English Hexameters

A SKEST thou if in my youth I have mounted, as others have mounted,
Galloping Hexameter, Pentameter cantering after,
English by dam and by sire; bit, bridle, and saddlery, English;
English the girths and the shoes; all English from snaffle to crupper;
Everything English about, excepting the tune of the jockey?
Latin and Greek, it is true, I have often attacht to my phaeton
Early in life, and sometimes have I ordered them out in its evening,
Dusting the linings, and pleas'd to have found them unworn and untarnisht.
Idle! but Idleness looks never better than close upon sunset.
Seldom my goosequill, of goose from Germany, fatted in England,
(Frolicksome though I have been) have I tried on Hexameter, knowing
Latin and Greek are alone its languages. We have a measure
Fashion'd by Milton's own hand, a fuller, a deeper, a louder.
Germans may flounder at will over consonant, vowel, and liquid,
Liquid and vowel but one to a dozen of consonants, ending
Each with a verb at the tail, tail heavy as African ram's tail.
Spenser and Shakspeare had each his own harmony: each an enchanter
Wanting no aid from without. Chevy Chase had delighted their fathers,
Though of a different strain from the song on the Wrath of Achilles .
Southey was fain to pour forth his exuberant stream over regions
Near and remote: his command was absolute; every subject,
Little or great, he controll'd; in language, variety, fancy,
Richer than all his compeers, and wanton but once in dominion;
'T was when he left the full well that for ages had run by his homestead,
Pushing the brambles aside which encumber'd another up higher,
Letting his bucket go down, and hearing it bump in descending,
Grating against the loose stones 'til it came but half-full from the bottom.
Others abstain'd from the task. Scott wander'd at large over Scotland;
Reckless of Roman and Greek, he chaunted the Lay of the Minstrel
Better than ever before any minstrel in chamber had chaunted.
Marmion mounted his horse with a shout such as rose under Ilion;
Venus, who sprang from the sea, had envied the Lake and its Lady .
Never on mountain or wild hath echo so cheerily sounded,
Never did monarch bestow such glorious meed upon knighthood,
Never had monarch the power, liberality, justice, discretion.
Byron liked new-papered rooms, and pull'd down old wainscoat of cedar;
Bright-color'd prints he preferr'd to the graver cartoons of a Raphael,
Sailor and Turk (with a sack), to Eginate and Parthenon marbles.
Splendid the palace he rais'd — the gin-palace in Poesy's purlieus;
Soft the divan on the sides, with spittoons for the qualmis hand queesy.
Wordsworth, well pleas'd with himself, cared little for modern or ancient.
His was the moor and the tarn, the recess in the mountain, the woodland
Scatter'd with trees far and wide, trees never too solemn or lofty,
Never entangled with plants overrunning the villager's foot-path.
Equable was he and plain, but wandering a little in wisdom,
Sometimes flying from blood and sometimes pouring it freely.
Yet he was English at heart. If his words were too many; if Fancy's
Furniture lookt rather scant in a whitewasht and homely apartment;
If in his rural designs there is sameness and tameness; if often
Feebleness is there for breadth; if his pencil wants rounding and pointing;
Few of this age or the last stand out on the like elevation.
There is a sheepfold he rais'd which my memory loves to revisit,
Sheepfold whose wall shall endure when there is not a stone of the palace.
Keats, the most Grecian of all, rejected the meter of Grecians;
Poesy breath'd over him , breath'd constantly, tenderly, freshly;
Wordsworth she left now and then, outstretcht in a slumberous languor,
Slightly displeased . . but return'd, as Aurora return'd to Tithonus.
Still there are walking on earth many poets whom ages hereafter
Will be more willing to praise than we now are to praise one another:
Some do I know, but I fear, as is meet, to recount or report them,
For, be whatever the name that is foremost, the next will run over,
Trampling and rolling in dust his excellent friend the precursor.
Peace be with all! but afar be ambition to follow the Roman,
Led by the German uncomb'd, and jigging in dactyl and spondee,
Lumbering shapeless jackboots which nothing can polish or supple.
Much as old metres delight me, 'tis only where first they were nurtured,
In their own clime, their own speech: than pamper them here I would rather
Tie up my Pegasus tight to the scanty-fed rack of a sonnet.
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