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and in the absence of a creative spirit or a keen insight and searching sensibilities; and shaping art, its chief attractions were found Burns was luckily without that smattering of in its executive skill, and a style accomplished, learning which often leads men from what masculine, and pointed. It died out soon, surrounds them, without enabling them truly however, for it had no root. Its classical il- to appreciate the spirit of another age.
He lusions, taken at second hand, had never felt deeply; and he affected nothing foreign breathed a genuine classical spirit; and its to his genius. Song and ballad, and light disquisitions gradually degenerated into met- tale and humorous dialogue, the forms of rical treatises on botany, hunting, or med composition with which the neighborhood icine !
was familiar,—with these, while he “ In conjunction with stronger political inter- locked his heart,” he also interpreted that ests and deeper feelings on moral and relig- of his country. Most of those qualities ious subjects, Poetry gradually revived. It which were distributed among his countryexhibited, from the first, a native origin that men were concentrated in his larger being, or attested its authenticity, and in time it devel- embraced by his ardent sympathies. As a oped an ideal aim. The former was marked thousand rivulets are blended in one broad by its fidelity to nature, and its frequent ref- river, so the countless instincts, energies, and erence to the rural manners of England. The faculties, as well as associations, traditions, nature which Thomson describes is living and other social influences which constitute nature, and the blood flows freely in her national life, are reconciled in him whom fuveins. A refined appreciation of the grace ture ages are to recognize as the poet of the ful and the poetical he lacked; and the defi- nation. It is not merely the romantic side of ciency which makes itself ridiculous in the the Scotch character which was represented clumsy handling of his “Musidora" and other in Burns,--its imagination, its patriotism, its narratives, exists also in his delineations of zealous affectionateness, its love of the legendscenery. The landscapes of Thomson, like ary, the marvelous, and the ancient; that those of Rubens, are sensual, though in each part, in fact, which belongs chiefly to the case we remark that quality less than when highlands. As amply was he furnished with the subject treated is higher; and in each the better lowland qualities,-sense, indethe want of refinement and spirituality is pendence, courageous perseverance, shrewdcompensated by a rich combination of less ness and humor; a retentive heart, and a exalted merits. The poet and the painter mind truthful even when reserved. These alike present us, in their landscapes, with the qualities were united in his abundant nature; “fat of the land :” their substantial plains and his poetic temperament freed them from and well-watered meads remind us that they the limitations which belong to every charwere intended to be meat for man and for acter formed upon a local type. The consebeast; but whatever they may lack they are quence has been that his songs are sung at the not deficient in reality. With an idyllic a hearth and on the mountain-side; his pathos moral poetry rose up. The moral medita- is felt and his humor applauded by the viltions of Young had comprised much original lage circle ; his sharp descriptions and shrewd thought of native English growth. Cowper, questions on grave matters are treated as ina kindred, though far greater poet, expressed dulgently by ministers of the “National Asin purer and simpler language thoughts with sembly," the “Free Kirk,” and “orthodox more of depth and of substantial worth, as dissenters," as Boccaccio's stories have been well as a strain of sentiment, manly, religious, by the Italian clergy: and for the lonely trayand gravely affectionate. In him, too, we eler from the south the one small volume find an admirable fidelity to outward nature in which contains his works is the best of guidedetail; although with her grander forms, un books,-not, indeed, to noted spots and the endeared by association, he had little sym- best inns—but to the manners, the moral soul, pathy; while ideal representations of scenery and the heart of the Scotch people. In other are no more to be found in his poetry than words, Burns is emphatically a national poet. ideal conceptions of character.
