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poet. That is to say, poetry was not the element in which he lived, and breathed, and had his being. He had not by nature the true temperament. All men have brief and occasional visita tions of fancy and feeling, of more or less brightness and intensity, by which they are raised above the prosaic mediocrity of their daily life ; and when a man possesses a talent for 'versification, he may happen, in some auspicious moment, after a thousand failures, to embody his casual inspiration, with extraordinary success. But one or two good passages will not make a fine poem, nor one or wo poetical thoughts, a true poet. Pomfret, who was the most prosaic man that ever lived, and whose verses are generally detestable, contrived to stumble one agreeable summer morning upon a pleasing subject, and albeit unused to the poetical mood, he treated it in a pleasing manner. He wore laurels all his life for this single effort; and even long after his natural death his poetical existence was highly reputable. Southey, in his Specimens of the English Poets, has told us that Pomfret's Choice is the most popular poem in the language. We doubt the fact; and suspect that the poem has been little read for the last fifty years : but still the notice of it by Johnson and by Southey, and the sale which the poem once obtained, will serve to show that a prosaic person may sometimes arrive at considerable distinction by a single poetic fit of very short duration. Perhaps if Pomfret had lived a whole century longer, and had written verses daily, he would have continued, what he always was, with one solitary exception, a dull manufacturer of rhyming
If he had never written any other verses than the Choice, the real barrenness of his mind would have remained a secret to the public. All his subsequent attempts were absolutely suicidal. Lady Anne Barnard, wrote one of the most exquisite ballads in the world - Auld Robin Gray, and perhaps, it is by no means a subject of regret that she never attempted to write another. As it was, she somewhat risked her fame, by the publication of
a continuation or second part, which, as Mr. Dyce observes, is very inferior to the original tale, and greatly injures its effect. If Sir Egerton Brydges had written no other verses than his beautiful Sonnet on Echo and Silence, (according to Southey, the most imaginative poem in any language, how far higher he would have stood in general estimation as a poet than he now does. He soon broke the charm. He seemed determined to convince his admirers that his inspiration was momentary and fortuitous. He devoted a long life to an assiduous courtship of the Muse, but she never gave him another smile. If he had possessed that rarest of all attainments-self-knowledge, he would have laid by his pen from that happy hour; for one good poem is better than a thousand bad ones. Mr. Carlyle has told us, that booksellers would often get more for their money if they got less : that is, if they were to pay for quality instead of quantity. Authors should take the same view of the means of acquiring fame, and recollect that one little volume of real merit, shorn all excrescences, and condensed into power, is more profitable in the end, than a cart-load of diffuser matter that is “ very tolerable, and not to be endured.”
Mr. Wolfe, like many other men before him, fell into the unhappy mistake of doing more than enough. He made one lucky hit, and then by his subsequent failures proved how much more he was indebted to fortune than to genius. If he had secreted or destroyed every thing that he had ever written except the Lines on the Burial of Sir John Moore, the public would have looked upon him as one of the best poets of the time, and the complimentary critics would have lamented that so noble a genius should have been so sparing of its exertions. It was the flattering complaints of their idleness, that tempted Campbell to perpetrate his Theodric, and Rogers to write his Italy. And Mr. Wolfe, who had produced an ode that was admired by Lord Byron as one of the finest in the language, and that became at
once a favorite with all classes of people, was so unfortunate as to write and so imprudent as to preserve a variety of other pieces, which, comparatively speaking, are very little known, and which those who have read once have no desire to read again. There are some blank-verse compositions in the volume of his Remains that it was perfectly inhuman of his executors to publish.
Blank-verse is one of the most striking tests of a poet's genius. It is the noblest measure in the language. It is a magnificent instrument that is not to be commanded by a feeble hand. The player's strength or weakness is instantly exhibited. There are certain forms of rhymed verse that are happily adapted to conceal a penury of thought, but blank-verse seems to lay bare the writer's intellect. If it be not supported with the utmost energy and skill, it is really what Johnson called it, .crippled prose, or verse only to the eye.
