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To behold the wandering moon Riding near her highest noon; And oft, as if her head she bow'd, Stooping through a fleecy cloud. Oft on a plat of rising ground I hear the far off curfew sound, Over some wide watered shore Swinging slow with solemn roar ; Or, if the air will not permit, Some still removed place will sit, Where glowing embers through the room Teach light to counterfeit a gloom; Far from all resort of mirth, Save the cricket on the hearth, Or the bellman's drowsy charm, To bless the doors from nightly harm; Or let my lamp at midnight hour Be seen in some high lonely tower, Exploring Plato, to unfold What worlds, or what vast regions hold. Th’immortal mind, that hath forsook Her mansion in this fleshy nook ; And of these demons, that are found In fire, air, flood, or under ground. Here are no general expressions; all is picturesque, expressive, and concise. One strong point of view is exhibited to the reader; and the impression made, is lively and interesting.
Both Homer and Virgil excel in poetical des cription. In the second Æneid, the sacking of Troy is so particularly described, that the reader finds himself in the midst of the scene. The death of Priam is a masterpiece of description. Homer's battles are all wonderful." Ossian, too, paints in strong colours, and is remarkable for touching the heart. He thus portrays the ruins of Balclutha ; “I have seen the walls of Balclutha; but they were dessolate. The fire had resounded within the halls; and the voice of the
people is now heard no more. The stream of Clutha was removed from its place by the fall of the walls; the thistle shook there its lonely head; the moss whistled to the wind. The fox looked out of the window; the rank grass waved round his head. Desolate is the dwelling of Moina; silence is in the house of her fathers."
Much of the beauty of descriptive poetry depends upon a proper choice of epithets. Many poets are often careless in this particular; hence the multitude of unmeaning and redundant epithets. Hence the “ Liquidi Fontes” of Virgil, and the “ Prata Canis Albicant Pruinis" of Hor
To observe that water is liquid, and that snow is white, is little better than mere tautology. Every epithet should add a new idea to the word which it qualifies. So in Milton;
Who shall attempt with wandering feet
Over the vast abrupt? The description here is strengthened by the epithets. The wandering feet, the unbottomed abyss, the palpable obscure, the upcouth way, the indefatigable wing, are all happy expressions.
THE POETRY OF THE HEBREWS.
In treating of the various kinds of poetry, that of the scriptures justly deserves a place. The sacred books present us the most ancient monuments of poetry now extant, and furnish a curious subject of criticism. They display the taste of . a remote age and country. They exhibit a singular, but beautiful species of composition ; and it must give great pleasure, if we find the beauty and dignity of the style adequate to the weight and importance of the matter. Dr. Lowth's learned treatise on the poetry of the Hebrews, ought to be perused by all. It is an exceedingly valuable work, both for elegance of style, and justness of criticism. We cannot do better than to follow the track of this ingenious author.
Among the Hebrews, poetry was cultivated from the earliest times. Its general construction is singular and peculiar. It consists in dividing every period into correspondent, for the most part into equal members, which answer to each other both in sense and sound. In the first member of a period a sentiment is expressed ; and in the second, the same sentiment is amplified; or repeated in different terins, or sometimes contrasted with its opposite. Thus, " Sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord all the earth. Sing unto the Lord, and bless his name; show forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen; his wonders among all people."
This form of poetical composition is deduced from the manner in which the Hebrews sung their sacred bymns. These were accompanied with music and performed by bands of singers and musicians, who alternately answered each other. One band began the hymn thus; “The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice;" and the chorus or semi-chorus, took up the corresponding versicle; “Let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof."
But, independent of its peculiar mode of construction, the sacred poetry is distinguished by the highest beauties of strong, concise, bold and figurative expression. Conciseness and strength, are two of its most remarkable characters. The sentences are always short. The same thought is never dwelt upon long. Hence the sublimity of the Hebrew poetry; and all writers, who attempt the sublime, might profit much by imitating in this respect, the style of the Old Testament. No writings abound so much in bold and animated figures, as the sacred books. Metaphors, comparisons, allegories, and personifications, are particularly frequent. But to relish these figures justly, we must transport ourselves into Judea, and attend to particular circumstances in it. Through all that region, little or no rain falls in the summer months. Hence, to represent distress, frequent allusions are made to a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; and hence, to describe a change from distress to prosperity, their melaphors are founded on the falling of showers, and the bursting out of springs in a desert. Thus in Isaiah, “ The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert; and the parched ground shall become a pool; and the thirs. ty land springs of water; in the habitation of dragons there shall be grass, with rushes and reeds."
Comparisons, employed by the sacred poets, are generally short, touching only one point of resemblance. Such is the following; “ He that ruleth over men, must be just, ruling in the fear of God; and he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth; even a morning with out clouds; as the terder grass, springing out of the earth by clear shining, after rain."
Allegory is likewise frequently employed in the sacred books; and a tine instance of this occurs in the eightieth Psalm, wherein the people of Israel are compared to a vine. Of parables, the prophetical writings are full; and, if to us they sometimes appear obscure, we should remember, that in early times, it was universally the custom among all eastern nations, to convey sacred truths under mysterious figures.
The figure, however, which elevates beyond all others, the poetical style of the scriptures, is personification. The personifications of the inspired writers exceed, in force and magnificence, those of all other poets. This is more particularly true, when any appearance or operation of the Almighty is concerned. 6 Before hiin went the pestilence. The waters saw thee, O God, and were afraid. The mountains saw thee, and they trembled. The overflowings of the waters passed by; the deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high.” The poetry of the scriptures is very different from modern poetry. It is the burst of inspiration. Bold sublimity, not correct elegance, is its character.
The several kinds of poetry, found in scripture, are chiefly the didactic, elegiac, pastoral, and lyric. The book of Proverbs is the principal instance of tbe didactic species of poetry. Of elegiac poetry, the lamentation of David over Jonathan, is a very beautiful instance. Of pastoral poetry, the Song of Solomon is a high exemplification; and of lyric poetry, the Old Tes