THE PURPOSE of this study is to describe in a very simple way the language most, used in the poetry of two decades, the 1740's and the 1840's. The study is based on certain hypotheses: that the materials much used and much shared by poets have significance for the description of the poetry of which they are a part; and that time is a force in the establishing of the materials. For each decade each first chapter sets forth the primary language, the selection and proportioning of the parts of speech in their main contexts of sound and sentence structure; each second chapter suggests some of their parallels in prose and some of their status in critical theory. Tentative conclusions concern the great amount of agreement in usage within a decade, its power to unify as well as to distinguish.
The language of poetry appears to be a special selection from and formalizing of the language of prose. Prose statement, in syntax, sound, and reference, finds certain accentuation in poetry: its sounds more closely patterned, its structures and references chosen and repeated. The care involved involves also choice toward special forms which represent the sense of worth. And because the poet is a social being he chooses to stress not only singular forms of values but shared ones, the sorts of statement-
forms stressed by his fellow writers, the sorts of line-forms stressed by his fellow poets. This is the common language of poetry in its simplest sense, not yet linguistically analyzed into basic units of meaning, not yet formally constructed into figure, connotative patterns, and thematic types, but in common use as it is available to the poet, the structures, words, sounds of remarks. With this agreed-on material I am concerned. What the poet does with it, what attitude he takes toward it, what point he carries it to, the style in which he treats it, all are further problems; it is my idea that they can be better considered after we