Oldalképek
PDF

ever, warned by the following passage, which looks towards us and our brethren with a formidable expression of countenance, —“Quorum alii septimo quoque die, alii modestiores singulis mensibus, qui summa abstinentia utuntur, quater certe in anno redeunt, Criticorum nomine et loco gestientes. Rarissimi sunt, qui in illa celeritate scribendi non plurima secus dicant, atque id, quod unice deceat.” Of these volumes, and of the many topics of literary interest that occupy their pages, it would be impossible for us to offer any appropriate exposition. We shall content ourselves with indicating a few trains of thought which have been awakened by their perusal, in the hope that our readers may be induced to take up and enlarge them. A lecturer is obliged to commence his disquisition with a definition of the subject of which he discourses. Of poetry, so often explained, and so variously illustrated, it may be expected that every thing true has been said already, and that whatever has the recommendation of being new, incurs the perilous probability of being rejected as false. Keble adopts the humbler and the wiser course of reproducing and reshaping the opinions already received. If he calls in the coinage of criticism, it is only that it may be restored to its former circulation when its genuineness and weight have been ascertained. In defining poetry, he requires only two concessions to be made to him; 1, that it must in some manner be continually associated with number, and harmonious gradation of sound; 2, and that it be employed chiefly in creation and representation ; in making the absent present, the dead alive, things that are not as things that are. And the first concession will be rhythm; and the second will be phantasy. Either quality, in the absence of the other, possesses its charm; and it has been remarked by Coleridge that the sweet combination of sounds, even when destitute of any particular signification, exercises a pleasing influence on the ear, and through the ear upon the feelings. An illustration of this power may be found in the effect produced by a brook tinkling over pebbles, and heard, not seen, in the twilight of a green lane on a summer evening. But though it is possible for Christianity to subsist without music, and to constitute poetry by its own essential excellence and principle of vitality, it is not possible for rhythm to communicate the same privilege of existence. And, there

fore, the power of creation, of raising the dead, and transporting the living, is the great prerogative of the poetical mind, and that which not only gives it the claim to an intellectual sovereignty, but enables it to administer it. And it is by their marvellous exhibition of this power that Homer, Shakspeare, and Dante, have so irresistibly established their authority over the vast empire of the human heart. And, therefore, it should never be said that we possess no magic and no sorcery by which the past and distant scenes can be revived. We have read, in the thrilling legends of ancient days, of wonderful mirrors into which the wand of the enchanter summoned the faces and the dwellings of those whom the questioner desired to behold. And we have heard how the glowing cheek of beauty, and the glittering plume of war, and the solemn forehead of learning, glimmered into the illuminated glass; and how the English maiden saw there the knight who had gone to rescue the Sepulchre of his Lord, pining in the dungeon of the Infidel; and how the mother, trembling for the gentle daughter of her love, grew pale as she saw the white rose planted, and the green osier woven round a new tomb in the churchyard of her own village. And in the sefabulous mirrors, thus uttering their melancholy oracles of the past, and their sadder prophecies of the future, we can recognize that collecting and combining power of memory which, when it has been magnified and colored by the rays of imagination, may be properly called poetry or invention. It is the vivid reproduction of buried objects, the luminous revelation of forgotten pageants, the sunny transparency of faded landscapes, that affixes the seal to the poetical title-deed. Hence it happens that we never think of any great poem, whether of ancient or modern times, without perceiving that a long procession of magnificent scenes rises under the spell of recollection. The happiest criticism ever given of Spenser was that which Pope records, and which compares him to an artist displaying a sumptuous gallery of pictures to some wondering visitor. So it is with the historical portraits of Shakspeare. A consideration of the elements of the poetical temperament leads Mr. Keble to speak of that mute, that unconscious poetry, which dwells in so many bosoms, and may be said to characterize the inhabitants of our villages and rural solitudes; such as

