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ground interests in Virgil, because it will be Rome, and not because it is Evander's rural domain.
Mr. Bowles then proceeds to press Homer into his service, in answer to a remark of Mr. Campbell's, that “Homer was a great describer of works of art.” Mr. Bowles contends, that all his great power, even in this, depends upon their connection with nature. The “shield of Achilles derives its poetical interest from the subjects described on it.” And from what does the spear of Achilles derive its interest ? and the helmet and the mail worn by Patroclus, and the celestial armor, and the very brazen greaves of the well-booted Greeks ? It is solely from the legs, and the back, and the breast, and the human body, which they enclose ? In that case, it would have been more poetical to have made them fight naked; and Gulley and Gregson, as being nearer to a state of nature, are more poetical boxing in a pair of drawers than Hector and Achilles in radiant armor, and with heroic weapons.
Instead of the clash of helmets, and the rushing of chariots, and the whizzing of spears, and the glancing of swords, and the cleaving of shields, and the piercing of breast-plates, why not represent the Greeks and Trojans like two savage tribes, tugging and tearing, and kicking and biting, and gnashing, foaming, grinning, and gouging, in all the poetry of martial nature, unencumbered with gross, prosaic, artificial arms; an equal superfluity to the natural warrior and his natural poet? Is there anything unpoetical in Ulysses striking the horses of Rhesus with his bow (having forgotten his thong), or would Mr. Bowles have had him kick them with his foot, or smack them with his hand, as being more unsophisticated ?
In Gray's Elegy, is there an image more striking than his “shapeless sculpture ?” Of sculpture in general, it may be observed, that it is more poetical than nature itself, inasmuch as it represents and bodies forth that ideal beauty and sublimity which is never to be found in actual nature. This at least is the general opinion. But, always excepting the Venus di Medicis, I differ from that opinion, at least as far as regards female beauty; for the head of Lady Charlemont (when I first saw her nine years ago) seemed to possess all that sculpture could require for its ideal. I recollect seeing something of the same kind in the head of an Albanian girl, who was actually employed in mending a road in the mountains, and in some Greek, and one or two Italian, faces. But of sublimity, I have never seen anything in human nature at all to approach the expression of sculpture, either in the Apollo, the Moses, or other of the sterner works of ancient or modern art.
Let us examine a little further this “babble of green fields” and of bare nature in general as superior to artificial imagery, for the poetical purposes of the fine arts. In landscape painting, the great artist does not give you a literal copy of a country, but he invents and composes one. Nature, in her natural aspect, does not furnish him with such existing scenes as he requires. Even where he presents you with some famous city, or celebrated scene from mountain or other nature, it must be taken from some particular point of view, and with such light, and shade, and distance, &c., as serve not only to heighten its beauties, but to shadow its deformities. The poetry of nature alone, exactly as she appears, is not sufficient to bear him out. The very sky of his painting is not the portrait of the sky of nature; it is a com. position of different skies, observed at different times, and not the whole copied from any particular day. And why? Because nature is not lavish of her beauties; they are widely scattered, and occasionally displayed, to be selected with care, and gathered with difficulty.
Of sculpture I have just spoken. It is the great scope of the sculptor to heighten nature into heroic beauty, i. e, in plain English, to surpass his model. When Canova forms a statue, he takes a limb from one, a hand from another, a feature from a third, and a shape, it may be, from a fourth, probably at the same time improving upon all, as the Greek of old did in embodying his Venus.
Ask a portrait painter to describe his agonies in accommodating the faces with which nature and his sitters have crowded his painting-room to the principles of his art: with the exception of perhaps ten faces in as many millions, there is not one wbich he can venture to give without shading much and adding more. Nature, exactly, simply, barely nature, will make no great artist of any kind, and least of all a poet--the most artificial, perhaps,
of all artists in his
With regard to natural imagery, the poets are obliged to take some of their best illustrations from art. You say that a “fountain is as clear or clearer than glass," to express its beauty
“O fons Bandusiæ, splendidior vitro !"
In the speech of Mark Antony, the body of Cæsar is displayed, but so also is bis mantle :
“ Look! in this place ran Cassius' dagger through."
If the poet had said that Cassius had run his fist through the rent of the mantle, it would have had more of Mr. Bowles's “nature” to help it; but the artificial dagger is more poetical than any natural hand without it. In the sublime of sacred poetry, “Who is this that cometh from Edom ? with dyed garments from Bozrah ?” Would “the comer” be poetical without his “dyed garments ?” which strike and startle the spectator, and identify the approaching object?
The mother of Sisera is represented listening for the "wheels of his chariot.” Solomon, in his Song, compares the nose of his beloved to “a tower,” which to us appears an eastern exaggeration. If he had said that her stature was like that of a “ tower's," it would have been as poetical as if he had compared her to a tree.
"The virtuous Marcia towers above her sex,"
is an instance of an artificial image to express a moral superiority. But Solomon, it is probable, did not compare his beloved's nose to a " tower" on acount of its length, but of its symmetry; and making allowance for eastern hyperbole, and the difficulty of finding a discreet image for a female nose in nature, it is perhaps as good a figure as any other.
Art is not inferior to nature for poetical purposes. What makes a regiment of soldiers a more noble object of view than the same mass of mob? Their arms, their dresses, their banners, and the art and artificial symmetry of their position and move. ments. A Highlander's plaid, a Mussulman's turban, and a Roman toga, are more poetical than the tattooed or untattooed buttocks of a New Sandwich savage, although they were described by William Wordsworth himself like the “idiot in his glory.”
I have seen as many mountains as most men, and more fleets than the generality of landsmen; and, to my mind, a large convoy with a few sail of the line to conduct them is as noble and as poetical a prospect as all that inanimate nature can produce. I prefer the “mast of some great ammiral,” with all its tackle, to the Scotch fir or the Alpine tamen; and think that more poetry has been made out of it. In what does the infinite superiority of • Falconer's Shipwreck' over all other shipwrecks consist? In his admirable application of the terms of his art; in a poet-sailor's description of the sailor's fate. These very terms, by his application, make the strength and reality of his poem. Why? because he was a poet, and in the hands of a poet art will not be found less ornamental than nature. It is precisely in general nature, and in stepping out of his element, that Falconer fails ; where he digresses to speak of ancient Greece, and “such branches of learning."
SHAKSPERE. [The 'Sonnets' of Shakspere, there can be little doubt, were surreptitiously published. Their arrangement is manifestly defective. In Mr. Knight's edition an attempt is made at a new arrangement; and, following this, we insert nine of the Sonnets, with this explanation : "We can group nine Sonnets together, which form a connected epistle to an absent friend, and which convey those sentiments of real affection which can only be adequately transmitted in language and imagery, possessing, as these portions do, the charm of nature and simplicity.” The Sonnets thus transposed ordinarly stand as the 50th, 51st, 52nd, 27th, 28th, 61st, 43rd, 44th, and 45th.)
How heavy do I journey on the way,
The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,
For that same groan doth put this in
Thus can my love excuse the slow offence
Since from thee going he went wilful slow,
So am I as the rich, whose blessed key