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3. “ The same careful hand,” the violet said,
“ That holds up the firmament, holds up my head !
Has painted the violet blue.
When formed of a drop of his dew?
4. “I've nought to fear from the black, heavy cloud, Or the breath of the tempest, that comes strong and
I know, and I live but for One.
As the clouds scud before the warm sun!”
LESSON CXVII. Poetry.
; 1. Wuat is poetry? The common answer would be, that it is some peculiar gift, some intellectual affluence, distinct, not merely in form, not merely in rhyme, but essentially, and in its very nature, distinct from all prose writings. Its numbers are mystic numbers; its themes are far above us, and away from us, in the clouds, or in the hues of the distant landscape; it is at war with the realities of life, and it is especially afraid of logic.
2. It is using no extravagant language, it is committing no vulgar mistake, to say, that poetry is regarded as a kind of “peculiar trade and mystery”; nay, in a sense beyond that of this technical language, as a real and absolute mystery. In one of the most distinguished journals of the day, we find a writer complaining after this sort: .“ Poetry,” says he, “ the workings of genius itself, which, in all times, and with one or another meaning, has been created inspiration, and held to be mysterious and inscrutable, is no longer without its scientific exposition."
3. And why, let us ask, why should it be without its ex
position ? Ay, and if there were any such thing as a science of criticism among us, (for the truth is, there is a great deal less of it than there was in the days of Addison and Johnson, I would say its scientific exposition. What is poetry? What is this mysterious thing, but one form in which human nature expresses itself?
What is it but embodying, what is it but showing up," in all its inoods, from the lowliest to the loftiest, the same deep and impassioned, but universal mind, which is alike and equally the theme of philosophy ?
4. What does poetry tell us, but that which was already in our hearts? What are all its intermingled lights and shadows ? what are its gorgeous clouds of imagery, and the hues of its distant landscapes ? what are its bright and blessed visions, and its dark pictures of sorrow and passion, but the varied reflection of the beautiful and holy, and yet overshadowed, and marred, and afflicted nature within us? And how, then, is poetry any more inscrutable than our own hearts. are inscrutable ?
5. To whom or to what, let me ask again, does poetry address itself? To what, in its heroic ballads, in its epic song, in its humbler verse, in its strains of love, or pity, or indignation, - to what does it speak, but to human nature, but to the common mind of all the world ? And its noblest productions, its Iliads, its Hamlets, and Lears, the whole world has understood, the rude and the refined, the anchorite and the throng of men.
6. There is poetry in real life, and in the humblest life; and in this, if it may not misbecome me to say so, is one of the noblest of our English poets right; though in the application of his theory, I would venture to assert, with the same reservation for my modesty, that he has sometimes made the most lamentable, not to say ludicrous, mistakes. There is “unwritten poetry"; there is poetry in prose; there is poetry in all living hearts.
7. Let him be the true poet who shall find it, sympathize with it, and bring it to light. He that does so, must deeply study human nature. He that does so, must, whether he knows it or not, be a philosopher. Much there is, no doubt, of technical language, much about quiddities and entities, that he may not know. 8. But he must know, and that by deep study and obser
vation, how feelings and passions rise in the human breast, what are those which coexist, what repel each other, what naturally spring one from another; he must know what within is moved, and how it is put in action by all this moving world around us; what chords are struck, not only by the rough touches of fortune, but what are swept by invisible influences; he must know all the wants, and sufferings, and joys of this inward being; what are its darkest struggles, its sublimest tendencies, its most soothing hopes, and most blessed affections; and all this is divine philosophy.
9. He must wait, almost in prayer, at the oracle within; he must write the very language of his own soul; he must write no rash response from the shrines of models; but asking, questioning, listening to the voice within, as he writes; and then will the deepest philosophy take the form of the noblest inspiration.
LESSON CXVIII. The Coral Insect.
TAE vast beds of coral in the ocean are formed by minute insects. Many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean appear to be formed wholly by these evertoiling creatures. 1. Toil on! toil on! ye ephemeral train,
Who build on the tossing and treacherous main
2. Ye bind the deep with your secret zone,
The ocean is sealed, and the surge a stone;
WHO ARE THE TRULY HAPPY!
3. But why do ye plant, 'neath the billows dark,
The wrecking reef for the gallant bark?
4. With mouldering bones the deeps are white,
From the ice-clad pole to the tropics bright;
The boundless sea with the thronging dead ? 5. Ye build ! ye build! but ye enter not in,
Like the tribes whom the desert devoured in their sin;
LESSON CXIX. Who are the truly Happy?
1. Society is often spoken of as divided into three classes, the high, the low, and the middling. These terms, I am persuaded, often bear a false signification, and are the foundation of infinite mischief. Wealth exerts a magical influence over the imagination; and those who possess it are honored with an epithet, which implies an enviable superiority of condition to the rest of mankind. But this is mere assumption, and that, too, in the face of fact and reason. Wealth is not happiness, - it is a mere instrument, and generally fails to accomplish the end for which it is designed.
2. In the hands of one who knows how to use it, and has that stern self-control which enables him to act according to knowledge, wealth is a blessing. But there are few men of this character. Most possessors of wealth are seduced by its blandishments from the straight and narrow way of peace; and that which Heaven gave for good, thus becomes the instrument of evil.
3. This classification of society, then, which assigns the first and highest place to the rich, is founded upon what might be, and not upon what is. The rich are not the happiest portion of mankind; for wealth is a two-edged sword, and too frequently wounds the hand that wields it. The only just sense in which the rich man can be said to be above his humbler neighbor, is, that he occupies a station of more responsibility. He has more influence, more power; for gold dazzles the eye, and mankind, like the moth, are disposed to follow the glare.
4. The rich man's actions, then, become efficient examples to those around him, – lectures of more power than those of the pulpit preacher. The rich set the fashion, and fashion is a goddess of unlimited sway. A wise and good man, who has riches, may therefore be, and often is, a light set on a hill; but a selfish, or even a reckless, rich man, either hides his light in a bushel, or uses it to dazzle and delude those who are around him, to their ruin.
5. The vices of the poor are generally hurtful only to themselves. The thief, the drunkard, the burglar, in the dirty streets of our cities, do little harm by their example to others; for vice, in rags, is disgusting to all. But the vices of those, who dwell in palaces of granite, seen through rosecolored plate glass, have a hue that turns the demon of deformity into an angel of light.
6. Indolence, voluptuousness, extravagance, haughtiness, exclusiveness, affectation, gossipping, - all these, amid many others, vices of the rich, as truly vicious as theft and burglary, as truly founded in selfishness, and as truly going to deface the image of God in the soul, have a character of gentility, and are more greedily imitated, than if they were Scripture virtues.
They are imitated, too, with complacency; for that salutary fear, which attends other vices, and which may, soon or late, lead the soul to shake them off, does not exist.