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others, of a nature full as valuable, and full as commanding, to bring it home to the bosom of the enthusiast—and why not of the scholar?-recognised by poetry; even its favorite allusions to those animating, everlasting principles that actuate us in the sublimest and best of causes, and its intimacy with the fadeless features of nature in her alternate moods of loveliness and magnificence.-Once, genius would deign to linger among none but vast and marvellous creations. Now, she has found a wider field for her efforts or for her revels among the less prominent, but not, on that account, less interesting objects that are ever about us. If, in some temple of finished and almost breathing statuary, or in some stern exhibition of heroic fortitude and valor, poetry once found all it could hope for of beauty and sublimity, she now recognises them in the great living models of moral power and loveliness; in the solitary but ever varying and wonderful works of nature ; in the wide charities of virtuous and peaceful life. If she found strength in her images of Jove, or in the achievements of the mighty in war, she finds it now in her conceptions of a higher and holier sovereignty, or in the struggles of brave and good hearts in the cause of humanity. If she found pathos in the tragic sufferings of imaginary queens and heroes, or, again, in the lamentations of our first parents, driven from the gates of Paradise, she now finds it in the language of nature-in the unfeigned trials of the great and devoted who have not lived in vainin the sorrows of man, since Paradise closed on hinn for everin the power of those peculiar and commanding griefs that history has treasured for the instruction of the world, and which are often, at once, the lot and lesson of mankind.
While upon this portion of our subject, we would revert to a consideration that seems to deserve some notice. We think it cannot have escaped observation, that poetical writers, in passing from the more royal and solitary walks of the art, have gone to the other extreme--and are now found circulating freely in the various childish resorts and play-grounds that philanthropic spirits are continually throwing open to the footsteps of youth. Without doubt this passage from the one sphere to the other is partly the result of that temper of the times to which we before referred, and which operates to bring down the mind to popular contact—as we may venture to express it, being of no politics-in almost all its de
partments; but very much, we apprehend, is to be attributed to the strong disposition at present manifested to encourage the manufacture of verse of exceeding simplicity. “ for the use of children.” To all this we have no objection, so it be managed within due bounds. The danger, if so grave a word need be used, consists in the liability to which poetry may be subject to be frittered away and reduced—not refined-by this process of simplification. For there are two kinds of simplicity-perhaps we are repeating what we have said before--one consisting in the direct disenthralled language which distinguishes great and forcible thoughts; the other in the unpretending juvenile strain that strips thought of all dig. nity whatever, and forces it down to the comparative nursery diction which marks the multiplying volumes of our youthful libraries. Many minds are disposed to regard the simplicity of Wordsworth as something as ineffable and insufferable as it is uncommon. With them, the word, in its application to this truly rare genius, is used in its worst sense. Now, for ourselves, we are inclined to point to Wordsworth as an instance of the quality of simplicity most admirably exhibited. The sublime singleness of his conceptions suffers nothing by the bold relief into which they are thrown by his language. There is no weakness, though his thoughts have not the parading support of words. There is no influence lost in the unencumbered beauty in which they go triumphantly home to the heart.
We are the more anxious that the true meaning of this term should be perceived and understood, from the chance we think it may have to abide of passing to the service of something far beyond and below it-to something that has much of the appearance of simplicity, without any of its virtues. There is a natural chord in the bosoms of us all. It ever responds in sympathy to the noble music of a spirit deeply and sincerely stirred. Here the vibrations of the heart, if they be given in poetry, will also be given in the language of true simplicity. And this is the kind of simplicity we would cultivate-and that too without condemning, so it be kept within bounds, the infantile guise in which poetry is introduced to the companionship of children. We only protest against confounding the simplicity of great thoughts with the simplicity of little ones. The higher range of poetical exertion, to which it is our SECOND SERIES, VOL. IV, NO. 1.
intention to direct our remarks more particularly, supposes those qualities, in him who moves in it successfully, that constitute him a poet in the loftiest meaning of the term ; as well as a certain set of sympathies, in those who accompany
him with satisfaction. To write a song and compose an epic are two things. The author of a national lay, or a ballad, may have the power to quicken our pulses or start our tears, by the witchery of his verse, but prove an actual soporific in his attempts to charm by efforts of high pretension. The reason of this it may not be difficult to assign. It consists in the simple fact that different endowments are required for the two species of writing. True, the possession of one does not imply the absence of the other. There are instances of their perfect and happy combination; but the combination is rare in comparison with the gift of the poetic faculty. Most of us can recall our different emotions, on surrendering ourselves to the mellow cadences of beautiful hexameter with its rhyme, composition, and the commanding blank verse of a masterly and enkindling tragedy. With this recollection in mind, the force of our observation will be perceived, as connected with the less, and the more pretending efforts of the muse. They who have not poetry enough in their intellectuals to lead them to admit the truth of our doctrine as drawn from their own perception, would hardly be reached by any argument we might build upon it. Tragedy has ever been considered one of the Olympian walks of the poet. It is certain that in the cause of the drama, genius has put forth some of its pre-eminent efforts. Requiring uncominon vigor of style, a heroic strain of thought, and an adventurous spirit of imagination, an attempt at this species of writing may well rank amongst the most daring of poetical undertakings.
