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of our own age, in those pursuits in which the shell has been broken, and the wisdom of antiquity has been superseded by the philosophy of Bacon, and Newton, and Locke-he may indeed be said to be presumptuous, who shall pretend to set limits to the miraculous powers of man, who shall attempt to stay the mighty current of human knowledge, and, with the idle arrogance of a Canute, say to the advancing wave,
“ Tuus FAR SHALT THOU GO, BUT NO FARTHER.” And such is the peroration of the Address of Sir Martin Archer Shee, to which, because our soul responds greatly to it, we recur with still renewed pleasure; meanwhile, not unconscious that there stands at our very elbow a kindred Spirit. Who is he? The Nameless Poet of the Reign of Lockrin-a Poem to be published by Messrs. Whittaker and Co., Ave-Maria-lane, in the year of our Lord MDCCCXL. Why, who knows that Messrs. Whittakers may be publishers at that time? or, if so, that they may then live in Ave-Maria-lane ?-or that there may be an Ave-Maria-lane?
The Nameless Poet. Poets are vates. It is a prophecy : equal to any in Murphy's Weather Almanac.
Editor. Murphy is not far from phenomenal fact, and his theory has much to recommend it. His work on Meteorology is published by Baillière. And I would recommend to your perusal the third chapter of the book.
The Nameless Poet. The subject ?
Editor. “ The Union of Opposite Progressions esteemed the Fundamental Law of Nature, or that on which the whole of her Dispositions are Founded.”
The Nameless Poet. Do you hold with him ?
Editor. I would project the argument to a higher point-that is, to an antecedent principle, of which the opposite progressions and the union he speaks of are equally evolutions. But what he writes of the said opposite progressions is true enough. How blind are mortals to the force of the merest truisms! Every thing has its opposite ! How often is the affirmation made, without reference to its philosophical verity or scientific application! Murphy demands, what are the opposite, or the right and left, sides of animals, whose contrasts and sympathies have so frequently occupied the attention and speculations of the faculty ?-the root and stem of vegetables ?the further sexual combination subsisting between the individuals of either kingdom ?—the relation of the sun and planets, differing to such an extent as the former does from the latter?- what are all these, but instances of the universal union he contends for- in a word, the union of opposite homogeneous progressions ?
The Nameless Poet. Does he extend the law to the world of sentiment and sensation ?
Editor. He does. Each of the senses and passions, he declares, may be said to constitute a centre, or point of contact, to or from which the opposite progressions of heat and cold, of light and darkness, of pleasure and pain, of joy and grief, of love and hate, of desire and aversion, &c. &c., advance or recede. Reason and Deity, however, he excepts from the operation of this law.
The Nameless Poet. Such a theorist has no vulgar mind.
at such assertions—they are incapable of critically investigating them,
The Nameless Poet. Modern criticism! In a postscript to my Poem, I design to castigate all the professors of it. What appears to have been the main end of living or late reviewers? To put down men of merit, and raise up writers of bad taste. All late or living writers of any eminence have risen into notice in opposition to the critics of the day, who either tried to crush them on their first appearance, by unjust severity, or to keep them in the background, by affected contempt. There are, however, and have been a few clever fellows among them.
Editor. We have reason to speak well of the reception that the last number of the Monthly had among the daily and weekly critics. By one, in particular, we have been gratified. A longcherished resentment has been nobly sacrificed, at the free suggestion of an honourable demurrer. That man and ourselves are henceforth friends on terms of mutual respect.
The Nameless Poet. It is the province of able critics to watch over the taste of the age ; but with their eyes wide open, and not blindfolded by the vulgar prejudices arising out of party spirit, and which can only find place in heads of very narrow and limited views. They should not, therefore, while reviewing a new work, allow themselves to be influenced in their judgement thereof, by the country, rank, opinions, whether political or religious, of the author. Nor should they in any way make him smart for any private grudge which they may owe his publisher, printer, or even himself.
Editor. One great duty of the modern critic is to detect, for the public, genius in its infancy.
The Nameless Poet. But as this not unfrequently lies concealed amidst ruin and rubbish, he who can point it out must, indeed, have extraordinary powers of discrimination; he must be endued with something more than what is generally termed nice tact or taste, He must have, what only one in a century has, the eagle eye of a genuine critic. On further consideration, however, I perceive that this were to expect too much, now-a-days. We must wait for better times.
