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a mature consideration of thirty years, singularly just and solid.

The pure and exalted principles of poetry laid down in the Author's Preface confer still more weight on his opinionsi and the strongly-grounded supposition, that they had the sanction of Milton himself, makes them inestimable. There is besides no small advantage in the date at which the criticisms were written, when we consider that the purpose of this reprint is to revive names undeservedly forgotten. Here are proofs of reputation formerly enjoyed ; not guesses, which the hater of wbat is old is always disposed to reject. « Those « that are affected only with what is familiar and accustomed « to them, » it is difficult to persuade, that the poets who have gone out of fashion could ever have had any merit: and they think, that they who admire them, are only influenced by affectation and prejudice. Perhaps the very name of Milton's nephew may induce some to pay a respect to that, which from a modern hand they would deem trifling.

But it is not trifling : we want some standards of fixed opinion, and tests, of perpetual reference, by which we can assure ourselves, that we are not under the delusion of momentary caprice, and accidental excitation. « What was « VERUM et BONUM once, » says Phillips, « continues to be so « always. » If therefore what is modern differs from what was formerly verum et bonum, it cannot be itself verum et bonuin !

And this leads to a most important view of the subject of English Poetry. We are accustomed, I think, to consider it with a little too much regard to historical epochs,

and to the characters of the time in which its respective authors wrote. I doubt whether this does not lead to erroneous judgments with regard to positive merit; and to a theory of the poetical faculty which reduces it to too much of an Art, instead of a native gift!

If, indeed, we look to the minor poets, they are always the creatures of the epoch at which they wrote. But on examination from the time of CHAUCER we shall find, through a succession of intervals, some mighty mind arise, whose works will prove that there was nothing in the times, either in want of knowlege, polished manners, or adequate language, which Genius could not surmount; and therefore that the period can form no sound apology for claiming an high place for those who have been mainly infected by the defects of prevalent habits.

An interval of about thirty years occurred between the death of Chaucer, (1400,) and the appearance of LydGATE'S chief poem. Then came an whole Century between LYDGATE, - and SURRY and Wyat. Then nearly thirty years between these and SACKVILLE's Induction (1559, or 1560 ). Again thirty years to SPENSER's Fairy Queen, (1590.) Again fiftyfive years to Milton's minor poems, (1645.) Again twentytivo years to DRYDEN's Annus Mirabilis, (1667.) Again fortytwo years to Pope's early poems, (1709.)

From this period there has been no proper interval : nor indeed was there between Milton's last poems and Dryden's early ones. THOMSON rose long before Pope's death; and COLLINS, GRAY, and AKENSIDE, on the eve of the great Bard's departure.

The mind of the multitude is slow in attaining refinement : Genius reaches it at once. That superficial appearance,

therefore, of polish, which is rare in early ages, is in later ages common and easy. For this reason, the true note once caught and sounded, does not immediately teach the vulgar ear by the comparison to be disgusted with discord and rudeness. And long therefore after CHAUCER had sung, the Nation could admire the inelegance, uncouthness, and ribaldry of John SKELTON. The dull and prosaic CHURCHYARD could place his clownish and inanimate verses by the side of the richlyimagined and vigorously-expressed poetry of SACKVILLE : and even DANIEL and DRAYTON, « all aflat , their heavy historical legends, in the face of SPENSER's array of enchanting fiction, and dance of brilliant words and exquisite harmony. This exemplifies Wordsworth's position, that every great author must create a taste in the Public, which shall make it feel his writings. And what is worse,

this creation will commonly be long, - sometimes nearly a century, - before it duly works. Such at least was Milton's case.

But let us ask, what is there in the essentials of Poetry, to which the age of CHAUCER was not as well suited, as any of our modern ages, deemed more refined ? — CHAUCER was preceded by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, with whose writings he was familiar. But long before these, there was in the habits, manners, and compositions of the Troubadours a poetic spirit, which not only in force but in elegance far surpassed that of many succeding ages.

It was an age of heroism and energy, intellectual as well as corporeal : the abuses of the Church and its Members began to be examined with penetration and vigour; and the minds of the most enlightened parts of Europe were in a state of fervid activity. The habits and customs of Society were splendid, adventrous, and varied. There were ample materials, therefore, to furnish the fancy; and set the imagination in motion. All the sources, in fact, of rich and striking fiction, were in full play. Was there then the enlightenment, and sound knowlege, which enable the poet to preserve the other essential, – verisimility, - in his inven

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lions ? CHAUCER himself gives the proof that there was. He knew human nature profoundly; and he draws the characters of actual life with admirable acuteness and discrimination. There remained then only the difficulty of an half-formed language; which, though he managed it with astonishing skill, it may be admitted, has caused his diction to be sometimes obsolete and revolting to a mere modern reader. The spirit however of his prophetic genius often gave an harmony to his verses, which most of his successors at the distance of two hundred years wanted. It is not inerely in the merit of his outline, and the general weight of his matter; but in the felicity of particular passages; in the choice of circumstances; and the vivacity and tone of expression which pervade his poems, that he excells. And this is a sort of excellence, which is commonly supposed to belong only to a later æra of literature.

At a time when superstition was in full force; when unchastized hope prompted to extravagant adventures ; when the lamp of philosophy had not yet thrown its broad light to point ont the boundaries of Truth ; Chaucer was remarkable for shrewdness and good sense; and for the fidelity and attention to real life which characterised his fables.

It is here that the danger lies at an early epoch of composition. In an infant state of literature that may be mistaken to be probable, which future ages will discover to be marvellous and extravagant. And hence the author is betrayed to offend against the law of verisimility.

If Chaucer could write as he did in the fourteenth century, there is no excuse to be drawn for the darkness and declension of our English poetry in the fifteenth century from the rudeness of the times. At the same epoch there

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was a regular succession of Italian poets, from the death of Petrarch , (1374) — to Bernardo Tasso, 1544 — who did not decline from elegance and polish : such as Montemagno, Giusto de' Conti, Boiardo, Sannazaro, Bembo, Ariosto, Trissino, Vittoria Colonna, Molza, Varchi, Alamanni, etc. (1). Campbell ascribes it to the evils of our civil war then raging;

a cause which does not seem to me consistent with the history of the manner in which the human mind has always acted (2). Had a genius like that of Chaucer, or Sackville, or Spenser, or Milton, grown up in those days, the calamities of the times would scarcely have suppressed its active exertions; and the expansion of its fruit. When a native faculty much short of that with which these illus trious men were gifted came forth in Lord Surry, neither luxury, nor camps, nor ambition, nor tyranny, nor domestics dissensions, overpowered and silenced it.

If Daniel and Drayton , Wyrley, Aleyne, Hubart, and T. May, could after the production of The Fairy Queen mistake versified history for poetry, it is less surprising that, after Surry and Wyat, the compilers of the Mirror for Magistrates, in whose first edition Sackville's poetry did not appear, should mistake those voluminous legends, (which Campbell calls «heavy masses of dulness », and which no one ever pretended they were not, ) for verses , sessed any poetical ingredient except the mere trifle of metre. But whatever is not intrinsically verum et bonum in our modern poems, whatever is affected and artificial, will probably appear as strange and tasteless to future generations, as what was received so favorably by the cotemporaries

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(1) See the List, Res Lit. vol. II, p. 9. 10.
(2) Essay on Engl. Poetry in Specimens , I, 80.

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