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the study of such models, we might learn what is this archetype, which, when it reveals itself in language, puts on such glorious shape. Or, looking into the depths of the heart, and discovering there a spiritual faculty which never fails to be responsive to the voice of genuine poetry, we might, perhaps, perceive what that power
is which can thus sway our common humanity. We are not ambitious of adding another to the many attempted definitions of poetry; indeed, so various are its functions and so numerous the faculties marshalled in its service, that it may well be doubted whether there is not something unphilosophical in such attempts.
On this subject we desire to appeal to authority, and, happily, from oracles of philosophy we can gather some sentences of wisdom to illustrate the characteristics of poetry, the duties of the poet's high vocation, and the purposes for which his spirit is endowed. When Lord Bacon took that survey of human knowledge which has been a chart for inquiry, he did not forget " that part of learning styled poesy,” but saw in it the aspirations of “the spirit of man for a more ample greatness, a more exact goodness, the world being in proportion inferior to the soul.” “Poesy,” he continues, in a sentence which shows that the light of truth was in his heart, “serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality, and to delectation. And, therefore, it was ever thought to hare some participation of divineness, because it doth raise and erect the mind, by submitting the shows of things to the desires of the mind.” This authority may be wholesome physic for that modern school which sets up its materialized notions, and, measuring the philosophic vision of Lord Verulam by their own short sight, would tempt the credulous to think that the world of the senses can yield an all sufficient philosophy, and that in the scheme he shadowed forth, no thought was iaken of the inner world of the human soul — the affections, the will, the fancy, and that much mistaken faculty, which, in its purest state, makes man “in apprehension so like a god” — the imagination. These passages have been quoted to sustain by the authority of a sage the lofty estimate of poetry for which we are contending. The philosophy of Bacon is itself instinct with processes of imagination, and, when in search of another authority we turn to Shakspeare from the volume of philosophy to the volume of poetry - it is no unnatural transition, for, in the inventive faculty there is a bond of brotherhood between them. We have often regarded it as a remarkable evidence of Shakspeare's powers of philosophical analysis, and of his deep insight into liis own great endowment, that in a few lines — incidentally too, as a mere illustration - he should have put into the mouth of one of his characters one of the finest descriptions on record of the principle and functions of poetic genius. The passage has been sadly blunted by the frequency of thoughtless quotation, but we require it now as a philosophical authority. First, to distinguish the processes of imagination from those of “ cool reason" — the calculating faculty — be groups together the lunatic, the Jover, and the poet, of imagination all compact," and then, after glancing at the diseased vision of madness, and the enthralled eyes of love, he sets before us the action of a sane though servid imagination :
“ The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
A local habitation and a name.' When Spenser sent forth his immortal allegory, his bigh aim appears from the explanatory letter to Raleigh, that “the general end of all the Booke is to fashion a gentleman or noble person in vertuous and gentle discipline," and thus he “moralized in song.” In all his laments too — heart-broken as he probably was — is it not plain that not so much for personal neglect was he sorrowing, but that the voice of the muse found not a welcome in the minds of his countrymen ?
"O, pierlesse poesie! where is then thy place ?
And whence thou camest, flie backe to heaven apace.” In the same age, Spenser's patron, the matchless Sidney, composed that Defence of Poetry, which cannot become obsolete, so long as the weakness of men's spirits suffers the sensual to usurp dominion in them over the ideal, and so to bow the poet's godlike function to the earthy knowledge, that enters by the eye and the ear, and is wrought by the hand. We cannot forbear adding, that if, in the sixteenth century, when the christian faith had, by the blessing of God, returned to the innocence of its childhood - when the apathy of a decrepid superstition just cast off, the pulse of protestant England was beating with the flushi of youth — when loyalty and chivalry and the sense of danger were breathing new blood into tie nation's heart, and when the unexplored regions of a new world were stimulating fancy and enterprise, if in such an age the voice of Sidney was demanded to vindicate that art, which flourishes best in the atmosphere of generous emotions, we fear a mightier magic must be appealed to in our generation, when a mechanical philosophy, dealing in things of sense alone, and therefore proud and selfsufficient, is proclaiming that the chief avenues to truth are her paths of observation and experiment. We take side with Shakspeare, and beneath the shield of his name maintain that there is a high road to truth, a sacred way lighted by the highest intellectual faculty - the imagination, and there the humble and docile spirit may advance more safely than when holding the hand of an unimaginative and faithless spirit of inquiry. Better far to confide in that wisdom, which, like Shakspeare's, learns more of truth in the recesses of its own being, than in the complicated processes of that vain philosophy, which goes about to peep and peer into the chambers of nature. When the imagination is shut out, and our thoughts surrendered to the dominion of the mere speculative power, infidelity is ready to follow quickly in the train, because the aspirations of the soul are suspended. What but this is the ecret of that scandal of atheism from which Sir Thomas Browne labored to vindicate his profession? When Chaucer portrays the “Doctor of Physic," he makes him rich in all the lore of the outward world— 5 of cold or hot, or moist or dry,” but one significant line tells, as a natural sequel, of his irreligious temper :
