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which tower over it, the palaces which line, and the gondolas which glide over the waters, that render this city more poetical than Rome itself? Mr. Bowles will say, perhaps, that the Rialto is but marble, the palaces and churches are only stone, and the gondolas a coarse "black cloth, thrown over some planks of carved wood, with a shining bit of fantastically formed iron at the prow "without" the water. And I tell him that, without these, the water would be nothing but a clay-coloured ditch; and whoever says the contrary, deserves to be at the bottom of that where Pope's heroes are embraced by the mud nymphs. There would be nothing to make the canal of Venice more poetical than that of Paddington, were it not for the artificial adjuncts above mentioned, although it is a perfectly natural canal, formed by the sea and the innumerable islands which constitute the site of this extraordinary city.

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Let us examine a little further this "babble of green fields" and of bare nature in general as superior to artificial imagery, for the poetical purposes of the fine arts. In landscape painting, the great artist does not give you a literal copy of a country, but he invents and composes one. Nature, in her natural aspect, does not furnish him with such existing scenes as he requires. Everywhere he presents you with some famous city, or celebrated scene from mountain or other nature, it must be taken from some particular point of view, and with such light, and shade, and distance, &c., as serve not only to heighten its beauties, but to shadow its deformities. The poetry of nature alone, exactly as she appears, is not sufficient to bear him out. The very sky of his painting is not the portrait of the sky of nature; it is a composition of different skies, observed at different times, and not the whole copied from any particular day. And why? Because nature is not lavish of her beauties; they are widely scattered, and occasionally displayed, to be selected with care, and gathered with difficulty.

Of sculpture I have just spoken.

It is

the great scope of the sculptor to heighten nature into heroic beauty, i. e. in plain English, to surpass his model. When Canova forms a statue, he takes a limb from one, a hand from another, a feature from a third, and a shape, it may be, from a fourth, probably at the same time improving upon all, as the Greek of old did in embodying his Venus.

Ask a portrait painter to describe his agonies in accommodating the faces with which nature and his sitters have crowded his painting-room to the principles of his art; with the exception of perhaps ten faces in as many millions, there is not one which he can venture to give without shading much and adding more. Nature, exactly, simply, barely nature, will make no great artist of any kind, and least of all a poet-the most artificial, perhaps, of all artists in his very essence. With regard to natural imagery, the poets are obliged to take some of their best illustrations from art. You say that a "fountain is as clear or clearer than glass," to express its beauty:


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If the poet had said that Cassius had run his fist through the rent of the mantle, it would have had more of Mr. Bowles's "nature to help it; but the artificial dagger is more poetical than any natural hand without it. In the sublime of sacred poetry, "Who is this that cometh from Edom? with dyed garments from Bozrah?" Would "the comer "be poetical without his " dyed garments?" which strike and startle the spectator, and identify the approaching object.

Art is not inferior to nature for poetical purposes. What makes a regiment of soldiers a more noble object of view than the same mass of mob? Their arms, their dresses, their banners, and the art and artificial symmetry of their position and movements. A Highlander's plaid,

a Mussulman's turban, and a Roman toga, are more poetical than the tattooed or untattooed buttocks of a New Sandwich savage, although they were described by William Wordsworth himself like the "idiot in his glory."

I have seen as many mountains as most men, and more fleets than the generality of landsmen; and, to my mind, a large convoy with a few sail of the line to conduct them is as noble and as poetical a prospect as all that inanimate nature can produce. I prefer "the mast of some great ammiral," with all its tackle, to the Scotch fir or the alpine tarnen; and think that more poetry has been made out of it. In what does the infinite superiority of Falconer's " Shipwreck" over all other shipwrecks consist? In his admirable application of the terms of his art; in a poet-sailor's description of the sailor's fate. These very terms, by his application, make the strength and reality of his poem. Why? because he was a poet, and in the hands of a poet art will not be found less ornamental than nature. It is precisely in general nature, and in stepping out of his element, that Falconer fails; where he digresses to speak of ancient Greece, and "such branches of learning."-Controversy with the Rev. L. Bowles on the Genius of Pope.

