« PreviousContinue »
Kingdom's are but cares;
The swelling of the flood. The pious and contemplative dis- So minutes, hours, days, months, and years, position of this monarch, well be. Past over to the end they were created, trays itself in these verses; they would bring white hairs into a quiet grave. are not inelegant, and were written Ah, what a life were this, how sweet, how probably about 40 years after the lovely!
Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter time of Chaucer. The author of
shade such unambitious sentiments might To shepherds, looking on their silly sheep, well be supposed to utter those con- Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy genial lines which the poet has given To kings, that fear their subjects' treachery? him :
Henry VI. Part 3. O God! methinks it were a happy life, To be no better than a homely swain;
It is more than probable, that the To sit upon a hill, as I do now,
poet had never seen his royal broa To carve out dials quaintly, point by point, ther's verses, yet how admirably has Thereby to see the minutes how they run:
he hit off the same melancholy and How many make the hour full complete, philosophic strain, which it appears How many hours bring about a day, Henry himself had indulged. What How many days will finish up a year, a pity this unfortunate monarch was How many years a mortal man may live. not born to a crook instead of a When this is known, then to divide the
sceptre ! times :
Lest we should not find, even so So many hours must I tend my flock ; So many hours must I take my rest ;
unfit an opportunity as this is, we So many hours must I contemplate ;
beg leave to subjoin here two senSo many hours must I sport myself ;
tences written by the same Henry, So many days my ewes have been with and preserved by one who had taken young ;
him prisoner in the wars of York and So many weeks ere the poor fools will yean; Lancaster :So many years ere I shall sheer the fleece:
Patience is the armour and conquest of the godly: this meriteth
mercy, when causeless is suffered sorrow.
but rashness; not right but rage, ruleth and reigneth. These breathe the same mild and every thing; so had he a foot (a gouty amiable spirit; they confirm that one we confess) on the hill of Poesy; character which their author has re- he was the landlord of so much ceived from history: more of the ground there, as produced one weed saint than the soldier, less of the of a proud carriage, but of little prince than the philosopher.
fragrance, – the Turk's Cap, proKing Bluff, as he had a finger in bably:
The eagle's force subdues each bird that flies ;
What metal can resist the flaming fire ?
And melt the ice, and make the frost retire?
So much for the Royal Polygamist
He bowed the heavens also and came and his despotic verses. “ Fools," down: and darkness was under his feet. indeed, to allow a son of clay like And he rode upon a cherub and did fly: themselves, to insult them in poetry, yea, he did fy upon the wings of the wind.
He made darkness his secret place : his as if prose were not sublime enough to express the greatness of their in- pavilions round about him were dark waters,
and thick clouds of the skies. significance !
The Lord also thundered in the hea. The Emperor Adrian had un
vens: and the Highest gave his voice, doubtedly a soul for poetry ; the pa- hailstones and coals of fire. thetic lines which he wrote whilst Yea, he sent out his arrows and scattered on his death-bed, have never been them; and he shot out lightnings and disequalled, though frequently imitated comfited them. by those who would blush to be com
Then the channels of waters were scen, pared with him as poets:
and the foundations of the world were disa
covered : at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the Animula, vagula, blandula,
blast of the breath of thy nostrils. Hospes, comesque corporis, Quæ nunc abibis in loca ?
Poetry of such tremendous subliPallidula, rigida, nudula,
mity as this, renders all other comNec, ut soles, dabis joca ?
position mean and grovelling. It
transcends, by an infinite measure, The diminutives and titles of en- Virgil's description of Jupiter striking dearment which the dying Emperor Mount Athos with a thunderbolt, in applies to his soul, give these verses his Georgics. Milton, whose temea prettiness, yet of a melancholy rity in the sublime is remarkable, sort, which no translation into Eng- and whose subject often inspires him lish can attain. It is worth while with more than mortal strength of remarking, that the epitaphs—pale, imagination, appears tame and feeble stiff, and naked, cannot be preserved beside the poet of God. except when the national mythology
History informs us, that Alexander allows the spirit to be material, or
the Great usually slept with Homer at least, visible, as was the case with and his sword under his pillow. It Paganism. It is so likewise, per- is probable, however, that the martial haps, with vulgar, but certainly not and adventurous nature of these with true and philosophical Christi- works procured them this honour, anity.
