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truth: we are aware that the sublimities of Homer may be travestied; but we have annexed to Mr. Southey's intro, ductory verses, a puff in the style of Doctor Solomon, and not jocularly but seriously ask our readers to decide, which of the two blank verse advertisements is the most modest, or most poetical.
Come listen to my lay.
To heal all ails. Come, listen to my cures. Come, FPR YE KNOW ME.' Alas! here the puff poetical has a fatal resemblance to the puff medicinal. The patient, who has not been benefited by the first phial, is not very eager to purchase a second ; and he, who bas read the wild and wondrous' tale of Thalaba, is the least likely person to peruse a production of the same author. Nay we positively overheard the following soliloquy by a person who was per rusing the above quoted passage : Čome, for ye know me! I am he who framed Of Thalaba the wild and wondrous song. Are you? Then I will not waste my money by purchasing your Madoc.
Mr. Southey wears THALABA written on his forehead as a phylactery, which is to work a kind of charm in repelling censure, and in exciting admiration. He thus provokes us to examine a claim which might have passed unnoticed, and to enter into a discussion, which would otherwise haye been unnecessary.
In poetry, as in philosophy, there have been various epochs, which have been marked by characteristic differences. About the beginning of the seventeenth century ap-' peared a race of writers, who from their strange and farfetched conceits were denominated by Dr. Johnson,' Me. taphysical Poets.' In the latter end of the last century. it was our lot to see a tribe of bards spring up, whom we venture to distinguish by the name of REVOLUTIONARY. At the precise period when rebellion was abroad among the people, and when they were in a state of mind which regarded all order and decency as subjugation and restraint, she also reared ber bead among the poets, many of whom threw off the fetters of measure and rhyme, and issued a manifesto, which declared the laws of verse, as they had hitherto existed, to be vile impositions, degrading oppressions, barbarous manacles on the energies of mind. A sort of club was instituted, in which mutual honours were bestowed, and very strong resolutions were passed against those, who persisted in shutting their eyes against the new light. Praises were reciprocally interchanged among themselves, and the opinion of the world, the unenlightened world, was set at defiance.
The imagination is fond of giving form and body to its own creations : bence poetry has been depicted on the canvass, and sculptured in marble, as a beautiful female, her form elegant and adorned with every grace, her robe spread in ornamental folds, her tresses flowing, but not dishevelled; one hand holds a musical instrument, and while the other sweeps the chords, she seems listening to the voice of inspiration, which comes froin heaven. The painter or the sculptor must not so represent the muse of the close of the eighteenth century: she is a subject for the humbler art of caricature: her aim was to captivate the hearts of sans-culotte admirers, and stie exhibited herself in rags, and sans chemise. Her votaries formed themselves into a society, which is now dispersed, and which would not have been recalled by us to the reader's recollection, if Mr. Southev, who is the child and the champion'ofthis scct, had not, in proud defiance of criticism, pointed to the 'wonderous' tale, which bears on its title-page, as on a shield, the motto of the hero, and of his brave companions in the bold adventures of wild verse : Ποιημάτων άκρατος η ελευθερία, και νόμος είς, το δόξαν Tớ motý. Poetry is free, and subject to no law but the will
By quoting this single passage from Lucian, without conpection and without comment, an insult is offered to the
of the poet,
good sense of that author. It is well known that by such garbled quotations, the sacred writers may be inade advocates for every breach of the inoral law; and thus Lucian is made to sanction a dereliction of all order, and rebellion againsť the laws of inetre ; whereas that sagacions philosopher's meaning is widely different. It is very distinct froin that, which by prefixing the sentence to the wild song of Thalata, ,, Mr. Southey would wish to attach to it. Lucian is giving precepts concerning the proper mode of writing history, in which be warns the historian against neglecting the truth for the sake of ornament, against indulging in flights of fancy instead of parrating the true circumstances of facts. He tells him, that the heroes, whose exploits are described by the historian, must be faithfully represented with all their weaknesses, their imperfections, and their vices, but that the heroes of poetic song may be endowed by the poet with all the qualities and powers of gods. He appears, by the whole tenor of his argument, to have an high idea of the graces and ornaments of poetry, and therefore observés, that if the Darrator of real facts should dress history with the decora, tions of poetry, it would appear as absurd as the finery of a female on the naked image of a wrestler. The great pains which he takes to caution the historian against poetic embel
, lishments, are proofs of his sense of their value in their proper place, but the INTENTIONS of the poet he allows to be unrestrained, and without any other bounds than those of the poet's genius. His conception of the unlimited range of poetical imagination, may be represented in spirit by a simi, lar passage from Shakspeare:
The poet's eve in a Ene frenzy rolling,
A local habitation and a name. But with respect to the laws of metre, he was so convinced of their charming and sweet influence, thai he is apprehensive Test'thë historian should desert the plain path of iruth, and the unadorned style of narration, in search of heightened graces, which will sender his history like“ prose upen stilts." Mr. Southey refers to Lucian's authority as an IMPRIMATUR for his own prose run mad," and in a spirit of (what perhaps he would wish to be thought) simplicity, be informs us that. what has been foolishly called heroic measure, is nothing more than a regular Jew's-harp twingtwang.' If the lines of Dryden and of Pope are to be compar, ed to the twing-twang of the Jew's harp, Mr. Southey inuat pot accuse us of want of good manners, if we should compare some parts of his Thalaba to the grinding of the burdygurdy, some to the dissonant claug ot'marrow-bones and clear. ers, and some to the rapid rapping harmony of the salt-box. If Mr. S. be resolved that the wild and wonderous song'shall retain a motto from Lucian, he need not travel out of the same page for one, which would be much more appropriate.