“His study was but little on the Bible.” It matters not whether speculation is busy among the nerves, or with the palpable substance of the brain- our mortal mechanism-or whether armed with a mighty calculus it reach to the mechanism of the heavens; the knowledge which is not spiritualized by imagination, may take the name of philosophy, but the poison of a godless wisdom is in it-it is sensual, hollow, and perishable. Accustomed to acquire knowledge chiefly by processes of the understanding, we are apt to grow skeptical respecting the functions of imagination. It becomes mysterious to us, and in our feebleness and pride we question the existence of its highest forms. It is thus that the genius of Shakspeare is looked on as anomalous and inexplicable. But we ask no better proof of the presence of such a sovereign power in the mind, and of its might in revealing truth, than the creations in his dra
By what observation or experience - in what walk of his life, or in what volume could Shakspeare have gathered the materials to place before the mind's eye, in such reality, those beings whose names, or little more, had been made familiar by history. How happens it, that so far as personal character is concerned, or the periods of history which he has touched, there is a stronger light than all the chronicles can give? What faculty but imagination could take the skeleton of some old tradition- the dry bones of some mouldering legend, and clothe them with flesh and blood, and give them life? Or when passing above nature, he creates Ariel, and Puck, and the Wierd Sisters-nameless and sexless-does not the heart instinctively recognise that they, too, are true — almost historic personages - and in that instinct is there not an acknowledgment of the virtue of imagination, such as it had being in the soul of Shak
We dwell on these subjects, because, in approaching the examination of the works of one who has earned some of the muse's highest honors, we are anxious first to disabuse the mind of that low estimate of poetic genius which people are apt to give in to, when every mawkish versifier is styled a poet. The artifice of a flowery diction is confounded with the simple majesty of true inspiration. “I must confess,” says Lord Shaftsbury, in his advice to an author, “there is hardly any where to be found a more insipid race of mortals than those whom we moderns are contented to call poets, for having attained the chiming faculty of a language, with an injudicious random use of wit and fancy.” Imagination is feebly appreciated, too, not only in consequence of the loose colloquial acceptation of the word, but because it is cramped in the narrow definitions of the schools of metaphysics, teaching that its office is to dissect what nature offers, and then culling its materials to build up a new nature of its own.
No-lofty as this faculty is, it is not so presumptuous - it has an bumbler wisdom : its chief duty is rather to take nature as it is, and to disclose the moral and spiritual associations of all that is palpable to the eye and ear— to show not only the outward world of sense, but the inner world of the human souland to give them unity.
Another great authority for the worth of poetic wisdom is Milton, for he, too, accomplished his own conception of the poet's calling. It would be easy to show that at no period—in the buoyancy of youth — in the bitterest of his controversies, or in his state services – whether vindicating his private good name,
or standing forth to defend the English people in favor, or in poverty and persecution - did he forget that the great business of his life was to give utterance to the promptings of imagination. Poetry was his imperial theme — the controlling and harmonizing idea of his existence, and the aspirations of his inmost nature may be traced throughout all his writings, no matter how unpromising their topic. The art enters into his scheme of education, “not,” as he protests, “the prosody of a verse among the rudiments of grammar; but that sublime art which teaches what are the laws of a true epic poem, what of a dramatic, what of a lyric, what decorum is, which is the grand master piece to observe. This would soon show what despicable creatures our common rhymers and play-writers be, and what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in dirine and human things.” When Milton addresses the parliament, he is true to his fraternity, and cites, as an authority to that tribunal, the imaginative lore of “our sage and serious poet, Spenser, whom,” he adds, “I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas.” And when nearly thirty years before its consummation, the idea of his " adventurous song" broke the bonds of silence in anticipations that at some distant day he might “take up the harp and sing an elaborate song to generations” - and when he spake of being “ led by the genial power of nature to another task” than polemic theology, and of “the inward prompting that by labor and intense study, joined with the strong propensity of nature, he might perhaps leave something so written to after-times, as they should not willingly let die,” — all — not less than his immortal epic - show his deep conviction that the highest aim of the human mind is poetry — that the things of " highest hope and hardest attempting proposed by the mind in the spacious circuits of her musing” are to be wrought out by the imagination. This may conflict with the pride of the understanding and the conceit of pedantry, as it is the error of unimaginative intellects that the faculty in question is among the subordinate powers of the mind. In the spirit of Milton, it brought an intuitive sense of its majesty, which bursts forth in its own sublime vindication probably the most eloquent annunciation of the functions of the imagination ever uttered :
« These abilities, (by which the grandest poetry is produced,) wheresoever they be found, are the inspired gift of God, rarely bestowed, but yet to some (though most abuse) in every nation: and are of power, beside the office of a pulpit, to imbreed and
NO. VII.-VOL. IV.