Imatges de pàgina

ledge they want? That is utterly im But let us suppose that the lecturer possible, from the very nature of his is appointed to instruct and guide the lectures, few, detached, and coming, public taste in poetry. And this, no in their own unassisted strength or doubt, is the purpose seriously proweakness, into the midst of the ardent posed—to cultivate taste-to preserve avocations of life. But it will be said, men's minds from running riot in de they may shew people what that know- light-to teach them how to admireledge is—they may open up access to to be wise in their enjoyment. The it-they may give them a taste of the audience of such a lecturer is one we pleasures with which it is accompanied. shall suppose acquainted, but imperAnd something of this they probably fectly so, with poetry, so that his obwill do; but a little consideration may, ject is to chastise, to guide, to enlightperhaps, serve to shew that it cannot en a beginning taste. But this is to be to a great degree certainly not to confound the nature and the uses of such a degree as to make amends for things. Nature herself instructs us many evils that must spring out of so in poetry, by taking strong hold on very imperfect a method either of com our imagination, by opening up our municating knowledge or inspiring the feelings, by preparing and kindling love of it, at least in poetry or literature. our passions. Men are led into po

The subject of lectures at such In- etry, as into all other courses of natustitutions should not be the works of ral delight, by the tenderness and imagination. Are books inaccessible or powers of their own minds. The works rare? Is it to make an English audi- of great poets are before them, as the ence acquainted with the contents of fields, the woods, the rivers, the vales, the volumes of Shakspeare or Milton, and the mountains of their native land. that they are to be lectured upon? Why, If desire leads their steps abroad, deit is probable that, of such an audi- light once finding them, will lead them ence, many have little poetical delight on. They are in the midst of nature, in those works. It is probable, that and impressions are showered upon with the works of many poets they their hearts, which deepen their deare not acquainted at all, and that the sires, continually recurring upon them poetry of Chaucer, and Spenser, and with finer and more ethereal enjoyFletcher, &c. may, then, for the very ment. It is because a man has imafirst time, be laid open to them. Is gination of his own, that, when the it, then, to dictate a taste to men, that objects of imagination are presented such lectures are given ? If so, then to him, he knows and rejoices in them. we are led to inquire what is the real The processes of nature are both sudnatural process by which the works of den and slow. Objects are presented imagination diffuse themselves among for the first time to the mind, and are a people, and establish their hold in received with impassioned transport, their minds. They are propagated which never passes away; or they afrom one to another by delight. They waken a gentle pleasure, and still, with are universally accessible, and are the renewed impression, the pleasure brought to the hand of all. It is true grows more vivid, till at last it infuses that works of great interest lie dor a vital delight through the whole frame mant among a people and why? be- of the soul. But in either case, the cause the present temper of their minds principle of nature's operation is the does not bear them. But the mind of same; it is the natural action of the society changes, and that which it de- object on the mind, and which takes mands, it will bring forth. It will effect, because the mind has faculties call buried writers from the dust, as it that answer to the object. Such is the will call into life writers that shall natural love of poetry. Upon some minister to its delight. If a man does minds it comes with rapture, from the not know what is in the pages of Mil- first work of true poetry that is opened ton, it is because his mind does not to them ; on others it gradually grows, desire poetry. It is, of all the desires as they are led on with increasing dea man can have in this country, the light through successive years. But one most easily and cheaply adminis. in none of these processes do we retered to, and therefore it would be cognize the artificial skill of human quite idle to talk of grounding lectures instruction. Means there may be of on poetry, on the sole object of intro- engendering a false seeming of the ducing poetry to unacquainted minds. love, and of producing an imitative

taste. But this is the growth of the of severer studies,--to simpler,healthier genuine native love, which may be pleasures, and to the service of real wild and erring to be sure, though, as life. we conceive, no more to be set right But poetry may have importance to than produced by men lecturing upon the mind also, as the character of that it-for the only kind of cure lies in mind, and the external circumstances all instruction, in every association of its condition, permit the study of that teaches self-suspicion, self-govern- the arts of imagination lawfully to be ment, and sobriety of mind-in short, made an important pursuit. To such in all mental discipline.

