Page images
[blocks in formation]

culture and development peculiar to the age orritanism she was entirely denuded of her gaudy nation in which they were produced. The trappings; and the world gazed with wonder gods, the men, the virtues of the Homeric age and admiration on her severe and awful beauty. were heroic; and consequently heroism forms | Then Milton lived and sang. Truly it was the subject of the Iliad: but the hero is not the with a divine touch that he waked the harp of highest style of man, nor heroism the highest Christian poesy, so long unstrung. The genius virtue, nor hero-worship the highest form of of poetry acknowledges in him not a disciple, religious reverence; and therefore beautiful, but a master; and what have we still to wish and almost incomparable, as is this hoary epic, for, that the visions of his creative fancy have hallowed by the veneration of ages, it is not not already given us? Milton has given form the highest form of poetry.

and place to ideas which lie dim, impalpables If we come down to a later and more culti and shadowy in the human fancy. Sin, Chaos, vated age, and examine the poetic literature of Night, Death, take substance, shape, and color that most wonderful of all nations, the Roman, under the creative power of his omnipotent the Colossus of History, we find nothing genius; and we love to follow the errant flights worthy of being the chef d'æurre of the human of his adventurous fancy, as it travels unmind; for no labored argument is needed here scathed and unscarred, through eternities and to prove, what critics, as well as popular read times; renewing the past, anticipating the fur ers, have so generally conceded, that the Latin ture, and sweeping the infinite by one glance poets of the Augustan age are inferior to their of his eagle eye. But when our hearts ache Hellenic models. The Æneid has an artistic and grow weary in the struggle of life, we look excellence, which perhaps cannot be surpassed; in vain in the “ Paradise Lost” for those low, but it wants elevation of moral sentiment. In deep soul-breathings of pious sentiment, which deed, how could it be otherwise, when the soul soothe and cheer us by thoughts of home, and of the nation, to whose moral ideas Virgil gave hope, and Heaven. expression, never felt the divine and transform But if the drama, rather than the sacred ing influence of revealed truth? for a true epic, charms us—if we would seek our poetic faith is the only key which can unlock the spir beau-idea in the portraitures of human characitual fountains of the human soul.

ter and passion, we are pointed to the myriadThe“ Divina Commedia” is the product of a minded Shakspeare and his immortal dramas, later age than the Augustan; written indeed where we may study humanity outspread, in centuries after the True Light, which lighteth vivid life-likeness, as on a map before us. We every man, had shone upon the world. But acknowledge Shakspeare's transcendent merit. we should remember that the thick darkness of We admit that sublime greatness of soul—that the middle age obscured even the bright shi | miraculous power of abstraction from himself-ning of Christianity, and that the clouds of from his own conscious individuality, which superstition had not yet entirely vanished from enabled him to show us the characters of others its face, when Dante produced his immortal everywhere, but mirrored himself nowhere. In poem; and higher than the religious notions of fact the individual Shakspeare is lost and bid. his age, his poetic fancies could not rise, by an den, behind the reality and identicalness of his intellectual law, as fixed and invariable as that own creations, while the sickly sentimentalism in physics, which prevents the spring from of minor poets, wanting his creative power, and streaming higher than the fountain. In the yet attempting to conjure with his magic wand, triple poem of Dante, we find a graceful and have produced works which only serve as mulartistic blending of Christian mystery with tiplying glasses, to present us with distorted Heathen mythes; and his is undoubtedly the and caricatured images of their egotistic auPoetry of Religion, but it is not Religious Po thors. But still with incomparable poetic beauetry. That was reserved for a later age to ties, Shakspeare's works are full of moral write-nay, it is yet to be written.

blemishes; and a pure mind instinctively reBut the Reformation comes, and tears from coils from soul-contact with many of his grandChristianity the tawdry drapery which Pagan est thoughts, because tarnished with leprous superstition had furtively thrown around her, sin-spots. We yield to no one in just appreciduring the eclipse of the dark age, and then ation and admiration of these immortal sons of she stands revealed in all her celestial contour song ; but still we do ardently long, and as earand proportion. Under the rough hand of Pu- nestly expect a nobler and higher style of poetry