[REV. SYDNEY SMITH. 1771-1845.]


I WISH, after all I have said about wit and humour, I could satisfy myself of the good effects upon the character and disposition; but I am convinced the probable tendency of both is, to corrupt the understanding and the heart. I am not speaking of wit where it is kept down by more serious qualities of mind, and thrown into the background of the picture; but where it stands out boldly and emphatically, and is evidently the master quality in any particular mind. Profound wits, though they are generally courted for the amusement they afford, are seldom respected for the qualities they possess. The habit

of seeing things in a witty point of view, increases, and makes incursions from its own proper regions, upon principles and opinions which are ever held sacred by the wise and good. A witty man is a dramatic performer: in process of time, he can no more exist without applause, than he can exist without air; if his audience be small, or if they are inattentive, or if a new wit defrauds him of any portion of his admiration, it is all over with him-he sickens, and is extinguished. The applauses of the theatre on which he performs are so essential to him, that he must obtain them at the expense of decency, friendship, and good feeling. It must always be probable, too, that a mere wit is a person of light and frivolous understanding. His business is not to discover relations of ideas that are useful, and have a real influence upon life, but to discover the more trifling relations which are only amusing; he never looks at things with the naked eye of common sense, but is always gazing at the world through a Claude Lorraine glass,-discovering a thousand appearances which are created only by the instrument of inspection, and covering every object with factitious and unnatural colours. In short, the character of a mere wit it is impossible to consider as very amiable, very respectable, or very safe. So far the world, in judging of wit where it has swallowed up all other qualities, judge aright; but I doubt if they are sufficiently indulgent to this faculty where it exists in a lesser degree, and as one out of many other ingredients of the understanding. There is an association in men's minds between dulness and wisdom, amusement and folly, which has a powerful influence in decision upon character, and is not overcome without considerable difficulty. The reason is, that the outward signs of a dull man and a wise man are the same, and so are the outward signs of a frivolous man and a witty man; and we are not to expect that the majority will be disposed to look to much more than the outward sign. I believe the fact to be, that wit is very seldom the only eminent quality which resides in the mind of any man ↑

coldness and awkwardness of society, gradually bringing men nearer together, and, like the combined force of wine and oil, giving every man a glad heart and shining countenance. Genuine and innocent wit, like this, is surely the flavour of the mind! Man could direct his ways by plain reason, and support his life by tasteless food; but God has given us wit, and flavour, and brightness, and laughter, and perfumes to enliven the days of man's pilgrimage, and to "charm his pained steps over the burning marle."


[SIR WALTER SCOTT. 1771.-1832.]

WHEN I consider the consequences of

is commonly accompanied by many other talents of every description, and ought to be considered as a strong evidence of a fertile and superior understanding. Almost all the great poets, orators, and statesmen of all times have been witty. Cæsar, Alexander, Aristotle, Descartes, and Lord Bacon were witty men; so were Cicero, Shakspeare, Demosthenes, Boileau, Pope, Dryden, Fontenelle, Johnson, Waller, Cowley, Solon, Socrates, Dr. Johnson, and almost every man who has made a distinguished figure in the House of Commons. I have talked of the danger of wit: I do not mean by that to enter into common-place declamation against faculties because they are dangerous;-wit is dangerous, eloquence is THE INVENTION OF PRINTING. dangerous, a talent for observation is dangerous, every thing is dangerous that has efficacy and vigour for its character- this invention, I read with as certain istics; nothing is safe but mediocrity. The augury, as by any combination of the business is, in conducting the understand- heavenly bodies, of the most awful and When I reflect ing well, to risk something: to aim at portentous changes. uniting things that are commonly incom- with what slow and limited supplies the patible. The meaning of an extraor- stream of science hath hitherto descended dinary man is, that he is eight men, not to us-how difficult to be obtained by one man; that he has as much wit as if those most ardent in its search-how cerhe had no sense, and as much sense as if tain to be neglected by all who regard he had no wit; that his conduct is as their ease-how liable to be diverted or judicious as if he were the dullest of altogether dried up by the invasions of human beings, and his imagination as barbarism,—can I look forward without brilliant as if he were irretrievably ruined. wonder and astonishment to the lot of a But when wit is combined with sense and succeeding generation, on whom knowinformation; when it is softened by bene- ledge will descend like the first and volence, and restrained by strong princi- second rain, uninterrupted, unabated, and ple; when it is in the hands of a man unbounded; fertilising some grounds, who can use it and despise it, who can be and overflowing others; changing the witty and something much better than whole form of social life; establishing witty, who loves honour, justice, decency, and overthrowing religions; erecting good-nature, morality, and religion ten and destroying kingdoms.-." Quentin thousand times better than wit;-wit is Durward." then a beautiful and delightful part of our nature. There is no more interesting spectacle than to see the effects of wit upon the different characters of men ; than to observe it expanding caution, relaxing dignity, unfreezing coldness, teaching age, and care, and pain, to smile, extorting reluctant gleams of pleasure from melancholy, and charming even the pangs of grief. It is pleasant to observe how it penetrates through the