a mind it is evident, that a just reguWe may, in farther prosecution of lation of taste does become important; this view of the subject, remark, that because so much of its powers is instruction in poetry must be in- given to the pursuit, that no less is tended either to impart a taste for therein implied, than a just regulation poetry, or to correct it. Now, as to of the intellectual faculties. By what giving, implanting, diffusing, a taste means then, is a youthful or more adfor poetry, --such a taste is a feeling, vancing mind, to which the just study an affection of the imagination, and of of poetry, and the just regulation of the passions ; an application of natural the action of so many powers, is an sensibility to its peculiar object. Know- object of real importance,-by what ledge and skill may be imparted by means is such a mind to get the instruction ; but emotion, enjoyment, benefit of such regulation ? By infervour, seem by their very nature, ex- struction in poetry, as a part of cluded from its province. The love systematic education? Rather by of poetry, in truth, belongs to sensibi- universal instruction. As far as the lity, not to intellect. The only legi- mind itself is to be formed and governtimate object then, we might say, the ed, -by ail those serious and dignified only intelligible object of instruction studies which call the higher faculties in poetry, is to rectify the taste. How into strenuous and ardent exertions ; then is this to be done? In the first and as far as poetry itself is concerned, place, it supposes a taste to be recti- by setting before it the highest models, fied, -it presumes a love of poetry,– and leaving them to work their own and a very considerable acquaintance effect. The study of poetry will itself with its productions. It not only sup. receive the influence of such general poses a love, but that such love has high intellectual instruction. For the grown up into too wild luxuriance. light which is in the mind, will fall To correct all this will be important, upon all its works. It will itself turn only in as far as poetry itself is an obé thought, intelligence, knowledge, upon ject of importance to the mind. Now that which is to itself an important and poetry may have an undue and dan- cherished pursuit. In every mind, gerous importance, by taking too much the love of poetry, in whatever degree of a practical hold on the sensibilities; it exist, is of the nature of feeling and by entering into, exciting, and dis- passion. It is of the things therefore, turbing, the feelings that belong to real which belong, we might almost say, life. I'his is a danger, that does, be- to the privacy of the mind; to the yond all doubt, attend poetry, with things which' it keeps to itself, and young and susceptible minds. Most into which another cannot penetrate. surely it is not to be guarded against To intrude upon it, -to interrogate by instruction in poetry,--by any de- it-to lay it out in public examinavelopement of canons of criticism,

-by tion,-is not to rectify but to destroy leading the over-excited mind to blend it. It is lowering the dignity of the more of its power, and its more subtle mind, and weakening its self-dependfaculties with an object already too ence, to bring the inquisition of instrucdear--not surely by heightening the tion into such parts of it. The wind dignity and importance of poetry,-by that is ardent in these pursuits, must in calling the reason itself to its study, youth be wrong by enthusiasm,---it and setting the chief faculty of life to can only get right by the self-correction minister to the play of fancy, and of its maturer years. the cravings of distempered sensibility. It sufficiently appears, then, that Much rather is it to be done, by closing the principle on which all public inthe volumes altogether, and recalling struction in poetry is founded, is in the distempered mind to the discipline nature false ; and the lectures which,

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even in the most authoritative acade- predominant in the mind, and will ra-
mical forms are given on this subject, ther lower than exalt the tone of its
would be inefficient if not injurious, sentiments. It is surely unnecessary
were it not that at universities, a to say any thing of the evil done to such
course of reading and study is pursued, ingenuous minds, by being trained to
almost exclusively, of those grand books talk, and hear talk of all kinds of vain
with which what is called philosophi and idle conversation about objects and
cal criticism is conversant; and that thoughts and feelings, once so dear to
there the enlightened youth is drinking them perhaps in the sacred privacy of
for himself at those living fountains their own closed hearts, but which
from which his teacher either has or come at last to be' valued by them
pretends to have drawn his inspiration. merely as affording means of the dis-
But in such a school as that of which play of talent or the gratification of
we are now speaking, this only possible vanity.
ground of argument is from the be But there is one general view of the
ginning removed.

For what is the study of poetry which perhaps might audience that will attend the poetical serve instead of all arguments upon lectures of such an Institution ? Ra this subject. The love of poetry, it is ther let us ask on what footing does true, is one of the simplest delights of poetry stand to them? What can it be the mind; but the study of its princi, more to them than a pleasure, or in ples is one of the most abstruse and what other light important? And do highest speculations. It is one of the they choose to go to a place of public most complicated and difficult parts of instruction, to be set right, to be lec- metaphysics. An exposition of these tured on their pleasures ? To those principles never has been given-perwho in the midst of serious and useful haps never will be. But every

