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EXALTED CHARACTER OF POETRY.
POETRY seems to us the divinest of all arts; for it is the breathing or expression of that principle or sentiment, which is deepest and sublimest in human nature; we mean, of that thirst or aspiration, to which no mind is wholly a stranger, for something purer and lovelier, something more powerful, lofty and thrilling, than ordinary and real life affords. In an intellectual nature, framed for progress and for higher modes of being, there must be creative energies, power of original and ever-growing thought; and poetry is the form in which these energies are chiefly manifested.
It is the glorious prerogative of this art, that it “makes all things new” for the gratification of a divine instinct. It indeed finds its elements in what it actually sees and experiences in the worlds of matter and mind; but it combines and blends these into new forms, and according to new affinities; breaks down, if we may so say, the distinctions and bounds of nature; imparts to material objects life, and sentiment, and emotion, and invests the mind with the powers and splendors of the outward creation; describes the surrounding universe in the colors which the passions throw over it, and depicts the mind in those modes of repose or agitation, of tenderness or sublime emotion, which manifest its thirst for a more powerful and joyful existence.
We accordingly believe that poetry, far from injuring society, is one of the great instruments of its refinement and exaltation. It lifts the mind above ordinary life, gives it a respite from depressing cares, and awakens the consciousness of its affinity with what is pure and noble. In its legitimate and highest efforts, it has the same tendency and aim with Christianity; that is, to spiritualize our nature. True, poetry has been made the instrument of vice, the pander of bad passions; but when genius thus stoops, it dims its fires, and parts with much of its power; and even when poetry is enslaved to licentiousness and misanthropy, she cannot wholly forget her true vocation. Strains of pure feeling, touches of tenderness, images of innocent happiness, sympathies with what is good in our nature, bursts of scorn or indignation at the hollowness of the world, passages true to our moral nature, often escape in an immoral work, and show how hard it is for a gifted spirit to divorce itself wholly from what is good. Poetry has a natural alliance with our best affections. It delights in the beauty and sublimity of outward nature and of the soul.
It indeed portrays with terrible energy the excesses of the passions, but they are passions which show a mighty nature, which are full of power, which command awe, and excite a deep though shuddering sympathy. Its great tendency and purpose is, to carry the mind beyond and above the beaten, dusty, weary walks of ordinary life; to lift it into a purer element, and to breathe into it more profound and generous emotion. It reveals to us the loveliness of nature,
brings back the freshness of youthful feeling, revives the relish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm which warmed the spring-time of our being, refines youthful love, strengthens our interest in human nature by vivid delineations of its tenderest and loftiest feelings, spreads our sympathies over all classes of society, knits us by new ties with universal being, and, through the brightness of its prophetić visions, helps faith to lay hold on the future life.
The human mind is the brightest display of the power and skill of the Infinite Mind with which we are acquainted. It is created and placed in this world to be educated for a higher state of existence. Here its faculties begin to unfold, and those mighty energies, which are to bear it forward to unending ages, begin to discover themselves. The object of training such a mind should be, to enable the soul to fulfil her duties well here, and to stand on high vantage ground, when she leaves this cradle of her being for an eternal existence beyond the grave.
There is now and then a youth, who, like Ferguson, can tend sheep in the field, and there accurately mark the position of the stars, with a thread and beads, and
with his knife construct a watch from wood; but such instances are rare. Most need encouragement to sustain, instruction to aid, and directions to guide them.
The mighty minds which have gone before us, have left treasúres for our inheritance, and the choicest gold is to be had for the digging. How great the dissimilarity between a naked "Indian, dancing with joy over a new feather for his head-dress, and such a mind as that of Newton or of Boyle! And what makes the difference? There is mind enough in the savage; he can almost outdo the instincts of the prey which he hunts; but his soul is like the marble pillar. There is a beautiful statue in it, but the hand of the sculptor has never laid the chisel upon it. That mind of the savage has never been disciplined by study; and it, therefore, in the comparison, appears like the rough bison of the forest, distinguished only for strength and ferocity.
I am not now to dicuss the question whether the souls of men are naturally equal. You may have a good mind, a sound judgment, or a vivid imagination, or a wide reach of thought and of views; but, believe me, you probably are not a genius, and can never become distinguished without severe application. Hence all that you ever bave, must be the result of labor hard, untiring labor. You have friends to cheer you on; you have books and teachers to aid you, and multitudes of helps. But, after all, disciplining and educating your mind must be your own work. No one can do this but yourself. And nothing in this world is of any worth, which has not labor and toil as its The zephyrs of summer can but seldom breathe around you. “I foresee, distinctly, that you will have to double Cape Horn in the winter season, and to grapple with the gigantic spirit of the storm which guards the cape; and I foresee, as distinctly, that it will depend entirely. on your own skill and energy, whether you survive the fearful encounter, and live to make a port in the mild latitudes of the Pacific.”
Set it down as a fact, to which there are no exceptions, that we must labor for all that we have, and that nothing is worth possessing or offering to others, which costs us nothing. The first, and great object of education is, to discipline the mind. Make it the first object to be able to fix and hold your attention upon your studies. He who can do this, has mastered many and great difficulties; and he who cannot do it, will in vain look for success in any department of study.
Patience is a virtue kindred to attention; and without it, the mind cannot be said to be disciplined. Patient labor and investigation are not only essential to success in study, but are an unfailing guarantee to success.
The student should learn to think and act for himself. True originality consists in doing things well, and doing them in your own way. A mind halfeducated is generally imitating others. “No man was ever great by imitation." Let it be remembered that we cannot copy greatness or goodness by any effort. We must acquire it by our own patience and diligence.
Another object of study is, to form the judgment, so that the mind can not only investigate, but weigh and balance opinions and theories. Without this, you will