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The dews of the evening most carefully shun,
After the transgression of Adam, Milton, with other appearances of sympathizing Nature, thus marks the immediate consequence,
Sky lowered, and muttering thunder, some sad drops Wept at completion of the mortal sin.
The associating link is the same in each instance;— dew or rain, not distinguishable from the liquid substance of tears, are employed as indications of sorrow. A flash of surprise is the effect in the former case, a flash of surprise and nothing more; for the nature of things does not sustain the combination. In the latter, the effects of the act, of which there is this immediate consequence and visible sign, are so momentous, that the mind acknowledges the justice and reasonableness of the sympathy in Nature so manifested; and the sky weeps drops of water as if with human eyes, as « Earth had, before, trembled from her entrails, and Nature given a second groan. •
Awe-stricken as I am by contemplating the operations of the mind of this truly diviue Poet, I scarcely dare venture to add that “An Address to an Infant,” which the reader will find under the Class of Fancy in the present edition, exhibits something of this communion and interchange of instruments and functions between the two powers; and is, accordingly, placed last in the class, as a preparation for that of Imagination which follows.
Finally, I will refer to Cotton's a Ode upon Winter,” an admirable composition, though stained with some peculiarities of the age in which he lived, for a general illustration of the characteristics of Fancy. The middle part of this ode contains a most lively description of the entrance of Winter, with his retinue, as « A palsied King,” and yet a military Monarch,-advancing for conquest with his Army; the several bodies of which, and their arms and equipments, are described with a rapidity of detail, and a profusion of fanciful comparisons, which indicate on the part of the Poet extreme activity of intellect, and a correspondent hurry of delightful feeling. Winter retires from the Foe into his fortress, where
——— a magazine
Though myself a water-drinker, I cannot resist the pleasure of transcribing what follows, as an instance still more happy of Fancy employed in the treatment of feeling than, in its preceding passages, the Poem supplies of her management of forms.
T is that, that gives the Poet rage, And thaws the gelly'd blood of Age; Matures the Young, restores the old, And makes the fainting Coward bold.
It lays the careful head to rest,
Then let the chill Sirocco blow,
It remains that I should express my regret at the necessity of separating my compositions from some beautiful Poems of Mr Coleridge, with which they have been long associated in publication. The feelings with which that joint publication was made, have been gratified; its end is answered, and the time is come when considerations of general propriety dictate the separation. Three short pieces (now first published) are the work of a Female Friend; and the Reader, to whom they may be acceptable, is indebted to me for his pleasure; if any one regard them with dislike, or be disposed to condemn them, let the censure fall upon him, who, trusting in his own sense of their merit and their fitness for the place which they occupy, extorted them from the Authoress.
ESSAY SUPPLEMENTARY TO the PREFACE.
With the young of both Sexes, Poetry is, like love, a passion; but, for much the greater part of those who have been proud of its power over their minds, a necessity soon arises of breaking the pleasing bondage; or it relaxes of itself;-the thoughts being occupied in domestic cares, or the time engrossed by business. Poetry then becomes only an occasional recreation; while to those whose existence passes away in a course of fashionable pleasure, it is a species of luxurious amusement.—In middle and declining age, a scattered number of serious persons resort to poetry, as to religion, for a protection against the pressure of trivial employments, and as a consolation for the afflictions of life. And, lastly, there are many, who, having been enamoured of this art in their youth, have found leisure, after youth was spent, to cultivate general literature: in which poetry has continued to be compreheuded as a study. Into the above Classes the Readers of poetry may be divided; Critics abound in them all; but from the last
