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from the familiarity of their names with the readers of that day, and by the profits, which, from the sale of his works, each had brought and was bringing to the Trade. The Editor was allowed a limited exercise of discretion, and the Authors whom he recommended are scarcely to be mentioned without a smile. We open the volume of Prefatory Lives, and to our astonishment the first name we find is that of Cowley! What is become of the morning-star of English Poetry? Where is the bright Elizabethan constellation? Or, if names be more acceptable than images, where is the ever-to-be-honoured Chaucer? where is Spenser? where Sidney? and, lastly, where he, whose rights as a poet, contradistinguished from those which he is universally allowed to possess as a dramatist, we have vindicated, where Shakspeare?—These, and a multitude of others not unworthy to be placed near them, their contemporaries and successors, we have not. But in their stead, we have (could better be expected when precedence was to be settled by an abstract of reputation at any given period made, as in this case before us?) Roscommon, and Stepney, and Phillips, and Walsh, and Smith, and Duke, and King, and Spratt-Halifax, Granville, Sheffield, Congreve, Broome, and other reputed Magnates-metrical writers utterly worthless and useless, except for occasions like the present, when their productions are referred to as evidence what a small quantity of brain is necessary to | procure a considerable stock of admiration, provided the aspirant will accommodate himself to the likings and fashions of his day.
As I do not mean to bring down this retrospect to our own times, it may with propriety be closed at the era of this distinguished event. From the literature of other ages and countries, proofs equally cogent might have been adduced, that the opinions announced in the former part of this Essay are founded upon truth. It was not an agreeable office, nor a prudent undertaking, to declare them; but their importance seemed to render it a duty. It may still be asked, where lies the particular relation of what has been said to these Volumes -The question will be easily answered by the discerning Reader who is old [ enough to remember the taste that prevailed when some of these poems were first published, seventeen years ago; who has also observed to what degree the poetry of this Island has since that period been coloured by them; and who is further aware of the unremitting hostility with which, upon some principle or other, they have each and all been
opposed. A sketch of my own notion of the constitution of Fame has been given; and, as far as concerns myself, I have cause to be satisfied. The love, the admiration, the indifference, the slight, the aversion, and even the contempt, with which these Poems have been received, knowing, as I do, the source within my own mind, from which they have proceeded, and the labour and pains, which, when labour and pains appeared needful, have been bestowed upon them, must all, if I think consistently, be received as pledges and tokens, bearing the same general impression, though widely different in value;-they are all proofs that for the present time I have not laboured in vain; and afford assurances, more or less authentic, that the products of my industry will endure.
If there be one conclusion more forcibly pressed upon us than another by the review which has been given of the fortunes and fate of poetical Works, it is this,-that every author, as far as he is great and at the same time original, has had the task of creating the taste by which he is to be enjoyed: so has it been, so will it continue to be. This remark was long since made to me by the philosophical Friend for the separation of whose poems from my own I have previously expressed my regret. The predecessors of an original Genius of a high order will have smoothed the way for all that he has in common with them; --and much he will have in common; but, for what is peculiarly his own, he will be called upon to clear and often to shape his own road :—he will be in the condition of Hannibal among the Alps.
And where lies the real difficulty of creating that taste by which a truly original poet is to be relished? Is it in breaking the bonds of custom, in overcoming the prejudices of false refinement, and displacing the aversions of inexperience? Or, if he labour for an object which here and elsewhere I have proposed to myself, does it consist in divesting the reader of the pride that induces him to dwell upon those points wherein men differ from each other, to the exclusion of those in which all men are alike, or the same; and in making him ashamed of the vanity that renders him insensible of the appropriate excellence which civil arrangements, less unjust than might appear, and Nature illimitable in her bounty, have conferred on men who may stand below him in the scale of society? Finally, does it lie in establishing that dominion over the spirits of readers by which they are to be humbled and humanised, in order that they may be purified and exalted?
If these ends are to be attained by the mere often to external, and always to internal, effort; communication of knowledge, it does not lie here.—whether for the continuance and strengthening of TASTE, I would remind the reader, like IMAGINA- the passion, or for its suppression, accordingly as TION, is a word which has been forced to extend its the course which it takes may be painful or pleaservices far beyond the point to which philosophy surable. If the latter, the soul must contribute to would have confined them. It is a metaphor, taken its support, or it never becomes vivid,—and soon from a passive sense of the human body, and languishes, and dies. And this brings us to the transferred to things which are in their essence point. If every great poet with whose writings not passive, to intellectual acts and operations. men are familiar, in the highest exercise of his The word, Imagination, has been overstrained, genius, before he can be thoroughly enjoyed, has from impulses honourable to mankind, to meet to call forth and to communicate power, this serthe demands of the faculty which is perhaps the vice, in a still greater degree, falls upon an original | noblest of our nature. In the instance of Taste, writer, at his first appearance in the world-Of the process has been reversed; and from the genius the only proof is, the act of doing well what prevalence of dispositions at once injurious and is worthy to be done, and what was never dise discreditable, being no other than that selfishness before: Of genius, in the fine arts, the only infall. which is the child of apathy,—which, as Nations sign is the widening the sphere of human sensibilty, decline in productive and creative power, makes for the delight, honour, and benefit of bursan them value themselves upon a presumed refine- nature. Genius is the introduction of a new ele! ment of judging. Poverty of language is the ment into the intellectual universe: or, if that be primary cause of the use which we make of not allowed, it is the application of powers to ! the word, Imagination; but the word, Taste, has objects on which they had not before been exerbeen stretched to the sense which it bears in cised, or the employment of them in such a manner modern Europe by habits of self-conceit, inducing as to produce effects hitherto unknown. What is that inversion in the order of things whereby a all this but an advance, or a conquest, made by passive faculty is made paramount among the facul- the soul of the poet? Is it to be supposed that ties conversant with the fine arts. Proportion and the reader can make progress of this kind, he congruity, the requisite knowledge being supposed, an Indian prince or general-stretched on his are subjects upon which taste may be trusted; it is palanquin, and borne by his slaves! No; he is competent to this office; for in its intercourse with invigorated and inspirited by his leader, in order these the mind is passive, and is affected painfully that he may exert himself; for he cannot pa or pleasurably as by an instinct. But the profound ceed in quiescence, he cannot be carried like s and the exquisite in feeling, the lofty and universal dead weight. Therefore to create taste is to in thought and imagination; or, in ordinary lan- call forth and bestow power, of which knowledge guage, the pathetic and the sublime;—are neither is the effect; and there lies the true difficulty, of them, accurately speaking, objects of a faculty which could ever without a sinking in the spirit of Nations have been designated by the metaphor -Taste. And why? Because without the exertion of a co-operating power in the mind of the Reader, there can be no adequate sympathy with either of these emotions: without this auxiliary impulse, elevated or profound passion cannot exist. Passion, it must be observed, is derived from a word which signifies suffering; but the connection which suffering has with effort, with exertion, and action, is immediate and inseparable. How strikingly is this property of human nature exhibited by the fact, that, in popular language, to be in a passion, is to be angry !-But,
'Anger in hasty words or blows
Itself discharges on its focs.'
As the pathetic participates of an animal sena tion, it might seem-that, if the springs of th emotion were genuine, all men, possessed of erpetent knowledge of the facts and cireanstLTUS, would be instantaneously affected. And, deve less, in the works of every true post vill y found passages of that species of excellence, which is proved by effects immediate and un versal. But there are emotions of the path: te that are simple and direct, and others that s complex and revolutionary; some-to which th heart yields with gentleness; others—against which it struggles with pride; these varieties are inti-ist as the combinations of circumstance and the esc stitutions of character. Remember, also, the £ medium through which, in poetry, the heart to be affected-is language; a thing suber to endless fluctuations and arbitrary assocatura
To be moved, then, by a passion, is to be excited, The genius of the poet melts these down for
his purpose; but they retain their shape and quality to him who is not capable of exerting, within his own mind, a corresponding energy. There is also a meditative, as well as a human, pathos; an enthusiastic, as well as an ordinary, sorrow; a sadness that has its seat in the depths of reason, to which the mind cannot sink gently of itself-but to which it must descend by treading the steps of thought. And for the sublime,-if we consider what are the cares that occupy the passing day, and how remote is the practice and the course of life from the sources of sublimity in the soul of Man, can it be wondered that there is little existing preparation for a poet charged with a new mission to extend its kingdom, and to augment and spread its enjoyments?
been a period, and perhaps never will be, in which vicious poetry, of some kind or other, has not excited more zealous admiration, and been far more generally read, than good; but this advantage attends the good, that the individual, as well as the species, survives from age to age; whereas, of the depraved, though the species be immortal, the individual quickly perishes; the object of present admiration vanishes, being supplanted by some other as easily produced; which, though no better, brings with it at least the irritation of novelty,—with adaptation, more or less skilful, to the changing humours of the majority of those who are most at leisure to regard poetical works when they first solicit their attention.
