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gushing springs rejoiced in fantastic sprites,—the leaping cataracts gleamed with translucent shades,—the cavernous hills were the abodes of genii,-and the earth-girdling ocean was guarded by mysterious forms. Such were the creations of the far-searching mind in its early consciousness of the existence of unseen powers. The philosopher picked out his way through the dark and labyrinthine path, between effects and causes, and slowly approaching towards the light, he gathered semblances of the great reality, like a mirage, beautiful and truthful, although still but a cloud-reflection of the vast unseen.
It is thus that the human mind advances from the ideal to the real, and that the poet becomes the philosopher, and the philosopher rises into the poet ; but at the same time as we progress from fable to fact, much of the soul sentiment which made the romantic holy, and gave a noble tone to every aspiration, is too frequently merged in a cheerless philosophy which clings to the earth, and reduces the mind to a mechanical condition, delighting in the accumulation of facts, regardless of the great laws by which these are regulated, and the harmony of all Telluric combinations secured. In science we find the elements of the most exalted poetry; and in the mysterious workings of the physical forces, we discover connections with the illimitable world of thought, -in which mighty minds delight to try their powers, strangely complicated, and as marvellously ordered, as in the psychological phenomena which have, almost exclusively, been the objects of their studies.
In the aspect of visible nature, with its wonderful diversity of form and its charm of colour, we find the beautiful; and in the operations of these principles, which are ever active in producing and maintaining the existing conditions of matter, we discover the sublime.
The form and colour of a flower may excite our admiration; but when we come to examine all the phenomena, which combine to produce that piece of symmetry and that lovely hue,—to learn the physiological arrangement of its structural parts,—the chemical actions by which its woody fibre and its juices are produced,--and to investigate those laws by which is regulated the power to throw back the white sunbeam from its surface in coloured rays, our admiration passes to the higher feeling of deep astonishment at the perfection of the processes, and of reverence for their
great Designer. There are, indeed, “ tongues in trees;" but science alone can interpret their mysterious whispers, and in this consists its poetry.
To rest content with the bare enunciation of a truth, is to perform but one-half of a task. As each atom of matter is involved in an atmosphere of properties and powers, which unites it to every mass of the universe, so each truth, however common it may be, is surrounded by impulses, which being awakened, pass from soul to soul like musical undulations, and which will be repeated through the echoes of space, and prolonged for all eternity.
The poetry which springs from the contemplation of the agencies which are actively employed in producing the transformations of matter, and which is founded upon the truths developed by the aids of science, should be in no respect inferior to that which has been inspired by the beauty of the individual forms of matter, and the pleasing character of their combinations.
The imaginative view of man and his world—the creations of the romantic mind-have been, and ever will be, dwelt on with a soul-absorbing passion. The mystery of our being, and the mystery of our ceasing to be, acting upon intelligences which are for ever striving to comprehend the enigma of themselves, leads by a natural process to a love for the ideal. The discovery of those truths which advance the human mind towards that point of knowledge to which all its secret longings tend, should excite a higher feeling than any mere creation of the fancy, how beautiful soever it may be. The phenomena of reality are more startling than the phantoms of the ideal. Truth is stranger than fiction. Surely many of the discoveries of science which relate to the combinations of matter, and exhibit results which we could not by any previous efforts of reasoning dare to reckon on, results which show the admirable balance of the forces of nature, and the might of their uncontrolled power, exhibit to our senses subjects for contemplation truly poetic in their character.
We tremble when the thunder-cloud bursts in fury above our heads. The poet seizes on the terrors of the storm to add to the interest of his verse. Fancy paints a storm-king, and the genius of romance clothes his demons in lightnings, and they are heralded by thunders. These wild imaginings have been the delight of mankind; there is subject for wonder in them: but is there any thing less wonderful in the well-authenticated fact, that the dew-drop which glistens on the flower, that the tear which trembles on the eye-lid, holds locked in its transparent cells an amount of electric fire equal to that which is discharged during a storm from a thunder-cloud ?
In these studies of the effects which are continually presenting themselves to the observing eye, and of the phenomena of causes, as far as they are revealed by science in its search of the physical earth, it will be shown that beneath the beautiful vesture of the external world there exists, like its quickening soul, a pervading power, assuming the most varied aspects, giving to the whole its life and loveliness, and linking every portion of this material mass in a common bond with some great universal principle beyond our knowledge. Whether by the improvement of the powers of the human mind, man will ever be enabled to embrace within his knowledge the laws which regulate these remote principles, we are not sufficiently advanced in intelligence to determine. But if admitted even to a clear perception of the theoretical power which we regard as regulating the known forces, we must still see an unknown agency beyond us, which can only be referred to the Creator's will.- ROBERT HUNT.
