Imagini ale paginilor

definitely enlarged, sentiments, and delights worthy of a higher being. This power of poetry to refine our views of life and happiness, is more and more needed as society advances. It is needed to withstand the encroachments of heartless and artificial manners, which make civilization so tame and uninteresting. It is needed to counteract the tendency of physical science, which being now sought, not as formerly for intellectual gratification, but for multiplying bodily comforts, requires a new development of imagination, taste, and poetry, to preserve men from sinking into an earthly, material, Epicurean life."

and peeps into every crevice, and up the side of every precipice, with eyes, thoughts, and memory for nothing but strata; precisely as it is presented to his vision then and there, without once giving himself time to draw deductions from what he discovers, to make an extended survey of the distant scenery, or to drink in the enjoyment of the magnificent whole.

In the general contemplation of external nature, we feel the influence of Poetry, though chiefly and almost exclusively in objects which are, in themselves or their associations, beautiful or sublime. Thus, we are pleased with a widely extended view, even over a level country, purely because the sublime idea of space is connected with it; but let this expanse be travelled over, closely inspected, and regarded in its minutia,

WHY CERTAIN OBJECTS ARE, OR ARE and it becomes indescribably wearisome and


THAT a book, a picture, and sometimes a very worthy man, are without Poetry, is a fact almost as deeply felt, and as well understood, as the memorable anathema of Shakspeare against the man who had not music in his soul. In many books this is no defect; in all pictures it is a striking and important one; while in men it can only be a defect proportioned to the high standing they may choose to take in the scale of intellect or feeling. The spirit of Poetry has little to do with the labours of the artisan, nor would our tables be more plentifully supplied, were they furnished under the direction of the muses. But who would feel even the slightest gratification in reading Wordsworth's Excursion, with a companion, who could not feel poetically? or who would choose to explore the wild and magnificent beauties of mountain scenery, with one whose ideas were bounded by the limits of the Bank of England?

When our nature is elevated above the mere objects of sense, there is a want created in us of something, which the business of the world, nay, even science itself, is unable to supply; for not only is the bustling man of business an unwelcome associate in the wilderness of untrodden beauty, but even he becomes wearisome at last, who applies his noisy hammer to every projection of rock,

monotonous. The fact is, the idea of space is lost, while the attention is arrested and absorbed by immediate and minor circumstances. The mind is incapable of feeling two opposite sensations at the same time, and all impressions made upon the senses being so much more quick and sudden than those made through them upon the imagination, they have the power to attract and carry away the attention in the most peremptory and vexatious manner. All subjects intended to inspire admiration or reverence, must therefore be treated with the most scrupulous regard to refinement. It is so easy for the vulgar touch to

"Turn what was once romantic to burlesque."

A tone of ridicule may at once dispel the charm of tenderness, and a senseless parody may for awhile destroy the sublimity of a splendid poem.

Among the works of art, the influence of poetic feeling is most perceptible in painting and sculpture. A picture sometimes pleases from a secret charm which cannot well be defined, and which arises not so much from the proper adjustment of colour and outline according to the rules of art, as from the sudden, mysterious, and combined emotions which the sight of it awakens in the soul. But let any striking departure from these rules arrest the attention, let the eye be of fended by the colouring, and the taste

chocked by the grouping or perspectivethe illusion is destroyed, and the poet awakes from his dream. It is precisely the same with sculpture, that most sublime production of the hand of man, which, by its cold, still, marble beauty, unawakened by the shocks of time, unmoved by the revolutions of the world, has power to charm the wandering thoughts, and inspire sensations of deep reverence and awe. But let us suppose the enthusiast returning to gaze upon the statue, which has been, through years of wandering, little less than an idol to his enraptured fancy, and that hands profane (for such things are) have presumed to colour the pupils of the up-turned eyes-let any other sensation whatever, directly at variance with what the figure itself is calculated to inspire, be made to strike the attention of the beholder, and he is plunged at once down that fatal and irrevocable step, which leads from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The human face, the most familiar object to our eyes, since they first opened upon the world, may be, and often is, highly poetical. Who has not seen amidst the multitude some countenance to which he turns, and turns again, with strange wonder and delight, assigning to it an appropriate character and place in scenes even the most remote from the present, and following up, in idea, the different trains of thought by which its expression is varied, and its intelligence communicated? Yet this face may not be in itself, or strictly speaking, beautiful; but, like the painting or the statue, it has the power to awaken the most pleasing associations. With such power there can be combined no mixture of the grotesque or vulgar; for, though poetry may be ridiculous, it is impossible for the ridiculous to be poetical.

