« AnteriorContinuar »
ly Poetry co...ooooooooww 3 | Peter Bell v. Peter Bell. By Peter Cor.
Anecdotes of the late King and Queen-14 Verses by a young Lady como commib.
land in the Age of A. Melville....... 17 LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC
Remarks on Crawfurd's History of the
Society of Civil Engineers New Musi.,
We have received, too late for publication, a short and temperate rejoinder from Mr
the late Dr Brown, towards the end of April ; but the gentleman who brought it to me
The Correspondents of the EDINBURGH MAGAZINE AND LITERARY
Printed by George Ramsay & Co.
ON THE CAUSES OF THE EXCELLENCE
OF EARLY POETRY.
assistance from the world of letters or of science, since it inhabits a far bet
ter world of its own. It is the only In examining the early literary his faculty which seems to prefer darktory of almost every nation with which ness rather than light; or, when it we are acquainted, and in tracing the chooses to come forth from that secret rise of the various branches of human cell where it performs its incantations, knowledge, it will be found, that, a- it will condescend to study from no mong these, Poetry claims a priority other book than that great volume of origin. At periods when ignorance which Nature has spread before it. and barbarity have precluded all pro- Hence, since this faculty must needs gress in other walks of knowledge, be as vigorous, and have as wide a ihis divine art has made advances to field to expatiate in, amongst savage perfection which excite our astonish- tribes as with civilized nations, and inent even in the present advanced since it is itself the very soul of poecondition of society. The causes of try, it follows, that, with them, this this early, progress of poetry are easily of poetry must be the first art which discoverable. They are to be found, in they cultivate, and one, too, which is the first place, in that superior power likely to attain to no common per-, which is gained by the faculty of ima- fection. But another cause is to be gination amid those dark and disas- found in the imperfection of language, trous circumstances which seem to
Language, in the early periods of overwhelm all the other energies of the progress of every nation, is in a the mind. 2d, However paradoxical it very rude condition, and it is in this inay at first appear, we may
imperfection and apparent barrenness another cause in the imperfection and of the language that we shall find one bartenness of language in these carly cause for the lofty and simple tone periods. 3uly, The occasions on which assumed by the poetry. The words these poetical effusions, amongst rude
are few, it is true, but they are intribes, are generally composed, and variably expressive. They are dethe persons or audience to whom they scriptive of the strongest passions and are addressed, will be found to have a the deepest feelings of the human great influence in conferring upon heart; of patriotism and valour, of them that truth, nature, and energy, grief and joy, of triumph and despair, which we in vain look for in more mo- of lore and hatred. In the ancient dern productions.
language of a rude people, we find Amongst the faculties of the human mind, the imagination is not
* Such was the education of our Shake only the most excursive, but the most independent.
speare. It was in such like solitary musReading, reasoning, ings that Burns imbibed the materials of and habits of patient thought, are ne- his future fame ; and it was from this recessary to the other powers. To it tired conversation with Nature that all that they are not only unnecessary, but in is good and great in their productions was some measure hurtful. It needs no primarily durived.
redundancy of expletives, as in the mo- and prowess of his son,—or a lover dern tongues, no unnecessary expres- pleading to his mistress, or a mother sions, no unmeaning synonymes. These singing
her child to sleep,--who will are not to be found, because those not expect (we speak of poetry in its fantastic modes of life, and artificial very first state, and before rhyme or and complicated ideas which arise measure was introduced) more truth in the progress of civilization, and for and beauty in the expressions of these which corresponding terms must be persons themselves, of the real moinvented, have not then made their ther or the real father, than in the appearance. Amongst rude tribes, more laboured productions of some therefore, even in their common diso bookish poet; the one fowing free, course, and still more in their war warm, and unpremeditated from the songs, or their solemn harangues,
the heart; the other proceeding stiff, speakers were actually compelled, cold, and laboured from the library both by the limited number of words The last must partake of that conceit, they had to select from, and by the that peculiar and characteristic manbold meaning attached to them, to ner which the prevailing taste of the become nervous and metaphorical ; age may have introduced ; the other and it is thus that, in the early pe- is written in the universal language riods of society, the high-flown and of nature, tied and fettered by no figurative style must have become as rule, peculiar to no particular age or much a matter of necessity as the ef- country, but intelligible to every hufect of taste or imagination. Chil- man heart. As illustrations of what dren, from the same cause, their ig, is here stated as to the early excel norance of common language, are of- lence of poetry, and the causes of this ten driven to make use of beautiful and excellence, we cannot, it is evident, highly poetical expressions. We are offer many examples. Much of acquainted with a little boy of two years of age, who, at sunset, asked if
Every one, in the course of his own the sun at night went to his cloud- reading, will have noticed this excellence bed. This, which is a fine idea, arose in the early poetry of most nations. It is from the vocabulary from which he perhaps no where more remarkable than in selected his phrases being so limited in the ancient Welsh poems (whose authenits extent. A still more poetical expres- ticity has now become undisputed) of Mersion was used by a child when it saw him, Taleissin, and Aneurin, as well as in ice for the first time, and said, “it was other Welsh poems written at a later era. water asleep.” The same causes,
The first belong to the sixth and seventh whose effects we can thus trace in centuries, the last to the twelfth and thirthe infancy of the individual, operate tion on these poems by Mr Sharon Turner.
teenth. We refer to the ingenious disserta. equally, or rather more powerfully, in the infancy of the species. Another
“ May the Being who made the splendours cause of the early cultivation of poe- The sun, and chilling moon, glorious ha
of the west, try, and the superior tone of Nature
bitations, and pathos which it assumes in these May he that rules above in universal light, rude periods, is to be found in the
generously grant me occasions which call it forth, and the The fulness of the glowing muse of Merd. persons to whom it is addressed.
him, Every one must be sensible, that when To sing the praise of heroes as Aneurin poetry is the natural product of the sang occasion, when a song, for instance, In the day that he composed the Godois composed or sung, for the first time,
din." in the midst of the scenery it de We cannot help adding here an extract scribes, and accompanied by the cir- from an ancient Welsh MS. quoted in Mr cumstances which form its subject, it Owen's Preface to Llywarch Hen. It is receives from this circumstance a
the prayer of Talhairn, a bard of the sixth stamp of vigour and of nature which or seventh century. will impart to it something of that thy protection strength; and in strength
“ O God grant thy protection ; and in same spirit which an original always discretion ; and in discretion justice ; and possesses over a copy; and again, if in justice love; in love, to love God; and the song or poem is descriptive of in- in loving God, to love all things." dividual passion, if it is, for instance, In this same book of bardism we find a a father rejoicing over the victories noble passage regarding Genius.