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ated with all his faculties and senses, endued with speech and reason, to open his eyes in a most delightful plain; to view for the first time the serenity of the sky, the splendour of the sun, the verdure of the fields and woods, the glowing colours of the flowers; we can hardly believe it possible, that he should refrain from bursting into an ecstasy of joy, and pouring his praises to the Creator of those wonders, and the author of his happiness. This kind of poetry is used in all nations; but as it is the sublimest of all, when it is applied to its true object, so it has often been perverted to impious purposes by pagans and idolaters."*

It is true, the devotional poetry of our own country, that can pretend to any high degree of merit is but very sparing, when compared with what we may reasonably boast on most other subjects. Not, however, that we are without writers of high and deserved reputation, or specimens of admirable excellence and sublimity. Yet we must not judge, as Dr. Johnson appears to have done, from our own country alone: since perhaps, no pedple celebrated for great refinement in taste and language, have so little cultivated this branch of the poetic art. It is a remarkable fact, that the metrical psalmody of our established church, which ought to be the best, is the worst of all English poetry in its old version, and not always improved as one could wish in its new, though several of the psalms in this later versión, are exquisitely turned.

And here it is obvious, that the fault does not lie with the subject, for the original Hebrew is full of excellencies of every kind. Our poets of the highest reputation, whether epic, dramatic, or lyric, have seldom ventured upon sacred themes; and in the few instances in which they have made such an attempt, they have too frequently proved themselves to be equally unac quainted with the style and character of devotion; which, like those of every other science, (for I am now only speaking of it in its subordinate and exterior attributes) can only be acquired by a peculiar genius for the task, and a long course of study in it. Let any one examine critically the Universal Prayer of Pope, or the Veni Creator Spiritus, or Te Deum of Dryden, and I have little doubt that he will accede to the correctness of this remark. There is a constraint in these productions, which belongs to the writers nowhere else; an elegant exterior, but without a vivifying spirit; a total want of that happy union of bosom ease and ardour, and raciness, which the French Theologians call unction, that prove á man to be at home upon his subject, and to have drunk deeply of the inspiring stream, and that it circulates freely through his heart: that which renders Addison as much superior to both these poets upon this point, as he was inferior to them upon every other; which is deeply impressive in Cowper's devotional pieces; which peculiarly characterizes, not only the more lofty and ornamental, but even the mere doctrinal hymns of Dr. Watts, which admit of but little embellishment; and which we sometimes behold in the congregational contributions of persons possessing few pretensions to learning and genius, and who, perhaps, make a boast of their deficiency.

Let it be remembered, that elegance alone will not answer, nor will ease alone answer, nor will general descriptions alone answer; whether of the perfections of the Deity, the beauty of creation, the penitence of the soul, or its ardent longing for the happiness of Heaven, or for communion with God on earth. We have at times seen attempts of this kind (and many of us, as I trust, with real grief of heart,) by lyrical writers of

Essay on the Arts commonly called Imitative Works, iv. 550. 4to.

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the first attainments as poets, but the lowest attainments as Christians, in our own day; and whose direct object has been to furnish words to what has been vended along with them under the name of SACRED MUSIC; to cheat the sacred hours of the Sunday, and of those who hail the return of the Sunday, by a show of Sunday-ailment and occupation. Such attempts have had their day, but have never been able to support themselves. In the midst of all their external glitter and polished rhapsody, they have been found vapid and unsatisfactory; an airy, flatulent food, that the soul could never feed or fatten upon. And, on analyzing several of these attempts, with a friend of the nicest judgment, and who was, at first, strangely captivated by their pretensions, we found, that by a change in a very few of the terms, chiefly, indeed, by a mere substitution of human names for divine, they were reduced, with great advantage to themselves, to their proper and natural level of love-ditties and ballads, from which alone they seem to have been raised, by an irreverent adoption of mere misnomers for the base purpose of finding them a market in what is called the religious world.

