266. To William Wordsworth Pub. Memoirs of Wordsworth, i. 138. [Early December 1798] As to the German Hexameters, they have in their very essence grievous defects. It is possible and probable that we receive organically very little pleasure from the Greek and Latin hexameters; for, most certainly, we read all the spondees as iambics or trochees. But then the words have a fixed quantity. We know it; and there is an effect produced in the brain similar to harmony without passing through the ear-hole. The same words, with different meanings, rhyming in Italian, is a close analogy. I suspect -450- that great part of the pleasure derived from Virgil consists in this satisfaction of the judgment. 'Majestate manûs' begins an hexameter; and a very good beginning it is. 'Majestate magnâ' is read exactly in the same manner, yet that were a false quantity; and a schoolmaster would conceit that it offended his ear. Secondly, the words having fixed quantities in Latin, the lines are always of equal length in time; but in German, what is now a spondee is in the next line only two-thirds of a dactyl. Thirdly, women all dislike the hexameters with whom I have talked. They say, and in my opinion they say truly, that only the two last feet have any discernible melody; and when the liberty of two spondees, 'Jovis incrementum,' is used, it is absolute prose. 1 When I was ill and wakeful, I composed some English hexameters: 2 William, my teacher, my friend! dear William and dear Dorothea! Smooth out the folds of my letter, and place it on desk or on table; Place it on table or desk; and your right hands loosely half-closing, 3 Gently sustain them in air, and extending the digit didactic, Rest it a moment on each of the forks of the five-forkéd left hand, Twice on the breadth of the thumb, and once on the tip of each finger; Read with a nod of the head in a humouring recitativo; And, as I live, you will see my hexameters hopping before you. This is a galloping measure; a hop, and a trot, and a gallop! All my hexameters fly, like stags pursued by the stag-hounds, Breathless and panting, and ready to drop, yet flying still onwards. 4 I would full fain pull in my hard-mouthed runaway hunter; But our English Spondeans are clumsy yet impotent curb-reins; And so to make him go slowly, no way have I left but to lame him. William, my head and my heart! dear Poet that feelest and thinkest! Dorothy, eager of soul, my most affectionate sister! Many a mile, O! many a wearisome mile are ye distant, Long, long, comfortless roads, with no one eye that doth know us. O! it is all too far to send to you mockeries idle: Yea, and I feel it not right! But O! my friends, my beloved! Feverish and wakeful I lie, -- I am weary of feeling and thinking. Every thought is worn down, -- I am weary, yet cannot be vacant. Five long hours have I tossed, rheumatic heats, dry and flushing, ____________________ 1 For Wordsworth's reply, see Early Letters, 203. 2 Poem, i. 304. 3 False metre. [Note by S. T. C.] 4 'Still flying onwards', were perhaps better. [Note by S. T. C.] -451- Gnawing behind in my head, and and throbbing about me, Busy and tiresome, my friends, as the beat of the boding nightspider. 1 I forget the beginning of the line: . . . my eyes are a burthen, Now unwillingly closed, now open and aching with darkness. O! what a life is the eye! what a fine and inscrutable essence! Him that is utterly blind, nor glimpses the fire that warms him; Him that never beheld the swelling breast of his mother; Him that ne'er smiled at the bosom as babe that smiles in its slumber; Even to him it exists, it stirs and moves in its prison; Lives with a separate life, and 'Is it the spirit?' he murmurs: Sure, it has thoughts of its own, and to see is only its language. There was a great deal more, which I have forgotten, as I never wrote it down. No doubt, much better might be written; but these will still give you some idea of them. The last line which I wrote I remember, and write it for the truth of the sentiment, scarely less true in company than in pain and solitude: William, my head and my heart! dear William and dear Dorothea! You have all in each other; but I am lonely, and want you!