description any longer as deserving any other credit than that of a good memory.
It is a mere bill of parcels, a post-mortem
inventory of nature, where imagination is not merely not called for, but would be out of place.
Why, a recipe in the cookery-book is as much like a good dinner as this kind of stuff is like true word-painting.
The poet with a real eye in his head does not give us everything, but only the best
He selects, he combines, or else gives what is characteristic only; while the false style of which I have been speaking seems to be as glad to get a pack of impertinences on its shoulders as Christian in the Pilgrim
's Progress was to be rid of his. One strong verse that can hold itself upright (as the French
critic Rivarol said of Dante
) with the bare help of the substantive and verb, is worth acres of this dead cord-wood piled stick on stick, a boundless continuity of dryness.
I would rather have written that half-stanza of Longfellow
's, in the ‘Wreck of the Hesperus
,’ of the ‘billow that swept her crew like icicles from her deck,’ than all Gawain Douglas
's tedious enumeration of meteorological phenomena put together.
A real landscape is never tiresome; it never presents itself to us as a disjointed succession of isolated particulars; we take it in with one sweep of the eye,—its light, its shadow, its melting gradations of distance: we do not say it is this, it is that, and the other; and we may be sure that if a description in poetry is tiresome there is a grievous mistake somewhere.
All the pictorial adjectives in the dictionary will not bring it a hair's-breadth nearer to truth and nature.
The fact is that what we see is in the mind to a greater degree than we are commonly aware.
O lady, we receive but what we give,
And in our life alone doth Nature live!