On the Art of Writing eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 246 pages of information about On the Art of Writing.

                     Thus with the year
     Seasons return, but not to me returns
     Day, or the sweet approach of Ev’n or Morn,
     Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summer’s Rose,
     Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine.


But cottage, herd, or sheep-cote, none he saw.

and this basal difference you must have clear in your minds before, in dealing with prose or verse, you can practise either with profit or read either with intelligent delight.



Thursday, April 17

In our last lecture, Gentlemen, we discussed the difference between verse, or metrical writing, and prose.  We traced that difference (as you will remember) to Music—­to the harp, the lyre, the dance, the chorus, all those first necessary accompaniments which verse never quite forgets; and we concluded that, as Music ever introduces emotion, which is indeed her proper and only means of persuading, so the natural language of verse will be keyed higher than the natural language of prose; will be keyed higher throughout and even for its most ordinary purposes—­as for example, to tell us that So-and-so sailed to Troy with so many ships.

I grant you that our steps to this conclusion were lightly and rapidly taken:  yet the stepping-stones are historically firm.  Verse does precede prose in literature; verse does start with musical accompaniment; musical accompaniment does introduce emotion; and emotion does introduce an order of its own into speech.  I grant you that we have travelled far from the days when a prose-writer, Herodotus, labelled the books of his history by the names of the nine Muses.  I grant you that if you go to the Vatican and there study the statues of the Muses (noble, but of no early date) you may note that Calliope, Muse of the Epic—­unlike her sisters Euterpe, Erato, Thalia—­holds for symbol no instrument of music, but a stylus and a tablet.  Yet the earlier Calliope, the Calliope of Homer, was a Muse of Song.

     [Greek:  Menin aeide, Thea—­]

’Had I a thousand tongues, a thousand hands.’—­For what purpose does the poet wish for a thousand tongues, but to sing? for what purpose a thousand hands, but to pluck the wires? not to dip a thousand pens in a thousand inkpots.

I doubt, in fine, if your most learned studies will discover much amiss with the frontier we drew between verse and prose, cursorily though we ran its line.  Nor am I daunted on comparing it with Coleridge’s more philosophical one, which you will find in the “Biographia Literaria” (c.  XVIII)—­

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On the Art of Writing from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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