When we speak of the drama, we would be understood to refer to it in its purity. The neglect or absence of the distinguishing properties which constitute its legitimacy, it would be easy to point out in many modern instances. The departure from first principles in this department, indeed, has been frequently unpardonable ; and such is the feeling of the age, in connection with this style of poetry, there is little hope, we fear, of a return to them. It is well known that a long and wordy war was engendered, aforetime, upon the matter of the technical rules to be observed in the con
struction and conduct of the drama. It was a dispute almost as serious as any upon the real and symbolical presence. It became a settled conviction, however, that such things as time, place, and the common probabilities of life were affairs which poets, as well as readers, were bound to observe. Genius, it is true, sometimes leaped the barriers of the unities, and, in a few royal instances, roamed in uncontrolled and uncontrollable liberty through the fields of fancy. But the examples have not sanctioned the custom. Notwithstanding, however, the poetic spirit, in this respect, has felt the restraint of public opinion, it has made a new escape in the form in which it has latterly chosen to appear. Under the guise of a dramatic poem, it enjoys a latitude, both of conception and execution, which recognises almost entirely the old freedom from the technical canons. Accordingly, much of the finest poetry that has flowed upon England of late years, has been through this new channel.
There is a simplicity and unity--a unity of purposeabout this model of the drama, which, while they render the work unfit for representation, open at once a wide region for the ardent and excursive fancy of the artist. Tragedies, under this modification, are properly tragedies for the closet. They appeal to our taste and our poetic sympathies, rather than to our passions or our animal excitability.
And we are content that it should be so. We are content that the beautiful works of genius should be fashioned to meet only the intellectual eye-to be scanned in solitudeto delight us at our firesides. We have never been anxious that the Mysteries and Moralities should be summoned from their sleep of ages.
“They sleep well.” We have never been anxious to perpetuate any thing that recalls them, or to countenance any of the enormities of the scene that sometimes bring the modern stage into too decided rivalry with those monstrous spectacles. With equal reason we have no disposition to subject the purity and perfection of lofty tragedy to the present mutilating and fantastic spirit of the theatres. We shall not be understood, of course, to speak disparagingly of those standard plays that are tragedies indeed, and as such have been honored for generations—and which will bear representation and deserve applause, so long as the old fountains of inspiration are remembered; but we
would keep this sublime department of poetry from the encroachments of the popular demand for stage effect.
We are aware that in rendering to any writer the praise of priority among the constructors of modern English drama, we are rendering no uncommon honor. The glorious days of British tragedy have gone by; and we might trace, did our limits allow, an outline of its history to show its declension—the causes which produced it, and which now almost forbid a hope of its revival. But we must refrain. It is enough to say, that as the spirit of the Grecian drama lived in the lyrics, so the spirit of that of England early lurked in those admirable old ballads that constitute so considerable a mass of its dawning poetry; and that from these fountains the first draughts were the purest. The draina of our language has seen no day more promising than that which shone upon the morning devotees at its shrine. To follow its changes and its deterioration, would be to tread in a beaten track, or to linger upon a topic that has been amply treated by far worthier pens than our own. It will naturally be supposed that we are here speaking of the general tendency of this species of poetry. An exception like Shakspeare is not to be considered as affecting the rule. It is sufficient to know that the temper of the times and dispositions of writers have led men astray from the ancient high pathway ; and it is quite an event to see a drama amongst us that can, even in some distant manner, bring back ihe old and good times of the splendid art. A lady, of whom England may well be proud, has done this in a striking degree ; and though her plot mingles with no misty mythology, no all-pervading, all-powerful destiny, effecting its silent triumph as it proceeds, like the Greek drama, there is still a unity of purpose, of high and almost religious determination, that all but supplies that peculiar principle of the ancient tragedy, while it imparts to this a character still more elevated.
It has been said, and maintained with a degree of plausibility, that the progress of Christianity has been no help to that of poetry. It has been argued that religion, or religious feeling, as a principle or ingredient, has not been par. ticularly favorable to the development of poetic genius under its best forms of attractiveness or energy. Doubtless