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view; nor is he made one by finding himself within the poor sunshine of a Quarterly. Still, omission of justice in one case, and the overdoing of it in the other, are matters which deserve our attention and reprobation, if for no other reason, simply because they render the name of our criticism a by-word, and a thing to be pointed at with detestation and scorn.
Such, we think, in too great a degree, is the constitution of our criticism. If this deserve support from a sensible and common sense people, we have no more to say. If, on the contrary, it deserve our reprobation and contempt, then we say, let it have them, in all we can do and say in connection with the good cause of a healthy literature, founded upon a true and healthy analysis of all that may fall within the grave shadow of its judgment. If we feel it to be a duty to advance learning, instead of the man, then let us favor that system which considers what he gives us, instead of, or at least before, himself. It is incumbent on us all to do justice, and to advocate it; and our best reward for this is, the undying reflection, that in giving such support, we did the best thing possible for Light and Truth. But we spoke, just now, of the spirit of criticism, as one of the strong enemies which poetry must encounter. In the same person the critical and poetical faculties are not only distinct, but they have no particular and observable sympathy. It would seem natural-indeed we hardly see how it could be otherwise that the calm and continuous exer. cise of judgment, in the matter of the execution, should be incompatible with that excitement which the fervor of inspiration supposes ; that the “ thoughts that breathe and words that burn" will not wait upon any minister of language, whose business it is solely to square and guage, with an ever-accompanying readiness to be astonished at any disregard of the fixtures of style -- those received manners of expression—which literal spirits regard as unalterable as a truth of mathematics. True poetry is too inartificial as well as too irrepressible, to suffer the peculiarities of its character to be lost in those of its guise. In the same individual, then, we repeat, the critical and poetical faculties are evidently distinct. So it is in literary collision-where one, as may be supposed in these days of writers and reviewers, is arrayed against the other; and we believe that
the unsatisfactory and dangerous business of verbal criticism has done more to make a mannerist of the poet, and to blast the natural and healthy purity of his verse, than all other things combined. It has compelled him to second thoughts. It has driven him to artifice. It has made him, what he ought never to be, a mere courtier in his art.
In another view of the subject, the poetic taste of our time has been, and still is, in many respects, essentially bad. It lingers with more complacency, upon the morbid and melancholy character of poetry, than upon its kindling and transcendent attributes. It has been taught that the sad complaining spirit of genius was the legitimate object of admiration, because it sang of afflictions that it could not designate, and of which it would have us believe it held solitary endurance. It has been told by the worshippers of diseased sensibility, that the self-tortured mind was the only home of true poetry; that there can be no better romance than that which haunts the ruins of a great, restless, and unhappy, because unsettled spirit; and that imagination cannot better busy itself than in talking musically to the world of fancied wrongs, or, it may be, of personal deformities, while it is admitted on all hands, that there are round us unsung, still new and strange beauties, springing continually from a vast and inexhaustible creation.
True pathos is not the pathos of a heart surrendered to its desolate feelings, but of one still left to the persuasion and guidance of its better ones. With many, nothing constitutes this quality, but a sort of restless, talkative and consequential melancholy. With others, the coloring of the picture must be of that mellow, tearful character, the mere gazing at which makes us sad. Now true pathos, we repeat, is something far better and greater than this—something distinct and determined ; our feelings are awakened under it, as under the fine flow of music, swelling on us like an organ at that low chant in which we can hear our hearts throb to the intonations. This is the effect of true genius. It is the true melancholy. There is another that is easily inspired. It is drawn from common objects by common
But it requires more than common powers to stir the fathomless places of our nature, until they heave in sympathetic commotion with the spirit that rules them, even as deep answers unto deep.
The influence exercised upon our time, by personal character, and a certain character of poetry, as we can all testify, will warrant the foregoing remarks. It has been thought, and held, too, by some who were carried to it by no compulsion, and who would have progressed far better under a better faith, that there was no surer way to become famous than to become sad. This is no unattainable thing. It is no sure proof of great powers to bring about this spiritual fog, for the bard to light up with a mellowed and interesting illumination ; and to play lord of the disconsolate, in this fashion, is, to our mind, but a poor intellectual capacity. There are times, indeed, when the bursts of a misanthropic spirit may bear out upon them the soul of poetry; but when the quick overflow of a full but bitter heart gives place to the continuous and deadly, but still contrived and factitious current of gloomy feeling, we are apt to question the reality of the suffering, or to be disgusted, where we are not amus. ed, with the officious repeated tale of its endurance. It is not the character of true grief to talk loudly or long of its extremities. No one tells, year after year, of secret woes to the world, if he be really a martyr to them. The poetry which such sorrow employs is the poetry of selfishness.
