing : Thomas Campion)
Critical Appreciation
One would expect, despite Sidney’s notorious defence even of the lyric on moral grounds, that songs would be most likely to show images used simply to assist the representation of a state of mind. This ought to fit love songs at least, which permit “the many moodes and pangs of lovers, thoroughly to be discovered”. Suppose one reads through Bullen’s Lyrics from Elizabethan Song-Books, for example, with this natural expectation. One finds few poems which can have been chiefly intended to show us just how their writers felt, and few images which fit in with modern notions of the function of sensuous imagery in lyrics. Interestingly enough the examples which we believe would come nearest to modern expectations turns out to be Campion’s.
They do not come very near. The climax of “When to her Lute Corrina Sings” is the announcement “And as her lute doth live or die,/Led her passion, so must I,” but Campion leaves to us all particular elucidation of that element of dependence in a lover’s state of mind—nor does the poem lead us on to any such private pursuit. He confines himself to an image whose parallelisms can evoke only the most general notion of the speaker’s feelings, as though he were interested rather in praise of Corinna neatly elucidated through the parallel he draws. The emotion is so little particularized that Corinna might indeed be the Elizabethan analogue of the latest Carnegie Hall concert sensation, if it were not that we know enough about the conventions of Elizabethan love poetry to deduce another state of mind in the speaker than musical enthusiasm. The images reveal a man moved, but writing what the rhetories call “a praise” of the lady and the music, rather than examining the nature of his emotional experience. The ambiguity in “My thoughts enjoy a sudden spring,” picking up the suggestions of “Her voice revives the leaden strings,” the worn unparticularized image of heartstrings (its nature probably governed by the identity of the musical phrase to which lines 6 and 12 were sung), less metrically felicitious than its musical parallel, “Ev’n with her sighs the strings do break”—these do not describe ; rather they invest with new interest a perceived analogy, cunningly patterned to make the most of the repeated musical pattern.
(Rosemond Tuve)
I struck the board, and cried, “No more I will abroad !
What shall I ever sigh and pine ?
My lines and life are free : free as the road,
Loose as the wind, as large as store,
Shall I be still in suit ?
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit ?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it ; there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
Is the year only lost to me ?
Have I no bays to crown it,
No flowers, no garlands gay ? all blasted
All wasted ?
Not so, my heart, but there is fruit
And thou hast hands.
Recover all thy sigh-blown age
On double pleasures ; leave thy could dispute
Of what is fit and not ; forsake thy cage,
Thy rope and sands,
Which petty thoughts have made ; and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw,
And be thy law,
While thou didst wink and wouldst not see.
Away ! take heed !
I will abroad.
Call in thy death’s-head there, tie up thy fears.
He that forbears
To suit and serve his need
Deserves his load.”
But as I raved, and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, “Child” ;
And I replied, “My Lord.”
 (The Collar : George Herbert)
Critical Appreciation
This is not to say that poems have never been composed on lines of imagery laid down in advance. George Herbert surely did it time and again ; and his great poem, The Collar, shows how successful this method may be. It is an example of the strictly functional use of images ; their use, that is, to point a theme already defined. The central image, the spiritual rope by which the Christian is tied to his God, would represent an idea so similar to Herbert’s contemporaries that the boldest explorartion of it could hardly take them far out of their depth. At first Herbert subtly hints at the tie, by seeming to deny its existence :
I struck the board, and cried, “No more ; I will abroad.
What shall I ever sigh and pine ?
My lines and life are free : free as the road
Loose as the wind, as large as store.
Shall I be still in suit ?
After that delicate hint, a variation of the theme appears. The Tempter’s voice within continues :
Have I no harvest but a thorn
To let me blood, and not restore
What I have lost with cordial fruit ?
Sure there was wine
Before my sighs did dry it : there was corn
Before my tears did drown it.
The images are still conventional, symbols only : but notice how cleverly the Temtper has used these Christian symbols, thorn and blood, bread and wine, for his own nefarious purpose. Next, the full theme appears : but the rope between Christ and Christian is diabolically contorted into
……leave thy cold dispute
Of what is fit, and not ; forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands,
Which petty thoughts have made, and made to thee
Good cable, to enforce and draw
And be thy law,
While thou did’st wink and would’st not see.
Then, with a master stroke of cynicism, the Tempest gives one twist to the rope :
Call in thy death’s head there : tie up thy fears.