only can opinions be collected of absolute value, and worthy to be depended upon, as prophetic of the destiny of a new work. The young, who in nothing can escape delusion, are especially subject to it in their intercourse with poetry. The cause, not so obvious as the fact is unquestionable, is the same as that from which erroneous judgments in this art, in the minds of men of all ages, chiefly proceed; but upon Youth it operates with peculiar force. The appropriate business of poetry (which, nevertheless, if genuine, is as permanent as pure science) her appropriate employment, her privilege and her duty, is to treat of things not as they are, but as they appear; not as they exist in themselves, but as they seem to exist to the senses and to the passions. what a world of delusion does this acknowledged principle prepare for the inexperienced what temptations to go astray are here held forth for them whose thoughts have been little disciplined by the understanding, and whose feelings revolt from the sway of reason!—When a juvenile Reader is in the height of his rapture with some vicious passage, should experience throw in doubts, or common-sense suggest suspicions, a lurking consciousness that the realities of the Muse are but shows, and that her liveliest excitements are raised by transient shocks of conflicting feeling and successive assemblages of contradictory thoughts—is ever at hand to justify extravagance, and to sanction absurdity. But, it may be asked, as these illusions are unavoidable, and, no doubt, eminently useful to the mind as a process, what good can be gained by making observations, the tendency of which is to diminish the confidence of youth in its feelings, and thus to abridge its innocent and even profitable pleasures The reproach implied in the question could not be warded off, if Youth were incapable of being delighted with what is truly excellent; or, if these errors always terminated of themselves in due season. But, with the majority, though their force be abated, they continue through life. Moreover, the fire of youth is too vivacious an element to be extinguished or damped by a philosophical remark; and, while there is no danger that what has been said will be injurious or painful to the ardent and the confident, it may prove beneficial to those who, being enthusiastic, are, at the same time, modest and ingenuous. The intimation may unite with th-ir own misgivings to regulate their sensibility, and to bring un, sooner than it would otherwise have arrived, a more discreet and sound judgment. if it should excite wonder that men of ability, in Hater life, whose understandings have been rendered acute by practice in affairs, should be so easily and so far imposed upon when they happen to take up a new work in verse, this appears to be the cause;—that, having discontinued their attention to poetry, whatever progress may have been made in other departments of knowledge, they have not, as to this art, advanced on true discernment beyond the age of youth. If, then, a new portn falls in their way, whose attractions are of that kind which would have enraptured them during the beat of youth, the judgment not being improved to a degree that they shall be distusted, they are dazzled; and prize and cherish the faults for having had power to make the present time vanish before them, and to throw the mind hack, as by enchantment, into the happiest wason of life. As they read, powers seem to he revived, passions are regenerated, and pleasures restored. The took was probably taken up after an
escape from the burthen of business, and with a wish to forget the world, and all its vexations and anxieties. Having obtained this wish, and so much more, it is na. tural that they should make report as they have felt. If Men of mature age, through want of practice, be thus easily beguiled into admiration of absurdities, extravagances, and misplaced ornaments, thinking it proper that their understandings should enjoy a holiday, while they are unbending their minds with verse, it may be expected that such Readers will resemble their former selves also in strength of prejudice, and an inaptitude to be moved by the unostentatious beauties of a pure style. In the higher poetry, an enlightened Critic chiefly looks for a reflection of the wisdom of the heart and the grandeur of the imagination. Wherever these appear, simplicity accompanies them; Magnificence herself, when legitimate, depending upon a simplicity of her own, to regulate her ornaments. But it is a well-known property of human nature, that our estimates are ever governed by comparisons, of which we are conscious with various degrees of distinctness. Is it not, then, inevitable (confining these observations to the effects of style merely) that an eye, accustomed to the glaring hues of diction by which such Readers are caught and excited, will for the most part be rather repelled than attracted by an original Work, the colouring of which is disposed according to a pure and refined scheme of harmony It is in the fine arts as in the affairs of life, no man can serve (i. e. obey with zeal and fidelity) two Masters. As Poetry is most just to its own divine origin when it administers the comforts and breathes the spirit of religion, they who have learned to perceive this truth, and who betake themselves to reading verse for sacred purposes, must