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dertaking; and here the question will natu- | are now wrapped up in his soul, as the rudirally occur to many, whether poetry is of ments of the future plant in the seed. As a any real value in promoting the happiness necessary result oi' this constitution, the soul, of man. England is a commercial country, possessed and moved by these mighty, and we know that poetry has little to do with though infant energies, is perpetually stretchincreasing the facilities of commerce, as little ing beyond what is present and visible, as with the better regulation of the poor struggling against the bounds of its earthly laws, or with the settlement of any of those prison-house, and seeking relief and joy in leauing questions which at present agitate imayinings of unseen and ideal being. the political world. But poetry has a world This view of our nature which has never of its own—a world in which, if sordid cal- been fully developed, and which goes farculations have no place, the noble, the im- ther towards explaining the contradictions of mortal part of our nature is cherished, invi- human life than all others, carries us to the gorated and refined.
very foundation and sources of poetry. He, In touching upon this inspiring theme, it is who cannot interpret by his own consciousimpossible not to feel the inadequary of ness what we have now said, wants the true inoderate powers when compared with those key to works of genius. He has not peneof periaps the most luminous writers of the trated those sacred recesses of the soul, present way. whose seview of Milton's works where poetry is born and nourished, and incontains in direct relation to this subject, the hales immortal vigour, and wings herself for following eloquent and inimitable appeal to her heavenward flight. In an intellectual the highest feelings of human nature. I nature, framed for progress, and for higher quote at great length, because I would not moles of being, there must be creative enerbreak the charın of the whole passage by gies, powers of original, and ever-vrowing garbled extracts; and I risk the quotation at thought; and poetry is the form in which the perii of having the rest of my book con- these energies are chiefly manifested. It is trast:d with these pages, like a chaplet of the glorious prerogative of' unis art, that it mock gems, in which is one true dianıond. makes all things new for the gratification
“ Milton's tame resta chiefly on his poetry, of a divine instinct. It indeed finds its eleand to this we naturally give our first atten- ments in what it actually sees a:d expetion. By those who are apt to speak of po- riences, in the worlds of matter and mind, ety as light reading, Milton's eminence in but it combines and blends these into new this sphere may be considered as only giving forms, and according to new atfinities; him a high rank among the contributors to breaks down, if we may so say, the distincpublic amusement. Not go thought Milton. tions and bounds of nature; imparts to maOf all God's gifts of intellect, he esteemed terial objects life, and sentiment, and emopoetical genius the most transcendant. He tion, and invests the mind with the powers esteemed it in himself as a kind of inspira- and splendours of the outward creation ; detion, and wrote his great works with some- scribes the surrounding universe in the colours thing of the conscious dignity of a prophet. which the passions throw over it, and depicts We agree with Milton in his estimate of po- the mind in those modes of repose or agitaetry. It seems to us the divinest of all arts; tion, of tenderness or sublime emotion, which for it is the breathing or expression of that manifest its thirst for a more powerful and principle or sentiment, which is deepest and joyful existence. To a man of a literal and sublimest in human nature; we mean of prosaic character, the mind may seem lawthat thirst or aspiration, to which no mind is less in these workings; but it observes higher wholly a stranger, for something purer and laws than it transgresses, the laws of the lovelier, something more powerful, lofty, and immortal intellect; it is trying and develop thrilling than ordinary and real life affords. ing its best faculties; and in the objects No doctrine is more common among Chris- which it describes, or in the emotions which it tians than that of man's immortality, but it awakens, anticipates those states of progresis not so generally understood, that the sive power, splendour, beauty and happigerms or principles of his whole future being ness, for wluch it was created.
