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the fame which was not connected with practical services to humanity. He vindicated the splendid usefulness of poetry, by enhancing its charms, while he moralised its purpose ; for he regarded his talents but as a gift from heaven for the improvement of society.
Milton ised upon sacred knowledge a fabric of splendid fiction ; he blended the fabled superstitions of Greece with the sublime realities of our Divine Revelation, and brought into poetic communion, images whose alliance reason could never sanction. Hence, while we admire the grandeur of his imaginative faculty, we lament the erring weakness of its unguarded ambition ; we feel sorry that a genius like his, that could so illustrate truth, should ever have recourse to error, however fascinating, to gather needless ornament for the simple majesty of his subject. Spenser cultivated the moral virtues, and endeavoured to extend their dominion by the cabalistic power of allegory. His intention was good, but his means were injudicious. He made fanciful pictures which he wished should have the force of divine instruction ; but the heart, untouched by their moral force, looks on them only as beautiful dreams or splendid chimeras. They play like gay visions round the mind in the softest hours of indolence, and shed on it the delicious langour of sweet and enervating reveries. Cowper, unlike those two great bards, made truth charm like fiction, without giving up the austerity of fact. He made religion and morality dear to the heart and brilliant to the imagination, without mixing fabulous glories with the one, or decorating with the paintings of an abstruse fancy, the palace or the hermitage of the other. Milton is the more sublime, Spenser the more ingenious poet; but Cowper, more useful in his inspired character than either, gave to real subjects the attractiveness of romantic inventions, and placed upon the brow of severest wisdom the chaplet
of the graces.
Such is Cowper, where he treads upon the sacred ground of religion : like the prophet in the wilderness, he worships only that living and authentic fire which fills the heart with awe, and the mind with inspiration. But there is nothing of spiritual pride in his elevated piety ; nothing of the cold austerity of the anchorite in his moral admonition. He looks upon the world as one whose human charities had received a warmer glow from that divine communion. He unites the poetic and holy fervour of Isaiah to the eloquence of Paul; and a disposition gentle as his, who reposed on the sacred bosom of One, greater than either. His virtues had a noble but meek persuasion, his temperament a melancholy grace; but his genius was as bold as his subject was glorious. Grandeur of thought and novelty of language distinguished him: the one effortless—like the result of natural magnanimity—the other, powerful without violence, rich without excess, of chastened ardour and of liberal precision.
As a descriptive poet, Cowper, equally great in his way, has yet a very distinct character from that of Thomson. The latter is more elaborate in his examination of nature—more accurate in the arrangement of his thoughts, and the composition of his subject. The former prefers a few striking and rather obvious traits, freely sketched, to a finished landscape admirably wrought, and glowing with all the harmonious varieties of light, and shade, and colour. The one graduates his descriptions from some light tints of distance, to the bold and vigorous richness of his fore-ground. The other touches with a milder hand, a less artificial pencil, the varieties of his subject; he impresses them strongly on the memory; but he does not paint them so pleasingly to the sense, which is gratified by the art of delicious combination : in short, Cowper more displays his power in abrupt and daring touches, in striking peculiarities and animated contrasts ; while Thomson, fond of modulated truth, rather than her violent transitions, subdues the boldest relief into an ethereal distance, and harmonizes every passage of thought by a glowing and just art, which throws over the whole the clearness of a transparent unity. The same difference is observable in the figures by which they animate their landscapes. Those of Cowper are common nature, vigorously drawn, and coloured with a fidelity regardless of ornament. The figures of Thomson, on the other hand, are of select and classic outline ; they have the grace of the beau ideal, rather than the strong rough character of actual rusticity. In this, as indeed in the whole disposition of his poetic landscapes, he resembles Poussin, who places under shades fit for Tempe, ideal groups ; while the genius of the other rather reminds us of the faithful eye and clear pencil of Berghem, who never aimed at abstract beauty or elevated
but would place even under the beech tree of Virgil himself, an ordinary shepherd.
As a satirist, Cowper is distinguished for his genuine unforced
wit, his good-natured playfulness, or generous indignation. He never seems to act as the chastiser of human vices or folly, from a spirit of irritable hostility towards the world, or splenetic discontent with his own fortunes. There is evident in him what would be the highest ornament of the Christian preacher—a tendency to war against evil, from an overflowing charity towards the human
He is the enemy of vice because he is the friend of goodness, and because he wishes all men to enjoy the happiness that dwells wherever the virtues extend their dominion ; even his utmost severity is softened by his sorrow for human weakness ; and a spirit anxious for the improvement of others struggles with an innate abhorrence of levity and guilt. He sometimes speaks in the voice of terrible reproof, and sometimes in the accents of pathetic admonition : but in his most vehement moods, his thoughts have a serene power; and in his most sensitive state of feeling, his language po esses a masculine beauty.
