Imágenes de páginas

ing upon it sunlike ; that visionary world fades away, and leaves him a shorn of his beams," like a common man in this common world ; but words once uttered may live for ever-in that lies their superiority over clouds; and thus poetry—when printed by Bensley or Ballantyne-becomes a stationary world of rainbows. And there are ways— sacred ways which religion teaches of preserving in the spirit of men who read poetry-even till their dying day —that self-same ecstasy with which Noah and his chil. dren first beheld the arch of promise. - There was a long period of our poetry, during which poets paid, apparently, little or no devotion to external nature; when she may be said to have lain dead. Perhaps, we poets of this age pay her-we must not say too much homagebut too much tribute—as if she exacted it—whereas it ought all to be a free-will offering, spontaneous as the flower-growth of the hills. It is possible to be religious overmuch at her şhrine-to deal in long prayers, and longer sermons, forgetting to draw the practical conclusions. Without knowing it, we may become formalists in our worship; nay, even hypocrites ; for all moods of mind are partly hypocritical that are not thoroughly sincere—and truth abhors exaggeration. True passion is often sparing of words ; compressedly eloquent; not doting upon and fondling mere forms, but carrying its object by storm-spirit by spirit—a conflict-a catastrophe--and peace. There is rather too long a courtship—too protracted a wooing of nature now by shilly-shallying bards; they do not sufficiently insist on her, their bride, naming the nuptial day; some of them would not for the world run away with her to Grétna-Green. They get too philosophical—too Pla. tonic ; amicitia seems their watchword rather than amor; and the consequence is, that nature is justified in jilting them, and privately espousing a mate of more flesh and blood-Passion, who not only pops the question, but insi. nuates a suit of saffron, and takes the crescent honeymoon by the horns. Nature does not relish too metaphysical a suitor ; she abhors all that is gross, but still loves something in a tangible shape ; no cloud herself, she hates being embraced by a cloud ; and her chaste nuptials, warm as they are chaste, must be celebrated after our human fashion, not spiritually and no more, but with genial em. braces, beneath the moon and stars, else how, pray, could she ever be-mother earth ? Unfruitful communion else, -and the fairy land of poetry would soon be depopulated.

But observe that if true poets are sometimes rather too cold and frigid in their tautological addresses to Nymph Nature, those wooers of hers who are no poets at all, albeit they lisp to her in numbers, carry their rigmaroling beyond all bounds of her patience, and assail her with sonnets as cold as icicles. Never was there a time when poetasters were more frigid in their lays than at present; never was there a greater show of fantastic frost-frost; instead of a living Flora, you are put off with a Hortus Siccus. And therefore it was, that in the first sentence of this article we said that descriptive poetry might be the dullest-and we now add - the driest and deadest thing in the united kingdom of Art and Nature-or the most delightful-just as the true poet is wedded to Nature, or the true proser keeps dallying with her, till he with a flea in his ear is ordered out of her presence, and kicked by Cupid and Hymen into the debatable land between Imagination and Reality, where luckless wights are, like fish without fins, or fowls without wings, unable either to swim or fly, and yet too conceited to use their feet like either walking, creeping, or crawling creatures. Never -never was there such a multitude of pretenders elbowing themselves into notice among the inspired; and one and all of them it is our intention to take-monthly during the next ten years—by the nape of the neck—and after exhibiting them in writhing contortions for a few minutes, to duck them-for evermore-into the Pool of Oblivion.

But tremble not-gentle reader—whoever you be-at such denunciation of our wrath; for sure we are that no friends of Maga can ever be brought under that ban. Perhaps we may relent and spare even the dunces; for our wrath is like that of a summer-wave, rising and falling with a beautiful burst and break of foam, that frightens not the seamew, nor even the child sporting on the shore. And thou—thou art a poet—whatever be the order to which thou mayest belong-and there are many orders,

believe us, among the true sons of song. Mediocrity indeed! Where may that line be drawn? How many ranks—degrees of glory-between William Shakspeare and Allan Ramsay! Between Allan Ramsay and the humblest shepherd that ever tuned the rural pipe to love on Scotia's pastoral hills ! Nature is not such a niggard to her children—but scatters her blessed boons wide over life. Each nook has its own native flower-cach grove its own songster-and methinks the daisy, - wee, modest, crimson-tippit flower,” is little less lovely than the imperial rose; to our hearing, when the nightingale is mute, most sweetly doth the linnet sing;

“One touch of Nature wakes the whole world of kin.”

