The Figure of Grammar: Whitman and Lawrence
There remain, from the period of Hopkins, two or three poets whose cult of sincerity, though never completely successful, deserves a passing notice--in England, Arnold, Patmore and Bridges; in America, Whitman. Arnold and Bridges, from our point of view, are interesting only as failures: their works lifeless and inorganic experiments of minds essentially academic. Poems like Arnold's 'The Youth of Nature' and 'The Youth of Man' were presumably inspired by the Pindaric ode:
Cold bubbled the spring of Tilphusa
Copais lay bright in the moon;
Helicon glass'd in the lake
Its firs, and afar, rose the peaks
Of Parnassus, snowily clear . . .
This is merely a breaking of the rhythmic step: a syncopated metre, whose only originality lies in the ingenuity of its variations. There is no fresh inscape, no discovered form, no integrity of accent. 'The Strayed Reveller', based on the metrical freedom of the choruses of Samson Agonistes, is of more interest. Arnold succeeds in escaping from the metrical machinery of formal verse, and one's only complaint is that he does not quite succeed in creating an integral rhythmic structure: