GROUPING AND ORGANIC FORM IN POETRY AND MUSIC
The principle of grouping, resulting from the Requirements of the product
The method, conditioned by this principle, organizes the group
Organism in nature and in classification
Organism in the Art-Product: the Feet, Trunk, and head of Plato; the beginning, middle and end of Aristotle
Applied to poetic form
to the sentence
To the poem
Effects of Form due to the Organic Order in which the Beginning. Middle, and End of movement are presented: Stedman
Where thought is didactic: Longfellow
In a simile: Howitt
Same Effects as produced by Form irrespective of the thought
A like principle illustrated in plots of long poems
A periodic form
Explanations of the effect in short and long compositions
In reiterated chords at their beginning and close
Same Principle in Oratory.
IT has been shown that in classification and art-composition, the conditions of mind and nature involve a regard for the principles of unity, variety, complexity, order, confusion, and counteraction; also, that there needs to be that combined application of all of these, as conditioned by the requirements of the product, which is termed grouping. Certain methods, respectively owing their origin to the first six of these principles, have been said to be comparison, contrast, complement, principality, subordination manner with grouping needs now to be considered.
Factors ought to be grouped in such a way as to cause
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them to show more than the mere existence of principality, subordination, or balance. They ought to show their relationships to each other and to the class as a whole of which they are members. It is in fulfilment of such a purpose that classes are divided as in species and families, and their factors arranged according to their degrees of likeness or unlikeness to the typical form, those unlike it and like others of another class being placed, as it were, at the extremities of their own class, serving thus to define its limits. In this way among the mammals, for instance, the bat may be placed nearest the birds, and the seal nearest the fishes. A like process applied not to one class, but to all the classes that can be included in a given consideration of a subject, leads to what we call a system of classification; and the way in which we ordinarily express the fact, that all the factors possible to a class and all the classes possible to a system have been comprehended in the result, is to say that each and every thing has been thoroughly organized. We might also express the same by saying that to the whole has been given organism or organic form.
In nature an organic as distinguished from an inorganic form is one of greater or lesser degrees of complexity, pervaded everywhere by channels or organs through which flow effects that influence every part of the object, but of it only, beyond the reach of which effects it ceases to exist. Trees and animals, for instance, with their various circulatory systems, are organic. Sand and clay are not. The method which we are now considering causes the result to show, just as organism does in natural forms, exactly the effect that every part has in enhancing the effect of every other part, and of the whole, as well as in rendering the whole complete.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 098]
If organic form, as thus explained, is necessary in classification, it is still more necessary in art-composition. Predominating comparison may reveal the fact that the features are all parts of a unity; and principality, subordination, and balance may enhance the appearance of this by their influence in the direction of order; but only when the parts have been organically connected can there be no doubt that each of them belongs with each and all of the others, and just what are the limits of the whole.
From the use of the term organic as applied to forms of nature, it follows that to say that those of art should have organism is the same as to say that they should be characterized by effects analogous to those produced by the living forms of life about us. When we have said this, can there be a more simple yet efficient way of showing how an art-form can come to have these effects, than by showing how the living forms of nature come to have them? Certainly not. It is only natural, therefore, though the reason for it has never been thus explained, that almost all critics of all ages have felt it to be appropriate to take an animal or a man, the highest type of an organized being, as an ideal natural form from which to derive suggestions with reference to the essential characteristics of an ideal art-form. Plato, for instance, named head, trunk, and feet as the three essential features in every work of art; and Aristotle, recalling the fact that all products do not appeal to the eye, and cannot seem to have visible bodies, tried to state a principle more general in its reach by declaring that they must all have beginning, middle, and end. But both statements are virtually the same, and together are inclusive of all possible artistic applications of the subject. The first applies literally to forms that appear in space, the second to those that appear in time. Both mean that
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there should be such an order in the arrangement of the parts constituting the form as to cause all the parts to seem to be organically connected with one whole, and this whole to seem to possess all the parts necessary to render it complete.
Let us see, first, how this principle applies to poetry. Some have difficulty in understanding what is meant even by the term form, to say nothing of organism of form, when used with reference to arts that do not occupy space, and therefore can have no visibly definite shape. To remove this difficulty, a short explanation seems to be needed here, even at the expense of repeating what was expressed more fully in Chapter xxvii. of Poetry as a Representative Art.. We say that a visible object has form in the degree in which it appears to be one object, by which we mean, in the degree in which, owing to effects of outlines, colors, or some other features, every part of the object seems to be connected with every other part of it throughout the entire extent of space which it occupies. A poem is not visible in space, but is apprehended in time, being composed of words that follow one another. Its form is a phase of movement; and, if we apply to it the same criterions as those usually applied to visible objects, changing only the terms that are necessary in order to refer to it as an object whose form is a phase of movement, we may say that it appears to be one form in the degree in which it appears to be one movement; by which we mean in the degree in which every part of its movement seems to be connected with every other part of it, and this throughout the whole extent of time which it occupies.
In a perfect sentence, which, by way of illustration, we might conceive to be long enough to constitute an
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entire poem, every word or clause is related in some way to every other; and is related also in some way to a subject which represents the beginning of a movement; to a predicate which represents the continuation and sometimes the end of the movement; and also, when needed, to an object which represents the end of the movement. It is for these reasons that a perfect sentence seems to have form.
If this be true of a sentence, which is a series of words representing thought, why should it not be true of a poem, which is also a series of words representing thought? If a poem as a whole is to have form, and one that can be readily recognized, its different sentences, or representations of special and sometimes deviating movements, must all manifest their relationships to each other, and also to the general forward movement.
To express the same somewhat differently, a poem is a development of language, and language is a representation of thought, and thought always involves motion. A poem, therefore, is a representation of thought and also of motion, or, rather, of thought in motion. But more than this, it is a single art-product; therefore it must represent a single thought in a single motion. This implies, first, one thought to which all the other thoughts of the work must be related by way of complement, or subordinated by way of principality; and second, one motion of thoughti.e., one thought moving in one direction, having one beginning from which all the movements of all the related and subordinated thoughts of the entire poem start; a middle through which they all flow; and an end toward which they all tend. This is the same as to say that the principal, subordinate, and complementary, or balancing thoughts must all be grouped and presented in organic order. A poem in which these requirements are
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 101]
fulfilled andlet it be carefully notedapparently fulfilled, necessarily produces upon us the impression of organism. Notice a fine illustration of it in the following, and how much it has to do with the general effect. All the actions in the poem from beginning to end are clearly connected with the whole, and are invariably related in the order in which, in the supposed circumstances, they would have occurred.
Our good steeds snuff the evening air,
Our pulses with their purpose tingle;
The foeman's fires are twinkling there;
He leaps when our sabres jingle!
Each carbine sends its whizzing ball;
Now cling! clang! Forward all
Into the fight!
Dash on beneath the smoking dome;
Through level lightnings gallop nearer!
One look to Heaven! No thought of home;
The guidons that we bear are dearer.
Cling! Clang! Forward all!
Heaven help those whose horses fall;
Cut left and right!
They flee before our fierce attack!
They fall! They spread in broken spurges,
Now, comrades, bear our wounded back,
And leave the foeman to his dirges.
The bugles sound the swift recall;
Cling! Clang! backward all!
Home and good night!
Cavalry Song from Alice of Monmouth: E. C. Stedman
Here is another poem, the thought of which, if not embodied in a form suggesting the beginning, middle, and
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end of movement, would be didactic in the worst sense; and yet through the use, in the successive stanzas, of the words death, grave, and eternity, indicative as they are of the order of sequence of the different events connected with the departure of the soul from the world, the poet, by giving organic form to the whole, has made it distinctly artistic:
Take them. O Death, and bear away
whatever thou can'st call thine own!
Thine image stamped upon this clay,
Doth give thee that, but that alone!
Take them, O Grave! and let the lie
Folded upon thy narrow shelves,
As garments by the soul laid by,
And precious only to ourselves!
Take them, O great Eternity!
Our little life is but a gust
That bends the branches of thy tree,
And trails its blossoms in the dust!
Take Them, O Death: Longfellow.
In the following, the representation is not of actions, but of thoughts; yet these two are grouped with strict fidelity to the order in which they would reveal themselves to the one supposed to experience them. Notice here, too, how the apparent organism of the form enhances the effect. Would the poem have any effect at all, in fact, if it were not for this?
Vital spark of heavenly flame,
Quit, O quit this mortal frame!
Trembling, hoping, lingering, flying,
O the pain, the bliss, of dying!
Cease, fond Nature, cease thy strife,
And let me languish into life.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 103]
Hark they whisper; angels say
Sister spirit, come away.
What is this absorbs me quite,
Steals my senses, shuts my sight,
Drowns my spirit, draws my breath?
Tell me, my soul, can this be death?
The world recedes; it disappears;
Heaven opens on my eyes; my ears
With sounds seraphic ring.
Lend, lend your wings, I mount, I fly.
O Grave, where is thy victory?
O Death where is thy sting?
Address of a Dying Christian to his Soul: Pope
A similar result appears in these two successive stanzas:
Night is the time for rest;
How sweet, when labors close,
To gather round an aching breast
The curtain of repose,
Stretch the tired limbs, and lay the head
Upon our own delightful bed!
Night is the time for dreams;
The gay romance of life,
Where truth that is and truth that seems
Blend in fantastic strife;
Ah, visions less beguiling far
Than waking dreams by daylight are.
Night: James Montgomery.
If a simile be introduced, the same principle applies both to the figure and to the thought illustrated by it, e.g.:
And is the swallow gone?
Who beheld it?
Which way sailed it?
Farewell bade it none?
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No mortal saw it go;
But who doth hear
Its summer cheer
As it flitteth to and fro?
So the proud spirit fliest!
From its surrounding clay
It steals away
Like the swallow from the skies.
Whither? Wherefore does it go?
T is all unknown;
We feel alone
That a void is left below.
Departure of the Swallow: Wm. Howitt.
Here are other poems with the same characteristics:
Go, lovely rose!
Tell her that wastes her time and me,
That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.
Tell her thats young
And shuns to have her graces spied,
That hadst thou sprung
In deserts where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.
Small is the worth
Of beauty from the light retired:
Bid her come forth,
Suffer herself to be desired,
And not blush so to be admired.
Then die! that she
The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee:
How shall a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.
Go, Lovely Rose: E. Waller.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 105]
Oh, when I sleep come near my resting-place.
As Laura came to bless her poet's heart,
And let thy breath in passing touch my face
At once a space
My lips will part.
And on my brow where too long weighed supreme
A visionhaply sped nowblack as night,
Let thy look as a star arise and beam
At once my dream
Will seem of light.
Then press my lips, where plays a flame of bliss
A pure and holy lovelightand forsake
The angel for the woman in a kiss
At once I wiss,
My soul will wake.
Cease When I Sleep: Victor Hugo; tr. By W.W. Tomlinson
Sitting in a porchway cool,
Fades the ruddy sunlight fast,
Twilight hastens on to rule
Working hours are wellnigh past.
Shadows shoot across the lands;
But one sower lingers still,
Old in rags, he patient stands,
Looking on I feel a thrill.
Black and high his silhouette
Dominates the furrows deep.
Now to sow the task is set,
Soon shall come the time to reap.
Marches he along the plain,
To and fro, and scatters wide
From his hands the precious grain.
Moody, I, to see him stride.
Darkness deepens. Gone the light.
Now his gestures to mine eyes
Are august; and strangehis height
Seems to touch the starry skies.
The Sower: Idem; tr. By Toru Dutt.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 106]
Notice also, as criticised in Chapter xxvii. of Poetry as a Representative Art, Tennyson's Farewell, Home They Brought the Warrior Dead, As through the Land at Eve We Went, and The Deserted House; Shanly's Kitty of Coleraine; Kingsley's Fishermen, and O Mary, Go and Call the Cattle Home;. Barateau's Twenty Years; Horace Smith's To Fanny; Aldrich's Nocturne; and Bryant's Wind and Stream, Tides, and Presentiment.
So far we have been considering organic form as something to be determined by the thought to be expressed. It is possible, even in poetry, to produce the same effect through the form alone, irrespective of the thought. Observe in the sonnets quoted on page 165, as also in the following imitations of French forms, the distinct impression conveyed of beginning, middle, and end. This results entirely too from the form, i.e., from the way in which the stanzas and the repeated lines and phrases emphasizing the successive parts of the poems, are arranged.
Awake, awake, O gracious heart,
Theres some one knocking at the door;
The chilling breezes make him smart;
His little feet are tired and sore.
Arise, and welcome him before
Adown his cheeks the big tears start
Awake, awake, O gracious heart,
Theres some one knocking at the door.
T is Cupid come with loving art
To honor, worship, and implore;
And lest, unwelcomed, he depart
With all his wise, mysterious lore,
Awake, awake, O gracious heart,
Theres some one knocking at the door
Valentine: Rondel by Frank Dempster Sherman
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter VI, page 107]
We know not yet what life shall be,
What shore beyond earth's shore be set;
What grief awaits us, or what glee,
We knew not yet.
Still, somewhere in sweet convene met,
Old friends, we say, beyond deaths sea
Shall meet and greet us, nor forget
Those days of yore, those years when we
Were loved and true,but will death let
Our eyes the longed-for vision see?
We know not yet.
Mors et Vita: Rondel by Samuel Waddington.
Hylas, O Hylas! crying to the breeze
Through field and forest wandered Hercules,
Forgetting those who manned the Argo tall,
Greece and the glorious labors of his thrall,
Yea, e'en that golden prize beyond the seas.
Wild were his words, and wildly echoing these
Back from the looming gloom of cliffs and trees
Resounded mockingly his eager call,
Hylas, O Hylas!
When Nestors wisdom, Orpheus melodies,
And all rewards of earth no more can please,
How oft we turn and let the tear-drop fall
For one whose gift of loving was his all,
And cry in anguish, and on bended knees,
Hylas, O Hylas!
Rondeau: M.M. Miller.
Even the following, though all contained in a single stanza, has the same characteristics:
I saw a snowflake in the air
When smiling May had decked the year,
And then 't was gone, I knew not where,
I saw a snowflake in the air,
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And thought perchance an angel's prayer
Had fallen from some starry sphere;
I saw a snowflake in the air
when smiling May had decked the year.
A Snowflake in May: Triolet by Clinton Scollard
To what has been said it needs only to be added nowwhat will readily suggest itselfthat this requirement of organic form, as manifested by the arrangement of the chief features of an artistic product, differs not whether a poem be short or long. The degree of excellence in its conception is measured by the degree in which it presents an image of the phase of life with which it deals in a distinct form, by which is meant a form in which are preserved the organic relationships of all the parts to each other and to the whole. When, in speaking of a long poem, such as the Iliad or Paradise Lost, Hamlet, or Faust, we commend its unity and progress, or the consistency, continuity, and completeness with which certain ideas of which it treats are developed, we mean merely that the poem as a whole presents in distinct organic form a whole image of that which it is designed to present. The difference, therefore, between the ability to produce a long poem and a short one, or what is sometimes the same thing, a great poem and a small one, is simply of the same nature as that which exists between a high and a small order of intellect in other departments,a difference in the ability to hold the thoughts persistently to a single subject until all its parts have been marshalled into order.
Turning now to music, who has not noticed that a composition in this art appears to have form in the degree alone in which one theme, i.e., one musical movement, is perceived to be begun, developed, and drawn to
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a close? The songs which to most of us appear most nearly perfect assume such forms as are found in the Sehnsucht nach dem Fruhlings, page 67, or Battle Hymn of the Republic, page 199, in both of which the beginning and end are similar, and the middle very often merely a variation, by way of complement, of the same general combination of notes.
Here are the various elements and developments of a periodic form, as given by Marx in his "Theory and Practice of Musical Composition":
According to these arrangements, as will be noticed, the movement seems to start and stop at the same pointto pass around the whole circumference, as it were, of the phase of feeling to be expressed, furnishing in this regard an exact analogy in time to that arrangement of groups in space which causes certain pictures and statues to seem to have contours like circles or oblongs. When the phase of feeling to be expressed in music is slight and simple in character, the mind has no difficulty in grasping or representing the whole in its completeness. A longer and more complex subject, as treated in an overture or a symphony, presents, of course, more obstacles both to comprehension and composition. Nevertheless,
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it too ought to be characterized and manifestly characterized by that order which causes all to seem organic.
The same principle probably furnishes an explanation of the reiterated chords with which overtures and symphonies frequently begin, and almost uniformly end. These chords represent the opening and the closing of movement; and the suggestion is, that no impetus, such as the works containing them profess to express, could be started or stopped without some such successive efforts. At the same time, perhaps a more natural and exact representation of what is intended, is produced whereas, for instance, in Wagner's overture to Lohengrinthe crescendo is used in the Introduction and the diminuendo in the finale. In a composition thus arranged, where the intensity of the movement, as regards both time and force, is increased and diminished gradually, do we not have presented a more complete idea of the starting and stopping of movementat all events, of voluntary movementthan is possible in connection with those methods that seem only to arouse and check it violently? Of course, if the composition be intended to leave a strong impression at its close, forcible chords here are justifiable. But much more often than is common, it might be wise for the composer to bear in mind that in nature the billow begins with the brook, and the shore does not stop the surge of the sea until successive waves, one by one, have been levelled to a ripple.
The musician, and the poet, too, for that matter, might learn a lesson in this regard, as well as with reference to this whole subject, from the orator. His art is not exclusively aesthetic, but it is so nearly so that, in this case at least, it may exemplify like principles. It is a fact with which most of us must be familiar that an experienced
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public speaker, unless in a time of unusual excitement, begins his address with his body at rest, with his tones uttered deliberately, with the pitch of his voice one that is natural to conversation, and with the range of his thoughts not raised much above the level of those of his hearers. In other words, he starts where the audience are, with no more of vehemence, rapidity, or brilliancy than is justified by the condition of thought in their minds at the time. He begins in the plane of ordinary, dignified intercourse, making no statement with which he has not reason to suppose that most of them will agree. But as he advances, his gestures, tones, language, and ideas gradually wax more and more energetic, striking, and original, till he reaches his climax. In the oration, perfect in form, intended to produce a single distinct and definite impression, this final climax, though often preceded by many another of less importance, stands out pre-eminently in advance of them. In it all the man's powers of action and of language, and the influence of all his separate arguments that now for the last time are summed up into a unity, seem to be concentrated like rays of light in a focus, and flashed forth for the enlightenment or bewilderment of those before him. But the most artistic oration does not end with the climax. At least, a few sentences and sentiments follow this, through which the action, voice, and ideas of the speaker gradually, gracefully, and sympathetically descend to bear the thoughts of his audience back again to the plane from which they started. That is to say, the artistic oration has an end as well as a beginning and a middle. It is a representation in complete organic form of the whole range of experience natural to discussion, from the time when a subject is first broached in ordinary conversation to the time when, having been
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argued fully and in such ways as to produce a single effect, the mind in exhaustion sinks back, once more, to the level of the conversation that suggested it. Whoever had an opportunity of listening to the public addresses of Everett, Beecher, or Gough, possessing, as they did, all these characteristics, will not fail to recognize without further comment how much the effects of oratory owe to the fact of their being grouped in strict accordance with the requirements that are fulfilled in what we have termed organic form.
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