We have now brought down nearly to If the poetry of Cowper belongs to our our own times our imperfect sketch of the national school, that of Burns is yet more two main schools into which our poetic litracy of the soil. He was, on the whole, erature may be divided ; and we have almore fortunately circumstanced for poetry, ready remarked that both these schools have though he had more to contend with. The their origin in the nature of poetry and the period at which he lived furnished materials instincts of man. This statement derives an sufficiently poetical, when presented to his historical confirmation from the fact that VOL. XIX. NO. I.
both became extinct together, when English | dramatic. In both, however, we find a poetry had declined into mere imitation ; deep-seated patriotism, a reverence for the and that whenever the poetic genius of Eng: hearth, a love of local traditions, an English land has been most powerfully developed, enjoyment of nature, a humanity, mournful both have flourished together-united like not seldom, and even in its cheerfulness the Latin and Saxon elements of
grave-as though cheerfulness were less an pound language. The poetic mind of Eng. instinct than a virtue or a duty. Most of land, on its revival toward the end of the these qualities exist also in the poetry of last century, again as of old, manifested it- Mr. Southey, in which, with less both of self in the form of two schools which, with thought and imagination, and a style less much in common, still represented, notwith- pregnant and felicitous, there is more of instanding, the northern and southern hemis- vention, and a more determined purpose. It pheres of our literature. Wordsworth and is thus that with many and important differColeridge were the chief examples of our ences poets whose individuality is complete, national school ; though in Coleridge the yet admit of being classed together. The national frequently passed into a mystical same fact is true with respect to Shelley and inspiration ; Shelley and Keats of the ideal. Keats, and Mr. Landor, and others who These were not, perhaps, the most popular might be named,-poets in whom a southern poets of their time; but they were the most temperament and more classical ideal precharacteristic, and they have exercised the vails. most enduring influence. We have referred It was in temperament chiefly that Mr. to but a few of the names most generally Shelley belonged to the classical school. In known: but to each school belonged many intellect he was metaphysical and abstract, writers whose works will long be remem- to a degree scarcely compatible with the bered.
sensuous character of Greek poetry. His The word School, we are aware, is an in- imagination likewise, admirable as it was, adequate one; and we use it but for the differed essentially from that of the classic convenience of classification. The growths models. It was figurative rather than plastic. of the same region, however diverse in de- In place of moulding the subject of a poem tail, have yet characteristic features in com- a whole, it scattered itself abroad in mon: and it is thus also with the growths of the splendor of countless metaphors, seen the mind. In Mr. Coleridge's poetry the sometimes one through another, like a taper reasoning faculty is chiefly that of contem discerned through a taper. A beautiful implation and intuition ; in Mr. Wordsworth's, age had for him an attraction independently the meditative and the discursive prevails; of the thought with which it was allied; and, but to both a predominance of the thought once brought within the sphere of its attracful is common; and in that respect both tion, his fancy fluttered around it, bewildered poets not only illustrate the peculiar genius and intoxicated. A thought had for him of their country, but are also fit interpreters also a value irrespectively of the place which of the spirit of their age, as distinguished it held in his argument : he prized it as from the fashion of the moment or the senti- truth; he prized il yet more as knowledge ; ment of the hour. In both, too, there is a and with such thoughts his poetry, at once remarkable absence of the versatile faculty, subtly and expansively intellectual, is charged as exhibited in one of the modes to which to a degree almost unprecedented. The lawe have alluded ;-and accordingly, in the mentable errors which lurked in the first poetry of both, little change has taken place principles upon which he had so recklessly except that of growth. Till their genius had precipitated himself, (errors, however, hardly found out its own nature and scope it would worse than lurk in many grave treatises welrehearse no other part. The “Laodamia" comed with little mistrust at the present of the latter shows at once what he might day,) of course infected his results. The have done, and what it was foreign to him conclusions, however, at which he arrived, to do; nor does any great poet, mediæval were logical; and those who can learn from or classical, seem to have ever drawn either errors as well as truths, will find a sad inof them into the sphere of his separate at-struction in the coherency of his reasonings, traction, and detained him there. In the and a comparative safety in the audacity drama, also, neither of them had versatility with which they are expressed. If, for inenough to avoid a certain psychological stance, we adopt the opinion--which is a effect—the result of a knowledge of charac- suppressed premise in all his speculations,ter which was metaphysical rather than I namely, that there exists no moral evil in