Is it the result of the whole, that, in the opinion of the Writer, the judgment of the People is not to be respected? The thought is most injurious; and, could the charge be brought against him, he would repel it with indignation. The People have already been justified, and their eulogium pronounced by implication, when it was said, above--that, of good poetry, the individual, as well as the species, survives. And how does it survive but through the People? What preserves it but their intellect and their wisdom?
-Past and future, are the wings
Away, then, with the senseless iteration of the word popular, applied to new works in poetry, as if there were no test of excellence in this first of the fine arts but that all men should run after its productions, as if urged by an appetite, or constrained by a spell!-The qualities of writing best fitted for eager reception are either such as startle the world into attention by their audacity and extravagance; or they are chiefly of a superficial kind lying upon the surfaces of manners; or arising out of a selection and arrangement of incidents, by which the mind is kept upon the stretch of curiosity and the fancy amused without the trouble of thought. But in every thing which is to send the soul into herself, to be admonished of her weakness, or to be made conscious of her power-wherever life and nature are described as operated upon by the creative or abstracting virtue of the imagination; wherever the instinctive wisdom of antiquity and her heroic passions uniting, in the heart of the poet, with the meditative wisdom of later ages, have produced that accord of sublimated humanity, which is at once a history of the remote past and a prophetic enunciation of the remotest future, there, the poet must reconcile himself for a season to few and scattered hearers. -Grand thoughts (and Shakspeare must often have sighed over this truth), as they are most naturally and most fitly conceived in solitude, sophically characterised, and to the embodied spirit can they not be brought forth in the midst of plaudits, without some violation of their sanctity. Go to a silent exhibition of the productions of the Sister Art, and be convinced that the qualities which dazzle at first sight, and kindle the admiration of the multitude, are essentially different from those by which permanent influence is secured. Let us not shrink from following up these principles as far as they will carry us, and conclude with observing-that there never has
The voice that issues from this Spirit, is that Vox Populi which the Deity inspires. Foolish must he be who can mistake for this a local acclamation, or a transitory outery-transitory though it be for years, local though from a Nation. Still more lamentable is his error who can believe that there is any thing of divine infallibility in the clamour of that small though loud portion of the community, ever governed by factitious influence, which, under the name of the PUBLIC, passes itself, upon the unthinking, for the PEOPLE. Towards the Public, the Writer hopes that he feels as much deference as it is entitled to: but to the People, philoso
of their knowledge, so far as it exists and moves, at the present, faithfully supported by its two wings, the past and the future, his devout respect, his reverence, is due. He offers it willingly and readily; and, this done, takes leave of his Readers, by assuring them-that, if he were not persuaded that the contents of these Volumes, and the Work to which they are subsidiary, evince something of the Vision and the Faculty divine;' and that, both in words and things, they will operate in their degree,
MY DEAR SIR George,
Accept my thanks for the permission given me to dedicate these Volumes to you. In addition to a lively pleasure derived from general con. siderations, I feel a particular satisfaction; for, by inscribing these Poems with your Name, I seem to myself in some degree to repay, by an appropriate honour, the great obligation which I owe to one part of the Collection-as having been the means of first making us personally known to each other. Upon much of the remainder, also, you have a peculiar claim, for some of the best pieces were composed under the shade of your own groves, upon the classic ground of Coleorton; where I was animated by the recollection of those illustrious Poets of your name and family, who were born in that neighbourhood; and, we may be assured, did not wander with indifference by the dashing stream of Grace Dieu, and among the rocks that diversify the forest of Charnwood.-Nor is there
any one to whom such parts of this Collection as have been inspired or coloured by the beautiful Country from which I now address you, could be presented with more propriety than to yourselfto whom it has suggested so many admirable pic tures. Early in life, the sublimity and beauty of this region excited your admiration; and I know that you are bound to it in mind by a still strengthening attachment.
Wishing and hoping that this Work, with the embellishments it has received from your pencil, may survive as a lasting memorial of a friendship, which I reckon among the blessings of my life,
I have the honour to be,
RYDAL MOUNT, WESTMORELAND, February 1, 1815,
PREFACE TO THE EDITION OF 1815.
one which he employs only in submission to necessity, and never for a continuance of time: as its exercise supposes all the higher qualities of the mind to be passive, and in a state of sub.
