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We cannot yet bring our hearts to sympathise with those literary seers of the age, who have begun to chant the funeral dirge of poetry—and the reason is, we think these obsequies quite premature. That poetry should always retain the gushing and sparkling joyousness of early youth, it were indeed unreasonable to expect. That some of her vernal charms have actually faded ; that the loveliest freshness of her "May day' is over; that her fancy is less rich, and her imagination less creative and daring than in the olden time,' we are not disposed to deny Nor do we think it upon the whole strange, that certain classes of her intimates and admirers, should be startled at those hectical flashes, which have recently been more frequent and threatening than usual.
But still we can perceive no serious cause of alarm. For, debilitating, and even poisonous as a great deal of the aliment of poetry is and has been, we feel an assurance that she will survive its deleterious effects. We are persuaded her brightest and best days are still in prospect. Her loftiest darings are reserved for better ages.
Her sweetest melody will gladden a distant futurity. She will
yet feel a holier inspiration than has glowed in her breast, since the days of the Prophets : and thus, while she sits here upon the footstool, sweeping the strings of her lyre, she will be wrapt in the visions of brighter worlds.
What though she may have already culled the choicest flowers and inhaled the sweetest fragrancies of her earthly paradise-and wrought some of her richest materials into the pillars and ornaments of her temple? What though the sciences should encroach more and more upon the empire of song, as the great agents of nature, are subjected, with increasing skill and success, to experiment and demonstration? What though the discoveries of the learned, in earth, air and water, should even expel the muses from some of their favorite habitations, and render much of the old machinery of poetry useless ? What though, in the triumphs of intellect, in the mighty march of discovery, and experimental philosophy, all the tutelary divinities of woods and waters, of mountain and ocean caves, should be expelled from their ancient dwelling places ? What though Parnassus itself should be cleared up to the very top, and the sun should drink all the springs of Helicon dry, and the whole Nine should spread their pinions at once? Would poetry, too, take her flight from all the abodes of mortals, and leave the world forever? Is a heathen dress the only one which she will ever consent to wear? On this supposition, had there been no fall of man, there would have been no good poetry. Are her partialities for a pagan mythology so inveterate, that she will refuse to employ any other machinery ? Are the materials which nature has hitherto so generously proffered to the cultivators of poetry exhausted, or will they ever be exhausted ? Not so long as the sun shines in his glorious tabernacle—nor while the 'moon still walks in brightness and the spring returns with its songs and beauties and fragrance, and the hills are clothed with flocks, and the vallies also are covered over with corn.'
We cannot indeed deny, that, in some of the walks of poetry, there may be a growing dearth of imagery; and if this is the fact, we rejoice in it: for like certain streets and lanes in great cities, they are walks which ought never to have been frequented. The very air cannot visit them without being polluted. Every foot of ground lies under a double curse. For their vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter. Their wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps.' In those unhallowed walks, every germ and blossom is mildewed, every rose is cankered, every joy is reprobated.
And yet, poets of uncommon genius and great distinction, in various nations and ages, have not thought it beneath them to let their imaginations revel in these haunts of pollution—to pluck every blighted flower they could find—to varnish over the haggard ugliness of viceto consecrate, by the mellifluous witchery of their verse, motives and passions and doings which should be regarded with unmingled abhorrence; and in short, to throw their richest drapery around the most seductive forms of sensuality. Thus have many, whose talents and opportunities might have placed them in the first rank of public benefactors, sold themselves as caterers to the most unhallowed and debasing propensities of a depraved heart. We regret to say, that the Prince of English Dramatists cannot be exempted from this heavy charge. His works in their original form are very unfit for the eye and the ear of youthful modesty ; and what is exceedingly to be lamented is, that the most objectionable passages in his plays, are so thoroughly wrought into the fabric of his verse, as to make it nearly, or quite impossible, to sepa
rate the precious from the vile, without violating all the unities of action and design. The very name of Moore is identified with the “harlotry of his muse;' and the Noble Bard, who is perhaps placed by the general voice of critics and readers above all his contemporaries, will have more than almost any other poet to answer for, on the score of impurity, as well as impiety. With these and other mournful examples of perverted genius before our eyes, how can we, as friends of purity and public happiness, help rejoicing, if we find reason to believe, that the materials of song are becoming scarce in the particular department of which we have been speaking ?
It must be obvious to all who are versed in the poetry of our own language, to say nothing of the Gerinan, the French, or the Italian, that other contiguous walks, which are connected with the foregoing by many a secret passage, have been trodden so hard and explored so diligently by a thousand adventurers, that there is scarce any thing left in the shape of leaf, or bud, or flower, to reward the toil of the future poet. Under the name of love, and by the most unwarrantable perversions of its import, every thing that has a tendency to inflame the passions and move the heart, has been brought forward and presented in every light, and served up in every shape that the most prolific ingenuity could devise. There is pot an auburn, or a raven lock, but has been curled and clipped, and wrought into rings and tokens and breastpins, times without number. Nothing new can hereafter be said about arching brows, or dark eye lashes, or rows of purest ivory, or the smiling ruby that now covers and now reveals them. Nothing but what every body knows by heart, can be invented about dimples and alabaster and drifted snow and etherial forms and lily white hands.
Nothing new can the most ingenious poet pretend to offer about rich heiresses and cruel stepmothers, and castle imprisonments, or about mysterious elopements and unavailing pursuit. Never can beauty smile more bewitchingly, or shed tears more pearly, or sigh more languishingly, or frown more indignantly, or expire more tragically, than it has done a thousand times over, in sonnets and ditties and elegies. These, then, and other kindred and parallel walks of poetry, in which every thing good and bad has been already worked up and wrought into every conceivable shape, may in time to come be less frequented than they are at present.
But is there no room left for the successful cultivation of the noble art of poetry ? Certainly there is. What has been felicitously called the poetry of human life is literally inexhaustible. The associations which give shape, and coloring, and life to poetical conceptions are endless. It is impossible to assign any limits to the powers of true genius in selecting, arranging, combining, and painting the materials which nature furnishes. If a hundred Cowpers, or Thomsons, could sit down together upon the top of a mountain, under the same bright vernal canopy, with the far-spreading beauties and promises of the year at their feet, each would see the charming landscape with his own eyes, and spread over it the coloring of his own peculiar feelings and genius. If a hundred Shakspeares were to describe the dark workings of human ambition, jealousy, and revenge ; and lay open all the deep and terrible energies of our fallen nature, or its soft and winning emotions, there would be something original in each description. While every one would be true to nature, no two would be alike. Thus also, were a thousand Homers and Miltons to arise at once, and soar to