[blocks in formation]

than the Shakspearian, or even than that of Milton. We do not plead guilty to the slightest degree of fondness for the poor and pious verses, of which the brains of pseudo-poets and poetesses, fostered by the periodical press, are so prolific. It is not the claims of that style of poetry that we now advocate ; but of a nobler kind. Its spirit we can conceive, but its form, or the manner of its utterance, whether prose or poetic, we cannot describe, for that were to write it. Yet we think it does not need the inspiration of a seer, but only that ordinary sagacity which can discern the signs of the times, 10 anticipate a poetry which shall be a deep and fervent expression of the religious sentiment in man--not a poetry which asserts speculative dogmas merely, which explains sectarian creeds, and does homage to church establishments; but that which shall delineate and minutely map out our inner spiritual life. We have already the poetry of Love, the poetry of Art, and the poetry of War! We yet want the poetry of Faith; for its poetry is higher in its moral bearings than iis philosophy.

We are conscious of want, of moral wantthe want of utterance to the deepest thoughts and emotions of our souls-those ideas and contemplations which link our conscious existence to God and Heaven, and the unimagined mysteries of spiritual existence. We feel thoughts and spiritual experiences struggling within us, seeking imbodiment and birth in words. Oh! when and where is to be born the poet who shall utter one yet unspoken truth? We hail him yet unborn! Not St. Chrysostom, but he to us shall be the “Golden-mouthed.”

We wish to be intelligible, and we think this view of the destined improvement and development of the poetic faculty is neither far-fetched, nor fanciful. If our notions upon this subject seem somewhat transcendental to the material and matter-of-fact philosopher, we are sorry. But before he altogether rejects our views as crudities, we beg leave to remind him, that there is a higher philosophy than that of “ Material. ism”—that we belong to a different school from himself-that we sit as pupils where he would scorn to be a learner; and consequently, of that concerning which he is ignorant he may not judge. In short, it is the philosophy of Christ that we love-yea, that we reverence. We kiss the very hem of its heavenly garment, and deem it no idolatry, since it leads us to the true worship, and to God the Father of our souls.

That is not a profound, but a shallow and

false philosophy, which labors to prove everything—to bring everything, even our mysterious moral instincts, into the trammels of scientific arrangement and nomenclature. Doubt was the fashion of the last century, belief of this. Wise and great minds are now not skeptical but believing and adoring, and feel that it is nobler to believe and suffer, than to doubt and dare. It is this tendency of the present age which prompts us to look hopefully towards the future, and predict the advent of a nobler race of poets., The Baconian philosophy taught men to observe, experiment, and generalize; and the exact and demonstrative spirit which it introduced into investigations in physical science, did, in the eighteenth century, unhappily reach the highest department of human knowledge and inquiry—that of revealed religion. Religious truths were then submitted to an alembical process, as searching and severe as that by which a chemist discovers the composition of an acid, or an alkali; and when they failed under this analytic scrutiny, to yield up the secret of their nature and origin, they were rejected and thrown out as worthless dross. Hence the deep, subtle, and widespread infidelity of that reasoning age. But Christian scholars of the nineteenth century, inheriting the wisdom and experience of all the past, have grown wiser than their fathers were. They are willing to receive Christianity as a revelation of vital truths, concerning the origin, nature and destiny of man, which lie above and beyond the province of human reason-truths which so entirely transcend in their nature and scope the power of the human faculties, that in many instances they lie beyond the legitimate bounds of philosophic inquiry. They believe Christianity, not because they have proved it, but because they need it; because an unerring spiritual instinct tells them, that its truths, when properly received, and inwardly digested, are the very pabulum of life to the human soul. When this faith and feeling shall be fully wrought up into the texture of some otherwise gifted mind, and when favoring fortune shall place that anointed one in the midst of such social circumstances and surroundings as shall foster its perfectest development, then shall be sung what nations wait to hear—a Song of Heaven.

