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with regard to the unfitness of genius for domestic happiness. I was speaking of it yesterday to Mr. Wordsworth, and was pleased by his remark: It is not because they possess genius that they make unhappy homes, but because they do not possess genius enough; a higher order of mind would enable them to see and feel all the beauty of domestic
Intimacy with the poetry of Wordsworth, doubtless led the way to the change to a more serious character in Mrs. Hemans' verse, which the severe school of affliction afterwards matured. The Quarterly Review of 1820, in a notice of her poems, says—“in our opinion all her poems are elegant and pure in thought and language: her later poems are of higher promise, they are vigorous, picturesque, and pathetic." There was yet a third stage to which they afterwards attained-they became sublime and religious. It was not till sickness had touched her frame, and sorrow tamed the wildness of her spirit, that she reached her worthiest efforts in song: As her heart was purirified from the world, her mind was freed also, and soared to a better element. Its purpose was fixed, for it had found an appropriate object in the religious sympathies of life. Not only the domestic affections, but even the beauties of Nature, ever familiar to her verse, were colored with a new aspect. They were not only holy or fair in themselves, but they reflected the qualities of their Creator. The passions of life before so imperfectly represented in their brief hour of excitement, were, by the prospects of Revelation, connected to an endless existence hereafter. There, just poetry, like true morality, must find its end; all else falls short of its proper aim. This is well illustrated by our authoress herself in one of her letters. She is speaking of a character in her verse. “ It was with some difficulty that I refrained from making Alcestis express the hope of an immortal reunion: I knew this would be out of character, and yet could scarcely imagine how love so infinite in its nature could ever have existed without the hope (even if undefined and unacknowledged) of a heavenly country,' an unchangeable resting place. This awoke in me many other thoughts with regard to the state of human affections, their hopes and their conflicts in the days of the 'gay religions, full of pomp and gold,' which offering, as they did, so much of grace and beauty to the imagination, yet held out so little comfort to the heart. Then I thought how much these affections owed to a deeper and more spiritual faith, to the idea of a God who knows all our inward struggles, and pities our sufferings.”
The best corollary on what we have written, is to be found in the actual experience of Mrs. Hemans, as recorded by herself. She writes the year before her death, serious with the solemn purpose of life: “ I have now passed through the feverish and somewhat visionary state of mind, often connected with the passionate study of art in early life:-deep affections and deep sorrows seem to have solemnized my whole being, and I now feel as if bound to higher and holier tasks, which, though I may occasionally lay aside, I could not long wander from without some sense of dereliction.” And about the same period—“ the more I look for indications of the connection beiween the human spirit and its eternal source, the more extensively I see those traces open before me, and the more indelibly they appear stamped upon our mysterious nature. I cannot but think that my mind has both expanded and strengthened during the contemplation of such things, and that it will thus by degrees arise to a higher and purer sphere of action than it has yet known. If any years of peace and affection be granted to my future life, I think I may prove that the discipline of storms has, at least, not been without a purifying and enobling influence.” These few sentences unfold the true secret of Mrs. Hemans' later success.
It is the “discipline of storms” that must elevate the human character. Prosperity may be joyful to the sense, but adversity is healthful to the soul. * Certainly virtue is like precious odors, most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed.”
Under the combined influence of improved taste, much sorrow, and a firmly infixed religious principle, Mrs. Hemans wrote her last work, “ The Scenes and Hymns of Life.” It is certainly as a literary composition her best production, and justifies her confidence, had her life been prolonged of giving to the world something far superior to her other writings. As admirers of her verse, we would point to this, and show Christianity to be the best instructer in literature. It will bear the test of criticism. To note an occasional beauty: she has a power of condensed expression rarely acquired by the female writer, which appears in single lines of great force. Calling poetic inspiration
“ The gift, the vision of the unseald eye,' she approaches Wordsworth's “vision and the faculty divine." Her allusions in these poems are incidental, and far more vigorous than in her earlier works. When she speaks in The Prayer of the Lonely Student of
“ The grave sweetness on the brow of truth,” we fancy almost that the dream of Plato has been realized, and that we are looking upon the countenance of Truth, so lovely VOL. I.-NO. I.
that all fall down and worship her. The sonnets entitled “Old Church in an English Park," and "A Church in North Wales," are picturesque and thoughtful. In the sketch of The English Martyr," there is a fine ode on The Passion.
“ The Sun set in a fearful hour
The stars might well grow dim;
So to o'ershadow Him." The Sabbath Sonnet, her latest work, dictated from her bed of death was a noble last strain for a Christian poetess.
