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plaintive ditty of the Arab lover. Each possesses its distinguishing features, incident to difference in climate and a corresponding difference in the habits and manners of the people.
In climates chilled by the frozen atmosphere of a polar sky, the powers of the mind lie dormant, and poetry, if it appears at all, is characterized by barrenness of idea and rudeness of expression; yet sometimes, by an admirable simplicity, which the polished nations of more southern climes have failed to arrive at. In countries, on the contrary, which are parched by the burning rays of a meridian sun, the poetic spirit becomes weak and languid, although the sentiment is clothed in the most flowery and beautiful imagery. It is only under the genial influence of a temperate climate that poetry may be said truly to flourish. There its simplicity does not degenerate into rudeness, nor its refinement into debility. There, in fact, the mental powers hold full and unbounded sway; there, in all ages, have been found the poet, the statesman, and the divine.
But it is not to climate alone that the great differences in the poems of various countries are to be attributed; civilization is a great and powerful agent; for by refining the taste and regulating the ideas of the poet, it gives a polish to his productions which the uncultivated barbarian can never attain. But when, in any country, luxury and effeminacy have superseded the light of civilization, there we shall be sure to find the poetry suffer a corresponding decline,—its natural vigour to be destroyed by over-strained refinement, and that animation and warmth of sentiment which form its charactertstic features, to be lost in a cold and heartless attempt at elegance. To this style of composition might well be applied that beautiful simile of Lord Byron, referring to the state of modern Greece, where he so beautifully compares it to a corpse
“ And but for that sad, shrouded eye,
That fires not, wins not, weeps not, now
And but for that chill, changeless brow,
The doom he dreads yet dwells upon ;-
Yes, but for these, and these alone,
He still might doubt the tyrant's power.” It is generally allowed that poetry has suffered a great decline since the days of Homer and Pindar, of Virgil and Horace. Though not entirely conforming to this opinion, we would mention a few differences both in the poetry itself, and the circumstances under which it was severally produced. The ancient world, originating from a state of simple nature, advanced by degrees to a very high state of civilization. The modern commenced at the time when a confused mixture of savage ignorance and degenerated learning prevailed, and at length, after passing through various and very dissimilar changes, has arrived at the most elevated point of refinement. From the variety of circumstances that attended the origin and progress of these two eras, many eminent distinctions have arisen in their languages, their character, and their literature.
In the compositions of the early Greeks, we find sublimity, beauty, and simplicity blended. This is in a great measure effected by the sweetness and richness of the sounds, and the grandeur of the compound epithets which their language admitted of. Before the time of Homer, we know little or nothing of the merits of profane composition. That poets did exist, we learn from various sources; but nothing of them but their names, and a few scattered lines recorded by after writers, has come down to us.
The style of the Roman poetry is more characterized by dignity and regularity than sublimity and elegance. But this must be expected; for the Roman poets were at best but happy imitators of tha Greek, and a copy, though it may be more refined, can never attain the sublimity of the original.
Such was the state of poetry in the ancient world. In our own times we find it far different. A jingling of rhymes, and an unpleasing similarity of sounds, have taken the place of those noble expressions, so full of meaning, which form the closings of the lines of Homer and Virgil. These must, in a great measure, be attributed to the harshness of sound and the superfluity of monosyllables which are so manifest in most of the languages of modern Europe. But this excuse cannot be pleaded for the Italians and Modern Greeks, who, with a language very similar, have allowed the pure taste inherited from their ancestors to become so vicious, that in some cases they go so far as to sacrifice sense even to rhyme.
But there are other circumstances which cause this decline, circumstances which more nearly affect Lyric Poetry, in which we are far inferior. The ancient Lyric Poets of Greece in general celebrated the contests at the Olympic Games. These, splendid in themselves, and rendered more so by the praises and honours showered upon the victor, struck the minds of the spectators with admiration, and the poet, while describing the sensations which he felt on the occasion, was animated to the most noble and exalted sentiments. In our times the case is far different: public games have ceased, and the poet is far too refined to admit individual instances of heroism, and substitutes in their place the Passions, Virtues, et cetera. But these imaginary beings fail to excite the feelings of the reader, for the poet is more animated while describing actual events than in celebrating the actions of these creatures of the brain. Thus the Odes of Akenside and Collins, though faithful and beautiful in the execution, are ineffectual in moving our interest, while the beauty and sublimity which are displayed in the Poems of Pindar, and Horace his successful imitator, strike us at once with astonishment and delight.
Nearly the same remarks are applicable to the Heroic Poetry of modern times. Where can we find such poems as the "
Iliad” and “Æneid ?" Tasso's "Gerusalemme," and Voltaire's "Henriade," though beautiful and elegant compositions, are cold and inanimate. Very differ. ent from these, though equally distant from the ancient models, are the “ Orlando” of Ariosto, and the “ Oberon” of Wieland,-long, romantic poems, but very unequal in their composition; since, though they contain passages unequalled, perhaps, for beauty and sublimity, in the literature of any time or country, yet for the most part, they are far below mediocrity. which the remembrance of it has always excited in my own mind, may be transferred to the imperfect description of a few of its scenes. I must premise that it was in a part of the county at that time in a very simple-perhaps I may say rude state, where the inhabitants lived in a sort of little world of their own, and knew absolutely nothing beyond it. Meanwhile, I must be allowed to hope that, for once, critics, both young and old, will relax the knitted brow, and pardon the egotism which certainly would be avoided if it were not absolutely necessary.