The finest fancy and the highest intellectual and artistic culture cannot alone, without the religious element in character, make a true poet. Indeed, the born-poet can better dispense with the learning of the schools, than part with that

[blocks in formation]

celestial seed-thought in his soul which blos- | a common thought into the region of the beau. soms in his verse ; for let a mind, the most tiful or the dignified, and makes that which is common and uncultivated, feel the sacredness intrinsically grand and noble, absolutely subof worship-let that faith which is altogether lime and awe-inspiring. practical instead of speculative, take fast hold Wordsworth is perhaps wrong in thinking, of the inner life of the soul-and thenceforth and in striving to impress others, through the all its workings and aspirations, and even its medium of his poetic compositions, with the ordinary experiences, will become essentially idea, that the proper and appropriate language poetic. Such a soul, while it lives on earth, is of poetry does not necessarily differ from that yet quite on the verge of heaven. It breathes of ordinary prose. Nature is the best teacher a heavenly atmosphere, and hears celestial mu on this subject, and she instructs us, nay, she sic; and if the power of utterance be given, it irresistibly impels us to express the lively and will express on earth the glories and beatitudes vivid picturings of fancy, the depths of feeling, of heaven. We speak not now of the visions and the elevated transports of excited passion, and reveries of the dreamy pietist; but of the in a widely different phrase from that in which calm and sublime experience of the soul that we talk of last week's business or of this day's has anchored its hopes “ fast by the throne of news. Without regalia, the king wants kingGod”—which can look up trustingly and liness, and “majesty in misery” commands not hopingly from amidst the darkness and myste homage, but sympathizing pity in its stead; and riousness which surrounds its earthly fortunes, so, too, poetry must have a purple robing, and believing that the Author of its existence will a jewelled crown of golden words, before we conduct it through all the varied experience and own her queen, or bow the knee, as her admirdiscipline of this human life, to the true issue ing worshippers. Our noble Saxon tongue of its being in the life beyond.

never fully shows its capabilities, its beauty, The poetry of Cowper and Young breathes and its full expressiveness, till such a hand as much of this spirit, and indicates a personal Pope's or Milton's tunes its strings, and wakes and heartfelt experience of the sublime verities its slumbering harmonies; and then the car of Christian faith. Thomson, too, sometimes distinctly recognizes in it a cunning instruutters the language of devout sentiment, and in ment of music, which, when played upon by his sublime “Hymn to the Seasons," there is nice and adept fingers, yields sense and sounds, much of the poetry of natural worship, but which harmonize with every varying shade of little, we fear, of the poetry of true Christian fancy, thought, or feeling, in the human mind. devotion.

But whatever theoretical errors the author of of the late or living poets, the chief of the the “ Excursion" may entertain regarding the Lake school may be selected as the nearest ap diction proper for poetry, they have not repressproximation in spirit, though not in form, to our ed the outbreathings of a heart full of all pure, ideal of what the best and highest poetry ought humane and noble thoughts, or checked the to be. Wordsworth has undoubtedly the eye play of a fancy as brilliant as it is delicate and and the heart of a true poet—of a genuine son pure ; and yet it is not so much to this brilliant of song. We recognize in him a spirit, into play of fancy, as to the genial glow of relithe very structure of which is woven the poetic gious and philanthropic feeling, that Wordsfaculty. It was no forced baptism in the rills worth's poetry owes its attractiveness. Byron's of Helicon and Parnassus, but the inbred stamp “ Thunderstorm among the Alps," where the of the Creator, a real Theopneusty, which “ live thunder leaps from crag to crag, the rocks made his a poet's soul. But while his heart among,” is the true offspring and fit symbol of beats right, his head goes wrong; and having the workings of his own wild, disordered faney; formed a very erroneous and false idea of what but the softer features of that quiet English landpoetic diction ought to be, he follows out his scape which Wordsworth loves, where he detheory so consistently in practice, that“ thoughts lights to dwell, and whose chaste and placid which breathe" are not always expressed in beauty has inspired his song, is a true likeness “ words which burn." Indeed we are often of his own noble, yet simple nature-free from astonished at the power and self-sustained en all affectation and all art, and full to overflowergy of the thought, utterly unaided, as it often ing with all gentle and genial sympathies. We is, by that studied beauty, and magnificent admire the poetry of Byron merely as poetry; pomp of diction, by which Milton elevates even but after reading Wordsworth we forget the