“We accordingly believe that poetry, so there is a wisdom against which poetry far from injuring society, is one of the great wars, the wisdom of the senses, which makes instruments of its refinement and exaltation physical comfort and gratification the suIt lists the mind above ordinary life ; gives preme good, and wealth the chief interest of it a respite from depressing cares, and awak- | life, we do not deny; nor do we deem it the ens the consciousness of its affinity with least service which poetry renders to manwhat is pure and noble. In its legitimate kind, that it redeems them from the thraldom and highest efforts, it has the same tendency of this carth-born prudence. But passing and aim with Christianity; that is, to spirit-over this topic, we would observe, that the ualize our nature. True, poetry has been complaint against poetry as abounding in made the instrument of vice, the pander of illusion and deception, is in the main, groundbad passions ; but when genius thus stoops, lese. In many poems, there is more truth it dims its fires, and parts with much of its than in many histories and philosophic theopower; and even when poetry is enslaved ries. The fictions of genius are often the to licentiousness or misanthropy, she cannot vehicles of the sublimest verilies, and its wholly forget her true vocation. Strains of flashes osten open new regions of thought, pure feeling, touches of tenderness, images and throw new light on the mysteries of our of innocent happiness, sympathies with suf being. In poetry, the letter is falsehood, but sering virtue, bursts of scorn or indignation the spirit is often profoundest wisdom. And at the hollowness of the world, passages if' truth thus dwells in the boldest fictions of true to our moral nature, often escape in an the poet, much more may it be expected in immoral work, and show us how hard it is his delineations of life; for the present life, for a gifted spirit to divorce itself wholly which is the first stage of the immortal mind. from what is good. Poetry has a natural abounde in the materials of poetry; and it is alliance with our best affections. It delights the high office of the bard to detect this divine in the beauty and sublimity of the outward element among the grosser labours and creation and of the soul. It indeed portrays pleasures of our carthly being. The present with terrible energy the excesses of the pas- life is not wholly prosaic, precise, tame, and sions; but they are passions which show a finite. To the gifted eye, it abounds in the mighty nature, which are full of power, poetic. The affections which spread beyond which command awe, and excite a deep, ourselves, and stretch far into futurity; the though shuddering sympathy. Its great workings of mighty passions, which seem to tendency and purpose is, to carry the mind arm the soul with almost super-human enbeyond and above the beaten, dusty, weary ergy; the innocent and irrepressible joy of walks of ordinary life ; to lift it into a purer intancy; the bloom, and buoyancy, and element; and to breathe into it more pro- dazzling hopes of youth; the throbbings of found and generous emotion. It reveals to the heart, when it first wakes to love, and us the loveliness of nature, brings back the dreams of a happiness too vast for earth; freshness of youthful feeling, revives the re- woman, with her beauty, and grace, and lish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched gentleness, and fulness of secling, and depth the enthusiasm which warmed the spring- of affection, and her blushes of purity, and time of our being, refines youthful love, the tones and looks which only a mother's strengthens our interest in human nature by heart can inspire ;-these are all poetical. vivid delineations of its tenderest and lofliest It is not true that the poet paints a life which feeling, knits us by new ties with universal does not exist ; he only extracts and concenbeing, and through the brightness of its pro- trates, as it were, life's ethereal essence; phetic visions, helps faith to lay hold on the arrests and condenses its volatile fragrance, future life.
brings together its scattered beauties, and “We are aware that it is objected to poe- prolongs its more refined but evanescent try, that it gives wrong views, and excites joys; and in this he does well; for it is good false expectations of life; peoples the mind to feel that life is not wholly usurped by cares with shadows and illusions, and builds up for subsistence, and physical gratifications, imagination on the ruins of wisdom. That I but admits, in measures which may be in
definitely enlarged, sentiments, and delights and peeps into every crevice, and up the worthy of a higher being. This power of side of every precipice, with eyes, thoughts, poetry to refine our views of life and happi- and memory for nothing but strata; preness, is more and more needed as society cisely as it is presented to his vision then advances. It is needed to withstand the en- and there, without once giving himself time croachments of heartless and artificial man- to draw deductions from what he discovers, ners, which make civilization so tame and to make an extended survey of the distant uninteresting. It is needed to counteract scenery, or to drink in the enjoyment of the the tendency of physical science, which be- magnificent whole. ing now sought, not as formerly for intellec- In the general contemplation of external tual gratification, but for multiplying bodily nature, we feel the influence of Poetry, comforts, requires a new development of im- though chiefly and almost exclusively in obagination, taste, and poetry, to preserve men jects which are, in themselves or their assofrom sinking into an earthly, material, Epi- ciations, beautiful or sublime. Thus, we curean life.”
are pleased with a widely extended view, even over a level country, purely because the sublime idea of space is connected with it; but let this expanse be travelled over,
closely inspected, and regarded in its minutia, WHY CERTAIN OBJECTS ARE, OR ARE and it becomes indescribably wearisome and NOT, POETICAL.
monotonous. The fact is, the idea of space
is lost, while the attention is arrested and That a book, a picture, and sometimes a absorbed by immediate and minor circumvery worthy man, are without Poetry, is a stances. The mind is incapable of feeling fact almost as deeply felt, and as well under- two opposite sensations at the same time, stood, as the memorable anathema of Shak- and all impressions made upon the senses speare against the man who had not music being so much more quick and sudden than in his soul. In many books this is no de- those made through them upon the imagifect; in all pictures it is a striking and im- nation, they have the power to attract and portant one; while in men it can only be a carry away the attention in the most pedefect proportioned to the high standing remptory and vexatious manner. All subthey may choose to take in the scale of in-jects intended to inspire admiration or revetellect or feeling. The spirit of Poetry has rence, must therefore be treated with the little to do with the labours of the artisan, most scrupulous regard to refinement. It is nor would our tables be more plentifully so easy for the vulgar touch to supplied, were they furnished under the direction of the muses. But who would feel
“Turn what was once romantic to burlesque.” even the slightest gratification in reading A tone of ridicule may at once dispel the Wordsworth’s Excursion, with a compa- charm of tenderness, and a senseless parody nion, who could not feel poetically ? or who may for awhile destroy the sublimity of a would choose to explore the wild and mag- splendid poem. nificent beau'ies of mountain scenery, with Among the works of art, the influence of one whose ideas were bounded by the limits poetic feeling is most perceptible in painting of the Bank of England ?
and sculpture. A picture sometimes pleases When our nature is elevated above the from a secret charm which cannot well be mere objects of sense, there is a want created | defined, and which arises not so much from in us of something, which the business of the proper adjustment of colour and outline the world, nay, even science itself, is unable according to the rules of art, as from the sudto supply; for not only is the bustling man den, mysterious, and combined emotions of business an unwelcome associate in the which the sight of it awakens in the soul. wilderness of untrodden beauty, but even he But let any striking departure from these becomes wearisome at last, who applies his rules arrest the attention, let the eye be ofnoisy hammer to every projection of rock, fended by the colouring, and the taste saocked by the grouping or perspective, bosom: yet, following this emblem of tranwe illusion is destroyed, and the poet awakes quillity into after life, we see him exposed to from his dream. It is precisely the same every climate-contending with every obwith sculpture, that most sublime production stacle—agitated by every passion; and unof the hand of man, which, by its cold, still, der these various circumstances, how differmarble beauty, unawakened by the shocks ent is the power and the degree of the heart's of time, unmoved by the revolutions of the action, which has not only to beat, but to world, has power to charm the wandering beat time through every moment of a long thoughts, and inspire sensations of deep re- and troubled life."* verence and awe. But let us suppose the We feel in reading this passage, even if enthusiast returning to gaze upon the sta- we have never felt before, that there is poetry tue, which has been, through years of wan- in an infant's sleep. Its waking moments dering, little less than an idol to his enrap- are less poetical, because of the many little tured fancy, and that hands profane (for cares and vexations they force upon us; and such things are) have presumed to colour no power on earth could convince us that the pupils of the up-turned eyes—let any there was poetry in an infant's cry. Yet is other sensation whatever, directly at vari- it neither softness nor sweetness which alance with what the figure itself is calculated ways constitutes the poetry of sound; for to inspire, be made to strike the attention of what can be more discordant in itself than the beholder, and he is plunged at once down the caw of the rook, the scream of the seathat fatal and irrevocable step, which leads gull, or the bleating of the lamb ? from the sublime to the ridiculous.
There is poetry in the low-roofed cottage The human face, the most familiar object standing on the skirts of the wood, beneath to our eyes, since they first opened upon the the overshadowing oak, around which the world, may be, and often is, highly poetical. children of many generations have gamWho has not seen amidst the multitude some bolled, while the wreathing smoke coils up countenance to which he turns, and turns amongst the dark green foliage, and the gray again, with strange wonder and delight, as- thatch is contrasted with golden moss and signing to it an appropriate character and glittering ivy. We stand and gaze, deplace in scenes even the most remote from lighted with this picture of rural peace, and the present, and following up, in idea, the privileged seclusion. We long to shake off different trains of thought by which its ex- the shackles of artificial society, the wearypression is varied, and its intelligence com- ing cares of life, the imperative control of municated? Yet this face may not be in fashion, or the toil and traffic of the busy itself, or strictly speaking, beautiful; but, world, and to dwell for the remainder of our like the painting or the statue, it has the days in a quiet spot like this, where affecpower to awaken the most pleasing associa- tion, that is too often lost in the game of life, tions. With such power there can be com- might unfold her store of fire-side comforts, bined no mixture of the grotesque or vulgar; and where we and ours might constitute one for, though poetry may be ridiculous, it is unbroken chain of social fellowship, under impossible for the ridiculous to be poetical. the shelter of security and peace. But let
There is Poetry in an infant's sleep. How us enter this privileged abode. Our ears much, let abler words than mine describe. are first saluted by the sharp voice of the
“So motionless in its slumbers, that, in matron, calling in her tattered rebels from watching it, we tremble, and become impa- the common. They are dragged in by viotient for some stir or sound, that may assure lence, and a scene of wrath and contention us of its life; yet is the fancy of the little ensues. The fragments of the last meal are sleeper busy, and every artery and every scattered on the floor. That beautifully pulse of its frame engaged in the work and curling smoke, before it found a way to esgrowth of secretion, though his breath would cape so gracefully has made many a circuit not stir the smallest insect that sported on round the dark and crumbling walls of the his lips—though his pulse would not lift the flower leaf of which he dreamed from his
* Dr. James Willson.
