IN reading college papers it often strikes us that some of the authors who supply the columns with poetry would succeed much better if they confined their efforts to writing prose. If they are gifted with some poetic feeling and a talent for versification, these abilities are sure to appear in writing prose, both in improving the style and in supplying the article with ideas which make it interesting in itself, without regard to the subject discussed. Too many having such talents imagine themselves to be gifted with "the vision and the faculty divine," to be moved by the same muse that inspired Shakespeare, while in reality their powers lie solely in an aptness for rhyme and a quite common talent for versification.
If such writers would confine themselves to prose, the result would generally be an excellent and harmonious style, which would charm by its melody, and surprise by the introduction of poetic thoughts, which, though not in themselves sufficient to constitute a poem, would still greatly enhance the beauty of prose composition. Of course we do not advise those who feel that they are best fitted for poetry to change their manner of writing. This only applies to those beginning their literary career, who as yet are not confirmed in any style. If the writer is really a poet, his talent will show itself in whatever he writes. His poetry will be genuine, and his prose will be improved by his poetical thoughts. On the other hand, a man who is not a born poet may write good prose, but his verse will be verse and nothing more; for the talents which enable him to succeed in the former are quite different from those necessary for success in the latter. He had better, then, confine himself to efforts in which success is certain, rather than seek after that which is virtually beyond his reach, not being attainable by human effort, but being a gift of nature.
There is also a superfluity of figurative language in some poems which is sometimes so frequent as to obscure rather than to illustrate the thought. Being struck by a particularly poetical idea, the author writes a poem to display it, but commonly the thought which constitutes the subject is contained in two lines, and the rest of the poem is filled with metaphor and figurative expressions. It seems quite possible that short poems might be written wholly without such aid.
How many sonnets and odes are there in which we have to wander through endless similes and comparisons to reach a point which is generally blunted by the very additions which are meant to adorn it! It is undeniable that a certain amount of figurative language is beautiful in a poem; indeed, if used with taste and skill, it may constitute the poem itself; but how much more true feeling there is in a sentiment when plainly and simply expressed, than when it is encumbered with an excess of figurative language! For instance, compare the two expressions: "Wilt thou remember me?" and "Wilt thou preserve me in thy memory's shrine?" Who will question the superiority of the former? And is it not also more truly poetical?