“Οι μεν πολλοί ίσως ταντα σου επαινέσον ται» οι ολίγοι δε εκείνοι, ών συ καταφρονέις, μάλα ή ου και ές κόρον γελάσονται ορώντες το ασύρηλον, και ανάρμοσον, και δυσκόλλητον τα πράγματος. .
We will translate the above passage by again calling in the aid of Shakspeare. This wild, unmetrical, and una connected song, though it may make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve.'
We cannot with justice close this dissertation, which has arisen from the frontispiece of Madoc, without giving due praise to the engraver, whose vignette is beautiful.
From the frontispiece we pass to the preface, which concludes in the following manner: • This poem assumes not the degraded title of epic, and the question therefore is not whether the story is formed upon the rules of Aristotle, but whether it be adapted to the purposes of poetry.' What does our author mean by the degraded title of epic? Does he allude to his own endeavours to degrade the epic muse? if so, is not this cruel? is it not adding insult to injury ? Or does he allude to the numerous epic poems, which are now as frequentas Christmas charades, and is it bis intention to warn the world against mingling Madoc with the herd? Perhaps lie means to say, “ I know that epic poet is a title of dignity, but, like the young Roscius, I find so many competitors usurping the name, that it is really no distinction: if you regard me, gentleinen, as a mere epic poet, I do not thank you my service to you. I am no imitator of Homer, or Virgil; none but myself shall be my parallel. I am Mr. Southey, verse-maker in general.” There is something very Hippant in all this. The author prejudices the reader against him: his greatest admirer must peruse the few first leaves with a sigh, and lament that the dignity of Mr. Southey's talents should be mixed with such littleness, and that with so much pure gold there should be so much dross.
Human nature was once exalted by the talents of a man, the effulgence of whose genius even Mr. Southey cannot behold with undazzled eyes. Let us hear the words of such a man, when be ventured on the perilous task of estimating bis own powers.
By labour and intense study, which I take to be my portion in this life, I hope that I may
leave something so written to aftertimes, that they shall not wid" lingly let it die: but this is not to be obtained but by. desout prayer to that Eternal Spirit, that can enrich with all etterance and knowledge, and sends out bis seraphim with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purity the lips of whoin he pleases. To this must be added industrious and select reading, steady observation and insight into-all seemly and generous arts and affairs, till which iu svine ineasure be compassed, I refuse not to sustain this expectation.' Oh! how superior is this calm and subdued, yet fervent and esalted confidence of pious genius to the pert assurance of the modern bard, who tells you that he is among poets what Polonius's actor was among the heroes of the sock and the buskin. • Either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical, bistorical-comical, scene undividable, or poem unlimited; for the law of writ and the liberty, I am your only mar.' This
poem assumes not the degraded title of epic. The question is not therefore whether the story is formed upon the rules of Aristotle, but whether it be adapted to the purposes of poetry. While Mr. S.makes this declaration in a vaunting manner, he forgets that he voluntarily lets go the first praise of poetic genius,' and saves bis critics a great deal of trouble. We are not to try this poern by the common rules of our court; we are not to examine whether it has a beginning, a iniddle, and an end; whether the episodes are naturally introduced, whether the machinery is appropriate, whether thecharacters are well preserved, whether the subject is great, and whether the moral is good : we are simply to observe whether it be adapted to the purposes of poetry. The purposes of poetry are of various degrees; they are sometimes answered by a sonnet, or by a ballad, in the same manner as a hovel or a shed will answer the purposes of a house, or as a fig-leaf will answer the purposes of an embroidered petticoat: but is in all those arts which adory life, we study only this tame sufficiency, then all the various improvements, wbich bare rendered man's social abode a tlieatre of wouders, may be quietly given up, and all our pride and all our honors be lowered to the ground.
The same eccentric defiance of cominon opinion follows our author in the choice of his subject. A Welchman is supposed to be the discoverer of Ainerica. We give the facts, on which the poem is founded, in Mr. Southey'sown words.