Abbildungen der Seite

Thought, to restrain the ignoble pursuit of Cunning and Avarice, and to select the objects of ambition from a loftier region.

In considering the influence of one class of the intellectual faculties upon another, there is one leading effect peculiarly distinguishable; it is, that the predominant exercise of the reflecting faculties withdraws the operations of the perceptive, and so also the latter, when chiefly employed, detract from the fulness of the former. The mere observer is deficient in philosophic spirit: the speculative reasoner is wanting in the extent and accuracy of the materials with which he constructs his theoretical systems. The combination of the two classes seems the most likely to approach perfection. The mutual influence of each is, therefore, peculiarly important, and both ought to be equally cultivated.

It appears, that, whilst many of the organs, as we have seen, are contrasted one with another, and possess the capacity of mutual influence, others stand alone, and can only be estimated according to each specific development; so that, in some instances, we have to judge from the relative, and in some from the abstract, state. Where the organs are mutually opposed, like Sympathy and Antipathy, as in the case of Benevolence and Destruction, we form a comparison of the relative measure of development. On the contrary, where there is no such opposition, as in the organ of Pride, we can calculate only upon its own degree of projection or depression.

Before concluding, it may be observed, that an equal. balance of power, produced, as it is, by an equal and moderate development of all the faculties, animal, mental, and moral, constitutes the happiest and most agreeable character. It is not, indeed, stamped with any impressive or striking features; nor does it present a brilliant or commanding aspect; but it possesses every quality that can promote its own rational enjoyment, and the pleasure and satisfaction of others. Per culiar manifestations, of an exclusive kind, of some of the faculties, indicate correspondent excellence. When remarkably predominant, the character will be distinguishable for singular proficiency, but devoid of other qualifications. This devotedness to an exclusive pursuit is the best calculated for celebrity and fame; but, for the easy performance of the ordinary duties and avocations of life, « jostling no one in our way,” the equal development of the system is the sovereign specific.



[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]


The member who introduced this question had undertaken a difficult task: he had to prove a NEGATIVE.

Dr. Johnson has said, that if we could not prove the existence of apparitions, neither could we prove that they did not exist. And why? Because a negative could not be directly proved. But, indirectly, the proof may be implied. We may collect all that can be produced for the affirmative; and, if it be deficient in evidence, the negative must be inferred. Till we prove a man guilty, we suppose him to beminnocent ?-110) --not guilty. Not being able to accumulate sufficient evidence to convict Pope of the crime of writing poetry of the first order, we conclude him to be-not a poet of that order.

Before we can decide upon the merits of any poet, it is necessary to discover his mental idiosyncrasy,- his native aptitude, -his genius. The peculiar genius of the poet is correlative to the particular order to which he belongs. The native aptitude of Alexander Pope was for imitation. This aptitude is illustrated in a singular manner by a fact conrected with his early education. The fact itself is of a trifling character, but bears the same relation to what he afterwards performed, that simple aptitude bears to genius. The former is as the small mustard-seed sown by the hand of Nature in the intellectual soil; Genius is the high and spreading tree, which, though it derive its origin from apparently so insignificant a grain, 6 is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” Educated at home, from the sickly habit of his infancy, it appears that he was deficient in the tuition of a writing-master; he had therefore to teach himself,-and, wanting other exemplars, he imitated the Roman letter froin printed books, and to the latest period of his life his hand-writing was a heterogeneous mixture of the common running-hand with the print. It is probable, that if Milton had been thus situated, he would never have learned to write. The genius of originality was so strong in Milton, that, as he somewhere says, he could hardly endure to make those extracts from authors to whom he referred, which were requisite to illustrate the subject that engaged his attention. The drudgery of transcription outraged the native vigour of his understanding; and it is remarkable that, in his numerous prose works, no instances are to be found of his having in

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

dulged in extracts even from those works which he attacked.
It may be objected, that there are many imitations, or coin-
cidences, in Milton's poetical productions. In the "Paradise
Lost," he has drawn largely from the Greek and Roman
poets. There is, however, this distinction between the imi-
tations of Milton and of Pope ; those of the latter form the
staple commodity, the subject matter, the substrata of his
imagery and language,-those of Milton are only illustrative.
Poetry is a passion: the mind, in a state of excitement, crowds
into one centre every idea and image, every sentiment and
feeling, whether native or educational, that may be in any
way connected with the subject, or introduced into the ex-
pression. The poetry of Pope has none of this energy of
passion; he sate down coolly to his task, and made a selection
from the thoughts and language of those who had preceded
him, uniting them after another manner into a sort of Mosaic
combination : he derived all from the standard of art, but
added nothing. Personal identity is necessary to constitute
character,-ideal identity is requisite to the existence of ori-
ginal genius. Not only was the matter of Pope borrowed,
-his style and manner were not his own. His versification
was derived from Dryden, but was inferior to his master's,
it wanted that variety and numerous harmony in which the
latter so happily excelled.

