« ÎnapoiContinuă »
ly dame was wont to rest as she looked forth irreverent language, and the low attributes, upon the sloping lawn, marking the long by which the majesty of the Divine Being is shadows of the stately trees, of which nei- too frequently insulted. ther root nor branch remain ; now the rude If we might so speak without presumpnettle rears his head, the loose bramble tion, we should say, that God, jealous of his waves in the wind that whistles through the own honour, had chosen in this instance, broken arch, birds of dark omen, inhabitants sometimes to baffle the ingenuity of man, of desolation, pass to and fro on dusky wing, by first throwing open to the human mind, and the loathsome toad, and poisonous ad- the contemplation of his attributes, and then der creep in amongst the shattered fragments by his own appointed means, inscrutable to of sculptured stone and mouldering marble, our perceptions, concentrating them all in to find themselves a hiding place and a home. one sublime and ineffable thought, which As we contemplate all this, the mind is natu- flashes through the brain like a quickening rally carried back to the time when there fire, and bursts upon the soul with the light emblems of decay had their beginning. We of life. think that there were ruins then; that I would still be understood to speak poetiages still more remote had theirs ; and thus cally. I know that there are modes of reaas we travel through the dim obscurity of soning by which men of sound understandpre-existent time, our retrospective view at ing must almost necessarily arrive at a belength fades and is lost in the sublime idea lief in the existence of a God. But rational of uncreated power.
evidence, and the evidence of sensation, are Or we look onward from the present time two different things. We often assent to on-on, to a mysterions futurity, when we facts of which we do not feel the truth. and ours shall be forgotten. We cannot And it is this feeling as it gives vitality to build up without reflecting that there is also belief, that I would call the impression from a time to pull down, and in laying the foun- which we derive the most lasting and disdation of an edifice, or in witnessing its erec- tinct idea of a God. Yet at the same time tion, it is natural to ask, “Where shall I be that I speak of such impressions as evidence, when of these stones not one remains upon which the Divine Being vouchsafes to give another ?" We plant the sapling oak, and us of his own existence, I speak of them watch it year by year, slowly extending in only as corroborating evidence following its circumference and its height, and we that of reason, and of no sort of value where think of the time when children now unborn they directly contradict it. Separate from shall play beneath its shade, when we shall the mental process by which the idea is first have been gathered to the only place of conceived, this evidence refers rather to the earthly rest, and when the very soil in which state of the mind as a recipient; and such that tree is planted, shall have become the impressions as are here spoken of poetically, property of those who never heard our may therefore, exist independent of rational names. It is by extending such reflections conviction. Without such conviction, howas these ad infinitum, that imagination ever, they are liable to lead to the most egrepasses from small to great, from infancy to gious and fatal errors, but with it they esage, and from time to eternity; and thus we tablish truth, and render it indelible. form all the idea that we are capable of It is of much less importance to the poet, conceiving of that which has no beginning, than to the philosopher, whether impresand can never end.
sions of this abstract nature, arise out of the There is one other mental conception, immediate operation of divine power, or the idea of a God, intimately connected with from a combination of conclusions previously those here specified, which mankind have drawn, which the mind is often able to endeavoured by every means, natural and make use of without being aware of their artificial, reasonable and absurd, pleasing existing in any rational or definite form, and and terrible, to introduce into the mind, be- which we can never fully understand, unless fore the mind is prepared for receiving it; the study of the human mind should be reand hence follow the unworthy notions, the duced to a practical science.