But Christ had the last word : and it is consonant with the remarkable dialectic skill and dramatic delicacy of the poem that this last word, for all the still, small voice in which it is spoken, should so strike us as a climax noble, thrilling, unanswerable :
But as I raved and grew more fierce and wild
At every word,
Methought I heard one calling, “Child” ;
And I replied, “My Lord”.
(C. Day Lewis)
So in his purple wrapp’d, receive me, Lord,
By these his thorns give me his other crown :
And as to others’ souls I preach’d thy word,
Be this my text, my sermon to mine own :
Therefore that he may raise, the Lord throws down.
We think that Paradise and Calvary,
Chrit’s Cross and Adams tree, stood in one place.
Look Lord, and find both Adams met in me :
As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,
May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.
(From Hymn to God : My God In My Sickness : John Donne)
Critical Appreciation
The first five-line stanza is a specific development of what has already been implicit in the poem—the unity and beneficence of God’s plan. Adam’s tree made Christ’s Cross necessary, and they stood in one place, because Christ, on the human side, was descended from Adam, in fulfilment of the prophecy that Eve’s seed should “bruise the head” of the serpent. The meeting of both Adams in the drying man is made possible only by the last Adam’s death upon the cross. But even here, when the body is almost ready to yield completely to spirit, Donne cannot get away from a strong sense of the physical (characteristic of most of his poetry) : “As the first Adam’s sweat surrounds my face,” he says, describing the effect of the fever, “May the last Adam’s blood my soul embrace.”
The next five-line stanza indicates that this prayer has been answered. Wrapped in Christ’s purple, he is at last ready to be received into the presence of the Lord. “Purple” here is surely not the regal colour of imperial Rome, which would not be appropriate for Christ even when he sits at the right hand of the Father, but the “purple” which is an incorrect translation of a colour (probably crimson) admired by the ancient Hebrews. “In his purple wrapp’d” then, would be similar to “washed in the blood”. The suffering of the sick man analogous also to Christ’s crown of thorns, after enduring which he feels that be can plead for the other crown. The poem ends in simple, homely language, justifying the ways of God to man : “Therefore that he may raise, the Lord thrown down”.
Donne in this poem uses five-line stanzas of iambic pentameter, rhyming a b a b b. The rhymes are sometimes rather loose, as, for example, “lie” and “discovery”. Trochees are frequently, and dactyls less often, substituted for iambs—trochees like “Whilst my” or “Is the” : dactyls like the last three syllables “Cosmographers” or of “Jerusalem”. Runover lines allow the pauses to fit the thought rather than the meter. These runover lines and the metrical variations within the iambic-pentameter pattern gives the effect of a combination of unity with variety—one aspect of the “reconcilement of discordant equalities,” which Coleridge demanded of a poem.
Still another aspect of this discordia concors appears in the judicious mingling of simple, homely, short words like “What shall my West hurt me ?” with long, sonorous words like “Cosmo­graphers”, “discovery”, “Jerusalem”, “evermore”, and “resurrection”, which in their context add an element of ecclesiastical dignity. More specifically antihetical collection of words appears in “West and East”, “Paradise and Calvary,” “Christ’s cross and Adam’s tree”, “first Adam” and “last Adam”, “Thorns” and “crown”.
The serenity of Donne’s “Hymn” has a different quality front that of other poems on the same subject. The conclusion to “Thanatopsis”, for example, attains a certain kind of serenity, and yet Bryant’s rhetoric seems almost to shout at us that we should die in a quiet way. Tennyson’s limitations we have mentioned. Shake­speare, in a still different way, stresses the horrible aspect of “dusty death” or of flight “from this vile world with vilest worms to dwell” Even the followers of Donne wear the metaphysical shroud with a difference. Bishop King strikes the note of terror in his famous conceit :
But hark ! my pulse like a soft drum
Beats my approach, tells thee I come.
Marvell must dwell on his mistress’s death, when “worms shall try that long preserved virginity”.
Donne, in his valedictory poems at least, certainly has a different emphasis. In view of these poems we can well believe that the picture of the saintly Donne given by Walton is really not inaccu­rate for one side of this strange poet-preacher the side that became more and more uppermost as he grew older. Williamson says that Donne’s having his picture painted while he wore his shroud in hi, last illness indicates morbidity. Perhaps so—but Williamson ought to make a distinction between this kind of morbidity and that which during the greater part of his life kept Donne from “allaying the fever of the bone”. Such a fever has in this poem (written at the same time the shroud picture was painted) given way to a joyful contemplation of the central theme of Christian faith : that “death doth touch the resurrection”. Such serenity, reached artistically through a combination of religious intensity with metaphysical wit, .makes this one of the finest religious poems ever written.