[blocks in formation]

poetry, and love himself-the poet. The very | canker of its cares--and the heart-crush of its coruscations of Byron's genius, so charged sorrows. A soul which has studied deeply the with fiery passions, terrifies us, like the red arithmetic of life, estimates more justly the relaglare of a threatening meteor in the heavens. tive values of the present and the future; and We should as soon think of making friendship understands well that what is called luck, and with Thor, the Norseman's direful war-god, chance, and earthly fortune, does not involve or the awful Odin, who drinks from human | the great destinies of our existence, but are skulls in scorn and bitterness, the blood of ene merely accidents in the infancy of our being. mies, as with the dark and gloomy soul of By Such a mind cannot feel its deep and earnest ron. But Wordsworth, were he our friend-- sympathies called out by an exhibition of the how would we cherish in our heart of hearts | little men and women puppets, who flaunt, and that friendship! How glad and happy, nay, flutter, and parade, for a brief hour, in the pages how justly proud are they, who in the daily and of a modern novel or romance, only to die familiar intercourse of social life, enjoy commu out of memory again, and be as though they nity of thought and feeling with such a mind. had never been. Fiction, we acknowledge, is

But the critics perhaps will tell us, that pious beautiful; and the creative power of the husentiment is not always the true Attic salt of man imagination commands our deepest reverpoesy--that the “Childe Harold” has incom ence; for it symbolizes that Creative Power parable poetic beauties, and is incontestibly the which speaks, and it is done--which commands, offspring of true poetic inspiration. We admit and it standeth fast. But when the poet or the the grandeur and power of Byron's intellect novelist would please and interest us by the the deep and passionate fervor of his soul; but exercise of this divine gill, he must give scope we are amazed and affrighted, rather than at and elevation' to his thoughts, and let them tracted, by the lurid and fitful glare of his poetic range free and untrammelled over all the possifancies, flaring out from the dark background bilities of being. The passions and sympathies of his gloomy and misanthropic nature. He which he creates and calls into play, must be has won for himself, and doubtless will wear, connected with the highest and noblest interests even in the eyes of a far-off posterity, that halo of our being with that which links us to the of glory, which surrounds only the brow of the Unseen and Spiritual. It is this quality which true poet; but it is a radiance which might en gives sublimity and enduringness to Milton's circle becomingly the brow of the fallen Lucifer conceptions; and it is here in the moral and in hell. It is no reflection of that light which is spiritual capabilities of our nature that the ficinaccessible and full of glory, by whose divine titious writer must seek, if he would find the irradiation the face of the true poet becomes secret talisman which can rivet the interest rayonant, as that of Moses, when he descended and admiration of the readers he essays to infrom the awful mount of converse with Je struct and entertain. fleavenliness in the soul hovah.

of the true poet, is the surest prophecy and “ Marmion,” “ The Lay of the Last Min pledge of truth and enduringness in his verse; strel," and kindred poems, which mirror the and the German critic Heder evinces not only chivalric enthusiasm of a by-gone age, are much critical acumen, but a profound knowledge of admired by many lovers of the poetic art di human nature and its spiritual aspirings, when vine. The fictions and poems of Sir Walter

he says, “mere earth-born poetry, however reScott are necessarily and deservedly favorites fined, must be necessarily poor and grovelling: with the young; because they are mirrors, all elevating and sublime poetry is by an influtrue to nature, in which youths and maidens ence from above." The modern muse cannot see reflected the images of their own fancy, in produce her “Opus Magus” till both head and that delightful heyday of existence, when they heart are Christian, and not heathen; till after rejoice and revel in the intoxication of their

her baptism in “ Siloa's brook." earliest loves. But the love-lorn poesy of the “ Heaven breathes the soul into the Minstrel's breast, Metrical Romance is a form of literature that But with that soul he animates the rest. has few charms for a mind which has deeply

