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What more can be effected by this If this circumstance, however, could particular style which is to exclude not totally extinguish an exclusive all others? Will its admirers main- style or school of poetry, it would tain its superiority because it pleases receive its death blow from another them most. The admirers of every quarter. There can be no poets 'un. other style can make use of the same less there be readers of poetry, for argument, and therefore every style without readers no one would puhcan be proved best and worst at the lish. The readers of poetry, how* same moment. Besides if we culti- ever, would now be so comparatively vate only one style of poetry, we few, being confined to the mere adshall have neither poetry nor poets mirers of the Lake School, that the in the course of a century. This sale of poetic works would not deeffect I believe, has not been antici- fray the expenses of publication, and pated by the most sagacious legis- publishers are too wise to publish at tor in any of our modern schools; à certain loss. Perhaps it may be but without pretending to the spi- said, that the Lake poetry is at prerit of prophecy, I feel confident that sent confined to its admirers, and this would be the result. · Let us still enriches the publisher and the suppose the Lake School were to poet. . This however is not the fact: exclude all others, it is obvious that for one real and unaffected admirer every person who had not a genius of the Lake poetry, there are perfor this species of poetry, should de- haps ten readers, and consequently sist from writing altogether, and ten purchasers. One half of these that our poets would consequently readers at least, are merely pretendbe limited to a very small number. ed admirers of the Lake School, peoThe poetic spirit which is at present ple who, having no judgment of communicated from mind to mind, their own, blindly admire whatever that spirit which is purified by com they find adınired by such of their munication, and strengthened by ex friends as appear to have wiser heads pansion, would, in this case, instant than themselves. The other two ly perish. In whatever style a poet fifths are probably composed of those writes, he is continually, though who read or purchase all the poetioften unconsciously, taking his ils cal productions of the day, some lustrations, associations, images, sen- through a laudable curiosity of betiments, shade and colouring, from coming acquainted with whatever is the great poetic spirit which is al excellent, and others, through a fear ready abroad and diffused through of being found ignorant of any new an endless diversity of styles, and publication. It is obvious, however, peculiarities of manner. But this that if the Lake School once becanie diversity would be at an end, this an exclusive one, those who read it spirit would die of itself, if only at present merely to shew their judg. one style of poetry were once culti- ment in preferring it to all others, vated. It would not, therefore, he would immediately fall off, for as cultivated long, because it would there would remain no opportunity soon lose that peculiarity of manner of giving ita preference, there would which characterized it at the mo be no pretension consequently to the ment, being only a certain ramifi- exereise of a superior judgment, and cation of the great poetic spirit of no one would continue to read the the age. This spirit may be aptly Lake poetry who did not really adcompared to a great river, which mire it. branches into different directions, Though no school of poetry has and supplies each branch with the as yet succeeded in putting down waters of its parent stream. As the rest, there is a mistaken opinion, none of these branches can exist which has, more or less, infected all unless supplied from the main river, the schools, or, at least, a portion of 80 can no particular style or school each, and this opinion is, I believe, of poetry exist, that attempts to ex peculiar to the present age,
that ist by itself, and that does not draw there must be some cortain style of its strength and vigour from that poetry, some certain measure, some poetie spirit which is diffused, as I certain manner, some certain class have just observed, through an end. of subjects and of images, superior less diversity of style and manner. to all others, and that consequently,
all others should give way to them. objects; whether it be written in We all seem to forget, that neither Oituva rima, in the stanza of Spenstyle, measure, nor manner, consti ser, &c.; whether the phraseology tutes a particle of the essense of possess a certain antiquated form poetry, and that the prosaic form is and turn of expression, and a ceras capable of being poetic as any tain infantine simplicity and caremeasure that can be pointed out. lessness of manner, which not only Some writers have gone so far, as leads us to suppose it was written to place Ossian at the head of all without the least thought or reflecpoetic productions ; but to judge of tion, but inclines us to fall in love poetry by the squabblings of mo with the baby innocence of its audern critics, it would not be poetry thor. These matters can be ascerat all. We must seek for the essence tained in a trice; they may be of poetry, therefore, in sentiment, taught to a child at the age
