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Of Cunningham, the “ admirer and imitator" of Shenstone, you say, (Essay, p. xxviii.) that he " has at least equalled him in some pieces written in his manner. In his Pastoral To the Memory of William Shenstone, Esq. (p. 34.) I find the following verse :
No verdure shall cover the vale,
No bloom on the blossoms appear ;
And winter discolour the year.
(Our hedges so vocal before)
Can greet the gay season do more. If this be a wish, it is uncharitable; if it be predictive or declarative, it is presumptuous and profane.
Cunningham's second Pastoral on Content, (p. 35.) with which you close this class of Songs, I have myself given with some trifling alterations in the second volume of my Collection. It had been better, perhaps, if I had made even farther alterations in the third stanza.
I am, Sir, with great respect,
As it is my wish, Sir, to make this work a review of your former publication, now re-edited by Mr. Evans, as well as of your present work, I shall annex Postscripts to the Letters on those classes of Songs, which have, as in this case, a direct parallel in the former, or which bear the nearest resemblance to them, noticing those pieces which are omitted in your Vocal Poetry; reserving for a separate Letter those which are added by Mr. Evans.
In the Class of Ballads and Pastoral Songs, the first is the very beautiful Ballad of The FRIAR OF ORDERS GRAY, by Dr. Percy, (p. 37.) upon which I have few observations to make. The salutation in the second verse,
66 Now Christ thee saye”, is a proof that the most sacred names may be introduced with propriety into such compositions. Verse 5, &c. the Friar tells a downright falshood, which I think should have been managed in a different way. V. 11. The lady wishes to die because her lover, as she supposes, is dead, which she has not a right to do. Her grief is very beautifully reproved in the two following verses.
The Hermit of Goldsmith, (p. 42.) upon a similar story, avoids the falshood of which I
complain in the former. It is to my mind a most beautiful Ballad, and far superior to such as Lord Ronald and Cadyow Castle. What the author says upon friendship and love is too severe, and the expression where heaven and you reside” is going too far in praise : the following verse is admirable;
In humble simplest habit clad,
No wealth por power had he;
But these were all to me.
Angelina is too ready to “ lay her down and die."
COLIN AND Lucy, by Tickell,. (p. 49.) has certainly a moral purpose, being intended as a warning to young men to keep the vows they make to their sweet-bearts. But the following verses will encourage superstition in weak minds :
Three times all in the dead of night
A bell was heard to ring ;
The raven flapp'd her wing.
Too well the love-lorn maiden knew
The solemn-boding sound,
The maidens weeping round.
“ I hear a voice you cannot hear,
says I must not stay:
I see a hand you cannot see,
Which beckons ipe away.
. She afterwards dies, her corpse meets Colin,
as he is returning from his wedding with another woman, he falls down dead and is buried in the same grave with her, and the poem concludes with the following warning:
But, swain forsworn, whoe'er thou art,
This hallow'd spot forbear!
And fear to ineet him there.
Does him mean fate personified, or Colin, that is, his ghost. I suppose the latter, and therefore think it objectionable.
On the belief in Ghosts, and the support which it receives from such productions as WILLIAM AND MARGARET, (p. 53.) I have given my opinion in a former work : See The Notes annexed to my DiscoURSES ON SUB
THE AMUSEMENT OF THE STAGE, p. 143, 147.
You, Sir, in the first volume of your Letters to your Son, (L. xxi. On the prevalence of Truth, p. 222.) seem to entertain sentiments not very dissimilar : “ many of those subjects in which false opinions are most prevalent, lay such hold on the weak parts of man, his pas. sions and affections, that he is in general inca
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pacitated from making proper use of the experience of past ages, and seems doomed to run a perpetual round of the same follies and mistakes. This is the cause why reason has not been able to do more in abolishing superstition. Various species of it have occasionally been rendered unfashionable by ridicule or detection ; but the principle itself keeps its hold in the human breast, ready to seize every opportunity of regaining all the influence it may have lost. In countries the most enlightened by science and letters, it is wonderful how much superstition is constantly lurking among the vulgar of all ranks, nay, among the enlightened themselves : for where the temper disposes to it, both learning and science may be made to afford additional materials for it to work upon.
A faith in omens, prophesies, and horoscopes, in fortunate names and numbers, in warnings and apparitions, in supernatural cures, and other fraudulent pretensions respecting the principal objects of hope and fear, is no more likely at the present day to be eradicated, than it was at any former period.
Reason has no greater power over these delusions, than the Roman senate had over the influence of the Chaldean soothsayers : “ Genus hominum (says Tacitus) quod in civitate nostra et vetabitur semper, et