may often use expressions which accord with sensible that this motive must give place to the former notion, just as he would describe others of a more remote and abstract nature. the hand of Omnipotence covering the With the first impressions of pain and pleamountains with eternal snow, but let us sure, we learned to separate evil from good. hope that he is wise enough seriously to en- We now learn that there is a deeper evil to tertain the latter ; and if sometimes he which pleasure is frequently the prelude, makes a sudden transition from effects to and a higher good which can sometimes oncauses, without regarding the intermediate ly be attained by passing through a medium space, let us do him the justice to believe of pain. that it is from the very sublimity of his own Our first strong impressions of a moral nagenius, which stoops not to take cognizance ture are of beauty and excellence. We of means, but rather in searching out the should call beauty merely physical, did it principles of sensation, thought, and action, not comprehend what belongs to fitness and plunges at once into the fountain of life, and harmony, as well as to colour and form. refers immediately to the great first Cause, In all that is exquisite in art we are struck
Thus the full and entire conviction of the with the idea of beauty in connexion with being of a God, may come upon us pre- others; as, with all that is magnificent in cisely as God pleases, and force itself upon nature we combine with the same idea, those our hearts in the way which he sees meet to of motion or sound, form or colour, light or appoint. Galen is said to have received shade, splendour or majesty, utility or powthis impression from unexpectedly meeting er; but we are perhaps never more imin his solitary walks with a human skeleton; pressed with mere beauty than when conand just as easily may the infidel be re-templating a flower-gorgeous in its colour claimed from his ignorance by any other as the resplendent heavens-pure in its means adapted to the peculiar tone and whiteness as the winter's snow. The eye temper ot' his own mind—by the chanting that can gaze without admiration upon a of a hymn, or the peal of rolling thunder flower, deserves to be prematurely dim; for by the prayer of an innocent child, or the what is there on earth more intensely beaudestruction of a powerful nation-by the tiful! and yet how frail! so that scarcely gathering of the plenteous harvest or the does the breath of praise pass over it, than desolation of the burning desert-by the its delicate petals begin to droop, and its faded beauty of a falling leaf, or the splen- stem that once stood proudly in the field dour of the starry heavens-by the secret or the garden, bends beneath the sading glory anguish of the broken spirit, or by accumu- which it bears. Yet the same flower, suplated honours and unmerited enjoyment, ported by the hand of nature, and sheltered by the blessings of the poor, or the denun- beneath her maternal wing, burst forth in ciations of the powerful-by the visitations the wilderness, where we are too delicate of divine love, or by the terrors of eternal to tread, opened its gentle eye full underjudgment-in short, by the natural sensa- neath the sunbeams from which we turn tions of pain or pleasure, arising from any away, rested on the thorns which startle us of the causes immediate or remote, by at every step, poured forth its odours upwhich the attributes of Deity may be forced on the blast from which we shrink, drank in upon the perceptions of the soul, and con- the dews which chill our coarser natures, encentrated in the idea of one indivisible, and dured the darkness of the solitary night from omnipotent Being.
which we fly with terror, and derived its Subsequent to the idea of a God, arise nourishment from the common earth, which distinct perceptions of moral duty—of what we spurn, until we learn to value the latest we owe to him as the creator and preserver friend whose arms are open to receive us. of the world, as well as the founder of the Excellence, like beauty, is of kinds so valaws by which our lives ought to be regu- rious, and degrees so numerous, that it is lated. We have before observed that, im- only by a combination of impressions that mediate self-gratification is the earliest mo- we arrive at the idea of excellence in its abtive
upon which we act, but we now become stract nature; but when once formed, it con
stitutes the point of reference, and the cli- essential to the poet, were it possible that max of all that we admire and love; and any human being, even of moderately cultherefore it is of the utmost importance to tivated understanding, commanding the use the poet, that his standard of excellence of language, and acquainted with the prinshould not only be acknowledged as such by ciples of taste, should have been so entirely the enlightened portion of mankind, but that excluded from all contemplation of what is it should be as high as the human mind can admirable, both in the external world and in rcach, and at the same time so deeply graven human nature, as to have conceived no just upon his own heart, that neither ambition, idea either of physical or moral beauty. It hope, nor fear, nor any other passion or af- is however of immense importance to the fection to which he is liable, can obliterate poet that he should have formed an early the impression, or supplant it by another. and intimate acquaintance with subjects
All our ideas of intellectual as well as regarded as poetical by the unanimous moral good are of a complex nature, arising opinion of mankind—that he should have not so much out of impressions made by gazed upon the sunset until his very soul things themselves, as by their relations, as- was rapt in the blaze of its golden glorysociations, and general fitness or unfitness that he should have lived in the quiet smile one to another; hence it follows that the of the placid moon, and looked up to the mind must be naturally qualified for receiv- stars of night, until he forgot his own idening decided impressions of simple ideas, so tity, and became like a world of light as afterwards to make use of them, in draw- amongst the shining host—that he should ing clear deductions, by comparing them have watched the silvery flow of murmuring one with another, and combining them to water, until his anxious thoughts of present gether. How, for instance, would the poet things were lulled to rest, and the tide of describe the general influence of evening memory rolled on, pure, and clear, and hartwilight, if he had never really felt its tran- monious, as the woodland stream-that he quillizing power as it extends over the ex- should have listened to the glad voices of ternal world, and reaches even to the heart ? the birds of spring, until his own was minor how would he be able to convey a clear gled with the universal melody of nature, idea of the virtue of gratitude, if he had never and strains of gratitude and joy burst forth known the expansion of generous feeling, from his overflowing heart-that he should the ardent hope of imparting happiness, and have seen the woods in their summer vesture the disappointment of finding that happiness of varied green, and felt how beautiful is unappropriated, or received with contempt? the garment of nature—that he should have