mind avocations, can find leisure and inclina- that, with intellectual power, pursues tion to turn to the works of eloquent poetry as an important study, does writers, for relaxation of their own make, according to its faculty, metastrained faculties, for refreshment and physical discoveries in these principles, restoration to their overtoiled minds, and so far finds light. In poetry,-imsuch works must be a precious delight, agination, reason, and passion, are all a spring of gushing waters. In these, blended together in the same act of the a simple pure pleasure is granted, and mind, and to understand the principreserved to them by the truth of their ples of poetry is to have analyzed, in minds, and the openness of their its most subtle products, this joint affections. What purpose can be served operation. It is an undertaking, to by turning this genial love of literature baffle the ablest metaphysician ; and is into a curious, intricate, and doubtful it to be made the subject of lectures to study or why seek todisturb it by list- youthful students and to popular asening to imperfect and perplexing dis- semblies? The true character of the quisitions, penned by lecturers who can real study has assigned the character know nothing of the secrets of the of the false shows of that study. In heart,or understanding of those to whom the schools, and in the hands of protheir speculations are addressed ? Such fessed critics, the commentaries on minis, naturally open to the interest poetry, and the expositions of the of poetry, feel its highest, purest, and rules and principles of the art have dearest feelings set in motion by its been intelligible, for there was serious works, --feelings great and undefined, purpose of instruction; but, to be so, for which they neither know, nor seek they have relinquished every thing esexpression. 'It is little likely, that sential to poetry-have confined thempublic lecturers will give expression selves to the plainest matters of underto such feelings, unless it happen-as standing which the works of poets it has happened--that he be himself would afford; and from Trapp to a true poet, like Coleridge or Campbell. Blair, have offered notorious examples It is probable, that he will be able to of uninteresting treatises on most ingive much fuller expression to feelings teresting subjects.* But where the of lower rank, and thoughts of lesser nature of the plan and occasion have moment,--that he will make these afforded such license to the instructor

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* An exception is to be found in Mr Copplestone, of whose strangely neglected Lectures we do not remember to have seen any notice whatever in the Reviews. We hope to hart an Article on them very soon from an able pen.



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or lecturer, he has made it an object pictured remembrance of what was
to please, and no object to instruct. What remains in the mind of
The public teacher has been convert the sensation felt-of the scenes be-
ed into an orator-a declaimer. From held—while the spell of poetry was
all the deep passions which poetry in operation, or while the events of
commands—from the power and splen- history rose up before it in august pro-
dour of imagination with which it is cession, or while it accompanied the
filled it is open to a man of any ta- perilous adventures of the traveller,--or
lent in this kind to captivate an au- penetrated the still seclusion of him
dience, and, without impeachment of who rendered no other service to men
their understanding, to raise in them than to live on their earth in virtue,
unusual and undue interest, but with all that remains from such contempla-
no result as instruction in poetry. If tion will recur with renewal of the
their views be imperfect, and their same feelings, in its own vividness, and
feelings erroneous or confused, will by its own power, unbidden, when mo-
they be made just and true by the tion of life plays in the mind. But
subjection of the mind, for a time, to in all this there is nothing of opinion-
the influence of eloquent declamation? of elaborate intelligence. It is mere
By having been held in the midst of natural remembrance--a fainter living
the contagious emotions of a thronged over again of that which has been more
assembly, listening with excited feel- vividly lived before. But to turn sen-
ing to a mixture of reasoning and pas- sation into opinion to convert re-
sion ? Surely a just taste would have membrance into criticism, is either the
been more advanced by contemplating work of a mind much advanced in
in its single self, and in undisturbed thought, or it is a forced and unnatu-
solitude, the work which was the sub- ral process. Then the mind, instead
ject of the lecture, than in such a si of simply surrendering itself to its own
tuation fragments of that work, inter- impressions in reading, reads with a
mingled with what can only be itself purpose. Instead of recollecting by
considered a work of art, and that of a pleasure, it recollects by an imagined
very inferior kind-a piece of critic opinion; instead of a strong native
cism. To this, then, it comes at last, sense growing up in it by the force of
that there is neither instruction nor nature, there is engendered a factitious.
pleasure of any value conferred on an conception of things which leads to no-
audience by a lecturer, as far as poetry thing.
is concerned--but that a work of art If the minds of men were to think
of his own, namely a disquisition or and feel more freely for themselves on
an oration, or, it may be, a batch of all subjects of their country's litera-
paradoxes piping from the oven of a ture, it would come to fill their hearts
heated fancy, is delivered to a number with a far deeper and more empassion-
persons who may be all the while ed love.