the attachment to particular places, the tender recollection of departed friends, and a general sentiment of reverence for things pertaining to religion. The charm of local attachment especially deserves to be enumerated among the elements of the poetical mind, so abundantly and unconsciously possessed. Absent in the remotest regions of the world, the exiles still return in thought to the scenes and haunts of affection and memory. The English corn-field waves and glistens beneath the Indian sun, the smoke of the white cottage, as it nestled among the embowering woodbine, slowly ascends over the feathery crown of the palm, and the steeple of the village church glimmers through the dark branches of the banyan. The sentiment is bestowed upon the many, the utterance of it upon the few. The heart feels, the genius expresses. Keble gives a charming specimen both of the sentiment and the expression in some lines of Burns, which he hesitated to translate into Greek because they breathe already the rhyme and the grace of Theocritus:—

[merged small][ocr errors]

Virgil has made a beautiful use of this local memory, shedding a peace and joy over the dying eyes of the exile. One of the most affecting exemplifications of its influence is afforded by the familiar story of the Swiss soldiers who had been received into the pay of France. It was the evening hymn of their native mountains that restored health to their bodies and hope to their minds after every other remedy had failed. Their own song transformed a strange into a beloved land, and seemed to give to them the scenery and the friends, as well as the music of their home. Not less lively is the affectionate interest towards the spots where the loved in life sleep in death. It is not alone the poetical mind of Burke that desires to relinquish Wesminster Abbey for the dear old family burial-ground,

“Where red and white with intermingling
flowers,
The graves look beautiful with sun and showers;
While not a hillock moulders near that spot,
By one neglected or by all forgot.”

The stooping shadows of those who have come in the quiet of the evening time to weep there, seem still to cast a solemn gloom and sanctity over the grass. The son desires to lay his ashes with those of her at whose knee he had first folded his little hands in the prayer of childhood, and of him by whose wise counsel he had been guided in the difficult pilgrimage of life. The religion of the children is warmed by the pious histories of their kindred, thus,

“In still small accents whispering from the ground, A grateful earnest of eternal peace.”

We have hitherto been speaking of the first and second lectures, the third enters upon a wide and interesting path: it prosesses to examine what is called the poetical, as developed in painting and sculpture, in architecture and music; and, lastly, in rhetoric. . Under the first division the lecturer selects two painters, the chief of their respective schools, Raphael and Rubens; and two pictures, which are accustomed to be regarded as the triumphs of each artist in his own peculiar walk of art. The parallel, as might be supposed, is extremely interesting between the Roman painter, impelled by nature and restrained by the gentle jurisdiction of the purest taste, and the Flemish, swayed by his own discipline of habit; one, contemplating a certain divine form and image of beauty, which he had delineated in the secret recesses of his own mind, and producing at will an uniform chastity of color and design; the other seizing upon every variety of hue and figure, in every possible combination. And so the difference between Raphael and Rubens is, that in the work of the first you forget the workman, while, in the second, the workman obscures the work. To Raphael Mr. Keble thinks that the endowment of poetical light is never refused ; that the claim of Rubens, if not impugned, is never constantly admitted. From painting he passes to sculpture, which requires, as he observes, a purer and a severer taste to appreciate its beauties than is demanded by the more dazzling attractions of color. But architecture is far more intimately associated with poetry; whether it be the exquisite temple of Greek idolatry, with its solemn mysteries of superstition, its dim shrines, or its magnificent images of gods, darting rays of unearthly splendor from their emerald eyes; or the rich and fantastic gracefulness of Oriental Paganism; or, above all, the long-drawn aisles and fretted vault of our own sacred churches. Upon such a subject we should expect the writer of the Christian Year to speak with more than common enthusiasm. For on our own part we think, and have said upon a former occasion, that a cathedral and the Faery Queene breathe the same spirit; that one is a poem in stone, and one in metre; and the painted window and flowery clusterings of the walls form the more eloquent and the most congenial commentary upon Spenser. We shall quote a portion of this description of our sacred architecture, and, instead of a translation, would refer the reader to a metrical illustration from his own Christian Year:—