There is Poetry in an infant's sleep. How much, let abler words than mine describe.

"So motionless in its slumbers, that, in watching it, we tremble, and become impatient for some stir or sound, that may assure us of its life; yet is the fancy of the little sleeper busy, and every artery and every pulse of its frame engaged in the work and growth of secretion, though his breath would not stir the smallest insect that sported on his lips-though his pulse would not lift the flower leaf of which he dreamed from his


bosom: yet, following this emblem of tranquillity into after life, we see him exposed to every climate-contending with every ob| stacle-agitated by every passion; and under these various circumstances, how different is the power and the degree of the heart's action, which has not only to beat, but to beat time through every moment of a long and troubled life."*

We feel in reading this passage, even if we have never felt before, that there is poetry in an infant's sleep. Its waking moments are less poetical, because of the many little cares and vexations they force upon us; and no power on earth could convince us that there was poetry in an infant's cry. Yet is it neither softness nor sweetness which always constitutes the poetry of sound; for what can be more discordant in itself than the caw of the rook, the scream of the seagull, or the bleating of the lamb?

There is poetry in the low-roofed cottage standing on the skirts of the wood, beneath the overshadowing oak, around which the children of many generations have gambolled, while the wreathing smoke coils up amongst the dark green foliage, and the gray thatch is contrasted with golden moss and glittering ivy. We stand and gaze, delighted with this picture of rural peace, and privileged seclusion. We long to shake off the shackles of artificial society, the wearying cares of life, the imperative control of fashion, or the toil and traffic of the busy world, and to dwell for the remainder of our days in a quiet spot like this, where affection, that is too often lost in the game of life, might unfold her store of fire-side comforts, and where we and ours might constitute one unbroken chain of social fellowship, under the shelter of security and peace. But let us enter this privileged abode. Our ears are first saluted by the sharp voice of the matron, calling in her tattered rebels from the common. They are dragged in by violence, and a scene of wrath and contention ensues. The fragments of the last meal are scattered on the floor. That beautifully curling smoke, before it found a way to escape so gracefully has made many a circuit round the dark and crumbling walls of the

Dr. James Willson.

apartment; and smoke within the house is any thing but poetical, whatever it may be without. Need I say the charm is broken? Even after having made good our retreat, if we turn and look again, the low-roofed cottage does not appear the same as when we first beheld it. The associations are changed the charm is indeed broken. May not this be the reason why fine ladies and gentlemen talk so much more about the poetry of a cottage, than those who know no other home comforts than a cottage affords? Even poverty itself may be poetical to those who merely regard it from a distance, or as a picture; but the vision is dispelled for ever by the first gripe of that iron hand, that spares neither the young, the helpless, nor the old.

and skill, there are few things more poetical than the aspect of a ship at sea, whether she goes forth with swelling sails before the wind, or lies becalmed upon a quiet shore. Even the simplest or rudest vessels floating on the surface of the water-from the lazy barge that glides along the smooth canal, to the light gondola that sports among the glowing waters of more classic shoresfrom the simple craft that ply upon our own rivers, to the rude canoe of the savage darting among reefs of coral; afford choice subjects for the painter's pencil, and the poet's song. Who has not watched with intense interest a little speck upon the ocean, that neared, and neared, until human forms at length were visible, and then the splash of the oar was heard at regular intervals, and, at last, on the crest of a foaming wave, the boat seemed to bound triumphant on the shore, where a little band of the long-tried and the faithful, amongst whom woman is never found wanting, welcome the mariners home, safe from the storms and the dangers of the sea? Who has not stood upon the beach, a silent, but deeply interested spectator, while a crew of hardy and weatherbeaten sailors launched forth their little bark amongst the roaring breakers, battling their way through foam and surge, now dipping into the dark hollows between every swell, and then rising unharmed upon the snowy crest of the raging billows. A few moments more of determined struggle, and the difficulty is overcome; and now they have hoisted sail and are gone bounding over the dark blue waters, perhaps never to return. Who has not marked, while gazing on the surface of the silent lake when the moon was shining, that long line of trembling light that looks like a pathway to a better world, suddenly broken by the intervention of some object that proves to be a boat, in which human forms are discernible, though distant, yet marked out with a momentary distinctness, which affords imagination a fund of associations, connecting those unknown objects so quickly seen, and then lost for ever, with vague speculations about what they are or have been, from whence they have so suddenly emerged, to what unseen point of illimitable space they may be destined, and Amongst the labours of man's ingenuity what may be the darkness, or the radiance

There is poetry in the mouldering pile, upon which the alternate suns and storms of a thousand years have smiled and spent their fury—the old gray ruin hung over with festoons of ivy, while around its broken turrets a garland of wild plants is growing, from seeds which the wandering winds have scattered. We behold the imperishable materials of the natural world collected together, shaped out and formed by the art of man into that beautiful and majestic edifice; but where are the ready hands that laboured in that work of time and patience? The busy feet that trod those stately courts -the laughter that echoed through those halls-the sighs that were breathed in those secret cells the many generations that came and went without leaving a record or a name-where are they? Scarcely can there be found an imagination so dull, but the contemplation of a ruin will awaken it to some dim and dreamy associations with past ages-scarcely a heart so callous, but it will feel, in connexion with such a scene, some touch of that melancholy which inspired the memorable exclamation "All is vanity and vexation of spirit!"

But let the ingenuity of man erect a modern ruin, or mock monastery, arch for arch, and pillar for pillar-nay, let him, if possible, plant weed for weed. The fancy will not be cheated into illusion-this mushroom toy of yesterday will remain a mockery still.

of terror in motion, and sublimity in repose: but more than all, the ships that go forth upon its bosom convey to our fancy the idea of being influenced by an instinct of their own; so well ordered are all their movements, so perfect appears the harmony of their construction and design, yet so hidden by the obscurity of the distance is the moving principle within, that by their own faith they seem to trust themselves where the foot of man dare not tread, and by their own hope they seem to be lured on to some distant point which the eye of man is unable to discern.

of their future course. Or who has ever witnessed the departure of a gallant vessel under favouring skies, bound on a distant and uncertain voyage, her sails all trim, her rigging tight, her deck well manned, her cargo secure as human skill and foresight can make it, while she stoops one moment with unabated majesty, to rise more proudly the next, bursting through the ruffled waters, and dashing from her sides the feathery foam; without thinking of a proud and reckless spirit rushing forth on its adventurous career, unconscious of the rocks and shoals, the rude gales and the raging tempests, that await its onward course. Or who, without a thrill of something more than earthly feeling, can gaze over the unruffled surface of the sea when the winds are sleeping, and the waves at rest, except on the near voyage of the blue expanse, where a gentle murmur, with regular ebb and flow of soothing and monotonsus sound marks the intervals at which a line of sleepy waves rise, and fall, and follow each other, without pause or intermis-imbodied in a company of hardy sailors, sion, far up along the sparkling shore, and then recede into the depths of the smooth and shining waters.

The sun is high in the heavens-the air is clear and buoyant-now and then a white cloud sails along the field of azure, its misty form marked out in momentary darkness on the sea below, like the passing shadow of an angel's wings; while far, far in the distance, and gliding on towards the horizon, are those wandering messengers of the deep that bear tidings from shore to shore, their swelling sails now glancing white in the sunbeams, now darkened by the passing cloud. Musing on such a scene, we forget our own identity our own earthly, bodily existence; we live in a world of spirits, and are lost in exquisite imaginings, in memories and hopes that belong not to the things of clay; every thing we behold is personified and gifted with intelligence; the rugged cliffs posseas a terrible majesty, and seem to threaten while they frown upon the slumbering shore; the deep and boundless sea, represented at ail times as acting or suffering by its own will or power, is now more than ever endued with the thoughts and passions of spiritual existence, and seems to speak to us in its own solemn and most intelligible language

In a widely extended sea view there is unquestionably poetry enough to inspire the happiest lays, but the converse of this picture is easily drawn-and fatal to the poet's song would be the first view of the interior of any one of those gallant and stately ships about which we have been dreaming. The moving principle within, respecting which we have had such refined imaginings, is now

whose rude laughter, and ruder oaths, are no less discordant to our ear, than offensive to our taste. It is true, that a certain kind of order and discipline prevails amongst them, but the wretched passengers below are lost for a time to all mental sensations, and suffering or sympathizing with them, we soon forget the poetry of life.