The taste it begets is a false one. The sorrow itself is a false sorrow. That such poetry should be favorably receiv. ed with the sensible is a wonder; but the continuance of its fame must ever be questionable. The world is too busy to confine itself to the dark things of a single, isolated mind. It wants companionship--it wants delight, instruction. Byron will find his celebrity yet, we believe, in those nobler strains with which himself has least to do—in the sublime sentiinents that he has caught from nature and sympathy, and invested with the peculiar and classic beauty of his genius. Rousseau may captivate the infected imagination by his pictures of self-inflicted misery and ruinous excitement; but who would not rather remember him in his abstractions from himself, and in his revelations of nature among the woods and waters of Geneva ?
Poetry, then, has become a matter in which the people, as a mass, claim to be heard. It is something in which they claim an interest, as a reading, thinking, understanding public. This is not new, nor does the remark point to any thing new. It has ever been so, in a degree ; for every human
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being is alive to poetry, and is speaking or acting it every day of his life, when there is excitement about him. And this we say, notwithstanding the material, manufacturing, utilitarian character of the age. We are not, we trust, unaware of the disposition among all classes to ask concerning every thing else, as well as poetry, with all the pertinacity of the mathematician, “what does it prove ?" What we intend to say is, that as an agent, it is operating more generally upon mankind. It enters into their sympathies, and makes a part of their necessary enjoyment. It has become the vehicle of information to their minds, and of new influences to their hearts. Holding such a rank among the pleasurable resources of life, it is certainly important that the spirit which shall animate it be of that elevating quality, of that unsullied, unadulterated character, to which the inspiration of well-regulated genius alone can attain.
What, then, it may be asked, is the style of poetry adapted to the taste and feelings of the age ? We do not say the taste and feelings of England, separately-or of America for we believe that upon this matter the sentiment is nearly the same in both countries. Unity of literary pursuit has generated between this and the father-land, a unity of opinion, in this instance, among many others, that cannot escape our notice. In answer, we would say, without hesitation, that so far as the common consent of its intelligent admirers can indicate the popularity of any species of literature, that appears to be the favored poetry of the time, which commends itself by the power and richness of its versification. We now speak, naturally, of its extrinsic character. It is not the age that takes particular delight in the cæsural melody of the stanza, as we find it in the poetry of Pope ; nor yet in the patriarchal and gothic measure of Spencer. In these respects it is more of a golden age than that of either of those poetic fathers. Amongst the masters of the art, it is the time of vigorous conception, leagued with a chastened and graceful style, but not subservient to it ; of high and beautiful thought, finding utterance in language suited to its character, and adorned with the attractions of a pure, manly, polished taste. We much doubt the lasting influence or value of that sort of poetry, which busies itself in the ultra intricacies of thought, bright and delicate as it may be ; which hurries us along with a strange perti
nacity, after the subtle imaginings of the excited mind, until we are lost in the mazes of the journey, or tired of the “ long drawn” fancies that we are compelled to follow. It is not the time for the attenuation of metaphysical poetry. Images standing out in bold and naked relief-descriptions of Nature as she reveals herself in her simplicity and grandeur-and, above all, the palpable and strong emotions of the spirit, are, we believe, the instruments of that poetry which shall leave the impression of its power upon the age. The mighty spell of mind that brings before us in dread reality the alarm of Waterloo, when there was “mounting in hot haste," or the rattling tempest of the hills, when
" Jura answers from her misty shroud Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud”
disclose, after all, the stateliest magic of Byron-just as his pathos is more strikingly exhibited in those clear and unsullied escapes of feeling which his subject, and not himself, has produced. Campbell has stirred the hearts of half the world by a line of his Battle of the Baltic ; while Moore has given us whole volumes on the dissection of a rainbow.
Of course we would not be understood to maintain that the great attributes of poetry have not heretofore been comprehended; or that new ones have been discovered. We not only do not maintain it-we do not say it. It would be ridiculous to do so, of what we consider to be an original ingredient in the human constitution. On the contrary, we hold that the grand properties of good poetry have ever showed themselves the same, from Homer's day to our own. But it has been reserved for modern times to bring them into exercise with a power and purity and elevation, which they could never boast before. Classical ornament, it is certain, still holds place as a property of poetical composition. Antiquity has long afforded a principal fountain whence poetry draws many of her choicest associations, and much of that material with which she illustrates and adorns her conceptions. This is a familiar truth.-But though such embellishment, under the direction of a good taste, undoubtedly has its value, at the present day we are disposed to believe that it does not retain its early importance as a literary ingredient; for it is evident that there are