« ElőzőTovább »
POETRY FOR SCHOOLS.
NATURE OF POETRY.
WHATEVER exists is divided into mind and matter. Philosophers do not accurately define the difference of mind and matter, but the body of animals, or living beings, which appears to die, and the "insensible clod" that we tread upon, are composed of matter. Every creature possessed of animal life, is, in some degree," instinct with spirit"—endowed with some consciousness of wants, and some sense of supply and of enjoyment—this is intelligence. Intelligence in man, is called Mind.
The minds of men are very different—some are wise, and others are foolish—some minds acquire great knowledge, and others only understood a few facts. Boys at school call others who are easily puzzled in arithmetic, or who are incapable of learning long lessons, dunces. Those who are capable of thinking with attention, who acquire knowledge readily, and who accurately remember what they have learned, are said to possess abilities ; and one, who besides learning his tasks with facility, can compose verses, or write a story of his own invention, possesses genius. Some men excel others as the boy of genius excels the dunce. The genius and the dunce grow to be men, but they always remain the genius and the dunce.
Genius is, properly, the talent of discovery—the talent in one mind of conceiving, and of displaying to others something previously unthought of. Genius is a capability to produce much advantage and pleasure to mankind.
differently employed by different individuals. Columbus was a man of genius. He manifested his genius when he meditated in one hemisphere of our globe upon another which had never been explored, when he devised means to navigate unknown seas, and when he persevered in his great enterprise till he had accomplished it. Mr. Fulton, the mechanician, who applied the steam engine to navigation, was a man of genius. Benjamin West, the painter,
was a man of genius. He painted many fine pictures, and among others, the subjects of which were taken from the gospel, "Christ healing the sick." In this picture, Mr. West represented in his gracious countenance the benevolence of Jesus ; a variety of diseases in those who surrounded him ; and the emotions of desire, hope, and gratitude in those who excepted to be, or who had been restored to health. The power to do all this so much surpasses the powers of common men that it serves for a clear illustration of genius.
Bonaparte, who conquered in many battles ; who, by his power of controling other men, obtained the first magistracy in France; who, after dethroning kings in Europe, gave their kingdoms to his brothers; and who, having slain his thousands and tens of thousands, devised and effected practical improvements in the condition of living men, was eminently a man of genius—though he is only to be admired and imitated so far as he effected or intended good to mankind.—But there is another order of genius —men, who having ceased to live still speak—who are known and honoured for their thoughts when their actions are forgotten, and with whom we may be familiar though we can never see them. These are the authors of books, who have recorded their beautiful ideas that others may be better, and wiser, and happier, than they could be without the intelligence supplied from these divine minds. Shakspeare, who wrote the plays which almost every reader of the English language possesses, and Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, were men of this class of genius.
We should be thankful to God that such men have ever lived; they exalt our nature, and procure for us pleasures which we could not enjoy if some minds did not differ from others in glory.—If we could not enrich our understandings with the thoughts of others, we should be like savages in ignorance—or like bees and beavers : men of no age would be more cultivated or improved than their ancestors who lived centuries before them.
The body has different functions : eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, &c. The mind also has its different operations. After we have been instructed in the nature of different objects, and have been taught their names, and the proper use of our senses, we learn to distinguish one substance from another, and we remember the qualities of these various substances; thus, if a lighted lamp and a rose are set before us, we instantly comprehend that the lamp is an invention of art, and the rose a produc