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It is to be found that, among many people who read a little, there is an opinion prevalent, that Poetry is only mental trifling, --something without usefulness or sound thought. It might, however, be easily demonstrated, that vast treasures of practical wisdom, wit, and science anticipated, are found in verse, not the less pleasing that they are accompanied by sweet sounds and delightful language.
Among men and women of the mere matter-of-fact class, poesy is a terrible taint, an idle disease, with which, if a man be infected, he is held to be a singular being : if in business, he is placed mentally under a sort of quarantine. If the poet be a denizen of a small town, he is too often prized only when death has laid his cold hand upon him, and his merits, acknowledged by the discerning class, are in the mouths of all men.
Those who are, on the other hand, thinkers as well as readers, know that true Poets are men of fine feelings and great powers—for, next to being a poet, is the power of understanding one; they know, too, that there are more poets in the world than is supposed ; there are poets who never wrote a line, who have not the gift of making others see objects and feel as they do, and yet there is nothing in nature to which their imaginations do not give a poetic hue.
Campbell called poetry “the eloquence of truth.” That definition may be as good as many more--none will serve for poetry in all its moods ; but it would be a great step in the process of humanizing mankind, to which the energies of the age are directed, if good poetry were considered less of moonshine and more of solid thought, illustrating the world of thought without us-what we know, and see, and feel, intimately—streams flowing from the living shrines of our own hearts, and kindled at the living lamps of nature.
But some may ask, what is poetry ? Many definitions have been attempted, and, perhaps, none successful. “It is," says Aristotle, “ imitation ;" “it is,” says Johnson, “ the art of pleasing ;” “it is," says Elliot, “impassioned truth ;" and, says a writer in the Ecclectic Review, more in the way of description than definition—“It is love, pure, refined ; insatiable affection for the beautiful forms of the material universe, for the beautiful affections of the human soul, for the beautiful passages of the history of the past, for the beautiful prospects which expand before us in the future. Such love burning to passion, attired in imagery, and speaking in music, is the essence and the soul of poetry—it is this personification which is the life of poetry. The poet looks upon nature, not with the philosopher, as composed of certain abstractions, certain cold material laws,' but he breathes upon them, and they quicken into personal life, and become objects, as it were, of personal attachment."
The winds with them are not cold elements of air, they are messengers, they are couriers of God. The rainbow is not a mere prismatic effect of lights, but to the poet, in the language of the son of Sirach, “it encompasseth the heavens with a glowing circle, and the hands of the Most High have bended it.” The lightning is not simply an electric discharge, it is a barbed arrow of vengeance—it is winged with death. The thunder is not so much an elemental uproar as it is the voice of God. The stars are not so much distant worlds as they are eyes looking down on men with intelligence, sympathy, and love. The ocean is not a dead mass of waters, it is a “glorious mirror of the Almighty's form.” The sky is a magnificent canopy, “fretted with golden fire”-nay, to the anointed eye of the poet, every blade of grass lives ; every flower has its sentiment; every tree its moral.
This perpetual personification springs from that principle of
love which teaches the poet not only to regard all men as his brethren, the whole earth as his home, but to throw his own excess of soul into dumb, deaf, and dead things, and to find even in them subjects of his sympathy, and candidates for his regard. Is was in this spirit that Sterne said, that, were he in a desert, he would love some cypress. It was in this spirit that Burns did not disdain to address the mouse running from his ploughshare as his “ fellow mortal;” and bespeak even the illfated daisy which the same ploughshare destroyedsay, rather transplanted into the garden of never dying song. This loving spirit is, and has ever been, the characteristic of the poet.
In the author of the following lyrics, Robert Duthie, it was peculiarly manifested. It is not intended to claim for his works a niche high in the temple of fame, as that which holds great poets of the world and time ; but we, who loved him living, and honour, while we lament him dead, do claim for his name a humble pedestal, even in that temple so seldom deservingly won.
Robert Duthie was born in Stonehaven, on the 2d of July, 1826, the eldest son of Robert Duthie, baker, who, for many years, filled a respectable position among his townsfolk, as a prominent and consistent member of the Methodist body. Mr. Duthie, sen., with a few others, built a neat Chapel for their public worship. He died at an early age, leaving his widow to conduct his business, and bring up his young family, a task she has industriously and carefully fulfilled.
Robert, the author of this work, had for some time taught a school, but on his father's death relinquished it, in order to assist his mother. In such duties he passed his early years, diversified only by those amusements and little episodes which generally make up the every-day life in small towns, of young men who, from manners and kindliness of heart, are favourites among
their compeers of both sexes. Scarcely a merry-making, marriage, christening, or pic-nic, could be considered complete without his presence ; yet, with all these breaks upon his time, he continued to acquire a large fund of information on many of the popular subjects of the day, to become well acquainted with the antiquarian lore of the district, and occasionally to write poetry. In the prosecution of his antiquarian researches, he collected a small museum of interesting objects, and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to exhibit and describe them to friend or stranger. That life consists, in a great measure, of trifling occurrences and little occupations, there needs no uncommon sagacity or attention to discover. Notwithstanding the importance we are apt to ascribe to the employments and the time, even of the most illustrious, were we to trace them carefully, we should frequently discover that trifles were their employment and solace. Public business is their constrained employment, resulting from accident, or education, while their willing moments are given to light amusements and careless mirth.
Fond of his native town, our friend gathered together an immense number of facts connected with its rise and progress, and with the historical associations of the district, but he was taken away ere they could be prepared for publication. The same love of his birth-place, and desire to see it advancing, induced him, with a few leading gentlemen, residents, to form themselves into a voluntary Town Council, for the purpose
of general improvements. Their labours are too well known, and have been so successful to merit other than the highest praise and gratitude of the community, over which they exercise their willing conceded sway.
Mr. Duthie was an active member of the Council, and held the office of TownClerk when he died He was, in religion, a United Presbyterian, and latterly an elder in Rev. Mr. Scott's congregation. On the 28th of August, 1860, he married. Hitherto his life had been one round of amusement in writing poetry, essays, and tales for newspapers, attending to his business, aided by his mother's experience and personal attention, enjoying the society of his friends and associates, and many a long ramble on antiquarian hunts intent. Now, however, the hard, close, sterner trial of life had to be encountered, and it told its story