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THE WAYWARDNESS OF GENIUS.

BY STEPHEN SIMPSON.

The waywardness of genius has been a perpetual theme for the moralist, the poet, and the philosopher. One of the most striking traits of wayward genius is an incapacity of satisfying its own expectations, as well as those of the world, in relation to its moral and physical character; not only as it concerns its intellectual achievements, but even in relation to its personal deportment; for it is a fact attested by all history and experience, that men of genius are seldom more agreeable in conversation, than they are faultless in their productions or happy in their lives. Seldom, or never, handsome, they are still less apt to be amiable, or pleasant as companions, or agreeable as friends. Being of quick sagacity, and nice observation, they readily detect blemishes in others: and naturally irritable and sarcastic, they are prone to indulge in satire and turn the defects of others into ridicule. Vain and presuming, they are at the same time diffident and jealous of praise; and while they are morbidly sensitive to censure, they are equally dissatisfied with applause. When you praise them, they doubt your sincerity; and when you reprove them, they question your judgment or suspect your friendship. They are neither satisfied with themselves nor reconciled to the world. Although they are sometimes vain, yet they are too conscious of their own defects to be arrogant; but they are so superior to the world, that they feel proud when put in comparison

with the general order of men, though humble when considered in the scale of positive perfection.

Genius is, indeed, an enigma; a something always to be studied, yet never to be understood. The strong and masculine features of lofty minds seem to conform every thing about them to this all controlling spirit of the soul. Made up of a concentration of violent passions, they form vigorous conceptions and decided judgments; and thus become as inflexible in opinion, as they are rigid and unconciliating in manners. It is generally the quality of feeble minds and instinctive life, gifted with very moderate powers of perspicacity,or of imagination, to be amiable, soft and conciliating; and it is less from acerbity of temper, than energy of intellect, that we find men of genius rough and ungentle in the announcement, and not less positive in the retention of their opinions. In general, women and men, not distinguished for strong attributes of mind, are the subjects of the soft, mild, and agreeable traits of character; which depend less on the goodness of the heart, than the serene composure of the intellect. Nervous irritability is more the cause than the effect of genius; and as this impels the mind to the perception of relations never discerned by others, so it awakens feelings and thoughts, which cannot brook the ignorance of less profound and comprehensive intellect, and fails to excite the sympathies of the less feeling heart.

It is for this reason that genius becomes too colossal to retain the proportions of grace, or the features of feminine delicacy in its character, however it may be distinguished for those qualities in its productions. Hence it is that men of genius are seldom, or never esteemed; and very rarely loved. They offend too many prejudices to be agreeable--they assail too many errors not to be feared;

they break down too many customs to be admired—they shock too many feelings to be loved. Generally dislike, fear, envy and hatred seem to be the only emotions they inspire, when they mix with the world—while, on the contrary, universal admiration and lasting renown are their lot, when they seclude themselves in devotion to the divinity that stirs within them. Then kindling to inspiration, they throw off the gems of heaven from the glowing laboratory of a fervid and exhaustless imagination, or compose treasures of knowledge for the instruction of posterity. Thus they never satisfy the world in their personal and moral character; and never, or very seldom, fail in the achievement of posterior glory.

This, one would naturally suppose, is a measure of affliction quite sufficient to rescue the unfortunate genius from further calamity; as we are all disposed to think that some countervailing good is always in store for those who suffer severe and protracted trials. Yet is this among the least of the evils which hurry down genius before the whirlwind of passion into the blackness of despair. The incapacity to satisfy its own expectations is a corrosive poison to its peace, and a gnawing worm that never dies. It cherishes a glowing and a boundless ambition for excellence unattainable, and for glory beyond the lot of mortals. Oh! I have seen genius weep away its nights of anguish into days of humiliation, that it could not equal in composition the shadowy imaginings of invention, as they flitted before it like the stars of heaven, now burning bright, and now lost in darkness, as if shining only to deceive and putting on their glories merely to lure us to ruin. Alexander wept when he heard of his father's victories, lest he should leave him no harvest of glory to reap. Cæsar too played the woman when he had con

quered the world, to find that his cup of fame was full and that his genius must become in future a prey to apathy and languor. For glory is the food of genius--its solè delight-its only occupation. Deny it that, and wo unutterable is the assured lot of that brilliant wretch whose ken pierces the veil that skreens eternity from the common gaze, and riots in visions that constitute the enjoyments of the gods. Thus it pants after perfection not easily reached; and, when attained, not satisfactory, because fresh glory must be gained, or ruin overwhelms the soul, when thus left without its natural aliment. It is for this reason, that genius seems never to be satisfied with itself; for as the fruition of glory cannot be incessant, the doom of its misery is as inevitable as it is dark and deep -combining all that can be conceived of horror, or imagined of anguish. Then it is, in these mysterious moments of despondency, that genius, despising its own destiny, perverts its might to its own destruction, in preference to wearing away an existence not illumined by the

rays of glory or sweetened by the perpetual voice of praise.

For the same reason, no men are so susceptible of flattery and so liable to become victims to adulation as men of genius; yet their incredulity would save them from this deception, did they not prefer praise to sense, and fiction to judgment.

In the moments of despondency just described, the waywardness of genius is most observable; for when the sun of its fame is obscured, it loses itself in the labyrinth of its own woes, and begins to scorn that very glory which is the canopy of its ambition's throne. It is in such moments, oh, unhappy genius! that the fiery darts of thy sublimated soul pierce deep into thine own vitals; at such times, beware! Think not of the poisoned bowl,

or the bloody dagger! Reflect not on the woes that press thee down, but fly to NATURE for succour and repose. Expand the wide wings of thy sublime fancy over the beautiful and mysterious productions that lie spread before you in the glowing landscape and the gleaming river -in the foaming cataract and the placid vale-the humble cot of industry, or the virtuous habitation of content. Give up your soul to active solitude, or devote your days and nights to deeds of benevolence or designs of love. Fly to the coverts and the fields, or seek the abode of misery to succour its afflictions, and pour gilead into its wounds! But touch not, oh, son of vivid feeling and exquisite fancy! touch not the inebriating draught that smiling Bacchus proffers to your lips, as he chants the song of pleasure, which falsely promises oblivion to your woes. Fly! fly from the magic charms of his tabor and flute, and the delicious but intoxicating goblet that he holds forth dressed in wreaths of flowers, whose folds conceal the serpent death, and the hag despair! Touch it not, as thou hopest for the glory of earth or the sublime immortality of God! But to the fields repair; and climb the craggy cliffs that overhang the giddy cataract, and lose, in the sublime contemplation of nature, the littleness of thy own ambition.

Wayward child of genius! thus envied, thus admired, how shall I describe thy fickle temper, and thy mysterious career? When censured, irritable and melancholywhen praised, still wretched and dissatisfied with thy attainments, improvident and reckless; thou placest thy happiness in visions and neglectest the only means of rational felicity and permanent independence. Inhabiting a world of thy own creation, thou art the victim of realities, which, while they constitute the pleasure of rougher mortals, crush sensibilities like thine into unutterable wo!

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