Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/359

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STYLE.

metaphor; but there are the glimpses at the very self of the author which lurks in unconscious tricks of diction and turns of thought, and emerges in epithets, in repetitions, and in phrases. In poetry the author reigns supreme, and there too the imperfection of language is most manifest. In a very fine passage every word is charged with meaning and riveted to its place; in fact, the vehicle is strained to its utmost to bear the load imposed upon it. Hence Coleridge's well-known definition of poetry as "the best words in the best order." Meanwhile the personality of the poet pervades every line of every poem, a hardly recognized but unfailing presence. He colors each picture, and is a spectator at every scene; he is beside Ulysses in the island of Calypso; with him he witnesses the death of Argus and the insolence of the suitors; he shares the recognition of Penelope and the welcome to home; and when dire retribution seizes the usurpers he looks upon their fall.

Not that this personality is directly obtruded upon the hearer's notice; in the instance of Homer, it is markedly withdrawn, the characters speak of themselves, the descriptions are meant to serve no moral end. But what is never brought before us as an avowed element in the composition is everywhere present in the form of the narrative—we never hear the accents of the voice, though we are always listening to its tones. Take as an illustration of this a passage of pure description from the "Odyssey:"

 
Ηὗ μὲν ἐπ' ἐσχαρόφιν μέγα καιετο, τηλόθι δ'ὸδμὴ

κέδρον τ' ε'νκεάτοιο θ'νον τ' ἀνὰ νῆσον ὀδώδει
δαιομένων' ἦ δ' ἕνδον ἀοιδιάονσ' ὸπὶ καλῆ,
ίστὸν ὲποιχομένη χρνσείη κερκδ' 'νφαινεν
νλη δὲ σπέος ὰμφι πεφ'νκει τηλεθόωσα,
κλήθρη τ' αἷγειρός τε καὶ ε'νὠδης κνπάρισσος.
ἕνθα δέ τ' ὄρνυσίπτεροι ε'υνάζοντο,
σκῶπές τ’ ἷρηκές τε ταν'υγλωσσοι τε κορῶναι
εὶνάλιαι, τῇσίἰντε θαλἀσσια ἒργα μέμηλεν.
ἠ δ' α'υτο'ν τετάνυστο περὶ σπείονς γλαφνροῖο
ήμερὶς ήβώωσα, τεθἠλει δὲ σταφνλῇσιν
κρῆναι δ' έξείης πίσυρες 'ρέον 'υδατι λευκῶ,
πλησίαι ὰλλἠλων τετραμμέναι ἅλλη.
ὰμφὶ δὲ λειμὥνες μαλακοὶ ῖου ὴδὲ σελίνου
θἠλεον ἒνθα κ' ἒπειτα καὶ ὰθἀνατὀς περ έπελθὡν
θηἠσαιτο ὶδὡν καὶ τερφθείη φρεὶν ᾕσιν.

Odyssey, v., 59-74.

 

(A large fire was burning on the hearth, and at a distance the smell of well-cleft cedar, and of frankincense, that was burning, shed odor through the island; but she within was singing with a beautiful voice, and going over the web, wove with a golden shuttle. But a flourishing wood sprung up around the grot, alder and poplar, and sweet-smelling cypress. There also birds with spreading wings slept, owls and hawks, and wide-tongued crows of the ocean, to which maritime employments are a care. There a vine in its prime was spread about the hollow