Through England's primrose meadow paths, their way
To one deep calm of lowliest thankfulness." Our task is now briefly performed. We have asserted our argument, not that all poetry must be religious—but that the best poetry, and worthiest the name, that which enters into the nature of man, his passions, and affections, which represents his character must be essentially so. Let the poet then who would write for man, study to be taught of Heaven. Let the envy, malice and selfishness of his disposition, be supplanted by Christian charity. Let his life breathe the spirit of the New Testament. Let his inspiration be from Heaven.
Art. X.—Discoveries in Light and Vision, with a short Me
moir, containing Discoveries in the Mental Faculties. NewYork: G. and C. Carvill, and Co. 1836. 18mo. pp. 300.
Almost numberless are the opinions which in different ages of the world philosophers have held respecting the phenomena of light and vision. The Platonists and Stoics, taught that vision was effected by the emission of rays out of the eyes; and Roger Bacon afterwards held the same opinion, giving the curious reason for it, that all things created, are designed to perform their own proper functions, by their own powers. The Epicureans held that vision is effected by the emanation of corporeal species, or images from objects; or a kind of atomical effluvia, continually flying off from the intimate parts of its objects to the eye. The Peripatetics, held also that vision is produced by the reception of species, with this difference, however, that they believed the species to be incorporeal. Aristotle's account of vision, in his chapter de Aspectu, amounts at last, when freed from its cumbrous chains of species and images only to this, that objects must have some intermediate body, whereby to affect the organ of sight.
Of the modern philosophers, Descartes maintains,“ that the sun passing the materia subtilis, with which the whole universe is every where filled ; the vibrations and pulses of that matter are reflected from objects, and communicated to the eye, and thence to the sensoroum.” Newton's theory is, “ that vision is performed chiefly by the vibrations of a fine medium (which penetrates all bodies) excited in the bottom of the eye by the rays of light, and propagated through the capillaments of the optic nerve to the sensorium.” The main point of difference between the doctrines of these two philosophers, upon the subject of vision, relates not so much to the mode in which impressions of outward objects are conveyed from the apparatus of the eye to the sensorium, as to the nature, qualities, and mode of development of light itself.
Though the general features of the two rival theories which originated with these two illustrious men, and were adopted, both in their own age, and subsequently, by the most distinguished philosophers on both sides, must be presumed to be familiar to most of our readers, we venture to recur to a few of the characteristic peculiarities of each.
Of the Newtonian or Corpuscular theory of light, the fundamental postulatum is, " that light consists of particles of matter, possessed of inertia, and endowed with attractive and repulsive forces, and projected or emitted from all luminous bodies with nearly the same velocity, about 200,000 miles per second.” Other important assumptions are also requisite for the explication, by this theory, of the infinitely varied phenomena of light-and among them we mention as a second postulate, connected with vision—“That these particles infringing on the retina, excite vision, the particles whose inertia is greatest producing the sensation of red, those of least inertia the sensation
of violet, and those in which it is intermediate, the intermediate colors."
These fundamental positions of the Corpuscular theory although now proposed as postulates or assumptions, seem to be legitimate deductions from the common and well known laws of reflection and refraction; and this theory has accordingly been generally received, and used for the solution of the phenomena of light.
The Huygenian or Undulatory theory, on the other hand, rests on this fundamental postulate, “ that an excessively rare, subtle and elastic medium, or ether, fills all space, and pervades all material bodies, (less elastic in the interim of bodies,) and that when regular, vibratory motions of a proper kind, are propagated through the ether, and passing through our eyes, reach and agitate the nerves of our retina, they produce in us the sensation of light; the frequency of pulses determines the color, and the amplitude or extent of each wave or vibration, determines the intensity or brightness of the light." This theory, while it is less obviously deducible from the ordinary phenomena, rests on the strength of analogy with the laws of sound, and on its ready adaptation to explain and illustrate some few classes of phenomena, which are hardly, if at all, explicable by the corpuscular theory: and it has the sanction of the weighty names of Descartes, Huygens, Hooke, Euler, and in later times, those of Young and Fresnel.
It is no part of our purpose to enter upon a discussion concerning the merits of either of these two important theories. Of the first it may be said, that it is perhaps the more simple and obvious, as resulting from the rectilinear progress of light in all uniform and hemogeneous media, and from the common laws of reflection and refraction, as we have remarked. While of the second, it may with almost triumphant force be asserted, that it readily meets the common laws of reflection, is reconcileable, though less readily with the laws of refraction, and above all, satisfactorily explains certain peculiar cases, where the other seems to fail. But whichever hypothesis be adopted, the mode of investigation, as to the facts and results to be arrived at, is in itself strictly geometrical, and so far indisputable. And it must be at once obvious, to all who have any acquaintance with geometry, that so long as the progress of light itself is rectilinear, and its changes of direction governed by certain fixed laws which observation has made known, that it can, in most cases, but little affect the result arrived at, whether the motion be one of particles actually moving onwards, or of vibrations directly propagated from one particle to another.