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offered any homage to the rising novelties. It resembles, only in measure, the poems of the eighteenth century, which were written in heroic rhyme. Neither the brilliant sententiousness of Pope, nor the frequent languor and negligence perhaps inseparable from the exquisite nature of Goldsmith, could be traced in a poem from which taste and labor equally banished mannerism and inequality. It was patronized by no sect or faction. It was neither imposed on the public by any literary cabal, nor forced into notice by the noisy anger of conspicuous enemies. Yet, destitute as it was of every foreign help, it acquired a popularity originally very great ; and which has not only continued amidst extraordinary fluctuation of general taste, but has increased amid a succession of formidable competitors. No production, so popular, was probably ever so little censured by criticism ; and thus is combined the applause of contemporaries with the suffrage of the representatives of posterity. " It is needless to make extracts from a poem which is familiar to
In selection, indeed, no two readers would probably agree; but the description of the Gypsies, of the Boy quitting his Father's house, and of the Savoyard recalling the mountainous scenery of his country, and the descriptive commencement of the tale in Cumberland, have remained most deeply impressed on our minds. We should be disposed to quote the following verses, as not surpassed, in pure and chaste elegance, by any English lines :
• When Joy's bright sun has shed his evening ray,
- The conclusion of the fine passage on the Veterans at Greenwich and Chelsea has a pensive dignity which beautifully corresponds with the scene :
‘Long have ye known Reflection's genial ray
" And we cannot resist the pleasure of quoting the moral, tender, and elegant lines which close the poem :
Lighter than air, Hope's summer-visions fly,
“ The descriptive passages require, indeed, a closer inspection, and a more exercised eye, than those of some celebrated contemporaries who sacrifice elegance to effect, and whose figures stand out, in bold relief, from the general roughness of their more unfinished compositions ; and in the moral parts there is often discoverable a Virgilian art, which suggests, rather than displays, the various and contrasted scenes of human life, and adds to the power of language by a certain air of reflection and modesty, in the preference of measured terms to those of more apparent energy.
“ In the View from the House, the scene is neither delightful from very superior beauty, nor striking by singularity, nor powerful from reminding us of terrible passions or memorable deeds. It consists of the more ordinary of the beautiful features of nature, neither exaggerated nor represented with curious minuteness, but exhibited with picturesque elegance, in connection with those tranquil emotions which they call up in the calm order of a virtuous mind, in every condition of society and of life. The verses on the Torso are in a more severe style. The Fragment of a divine artist, which awakened the genius of Michael Angelo, seems to disdain ornament. It would be difficult to name two small poems, by the same writer, in which he has attained such high degrees of kinds of excellence so dissinilar, as are seen in the Sick Chamber and the Butterfly. The first has a truth of detail, which, considered merely as painting, is admirable ; but assumes a higher character, when it is felt to be that minute remembrance with which affection recollects every circumstance that could have affected a beloved sufferer. Though the morality which concludes the second be in itself very beautiful, it may be doubted whether the verses would not have left a more unmixed delight, if the address had remained as a mere sport of fancy, without the seriousness of an object, or an application. The verses written in Westminster Abbey are surrounded by dangerous recollections ; they aspire to commemorate Fox, and to copy some of the grandest thoughts in the most sublime work of Bossuet. Nothing can satisfy the expectation awakened by such names; yet we are assured that there are some of them which would be envied by the best writers of this age. The scenery of Loch Long is among the grandest in Scotland; and the description of it shows the power of feeling and painting. In this island the taste for nature has grown with the progress of refinement. It is most alive in those who are most brilliantly distinguished in social and active life. It elevates the mind above the meanness which it might contract in the rivalship for praise ; and preserves those habits of reflection and sensibility, which receive so many rude shocks in the coarse contests of the world. Not many summer hours can be passed in the most mountainous solitudes of Scotland, without meeting some who are worthy to be remembered with the sublime objects of nature which they had travelled so far to admire.
