Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ Now dreadful deeds
Might have ensued, nor only Paradise
In this commotion, but the starry cope
Of Heaven perhaps, or all the elements
At least bad gone to wrack, disturb’d and torn
With violence of this conflict, had not soon
The Eternal, to prevent such horrid fray,
Hung forth in Heaven his golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrea and the Scorpion sign,
Wherein all things created first he weigh'd,
The pendulous round Earth with balanc'd air
In counterpoise, pow ponders all events,
Battles and realms: in these be put two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight :
The latter quick up flew, and kick'd the beam;
Which Gabriel spying, thus bespake the fiend.

. Satan, I know thy strength, and thou know'st mine;
Neither out own, but given: what folly then
To boast what arms can do! since thine no more
Than Heaven permits, nor mine, though doubled now
To trample thee as mire: for proof look up,
And read thy lot in yon celestial sigo;
Where thou art weigh’d, and shown how light, how weak,
If thou resist.' The fiend look'd up, and knew
His mounted scale aloft ; nor more; but fled

Murmuring, and with him fled the shades of night.”
The passage from the Scriptures is the second part of
Daniel's interpretation of the hand-writing on the wall:

“ Tekel, thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." -Daniel, c. v. 0. 27.

This coincidence between Sacred and Profane writ has been often remarked ; and it is observable, that the passage in Milton is not so much imitated from Homer as from Daniel, -it is Homer Hebraised. In my mind, the three passages are always associated; and from the effect of such association, the parody of Pope appears to me to involve that Being, and that, Incommunicable Name, before whom the Jew trembled with hallowed awe, and for which bis reverence was so great, that, even upon holy occasions, he feared to trust his lips with the tremendous word, though touched with the coal from heaven! Shall it be said that that Being, and, implicitly, that Name, may be introduced into a scene of burlesque, with moral impunity, for the mere purpose of deciding the difference between the weight of the wit, or whiskers, of a beau,-and the hair, natural or artificial, of a belle?

But, say our opponents, the “ Essay on Man," is within the terms that define the highest kind or degree of poetry. The “Essay on Man,” is a metaphysical poem. Its metaphy

[ocr errors]

sics, however, are not his own; they were derived from Bolingbroke, and there is reason to believe that they were unintelligible to himself. And we cannot concede that the poetical or metaphysical imitator is of the same rank and order, or of the same grade, with the original poet or metaphysician. But had the matter been his own, a question arises as to the order of the poem--It

is a didactic poem. Lord Byron, in the controversy with Bowles, endeavoured to set the ethical over the epical,—and again, in “ Don Juan,"

“ The poets-and the moralists, their betters." But until we can concede that it is nobler to think than to act, the epic poem must retain its supremacy. The epic poem relates an action, and illustrates, as it were, in practice, what the other teaches by way of precept. Whether is it nobler for the hermit to indulge uncommunicated, and perhaps incommunicable, reveries in a solitary cell,-or for a man to come forth from his closet and benefit the world by illustrating, in his own conduct, the virtue of the principles which he has conceived,-or into an Institution, like the present, to make others participant of the conclusions at which he hath arrived ? Verily, it is nobler to act than to think ; for action is the End and the Result of thought.

Our opponents still insist upon making a translator equal to an original poet, and descant upon the merits of Pope's paraphrase of Homer. Cowper failed as a translator. But not, therefore, is he a poet inferior to Pope. Cowper had not the idiosyncrasy adapted for translation; but, as a poet, he is superior to Pope, because he is original. We do not mean to say that he has no imitations; but imitation is, with him, one of the modes of his genius, not the substance. Of Pope it was the substance-the idiosyncrasy-the native aptitude-the predisposition-the genius! Whatever there was of originality in Pope's translation was its style, which, as we have before said, 'was a Gallican adaptation; a style the most unsuitable as the medium of epic poetry, and one which has degraded the epic of Homer into a succession of antitheses and a sorites of epigrams; substituting, moreover, for the majestic simplicity of the original, the meretricious embellishments of an artificial and complex diction.

Pope never wrote an epic poem. From what has been said, it appears that the elements of epical excellence were not in him. Because he did not write an epic, we might say, there. fore, he was not a poet of the first order, an epic poem being of that description; and such a course of argument might be more germain to the general understanding. But, since it is possible for a simple ballad to contain the elements proper to the production of an epic, we prefer saying that, because these elements were wanting in him, therefore he is not entitled to the rank. His way of life confirms the remark. His life was not one of exertion,-indeed he was physically incapacitated,- but of study. He thought rather than acted.