THE powers requisite for the production of | This power, though indispensable to a Poet, is poetry are: first, those of Observation and Description,―i. e., the ability to observe with accuracy things as they are in themselves, and with fidelity to describe them, unmodified by any passion or feeling existing in the mind of the describer: whether the things depicted be actually present to the senses, or have a place only in the memory.
*The state of the plates has, for some time, not allowed them to be repeated.
jection to external objects, much in the same way as a translator or engraver ought to be to his original. 2ndly, Sensibility,—which, the more exquisite it is, the wider will be the range of a poet's perceptions; and the more will he be incited to observe objects, both as they exist in themselves and as re-acted upon by his own mind. (The distinction between poetic and human sensibility has been marked in the character of the Poet delineated in the original preface.) 3dly, Reflection, which makes the Poet acquainted with the value of actions, images, thoughts, and feelings; and assists the sensibility in perceiving their connection with each other. 4thly, Imagination and Fancy, to modify, to create, and to associate. 5thly, Invention,-by which characters are composed out of materials supplied by observation; whether of the Poet's own heart and mind, or of external life and nature; and such incidents and situations produced as are most impressive to the imagination, and most fitted to do justice to the characters, sentiments, and passions, which the Poet undertakes to illustrate. And, lastly, Judgment,-to decide now and where, and in what degree, each of these faculties ought to be exerted; so that the less shall not be sacrificed to the greater; nor the greater, slighting the less, arrogate, to its own injury, more than its due. By judgment, also, is determined what are the laws and appropriate graces of every species of composition.
The materials of Poetry, by these powers collected and produced, are cast, by means of various moulds, into divers forms. The moulds may be cnumerated, and the forms specified, in the following order. 1st, The Narrative,- including the Epopoeia, the Historic Poem, the Tale, the Romance, the Mock-heroic, and, if the spirit of Homer will tolerate such neighbourhood, that dear production of our days, the metrical Novel. Of this Class, the distinguishing mark is, that the Narrator, however liberally his speaking agents be introduced, is himself the source from which every thing primarily flows. Epic Poets, in order that their mode of composition may accord with the elevation of their subject, represent themselves as singing from the inspiration of the Muse, 'Arma virumque cano,' but this is a fiction, in modern times, of slight value: the Iliad or the Paradise
As sensibility to harmony of numbers, and the power of producing it, are invariably attendants upon the facultics above specified, nothing has been said upon thoss requisites.
Lost would gain little in our estimation by being chanted. The other poets who belong to this class are commonly content to tell their tale;-so that of the whole it may be affirmed that they neither require nor reject the accompaniment of music.
2ndly, The Dramatic,-consisting of Tragedy, Historic Drama, Comedy, and Masque, in which the poet does not appear at all in his own person, and where the whole action is carried on by speech and dialogue of the agents; music being admitted only incidentally and rarely. The Opera may be placed here, inasmuch as it proceeds by dialogue; though depending, to the degree that it does, upon music, it has a strong claim to be ranked with the lyrical. The characteristic and impassioned Epistle, of which Ovid and Pope have given examples, considered as a species of monodrama, may, without impropriety, be placed in this class.
3rdly, The Lyrical,-containing the Hymn, the Ode, the Elegy, the Song, and the Ballad; in all which, for the production of their full effect, an accompaniment of music is indispensable.
4thly, The Idyllium,-descriptive chiefly either of the processes and appearances of external nature, as the Seasons of Thomson; or of characters, manners, and sentiments, as are Shenstone's Schoolmistress, The Cotter's Saturday Night of Burns, The Twa Dogs of the same Author; or of these in conjunction with the appearances of Nature, as most of the pieces of Theocritus, the Allegro and Penseroso of Milton, Beattie's Minstrel, Goldsmith's Deserted Village. The Epitaph, the Inscription, the Sonnet, most of the epistles of poets writing in their own persons, and all loco-descriptive poetry, belong to this class.
5thly, Didactic, the principal object of which is direct instruction; as the Poem of Lucretius, the Georgics of Virgil, The Fleece of Dyer, Mason's English Garden, &c.
And, lastly, philosophical Satire, like that of Horace and Juvenal; personal and occasional Satire rarely comprehending sufficient of the general in the individual to be dignified with the name of poetry.
Out of the three last has been constructed a composite order, of which Young's Night Thoughts, and Cowper's Task, are excellent examples.
It is deducible from the above, that poems, apparently miscellaneous, may with propriety be arranged either with reference to the powers of mind predominant in the production of them; or to the mould in which they are cast; or, lastly, to the subjects to which they relate. From each