The voice of the present imagining themselves absolute and times would be to them sacred as that downright students of poetry and phi of the days of old, and they would aclosophy.

knowledge in it a similar power over We cannot conclude without once the presumption of modern criticism. more insisting on the injurious effect To rail, or to scoff at the divine prowhich all kind of literary criticism ductions of mortal men, would then must have on the mind, unless that seem to them to have in it something mind receives it with caution, and im of the wickedness and madness of infibibes what may be congenial with its delity ; to be indifferent or callous to own feelings, instead of slavishly form- beauty and to grandeur, would be a ing its faith on dogmas. Every view shame and a degradation. There is a false one which is not a view fitted would be a generous and a reverent to the mind that entertains it. The gratitude in the mind of the people toimpression which a natural mind takes wards all who immortalized the noof a book, is an impression of pains, blest qualities of that mind in works and pleasures, and sympathies, and is of literature; and literature would no reasoned opinion. It is like the then come to have a deeper and wider impression that remains from travers- influence on human life. How strong ing some new and beautiful region of might be this love of literature, may external nature; and the delight which be illustrated by the attachment of a struck upon

the sense recurs with the people in simple unaltering life to their

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traditionary poetry. It is to the shep-' has sometimes been said, that the best
herd an integral part of his being, canons of art have been produced in
blended with, and ennobling all his af- its decline. No doubt the best canons
fections. Now, is it not possible, of art were those which were known to
that, when farther refinement has the greatest masters, and which were
brought the works of genius in more produced to their own minds by their
various shapes before the apprehension own experience of art. But such ca-
of men, that a similar character and nons were their own possession, and
influence might still remain to them? were not promulgated in literature.
If history is now in books instead of This it is that belongs to the decline
tradition, must it therefore be separa- of arts,—that which was done and felt
ted from the native feelings of the is then talked of—the experience of
reader, from his personal interest, from greater times is at last gathered into
the relation that he feels in his own words by a feebler generation-the re-
person to the society of which he is a sult is collected, and the art finally
portion? If the voice of the muse is exists only in its canons. That which
committed to written characters, has it was active in the life of creative ge-
therefore acquired a different relation nius, is transferred to the department
to the human mind? Has it become of mere speculative literature.
so severed from human life that/it has Now, it is easy to apprehend, that
no longer any profound interest to the what really takes place in such cases
man himself

, that it must become is a decay in that energy of passion merely the play-thing of idle imagina- which originally and properly belongs tion, and nothing, or less than no to art. That 'energy of intelligence, thing, to the man himself looking which subsists only in passion must around him over all the shews of the decay with it; but an intelligence world that overshadows him ? It need clear, though cold and tranquil, renot be somit will not be so with them mains, and that comes in place of the who give nature fair play, and consider great creative power of art. It might the works of genius in all their forms, not be difficult to shew, that, in certain as at once symbols of the souls immor- states of society, in great refinement, tality, and guardians of the conscious, there is an aversion to strong emotion; ness of that immortality in every mind that the energies of passion are found that can intensely feel their beauty painful ; and that mens' minds glada and their grandeur.

ly seek a refuge from passion in the To general readers the literature of mere intelligence of passion. The their country ought to be what we true and simple sympathy, with great may imagine it to have been to an in- power of any kind, demands a correshabitant of Athens to walk among the ponding power of life which the weak edifices and statues of his city of Mi- being does not bear in himself

, and, Or, what it is to an inhabitant as all effort beyond the strength of naof Switzerland to traverse his moun ture is painful, he shrinks from such tains and mountain-vales? The de- sympathy with a mortifying sense of light of the native lies in the origi- his own imbecility. But those great nal impression remaining upon the powers of our nature which we ought soul pure

and entire. But that reflex to possess and do not, we can still flatact of the mind which brings upon ter ourselves with discovering in our this original and great impression, in- own bosoms, when we have only to tellectual inquisition, dissolves the trace over their lines in ourselves with power of nature; and that which was

the finger of intelligence. If we can sublimity and beauty becomes a cri- study even the outline of the passion tical question. Imagination and sym- in ourselves, we have good evidence pathy

are the faculties, by which we are that we are not bereft of those noble moved with delight from the great properties of our nature, and in the works of art. To cherish these facul- indolence of excessive refinement, can ties ennobles our nature, and in some still have the satisfaction of knowing degree preserves us from the contract ourselves kindred to the great natures ing and abasing effects of the ordinary of a greater time an illusion not business of life. But that dominion lightly to be rejected. There is strong is maintained by giving just play to temptation, therefore, to an age of rethe faculties, and not by making their finement to seek, in all kinds, passion workings matter of disquisition. It in the disquisition of passions. But it

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