(Harry M. Campbell)
Tell me not, sweet, I am unkind,
That from the nunnery
Of the chaste breast and quiet mind
To war and arms I fly.
True, a new mistress now I chase,
The first foe in the field ;
And with a stronger faith embrace
A sword, a horse, a shield.
Yet this inconstancy is such
As thou too shalt adore :
I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
(To Lucasta, Going To the Wars : Richard Lovelace)
Critical Appreciation
That Lovelace’s Lyric. “To Lucasta, Going to the Wars”, has been attractive, there can be no doubt. Its general popularity seems to rest on the epigrammatic quality of its last two lines, considered as a set-piece. Without attacking the absurdity of so confirmed a view of Lovelace’s general achievement, it might be useful to indicate the integrated structure of this Lucasta poem for something of the same benefit which has come from the realization that Donne’s poems have more than brilliant opening lines.
Here the poet is presented with a situation, that of the departure from his mistress of a lover called to the wars. The problem of the lover is that of explaining the motivation of his departure and of anticipating the accusation from her that he is both cruel in so doing and inconstant to his earlier vows of fidelity. He wishes to ease the departure by avoiding sentimentality, that is the display of more emotion than the situation warrants. Faced, then, with a quandry, he offers as solution a paradox (a statement seemingly self-contradic­tory. though possibly well-founded or essentially true).
The interest of the poem comes from his procedure. He opens his address with an epithet of quality (“sweet”), and urges that she need not think him “unkind”. (i.e. lacking in natural goodness ; contrary to nature ; harsh). By his reference to the chaste and sancti­fied refuge which she provides as though she herself were a nunnery, he establishes the basis on which the problem can be met not basically as a separation of divisible bodies but as one of indivisible spirit. The path of solution is commonplace in a love poetry ; the quality of Lovelace’s poem arises out of his particular twist to it.
The ambiguity and paradox of the situation is affirmed by the twisted implications of “To war and arms I fly”, which so obviously picks up the martial “Anna virumque Cano” of Virgil. Foreseeing a potential misunderstanding that his true delight will lie in war, the poet proceeds to her expected implication of shifted allegiance, and maintains continuity in the role of lover, as one might with apparent inconstancy leave from a quarrel to pursue the first girl one saw. But any conflicting passion on the level of the flesh is, as he presents the case, subtly omitted, since he does not actually embrace this new mistress, but only his material accoutrements ; and this he does only with “faith”, which is non-sensory. This may paradoxically still seem inconstant and inconsistent until we actually understand the nature of the other love. This, we see, lies in “Honour”, a concept of the spirit and not of the body, therefore essentially sexless and genderless, in a situation mutually attractive (“as thou too shalt adore”). Their common adoration of “Honour” is a bond between them of ultimate timelessness, overcoming distance and decay, as “the marriage of true minds” does for Shakespeare, and lunary love (by extension to the compass) does for Donne. Since Lovelace now openly avows his love of Honour, by implication of affinity he pays his mistress the ultimate compliment of extending this inherent superiority to his relationship with her. Any unkindness in his departure can be said to exist only on the sub-lunary level of flesh. It cannot be unnatural except on that plane, and the inconsistance will be resolved by her recognition of the hierarchy of affections, on a higher level of which comes Honour. Perhaps the fullest value of the poem is indicated in the increased density which his final epithet of endearment bears over that of his initial one ; for the progress from his opening address to her as “sweet” to that of “dear” cumulatively carries with it, under the circumstances, a final assessment not only of quality but also of value and of flesh immortalized by ascending spirit.
If there is a question as to the actuality of a shift of tone from beginning to end, one needs only to attempt a simple substitution to understand the incongruity of the alternative :
I could not love thee (sweet) so much,
Loved I not Honour more.
(Norman Holmes Pearson)
Tiger ! Tiger ! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry ?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes ?
On what wings dare he aspire ?
What the hand dare seize the fire ?
And what shoulder, and what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart ?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand ? and what dread feet ?
What the hammer ? what the chain ?
In what furnace was thy brain ?
What the anvil ? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp ?
When the stars threw down their spears
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see ?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee ?
Tiger ! Tiger ! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal band or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry ?