On every account, however, I am much afraid that we must yield the palm of devotional poetry, to some of the nations on the continent. The best French writers upon this subject, are Racine the younger, son of the celebrated dramatist of the same name, John Baptiste Rousseau, and Pompignan; all contemporaries, and the last of whom had the honour of being ridiculed by Voltaire, Helvetius, and their associates, for having had the boldness to deliver before the French academy, in 1760, a discourse in favour of Christianity. And when to these I add the name of my late venerable friend, the Abbé Dellille, I fear it will be difficult to muster an equal group, possessing like power, in our own country. Spain, however, in this respect, at least rivals, if they do not surpass the master-poets of France; as I believe every one must allow who is acquainted with the sacred poetry of Melendez, Miguel Sanchez, and the Conde de Norona. Germany has also a few poets of the same kind of great merit, but it is to Italy we must turn for the best specimens of devotional lyrics in modern times;-Italy, where, almost from the revival of literature, the devotional muse, though surrounded by corruption, has been courted and warmly caressed by many of her best scholars, her best poets, and her best men. Her sacred verse was at first, indeed, too much interwoven with the mystic sublimity of Platonism, which pervades more especially the spirited and lofty verses of Lorenzo de' Medici. It next allied itself equally with classical mythology, generalizing the "Jehovah, Jove, or Lord," as Mr. Pope has it, of Christians and Heathens; under which system every Pagan deity had his name continued, and was regarded as nothing more than a separate attribute of the true God. Sanazzaro and Pontano, like the Portuguese epic poet Camoens, are full of this absurd amalgamation; but from the time of Vida to the present day, the devotional effusions of the Tuscan muse have been purged from foreign dross, and in subject as well as in style, while highly empassioned are equally pure, pious, and erudite. Were I to be called upon to point out the two best sacred poets of modern times, I should instantly name Filicaja and Klopstock; both men of exemplary goodness, whose lives were dedicated to religion, and who, while they wrote from the heart, adorned their compositions with every classical excellence. Bion has nothing sweeter or more touching than Klopstock; Pindar nothing more ardent or sublime than Filicaja.

Yet to determine the question fairly, whether religious subjects can afford a proper ground for poetry or the language of the passions, it is ne

cessary to look back to nations of a very remote antiquity, and who cultivated such attempts as a national pursuit. Surely if the erroneous and extravagant mythologies and superstitions of ancient Greece possessed interest enough to concentrate equally the fond attention of the poets and the people, and to be laid hold of as the standard theme of odes, dramas, and epopees; if the sacred fictions of Isis and Osiris, of Ormuzd and Ahriman, of Brahma and Pracriti, were deemed the noblest subjects for song in Egypt, Persia, and Hindostan; and song, too, composed by the most learned hierophants and the most celebrated bards of their day, in colleges expressly founded for the occasion; what ought we not to look for in countries of coeval antiquity, preternaturally illuminated with the principles of genuine religion, and where colleges also were founded of the same mixed kind for the same lofty purpose? What ought we not to expect from the rapt patriarchs of Idumæa, or the inspired prophets of Salem; from the magnificent schools of Dedan and Theman, or those of Naioth and Mount Zion? From the two latter, more especially, since one of their chief, and certainly one of their most pleasing duties was to compose a regular series of sacred odes and other canticles to the praise of the great Creator, and to sing them daily to the skilful sound of psaltery, tabret, and harp, in sweet, alternate concert; and accompanied with the symphoneous movements of solemn attitudes and sacred dance. We have not time for examples, pleasant as the task would be, to introduce them; but the question seems to be unanswerably settled, by the general and well-known history of these countries, and the exquisite specimens of their sacred lyrics which have descended to our own day; and which prove unequivocally that the language of the passions, of hope and fear, of joy and sorrow, of compunction and triumph, are directly fitted to become the language of devotion; and that the purest and sublimest religion is capable of giving rise to the purest and sublimest poetry. The Bible indeed, which is the first book we should prize, and the last we should part with, is as much superior to all other books, whether of ancient or modern times, in its figurative and attractive dress, as it is in its weighty and oracular doctrines; in the hopes it enkindles and the fears it arrays. In its exterior as in its interior, in its little as in its great, it displays alike its divine original.

LECTURE XV.

ON TASTE, GENIUS, AND IMAGINATION.

BEFORE we close our analysis of the faculties of the mind, there are yet three powers, that have a larger claim upon our attention than we have hitherto been able to give them. These are the faculties of taste, GENIUS, and IMAGINATION; the alliance between which is so close, that many philosophers have conceived they are produced at the same moment, and cannot exist separately. This, however, is an erroneous opinion proceeding from a want of clear ideas as to their respective characters-characters which do not appear to have been at any time very accurately defined; and the peculiar limits and distinctions of which I shall take leave,

therefore, before we close this course of instruction, to fix by a new boundary.

IMAGINATION, then, is that faculty of the mind which calls forth and combines ideas with great rapidity and vivacity, whether congruous or incongruous.

GENIUS is that faculty which calls forth and combines ideas, with great rapidity and vivacity, and with an intuitive perception of their congruity or incongruity.

TASTE is that faculty which selects and relishes such combinations of ideas as produce genuine beauty, and rejects the contrary.

These definitions are simple, but, I trust, correct; and if so, IMAGINATION is the basis of the whole; TASTE may exist without GENIUS, and GENIUS without TASTE, as I shall presently endeavour to show; but neither can exist without IMAGINATION. Yet imagination is neither taste nor genius, since, though absolutely necessary to the subsistence of these powers, the great mart that furnishes them with their daily food, it may also exist without them.