be preserved from numerous illusions to which the two Classes of Readers, whom we have been considering, are liable. But, as the mind grows serious from the weight of life, the range of its passions is contracted accordingly; and its sympathies become so exclusive, that many species of high excellence wholly escape, or but languidly excite, its notice. Besides, Men who read from religious or moral inclinations, even when the subject is of that kind which they approve, are beset with misconceptions and mistakes peculiar to themselves. Attaching so much importance to the truths which interest them, they are prone to over-rate the Authors by whom these truths are expressed and enforced. They come prepared to impart so much passion to the Poet's language, that they remain unconscious how little, in fact, they receive from it. And, on the other hand, religious faith is to him who holds it so momentous a thing, and error appears to be attended with such tremendous consequences, that, if opinions touching upon religion occur which the Reader condemns, he not only cannot sympathise with them, however animated the expression, but there is, for the most part, an end put to all satisfaction and enjoyment. Love, if it before existed, is converted into dislike; and the heart of the Reader is set against the Author and his book.--To these excesses, they, who from their professions ought to be the most guarded against them, are perhaps the most liable; I mean those sects whose religion, being from the calculating understanding, is cold and formal. For when Christianity, the religion of humility, is founded upon the proudest faculty of our nature, what can be expected
but contradictions? Accordingly, believers of this cast
false principles; who, should they generalise rightly to a certain point, are sure to suffer for it in the end; —who, if they stumble upon a sound rule, are fettered by misapplying it, or by straining it too far; being incapable of perceiving when it ought to yield to one of higher order. In it are found Critics too petulant to be
passive to a genuine Poet, and too feeble to grapple
with him; Men, who take upon them to report of the course which he holds whom they are utterly unable to accompany, confounded if he turn quick upon the wing, dismayed if he soar steadily w into the retion :—Men of palsied imaginations and indurated hearts; in whose minds all healthy action is languid, -who therefore feed as the many direct them, or, with the many, are greedy after vicious provocatives;–Judges, whose censure is auspicious, and whose praise ominous! In this class meet together the two extremes of best and worst.
The observations presented in the foregoing series are of too ungracious a nature to have been made without reluctance; and, were it only on this account, I would invite the reader to try them by the test of comprehensive experience. If the number of Judges who can be confidently relied upon be in reality so small, it ought to follow that partial notice only, or neglect, perhaps long continued, or attention wholly inadequate to their merits—must have been the fate of most works in the higher departments of poetry; and that, on the other hand, numerous productions have blazed into popularity, and have passed away, leaving scarcely a trace behind them :—it will be further found, that when Authors have, at length, raised themselves into general admiration and maintained their ground, errors and prejudices have prevailed concerning their genius and their works, which the few who are conscious of those errors and prejudices would deplore; if they were not recompensed by perceiving that there are select Spirits for whom it is ordained that their fame shall be in the world an existence like that of Virtue, which owes its being to the struggles it makes, and its vigour to the enemies whom it provokes;–a vivacious quality, ever doomed to meet with opposition, and still triumphing over it; and, from the nature of its dominion, incapable of being brought to the sad conclusion of Alexander, when he wept that there were no more worlds for him to conquer.
Let us take a hasty retrospect of the poetical literature of this Country for the greater part of the last two Centuries, and see if the facts support these inferences.
Who is there that can now endure to read the “Creation " of Dubartas? Yet all Europe once resounded with his praise; he was caressed by Kings; and, when his Poem was translated into our language, the Faery Queen faded before it. The name of Spenser, whose genius is of a higher order than even that of Ariosto, is at this day scarcely known beyond the limits of the British Isles. And if the value of his works is to be estimated from the attention now paid to them by his Countrymen, compared with that which they bestow on those of some other writers, it must be pronounced small tudeed.
The laurel meed of mighty Couqueror.