(The Tiger : William Blake)
Critical Appreciation
The poetry of this desire and of what it meant to Blake can be seen in “The Tiger”. Hero enraptured song conveys in essential vision some themes which Blake presents elsewhere in more detail. This is the pure poetry of his trust in cosmic force. The images of “The Tiger” recur in the prophetic books, but in the poem, detached from any very specific context, they have a special strength and freedom. The tiger is Blake’s symbol for the fierce forces in the soul which are needed to break the bonds of experience. The “forests of the night”, in which the tiger lurks, are ignorance, repression, and superstition. It has been fashioned by unknown, super-natural spirits, like Blake’s mythical heroes, Ore and Los, prodigious smiths who beat out living worlds with their hammer ; and this happened when “the stars threw down their spears”, that is, in some enormous cosmic crisis when the universe turned round in its course and began to move from light to darkness—as Urizen says in The Four Zoas, when he finds that passion and natural joy have withered under his rule and the power of the spirit has been weakened :
I went not forth : I hid myself in black clouds of my wrath ;
I call’d the stars around my feet in the night of councils
dark ;
The stars threw down their spears and fled naked away.
If we wish to illustrate “The Tiger” from Blake’s other works, it is easy to do so, and it adds much to our understanding of its back-ground and its place in Blake’s development. But it is first and last a poem. 1 he images are so compelling that for most purposes they explain themselves, and we have an immediate, overwhelming of an awful power lurking in the darkness of being and forcing on us questions which pierce to the heart of life.
(C. M. Bowra)

Poetry : Different Subjects

With a detailed consideration of the nature of poetry, the ordinary reader’s reaction to a poem, the various poetical devices and the use of language, it is only appropriate that the student should be helped to acquaint himself with the different subjects tackled by the poets. It is not being claimed that the subjects dealt with in this chapter are all-inclusive. A modest claim should be that it deal with some of the major subjects in English poetry.

Poetry makes a special use of language, but the common functions of language is communication. What the poetic language communicates : feelings, emotions or attitudes of ideas, is the concern in the present chapter. Auden has suggested three wishes of the creative artist : to make something ; to perceive something either in the external world of sense or the internal world of feeling ; and to transmit these perceptions to others. It is the representations of human nature in poetry that is of utmost importance to a sympathetic reader. However, there may be divergent views about the status of language in this emo­tional-linguistic link-up called poetry. Dr. Johnson has made this point abundantly clear :

Nothing can please many and please long, but just representations of human nature……The irregular combinations of fanciful invention may delight awhile, by that novelty of which the-satiety of life sends us all in quest ; but the pleasure of sudden wonder are soon exhausted, and the mind can repose only on stability of truth.
It is the permanence of “truth” as Johnson states it, that strikes Lie reader poetry. The attraction to the “fanciful” use of language is temporary.
Love :
Love, being one of the tenderest feelings of human life, has been a constant source of inspiration to the poets of all ages. This subject knows no limitations even in languages. Dr. Johnson may have considered love only as one of the passions, but in poetry it can be considered as the major subject, and more so in English poetry. Different ages have used different conventions to express this feeling of love, yet the passion in itself has tended to express the vitality and involvement in human affairs in each age. Shakespeare called it as
“O spirt of love, how quick and fresh art thou”
Sir Walter Raleigh
But love is a durable fire
In the mind ever burning ;
Never sick, never old, never dead,
From itself never turning.
John Donne with his impatience said,
For God’s sake hold your tongue and let me love while Christina Rossetti is almost heavenly in
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot ;
My heart is like an apple’s tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit.
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea ;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.
or Hardy emphasizing the permanence of the lovers’ feeling :
Younder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by.
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.
Different attitudes are portrayed in love poetry and these attitudes give rise to different kinds of reactions. The bantering mockery turns the lover’s position from tragedy to comedy ; and to be lovelorn, pale and mute becomes absurd instead of romantic. In success, the lover may transcend all barriers and ride like Browning’s lover in The Last Ride Together. In jealousy, the lover may throttle her to death. He may even start crying in anguish on the changed attitude of the lady, or may fret at the everchanging moods of the lady. To wail, weep, vow and worry himself is the lot of those in love and the burden on poet’s faculties for he is to capture such moods in his poetry.
