« PreviousContinue »
which the town-bred bards, whose idea of a mountain was acquired at Richmond, and who knew nothing of rural beauties but a haycock and a syllabub, had neither enthusiasm to imagine, or fufficient knowledge of the subject to describe. Their pastorals, accordingly, are merely imitations of the worst parts of Virgil ; and, instead of real nature, are filled with fauns and fatyrs which exist no where, or with love and politics which may be had any where.
They seem never to have suspected, that a lover might despair in Moorfields as well as in Arcadia ; and that the stockjobbers at Garraway's, were at least as hearty as the fwains of Trent, in their regret for King William's death. · Nor did those who, like Philips and Gay, were really accurate observers of rural manners, at all admire or comprehend what were, properly speaking, rural beauties.
The grand and pervading fault, however, of the poets of the early part of the last century, is the indistinctness of their draw. ing, and the want of picturesque grouping. Milton and Spencer paint the landscapes they describe. Their distances are really indistinct ; nor, when Milton describes towers and battlements,
• bosom’d high in tufted trees,' does he describe the accurate form, or enter into a detail of their windows and furniture. Pope, on the other hand, and the author of Grongar Hill, (by no means the most feeble in their style of poetry), give rather a dry catalogue of beauties, than a repre. sentation of their general effect. Light and shade are disregarded; and they describe alike the foreground and the horizon with all the monotonous glare of a Chinese screen.
Thomson was perhaps the first who restored the ancient perception of the more striking features of nature, and brought back to our island a knowledge of her own beauties. Yet his times had so much remaining of bad taste and bad habits, that even Thomson had little opportunity to describe the more remote and sublimer landscape. The country was still considered rather as a threat to disobedient wives, than a desireable residence; and the description of a moor or a waterfall would be little understood or relished by the frequenters of Hampton Court, or those who lis, tened with so much delight to the nightingales at Vauxhall. Goldsmith contributed, perhaps, even more than Thomson, to restore good taste in this instance; and Cowper, perhaps, poflefled it more than either. , Yet, while we admire his powers of description, we must always lament those unfortunate circumstances, which doomed the eye of a real poet to rest on the flat and unmeaning pastures of Buckinghamshire. He may, however, be said to haye blown the enchanted horn; and all the ladies of hills, of woods, and of waters, were immediately in motion. Wealthy
clergymen began to walk in their forests; village curates to gather dandelions; and philosophers to mourn and moralyze, and murmur over ponds three feet long, and two feet wide.' On the whole, we may be perhaps allowed to doubt, whether the advantages of a more accurate observation of nature, have not been counterbalanced, as well by the devouring flight of tourists, as by the equally annoying, and, now, equally periodical visitation of tame or forced, or filly descriptions of rural scenery, rural manners, or rural enjoyments.
Amid so much to disgust us, we are disposed, perhaps, to make large allowances, and to turn with real pleasure to the productions of a man of cultivated taste and unaffected, who, without the microscopic eye of some of our poetical Leuenhocks, is still an accurate observer of nature, and who feels what he writes, with. out professing to write from his feeling.
· I more safely like the bee
Who, in pleasant Chamouny,
Whom moft I love, and most would please.' Mr Mant's principal fault is an extraordinary occasional feebleness, which sometimes entirely spoils the effect of what would else be pleasing description.
With some exceptions of this kind, the Sunday Morning' has great merit as an imitation of the golden age of English poetry. · It is painful, however, to have our course stopt in such a poem, by being desired,
i Returning home, to muse
On sweet and folemn views.' -which may be an extract from a sermon, as the following is undoubtedly from a village epitaph,
I hear a voice which speaks to me,
And burn with zeal to follow thee.' We were much pleased with the • Inscription in an Arbour,' which is remarkably free from that neglect of perspective which we have censured in the works of many superior poets.
• But if the thrush, with warbling clear,
Or whistling blackbird charm thine ear,
Suong field, and shady rook
Or the heifer's balmy breath'In this we cannot but observe, both in the choice of the epithers, 'tufted violet '_ gadding woodbine, &c. and in the easy and natural flow of the whole description, a habit of observing nature accurately, and of seizing such beauties as are best suited to description. We have principally attended to Mr Mant's descriptions of nature, because it is there he seems to us most fortunate. His other poems have, on the whole, little to detain us. We must except from this ge. eral sertence, his WarSong on the threatened invason, of which as well as the Dirge on Lord Nelson's death, it is b rely justice to observe, that they are the best on the subject we have yet seen.
• I mourn thee not ;-ih juga thurt thy day,
Thy giant courte was run :
And cheer thy setting fun.