“Vetustissima supersunt praegrandi columnarum mole; simplici figura januarum, laquearium, fenestrarum; sculptili opere non admodum vario, neque in multas diffuso partes; quod adeo ad formam totius aedificii vix magis pertinere videatur, quam ad montis alicujus superficiem flores herbaeque, si quae ibi nascuntur. Itaque solidam quandam prae se serunt durissimae firmitatis, ne dicam immortalitatis, speciem. Deique cultoribus ipso visu servandam commendant animi constantiam, et pertinacem sine fastu sortitudinem. Haec pervetera et fortasse rudiora pallatim excepit a dificandi ratio, omnium, ut mihi quidem videtur, elegantissima et sacris longe dignissima mysteriis. Acui jam fornicum culmina, atque in sublime efferri: columnae non simplices illae, sed virgatae, fascium ritu, tamguam expluribus quaeque constet columellis, inter se stipatis vinctisque; tum capita, mira arte coelata, sensin cum laquearibus impingi; fenestrae plurimae. amplissinnis luminibus, sculptili opere quam delicatissimo; quarum quasi fibrae, foliorum similes, non vagantur illae quidem, libere tamen huc illuc feruntur.”

The association of poetry with rhetoric is, of course, more intimate and defined;

Burke.

“It is now sixteen or seventeen years since I saw the Queen of France at Versailles; and surely never lighted on this orh, which she hardsy seemed to touch, a more delightsul vision. I saw her just above the horizon, decorating and cheering the elevated sphere she just began to move in, glittering like the morning star, full of life, and splendor, and joy. Oh! what a revolution and what a heart must I have to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall!”

but though there is resemblance, there is no identity. Magnificence of diction, sweetmess of pathos, charm of expression,-all may be present, without constituting a poet; for Cicero had them all; yet he still remained a rhetorician ; while of Plato it has been affirmed, that he is more poetical than Homer. The contrast indicated by Keble is just and happy. Cicero always seems to encircle himself with the theatre, the crowd, the applause; you see the fluctuating wares of spectators; you hear the gathering thunder of kindling hands. With Plato, on the contrary, all is tranquil and subdued; he appears to be his own audience; his is the quiet eye that broods upon his own heart; any noisy expression of admiration would desecrate the serene majesty of his contemplations. The orator's rhetoric speaks to the busy, the idle, the hard-hearted, the worldly ; the poetry of the philosopher steals only into the ear of the pensive, the meditative, and the refined. The oracular breastplate of the intellectual high-priest returns no answer to the profane and unworthy questioner. Every precious jewel of thought is clouded and silent. To illustrate his distinction between the rhetorical and the poetical mind, Keble adduces two specimens from two English writers, each alike celebrated in his own particular walk of thought, Burke, the pride of the Senate, Taylor, the glory of the Church. The passage from Burke is the famous description of the unfortunate Queen of France, selected from the Essay on the French Revolution ; and the quotation from Taylor occurs in his funeral sermon on Lady Carbery. We give the original and the translation; and we think that even the graceful figures of the orator and the splendid image of the preacher will gather a new melody of sound from the exquisite Latin music to which they have been set by this accomplished critic :

Burke ‘translated.

“Vidi equidem multis abhinc annispulcherrimam, qualem ne insomniis quidem hunc orbem teligisse crediderim (simodo revera tetirit;) widi diluculo quodam suo, margine coeli, vixdum exortam ; superna, quo properabat, loca, etiam tum laeto lumine sovebat. Quid multa? Eoo lucidior emicabat, plena splendore, plena gaudio, quantum eheu! jam mutata idem ego quam durus forem, si fixis oculis intueri possem, tali ortu, tam misere occidentem.”

TAYLOR.

“In all her religion, and in all her actions of relation towards God, she had a strange cvenness and untroubled passage, sliding toward her ocean of God and of infinity with a certain and silent motion.”

Keble awards the prize of the orator to Burke, and of the poet to Taylor. “Who will deny,” he says, “that these words of the bishop flow from a full breast ! Who will doubt that he who has thus spoken would have given utterance to the same sentiment in the solitude and silence of his own chamber 7” Now suffer us to say one word in the praise of one of the loveliest minds that ever thréw a bloom and a beauty over the sacred teaching of England. Without being a poet—for Taylor's specimens in rhyme have nothing but his name to recommend them—he possessed the elements of poetry; and of all our writers, he seems to have had most eminently the brooding eye of Plato. For if we were asked to indicate by a single epithet the broad distinction between the eloquence of the rhetorical and the poetical mind, we should say of the one that it was descriptive, and of the other that it was suggestive. Of the first, that it gave to the spectator a single picture; of the second, that it exhibited scene after scene glimmering away into the aerial sunnings of perspective. In this suggestiveness, the writings of Jeremy Taylor abound. Southey, while expressing his surprise at Mackintosh's high praise of the panegyric mysticism of the bishop, admits that there are in his works exquisite, and more than Platonically beautiful passages, though he conceives them to be scattered thinly, like the apparitions of angels in pious story. We enter more congenially into the remark of Southey's friend, William Taylor, of Norwich, that it is pleasant to get out of the modern shrubberies in perpetual flower into the stately yew hedgewalks, and vased and statued terraces, and fruitful walls, and marble fountains of the old school of oratory. We think with him, and in his own words, “that such things are not made without a greater expense of study and brains than modern method requires;” and we admit, also, with him, that “while there is a something of stiffness and inutility to censure there, there is a something of aptness, grace, and convenience to applaud there.”

In one respect Bishop Taylor must suffer

TAYLOR Translated.

“Itase ad pietatem composuit, is erat tenor eorum, quaem illa Dei causa faciebat, ut esset miris modis tranquilla, nec unquam feretur citato gradu ; quae ad suum illum Oceanum, Deum videlicet et AEternitatem, certo acquieto itinere laberetur.”

from a comparison with Burke, or with that writer who might be supposed to suggest a more appropriate parallel, Bossuet; we allude to his perfect want of any such modulated flow of words and arrangement of sentences as compose what we are accustomed to call a style. In that respect he is the Rubens of eloquence; the fascination of his coloring is made to illuminate, if it does not conceal, the frequent deformities of his imagery, and the harshness and abruptness of his language. In the fourth praclection the professor touches upon the interesting subject of poetical excellence in its relative degrees of originality and power, and in the highest class he places Spenser and Shakspeare. In this opinion he has the recorded voice of Southey to support him; who looked upon Shakspeare in the dramatic, Milton in the epic, and Spenser in the romantic, as not only above all their successors, but at an unapproachable distance from them. The admirers of Shakspeare may rejoice to receive the suffrage of Keble to the char. acter of their poet. He considers his virtues of composition to have belonged to himself, and his vices to the age; and he thinks that the wilful depravity of his contemporaries ought be taken as a testimony of the sincere and hearty love and admiration of things deserving praise, by Shakspeare:—“Ut facile quis intelligere possit, quae aliquando subterpicula intexuntur, partim saeculi esse, non scriptoris; partim, ut ebrios Laconicis pueris tanquam odiosa ac vitanda proponi. Ergo illum virtuti ex animo favisse non est cur dubitemus ; cum praesertim plerique eorum qui tunc scenicis dabant operam, in alia omnia abire consueverint.” Of the moral infirmities of Dryden we think that Mr. Keble speaks with a severity that might have been softened. To say that he never praised any one from his heart, is scarcely justified, or rather it is contradicted by his life. Why should we doubt that his panegyric of Oldham was sincere, as we feel it to be eloquent 2 Many of the intellectual vices of Dryden were the vices of dependence—the vices of poverty,

Surely some allowance ought to be made character of Dryden, and instead of transfor a man of genius who was obliged to lating it, give its spirit in a parallel passage keep a sharp eye upon a bookseller's clip- from one of Southey's letters to William ped guineas. We shall quote Keble's brief Taylor :—

DRYDEN SKETCHED BY SOUTHEY.