of nine, pathos, imagery, delineation, inven- and, consequently, we can now be tion, sublimity of conception, &c. better critics at nine, than we could And the greatest poet is he who formerly at forty, with the addiexcels in these ; not the tame and tional advantage of being able to starched advocate of one unvaried decide the merit of any poetical style and manner. In the days of work, in one-fortieth of the time. Pope, we hear of no disputes rela It would be an insult to the intive to measure, style, and manner, tellectual character of the present because they had 'sense enough to age, to prove that our modern poetic perceive, that the best style was scales and compasses tend only to that which was most accordant to the perversion of true taste and the genius of the poet. In com sound judgment, and that the critic paring a poem written in hexameter who would confine a great genius verse with one written in the Ottava to the stanza of Spenser, or to any rima, no critic thought of preferring other stanza, to subjects, images, one to the other, in consequence of styles and measures of a certain chathe measure. This was not the cri- racter, is actually labouring to comterion by which they estimated po- plete this perversion. Every school etic pre-eminence. The same ob- of poetry is, therefore, a nuisance, servation applies to subject, images, because they all draw certain lines &c. It never once occurred to them, around them, beyond which the poet that to appreciate the true merit of must not venture his excursive flight. a poem, they should take into con It is useless, however, to prescribe sideration the subject and images. laws to the poet. Of all men, he They did not go thus mechanically pays least obedience to the precept, to work, for they had not, as yet,
<hither shalt thou go, and no invented a scale and compass, by farther.” He wanders wherever which the merit of all poems what- imagination solicits his presence : ever might be ascertained at once, he tramples under foot every obstawithout the trouble of judging every cle which impedes his career; he poem by laws peculiar to itself. It wings his majestic flight beyond the was, then, imagined, that what con- niggard empalement within which stituted the excellence of one poem, critical sagacity would confine his was not what constituted the excel- flight. Ocean is only a drop, and lence of another; that each required the earth a speck in the immensity a treatment, a class of images, a dis- of his creation ; and if even space position of parts, and a light and had bounds, he would spurn its emshade, peculiar to itself; and they, palement, and explore new. regions consequently, judged it necessary to of “untried being.”. The poet, who enter into the design and spirit of exults in the security of his own the poet, before they could venture strength, either laughs at or pities to determine its comparative worth. the solemn gravity and affected wisAt present, an easier road lies open dom of those who “ write receipts to the critic: he has only to run how poems may be made.”. A meover a poem, and see whether the chanical critic, prescribing laws to subject be of a romantic character; a poet, is like an apothecary, prewhether the images be scrupulously scribing medicine to a physician. and studiously selected from natural The apothecary has only one receipt Eur. Mag. Vol. 82.
for curing his patient; the physi- that where these were attained, excian has å hundred, so, also, has cellence was also attained, whatever the pseudo-critic only one way of miglit be the subject that exercised arriving at excellence, while the his pen. In examining, therefore, poet, gifted with the eyes of Argus, the merits of his contemporaries, he perceives, at a glance, a hundred never inquired whether the subject approaches to the temple of fame. was plaintive, amatory, heroic, ele
It seems obvious, then, that the giac, romantic, or pathetic; he knew, 'rage for particular modes, styles, that Gray's “ Elegy,” though it had subjects, measures, images, phrase- not a particle of romance, was not inology, &c., which characterize the ferior, in point of merit, to Spenser's present age, is not the offspring of * Faerie Queen," and that of Shenimproved taste, and that, instead of stone's “ Pastoral Ballad," though enlarging the career of genius, as written in Oltava rima, was a better we pretend to do, we only circum- poem than Blackmore's “Creation," vent its excursions, and enchain its though written in heroic verse. His energies. This rage must, there whole attention was, therefore, difore, have been brought about by rected to the treatment of the subone of those revolutions in litera- ject, or those qualities of excellence ture, which works itself into exist- which I have just mentioned ; and ence by slow and imperceptible de- in deciding the merits of a poem, he grees. How this revolution has been never inquired whether it was roeffected, is not unworthy of our at mantic or not. He, consequently, tention.