A member of this Institution, in one of his publications, has
described the various gradations of the poetic character.
“ The highest species of poetry," he says, " is that which
excites the most exalted and sublime emotions and ideas, and
these are produced by the vivid and glowing description of
objects of grandeur, associated with deep moral feeling, and
profound intellectual reflection. It may, in other words, be
sạid to be the union of descriptive with moral and intellectual
poetry: its subjects are nature, in all its varied beauty and
sublimity; human action, in its most heroic achievements;
human character, in its most exalted and diversified ex-
hibitions ; passion, or enthusiasm, in its utmost energy; senti-.
ment, in its most ennobling characters; thought, in its power-
ful and infinite range. All these, presented in language
figurative, dignified, and harmonious.

The species of Poetry are three; Descriptive, --Moral,Intellectual,- and “the highest intellect, enthroned in the highest imagination,” is stated, by the author just quoted, as constituting the highest kind and degree of poetic excellence. The poetry of Milton, of Shakspeare, and the sacred Scriptures, severally combine the three orders with this, the highest degree of poetic excellence. The poetry of Pope lays claim to much SKILL in VERBAL ARRANGEMENT; FIGURATIVE

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

LANGUAGE, but not highly so; a DICTION ARTIFICIAL in the extreme; smoOTHNESS OF VERSIFICATION; and some BEAUTIFUL IMAGERY, both ideal and illustrative. He was rather a fine than a sublime genius.

His “ Pastorals” are mere imitations; their merit can only consist in their verbal arrangement and inoffensive metre. Nor deserves his “ Messiah” a higher praise : considered by itself, without reference to its origin, it is undoubtedly one of the finest productions ever “ dashed from genius' fiery pen”; but its sublimity was not his-it belonged to a writer whose works are unequalled, not only among the most exalted uninspired exertions of human genius, but the loftiest creations of the inspired penmen of Israel

- Isaiah, the first of poets and of prophets !-" The Dying Christian to his Soul," adopted from the Emperor Adrian's Address ; his “ Satires," imitated from Horace, and adapted from Dr. Donne; his “ Essay on Man,” from Boling. broke; are similarly circumstanced. 66 Windsor Forest" combines the descriptive with the moral, but approaches not to the intellectual, which is the highest species of poetry: The “ Ode” demands a great exertion of the intellectual faculty, and is perhaps the most difficult in its construction and composition of all the modes of poetry. Pope attempted it, and failed ;-added to which, “ St. Cecilia's Day” is but a contemptible plagiarism from “ Alexander's Feast,” in every thing but its language and illustrations.

His “Essay on Criticism” is traceable to Horace and Boileau; and, what. ever rank it may claim, is very far from the intellectual and the imaginative. 66 Eloisa to Abelard” is addressed to the feelings, a moral poem, as it regards its pathos, but not as it regards the sentiments it would excite, and the affections which it kindles. The “ Dunciad," and the Rape of the Lock," are certainly his greatest works; but the merit of burlesque and heroi-comic poetry is very equivocal. In reality, there is nothing laudable in the design or concoction of such pieces, whose only purpose is to degrade some of the most exquisite passages of human,--aye, and sometimes of divine- composition, by connecting them with all that is little in action, and ridiculous in character.

In confirmation of the opinion which ought to be formed of a genius principally turned towards the burlesque, and emi. nently fitted for it, we may refer to the authority of one of the sublimest metaphysicians of the age, who, in his history of his own literary life and opinions, observes, that—" The office and duty of the poet is to select the most dignified, as

• The happiest, gayest, attitude of things.'

well as

The reverse, for in all cases a reverse is possible, is the ap-: propriate business of burlesque and travesty, a predominant taste for which has been always deemed a mark of a low and degraded mind.”—Coleridge, vol. ii. p. 127.

It might be sufficient, for the purposes of the present question, to prove that there were poets of a higher order than that in which Mr. Pope excelled. It might be unfair to mention the name of Shakspeare, in comparison with that of Pope,--the Myriad-minded Bard, the Swan of Avon, with the Wasp of. Twickenham,-seeing that the latter never attempted dramatic composition. He may, however, be contrasted with Milton. It is unnecessary to pronounce an eulogium on that greatest of poets ; his

merits are acknowledged. Compare Pope's finest work, his “ Elegy to the Memory of an unfortunate Young Lady," with Milton's " Verses on the Death of a fair Infant, which died of a cough.” The subject of Pope was calculated to kindle every feeling, and awaken every sympathy of the human heart; Milton's was barren and uninteresting: and, in deciding on their relative merits, Pope has every advantage from the nature of his subject. Pope felt this; and accordingly contented himself with giving the mere matter of fact, the circumstantial detail; and suggesting an old truism, by way of moral, that

6 Poets themselves inust fall, like those they sung." A sentiment very prettily expressed; but, for all that, not very original. How differently did Milton proceed in the poem before us : to the simple fact,-simple as simplicity itself,—he added an exquisite display of intellectual power; it is sealed with the ideality of his own mind; his own ideal identity; his signet is upon it; and his imagination has stamped it with its own form. Raised to that state of passionate excitement, in which poetry lives and breathes, all his classical recollections throng upon him to illustrate and embellish the theme about which he is engaged. The intellectual and the imaginative faculties co-operate ; and even in this, one of the least exertions of his wonderful genius, do we behold made manifest and palpable the mysterious enthronement of the highest intellect in the loftiest imagination.

" The intellectual power
Bends from his awful throne a wondering ear,

And smiles.” The Advocates for the POETICÁL SUPREMACY of Pope maintained, that the opinion of foreigners, in favour of the poetic

« ZurückWeiter »