It would be appropriate to evaluate attitudes to lose as a sub­ject and the different conventions eyed to express it on a time-basis-The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are the great ages of the love lyric. The sonnet was almost a craze, borrowed from the Italian literature. There were a set stock of expressions, hairlike gold wires. lips of coral, cheeks of red and white roses, “globy fronts” (which means foreheads) like marble, snowy breasts and the lovers all “fry” in the flames of their passion. But Shakespeare gives a jolt to such a set stock of phraseology of love by saying :
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun ;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red :
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun ;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head…
Gradually, there is a trend towards sophistication in the courtly love lyrics, with more restraint and a kind of elevation in the level of language. The lady, previously loaded with too many linguistic jewels, seems lighter in comparison now. Suckling is an example :
Of thee (kind boy) I ask no red and white
To make up my delight,
No odd becoming graces.
Black eyes. or little know-not-whats, in faces ;
Make me but mad enough, give me good store
Of love, for her I court,
I ask no more,
’Tis love in love that makes the sport.
There is, then, a departure from the courtly lyric to the metaphy­sical tradition in love. The juxtaposition of hetrogeneous images, or the yoking together in violence of the heterogeneous with the devices or conceits and metaphors dominate the scene. Instead of the smooth, melodious surface texture, there is a new colloquial intimacy and a startling address : “Go and catch a failing star,/Get with child a mandrake root……” or “So, so break off this last lamenting kiss.”
The Elizabethans seldom complicated their love poems with more than decorative similes and metaphors, but the metaphysicals loved to conceive and carry through complex parallels and analogies that added both concreterness and intensity to their subjects. With the eighteenth century, sophistication covers the whole gamut of poetic activity and a new dimension is added to love-expression. The comic element turns to more of social frivolity as an object to be censured, whereas the romantic aspect grows more and more reserved. The position, however changes in the Romantic age where love assumes the role of a tender touch to the sensitive hearts and vitalises or depresses the young poets. Shelley exults while Keats frets in love for Fanny, whereas Byron seems to shock the contem­porary social norms. The natural scene becomes an essential back-ground to all love-expression. Browning does this in his The Lost Mistress. The language too has the easy colloquial touch, which Browning himself introduced :
All’s over, then ; does truth sound bitter
As one at first believes
Hark. ’tis the sparrows’ good-night twitter
About your cottage eaves !
And the leaf-buds on the vine are wooly.
I noticed that, to-day ;
One day more bursts then open fully
—You know the red turns grey.
With this, the personal experience is filled with more and more of torment and dissatisfaction in love and exultation at success in lose. With Edgar Allan Poe, love becomes a spiritual mystery evoked by a series of associative images, and “beauty” is hardly that of a physical woman at all. In “To Helen”, he is comparing the tradi­tional Helen, “the face that launched a thousand ships” into a ten-year war, with the vision of a woman whose beauty has given him peace and serenity of heart. Yeats, in his series of Crazy Jane poems, is anti-intellectual and anti-clerical and combines universal, mystical wisdom with racy, sensual and primitive elements.
Thus, with different periods and with different sensibilities, the treatment of love in poetry has varied and given different facts of human condition and awareness. Yet the most poetic and not-yet-equalled expression in this area of human experience is that of Shake­speare :
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove :
Or, no ! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken ;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come ;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Nature :
The treatment of nature in English poetry usually dates from the pastoral poetry wherein natural background lends to innocent, philosophic speculations and life devoid of any kind of corruption. This would tend to link Spenser and other poets with this tradition. The eighteenth century trimmed Nature in the form of a well-kept garden with everything in its proper order. However, the revolt or the Romantic Revival as it is popularly known starts with the publication of the Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth and Coleridge in 1798.
The pastoral poetry spoke of vernal airs and blushing dawns, the bloomy spray, the swelling clusters of the vine, the sun’s mild luster, the gentle gales and the sounding main. Thomas Nashe wrote about the joys of spring as ‘Spring, the Sweet spring is the year’s pleasant king” whereas Shakespeare presents work in abund­ance, in his plays, songs and sonnets.
However, it is with Wordsworth that we normally associate the Nature Rivival in English poetry. Read this about the happy hare :
The hare is running races in her mirth
And with her feet she from the plashy earth
Raises a mist, that, glittering in the sun,
Runs with her all the way, wherever she doth run.
Wordsworth is a particularly personal poet, speaking directly to the reader of his most inward experiences, and the character of those experiences does not communicate itself to the majority of modern readers. But a mystical relationship is not a very common thing to-day. Life has become so urbanized that the intensities of the romantic poets over mountains and nightingales and skylarks and cuckoos and clouds and west winds and the lesser celandine seem alien and remote. Still, Wordsworth’s interest in nature is guided by his interest in human affairs. The association of human condition with natural phenomena is the prime motive in such poetry.