NO. XVI. REV. JOHN MOULTRIE.
Mr. Moultrie's name is probably not very familiar to the public ; but his fellow-students at Eton College, some twenty years ago, can hardly have forgotten his promise of future eminence; and many of the readers of the Etonian have admired the productions of his youth, though they knew not from whose hand they came. Mr. Moultrie was so much distinguished in his own circle by his early effusions, and these were so flatteringly spoken of by the public press, that the long silence of his Muse is a circumstance not unworthy of particular notice. It appears that on entering into wedlock, and assuming the sacerdotal garment, he thought it inconsistent with his character and position to devote any portion of his time to the favorite amusement of his earlier years. He seems latterly to have changed his opinion on this subject.
There is not a single line of preface to his volume of poems; and, indeed, if he had written one, it would probably have been a work of mere supererogation, for few poets have permitted their muse to be more confidential and communicative. He cordially shakes hands with the public, and at once ushers that many-headed personage into his domestic circle, who becomes perfectly intimate not only with the host himself, but with his wife and children, and his whole circle of friends and associates. He is really a much greater egotist in verse than Byron himself, but his egotism is very different in character from that of the stern and haughty Harold. It is more like that of Southey, and seems to proceed from a certain noble simplicity and an overflowing kindliness of nature. None but a man who gives others credit for similar feelings could so boldly reveal his own ;-his personal and domestic references are a compliment to the reader's heart.
Mr. Moultrie in his early poems imitated Lord Byron, who was then in the meridian of his glory. He has since changed his models, and his style is now a mixture of Wordsworth and Southey. This will perhaps partly account for a degree of strength and condensation in his first effusions that we do not meet with in the generality of his later pieces. He now aims at simplicity, which is no doubt a high excellence in poetry when combined with great power ; but the simplicity even of Wordsworth and Southey is mawkish or ridiculous whenever their inspiration fails them. In their happier passages it has an effect that cannot be too highly appreciated, but their warmest admirers will hardly venture to deny that many of the pages of those great poets are sadly deficient in force and elevation. Extreme simplicity of style in poetical composition requires great originality and energy of thought to preserve it from poverty and degradation. We should be as sorry if Thomas Moore were to cast away his gems and flowers, and to aim at the bare
simplicity of Wordsworth, as if, on the other hand, the latter poet were to deck his muse in the rainbow tints of Lalla Rookh. We can no more object to the silks and jewels of a fashionable lady than to the nakedness of a statue, There are some orders of poetry that absolutely require ornament, as there are others that are best without it. Mr. Moultrie's genius is not in any respect like that of Moore; on the contrary it is characterized by a chastity and serenity that are more akin to Wordsworth's ; but he has not sufficient breadth and force of mind to give effect to a style that is apt to border on humility. Wordsworth is a dangerous model for a feeble thinker. Poets should contrive to let their style be in keeping with the character of their genius. The blank-verse of Milton was a noble and appropriate instrument in the hands of that mighty master ; but the graceful and tender Goldsmith would have turned it to poor account. Mr. Moultrie is a man of genius, but he cannot write with power in the style of Wordsworth. He is a true poet, though not a great one ; and we are inclined to fancy that if he had continued with more zeal and regularity his courtship to the Muse, he might have taken a much higher place amongst the poets of the present day. He has not quite fulfilled the promise of his spring; but he is yet in the summer of his intellect, and in due season he may hereafter present us with a glorious harvest. Though his mind has long lain fallow, he may soon perhaps make up for past neglect. But even if his volume be read without reference to the past or the future, it is impossible to withhold our admiration. Find what fault we may with it, the sternest and coldest critic must at once acknowledge the presence of real genius; and no modern book more unequivocally evinces the purity and earnestness of the author's character as a man.
There is a freshness of fancy, a buoyancy of spirit, and an air of strength and facility in his first effusions, that make ample amends for a few errors of judgment that are naturally enough