never thought of forming a poetical Formerly, a classical and liberal creed, or a poetical school, which education was confined to a small confined all excellence to a romantie portion of society. There were no subject, or a romantic manner. But means of acquiring it, but by a in subsequent times, when literature close and unwearied application to became extended to a greater porbooks, and an acquaintance with the tion of society, the knowledge, which best writers, ancient and modern. was heretofore acquired through an The mind, therefore, became natu- intimate acquaintance with the best rally enriched with the treasures of writers, became partly supplied by classic literature and classic taste; conversation, and the advantages of and whoever united to these acquire a more enlightened society. In the ments that original susceptibility of days of Pope, every man was a proimpressions, which constitutes ge- found scholar, or an ignorant clown: pius, naturally took his images, il- there was scarcely any medium.Justrations, sentiments, and concep. These two classes never mingled tions, from that extensive magazine with each other, so that little knor. of literature, which was bequeathed ledge was acquired through the mere to him by the most illustrious writers intercourse of society. The first and poets of every age, and of every class, accordingly, were almost all clime. The poet, thus furnished writers or critics, and the latter class with classic knowledge, was, there- knew they had no pretensions to be fore, enabled “ to trace the naked either. At present, the matter is pature and the living grace,” because quite otherwise ; we have so many he viewed nature, not only with his classes, that it is impossible to disown eyes, but with the eyes of others. tinguish them from each other. We His ainbition was, therefore, to equal have few who can be called perfectly the great models which he had stu- ignorant, and the profoundly learned died, in beauty of expression, deli- are, perhaps, as few as ever. But cacy of sentiment, luxuriance of de- between these extremes of knowscription, richness of imagery, purity ledge, we have intelligences of all of style, sublimity of conception, shapes and sizes, men, whose knowelegance of selection, perspicuity of ledge is less acquired from books, arrangement, and splendour of illus- and a regular classical education, tration, He knew, that without than froin an intereourse with those these qualities of poetic excellence, who have acquired their knowledge it mattered little what subject he through the regular channel. In chose, in what measure be wrote, or conversation it always lappens, or what cadences he observed ; and at least generally so, that men who
appear nearly on an equality in treat- false perception of things extend to ing any subject, are at an immense every new subject which engages his: distance from each other, in point of attention, because we invariably, the real information. A learned man, learned as well as the unlearned, or a man of profound thought and make use of the knowledge which we extensive views, cannot, in the ra- already possess, or imagine we pospidity of conversation, bring for sess, in judging of every new subward the whole chain of reasoning ject to which we apply ourselves ; that lies unconnected in his mind, and where this previous knowledge but which he is capable of connect- is false and confused, it must, neing at his more retired and contem. cessarily, lead us into a similar conplative moments. Unable, there- fusion and false perception of every fore, to say all he wishes to say, thing, which we subsequently view and feeling he cannot do the subject through the medium of it. The man that justice of which he knows him who contents himself with knowing self capable, he ofteu speaks less to nothing that he cannot know perthe point than he who has a most fectly, who prevents his attention superticial knowledge of it. He from straying to objects which are has so much to say, that he is at placed beyond the sphere of his coma loss, for the moment, where to prehension, is seldom confused in begin; while he, who views the sub- his ideas, or mistaken in his judgject only in one point of view, feels ment. Where he cannot decide clear. no loss whatever in expatiating upon ly, he does not venture to decide at it. The little he knows he has als all: his judgment is not confused, ways ready, and out it pops, whether by resting it on that heap of false it be applicable or not. No wonder, knowledge which deceived the other. then, that men of superficial know- So far as he knows, he knows clearly, 'ledge, and who owe the greater part and, therefore, he rests every new even of this knowledge to mere con- judgment on this clear and aceurate versation, should think themselves knowledge. If it be too contracted qualified to appear before the public to enable him to judge, he suspends in print, when they find such little his judgment altogether, and, thereapparent difference between them fore, escapes the deception and conselves and men of profound and ac fusion which unavoidably ensue from knowledged ability.
imaginary knowledge. The consequence of such men It is obvious, at the same time, engaging in authorship is easily that where the facilities of acquiring anticipated, had we no experience to knowledge without recourse to confirm the speculations of theory. books are increased, where converThey are continually mingling the sation supplies the place of study more abstract parts of science, of and mental application, this confuwhich they have only glimmering sion and false perception of things conceptions, caught up hastily from must necessarily extend to a greater conversation, with those more obvio portion of society. If every man ous and plainer truths which are we converse with were a Newton or placed within the comprehension of a Locke, it would be impossible for ordinary minds. Hence, they can. us to derive any advantage from it, not descry the “ naked nature unless we first prepared ourselves to through the chaos of thought, and analyse and digest the knowledge the rubbish of ideal knowledge or which is acquired through the meof “ nameless somethings, " which dium of conversation by previous they have thrown over it them- study, and an unwearied application selves, and which, accordingly, con to books.