In Wordsworth’s poetry, its often the revelation that through the convict ion of the unity of man with nature, the mind can discover itself in fullness and disciplined calm, that is emphasized. None of the other romantic poets attains the serenity of Wordsworth, but their insights are arrived at in the same way. Keats, in his Ode to A Nightingale attains Wordsworth’s sense of complex harmony and peace through a vision of timeless world roused by the bird’s song. But he can hold it only for an instant, and the end carries no assurance of its truth. Shelley turns Ode to the West est into a prayer for the identification of himself, in the autumnal sadness of his spirit, with the wind itself :
Be thou. spirit fierce.
My spirit ! Be thou me, impetuous one !
and he creates an association between the awakening earth in spring-time, the reawakening of his own spirit to inspiration, and the hope that his poetry may bring a resurrection to human kind.
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves, to quicken a new birth !
And, by the incantation of this verse.
Scatter, as from an unextingusished hearth
Ashes and sparks. my words among mankind
Be through my lips to unawakened earth.
The trumpet of a prophecy ! O, wind.
If winter comes, can spring be far behind ?
It has always been a common phenomenon to draw some moral lesson from nature. Thomas Hardy finds a gleam of hope for the new century in The Darkling Thrush. The attitude of’ the twentieth century poets to nature is clearly reflected in W.H. Auden’s words :
To me art’s subject is the human clay
And landscape but the background for a torso.
W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot use natural symbols, a swan or a chestnut tree, a desert or a rose garden, but these are in no sense part of the natural world : they are there to objectify an inner world of human feeling. It is only saying one thing in terms of the another. Frost would normally be considered as a nature poet till we keep the above mentioned point in mind. The recurrent theme in Frost’s poetry is man.
The student making his early attempts at practical criticism of nature poetry will have to keep a clear view of the various points. Does nature stand for itself, glorified in itself ? Or, does it represent a human condition, either through the process of symbolization or identification ? Does nature present any kind of anti-thesis to the human picture, thus creating an ironic contrast ? It is such choices and many others that would help the student to approach such poetry with a keener sense.
“Nature herself remains the same ; it is the poet who finds reflections in her of his own varying moods and perceptions. It is his particular senses that respond to the sight, sound, touch, taste and perfume of natural objects ; it is his heart that finds comfort, or feels desolation, or exults in the natural forces of creation and destruction ; it is his mind that contemplates her, and through the thoughts and insights she arouses, leads him to penetrate further into the mysteries of his own being. It may even intensify his sense of fellowship with other men, a truth beautifully suggested in another poem of Frost. The Tuft of Flowers.”
Religion :
Religion, or a faith in religion, has always been the resuming point for a despaired man in life. Some hope t hat somebody would share the griefs and joys and even come to one’s aid at times has always been the key point of religious belief in all nations. Being a tiny force in the huge cosmos, man is subject to a fate which is generally considered as irrational. However, the braver approach is that of the humanist fighting his way through all troubles. Both these view-points have been the subjects for the poetic imaginations to deal with. Tennyson cried hard and still searched for a message in his famous In Memoriam. One may even go deep down and refer to bleak human deprivation or divine deprivation. Shelley, however, chooses to be happy in the triumph of his Prometheus.
With faith as the keystone in religious poetry, remarks Elizabeth Drew more had poetry has been accepted on religious topics than on secular ones. Wordsworth points to one of these reasons :
Readers of moral and religious inclinations, attaching so much importance to the truths which interest them…are prone to overrate the authors by whom those truths are expressed and enforced. They come prepared to import so much passion to the poet’s language that they remain unconscious how little, in fact, they receive from it.
T. S. Eliot refers to the same gap between intention and accomplishment of such writers. Normally, it is an easy “leap from skepticism to assurance” in religious poetry, whereas the death of the old dispensation and the acceptance of the new is hard and uncertain. It is the later view-point that one finds in Journey of the Magi.