Surely touches of Nature are not so rare as to be thought miraculous ; her harp gives forth music to many a hand; and though highest genius is the endowment but of a few, yet genius—that is, geniality-dwells in unnumbered bosoms, and its breathings are heard wide over all the world on a thousand airs. Its voice is always recognised at last, let it whisper as humbly—as lowly as it may; and the brow that misses the laurel, or merits it not, may be encircled with the holly or the broom, emblems both, in their greenness, of immortality. 'Tis not much of the divine spirit, after all, that is needed to give a name its magic. One song—one verse of a song—has consecrated a peasant's name, who cared not for fame the phantom; and unborn ages have wept over the pathos of some tune which flowed almost unconsciously from the shepherd's heart, at the « Wauken of the fauld," or when waiting by moonlight at the Trysting Thorn. Now, much of the poetical literature of every people is of this character. Is not Scotland full of it—and all Scottish hearts ? Not the work of intellect, surely—but the finer breath of the spirit, passion-roused and fancy-fired by the hopes, joys, and fears of this mortal life!

Surely this must be the spirit in which all poetry-high or low, humble or ambitious—ought to be read; for only in such a spirit can its spirit be fully, fairly, and freely felt; and in any other mood, inspiration itself will be

wasted and thrown away on even the most gisted mind. True, that in states of society exceedingly cultivated and refined—that is to say, artificial-when the most exquisite and consummate skill of execution is necessarily aimed at, and therefore expected, nothing short of the most faultless perfection of style will secure to any poet the highest honours of his art—and at such a period did Horace deliver his celebrated anathema against mediocre bards. But poetry in the modern world has rarely been so trammelled ; and genius and feeling have been allowed their triumphs, in spite of the accompanying defects, deficien. cies, and faults in taste. It is far better so; and indeed the cause of this lies deep in human nature, which seems to have had depths opened up in it altogether unknown in the world of old. The very perfection of the Greek drama proves its inferiority to that of Shakspeare. His materials are not in nature susceptible of being moulded into such shapes and forms as were required on the Greek stage. And as of Shakspeare, so in due degree, in the cases of all true poets, down to those of even the lowest order—all of them, without exception, have excelled, not so much by the power of art as of nature, in whose free spirit they had their being as poets. An indefinable feeling is excited by their productions—imperfect, mediocre in execution, nay, even in design, as many of them area feeling which rises but beneath the breath of genius, and a certain proof, therefore, of its existence. So noble -So sacred an achievement is it to give delight to the spirit through its finer emotions! So that glory is his who so moves us, and gratitude; though he has done no more than present to us a few new images, round which, by the mysterious constitution of our souls, we can gather some dearly-cherished thoughts and feelings, and, when they are so gathered, know that they are for ever emm. balmed, as it were, in words which it was genius for the first time to ulter, and which, but for genius, could never have been for our delight or our consolation.

Thus explained, mediocrity in poetry appears at once to be a height to which, though many aspire, but few attain—and which can be reached only by genius. There are at present in this island, hundreds, ay, thousands,

nay, millions, of writers in verse, who would disdain to accept the palm of mediocrity, who turn up their noses at senior and junior. Ops, and dream of nothing less than being high Wranglers. Yet, among the & Toer will they remain while they consume crops. It is not in them to beautify-or to embalm beauty; and therefore, as Cow. ley says, they o like beasts or common people die;" and their Christian and sirnames get confused among a vast multitude of the same sound, engraved on tombstones or printed in directories. The moment a man mounts up on the scale of mediocrity, he is sase from oblivion, and may snap his fingers at time. A mediocre poet may be shortly defined a man of a million. In poetry, about a devil's dozen of celestial spirits stand in the first order of the seraphim or cherubim. The second and third orders contain about fifty lesser angels—but all of them radiant creatures, with wings. All - the rest,” who have names on earth and in heaven, in number about a hundred, are marshalled in the mediocre phalanx-and constitute the main body of the immortals; and a pretty fellow for im. pudence you would be, to refuse the gold guinea put into the palm of your hand by Apollo enlisting you as a young recruit into the battalion. We verily believe that the numbers of the grenadier company—though there be no positive law against it—will never go beyond the devil's dozen—so high is the standard to which the men must come up, on their stocking-soles and with shaved heads. The Light-bobs-now a smart company of fistymay, perhaps, on some future day, amount to threescoremand the battalion, it is probable, may yet reach the number of those who died at Thermopylæ. But were Apollo to constitute us his recruiting sergeant, and allow us ten gallons of Glenlivet on each poet's head, we are free to confess that the mountain-dew would not lie heavy on the land, for we do not know above a couple of mediocre young gentlemen to whom we should offer the king's bountyand one of them, we believe, would go off in a huff, and the other hesitate to enlist into the service, for fear of angering his mother.

We therefore love all poets, and all poetry; and the rank of the man having once been ascertained—which is

« AnteriorContinuar »