« ÎnapoiContinuați »
just. It is a simple tale of real life. A village maiden is betrothed to her lover. Prudence deters them from marriage, till he had gained a competence from the sea. He makes one voyage more for the last, but before he returned, disease had siezed upon his constitution, and he reaches home-to die.
"Still long she nursed him: tender thoughts meantime
She took some portion of the dread away;
She placed a decent stone his grave above,
She would have grieved, had friends presumed to spare
Here will she come, and on the grave will sit,
And careless seem, for she would not be found ;
With all true poets, Crabbe is not merely a moral, but a religious author. For poets at the present day to omit this grand feature of man and his relations, in that view of his character and principles which poetry must embody, is to struggle against the whole sense of truth, and, apart from the want of piety, must betray the awkwardness of an imperfect work. All great poems have been based upon the national faith; from Homer and the Athenian tragedies, to Milton, and latest of all, Wordsworth, religion has formed the groundwork of genuine poetry. There may be light and frivolous verse, but unhallowed poetry is a contradiction in terms. There is something cold and heartless in that portrait of life, which omits its most important feature-its relation to eternity. The very happiness of such a picture is unsatisfying; but its sorrow, unalleviated by hope, is cheerless indeed. There is a cruel mockery in exposing the woes and sufferings of life, without the antidote to the baneful misery; in conducting weary existence to its close, without a joy in this world or a hope for the next. No such barren moralist is Crabbe. Virtue may be unrewarded here, but it will be recompensed hereafter; and we are directed to the consolation. Religion is never obtruded on the attention, but its hallowed influence is constantly experienced. The history of Isaac Ashford, may illustrate our remarks. It is in Crabbe's best manner.
"Next to these ladies, but in naught allied
I mark'd his action, when his infant died,
He had no party's rage, no sect'ry's whim;
In times severe, when many a sturdy swain
At length he found when seventy years were run,
Such were his thoughts, and so resign'd he grew;
I feel his absence in the hours of prayer,
Nor the pure faith (to give it force,) are there :-
A wise, good man, contented to be poor."
It has been objected against Crabbe that he has modelled himself after Pope; and he has been considered by some-ignorant of the true character of his writings—but a mere imitator. Horace Smith has favored this injustice by a note to the Rejected Addresses, where, merely for the sake of the point, Crabbe is characterized as " Pope in worsted stockings." It is not the first instance in which truth has been sacrificed to a witticism. No intelligent reader of their poetry can confound the different merits of Pope and Crabbe. They belong to independent schools. The excellence of one consists in the perfection of the Artificial, the merit of the other lies in the purer love of the Natural. Pope reflects the nice shades of a court life, and adapts himself to the polished society around him. He lives among lords and ladies. He penetrates beneath the surface of character, but it is within the circle of a court, and after a classical model. Out of Queen Anne's reign he would have been nothing. We can form no idea of him removed from the wits and gentlemen of his day. He is a master of elegance, and has power as a satirist; can dilate upon the virtues of Atticus, or heighten the crimes of Atossa. He can follow where one has gone before. He can revive the felicity of Horace, or the vehemence of Juvenal. Out of the track of the artificial, the conventional, he is nothing; within it he reigns supreme. Crabbe is of another order. He has no model to copy after. He throws himself upon a subject that derives no aid from romance or classic association. He paints the least popular part of society. He has to overcome a powerful prejudice against his characters. He struggles where art can avail him little; where his whole success must depend upon nature. His personages have nothing in them to please the taste, or enlist the fancy of the polished. They come before us at every disadvantage. They are out of the pale of good society. They have no relish of high life to add interest to their virtues, or throw a softening shadow over their crimes. They do not belong to the court standard. According to Touchstone's scale they would infallibly be condemned: "If thou never wast at court, thou art in a parlous state, shepherd!" But they have something in their composition prior to and independent of this artificial excitement. They are vigorous specimens of human nature in its elementary traits, and have their whole charm in being simply men. They interest us as they feel and suffer, as they truly exist in themselves, not as they act in an outward pageant. They have the feelings and passions
of the species, and their example comes home to our own breasts. It is in this respect that "one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin." The Artificial must be content with admiration; the Natural claims our sympathy. This is the distinction. Pope tickles the sense with fine periods, or gains the fancy by a sparkling picture; while Crabbe leaves an impression on the heart. There may not be a single line to be quoted for its brilliancy, like a finished couplet of Pope; but the passage from our author shall convey a force and reality, the bard of Twickenham-were he twice the master of art he is-could never attain.
A word of apology for the poetry of Crabbe is hardly needed. Time was when this might be necessary, but a returning sense of justice is rapidly coming over the age, and the world is fast acknowledging that the relations of life, however simple, afford a true ground of poetry. It is pleasing to remark this change in favor of sound taste. Wordsworth, but lately neglected, begins to receive his due honors. He is no longer laughed at for his childishness. This is a triumph of humanity ; for it permits the poor and humble as well as the great to feel they too have emotions and sympathies worthy of poesy; that their simple hopes may also be "married to immortal verse." If we have taught a man self-respect, we have led him to the path of virtue. When he feels that his existence, however unobtruded upon the world, is an object of sacred regard to the poet; he must think more nobly of himself and live more wisely. The age is made better by such works as "The Lyrical Ballads," and "The Borough." Question not their claim to poetry. The denial is not founded on a proper understanding of the art. Poetry is born not only of the lofty and the imaginative, but of the simple and pathetic. The attendant of human feelings and human passions, it exists alike for the means and the extremes of life. Wherever man is separated from the gross earth beneath him, and connected by any link with the vast and beautiful above him; wherever there exists an image of a greater good than the conditions of sense offer; wherever the limited, intellectual and moral part of our nature sighs after the great and the perfect; wherever any of the mysterious links of the chain binding together the present with the untried future, are visible,--there, in their just degree live the nature and spirit of poetry. "Soaring in the high region of its fancies," it may approach "the azure throne, the sapphire blaze." It may be "choiring to the young-eyed cherubim," and it may sing of "the humblest flower that decks the mead," or speak of the smallest hope that breaks the darkness of the least educated. It is not to be limited in its application. It is not built on learning, or founded on the canons of the critic. It is