Is It Nonsense?

—Is your correspondent of last December correct in set-

ting down to the love of nonsense that delight which we find in obscure or uncomprehended passages of literature ? There is an undeniable charm about a melodious combination of words in themselves calculated to suggest pleasant ideas, even where it conveys no rational meaning. But do all the examples cited by your correspondent come under this head ? His vision of the dozing pimpernel, while it may have been absurd, was not, strictly speaking, nonsensical. Even of the “corn rigs” and “gowans,” I suspect his mind held some undefined image. When we meet with a word which we do not understand, but which pleases the eye or ear, we jump to the conclusion that the object signified is as strange to our experience as its appellation ; in short, imagination invests the thing itself with the novel charm which its name possesses for us, and the enchantment is broken when we discover that it really is something with which we are quite familiar. I will confess to a sense of disappointment when I learned that the “ birks ” of the Scottish ballads were simply birches. The birch is a beautiful tree, but what reality could compare with the shadowy picture painted by unfettered fancy ? The witchery of these things lies in their suggestiveness, as your correspondent virtually admits in his concluding paragraph. Impressions too unformed to be put into words may be vaguely grander, more subtly fair, than any which words can fully express.

Are the terms which we cannot define meaningless to us ? Do we not rather cram them with meaning ? For one ignorant of its literal significance, does not that phrase, “ the gurly sea,” sum up all the nameless elements which make the weird gloom of an ocean storm ? To him “ gurly ” is the ideal adjective, describing the indescribable. If the intellect sleeps while we read such lines as these, its dreams have their own fascination.