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His fiery virtue roused
From under ashes into sudden flame,
And as an evening dragon came,
Assailant on the perched roosts,
And nests in order ranged,
Of tame villatic fowl, but as an eagle
His cloudless thunder bolted on their heads.
So Virtue, given for lost,
Depressed and overthrown as seemed,
Like that self-begotten bird
In the Arabian woods embost,
That no second knows
And lay erewhile a holocaust,
From out her ashy womb now teemed,
Revives, reflourishes, then vigorous most
When most unactive deemed;
And, though her body die, her fame survives,

A secular bird, ages of lives. Shelley introduced choric odes in his Prometheus Unbound. These philosophic lyrics sung by the choruses of hours and spirits have a more crystallized form than the Miltonic free ode. Shelley preferred to keep a regular rhythm in each ode and a definite stanza and rime scheme. The wonderful choruses of Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon are also stanzaic odes, not in the free rhythms of the Greek dramatists.

Finally, there are a number of lyrics written on the principle of the irregular short choric ode, but not long enough to be properly called odes. Milton has given us examples of this sort in his short poems On Time and At a Solemn Music. Matthew Arnold's Strayed Reveller is a lyric dialogue written probably with a consciousness of the Miltonic and Shelleyian developments of the Greek choric ode. It is perhaps better classified as vers libre. Here are the two concluding stanzas:

Ah, cool night-wind, tremulous stars!

Ah glimmering water-
Fitful earth-murmur-
Dreaming woods!

Ah, golden-hair'd strangely smiling Goddess,
And Thou, prov'd much enduring,

Wave-toss'd Wanderer!

Who can stand still?
Ye fade, ye swim, ye waver before me.

The cup again!
Faster, faster,

O Circe Goddess,
Let the wild, thronging train,

The bright procession

Of eddying forms,
Sweep through my soul!

Of the same general type are the short irregular odes of Coventry Patmore. He and Matthew Arnold are really the forerunners of the present school of free-verse writers.

CHAPTER XV

FRENCH FORMS

During the last three or four decades a number of artificial French verse forms have been naturalized by English and American poets. Those that have secured a definite place in our poetry are the ballade, the rondel, the rondeau, the triolet, the villanelle, and the sestina. Most of these forms had their origin in medieval Provence and were extensively practiced by the French poets of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Chaucer, Gower, and their immediate successors tried to develop one or two of them in English, but even at that period of the language, when the laws of rime were similar to those of French, these exotics scarcely flourished. There were also isolated attempts at their use by Sidney, Drummond, Charles Cotton, and a certain obscure Patrick Carey, but these are merely rare curiosities. It should be added that the popularity of a late eighteenth century political satire came near to introducing the rondeau almost a hundred years before the decade in which it actually became a much used form.

In the seventies a group of young poets, Andrew Lang, W. E. Henley, Edmund Gosse, and Austin Dobson, more or less independently began experimenting with all these artificial French forms. They were led to them not only by a sense of style characteristic of the decade, but also, doubtless, by a common interest in French poetry, which, under the leadership of Theodore De Banville, was reviving with much charm and grace the practice of these older forms. In 1872 appeared Andrew Lang's Lays and Lyrics of Old France. Five years later, Mr. Gosse wrote an article for the Cornhill Magazine (July, 1877), A plea for Certain

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Exotic Forms of Verse," and this was followed by Austin Dobson's “Note on Some Foreign Forms of Verse," appended to W. D. Adams' anthology, Latter Day Lyrics (1878). By 1888 the French forms had been given such a place by contemporary verse-writers that Gleeson White published a fine collection of these forms called Ballades and Rondeaus, with an introductory essay on the history of each type. Among the authors represented in the volume are, besides the four already mentioned, Swinburne, Robert Bridges, William Sharp, Arthur Symons, Richard Le Gallienne, John Payne, Brander Matthews, Clinton Scollard, and H. C. Bunner.

These forms originated at a period when a preference for style in literature was paramount, and have been popular only during such periods. Some of them are mere exercises

. in ingenuity rather than vehicles for thought. They are all of them difficult to do well, but the peculiar qualities they require pique one to attempt them. Most of them are suited chiefly for witty and satiric themes and for society verse, where lightness, grace, and elegance of form are desired. They should have the graceful correctness of drawing-room manners, where art plays about arbitrary forms, felicitously avoiding the stiffness of too apparent restraint. Many of these forms present no greater difficulties than the sonnet, but as yet no very great poem has been written in them in English. We admire ballades and rondeaus for the skill and grace which they display, but do not expect in them any revelation of deep poetic feeling. Mr. Austin Dobson, who handles them with an exquisite facility, has said of the forms: “What is moderately advanced for some of them (by the present writer at least), is that they may add a new charm of buoyancy-a lyric freshness—to amatory and familiar verse already too much condemned to faded measures and outworn cadences. Further, upon assumption that merely graceful or tuneful trifles may sometimes be written (and even read), that they are admirable vehicles for the expression of trifles or jeux d'esprit."'1

The two general difficulties in writing verses of these types lie in the unusual number of rimes they require and in the peculiar use of the refrain, a feature common to them all. Before essaying one of these poetic trifles the student of verse should read over the principles of English rime in Chapter VI and compare them with the practice of some French poet. He will see that a villanelle or a chant royal is no trifle when written in English. In English there are not only fewer rimes than in French, but words like reed: read, and fate: fête are not allowable as rimes in English, nor will wake: awake: rewake do, as they might in French. If the poet capitulates to the difficulties of his form and admits identical sounds he should conceal his fault by separating such words as far as possible in the poem. The point about the use of the refrain is that it should be brought in each time with a subtle skill that makes its recurrence seem inevitable. And not only that; it is an added grace to give the refrain a slightly different meaning by some change in punctuation (the words remaining unchanged) each time it is introduced.

Before going on to explain the special types of these forms it may be well to advise the student against introducing variations of his own in the rime scheme or stanza form. The types have become fixed; if you don't like them or cannot conform to them as they are, let them alone. Make use of forms that suit you better, but do not compromise by writing a poem which just falls short of being a ballade or a villanelle. “This is an example of that vague 'poetical license' which incompetent workmen are so fond of falling back upon, and which in reality does not exist. If a sculptor sets himself to carve a face out of marble there is no sculpturesque license that permits him to stick on a plaster nose because he finds it too difficult to chisel the marble outline, or because he has carelessly cut too deep into the substance. 1 Preface to Laller Day Lyrics, ed. W. D. Adams, Lond., 1878.

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