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judgment of the superficial, attaches to Poetry, belongs only to a mistaken opinion of its nature, occasioned by the bad taste, or mean genius, of some of its fashionable professors. The true Poet, as Johnson says,f "must write as the interpreter of Nature, and the legislator of mankind; and consider himself, as presiding over the thoughts and manners of future generations; as .a being superior to time and place." The originality of distortion; and the false glare of unnatural combinations, is, indeed, a puerile ambition, which deserves the stigma of trifling with the human faculties.
But to exalt the fancy, and to ameliorate the heart, is a far different task. Let us, for instance, take " Gray's Elegy." Every reader of a feeling and cultivated mind must have experienced at times, when he visited a country church-yard, many of the sentiments and reflections, which that inimitable composition expresses: yet he has known them, perhaps, indistinctly and feebly; and been unable to grasp, much less to communicate, them. If Gray's Stanzas come within his memory, or his reach, he becomes, with the aid of such a director, master of every idea; impresses every image clearly on his intellect; and obtains, by reflection, all the beautiful radiance of the Poet's genius. Is this an useless or undignified act? To impart the fire of heaven to dull and half-warmed clay? To illume the glimmering twilight of the human soul? To teach the groveling to aspire; the
languid to feel; aud the heavy to dance with hope and joy?
Whatever poetry wants a foundation in truth, that is, in the natural and unforced associations of the mind, wants, in my opinion, a main charm, nay, the most vital attraction, of the art. This, perhaps, is the first of the numerous merits of Shakespeare. In all his wild fancies, he does but race the quickest, and the strongest, in the native gambols of the brain. All his fairy fictions, all the playful visions of the "Midsummer Night's Dream" are but popular superstitions, lighted into a blaze by the touch of his radiant imagination.
Real poets, then, are the best instructors of all the inmost qualities, and most secret movements, of the human bosom. It is their business, as it is their delight, to paint their noblest, and their softest affections; to animate, or melt, others with those lofty or pathetic thoughts, to which the varied affairs, the noble struggles, and deep misfortunes of life continually give occasion; to soothe the perturbations of regret, anger, and disappointment by the charms of verse; to refine the mind to the most exquisite of enjoyments; and to cheer Solitude with wiser and more splendid company, than assemblies of wit, or rich and crowded courts.
If Poets are accused of ignorance of life, of inattention to the human character, of want of practical wisdom, the accusation must arise from a stupid blindness in the accuser to the requisites of a Poet.
When versifiers and epigrammatists, authors of polished strains of unmeaning harmony, composers of tinsel couplets of gallantry and laboured compliment, are mistaken for Poets, the charges of frivolity, inattention, and emptiness are but a consequence of the first degrading error.
To stimulate dull or childish fancies by gaudiness and exaggeration, which constitute the grimace of poetry; to seek the fame of invention and originality by over-wrought images and sentiments, which want the simple forms and pure colours of native inspiration, is, indeed, as unprofitable to others, as it must be wearisome to him, who is thus employed.
But every record of natural feeling, every picture of our moral affections, is a delightful relief to the bosom, which thus discharges itself, while the sympathy, that it awakes in those to whom it is presented, adds at once to their refinement and their virtue. Easy as the task may seem; strait and open as this path may appear to the Fountain-head of the Muses; experience shews us that it is the least attractive; or the most difficult to be trod. For oue Poet of this kind, whose wreath, composed of legitimate laurel, has retained perennial verdure, how many have snatched at gaudy and fading weeds! But, perhaps, it arises from this, that it requires a vigour and £ clearness of thought and conception, which Nature c but seldom bestows: for where the disguise of dress <f and ornament is not allowed, the form itself must be » beautiful and perfect in all its nakedness.
"The common sun, the air, the skies,
Aug. 28, 1815.
In the iXth Number of The Sylvan Wanderer I have introduced two Sonnets of the ingenious Author of "Childe Alarique? After a lapse of two years, I introduce two others, received in a similar way. They are descriptive of the feelings of a true Poet. But, alas! are these the feelings of happiness? Mingled as they are with deep regrets, and dreadful bitterness, at the troubles of life, of which common minds cannot form even a faint conception, they
"Wrap the hour of woe in tenfold night."
Moments of inspiration sometimes return to us; the raptures of less gloomy days seem reviving in our bosoms: but suddenly clouds gather again; the sunshine of the breast is extinguished; and all is, once more, despondence and mental darkness. Then the < limbs faulter; the whole frame is debilitated and $ paralized; and a stupor, little better than idiotism, en€ sues. The wand of the Necromancer, in the realms
of Fancy, never performed a greater change, by shifting the scene from gardens of bliss to naked and hopeless deserts, than too frequently takes place in the poetical mind. I, who am myself the morbid victim to these fluctuations of intellectual emotion, have experienced this change at the moment that my feeble pen is called upon to fill the pages of this paper with my lifeless remarks.
"But what has this to do," it may be asked, "with the Sonnets, before which it is placed? You introduce a Poet, describing the refined delights of a feeling and highly cultivated genius; and yet prepare us to suppress our sympathy, by reminding us that they are pleasures which will not last!" Gentle Reader, blame the gloom of the day; or the disease, or the sorrows of the Sylvan Wanderer; but hear with indulgence and affection the moral and touching strains of one, who, I hope, will please and instruct you by his writings many years after this ill-fated Wanderer has been consigned to rest in his grave! If glare and tinsel be too commonly requisite for immediate popularity; if the vulgar taste, which includes the great body of readers, can be little excited by the chaste and simple colours of Nature, the judgment of the gifted few will gradually teach them a juster mode of appreciating excellence, and he whose productions flow warm from the heart, will live with distinction in the intellectual world, when minor ingenuity, displayed in laboured efforts, is cast with dislike into the pit of oblivion.