There has been a general controversy raised about Eliot himself regarding the enjoyment of poetry which expressed a certain view-point with which the reader tends to differ. Eliot thought that such a situation tends to create a disturbance in the enjoyment of the poem. Milton’s theology, for example, destroys any pleasure in Paradise Lost or Pope’s deism spoils The Essay On Man. There is, however, the other view which negates the importance of any intellectual interference. They suggest that there is ample room for the reader to be objective in the appreciation of such poetry. Eliot has suggested emotional sympathy as the guiding principle of poetic enjoyment without according any credence to intellectual assent. Elizabeth Drew points to the need of a religious faith :
A religious faith, like a humanstic one, is something that helps man in the living of life ; helps him to face “the weariness, the fever and the fret” that any active living in the world of men will often bring. The humanist finds his help in the sense of creative powers latent in the natural world of which he is a part, and alive in human love. The religious believer in general finds it in the faith that a divine order exists in which all apparent human disorder has meaning, and the Christian be­liever finds it especially in the sense of the perpetual immanence of the divince in the temporal, in the figure of Christ.
George Herbert has created the feeling of “a knowing joy” in his relations with the divine. This arises, though, not from the rapture of the mystic union but from the sense of a loving companion-ship. The religious poetry basically rests on an assumption that the human is temporal and transcended for the fulfilment of higher aspirations and attainment of eternal values.
Death :
Death has been yet another theme which has engaged the attention of the poets. Sometimes it has led to philosophic speculation (as in case of Tennyson’s In Memoriam) while at others the poets have challenged its powers and reduced it to a longer sleep after which life begins with new vitality. However, physical life is always threatened with death, and it is in terms of the limited period of human life that a scale of values is evolved. Shakespeare wrote that “If it is not now, yet it will come”. Yeats considered death as “but passing from one room to another”, Cleopatra, at the time of her death in Shakespeare’s play, gives it a touch of magnificence by decking herself to meet her dead Antony. There may even be a reaction in horrors. There may be a state of non-pluss where the protagonist may not be able to talk of fear or hope. It may lead to an outburst of anger directed against the fellow-beings if they were the ones who caused death. This happens the Wilfred Owen’s poems.
In Wordsworth’s sonnet as he remembers his little girl, Catherine, who died when she was four, the feeling seems to flow in simple passionate speech :
Surprised by joy—impatient as the wind
I turned to share the transport—Oh ! with whom
But Thee, deep buried in the silent tomb,
That spot which no viscissitude can find ?
Love, faithful love, recalled thee to my mind––
But how could I forget thee ? Through what power,
Even for the least division of an hour,
Have I been so beguiled as to be blind
To my most grievous loss ?—That thought’s return
Was the worst pang that sorrow ever bore,
Save one, one only, when I stood forlorn,
Knowing my heart’s best treasure was no more,
That neither present time, nor years unborn
Could to my sight that heavenly face restore.
A very moving poem comes from Thomas Hardy about the death of his first wife. In the Voice :
Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me.
Saying that now you are not as you were
When you changed from the one who was all to me,
But as at first, when our day was fair……
Elizabeth Drew, commenting on the nature of such poems, writes :
In these examples of poems of loss, none illustrates the pure straightforward love lament, pouring itself out in all its subjec­tive pain. Poets feel as other people feel but they are artists, making something from their grief. We may be sure no first-rate poem on this theme was ever composed in the actual stock and agony of bereavement. One of the miseries of that sorrow is that the mind cannot detach itself from its suffering ; escape into concentration elsewhere is impossible
The emotion need not be recollected to tranquillity, but it is recollected before the poem is written, even in poetry giving such a feeling of immediate truth as some of Hardy’s. In Wordsworth’s “A slumber did my spirit seal”, the feeling of loss is very powerful, but it is “distanced” so that the effect is one of controlled serenity. The poem’s simplicity is deceptive. It seems a series of direct statements in the plainest language, but they are so cunningly interrelated that each part depends upon every other part for its full significance. The pause between the two verses in this poem is made to contain all that is unspoken. The past becomes the present without further explanation.
Death as a subject for poetic creation has tended to give rise to varying moods and the poets have created these moods for helping the reader to contemplate about the ultimate goals, and to some extent, limitations of life.
Time :
The passage of time brings to human vision the different stages, even different facets of human life. The innocence of childhood, exube­rance and vitality of youth, the commitment to certain values and sense of responsibility of manhood and the contented or worried life of old age followed by the inevitable death, are all creations in the circle of time. All human activity seems to be caught in the web of time .and any attempt to transcend this barrier of time, to move in eternity, Is the attempt of the brave, may he be a lover, a man in search of some ideal or a soul in search of the divine. Elizabeth Drew calls the tryanny of time as the “foremost” in human life. “Poetry can be immortal, but man himself is doomed to a time world. Transience is the law of his being, as it is of the civilization he creates and even of “the great globe itself”. Andrew Marvell, in his poem To His Coy Mistress makes this clear :
But at my my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near :
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
The poet, lying in the midday sunshine, feels, instead of the light and warmth around him, “the always rising of the night”. In George Herbert’s Virtue it is again the same feeling :
Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright,
The bridal of the earth and sky :
The dew shall weep thy fall tonight :
For thou must die.
