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ON A TASTE FOR POETRY.
goods business, or the hard-ware trade, it is not prejudicial to eloquence. All great orators, sir, have produced their greatest effects by appeals to the imagination and the passions — in other words, by language poetical in essence, if not in form. From Cicero to Webster, from the “How far, () Catiline !” of the former, to the " Liberty and union, now and for ever,” of the latter, it will be found true that eloquence in its highest moods borrows from poetry its sacred fire.
And, sir, those who would shut us out from the cultivation of à taste for poetry must take from us the book of books, the Bible. We must not read the Prophets, nor the Psalms, nor the book of Job, where poetry never since equaled is to be found. Nay, sir, we must expunge passages in the New Testament, even that divine and touching one, breathing the very soul of poetry, “Behold the lilies of the field! they toil not, neither do they spin." Sir, until you rob us of the Bible, until
you rob us of the book of nature, as well as of revelation, of the “ sermons in stones” and the “ books in the running brooks,” you can not, if you would, repress the taste for poetry, even if
decide that it is prejudicial to what “success in life.”
Seventeenth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, ---if in order, I'll express my notions briefly on this much-disputed subject;
on this subject much disputed; and, if you have no objection, I'll express them in a measure, in a measure and a jingle that has lately come in fashion ; one that is as
than plain prose, sir, as a canter, canter regular and gentle, is more easy than a trot, sir. On this question my conclusion
is that every anxious mother, every shrewd, detective father, with a marriageable daughter,
is uncommon shy of poets. Now, as no success in life, sir, can be counted quite complete, sir, unperfected by a marriage, by a well-assorted marriage,
so, sir, if it be admitted, as it must be, as it will be, poetry 's a bar to that, sir, namely, to a well-assorted,
prudent, and agreeable marriage, then, sir, we have proved our case,
poetry is prejudicial, is indis'putably ad’verse to that true success in life, sir, which, though all unworthy, we, the single, the unmatched ones,
do not even yet despair of.
Need I, sir, pursue the subject? Will not every one admit, sir, that the young man who writes
is regarded, is avoided, - by mamma, sir, and
ay, and sometimes by herself, sir,
much more easy
loved one, the adored one, as a very dangerous person
as a person dangerous — very! Eighteenth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, — if the gentleman were really sincere, he would not parade his own facility in versemaking. But, sir, it is not true that the poet has jeoparded his chances of matrimonial success. We have all heard, sir, of “ the
song what gold could never buy.” Sir, she was not a solitary instance. There are many such. Let me win a heart, - a true, feminine heart, worthy of the winning, — and I will not check the inspiration which the lady's own charms have awakened, even though, as the gentleman expresses it, papa and
shy of poets.” No, sir ; I will set the sweet vein a-flowing; and if she, who has my homage, will not listen to “ the oracle that can tell nations she is beautiful,” why, sir, she is not the lady I took her for, and the sooner the engagement is broken off the better.
Nineteenth Speaker. Mr. Chairman, — I protest against that gentleman's compelling any lady to listen to his verses. (Hear! hear!) Such compulsion would be unwarrantable cruelty on his part, and might be attended with dangerous consequences to the unhappy victim of his poetic rage. If there are any ladies
present, I hope they will be warned against him in time. where a powerful anodyne is wanted, sir, I should think his poetry might serve a good —
Chairman. (Rapping.) The gentleman is straying from the subject before us, and his remarks, moreover, are personal. He will come to order.
Nineteenth Speaker. I will say no more, sir.
Twentieth Speaker. Sir, I think that our poetical brethren, with one distinguished exception (bows to Seventeenth Speaker), have been rather hard upon us plain, practical folks of the positive school positivists, we are sometimes called. But, sir, an ounce of fact is worth a whole ton of mere rhetoric and speculation. Now, the gentleman who followed the Opener did not confine himself to simple argument. He instanced the names of several great poets, and showed very conclusively, I think, that poetry had been to them a will-o'-the wisp, leading them into all sorts of scrapes. No speaker, as far as I have heard, has yet answered those objections.
Twenty-first Speaker. Perhaps those objections are not so difficult of confutation as the gentleman may suppose. Against the names of Burns, Goldsmith, Byron, Savage, Otway, and other stray sons of song, we place the names of Milton, of Wordsworth, of Scott, of Montgomery, of Addison, of Southey, of
ON A TASTE FOR POETRY.
i Heber, of Watts, and many, many others that I might name
all men whose lives fulfill the idea of success. Sir, let us make ourselves worthy of mingling in the illustrious company of the poets — of understanding their thoughts, and becoming sharers in their joys. They (the true poets) shall withhold us from unworthy pleasures and contaminating influences. Through life they shall be to us a solace, and their sweet consolations shall not be wanting in the solemn hour of death.
· Blessings be with them, and eternal praise,
Then gladly would I end my mortal days !” Chairman, If no other gentleman is disposed to speak, I will briefly state the views to which this discussion has brought me. It is not fair to attribute to the poetical element in character the faults which may be often charged against poets. have been in spite of their poetry, rather than in consequence of it, that their lives were failures. We may resist the influence of our good angels, and yield to our bad. So the poet may give way to passions and tendencies, against which all that is truly poetical in his nature may rebel.
No one will deny that Byron was a man of extraordinary genius, but that he is always a true poet in his verses it would be ridiculous to assert. Well would it be for his fame — well would it be for humanity if two thirds of what he has written could
pass into annihilation ; for, however it may exhibit a certain cleverness, and wear the metrical form of poetry, poetry it is not. True poetry is never the ally of a moody unbelief, of a puerile affectation of misanthropy, of impurity and malignity. Had Byron lived twenty years longer, he would probably have wept over those perversions of genius to be found in his works. He would have wept even as Moore wept (according to Rogers) in his latter years, over his own printed follies and indelicacies. Gentlemen, the poetry which says not unto Zion “Thy God reigneth,” is not poetry in the high sense of that word.
I do not believe that the cultivation of a taste for poetry is unfavorable to success in life. On the contrary, I believe it must prove an element of strength, of joy, and of good cheer. · The Opener quoted Shakspeare, as if he, the great, many-sided poet, had spoken slightingly of his own vocation. But, gentlemen, there is another passage in Shakspeare more appropriate to the present discussion. “ What,” he asks, --
" What is a man,
To rust in us unused.” We may cultivate a poetical taste, and yet.be faithful and diligent in our business, -good clerks, accurate accountants, ready and profound lawyers, useful citizens, good men. We sometimes see men whose business faculties have been goaded to an intense activity, ending their days in an insane hospital, or becoming miserable, confirmed invalids. Well would it have been for their true success in life, if there had been a taste for poetry and for art to keep their grosser faculties in check, and direct them in the path of a rational happiness.
Gentlemen, I will put the question. Those who assert the AFFIRMATIVE, namely, that the cultivation of a taste for poetry is prejudicial to success in life, will say ay. (Three or four ays are heard.) Those who assert the NEGATIVE will say (An almost unanimous “ no!