Editor. Your good critic were as rare as the good author.
The Nameless Poet. Hitherto the conduct of reviewers has, with very few exceptions, betrayed the most supine indifference in the exercise of their calling. They have allowed the mouster of bad taste to make fearful strides through the land-they appear like men under the influence of some evil genius-a death-like apathy seems to hold them down, as though they were spell-bound. However, they have great need to arise and bestir themselves—for unless they do so, that ugly creature (meaning still the monster of bad taste) whose progress has been already so fearfully rapid and destructive, will, ere long, if still allowed to proceed, have converted their fruitful garden into a barren waste. Wise men should look to this: it is a matter of much more serious importance than many suppose. It is reasonable to expect that men whose views N. S. VOL. I.
are confined—whose cold breasts cannot even conceive what feeling, fancy, or imagination, is—it is reasonable to expect that such men should make light of poetry. It is far beyond their reach. Yet this should not be; that is, it should not be made light of. It is a matter of weighty consideration; even our legislators ought to be told so. The poetry of a country has an extraordinary influence over the minds of its people. It is the first to bring civilisation there; and when it declines, all that is good and great in the land seems to decline with it.
Editor. Your own poem ?
The Nameless Poet. —Is on an old subject. There is no poem extant of any great repute, of which the story had not been known, and treated in some way or other, prior to the existence of him whose genius gave it the greatest celebrity. In proof of this, the Niad, the Æneid, Paradise Lost, readily suggest themselves. No poet therefore should arrogate to himself any extraordinary merit for the pretended originality of his subject.
Editor. Novelty, you mean. Serious differences exist between originality and povelty.
The Nameless Poet. I perceive : it is originality, not of the story, but in style and sentiment only, which can procure him fame. The story of Brutus seems to be an eligible theme for a British poem.
Editor. You mean the Brutus of the Monmouth Chronicle ?
The Nameless Poet. The same hero_but not according to the same historian or chronicler. I prefer for authority a rare old manuscript, discovered, long ago, in my grandfather's library. So poetical is the story, that all our great poets have alluded to it Spenser, Milton, Hogg, and Wordsworth. Pope himself proposed to write an epic on the subject.
Editor. You prefer the Spenserian stanza ?
The Nameless Poet. I do; because of the difficulty of the measure. If the poet has any genuine powers of his own, nothing can tend more to call them forth than a difficult measure; as, on the other hand, nothing appears more calculated to show him off indifferently, than a light gingling one; and for this reason, that he gets on with it much too easily, to allow himself sufficient time for grave reflection.
Editor. You consider the making of noble verses a very grave and weighty affair ?
The Nameless Poet. I do. The great poet is unquestionably the greatest man of the day-which day, be it understood, mostly comes after his death. Compared with Shakspere, all the monarchs, warriors, and statesmen of the earth, dwindle into mere nothing. ness.
Editor. Excellent as are your general notions, and meritorious as is the poem they accompany, I am afraid-or, rather, I hope that there is much that is heretical in your notions of modern English poetry. Coleridge, Wordsworth, Scott, Southey, and Byron, have had their appointed work ; and even Thomas Moore is not without a final cause for his appearance and influence.
The Nameless Poet. Spenser, Shakspere, and Milton, are my models.
Editor. The Muses forbid they should ever cease to be models and examples to their younger sons. But modern poetry, both in England and Germany, is the result of moral forces, that cannot be too much esteemed.
The Nameless Poet. I hate the egotistic character of the modern school.
Editor. Therein you show your own egotism. None bates the egotist but the egotist. If the feeling were not offended in you by the rivalry inspired in another's, you would be indifferent to its exhibitions. O the sympathy in all antipathy!
The Nameless Poet. So far am I from egotism, that if ever I publish a poem, in the first edition my name shall not appear.
Editor. For sundry good reasons, which are easily appreciable. But, as to the avoidance of egotistic expressions—it is the concentrated essence of egotism—the intensest form of it. The man who carefully, and on system, abstains from speaking of his own personal 1, is the chief among egotists. This kind of egotism is one of the weaknesses of the present age-and is the most disgusting of all-the mongrel offspring, come of a cross between Vanity and Cowardice. We will none of it.