not their poetical merit. But as to But of Royal Poets, David is at Alexander himself, he was certainly once the most ancient and most il- no poet-at least if he was, history lustrious ; the Sacred Minstrel can has forgot to mention it. Pisistratus, alone, of all the sceptred race, be tyrant of Athens, is said to have colsaid to have enjoyed in its highest lected the scattered verses of Homer, degree, the gift of poetic inspiration, a better proof of his taste than unless the Song of Solomon be pro- Alexander has left us of his; neverperly so entitled.
In one of his theless there is a great difference bePsalms there is a description which tween the compiler and composer of far exceeds in point of sublimity the verses. One or two instances more highest flights of profane imagina- than those we have given, might be tion; the Muse of Homer or of Shak- cited to increase the miserable band speare, in her loftiest hours, would of Poets Royal ;* in examining their not have dared to utter such magni- pretensions, however, it is but fair ficent language as this :
to own that they are very humble, Then the earth shook and trembled; and indeed (except in the sacred exa the foundations also of the hills moved and amples) should be so. were shaken, because He was wroth.
James I. of Scotland, author of King's Quair and Christ's Kirk of the Green, wears his laurel like a true soldier of Calliope.
NOTES FROM THE POCKET-BOOK OF A LATE OPIUM-EATER.
FALSE DISTINCTIONS. The petty distinctions current in tion than men. This monstrous asconversation and criticism--are all sertion, which is made in contempt false when they happen to regard in- of all literature, not only comes fortellectual objects: and there is no ward as a capital element in all atmode of error which is so disgust. tempts * to characterize the female ing to a man who has descended sex, as contradistinguished from the an inch below the surface of things: male, but generally forms the theme for their evil is—first, That they be- on which all the rest is but a descome so many fetters to the mind; cant. A friend, to whom I was noand secondly, That they give the ap- ticing this, suggested that by Imapearance of ambitious paradoxes to gination in this place was meant any juster distinctious substituted in simply the Fancy in its lighter and their places. More error is collected more delicate movements. But even in the form of popular distinctions this will not cure the proposition : than in any other shape: and as they so restricted even, it is a proposition are always assumed (from their uni- which sets all experience at defiversal currency), without the mind's ance. For, not to be so hard upon ever being summoned to review them, the female sex as to ask-Where they present incalculable hindrances is their Paradise Lost ? Where to its advance in every direction. is their Lear and Othello ?—I will What a world of delusion, for ex- content myself with asking, where is ample, lies in the hollow distinction the female Hudibras, or the female of Reason and Imagination. I pro- Dunciad? Or, to descend from works test that I feel a sense of shame for of so masculine a build, to others of the human intellect, and sit uneasily more delicate proportions, where is in my chair, when I hear a man the female Rape of the Lock? Or, summing up his critique upon a to adapt the question to the French book, by saying, “ that in short it is literature, Where is the female Veraddressed to the imagination and not Vert? + And the same questions to the reason.” Yet upon this may be put, mutatis mutandis, upon meagre and vague opposition are all other literatures past or current. built many other errors as gross as Men are shy of pressing too hard itself. I will notice three :
upon women: however much our 1. That women have more imagina- sisters may be in the wrong (and
* See for instance those which occur in the works of Mrs. Hannah Morema woman of great talents, and for whom I feel the greatest respect personally, having long had the pleasure of her acquaintance : her conversation is brilliant and instructive : but this has nothing to do with her philosophy.