The satirical works of Pope have great power, attractive and poignant politeness, moral discretion, taste and elevation ; but there is ever apparent in them a master-spirit of personal ambition, a ruling love of praise, and an ardent desire of literary dominion. Had he been as sincere a moralist as Cowper, he would not have inflicted upon poverty the chastisement of a ridicule due only to vanity or vice; nor could he have been most virulent and effective, when holding up to the hatred or contempt of the world his personal enemies. It would seem that he satirized not so much with a view of rendering the world wiser or better, as of making his foes feel their weakness, and all mankind admire his power.
He succeeded in both ; but a nobler object than either would have been more worthy of his great genius and exalted fame. Then he would not have been bitter and sarcastic like one who felt a fault and could resent it ; nor would he have shown most energy when satire reaches the verge of detraction. Cowper wants the polish of his numbers, the severe propriety of his taste, the sententious acrimony of his pointed couplets ; but he has a charm worth all, a magnanimity that triumphs over his own feelings, in his solicitude for the welfare of others. It is true, he spares no vicehe compromises with no folly ; but it is evident that he regrets leaving those simple occupations of the muse, which he enjoyed in the tranquil haunts of rural nature, for the grander but less pleasurable task of governing the passions of men. Pope is a literary politician-Cowper, a philanthropist. Both enriched our language, did great honour to our literature, and gave a brilliancy not easily rivalled, to the ages in which they lived. But Pope humbled men's opinion of themselves, because he would be feared --Cowper, because he would become their benefactor. The one has our admiration for what he achieved-the other our esteem both for what he meditated and accomplished.
On the whole, Cowper is to be venerated as a man, and honoured among the first of our poets : his example seconded well the precepts which he divinely announced. Though subject to infirmities of mind and body, his moral worth never relaxed, nor did his genius suffer depression. His virtues are as much above detraction, as his fame is beyond the vicissitudes of time.
THE TOWER OF CALAIS CHURCH.
I CANNOT find words to express the intense pleasure I have always, in first finding myself, after some prolonged stay in England, at the foot of the old tower of Calais Church.
The large neglect, the noble unsightliness of it; the record of its years written so visibly, yet without sign of weakness or decay ; its stern wasteness and gloom, eaten away by the Channel winds, and overgrown with the bitter sea grasses ; its slates and tiles all shaken and rent, and yet not falling; its desert of brickwork full of bolts, and holes, and ugly fissures, and yet strong, like a bare brown rock ; its carelessness of what any one thinks or feels about it, putting forth no claim, having no beauty nor desireableness, pride, nor grace; yet neither asking for pity ; not, as ruins are, useless and piteous, feebly or fondly garrulous of better days; but useful still, going through its own daily work,—as some old fisherman beaten grey by storm, yet drawing his daily nets ; so it stands, with no complaint about its past youth, in blanched and meagre massiveness and serviceableness, gathering human souls together underneath it; the sound of its bells for prayer still rolling through its rents ; and the grey peak of it seen far across the sea, principal of the three that rise above the waste of surfy aand and hillocked shore,—the lighthouse for life, and the belfry for labour, and this for patience and praise.
I cannot tell the half of the strange pleasures and thoughts that come about me at the sight of that old tower; for, in some sort, it is the epitome of all that makes the Continent of Europe interesting, as opposed to new countries ; and, above all, it completely expresses that agedness in the midst of active life, which binds the old and the new into harmony. We, in England, have our new street, our new inns, our green shaven lawn, and our piece of ruin emergent from it—a mere specimen of the middle ages put on a bit of velvet carpet to be shown, which, but for its size, might as well be on a museum shelf at once, under cover. But, on the Continent, the links are unbroken between the past and present, and in such use as they can serve for, the greyheaded wrecks are suffered to stay with men ; while, in unbroken line, the generations of spared buildings are seen succeeding each in its place. And thus in its largeness, in its permitted evidence of slow decline, in its poverty, in its absence of all pretence, of all show and care for outside aspect, that Calais tower has an infinite of symbolism in it, all the more striking because usually seen in contrast with English scenes expressive of feelings the exact reverse of these.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF WAR.
JONATHAN DYMOND. WARS are often promoted from considerations of interest, as well as from passion. The love of gain adds its influence to our other motives to support them; and, without other motives, we know that this love is sufficient to give great obliquity to the moral judgment, and to tempt us to many crimes. During a war of ten years, there will always be many whose income depends on its continuance; and a countless host of commissaries, and purveyors, and agents, and mechanics, commend a war because it fills their pockets. And, unhappily, if money is in prospect, the desolation of a kingdom is often of little concern : destruction and slaughter are not to be put in competition with a hundred a-year.