the nature of man except that which finds | while that one which unites the saturnine its way there accidentally,—it will be hard with the impassioned produces poetry often, to avoid conclusions analogous to his, re- as it were, by disease, poetry is the natural specting both religion and government. The expression of one like his,-sanguine, and orseed at least of such principles will be planted, ganized with the utmost of nervous sensibility. and their growth will depend on the ardor The former quality is marked by that soaring of the climate, and the fertility of the soil. hope with which he watches the destinies of It is only with his poetry, however, that we man, heralding the promise of a Future on are now concerned. Its abstruse as well as which he-the professed enemy of Faithimaginative character would have rendered had too credulous a dependence. The secit almost unintelligible, if he had not pos- ond we trace in the childlike wonder with sessed, though apparently by nature rather which he regards the daily face of Nature; than by study, a singular gift of language. all objects, from the far-off peak to the flower His diction, which was searching, vigorous, at the mountain's base, wearing for him a various, arranged itself into periods, scho- radiance, as if the glorious apparition of the lastic in the skill that joined clause on to earth had but just started into existence. clause, and the sustained melody of which at His disposition also, as it is described by his once discriminated the meaning and enforced friends, cordial and full of sweetness, though the sentiment. The same dialectical preci- threatening if assailed,-impetuous, yet shy sion gave dignity to his style, whether he at intervals, and when shy, opening no more, wrote in verse or in prose ; and imparted to -makes itself felt throughout its poetry in both the utmost clearness which the subject many a passage, the sentiment of which, if matter, the involved thought, and the re- deficient in robustness, is alive with pathetic dundant imagery allowed of. This faculty tenderness. His character, too, affected as was eminently Grecian; and the very sound it was by outward accidents, stands up in his of that noble language, which was not so works conspicuous, for evil and for good. much a study to him as a delight, will often His poetry, in truth, is the embodiment of a be found in his verse. He reminds us of the social creed, not only dogmatic and exclusive, Greek inspiration chiefly by the skill with but aggressive. His song is no voice from which he illustrated the ancient mythology: Nature's recesses, sent forth to indicate the In his “Prometheus Unbound,” his classical whereabout of sweet and secret passion; vein is too often checked by political or met still less is it the orderly array of thought aphysical disquisitions most inappropriately with which the ambitious scholar studiously introduced; but in it, and in the choruses adorns his theme and commends his name to of his “Hellas," there is an Aschilean posterity. It is the chaunt of the bard, energy; and many of the classical touches rather the war-note of the prophet-chief. In in his Adonais” are admirably true. It is, the solitudes of the soul, and when most however, in his minor poems that he most hidden in the light of thought," Shelley belongs to the South. His “ Hymn of was a public man-bent on political deApollo” and “ Hymn of Pan" are full of the signs, such designs as even now convulse musical hilarity of the Greeks ; his “ Ode to the world. His spirit did not, indeed, like Naples” is a true ode of compact structure Milton's,“ sit in the pomp of singing robes," and concentrated purpose ; and his “ Are- but, to use his own expression, “ hovered in thusa,” the metre of which sweeps along verse o'er his accustomed prey.” Nor, in so like a vernal torrent, and in which the nymph estimating himself, did he mistake, we think, and the element she presides over are with either his vocation or his abilities; but he such skill blended and alternated, proves greatly mistook the subject and himself. He that Shelley's versatile temperament included taught when he had but began to think, that Protean power by which the Greeks and before he had begun to learn; and the dramatized Nature and humanized all her 9 perverse error which blinded his eyes was a forms.
snare also to his feet, and made void one In few writers are we more instructively balf of the work of his hands. Seldom have reminded than in Shelley, of that analogy such gifts been so abused. He was strong between the Poet and the Man, without in zeal, but weak through self-confidence : which poetry would include little inward he rushed into the fight without armor, significance and moral power. His tempera- though with boundless courage; and with ment was of the highest order. All tem- the weapon of an idle and ignorant scorn he peraments, to be sure, except the phlegmatic, struck, not only at abuses and corruptions, can lend themselves to poetic purposes ; but I which such as he are sent to plague and to
destroy, but at truths older than either was extraordinarily keen, but deficient in science or song, and higher than his highest breadth. Such minds, especially when irrahopes for man.
