« السابقةمتابعة »
truth, to be offended with Christianity, which made this to be inevitable.
We may make application of all which has been just said to the metrical forms of the classical poetry of Rome. These the Church found ready made to her hand, and in their kind having reached a very high perfection. A true instinct must have told her at once, or after a very few trials, that these were not the metrical forms which she required. Yet it was not to be supposed that she should have the courage immediately to cast them aside, and to begin the world, as it were, afresh; or that she should have been enabled at once to foresee the more adequate forms to be one day developed out of her own bosom. But these which she thus inherited, while she was content of necessity to use, yet could not satisfy her.* The Gospel had brought
* Dans le monde grec d'abord, puis, dans le monde romain, les chrétiens éprouvèrent le besoin de se servir des formes de la poésie antique et de les appliquer aux idées nouvelles. Les IV® et Ve siècles virent naître un assez grand nombre d'efforts en ce genre, surtout en Italie et en Espagne. Evidemment, ces tentatives souvent renouvelées étaient sans portée, sans avenir; les sentiments chrétiens les traditions chrétiennes ne pouvaient s'accommoder des formes créées pour un autre emploi, vieillies au service d'une autre Muse; évidemment, la littérature chrétienne devait produire sa propre forme, et c'est ce qu'elle a fait plus tard. Ce n'est pas quand elle a cherché à traduire ses inspirations dans le langage de Virgile, qu'elle a enfanté des ouvrages de quelque valeur; c'est quand elle a inventé son épopée, avec Dante et Milton, et son drame dans les mystères du moyen âge, ou les actes sacramentaux de Calderon, qui ne sont qu'une résurrection et un raffinement des mystères; c'est quand elle a inspiré ces beaux chants qui, depuis Luther, n'ont cessé de retentir sous les voûtes des églises d'Allemagne. Alors la poésie chrétienne a fait son œuvre; jusque là elle n'était qu'un calque pâle
into men's hearts longings after the infinite and the eternal, which were strange to it, at least in their present intensity, until now. Beauty of outline, beauty of form-and what a flood of light does that one word forma, as equivalent to beauty, pour on the difference between the heathen and the Christian ideal of beauty! -this was all which the old poetry yearned after and strove to embody; this was all which its metrical frameworks were perfectly fitted for embodying.
But now heaven had been opened, and henceforward the mystical element of modern poetry demanded its rights; vaguer but vaster thoughts were craving to find the harmonies to which they might be married for ever. The boundless could not be content to find its organ in that, of which the very perfection lay in its limitations and its bounds. The Christian poets were in holy earnest; a versification therefore could no longer be endured, attached, as in their case at least it was, by no living bonds to the thoughts, in which sense and sound had no real correspondence with one another. The versification henceforth must have an intellectual value, which should associate it with the onward movement of the thoughts and feelings, whereof it professed to be, and thus indeed should be, the expression. A struggle therefore commenced from the first, between
et un écho affaibli de la poésie païenne (Ampère, Hist. Litt. de la France, vol. ii. p. 196). And again: Il faut que le chant chrétien dépouille entièrement ces lambeaux de métrique ancienne, qu'il se fasse complètement moderne par la rime comme par le sentiment; alors, on aura cette prose rimée empreinte d'une sombre harmonie, qui par la tristesse des sons et des images et le retour menaçant de la terminaison lugubre fait pressentir le Dante, on aura le Dies Ira (vol. ii. p. 412).