That there are men of common percep- found the nest of the timid bird, and obtions, who “travel from Dan to Beersheba,” served how tender its maternal love, and saying that all is barren, and that there are how wonderful is the instinct with which the men of more than ordinary talent, who, de- frailest creatures are endowed that he ficient neither in imagination, power, nor should have stood by the wave-beaten shore taste, are yet unable to write poetry, is when a galley with full sails swept along evidently owing to their want of capability the foaming tide, and impressed upon the for receiving lively impressions; for wherever tablet of his heart a perfect picture of masuch impressions exist, with sufficient ima- jesty and grace-that he should have witgination to arrange and combine them so as nessed the tear of agony exchanged for the to create fresh images, with power to em- smile of hope, and acknowledged-feelingly body them in forcible words, and taste to acknowledged, how blessed are the tender render those words appropriate and pure, offices of mercy—that he should have heard either poetry itself, or highly poetical prose, the cry of the oppressed, and seen the must be the natural language of such a breaking of their chains, with the inmost mind.
chords of his heart's best feelings thrilling We should say that opportunity for re- at the shout of liberty-that he should have ceiving agreeable impressions, as well as trembled beneath the desolating storm, and capacity for receiving them deeply, was hailed the opening in the tempestuous clouds
from which the mild radiance of returning has been possessed, in an eminent degree, peace looked down-that he should have of the faculty of receiving and remembering bent over the slumbering infant, until his impressions. imagination wandered from the innocence of earth to the purity of heaven-that he should have contemplated female beauty in its loveliest, holiest form, and then by a slight transition, passed in amongst the an
IMAGINATION. gelic choir, and tuned his harp to celebrate its praise, where beauty is the least of the IMAGINATION is the next qualification esattributes of excellence-in fine, that he sential in the poetic art. As a faculty, imshould have bathed in the fount of nature, agination is called creative, because it forms and tasted of the springs of feeling at their new images out of materials with which different sources, choosing out the sweetest, impression has stored the mind, and multithe purest, and the most invigorating, for plies such images to an endless variety by the delight of mankind; and the perpetual abstracting from them some of their qualirefreshment of his own soul.
ties, and adding others of a different nature; As in society it is impossible to know but that imagination does not actually create whether any particular language has been original and simple ideas, is clear, from the learned until we hear it spoken, so it would fact that no man by the utmost stretch of be difficult to single out individual instances his rational faculties, by intense thought, or of the existence or the absense of deep im- by indefatigable study, can imagine a new pressions ; because a mind may be fully en- sense, a new passion, or a new creature. dowed with this first principle of poetry, and Imagination, therefore, holds the same relayet without the proper medium for making tion to impression, as the finished picture it perceptible to others, we may consequently does to the separate colours with which the never be aware of the presence of such a artist works. Judiciously blended, these capability even where it does exist. It will, colours produce all the different forms and however, eminently qualify the possessor tints observable in the visible world; and for feeling and admiring poetry, and thus it by arranging and combining ideas previously is but fair to suppose, that there are many impressed upon the mind, and shaping out individuals undistinguished in the multitude, such combinations into distinct characters, who possess this faculty in the same degree imagination produces all the splendid imaas the most celebrated poet, but who for gery by which the poet delights and astonwant of some or all of the three remaining ishes mankind. When he describes an obrequisites, have never been able to bring ject new to his readers, it is seldom new to
their faculty to light. Where, amongst the himself, or if new as a whole, it is familiar four requisites for writing poetry, this in its separate parts. If for instance he alone is wanting, however highly cultivated sings the praises of maternal love, he refers the mind of the writer may be, and how to the memory of his own mother
, and the ever mature his judgment, this single de- strong impression left upon his mind, by her ficiency will have the effect of rendering solicitude and watchful care-if the song of his poetry monotonous and unimpressive, the nightingale, he recalls the long summer even where it is, critically speaking, free nights, ere forgetfulness had become a blessfrom faults ; because it is impossible that he ing, when to listen was more happy than to
should be able to convey to others clear or sleep—if the northern wind, he hears again forcible ideas of what he has never felt the hollow roar amongst the leafless boughs, clearly or forcibly himself. Dr. Johnson that was wont to draw in the domestic circle was a poet of this description; and on the around his father's hearth—if the woodland other hand, instead of pointing out instances, music of the winding stream, he knows its we have no hesitation in asserting that liquid voice by the rivulet in which he every man who has written impressively, bathed his insant feet-if the tender offices of ingeniously, powerfully, and with good taste, friendship, he has enjoyed them too feelingly
to forget their influence upon the soul-or borrows from the thoughts of others, or one if the anguish of the broken heart, who has whose images are too ordinary and common not the transcript of sorrow written even on place to interest the reader; because, either the earliest page of life ?
limited by the nature of his own mind to a These are instances in which the poet narrow range of ideas, or indolent in the draws immediately from experience, and search of materials necessary for his work, where his task is only to transmit to others he has laid hold of such as fell most readily the impression made upon his own mind; within his grasp, and these being few and but there are other cases where the idea con- familiar, and unskilfully arranged, we recogveyed is derived from a combination of im- nise at once the gross elements of the compressions, and this is more exclusively the pound, and see from whence they have been work of imagination.
obtained. The poet who has never seen a lion may Deficiency of imagination is the reason use the image of one in his verses, with why some, who would otherwise have been almost as much precision as the poet who our best poets, are mannerists. It is true has; because he knows that its attributes they may be so • from partiality, almost are courage, ferocity, and power, and he amounting to affection, for some peculiar has been impressed with ideas of these character or style of writing; but that they attributes in other objects. He knows that are blindly addicted to this fault, is much its roar is loud, and deep, and terrific, and more frequently owing to their want of cahe has distinct impressions of the meaning pability to conceive any other mode of conof these words also. Its colour, form, and veying their ideas. general habits, he becomes acquainted with Lord Byron was unquestionably a writer by the same means; and thus he makes of the former class. From the variety of bold to use the name and the character of his style, the splendour of his imagery, and the lion to ornament his verse. In the same the brilliant thoughts that burst upon us as manner he describes the sandy desert, and we read his charmed lines, it is impossible with yet greater precision; because he has to believe that his imagination was incapable only to add to the sands of the sea shore, of any scope, of any height, or any depth
, with which he is perfectly familiar, the to which it might be directed by inclination; two qualities of extent and burning heat, but in the characters he portrayed he may and he sees before him at once the wide justly be called a mannerist, because he and sterile wastes of Arabian solitude. Or evidently preferred the uniformly dark and if the human countenance be the subject of melancholy; and chose out from the varied his muse, and he endeavours to invent one impressions of his own life, that sombre hue, that shall be new to himself as well as to so deeply harmonizing with majesty and his readers, it is by borrowing different fea- gloom, which he spread over every object tures from faces which have left their im- in nature, like the lowering thunder clouds press on his mind : and upon the same prin- above the landscape; varying at times the ciple he proceeds through all that mental wide waste of brooding darkness, with shortprocess, which is called creating images, lived but brilliant flashes of sensibility, and and which gives to the works of the highly wit, and lively feeling, like the lurid streaks imaginative, the character of originality; that shoot athwart the tempestuous sky, because from the wide scope and variety of lighting up the world for one brief moment their impressions, they are able to select with ineffable brightness, and then leaving such diversified materials, that when com- it to deeper-more impenetrable night. bined, we only see them as a whole, without As instances of mannerism arising from being aware of any previous acquaintance the actual want of imagination, we might with their particular parts.
bring forward a long list of minor poets, as Where distinct impressions, power, and well as inferior writers of every description, taste are present in full force, and imagina- without however descending so low as to tion alone, out of the four requisites, is those who have not consistency of mind wanting, we speak of the poet as one who sufficient for maintaining any particular sys