There is poetry in the gush of sparkling waters that burst forth from the hill-side in some lonely and sequestered spot, and flow on in circling eddies amongst the rocks and fern, and tendrils of wild plants; on, on for ever-unexhausted, and yet perpetually losing themselves in the bosom of the silent and majestic river, where the hurry and murmur of their course is lost, like the restless passions that agitate the breast of man in the ocean of eternity: and there is poetry in the burst of the cataract that comes over the brow of the precipice with a seeming consciousness of its own power to bear down, and to subdue.

It is related of Richard Wilson, that when he first beheld the celebrated falls of Terni, he exclaimed "Well done, water!" Here, indeed, was no poetry-no association. His mind was too full of that mighty object as it first struck upon his senses, to admit at the

moment of any relative idea; his exclamation was one of mere animal surprise, such as his dog might have uttered, had he possessed the organs of speech. And yet the same man, when he seized his pencil, and gave up his imagination to the full force of those impressions which, if we may judge by his works, few have felt more intensely, was able to portray nature, not merely seen as it is in any given section of the earth's surface, but to group together, and embody in one scene, all that is most harmonious in the quickly changing and diversified beauties of wood and water-hill and valley-sombre shade and glowing sunshine-deep solitudes, and resplendent heavens.

There is poetry in the hum of bees, when the orchards are in bloom, and the sun is shining in unclouded spendour upon the waving meadows, and the garden is richly spangled with spring flowers. There is poetry in the hum of the bee, because it brings back to us, as in a dream, the memory of bygone days, when our hearts were alive to the happiness of childhood-the time when we could lie down upon the green bank and enjoy the stillness of summer's noon, when our hopes were in the blossoms of the orchard, our delight in the sun-shine, our untiring rambles in the meadows, and our perpetual amusement in the scented flowers. Since these days, time has rolled over us with such a diversity of incident, bringing so many changes in our modes of living and thinking, that we have learned, perhaps at some cost, to analyze our feelings, and to say, rather than feel, that there is poetry in the hum of bees.

But let one of these honey-laden wanderers find his way into our apartment, and while he struggles with frantic efforts to escape through the closed window, we cease to find pleasure in his busy hum.

There is poetry in the flowers that grow in sweet profusion upon wild and uncultivated spots of earth, exposing their delicate leaves to the tread of the rude inhabitants of the wilderness, and spreading forth their scented charms to the careless mountain wind-in the thousand, thousand little stars of beauty looking forth like eyes, with no eye to look again; or cups that seem formed to catch the dew drops; or spiral pyramids


of varied hue shooting up from leafy beds, and pointing faithfully to the shining sky; crowns of golden splendour mounted upon fragile stems; or purple wreaths that never touched a human brow; all bursting forth, blooming and then fading, with endless succession in the midst of untrodden wilds ;—in rain and sunshine, in silent night, and glowing day, with an end and purpose in their brief existence inscrutable to the mind of man.

The flowers of the garden, though possessing more richness and gorgeous beauty, are less poetical, because we see too clearly in their arrangement and culture, the art and labour of man; we are reminded at every group of the work of the spade, and perceive at once and without mystery, why they have been planted in the exact spot where they now grow.

There is poetry in the first contemplation of those numerous islands which gem the southern ocean-poetry in the majestic hills that rise one above another, their varied peaks and precipices clear and bright in unclouded sunshine, and their very summits clothed with unfading verdure; while bursting from amongst their deep recesses are innumerable streams that glide down their rugged sides, now glancing out like threads of silver, now hidden in shade and darkness, until they find their way into the broad and silent lagoon, where the angry surf subsides, and the mountains, woods, and streams, are seen again reflected in the glassy mirror of the unruffled water-unruffled, save by the rapid gliding of the light canoe, that darts among the coral rocks, and then lies moored in still water beneath some stately tree, whose leafy boughs form a welcome canopy of shade for the luxuriant revellers in that sunny clime.

Time was when those who had rejoiced over the first contemplation of this scene were compelled to mourn over the contrast which ignorance and barbarism presented on a nearer view, but now, blessed be the power that can harmonize the heart of man with all that is grateful and genial in the external world, the traveller approaching, and beholding this lovely picture, need no longer shrink from the horrors which a closer inspection formerly revealed.

« ÎnapoiContinuă »