Let us commence, then, with the faculty of IMAGINATION. Whence comes it that the mind, at first a tabula rasa, a sheet of white paper, without characters of any kind, becomes furnished with that vast store of ideas, the materials of wisdom and knowledge, which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? The whole, as I had occasion to prove in a preceding Lecture,* is derived from experience, the experience of sensation and reflection; from what have been called objective and subjective ideas; from the observations of the mind employed either about external, sensible objects, or the internal operations of itself, perceived and reflected upon by its own faculties.

Now, it is the office of the reason to hunt out for and accumulate ideas from both the above sources, as it is that of the perception to distinguish them when present, and of the memory to recall them on future occasions. And hence he who has laid in the largest stock of ideas is possessed, not indeed of the most extensive knowledge, but of the most extensive materials of knowledge. For, in order to produce knowledge, we must not only have a numerous stock of ideas, but these ideas must be examined, compared, arranged, combined, according to their connexion and agreement, or disconnexion and repugnancy. To do this is the office of the JUDGMENT; and hence he who has a power of making such assortment and comparison with clearness and precision is said to have a deep insight into things; which is nothing more than affirming that the faculty of his judgment is correct and acute. I have stated genius to be that faculty by which the mind rapidly or intuitively perceives the congruity or incongruity of ideas; so that genius is intuitive judgment; it is judgment that looks forward at once from the beginning to the end of a chain of ideas, and stands in little or no need of the intermediate links on which proper or common judgment depends for its guidance.

We often, however, meet with persons who have a strong and active propensity to combine ideas, without any attention to their natural agreement or connexion. And it is in individuals of this description that the imagination constitutes the ruling power, and lords it over the judgment. Such combinations are soon made, for they cost no trouble, like those the judgment engages in and as the persons who are constitutionally prone

* S

Lect. III

to make them, possess, perhaps without an exception, a sanguineous or irritable temperament, the nature of which I explained in a late lecture of the present series,* they are also made with peculiar liveliness and rapidity, and I have hence defined the imagination to be that faculty of the mind which calls forth and combines ideas with great rapidity and vivacity, whether congruous or incongruous.

This, however, is pure or simple IMAGINATION, and to observe it in its full force we must select and attend to those states of the mind in which it is altogether set at liberty from the control of the judgment; we must follow it up into the airy visions of sleep, the wild phantasms of delirium, the extravagant fictions of madness, or the dark reveries of melancholy. In all these states it has full play and revels with unbounded career. And it shows us distinctly the error of those psychologists who have regarded imagination, genius, and fine taste, as one and the same attribute. For here we behold the restless power of imagination enthroned without a rival in the centre of the intellectual empire, and yet unaccompanied, except perhaps in a few anomalous cases, with taste or genius of any kind. A long habit of association, in the case of dreaming and delirium, or some predominant feeling in the case of madness or melancholy, may occasionally give a certain degree of consistency or natural colouring to the ideas as they are successively embodied; and I have hence described the ideas of imagination as characterized by rapid and vivacious combinations, whether congruous or incongruous; but for the most part the consistency is only occasional and momentary; or of permanent, limited to a single subject.

Tried by this test, I am afraid Dr. Akenside, among others, will be found to have fallen into some slight confusion in his idea of imagination or fancy (for he uses the terms synonymously) as collected from his wellknown and very admirable poem-a poem in a few places, perhaps, obscure to general readers from their unacquaintance with the Platonic philosophers, but combining as much fire, and feeling, and classical elegance, and rich imagery, and sweetness of versification, as any didactic poem of the same extent in the English tongue. This poem he entitles "The Pleasures of Imagination;" and the direct scope of it is to prove, firstly, that the highest pleasures of the mind are those furnished by the imagination; and secondly, that they are derived from the three sources of the Fair, the Wonderful, and the Sublime, as they are discoverable in the kingdoms of art and nature, and are chiefly collected and represented to us by poets and painters:

Know, then, whate'er of nature's pregnant stores,
Whate'er of mimic Art's reflected forms,
With love and admiration thus inflame
The powers of FANCY, her delighted sons
To three illustrious orders have referred ;-
Three sister-graces-whom the painter's hand,
The poet's tongue confesses: the Sublime,
The Wonderful, the Fair.-I see them dawn!
I see the radiant visions where they rise,
More lovely than when Lucifer displays

His beaming forehead through the gates of mori,
To lead the train of Phoebus and the Spring.

Who does not see that, through the whole of this the poet is speaking,

* Ser. III. Lect. XI.

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