Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 461

blank Yerse shows a grave deterioration. There are splendid pas–
sages in
All for,Love:
yet Dryden's characters talk more naturally
at times in the heroic plays which he wrote in rhymed couplets,
than they do in what would seem the more natural form of blank
verse--though lesE! naturally in English than the characters of
Corneille and Racine in French. T4e causes for the rise and de–
cline of any form of art are always complex, and we can always
trace a number of contributory causes, while there seems
main some deeper cause incapable of formulation: I should not
care to advance any one reason why prose came to supersede verse
in the theatre. But I feel sure that one reason why blank verse
cannot he employed now in the drama is that so much non-dramatic
poetry, and great non-dramatic poetry, has been written in it in
the last three hundred years. Our minds are saturated in these
non-dramatic works in what is formally the same kind of verse.
we can imagine, as a Hight of fancy, Milton coming before
Shakespeare, Shakespeare would have had to discover quite a
different medium from that which he used and perfected. Milton
handled blank verse in a way which no one has ever approached
or ever will approach: and in so doing did more than anyone or
anything else to make it impossible for the drama: though we
may also believe that dramatic blank verse had exhausted its
resources, and had no future in any event. Indeed, Milton almost
made blank verse impossible for any purpose for a couple of
generations. It was the precursors of Wordsworth - Thomson,
Young, Cowper-who made the first efforts to rescue it from the
degradation to which the eighteenth-century imitators of Milton
had reduced it. There is much, and varied, fine blank verse in
the nineteenth century: the nearest to colloquial speech is that
of Browning-hut, significantly, in his monologues rather than
in his plays.
To make a generalization like this is not to imply any judge–
ment of the relative stature of poets. It merely calls attention to
the profound difference between dramatic and all other kinds of
verse: a difference in the music, which is a difference in the
relation to the current spoken language.
leads to my next point:
which is that the task of the poet will differ, not only according
to his personal constitution, hut according to the period in which
he finds himself. At some periods, the task is to explore the
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