apartment; and smoke within the house is and skill, there are few things more poetical any thing but poetical, whatever it may be than the aspect of a ship at sea, whether she without. Need I say the charm is broken ? goes forth with swelling sails before the Even after having made good our retrear wind, or lies becalmed upon a quiet shore. if we turn and look again, the low-roofed Even the simplest or rudest vessels floating cottage does not appear the same as when on the surface of the water-from the lazy we first beheld it. The associations are barge that glides along the smooth canal, to changed—the charm is indeed broken. May the light gondola that sports among the not this be the reason why fine ladies and glowing waters of more classic shores, gentlemen talk so much more about the from the simple craft that ply upon our own poetry of a cottage, than those who know rivers, to the rude canoe of the savage dartno other home comforts than a cottage af- | ing among reefs of coral; afford choice subfords ? Even poverty itself may be poetical jects for the painter's pencil, and the poet's to those who merely regard it from a dis- song. Who has not watched with intense tance, or as a picture; but the vision is dis- interest a little speck upon the ocean, that pelled for ever by the first gripe of that iron neared, and neared, until human forms at hand, that spares neither the young, the length were visible, and then the splash of helpless, nor the old.
the oar was heard at regular intervals, and, There is poetry in the mouldering pile, at last, on the crest of a foaming wave, the upon which the alternate suns and storms of boat seemed to bound triumphant on the a thousand years have smiled and spent shore, where a little band of the long-tried their fury—the old gray ruin hung over with and the faithful, amongst whom woman is festoons of ivy, while around its broken tur never found wanting, welcome the mariners rets a garland of wild plants is growing, home, safe from the storms and the dangers from seeds which the wandering winds have of the sea ? Who has not stood upon the scattered. We behold the imperishable beach, a silent, but deeply interested spectamaterials of the natural world collected tor, while a crew of liardy and weathertogether, shaped out and formed by the art beaten sailors launched forth their little bark of man into that beautiful and majestic edi- amongst the roaring breakers, battling their fice; but where are the ready hands that way through foam and surge, now dipping laboured in that work of time and patience ? | into the dark hollows between every swell, The busy feet that trod those stately courts and then rising unharmed upon the snowy -the laughter that echoed through those crest of the raging billows. A few moments halls—the sighs that were breathed in those more of determined struggle, and the diffisecret cells—the many generations that culty is overcome; and now they have hoistcame and went without leaving a record or ed sail and are gone bounding over the dark a name-where are they? Scarcely can blue waters, perhaps never to return. Who there be found an imagination so dull
, but has not marked, while gazing on the surface the contemplation of a ruin will awaken it to of the silent lake when the moon was shining, some dim and dreamy associations with past that long line of trembling light that looks ages--scarcely a heart so callous, but it will like a pathway to a better world, suddenly feel, in connexion with such a scene, some broken by the intervention of some object touch of that melancholy which inspired the that proves to be a boat, in which human memorable exclamation “ All is vanity and forms are discernible, though distant, yet vexation of spirit !"
marked out with a momentary distinctness, But let the ingenuity of man erect a mod-, which affords imagination a fund of associaern ruin, or mock monastery, arch for arch, tions, connecting those unknown objects so and pillar for pillar-nay, let him, if possi- quickly seen, and then lost for ever, with ble, plant weed for weed. The fancy will vague speculations about what they are or not be cheated into illusion—this mushroom have been, from whence they have so sudtoy of yesterday will remain a mockery denly emerged, to what unseen point of illistill.
mitable space they may be destined, and Amongst the labours of man's ingenuity | what may be the darkness, or the radiance,