THE ballads devoted to the exploits of Robin Hood and his whole company of outlaws are amongst the most popular of those interesting remembrances of the


They breathe of the inflexible therefore was little solicitous about the heart and honest joyousness of old Eng- flow of his words, the harmony of land; there is more of the national balanced quantities, or the clink of his character in them than in all the songs of rhymes. His compositions, delighting classic bards or the theories of ingenious as they did our ancestors, sound rough philosophers. They are numerous too, and harsh in the educated ear of our own and fill two handsome volumes. Though times, for our taste is delicate in matters Ritson, an editor ridiculously minute and of smoothness and melody. They are, scrupulous, admitted but eight-and-twenty however, full of incident and of human into his edition, the number might be character; they reflect the manners and extended, for the songs in honour of bold feelings of remote times; they delineate Robin were for centuries popular all over much that the painter has not touched the isle; and were they now out of print and the historian forgotten; they express, might be restored, and with additions, but without acrimony, a sense of public from the recitation of thousands, north as injury or of private wrong; nay, they well as south. Though modified in their sometimes venture into the regions of language during their oral transmission fancy, and give pictures in the spirit of from the days of King John till the print- romance. A hearty relish for fighting ing-press took them up, they are in sense and fun; a scorn of all that is skulking and substance undoubtedly ancient. They and cowardly; a love of whatever is free are the work too of sundry hands: some and manly and warm-hearted; a hatred have a Scottish tone, others taste of the of all oppressors, clerical and lay; and a English border; but the chief and most sympathy for those who loved a merry valuable portion belongs to Nottingham-joke, either practical or spoken, distinshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire; and all-and this includes those with a Scotch sound-are in a true and hearty English taste and spirit.

A few of these ballads are probably the work of some joyous yeoman who loved to range the green woods and enjoy the liberty and licence which they afforded; but we are inclined to regard them chiefly as the production of the rural balladmaker, a sort of inferior minstrel, who to the hinds and husbandmen was both bard and historian, and cheered their firesides with rude rhymes and ruder legends, in which the district heroes and the romantic stories of the peasantry were introduced with such embellishments as the taste of the reciter considered acceptable. These ballads, graphic as they are, will by some be pronounced rude: we must admit too that they are often inharmonious and deficient in that sequence of sound which critics in these our latter days desire: but the eye, in the times when they were composed, was not called, as now, to the judgment-seat; and the ear-for music accompanied without overpowering the words-was satisfied with anything like similarity of sounds. The ballad-maker |

guish the ballads of Robin Hood.