Without this previous ceal it from their view. He, who preparation, we take every thing for is totally ignorant of things, has a granted that is told us, because we great advantage over him who has are ourselves too ignorant to disco, a smattering knowledge of them. ver whether it be true or false, From knowing them in part, he is Hence we store up a thousand errors led to believe that he knows them which to us are as true as demons entirely, and, consequently, his ge- stration itself, and accordingly they neral idea of each of them is false become the data of our subsequent and confused. This confusion and reasoning. But this is not the only
evil: without the preparation of He does not perceive that what is which I have spoken, we are not proper in one place is absurd in anqualified to understand what we hear Other, and that the beauty and proin conversation, and, therefore, even priety of every thing depends not when we are told what is true, we on its being the opposite to someconvert it into what is false by un- thing else, but on a thousand cir. derstanding it differently from what cumstances of which he is ignorant. the speaker intended. 'It reqnires · He is again chastised, and again but a slight acquaintance with the transgresses, and at length, becomhistory of English literature to per ing desperate, he leagues with some ceive, that youth receive a more su of his fellows who are suffering un. perficial classical education, and that der the same lash. They see their their course of studies is more light- only resource, and they cagerly emly and more quickly got over, at brace it. Aware that while poetry present, than during the three last is subjected to critical rules, they centuries, though education of one have no chance of success, they come kind or other is imparted to a much forward in a body, and maintain greater number of individuáls now that all true poetry consists in writthan formerly. It is now become a ing as the spirit moveth. This is the popular doctrine, that we should origin of the romantic school of postudy men, not books, and accord- etry; for those who produce merely ingly we throw away our books, and what the spirit moveth, without ever enter early into society to acquire inquiring whether it be a good or a practical acquaintance with the an evil spirit, whether it be clothed world. This is a grand mistake ;- in light or in darkness, must unahere, as well as in the sciences, the- voidably produce something wild ory should always precede practice; and romantic. To prove that they and he, who begins with the practical have not recourse to this species of part, will always remain ignorant poetry through their inability to of both theory and practice. He write what wonld stand the test of who would be a man while he is yet classical criticism, and that it is the a boy, will remain a boy when he real spirit that moved them, and not onght to be a man; and he who be an affected inspiration, they fregins to study men and manners be- quently imitate the simple and innofore books and intellectual acquire- cent language of children, a simpliments have enlarged his ideas, and city which they know cannot be taught him to distinguish between affected, an innocence which cannot appearances and realities, will al- be feigned. Here, however, they ways remain a novice in the science have been seldom successful, for a of human nature. It is certain, discriminating mind will easily dishowever, that we have more writers tinguish between the simplicity of a of this latter class at present than child and the simulation of a literary we ever had before, and the causes sinner who is hoary with age. Fear which I have mentioned sufficiently ing, however, that this romantic liaccount for the effect. A writer of cence of sentiment would not entire this stamp, consequently, obtrudes ly skreen them from the tribunal of on the public that “ ruide heap of criticism, and that though they surwit" which is generated by the con ceeded in screening the absurdity of fusion and false perception of things their sentiments under the veil of which I have just mentioned. His inspiration, they might still be exblunders and perpetual inconsisten- posed, if their number and versificacies are immediately exposed by the tion were not sweet and musical, critics. He perceives, though he they went a step farther, and main. may be unwilling to acknowledge, tained, that true poetry ought not the justice of the chastisement with to be restricted to any certain mea. which they have visited him. He sure, and that musical cadences strives to 'reform; and particularly were only good when they came of he strives to avoid the errors which themselves, that is, when the spirit they have pointed out; but in doing gave them birth. Accordingly, so he runs into the opposite extreme, much of our modern poetry is mere believing that the opposite to defor- prose; but when the spirit so willeth, mity must necessarily be beautiful. what right have we to complain?