Page:Studies of a Biographer 4.djvu/140

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126
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

language was simply that of the most cultivated society of the day. It was quite adequate for purposes of satire or argument in verse: when, that is, the metre was used only to give point and smartness to the substance of prose. But when the writer was ambitious of some more distinctively poetic effect, he had to 'raise his language' by some judicious artifice. Pascal had shown how this is done. As men do not know, he says, in what poetic beauty consists, they invent 'certains termes bizarres, "siècle d'or, merveille de nos jours, fatal laurier, bel astre," etc., et on appelle ce jargon beaute poetique.' So shepherds in English become 'conscious swains,' and their sheep are the 'flocks that graze the verdant mead.' Paradise Lost for such purposes was an invaluable treasure-house, and applicable almost in proportion to the prosaic nature of the subject. The excellent Dr. Grainger undertook to write a didactic poem about the sugar-cane. He had written, so Boswell tells us, 'Now muse, let's sing of mice'; and substituted 'rats' for 'mice' as more dignified. But he made a more promising attempt when he echoed Milton—

Spirit of Inspiration, that didst lead
Th' Ascrean poet to the sacred mount, etc.