Nothing could be more infelicitously introduced by the advocates of Pope, than the comparison of his poetical character, with Shakspeare's description of a poet. No poet ever less realized such description. In Pope, we look in vain

“For the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling.” We deny him not the possession of the vision,—but never author had less of

" That fine madness, Which rightly should possess a poet's brain.” He was confessedly the poet of reason and of common sense. He pretended not to address the imagination, or fancy; and exercised the faculties himself but seldom. He is never extravagant,-runs riot never,--and was only anxious to have the reputation of writing "what oft was thought, but ne'er so well express’d.” His eye glanced not from earth to heaven; but was well satisfied with that small portion of cerulean sky perceptible in a crowded city, and contented with so much of nature as might be imitated in a garden grotto, or introduced into a pleasure-ground. His • imagination, never bodies forth the form of things unknown;" neither does his “pen turn them to shape, and give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name. Pope dealt with the acknowledged-the known-the palpable the visible. Even the Sylphs, which have been called in as witnesses in favour of his invention, had pre-existence in the fable of the Rosicrucians. In their imagination were they created, not in Pope's. He had only the merit of adupting them to purposes of burlesque, as the machinery of an heroi.comic poem. And what was this merit? Why, he took them from their imaginative localities, their phantastic habitations, their undefined abodes, from their undiscovered land of faëry,--and made them denizens of the toilet and the card-table. Ere then, their residence was in the regions of poetry-the infinite, immortal, immutable.

He introduced them into the prose walks of life,-a dwelling not their own,-and a country which they knew not.

And in so doing, he acted a part the very antithesis to a poet's; which is to exalt the common into an ideal state of existence, not to reduce the ideal to the level of familiar intercourse. What “unknown thing,” then, hath he “turned to shape ?”—what

airy.nothing" located? The word poetry, defines itself,—it is, a creation What hạth Pope created ? From the creations of others he hath selected and recombined, -the standard

of some he hath reduced-and where he may be said to have improved, he hath only abstracted certain verbal impediments, or substituted a collocation of his own.

The opinion of the majority, is no argument for the poetical rank of Pope. It is only, the gifted few that are capable of appreciating the higher excellencies of poetry, and only the most gifted that are susceptible of the highest. Yes--until the majority of mankind are composed of the wisest, the best, and the happiest,—the many must be incapable of judging of the Muse aright; until they are wise enough to forsake the peccancies of office, and the vices of sordid engagement, and to live with Nature; until they are good enough to live as Nature would-among her beauties, her harmonies, her sublimities, in the purity and simplicity of her governmentamong the flowers and the fields-- by the still waters—and where the soft blue sky sinks into the soul-and the moonlight serenes the affections-and to receive, in singleness of heart, that religious love which Nature ever teacheth; until they thus become participant of the joy wherewith Nature causeth the tree to bud and the tender herb to shoot in Spring timeand the birds to trill their matins and their vespers, -and of the felicity wherewith Heaven biddeth the innumerable host of stars to blossom out, as a stellar Paradise, “ for the fair moon to walk abroad in,”—and of the gladness wherewith the sun goeth forth in the morning, like a giant in his strength, or a visible god resuming the providence of the world, -and rejoiceth over the majestic oak, as a father over a son he hath reared at noon,-yea, rejoiceth in his brightness, as the pervading presence of the all-inspiring Apollo, aye-kindling the mind to develope its marvellous faculties, and germinate in productions, not only pale reflections of the external creation, but imagings of the human spirit divine, impressed with the sublime and beautiful apparitions from without, and supported and strengthened from within by the mysterious soul of the universe, of which it is a part; until they thus be made sharers and coparceners in the purity and beauty, and sublimity of Nature, her health and her happiness; until they become thus wise—thus good—thus happy-living in the presence of Nature, and active and joyous in her potential workings-genuine poesy, which consisteth in the things of which we speak; can never be understood by the general mind, intelligible to the common ear, neither can the public heart conceive it.

VOL. 1. PART I.

50

ON THE

PRINCIPLES OF LIFE.

There is in animals, and also in vegetables, a principle which determines their form, preserves their identity, and produces in them the phenomena of growth, nutrition, and motion. It will be asked, - how do you know that such a principle exists? Who has ever seen it? I answer, that its presence is proved by inference. I hold it as a maxim that a thing cannot take place from nothing; or, in other words, that no effect can take place without a cause. Some effects are said to take place spontaneously; but it would be absurd to suppose that they start into existence of their own accord. The word spontaneous often serves as a cloak for the ignorance of mankind; by it, we can at most mean no more than that we do not know the causes of different phenomena.

Causes and effects are either substantial, or unsubstantial ; or, in other words, either material or immaterial. Substantial or material causes, and elects, are all those bodies having a real existence. Unsubstantial or immaterial causes, and effects, we conceive those things to be which are not tangible; such as virtue, honour, malice, fracture, &c. These are words made use of to denote particular states of things, and these states cannot exist independently of the things themselves. Such causes as these can, therefore, produce no real and absolute effects. There must be a real and absolute entity before any phenomenon can be produced.

In order to illustrate this subject, it may be necessary to say a few words more with respect to causes and effects.

We reason of matter as we find it. It is not our intention to inquire into the first cause of matter. We find ourselves surrounded on all sides by something, to which we give the name of matter; but we are perfectly ignorant of the nature of this substance. We find it under different forms in different bodies; and when two or more bodies unite, the product of the vnion is entirely different from any of the causes. This may be illustrated by acids and alkalies. But it is the same throughout-all the material world. It is one of the truest assertions, that “ there is nothing new under the sun;" for, what we call new things, are only made up of matter which already existed in another form. There is not an atom in existence now, which did not exist thousands of years ago. This property of self-existence is inherent in matter, and no power can annihilate it, but that which first produced it.

Matter is governed by certain, determinate laws, which are

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »