With Verse, is Form the first, or Sense?
Hereon men waste their Eloquence.
"Sense (cry the one Side), Sense, of course.
How can you lend your Theme its Force?
How can you be direct and clear,
Concise, and (best of all) sincere,
If you must pen your Strain sublime
In Bonds of Measure and of Rhyme?
Who ever heard true Grief relate
Its heartfelt Woes in 'six' and 'eight'?
Or felt his manly Bosom swell
Beneath a French-made Villanelle?
How can your Mens divinior sing
Within the Sonnet's scanty Ring,
Where she must chant her Orphic Tale
In just so many Lines, or fail?..."
"Form is the first (the Others bawl);
If not, why write in Verse at all?
Why not your throbbing Thoughts expose
(If verse be such Restraint) in Prose?
For surely if you speak your Soul
Most freely where there's least Control,
It follows you must speak it best
By Rhyme (or Reason) unreprest.
Blest Hour! be not delayed too long,
When Britain frees her Slaves of Song;
And barred no more by Lack of Skill,
The Mob may crowd Parnassus Hill!..."
Just at this Point--for you must know,
All this was but the To-and-fro
Of MATT and DICK who played with Thought,
And lingered longer than they ought
(So pleasant 'tis to tap one's Box
And trifle round a Paradox!)--
There came--but I forgot to say,
'Twas in the Mall, the Month was May--
There came a Fellow where they sat,
His Elf-locks peeping through his Hat,
Who bore a Basket. Straight his Load
He set upon the Ground, and showed
His newest Toy--a Card with Strings.
On this side was a Bird with Wings,
On that, a Cage. You twirled, and lo!
The Twain were one.
Said MATT, "E'en so.
Here's the Solution in a Word:--
Form is the Cage and Sense the Bird.
The Poet twirls them in his Mind,
And wins the Trick with both combined."