Mr Crabbe is distinguished from all other poets, both by the choice of his subjects, and by his manner of treating them. All his persons are taken from the lower ranks of life, and all his scenery from the most ordinary and familiar objects of nature or art. His characters and incidents, too, are as common as the elements out of which they are compounded are humble; and not only has he nothing prodigious or astonishing in any of his representations, but he has not even attempted to impart any of the ordinary colours of poetry to those vulgar materials. He has no moralising swains or sentimental tradesmen, and scarcely ever seeks to charm us by the artless graces or lowly virtues of his personages. On the contrary, he has represented his villagers and humble burghers as altogether as dissipated, and more dishonest and discontented, than the profligates of higher life; and, instead of conducting us through blooming vorges and pastoral meadows, has led us along filthy lanes and crowded wharfs, to hospitals, alms-houses, and gin-shops. In some of these delineations, he may be considered as the satirist of low life—an occupation sufficiently arduous, and, in a great degree, new and original in our language. But by far the greater part of his poetry is of a different and a higher character, and aims at moving or delighting us by lively, touching, and finely-contrasted representations of the dispositions, sufferings, and occupations of those ordinary persons who form the far greater part of our fellow-creatures. This, too, he has sought to effect, merely by placing before us the clearest, most brief, and most striking sketches of their external condition—the most sagacious and unexpected strokes of character—and the truest and most pathetic pictures of natural feeling and common suffering. By the mere force of his art, and the novelty of his style, he forces us to attend to objects that are usually neglected, and to enter into feelings from which we are in general but too eager to escape, and then trusts to nature for the effect of the representation.
It is obvious, at first sight, that this is not a task for an ordinary hand, and that many ingenious writers, who make a very good figure with battles, nymphs, and moonlight landscapes, would find themselves quite helpless, if set down among streets, harbours, and taverns. The difficulty of such subjects, in short, is sufficiently visible, and some of the causes of that difficulty; but they have their advantages also and of these, and their hazards, it seems natural to say a few words, before entering more minutely into the merits of the work before us.
The first great advantage of such familiar subjects is, that every one is necessarily well acquainted with the originals, and is therefore sure to feel all that pleasure, from a faithful representation of them, which results from the perception of a perfect and successful imitation. In the kindred art of painting, we find that this single consideration has been sufficient to stamp a very high value upon accurate and lively delineations of objects, in themselves uninteresting and even disagreeable; and no very inconsiderable part of the pleasure which may be derived from Mr Crabbe's poetry may probably be referred to its mere truth and fidelity, and to the brevity and clearness with which he sets before bis readers objects and characters with which they have been all their days familiar.
In his happier passages, however, he has a higher merit, and imparts a far higher gratification. The chief delight of poetry consists, not so much in what it directly supplies to the imagination, as in what it enables it to supply to itself;
-not in warming the heart by its passing brightness, but in kindling its own latent stores of light and heat—not in hurrying the fancy along by a foreign and accidental impulse, but in setting it agoing, by touching its internal springs and principles of activity. Now, this highest and most delightful effect can only be produced by the poet's striking a note to which the heart and the affections naturally vibrate in unison; by rousing one of a large family of kindred impressions ; by dropping the rich seed of his fancy upon the fertile and sheltered places of the imagination. But it is evident, that the emotions connected with common and familiar objects, with objects which fill every man's
memory, and are necessarily associated with all that he has ever really felt or fancied, are of all others the most likely to answer this description, and to produce, where they can be raised to a sufficient height, this great effect in its utmost perfection. It is for this reason that the images and affections that belong to our universal nature, are always, if tolerably represented, infinitely more captivating, in spite of their apparent commonness and simplicity, than those that are peculiar to certain situations, however they may come recommended by novelty or grandeur. The familiar feeling of maternal tenderness and anxiety, which is every day before our eyes, even in the brute creation, and the enchantment of youthful love, which is nearly the same in all characters, ranks, and situations, still contribute far more to the beauty and interest of poetry than all the misfortunes of princes, the jealousies of heroes, and the feats of giants, magicians, or ladies in armour. Every one can enter into the former set of feelings; and but a few into the latter. The one calls up a thousand familiar and long-remembered em ons, which are answered and reflected on every side by the kindred impressions which experience or observation have traced upon every memory; while the other lights up but a transient and unfruitful blaze, and passes away without perpetuating itself in any kindred and native sensation.
Now, the delineation of all that concerns the lower and most numerous classes of society is, in this respect, on a