The passing of the beautiful is the expression of the sense of loss caused by the inevitable passage of time.
Associated with this is the idea that the possible enjoyment within the limits of available time should be had before it gets too late. Herrick expresses this feeling in his “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may” and “come, let us go, while we are in our prime/And take the harmless folly of the time”. John Crowe Ransom says this in his Blue Girls :
Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sword
Under the towers of your seminary,
Go listen to your teachers old and contrary
Without believing a word.
Tie the white fillets then about your hair
And think no more of what will come to pass
Than blue birds that go walking on the grass
And chattering on the air.
Practise your beauty, blue girls, before it fall ;
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish Beauty which all our power shall never establish, It is so frail.
For I could tell you a story which is true ;
I know a lady with a terrible tongue,
Blear eyes fallen from blue,
All her perfections tarnished—yet it is not long
Since she was lovelier than any of you.
Matthew Arnold, in his Growing Old, is sharp with his observation of the old age :
What is it to grow old ?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye ? .
Is it for beauty to forgo her wreath ?
Yes, but not this alone.
Thomas Hardy has yet another complaint to lodge with the reader ;
But Time, to make me grieve,
Part steals, lets part abide ;
And shakes this fragile frame at eve
With throbbings of noontide.
Frustration and Loneliness :
Two more feelings which are closely interlinked have inspired the sensitive minds to versify. These are frustration and loneliness. Frustration may be caused by a failure to get certain ambitions achieved or the betrayal by some one whom one expects to stand by, where loneliness is caused by a sense of being alone, an inability to live with the circumstances and by being deserted by others. Elizabeth Drew writing about these two feelings as represented in poetry states :
In finite terms, death is the end of the individual sentient creature. The poet who writes of it or mourns the pain of personal loss continues to experience life in all its myriad experiences in the body mind. The pain of loss, moreover, however agonizing, however haunting in memory, quiets imperceptibly into accep­tance as the currents of active living and of fresh emotions flow over it. Worse, perhaps, than the sufferings of grief are the torments that man endures from the conflicts within his own being. What Yeats dreads in An Acre of Grass is not death but the loss of spirit, the fire that burns only so long as the continual process of self-creation continues. Man, says Auden, is “the only animal aware of lack of finish” : the only animal aware of the difference between what things are and what they ought to be. Something drives him to find meaning in the life ; to regard it as a venture to be fulfilled and himself as an ins­trument which should be used for some purpose beyond him-self. Hence his miseries ; for not only is he inevitably van­quished by time, but the complexities of his own nature thwart him in his efforts to and his true path.
The cause of being lonely can lie in a state of lack of a fruitful relationship with God or nature or other men and women or the Muse. Coleridge’s Ode Defection is an expression of the loss capacity for joy, the “strong music of the soul” :
A grief without a pang, void, dark, and drear,
A stifled, drowsy, unimpassioned grief’,
Which finds no natural outlet, no relief,
In word, or sigh, or tear
O Lady ! in this wan and heartless mood,
To other thought by yonder throstle wood,
All this long eve, so balmy and serene,
Have I been gazing on the western sky,
And its peculiar tint of yellow green :
And still I gaze-and with how blank an eye !
And these thin clouds above, in flakes and bars,
That give away their motion to the stars ;
Those stars, that glide behind them or between,
Now sparkling, now bedimmed, but always seen :
You crescent Moon, as fixed as if it grew
In its own cloudless, starless lake of blue ;
I see them all so excellently fair,
I see, not feel, how beautiful they are !
It is the union between the poet and the natural world that has been shattered and that has led to his feeling of lonliness. The passion of life has been dried up and the state of human life is that of despondence, not worth living. Same feeling would be found in Frost’s Acquainted with the Night. What it causes is an estrangement from some source which adds to the vitality and vigour of ‘human life. Devoid of vitality, human life seems to float on the surface without any basis. Meaninglessness becomes, thus, the catchphrase of such a life.