« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
circumstances, which could only have suggested themselves to an exquisitely sensible heart, you must turn to the piece which has lately appeared in his “ Life by Hayley,” addressed to the beloved companion of so many years, his Mary, now reduced to second infancy. All the studied elegies and monodies that were ever written are poor in effect to this effusion".
In your Essay prefixed to Thomson's Seasons, (p. lviii.) speaking of " those simple incidents which are most adapted to excite the sympathetic emotions,” you say,
The nearer they approach to common life, the more certainly will they produce their effect”.
Not to multiply passages on this head, I shall merely cite two from your Essay on Songwriting, the one (p. xxii.) where speaking of the Ballad of Old Robin Gray, you say that it “ has scarcely its equal for the touching effect of a story related in the most simple and unaffected manner, and with no exaggeration of feeling". The other is p. xxviii, and direct to my purpose, that, “ All pastoral poetry, however, it must be acknowledged, tends to a langour and insipidity proceeding from the monotony of the imagery and ideas, and the radical want of that reality which is requisite for exciting a lively interest”.
These references to your own works, Sir, will, I conceive, support me in maintaining, that a departure from Nature, to “ feed our appetite for novelty upon imaginary beings,” (Letters to Son. Vol. I. L. viii. p. 67.) is not a prime requisite for poetical composition ; though you say that we are at last compelled to it. Perhaps, after all, you and I do not fundamentally differ much upon this subject. I allow charms to Art and Novelty, in their proper place : and you (as appears from the foregoing citations) pay great deference to Reality and Sober Strains. Novelty is one source of pleasure; but the steady and wellformed mind, I conceive, derives many of its enjoyments from other and higher sources. The superior mind of Cowper seems to have dwelt with peculiar pleasure on scenes and ideas with which he had long been familiar. In the first Book of that incomparable Poem, The Task, he particularly seems to rejoice that his advanced years have not
yet impair'd My relish of fair prospect, scenes that sooth'd Or charm'd me young, no longer young, I find Still soothing, and of power to charm me still.” Line 140.
But how near we are to an agreement on this subject of Novelty, is probably not necessary
to be settled. On the propriety of admitting many of the Songs in your Collection, we seem
, to differ widely. But, before I come to remark on the separate songs, I wish to say something on your observations respecting the state of morals in our villages. You say (Vol. I. L. ix. p. 79.) “ we know
. too well that no "Arcadia exists upon modern ground, and that vice and wretchedness prevail in the hamlet as well as in the city.” That they prevail in both we must not deny. But you say (Vol. II. L. xii. p. 205.) “ The village has its rake and debauchee as well as the town; the alehouse of the one offers as great a temptation as the tavern of the other ; female chastity is an object of seduction equally in both; the day-labourer of the one is as much disposed as the mechanic or manufacturer of the other to neglect his hirer's business, and make petty depredations on his property; for want and laziness are just the same motives in both."
That these evils are as great, that they are equally prevalent, in the Country and the City, I cannot well grant.
I have resided a great part of my life in the Country; and I may say that I have associated both with farmers and labourers, I have known them intimately as the pastor of a parish, I
have seen them in their religious duties, in their occupations, and in their festivities ;-I have seen the poor of other places by the way, while I have travelled on foot through many parts of this island, both in their cottages and in their public houses ; nay, I have not only seen those employed in rural life, but I have conversed with the miner, the manufacturer, and the artisan, the ostler, the postboy, and the coachman, the fisherman, the sailor and the soldier. And I conceive it but an act of justice due to the lower classes of society to say, that I do not think they are worse than the higher, or even as bad; when I reflect upon their education, their opportunities of learning, and the examples set them, I consider them as being better;—though far be it from me to say that I do not think there is much vice to be found among the lower classes, much virtue among the higher. But, amid the lower classes I have seen much genuine and unaffected piety, unshaken integrity, sobriety and chastity, much brotherly love, and a readiness to assist each other in want or in affliction*. Nor must I omit in my catalogue of virtues not unfrequently to be met with, and especially as connected with this subject, an urbanity and unaffected civility of manner, I might almost say a polish, which has been truly pleasant, and so far from “ rude manners" and “ coarse expressions," (Letters to Son. Vol. I.
* In Bishop Horne's admirable Discourse on The Blessed Effects of Perseverance, preached before the Society for pro
moting Christian Knowledge, in the year 1783, be bears this favourable testimony to the virtues of the Poor.
“ If it be enquired " Whet ber the poor be capable of making any considerable proficiency in the school of Christ?" Experience will answer in the affirmative. With a little plain instruction, they can apprehend the articles of faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed, and the rules of practice as laid down in the coinmandments. They can learn to trust in God, their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier : they can give him thanks for what they liave, and pray to him for what they want. They can love their Saviour, and for his sake shew kindness to their brethren, whom he has redeemed. One may often behold, among the lower ranks, that attention to the distresses of each other, that earnest desire, and, what is of more worth, that vowearied endeavour, to remove or alleviate them, wbich do credit to the human heart, wherever they are found. A poor person, after labouring throngh the day, will pass the night in watching with a sick neighbour ; while the rich pursue their pleasures, the scholar retires to his library, and the virtuoso to his cabinet, safe from the importunity of the wretched, and where the voice of misery never penetrates. Let not the pride of wealth or science look down with contempt upon the poor, since they often possess and exhibit that charity which is the end of knowlege, the comfort of society, the balm of life; and by his proficiency in which, every man is to be tried, at the judge ment of the great day.-" Hath not God chosen the poor? Let not MAN, then, despise them.”