The God inspires the mortal-but to God,

In turn, the mental lifts thee from the sod. felt the solemnity and awfulness of this human life of ours-the pressure of its duties—the Holy himself, he hallows those who hear."

Oh ! not in vain the bard to Heaven is dear;



[ocr errors]

“Don't go out this evening, Henry,” said, heart, while she sat lonely and grieving for his Mrs. Wiley, as her husband, on rising from the absence at home. tea-table, took down his hat, and commenced Slowly the time moved on. All day Mr. buttoning up his coat. “You don't know how Wiley had been at his place of business, and lonesome it is without you. And you stay so his wife had only seen his face, and hearkened late, sometimes."

to his voice when he came home to his meals. “Read, or go in and visit your neighbor, But it was all right that he should attend to his Mrs. Ives," returned Mr. Wiley in an abrupt business, and his absence through the day was voice.

no cause of grief, though she thought the “No company is like yours, Henry.”

hours long between the time of his going and “D'ye think so ?” was the husband's indiffer returning. But now his absence was volunent reply. “ I'm really flattered. Never mind, tary. He had gone out in search of pleasure then, Fanny, you shall have more of my com for himself-pleasure in which he did not, and, pany one of these days; but I can't stay with perhaps, could not, ask her to share. And you to-night. So run in and spend an hour or thus had it been for a long time. The more two with Mrs. Ives. I'll be home early-may Mr. Wiley separated his pleasures from those

of his wife, the more careless about her bappiAnd Mr. Wiley retired, carelessly whistling ness he became. He did not treat her unkinda tune.

ly; but she could have borne harsh words betFor some minutes after his departure, his ter than confirmed neglect and indifference. wife sat, with a dreary face, at the table ; then, Slowly the time moved on; and the streets with a heavy sigh, she arose and, turning to a grew more and more quiet. The sound of little work-table, sat down and commenced wheels was still, except at intervals, and footsewing.

passengers came no longer in a continuous The domestic came in and removed the tea stream. At length all was hushed into a sithings. The wife was then alone with her own lence only broken now and then by the rapid thoughts. Slowly, and almost with the regu steps of some lingerer too long from home. larity of a machine, moved her hand, as it drew “So late! so late!” murmured the unhappy the slender thread. But, every now and then, wife, as she turned from the window at which there would occur a pause, and she would let she had stood listening for a long time, as the her work fall into her lap, and sit musing with city clock rang out upon the quiet air its notice drooping lids. Sometimes these states of ab- of the passing hours. It was twelve at night. straction would continue for many minutes ; Weary with watching, she at length threw when she would suddenly recover herself, and herself upon a sofa, and, for the first time since with a long-drawn sigh renew her employment. parting with her husband at the tea-table, the She was thinking of the strange indifference to tears came stealing out from beneath her shut his home manifested by her husband, who rarely eyelids. She had been very lonely and sad, ever spent an evening in her company, or took but controlled her feelings until now, when any pains to provide for her pleasure.

weak nature gave way. After sewing for a couple of hours, Mrs. It was one o'clock before Mr. Wiley returnWiley laid by her work, and tried to read. ed, expecting to find, as had often been the case But it was impossible to fix her thoughts upon before, his wife in bed and asleep. He had been the page before her—they kept wandering off enjoying himself more than usual, and was in to her absent husband. And where was he? | excellent spirits. But these were rather dashed In company with some friend after his own on entering his house to find his wife in the

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »