A remarkable instance of the effect of undue brevity in depressing a poem, in keeping it out of the popular view, is afforded by the following exquisite little Serenade--
We have taken it into our heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake, and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity and force:--but the simple fact is that would we but permit ourselves to look into our own souls we should immediately there discover that under the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble, than this very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's sake.
Browning, he guides the reader to his works, or division of work, seriatim, making of each a distinct and special study, and giving a great deal of welcome information about the poems
, the circumstances of their composition, and the like, with delightful quotations.
At the corner he stepped into the Western Union and sent a telegram to THE PARTHENON, advising them to proceed with the publication of the poem.
Half in delirium, he began muttering aloud the lines of an anonymous poem Brissenden had been fond of quoting to him.
Unluckily, not having read the poem, I was unable to supply the incidents that followed; otherwise we could have given them in our own words.
said the poet, "do you expect me to reproduce the entire poem from memory?
It is from the second and fourth sections that the poem takes its name.
The "Precepts of Chiron" was a didactic poem made up of moral and practical precepts, resembling the gnomic sections of the "Works and Days", addressed by the Centaur Chiron to his pupil Achilles.
From the sixteenth century, at least, until very lately this work, the various versions of which differ greatly, has been supposed to be the single poem of a single author, repeatedly enlarged and revised by him; and ingenious inference has constructed for this supposed author a brief but picturesque biography under the name of William Langland.
But the poem, though in its final state prolix and structurally formless, exhibits great power not only of moral conviction and emotion, but also of expression--vivid, often homely, but not seldom eloquent.
All who read it were delighted with the poems
, and said that if there was any more such poetry in the Highlands, it should be gathered together and printed before it was lost and forgotten for ever.