Fair deeds of mercy wrought ;-
Be bliss,-I mourn thee not,' Mr Mant must learn, however, that the too frequent mention of his own conjugal felicity is very dangerous ground, and that, in general, addresses to private friends, and the occurrences of private families, require a very nervous lyre indeed to preserve them from the ridicule of a world, to whom their persons are uninteresting, and their characters probably unknown.
It is seldom, perhaps, much to the purpose, to praise a poet for his morality ; but it must always afford us pleasure, in one particularly of Mr Mant's profession, to observe in his whole volume, and every part of it, a strong and manly train of virtuous sentiment, which may be very advantageously contrasted with the 8trains of some of his most celebrated contemporaries.
On the whole, though these poems evince (what is no small or vulgar praise) considerable powers both of describing and enjoy
ing the pleasures of an elegant and virtuous retirement, yet we cannot help hinting to Mr Mant, that we think he had more merit in composing than in publishing them. To write smooth verses is a very innocent amusement for a man of leisure and education, —and to read them in manuscript to his family or intimate associates is also a very venial and amiable indulgence of vanity ;but to push them out into the wide world, is not altogether so safe or laudable a speculation : and, though we are happy to tell him, that we think his talents respectable, yet we feel it a duty to announce to him, that we have not been able to discern in his works any of the tokens of immortality; and to caution him not to put himself in the way of more unmerciful critics.
Art. XI. General Observations upon the probable Effects of any Measures which have for their Object the Increase of the Regular Army; and upon the Principles which should regulate the System for calling out the great Body of the People in Defence of the British Empire. By a Country Gentleman. 8vo. pp. 100. London and Edinburgh. 1807. In considering the various measures which have been brought
forward for the purpose of increasing our military strength, we are naturally struck with the ease and rapidity with which established plans are put down, in order to make way for new and more inviting experiments. Every year brings forth some new project; and a military plan, like the minister's budget, is almost expected to make part of the business of each new session of parliament. Does this propensity to continual alteration proceed from any national view of emendation, or is it the result of fickle and of erring counsels? We confess, we are rather inclined to favour the latter supposition, when we consider the origin and the fate of the various projects that have lately succeeded each other on this most important subject. It is now four years since we began to dabble in military matters; from that period we have been continually groping, with blind improvidence, from one experiment to another; and we now seem to be as far from any certain or settled views on the subject, as when we first set out. We appear, indeed, to have exhausted our stock of expedients; and, having no new device to exhibit, we are forced to have recourse to an old project, which, in an unlucky moment of sober reflection, we had abandoned for its iniquity and folly. There is, indeed, no department of our policy (although it is proper to speak with diffidence on this point) in which such puerility and mismanagement have been displayed, as in the measures which have been adopted for the increase of our army; it
is on this account that we propose to make a sober appeal to the good sense of the country on the principle of those measures; fully convinced that, when they are brought to the test of reason and argument, their true tendency and character will quickly appear. For the sake of clearness, we must premise a very few general observations.
There are two ways, and only two, in which a state may recruit its armies ; either by compulsion, or by voluntary service. Where the first of these modes is adopted, the business is accomplished with very little trouble to the government. The men are taken wherever they are found ; and nothing is required but an order for a levy or conscription. As this mode of proceeding saves an infinite deal of trouble to the rulers, so it has always been much in favour with those who had the means of enforcing it, and, under one form or another, has been very generally adopted. Even in this country, although we have not often resorted to direct compulsion, our policy has always had a leaning that way. This has, indeed, been justified on the ground of necessity ; but statesmen are always eager to lay hold of this plea, as an apology for their own incapacity or sloth. Before admitting it, therefore, it will be proper to consider, whether there are any inherent disadvantages in the military profession, which prevents the state from procuring, by voluntary inlistment, the number of men necessary for its defence.
It is an undoubted fact, that, in every other calling, whenever an additional number of hands is wanted, they are always procured without any violent interference with the natural order of society. The manufacturer, when he is setting up new works, never speculates on the possibility of being obstructed in his schemes by the want of workmen ; and there is no employment, however disagreeable, disgusting, or dirty, however dangerous or unhealthy, to which there is the slightest difficulty in diverting the quantity of industry which society requires. It is natural, therefore, to inquire, how it happens that individuals are so successful in procuring, for their several vocations, the voluntary services of as many men as they Tequire, while those, to whom the government of the country has been entrusted, although they have been dealing in military plans and projects for some years, have never been able to raise such a number of men as they judged necessary. The reason of this, however, will clearly appear, when it is considered that the means adopted by the two parties for attaining their respective objects, are wholly opposite. An individual, when he is recruiting for any employment which is disagreeable or unhealthy, knows he will not procure men on the same terms as those who üre engaging them for more eligible occupations. He offers