the form and spirit, between the old heathen form and the new Christian spirit-the latter seeking to release itself from the shackles and restraints which the former imposed upon it; and which were to it, not a help and a support, as the form should be, but a hindrance and a weakness-not liberty, but now rather a most galling bondage.* The new wine went on fermenting in the
* We see already in Prudentius the process of emancipation effectually at work, the disintegration of the old prosodic system already beginning. He still affects to write, and in the main does write, prosodically; yet with largest licences. No one will suppose him more ignorant than most schoolboys of fourteen would be now, of the quantitative value which the old classical poets of Italy, with whose writings he was evidently familiar, had attributed to words; yet we continually find him attributing another value, postponing quantity to accent, or rather allowing accent to determine quantity, as in cyaneus, Sardīnia, enigma. As his latest editor has observed: Metrum haud rarò negligitur, quia poeta in arsi vv. majorem vim accentui quàm quantitati tribuit (Obbarii Prudentius, p. 19). The whole scheme of Latin prosody must have greatly loosened its hold, before he could have used the freedom which he does use, in the shifting and altering the value of syllables. We mark in him especially a determination not to be deprived altogether of serviceable words through a metrical notation excluding them in toto from a place in the hexameter. Thus he writes těmulentus, delībutus, idololatrix, calceămentum, margāritum; though as regards this last word, in an iambic verse, where there was no motive, but the contrary, for producing the antepenultima, he restores to that syllable its true quantity, and writes margărita. In the same way not ignorance nor caprice, but the feeling that they must have the word ecclesia at command, while yet, if they left it with the antepenultima long, it could never find place in the pentameter, and only in one of its cases in the hexameter, induced the almost universal shortening of that syllable among the metrical writers of the Church. Amid the many motives which prompted the
old bottles, till it burst them asunder, though not itself to be spilt and lost in the process, but so to be gathered into nobler chalices, vessels more fitted to contain it—
Christian poets to strive after emancipation from the classical rules of quantity, first to slight, and then to cast them off, this had its weight: true, the opposition to the metrical scheme lay deeper than this, which was but one moment of it: yet the fact, that the chief metres excluded a vast number of the noblest and even most necessary words, and though not absolutely excluding, rendered many more inadmissible in most of their inflexions,— this must have been peculiarly intolerable to them. Craving the whole domain of words for their own, finding it only too narrow for the uttering of all they were struggling to express, desiring, too, as must all whose thoughts and feelings are real, that their words should fit close to their sense, they could ill endure to be shut out from that which often was the best and fittest, by arbitrary, artificial, and to them unmeaning restrictions. Thus Augustine distinctly tells us that he composed his curious Psalmus contra partem Donati in the rhythm which he did, that so he might not be hampered or confined in his choice of words by the necessities of metre: Ideo autem non aliquo carminis genere id fieri volui, ne me necessitas metrica ad aliqua verba quæ vulgo minus sunt usitata compelleret. Carmen signifies here a poem composed after the old classical models; his own, as being popularly and not metrically written, he counts only a canticum. The distinctive and statelier diction of the carmen is indicated by Terentianus Maurus, 298:
Verba si non obvia
Carminis servant honorem, non jacentis cantici.
One has but to turn to the lyrical poems of Horace, to become at once aware of the wealth of words, which for the writer of the hexameter and pentameter may be said not to exist. What a world, for example, of noble epithets-tumultuosus, luctuosus, formidolosus, fraudulentus, contumax, pervicax, insolens, intaminatus, fastidiosus, periculosus-with many more among the most poetical words in the language, are under the ban of a perpetual exclusion,
new, even as that which was poured into them was
We can trace step by step the struggle between the two principles of heathen and Christian life, which were here opposed to one another. As the classical or old Roman element grew daily weaker in the new Christian world which now had been founded; as the novel element of Christian life strengthened and gained ground; as poetry became popular again, not the cultivated entertainment of the polite and lettered few, a graceful amusement of the scholar and the gentleman, but that in which all men desired to express, or to find expressed for them, their hopes and fears, their joys and their sorrows, and all the immortal longings of their common humanity;-a confinement became less and less endurable within the old and stereotyped forms, which, having had for their own ends their fitness and beauty, were yet constituted for the expressing of far other thoughts, sentiments, and hopes than those which now stirred at far deeper depths the spirits and the hearts of men. The whole scheme on which the Latin prosodical poetry was formed, was felt to be capricious, imposed from without; and the poetry which now arose demanded-not, indeed, to be without law; for, demanding this, it would have demanded its own destruction, and not to be poetry at all; but it demanded that its laws and restraints should be such as its own necessities, and not those of quite a different condition, required.*
* The Instructiones of Commodianus, a poem quite valueless in a literary point of view, is yet curious in this respect; and the more curious now that it is placed by scholars in the latter