are his own words; but his wisdom has, in this particular, been his worst enemy; while its opposite, whether
in the shape of folly or madness; has been their best
might say, an established opinion, that Shakspeare is
Lord Bacon, in his multifarious writings, nowhere either quotes or alludes to him." – Ilis dramatic excellence enabled him to resume possession of the stage after the
neglected to that degree, that Pope, in his youth, could pilfer from them without danger of detection.— Whether these poems are at this day justly appreciated
Restoration; but Dryden tells us that in his time two of I will not undertake to decide: nor would it imply a the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher were acted for severe reflection upon the mass of Readers to suppose one of Shakspeare. And so faint and limited was the the contrary; seeing that a Man of the acknowledged perception of the poetic beauties of his dramas in the genius of Voss, the German Poet, could suffer their time of Pope, that, in his Edition of the Plays, with a |pirit to evaporate; and could change their character, view of rendering to the general Reader a necessary ser- as is done in the translation made by him of the most vice, he printed between inverted commas those pas-popular of those pieces. At all events, it is certain that wage- which he thought most worthy of notice. these Poems of Milton are now much read, and loudly
At this day, the French Critics have abated nothing' praised; yet were they little heard of till more than 150 of their aversion to this darling of our Nation: « the years after their publication; and of the Sonnets, Dr English, with their suffon de Shakspeare,” is as familiar Johnson, as appears from Boswell's Life of him, was in an expression among them as in the time of Voltaire, the habit of thinking and speaking as contemptuously Baron Grimm is the only French writer who seems to as Steevens wrote upon those of Shakspeare. have perceived his infinite superiority to the first names | About the time when the Pindaric Odes of Cowley of the French Theatre; an advantage which the Parisian and his imitators, and the productions of that class of Critic owed to his German blood and German educa- curious thinkers whom Dr Johnson has strangely styled tion. The most enlightened Italians, though well ac- Metaphysical Poets, were beginning to lose something quainted with our language, are wholly incompetent to of that extravagant admiration which they had excited, neasure the proportions of Shakspeare. The Germans the Paradise Lost made its appearance. • Fit audience only, of foreign nations, are approaching towards a find though few,” was the petition addressed by the knowledge and feeling of what lic is. In some respects Poet to his inspiring Muse. I have said elsewhere that they have acquired a superiority over the fellow-coun- he gained more than he asked; this I believe to be true; trymen of the Poet : for among us it is a current, I
• This nippant insensibility was publicly reprehended by Mr toleridge in a course of Lectures upon Poetry given y him at the Royal Institution. For the various merits of thought and Ian.uage in Shakspeares Sonnets see Numbers 27, 29, 30, 32, 33, 54, 64, 66, 68, 73,76, 86, 9.92, 93, 97, 98, of, "7, 108, 109, 1, 13, 14, 116, 7, 129, and many others.
* The learned Hakewill (a third edition of whose book bears date 1555 - oil, uni-treal de
resume the error - touchin; valurg's perpetual and • rite a triumphants, the names of Ariosto, Tasso, Banas, and Spenwr, as instan. a that poetic genius had not degearrato, but he makes no mention of Shakspeare.
but Dr Johnson has fallen into a gross mistake when he attempts to prove, by the sale of the work, that Milton's Countrymen were “just to it” upon its first appearance. Thirteen hundred Copies were sold in two years; an uncommon example, he asserts, of the prevalence of genius in opposition to so much recent enmity as Milton's public conduct had excited. But, be it remembered that, if Milton's political and religious opinions, and the manner in which he announced them, had raised him many enemies, they had procured him numerous friends; who, as all personal danger was passed away at the time of publication, would be eager to procure the master-work of a Man whom they revered, and whom they would be proud of praising. The demand did not immediately increase; a for,” says Dr Johnson, a many more Readers” (he means Persons in the habit of reading poetry) “ than were supplied at first the Nation did not afford.” How careless must a writer be who can make this assertion in the face of so many existing title-pages to belie it! Turning to my own shelves, I find the folio of Cowley, 7th Edition, 1681. A book near it is Flatman's Poems, 4th Edition, 1686. Waller, 5th Edition, same date. The Poems of Norris of Bemerton not long after went, I believe, through nine Editions. What further demand there might be for these works I do not know, but I well remember, that 25 years ago, the Booksellers' stalls in London swarmed with the folios of Cowley. This is not mentioned in disparagement of that able writer and amiable Man; but merely to shew—that, if Milton's work was not more read. it was not because readers did not exist at the time. The early Editions of the Paradise Lost were printed in a shape which allowed them to be sold at a low price, yet only 3ooo copies of the Work were sold in 11 years; and the Nation, says Dr Johnson, had been satisfied from 1623 to 1644, that is 41 years, with only two Editions of the Works of Shakspeare; which probably did not together make looo Copies; facts adduced by the critic to prove the “paucity of Readers.” —There were Readers in multitudes; but their money went for other purposes, as their admiration was fixed elsewhere. We are authorized, then, to affirm. that the reception of the Paradise Lost, and the slow progress of its fame, are proofs as striking as can be desired that the positions which I am attempting to establish are not erroneous."—How amusing to slape to one's self such a critique as a Wit of Charles's days, or a Lord of the Miscellanies or trading Journalist of King William's time, would have brought forth, if he had set his faculties industriously to work upon this Poem, every where impregnated with original excellence! So strange indeed are the obliquities of admiration, that they whose opinions are much influenced by authority will often be tempted to think that there are no fixed principles” in human nature for this art to rest upon. I have been honoured by being permitted to peruse in MS, a tract composed between the period of the Revolution and the close of that Century. It is the Work of an English Peer of high accomplishments, its
" Hughes is express upon this subject: in his dedication of Spenser's works to Lord Somers, he writes thus. . It was your Lordship's encouraging a beautiful Edition of Paradise lost that first brought that incomparable Poem to le generally known and esteemed.
