Vol. 9 No. 6 1942 - page 455

little read treatise on metrics; among the most eminent failures,
my opinion, are the experiments of Robert Bridges-! would
give all his ingenious inventions for his earlier and more tra–
ditional lyrics. But when a poet has so thoroughly absorbed Latin
poetry that its movement informs his verse without deliberate
artifice-as with Milton and in some of Tennyson's poems-the
result can be among the great triumphs of English versification.
What I think we have, in English poetry, is a kind of amalgam
of systems of divers sources (though I do not like to use the word
'system', for it has a suggestion of conscious invention rather
than growth) : an amalgam like the amalgam of races, and indeed
partly due to racial origins. The rhythms of Anglo-Saxon, Celtic,
Norman French, of Middle English and Scots, have all made their
mark upon English poetry, together with the rhythms of Latin,
and, at various periods, of French, Italian and Spanish. As with
human beings in a composite race, different strains may be dom–
inant in different individuals, even in members of the same family,
so one or another element in the poetic compound may be more
congenial to one or another poet or to one or another period. The
kind of poetry we get is determined, from time to time, by the
influence of one or another contemporary literature in a foreign
language; or by circumstances which make one period of our own
past more sympathetic than another; or by the prevailing emphases
in education. But there is one law of nature more powerful than
any of these varying currents, or influences from abroad or from
the past: the law that poetry must not stray too far from the
ordinary everyday language which we use and hear. Whether
peetry is accentual or syllabic, rhymed or rhymeless, formal or
free, it cannot afford to lose its contact with the changing language
of common intercourse.
It may appear strange, that when I profess to be talking
about the 'music' of poetry, I put such emphasis upon conversa–
tion. But I would remind you, first, that the music of poetry is
not something which exists apart from the meaning. Otherwise,
we could have poetry of great musical beauty which made no
sense, and I have never come across such poetry. The apparent
exceptions only show a difference of degree: there are poems in
which we are moved by the music and take the sense for granted,
just as there are poems in which we attend to the sense and are
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