diated by an imagination addicted to metaThe errors of Mr. Shelley were not such as phors, admit no twilight of intelligence. All a true charity either conceals or palliates : | their thoughts stand out like realities, until but as little do we deem it our duty to en- eclipsed by rival thoughts. This one-sidedlarge on them here. The infidelity of the ness of mind accounts in part for the fact, mind has its root oftentimes in the will. The otherwise inexplicable, of his having denied, gravity and the danger of such error cannot at an age when others at most but doubtbe exaggerated; but neither its origin, its and obtruded rather than confessed his inficharacter, nor its effects admit of being treat- delity. His temper also was impetuous, to a ed of in a few words. Infidelity and blas- degree that, while it misapplied his reasonphemy need no epithets to characterize them. ings, deprived his poetry of that perfect Partly to account for his opinions, and partly sanity which we find in the great masters. in the passion of the hour, vices were impu- He was aware that it lacked self-possession ted to Shelley from which we believe him to and serenity. It lacked it because his whole have been exempt. We should believe this nature-constitutional, intellectual, and mor(were there no other reason) because we be al--was deficient in gravity. He wrote, lieve that a high moral sense, and a nature, moreover, ambitiously, and with too much however darkened, neither corrupt nor in- effort: And his genius was to a slight desincere, must be the basis of all elevated gree sophisticated by egotism. The ideal of poetry. One of the lessons which we have
every poet includes something of himself ; to learn from Shelley is the insufficiency of and Shelley's nature, in its militant capacity, the highest moral aspirations alone to guard is indicated in his two most important works, us against lurking evil in our spiritual nature; his “Prometheus” and his “Revolt of Islam:” and especially against that of pride—the but his “ Alastor,” “Prince Athanase,” and root of infidelity, and the weakness that bor- many of his minor poems, prove that he was ders most nearly on insanity. Our theme, fond of dwelling upon it in other relations, however, is an humbler one than that of the and in a spirit of anatomical scrutiny. We ology, and we shall allude to Mr. Shelley's should err, however, in our estimate of Shelerrors only as they affect him as a poet. ley's genius if we did not allow for the degree
With great moral energies he had great in which its products were modified by cirmoral deficiencies. Few men possessed more cumstance.
Ill health had preyed on him than he that high faculty of admiration, till his natural sensibility had been heightenthrough which men learn so much and be- ed into nervous irritability. This circumcome so much.
He gazed in admiration at stance, together with the belief that his time all things, whether the triumphs of the hu- in this world was short, made him over-task man mind or the commonest achievements of his faculties, which were thus ever in a hectic mechanic skill: yet in all his poetry we find state of excitement. The abstract habit of no trace of his having possessed the kindred, his mind gave an additional daring to his but nobler habit—that of veneration : And conclusions; and that habit was increased yet, to be without veneration is to be shut by the fact that between him and his counout from a complete world,—the world, more- trymen there was war. Isolation, indeed, alover, which contains that in which we live. ways intensifies, for good or for evil, the The spirit of his poetry often looks up in energies of speculative men; whose powers wonder and glances around in love, and flings are at once tamed down and enriched when its
gaze far forward in anger or in scorn; but merged in friendly communion with other its eyes are never cast reverently downward, minds. In the case of Shelley it also left and therefore, even in its zeal for truth, it his poetic education incomplete. He had overruns the ground in which truth lies. He carefully fed his mind on all things beautiful had an intellectual defect also which corre- and sublime ; nor had the influences of study, sponded with this moral one. He had no philosophical, scientific, and political, been power of suspending his judgment. He wanting to him: But living remote from could not doubt; and his infidelity itself was practical life, his genius lacked one species in part a passionate faith in certain moral of nourishment, the knowledge that comes principles with which he rashly assumed by experience. It had never been disciChristianity to be at war; and in part that plined. undiscriminating hatred of priestcraft to which To estimate justly the faults as well as the the fanatics of liberty are subject. His mind | merits of the truly great is a duty which we
owe not only to truth and to ourselves, but | He deemed that he had lived long. But he to them. It is only when we know what was only in his twenty-ninth year when the binderances were opposed to their greatness Mediterranean waves closed above his head. by the forfeits exacted from their weakness, A sad career was his :—He had his intellectthat we can know to what that greatness ual resources, and he had friends; yet his might, without such obstacles, have amount- was a sad career; and worthy of deeper ed. We can but guess, therefore, what thoughts than belong either to the region of would have been the mature works of such a adulation or of anger. mind as Shelley's, when the soil had cooled The genius of Keats was Grecian to a far down sufficiently to produce healthy growths. higher degree than that of Shelley. His sense The manhood of human life is still but the of beauty was profounder still; and was acboyhood of genius : yet how much has he companied by that in which Shelley's poetry pot done in his brief span! There is not one was deficient-Repose. Tranquillity is no of his larger works which is not a storehouse high merit if it be attained at the expense of of condensed thought and beauty-whatever ardor; but the two qualities are not incommay be its faults in the way of unreality or patible. The ardor of Shelley's nature shows exaggeration. His “Hymn on Intellectual itself in a strong evolution of thought and Beauty,” his odes to “ Liberty,” to “ Naples," succession of imagery ;--that of Keats in a to “ the West Wind,” his “Cloud,” his “Sky- still intensity. The former was a fiery enlark," and many a choral ode in his Lyrical thusiasm, the latter was a profound passion. Dramas, are in themselves a conclusive an- Rushing through regions of unlimited swer to a charge frequently brought against thought, Shelley could but throw out hints English Poetry, namely, that it has seldom which are often suggestive only. His desoared into the highest region of lyrical in- signs are always outline sketches, and the spiration : and in his shorter pieces there are lines of light in which they are drawn remind numerous snatches of song to which the us of that " temple of a spirit” described by term “ essential poetry” would not be mis- him, the walls of which revealed applied-poems not only of magnetic power, but as flawless as the diamond, and in their " A tale of passionate change divinely taught, minuteness as perfect as the berry on the
Which in their winged dance unconscious genii tree or the bubble on the fountain. Great
wrought.” indeed is the bequest which Shelley has left Truth and action may be thus emblemed ; us: and it is not without somewhat of re
but beauty is a thing of shape and of color, morseful sorrow that we remember what life not of light merely, and rest is essential to it.
in return. Looking on what is That mystic rapidity of interwoven thought, past and gone through the serene medium in which Shelley exulted, was foreign to the of distance, all petty details vanish from our deeper temperament of Keats. One of his view, and a few great realities stand bare.
canons of poetry was, that “its touches of In sad retrospection we look forth-and we beauty should never be half-way, thereby see a man and a life!
A young man, noble making the reader breathless, instead of conin genius, in heart ardent, full of love, his tent. The rise, the progress, the setting of whole being expanded to all genial and cheer- imagery, should, like the sun, come naturally ing influences as “a vine-leaf in the sun :"
to the poet, shine over him, and set soberly, such an one we behold, endowed richly with although in magnificence, leaving him in the the treasured stores of old learning and cher- luxury of twilight.” He disliked all poetica) ished hopes for future man. With the joy surprises, aud affirmed that poetry " should of a strong swimmer he flings himself upon strike the reader as a wording of his own the stream of life—and finds himself bleeding highest thoughts, and appear almost a reand broken on the rocks it covers! To say | membrance.” Shelley's genius, like the eagle “it was his own fault” is a mode of dispos- he describes, ing of the matter rather compendious than (to us) satisfactory.
For his errors he is “ Runs down the slanted sunlight of the dawn.” answerable at another tribunal than ours. The age which
partakes of and fosters such But, beauty moves ever in curved lines, like errors may find time to remember his suffer- the celestial bodies, and even in movement ings as well. Through trials not the less stimulates rest. Beauty was the adornment severe because not unprovoked, he fought of Shelley's poetry; it was the very essence his way if not in peace of conscience, yet of Keats's. There is in his poetry not only certainly with high courage and heroic hope. I a constant enjoyment of the beautiful,—there