* This opinion seems actually to have been entertained by Adam Smith, the worst critic, David Hume not excepted, that Scotland, a soil to which this sort of weed seems natural, has produced.
object to form the character and direct the studies of his Son. Perhaps nowhere does a more beautiful treatise of the kind exist. The good sense and wisdom of the thoughts, the delicacy of the feelings, and the charm of the style, are, throughout, equally conspicuous. Yet the Author, selecting among the Poets of his own Country those whom he deems most worthy of his son's perusal, particulariscs only Lord Rochester, Sir John Denham, and Cowley. Writing about the same time. Shaftesbury, an Author at present unjustly depreciated. describes the English Muscs as only yet lisping in their Cradles. The arts by which Pope, soon afterwards, contrived to procure to himself a more general and a higher reputation than perhaps any English Poet ever attained during his life-time, are known to the judicious. And as well known is it to them, that the undue exertion of these arts is the cause why Pope has for some time held a rank in literature, to which, if he had not been seduced by an over-love of immediate popularity, and had contided more in his native genius, he never could have descended. He bewitched the nation by his melody, and dazzled it by his polished style, and was himself blinded by his own success. Having wandered from humanity in his Eclogues with boyish inexperience, the praise, which these compositions obtained, tempted him into a belief that Nature was not to be trusted, at least in pastoral Poetry. To prove this by example, he put his friend Gay upon writing those Eclogues which the Author intended to be burlesque. The Instigator of the work, and his Admirers, could perceive in them nothing but what was ridiculous. Nevertheless, though these Poems contain some detestable passages, the effect, as Dr Johnson well observes, « of reality and truth became conspicuous even when the intention was to shew them groveling and degraded These Pastorals, judicrous to those who prided themselves upon their refinement, in spite of those disgusting passages, a became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of rural manners and occupations... Something less than 60 years after the publication of the Paradise Lost appeared Thomson's winter; which was speedily followed by his other Seasons. It is a work of inspiration; much of it is written from himself, and nobly from himself. How was it received & it was no sooner read,” says one of his contemporary biograpliers, a than universally admired: those only excepted who had not been used to feel, or to look for anything in poetry, beyond a point of satirical or cpigrammatic wit, a smart antithesis richly trimmed with rhyme, or the softness of an elegiac complaint. To such his manly classical spirit could not readily commend itself. till, after a more attentive perusal, they had got the better of their prejudices, and either acquired or af. fected a truer taste. A few others stood aloof, merely because they had long before fixed the articles of their poetical creed, and resigned themselves to an absolute despair of ever seeing any thing new and original. These were somewhat mortified to find their notions disturbed by the appearance of a poet, who seemed to owe nothing but to nature and his own genius. Hut, in a short time, the applause became unanimous; every one wondering how so many pictures, and pictures so familiar, should have moved them but family to what they felt in his descriptions. His digressions too, the overflowings of a tender benevoleut heart, charmed the