+ This little work of Gresset's occupies the same station in the French literature that the Rape of the Lock does in ours. For playful wit, it is the jewel of the French Poésies Légéres. Its inferiority to the Rape of the Lock, however, both in plan and in brilliancy of execution, is very striking,—and well expresses the general ratio of the French literature to ours. If in any department, common prejudice would have led us in this to anticipate a superiority on the part of the French. Yet their inferiority is hardly any where more conspicuous.-By the way, it is very reinarkable, that the late Mr. Scott, who had expressly studied the French literature, should have had so little acquaintance with a writer of Gresset's eminence, as is argued by the fact of his having admitted into the LONDON MAGAZINE a mere prose abstract of the Ver-Vert, without any reference to the French original. This is the more remarkable, because there existed already in the English language, a metrical version of the Ver-Vert (a bad one, I dare say), which is reprinted in so notorious a book as Chalmers's Poets. The prose abstract is not ill executed according to my remembrance : but still an abridgment of a jeu d'esprit, in all parts elaborately burnished, is of itself an absurdity: to strip it of verse is no advantage: and to omit the recommendation of a celebrated name, seems to argue that it was unknown.
they generally are in the wrong), in is the female Æschylus, or Euripides,
any but the rudest thoughts ; so that But this Arabian image has on the such feelings as are not of hourly re- contrary translated the infinite into currence can be expressed only by the finite. And so it is generally figures. Moreover it is a mistake to with Oriental imagery. suppose that merely to deal in figu- In all this there is something more rative language implies any imagi- than mere error of fact; something native power: it is one of the com- worse than mere error of theory; forit monest expressions of the over-ex- is thus implied that the understanding citement of weakness; for there are and the imaginative faculty exist in in spasms of weakness no less than sulation-neither borrowing nor lendspasms of strength. - In all the spe- ing; that they are strong at the excimens of savage eloquence which pense of each other ; &c. &c. And have been reported to us (as that of from these errors of theory arise Logan, &c.), there is every mark practical errors of the worst conseof an infantine understanding the quence. One of the profoundest is thoughts are of the poorest order; that which concerns the discipline of and, what is particularly observable, the reasoning faculties. All men are are mere fixtures in the brain anxious, if it were only for display having no vital principle by which in conversation, to " reason” (as they become generative or attractive they call it) well. But how mighty of other thoughts. A Demosthenical is the error which many make about fervor of manner they sometimes the constituents of that power! have ; which arises from the predo- That the fancy has any thing to do minance of interrogation-the sup- with it—is the last thought that pression of the logical connexions would occur to them. Logic, say the nakedness of their mode of sche- they, delivers the art of reasoning; matising the thoughts—and the con- and logic has surely no commerce sequent rapidity with which the dif- with the fancy. Be it so: but logic, ferent parts of the harangue succeed though indispensable, concerns only to each other. But these characte- the formal part of reasoning; and is ristics of manner, which in the Athe- therefore only its negative condition: nian were the result of exquisite your reasoning will be bad, if it artifice, in them are the mere negu- offends against the rules of logic; tive product of their intellectual bar- but it will not be good simply by renness. The Athenian forewent the conforming to them. To use a word full developement of the logical con- equivocally for instance, i.e. in two nexion: the savage misses it from senses, will be in effect to introduce the unpractised state of his reason- four terms into your syllogism; and ing faculties: the Athenian was that will be enough to vitiate it. naked from choice and for effect; But will it of necessity heal your the savage from poverty. And, bé argument-to exterminate this diathe manner what it may, the matter lectic error ? Surely not: the matter of a savage oration is always despi- of your reasoning is the grand point ; cable. But, if savages betray the and this can no more be derived from negation of all imaginative power logic, than a golden globe from the (= o), the oriental nations betray geometry of the sphere. It is the negative of that power =-ima- through the fancy, and by means of gination). In the Koran I read that the schemata which that faculty furthe pen, with which God writes, is nishes to the understanding, that made of mother-of-pearl, and is so reasoning (good or bad) proceeds, long, that an Arabian courser of the as to its positive or material part, on finest breed would not be able to most of the topics which interest gallop from one end to the other in a mankind: the vis imaginatrix of the space of 500 years. Upon this it mind is the true fundus from which would be said in the usual style of the understanding draws: and it English criticism—“ Yes: no doubt, may be justly said in an axiomatic it is very extravagant: the writer's form that si Tantum habet homo imagination runs away with his discursùs, quantum habet phanjudgment.” Imagination ! How tasiæ.” 80? The imagination seeks the il- On this doctrine however at anlimitable; dissolves the definite; other time: meantime I would ask of translates the finite into the infinite. any reader, to whom it appears