“ The most conspicuous of the novelties of this volume is the poem, or poems, entitled • Fragments of the Voyage of Columbus.' The subject of this poem is, politically or philosophically considered, among the most important in the annals of mankind. The introduction of Christianity (humanly viewed), the irruption of the northern barbarians, the contest between the Christian and Mussulman nations in Syria, the two inventions of gunpowder and printing, the emancipation of the human understanding by the Reformation, the discovery of America, and of a maritime passage to Asia, in the last ten years of the fifteenth century, are the events which have produced the greatest and most durable effects since the establishment of civilization, and the consequent commencement of authentic history. But the poetical capabilities of an event bear no proportion to historical importance. None of the consequences that do not strike the senses or the fancy can interest the poet. The greatest of the transactions above enumerated is obviously incapable of entering into poetry. The Crusades were not without permanent effects on the state of men ; but their poetical interest does not arise from these effects, and it immeasurably surpasses them.
Whether the voyage of Columbus be destined to be forever incapable of becoming the subject of an epic poem, is a question which we have scarcely the means of answering. The success of great writers has often so little corresponded with the promise of their subject, that we might be almost tempted to think the choice of a subject indifferent. The story of Hamlet, or of Paradise Lost, would beforehand have been pronounced to be unmanageable. Perhaps the genius of Shakspeare and of Milton has rather compensated for the incorrigible defects of ungrateful subjects, than conquered them. The course of ages may produce the poetical genius, the historical materials and the national feelings, for an American epic poem. There is yet but one state in America, and that state is hardly become a nation. At some future period, when every part of the continent has been the scene of memorable events, when the discovery and conquest have receded into that legendary dimness which allows fancy to mould them at her pleasure, the early history of America may afford scope for the genius of a thousand national poets ; and while some may soften the cruelty which darkens the daring energy of Cortez and Pizarro, — while others may, in perhaps new forms of poetry, ennoble the pacific conquests of Penn, — and while the genius, the exploits, and the fate of Raleigh, may render his establishments probably the most alluring of American subjects, every inhabitant of the New World will turn his eyes with filial reverence towards Columbus, and regard with equal enthusiasm the voyage which laid the foundation of so many states, and peopled a continent with civilized men. Most epic subjects, but especially such a subject as Columbus, require either the fire of an actor in the scene, or the religious reverence of a very distant posterity. Homer, as well as Erçilla and Camoens, show what may be done by an epic poet who himself feels the passions of his heroes. It must not be denied that Virgil has borrowed a color of refinement from the court of Augustus, in painting the age of Priam and of Dido. Evander is a solitary and exquisite model of primitive manners divested of grossness, without losing their simplicity. But to an European poet, in this age of the world, the Voyage of Columbus is too naked, and too exactly defined by history. It has no variety, — scarcely any succession of events. It consists of one scene, during which two or three simple passions continue in a state of the highest excitement. It is a voyage with intense anxiety in every bosom, controlled by magnanimous fortitude in the leader, and producing among his followers a fear, -- sometimes submissive, sometimes mutinous, always ignoble. It admits of no variety of character, no unexpected revolutions. And even the issue, though of unspeakable importance, and admirably adapted to some kinds of poetry, is not an event of such outward dignity and splendor as ought naturally to close the active and brilliant course of an epic poem.
“ It is natural that the Fragments should give a specimen of the marvellous, as well as of the other constituents of epic fiction. We may observe that it is neither the intention nor the tendency of poetical machinery to supersede secondary causes, to fetter the will, and to make human creatures appear as the mere instruments of destiny. It is introduced to satisfy that insatiable demand for a nature more exalted than that which we know by experience, which creates all poetry, and which is most active in its highest species, and in its most perfect productions. It is not to account for thoughts and feelings that superhuman agents are brought down upon earth; it is rather for the contrary purpose, of lifting them into a mysterious dignity beyond the cognizance of reason. There is a material difference between the acts which superior beings perform and the sentiments which they inspire. It is true, that when a god fights against men, there can be no uncertainty or anxiety, and consequently no interest about the event, -- unless, indeed, in the rude theology of Homer, where Minerva may animate the Greeks, while Mars excites the Trojans ; but it is quite otherwise with these divine persons inspiring passion, or represented as agents in the great phenomena of nature. Venus and Mars inspire love or valor ; they give a noble origin and a dignified character to these sentiments; but the sentiments themselves act according to the laws of our nature; and their celestial source has no tendency to impair their power over human sympathy. No event, which has not too much modern vulgarity to be susceptible of alliance with poetry, can be incapable of being ennobled by that eminently poetical art which ascribes it either to the Supreme Will, or to the agency of beings who are greater than