The Nameless Poet. Is it not to consider too nicely, to contemplate it in this manner ?
Editor. Not a whit-not a whit. The man of genius knows all this experimentally. Here, now, we have with us Henry MEAD, who recently delivered, at the Woolwich Institution, a beautiful Lecture* on the Moral Philosophy of Shakspere. He can, from a fellow-feeling tell us, I am sure, something on this theme.
Henry Mead. I should have listened, as became me, in silencebut thus called-on, I will speak.
Editor. Ay, and speak out like an honest man.
Henry Mead. It has been made the subject of much discussion and conjecture, as to whether Shakspere was fully appreciated by bis contemporaries, and even whether he himself was aware of his own greatness. With regard to the latter question, I have no hesitation in giving my opinion in favour of his self-knowledge. It is true, that genius may, for a time, remain concealed from the individual so gifted, but the fact of its exercise reveals at once the secret of its existence. No man can possess great powers, and which are brought into active operation by his intercourse with the world, without arriving at the knowledge of the relation in which he stands, with regard to intellectuality, with those around him. He who is in the habit of performing things which he finds impossible to those around him, however naturally desirous of the rewards of excellence, soon begins to ascribe the phenomena to its right cause that is, to a natural and innate superiority of mind.
• The Moral Philosophy of Shakspere, as illustrated in a Lecture, delivered at the Woolwich Institution, by Henry Mead, author of “Freedom,” “The Spirit of the Age," and other Poems. Woolwich : Richard Rixon's Library, Beresford-square,
Add to this, the deep and mysterious sympathy with the lofty and the terrible, which always accompanies the presence of genius, and the frequent finding of the gems aud sea-weed that strew the shores of the ocean, which ebbs, and flows within him ; together with the thousand nameless and wordless thoughts which fill up the measure of his daily being, and we cannot but conclude, that genius is never long hid from its possessor.
Editor. And this is one of the truths you told your Woolwich audience?
Henry Mead. I did, sir.
Editor. It may be well spoken any where-whether in the meridian of London, Paris, or the modern Athens. What mean you by the Philosophy of Shakspere?
Henry Mead. The lessons of wisdom and goodness which are scattered throughout his pages. The poet must have a thorough knowledge of the heart, of its hopes and fears—its joys and sorrows -its passions and affections. In proportion to the depth of his sympathy, will be the extent of his influence. Love, aniversal and all-embracing, is the source and the light of his intellectual existence—the fountains of his heart are opened up, and all who choose may drink of the pleasant waters. It is a knowledge of this, which has made the poet the especial favourite of mankind in all ages, whether barbarous or refined. The richness of his gifts, the confiding simplicity of his nature, and the inexhaustible benefits which he conferred upon his race; all these naturally disposed the minds of men to regard with affection one who seemed to be the natural denizen of another sphere, though fated to mingle awhile amongst the sons of earth, and drink, it might be deeply, of their cup of affliction. They saw that whilst the other children of genius warred with the world in their armour of proof, the poet stood naked and defenceless; like the song-bird of the forest, he seemed the natural prey of the spoiler, the mark for every wandering arrow. True it is, that the world gets wiser as it grows older; that the things which once were objects of affection, have now become a matter of speculation; and as we know that, like the nightingale, the poet lives but to sing, we proportion the measure of our gratitude accordingly.
Editor. Your talk is like singing.
Henry Mead. Yet there are those, who believe that the poet is the mere organ of impulses which he cannot controul; an intellectual pedlar, bartering away the treasures of his intellect for the gold and the praises of mankind. It is a strange creed, and one that seems stranger still, if Johnson's definition of genius be correct-namely, that it is but the application of strong powers, accidentally directed to some particular object. For what motive could induce men, who cared not but for their own interests, to embark in the perilous game of authorship? What is the labour of the peasant, who toils from morn till dewy eve, compared with that of him whose life is a perpetual fever, who in the solitude of his midnight studies, coins his heart for the benefit of mankind, and who feeds the vulture, Fame, with his own life-blood ?