“I have placed Dryden at the head of the second-rates. I admire, but do not love him; he can mend a versifier, but could never form a poet. His moral imbecility kept him down; with powers for painting, he chose to be a limner by trade; instead of amending ages to come, he was the pimp and pander of his own.”

Mr. Keble might very aptly have brought forward the example of Dryden to support

willing to employ on fitting occasions the

Dry Den sketched by Keble.

“Nulli vis major et copia verborum; nulli sententiarum uberior seges; nemo felicius sese tentare, nemo liberius quaedammodo et laetius spatiari, suarum virium sensu. Unum illud Vate sacro indignissimum, quod ita parum sibi congruat, ut neminem unquam ex animo laudasse, nulli earum, quas cantaverit, rerum impensius eum studuisse dicas.”

grace,—we say particularly of genius refined by art, because, in this respect Virgil

crown from Spenser. It may suit the ego

his argument, that great poets are not tool: Homer, and Campbell snatches the |

language of common discourse, but also tism, and, we are sorry to be obliged to add, that they draw much of their imagery and the extreme vanity of the late poet-laureate, illustration from things familiar and simple. to call Virgil a first-rate language-master, The Night Thoughts of Young he men- but many years must roll by before the tions as suffering from a different the- Kehama will be found on the same shelf ory. with the AEmeid.

There is deep cause to regret the error

of the poet, because in no book of the eigh

teenth century, whether it be written in prose or verse, is it possible, we think, to

In his sixth lecture Mr. Keble commences a most interesting inquiry into the history and structure of the Homeric poems, an inquiry prolonged during ten lec

find so much food for thought condensed tures, and presenting subjects of the most and extracted. There can be no question"pleasing character. "If the late Lord Dudas to the purity of the ore; it is the difficult ley and Ward, whose correspondence with inscription round the edge that keeps the Bishop Copleston has been given to the coin from getting into the general currency' public, could have read the professor's obof verse: the inscription rarely ends in the servations upon the Odyssey, he would, dialect in which it began; a new thought perhaps, have deemed it deserving of higher assumed the supremacy in the writer's, commendation than that of being a pretty mind, without altogether dethroning the poem. The illustrations of the personal former; and so we have at the same time character and disposition of the Homeric two separate images and superscriptions, writer, derived from his own works, are and two reigns of fancy seem to be run into peculiarly pleasant ; and we have been each other. But in one quality of the poet-struck with the contrast which Keble draws ical mind to which reference has been al- between Homer and Burns, in the temper

ready made, we consider Young to shine pre-eminent—in the quality of suggestiveness—he indicates, rather than describes, and he gives you an outline sufficiently clear to enable an accurate and practical eye to complete the portrait, or the landscape; and, therefore, he deserves a seat in that society of wise writers, of whom Keble happily observes, “Itaque qui sapiunt paucis tangunt, quae maxime commendata velint legenti; et velut convivatoris, ita scriptoris, id erit certissimum ingenii specimen, si homines dimittat excitato quasi palato.” With this stimulated palate the reader always rises from the intellectual festival of genius cultivated and refined into

with which they received the dispensation of a lowly fortune. He discovers a close resemblance between the Greek and Scottish poet in their poverty and their love of nature. Who does not join him in the wish that the same similarity could have been traced in their behaviour under the difficulties of the state of life to which they had been called 7–That the fierce exciseman of Dumfries had caught some of the smiling forbearance of the blind wanderer of Chios, and had played with his fortune instead of struggling with it! It may not be without profit, as it cannot be without interest, to read the morals which two eminent persons have written at the close of their melancholy

« ElőzőTovább »