The personal character as well as history of the bold outlaw is stamped on every verse. Against luxurious bishops and tyrannic sheriffs his bow was ever bent and his arrow in the string; he attacked and robbed, and sometimes slew, the latter without either compunction or remorse; in his more humoursome moods he contented himself with enticing them in the guise of a butcher or a potter, with the hope of a good bargain, into the green wood, where he first made merry and then fleeced them, making them dance to such music as his forest afforded, or join with Friar Tuck in hypocritical thanksgiving for the justice and mercy they had experienced. Robin's eyes brightened and his language grew poetical when he was aware of the approach of some swollen pluralist-a Dean of Carlisle or an Abbot of St. Mary's-with sumpter-horses carrying tithes and dining-gear, and a slender train of attendants. He would meet him with great meekness and humility; thank our Lady for having sent a man at once holy and rich into her servant's sylvan diocese; inquire too about the weight of his purse,

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as if desirous to augment it; but woe to the victim who, with gold in his pocket, set up a plea of poverty. "Kneel, holy man, Robin would then say, "kneel, and beg of the saint who rules thy abbey-stead to send money forthy present wants;" and, as the request was urged by quarter-staff and sword, the prayer was a rueful one, while the gold which a search in the prelate's mails discovered was facetiously ascribed to the efficacy of his intercession with his patron saint, and gravely parted between the divine and the robber.

Robin Hood differed from all other patriots-for patriot he was-of whom we read in tale or history. Wallace, to whom he has been compared, was a highsouled man of a sterner-stamp, who loved better to see tyrants die than gain all the gold the world had to give; and Rob Roy, to whom the poet of Rydal Mount has likened the outlaw of Sherwood, had little of the merry humour and romantic courtesy of bold Robin. This seems to have arisen more from the nature than the birth of the man; he was no lover of blood, he delighted in sparing those who sought his life when they fell into his power; and he was beyond all examples, even of knighthood, tender and thoughtful | about women; even when he prayed, he preferred our Lady to all the other saints in the calendar. Next to the ladies, he loved the yeomanry of England; he molested no hind at the plough, no thresher in the barn, no shepherd with his flocks; he was the friend and protector of husbandman and hind, and woe to the priest who fleeced, or the noble who oppressed them. The widow too and the fatherless he looked upon as under his care, and wheresoever he went some old woman was ready to do him a kindness for a saved son or a rescued husband.

The personal strength of the outlaw was not equal to his activity; but his wit so far excelled his might that he never found use for the strength which he had -so well did he form his plans and work out all his stratagems. If his chief delight was to meet with a fierce sheriff or a Durse-proud priest, "all under the green

wood tree," his next was to encounter some burly groom who refused to give place to the king of the forest, and was ready to make good his right of way with cudgel or sword; the tinker, who, with his crab-tree staff, "made Robin's sword cry twang," was a fellow of their stamp. With such companions he recruited his bands when death or desertion thinned them, and it seemed that to be qualified for his service it was necessary to excel him at the use of the sword or the quarter staff; his skill in the bow was not so easily approached. He was a man too of winning manners and captivating address, for his eloquence, united with his woodland cheer, sometimes prevailed on the very men who sought his life to assume his livery, and try the pleasures which Barnesdale or Plumpton afforded.

The high blood of Robin seems to have been doubted by Sir Walter Scott, who, in the character of Locksley, makes the traditionary Earl of Huntingdon but a better sort of rustic, with manners rather of a franklin than a noble. Popular belief is, however, too much even for the illustrious author of "Ivanhoe," and bold Robin will remain an earl while woods grow and waters run. He was born, it is believed, in Nottinghamshire in the year 1160, and during the reign of Henry II. In his youth he was extravagant and wild, dissipated part of his patrimony, and was juggled out of the remainder by the united powers of a sheriff and an abbot. This made him desperate, drove him to the woods ;. and in the extensive forests which reached from Nottingham over several counties he lived a free life with comrades whom his knowledge of character collected, and who soon learned to value a man who planned enterprises with judgment, and executed them with intrepidity and success. He soon became famous over the whole island, and with captains after his own heart, such as Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, and Allan-a-Dale, he ranged at will through the woodlands, the terror alike of the wealthy and the tyrannic. Nay, tradition, as well as

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