PROSE

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PROSE (generally derived from prorsa (oratio), the reason of which will be given in the course of the article). The true character of prose can be clearly conceiv ed only by considering it in relation to poetry, (q. v.) Their difference lies in the essential difference of certain states of the mind and feelings. The two chief states of the inward man may be called the thinking and the poetical states, and depend upon the predominance of the understanding, or the imagination and feelings. If we think (in the narrower sense of the word), we combine ideas according to the laws of reason; and prose which is the language of sober thought, is characterized by the abstractness, generality or precision which belongs to the ideas that occupy the understanding. When the mind is in a poetical state, that is, when the imagination or feelings are strongly excited, then it seeks for language which shall affect immediately the imagination and feelings of others. Warmth, liveliness, individuality, therefore, characterize the language of the poet. A full consideration of the distinguishing features of PROSE, whose province is fact and opinion, and of poetry, which deals with emotions, would afford room for much interesting discussion; but this our limits preclude. Two of the chief instruments of poetry are imagery and rhythm. It calls in beauty of sound to aid beauty of sense. Clearness and precision are the chief aim of prose; and every thing else must, if necessary, be sacrificed to them ; yet man, striving always to combine the beautiful with the useful, does not entirely dispense with musical sounds in prose; and, though he does not subject it to the strict rules of metre, yet he arranges the words so as to please the ear by their measured cadence (numerus). It is wrong, however, to make verse the distinguishing feature of poetry. How much versified prose exists! and how much poetry, unadorned by metrical language ! Metre is a mere consequence of the character of poetry, and does not constitute it. Prose and poetry cannot be strictly defined, but often run into each other, and many compositions which are called prose have much of a poetical character; for instance, some of the proclamations of Napoleon to his army. Prose, however, in the most common acceptation of the word, is used in contradistinction to metrical composition; hence it is called, by the Romans, or alio soluta. The external form naturally strikes firsts and, in the early stages of society, strikes most; hence the term prose, which, as we have already stated, is generally derived from prorsus, prorsa oratio (progress^ ive Speech), opposed to verse, which is derived from versus (backwards), returning always to the selected metre.' The Greeks called prose b negos \oyosy which the Romans translated pedestris oratio; and St. Evremond compares prose writers to modest pedestrians. Some have added to the divisions poetry and prose a further division, eloquence, considering the third either as partaking of the nature of both the others, or as essentially differing from both. From what has been said of the difference betweeen prose and poetry, it is clear that poetiy must be much earlier developed than prose, because feeling and imagination prevail most with nations in their early periods. We do not mean merely that poetical compositions preceded prose compositions, but the common way of viewing things and expressing thoughts, in early periods, was in images. Histories, laws (vonoi), and philosophical maxims, were first conveyed in verse with the Greeks, and many other nations, and, with all, certainly had a symbolical, poetical character. Pliny says that Pherecydes of Scyros (a contemporary of Cyrus) first formed the Greek prose (prosam primus condere instituit); but perhaps he was only the first who wrote on philosophicomythological subjects in prose. Fine prose is among the latest attainments both of nations and individuals; and it would appear that, with most nations, classical prose writers are fewer than classical poets.