But amongst the writers of Heroic Poetry, our own Milton will ever retain a high, if not the highest place. Far surpassing the Ancients in sublimity of thought and loftiness of sentiment, his mode of expressing them will bear no comparison with theirs. But this was not the fault of the poet, but of the harsh language in which he wrote. An eminent writer, analyzing the poetic talent of Milton, says he has "sublimity in the highest degree, beauty in an equal degree, -pathos next to the highest,-perfect character in the conception of Satan, Adam, and Eve,- fancy,-learning,—vividness of description,-stateliness, and decorum. His style is elaborate and powerful, and his versification, with occasional harshness and affectation, superior in variety and harmony to all other blank verse." 79. Many other examples might be adduced, but enough has been brought forward to show that in modern times poetry has not so much suffered a decline as it has undergone a total change, effected by difference of climate, manners, language. If the ancients have handed down to us the valuable treasures of their literature, we shall transfer to our descendants treasures equally valuable and equally original. And if ever, in future times, the seat of learning and civilization be transferred from Europe to some other region, the works of Shakspere, Moliere, and Schiller, -of Wieland, Ariosto, and Milton, will be read with the same delight which we now take in the productions of Sophocles and Euripides,-of Homer, Virgil, and Pindar.
When about seven years old, as an only remedy for an extremely delicate state of health, it was thought advisable that I should try the effect of a little country life, and I was accordingly handed over to the care of an honest farmer and his wife, who lived in the neighbourhood. Well do I remember, for well have I reason to remember, the last mile of my journey, which was performed on the farmer's tall, raw-boned nag, just taken from the cart, and without the least apology for a saddle ;-my terror on looking down at the ground, so far below me,-my discomfort arising from the sharpness of old Dobbin's back-bone,—and my joy when I relaxed my nervous grasp of his mane, and was lifted to the ground at the door of the destined habitation. Here I received a most hearty welcome, though I afterwards found that honest John took his wife much to task for bringing me, saying, “ Hoo'd browt th' choilt to dee.” However, in a very short time he was forced to alter his verdict, and declare me quite “ wick and thriving.” The black rye bread, and stout rashers of bacon, had wrought a marvellous change. I soon, also, fell in with their homely mode of life, and was perfectly reconciled to the habits which at first appeared so strange to me.
The cottage was of the humblest description, and a fair specimen of the style of architecture fashionable in the neighbourhood ;-a long range of thatched building, including barn, stable, &c., and so low, that an ordinary-sized man might with ease have touched the eaves with his hand; it was built of wood, plastered with clay and mud, and whitewashed. The interior consisted of two rooms; entitled " the chamber," or sleeping apartment, an angle of which, boarded off, and supplied with a triangular couch to suit its shape, was assigned for my peculiar accommodation,-a form which possessed multifarious advantages, for instance, you could change your bedhead from side to side, at will. The other room, which served as parlour, kitchen, and dining room, was a very moderate-sized apartment, furnished with two sinall windows, the one looking upon the stack-yard, the other upon a little garden, stocked with thyme, sweet marjoram, onions, and other such herbs, well known to thrifty housewives. But its more especial treasures were a fine row of splendid red cabbages, which were the pride of my good hostess's heart; but which, alas ! were decapitated in the night by some of her mischievous neighbours, whilst the good woman was dreaming of pickling them. I should not omit, too, à couple of bee-hives, which, though not conducted upon the principles laid down in Virgil's Georgics, I will venture to say were in a very flourishing condition.
But I must return to the interior. On one side of the spacious fire-place stood the good man's arm chair, in which he daily dozed and smoked his pipe for half an hour after dinner. Behind was a recess in the wall, concealed from profane gaze by a checked curtain, within which was what was termed “ th’ bed i’th' neuk!” a supplement to the accommodations of the chamber, in the shape of a rude pallet, occupied by the farm servant, a clownish lad about eighteen, who had never possessed any great pretensions to graces of person, and whose broad grin was wonderfully improved by the loss of his two front teeth, occasioned by his treading on a rake which stood against the wall on a dark winter's morning. Upon the opposite side of the fire-place was a small bench, and over it a shelf, on which were ranged various rusty and little-used articles ; among them I may specify two old forks, short of a few prongs, and in a very disabled condition,--the only specimens of this awkward, new-fangled invention which the house possessed.
We have a common saying, that “ fingers were made before forks ;” and these good people seemed to think, that if knives were not so, they were at any rate the more convenient of the two, and therefore more worthy of their patronage. The table, of an ingenious contrivance to gain room, where so little could be spared, was fastened to the wall by hinges, and could therefore be put up or down at pleasure. Under one of the latticed windows was an article of furniture, which Cowper ought certainly to have noticed, when he sang the gradations by which we arrived at the sofa, of which it claimed to be a rude species,—I mean the settle, indispensable in Lancashire furniture. An eight-day clock, a chest of drawers, a corner cupboard, and a few chairs, completed the furniture of the apartment, with the exception of a looking-glass, about six inches square, which filled the house, every Sunday morning, with visitors, who came to shave by its assistance, as it was the only one in the immediate neighbourhood; and it certainly was most useful in helping them to cut themselves, by distorting their visages into all manner of wry shapes. I say the furniture, for besides the useful, there was some little attempt at the ornamental, in the shape of sundry "pictures,” hung round the whitewashed wall, such as personifications of the seasons, as buxom as country lasses, -Robin Hood, the forester bold, attended by Little John, å stunted dwarf, with two small stags in the distance, flying at great speed, and not in the least impeded by the two immense beams sticking in their sides, under the name of arrows. And there was one in particular, which often exercised my youthful ingenuity, but concerning which I could never come to any satisfactory conclusion; it seemed somehow to be half chart half picture; all I remember to have comprehended of the design is, that the Temple at Jerusalem was a conspicuous object, and in the foreground the artist had managed, with admirable inge