Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

as a poet, however freely and fully I may dis- makes “the mast of some great ammiral,” and sent from his critical estimate of the genius of his shield is like the moon, but like the moon Pope. Mr. Bowles, in forming this estimate, artificially seen through the glass of the Tuscan lays great stress upon the argument, that artist t. The “ spirit-stirring drum, the ear

Pope's images are drawn from art more than piercing fife, the royal banner, and all quality, | from nature. That Pope was neither so in- pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious 1 sensible to the beauties of nature, nor so indis- wart,” are all artificial images. When Shak

tinct in describing them as to forfeit the cha- speare groups into one view the most sublime racter of a genuine poet, is what I mean to objects of the universe, he fixes first on “ the urge, without exaggerating his picturesqueness. cloud-capt towers, the gorgeous palaces, the But before speaking of that quality in his solemn templess." Those who have ever witwritings, I would beg leave to observe, in the [t

His ponderous shield, first place, that the faculty by which a poet

Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,

Behind him cast; the broad circumference luminously describes objects of art is essen

Hung on his shoulders, like the moon, whose orb tially the same faculty which enables him to Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views be a faithful describer of simple nature ; in

At evening, from the top of Fesolé,

Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands, the second place, that nature and art are to a

Rivers, or mountains, on her spotty globe. greater degree relative terms in poetical de His spear, to equal which the tallest pines, scription than is generally recollected ; and,

Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast thirdly, that artificial objects and manners are

Of some great ammiral, were but a wand.

Par. Lost, b. 1. he of so much importance in fiction, as to make

It is evident that Satan's spear is not compared to the

mast of some great ammiral, though his shield is to the the exquisite description of them no less cha

moon as seen through the glass of Galileo. Milton's original racteristic of genius than the description of (Cowley),whose images from art are of constant occurrence, ! simple physical appearances. The poet is draws his description of Goliah's spear from Norwegian creation's leir."

hills :He deepens our social

His spear the trunk was of a lofty tree interest in existence. It is surely by the live

Which Nature meant some tall ship's mast should be. diness of the interest which he excites in exist

The poetry of the whole passage in Milton is in the images i ence, and not by the class of subjects which and names from nature, not from art—“ It is Fesolé and ! he chooses, that we most fairly appreciate the

Valdarno that are poetical,” says Mr. Bowles, “not the

telescope.” There is a spell, let us add, in the very names 1' genius or the life of life which is in him. It

of Fesolé and Valdarno. 1. is no irreverence to the external charms of Milton's object in likening the shield of Satan to the nature to say, that they are not more important

moon, as seen through the glass of the Tuscan artist, was

to give the clearest possible impression of the thing alluded to a poet's study, than the manners and affec

to. “ It is by no means necessary,” says Cowper, “ that tions of his species. Nature is the poet's god a simile should be more magnificent than the subject; it dess; but by nature, no one rightly under

is enough that it gives us a clearer and more distinct per

ception of it than we could have had without it. Were it stands her mere inanimate face - however

the indispensable duty of a simile to elevate as well as to charming it may be—or the simple landscape illustrate, what must be done with many of Homer's ? painting of trees, clouds, precipices, and flowers. When he compares the Grecian troops, pouring themselves

forth from camp and fleet in the plain of Troy, to bees Why then try Pope, or any other poet, exclu

issuing from a hollow rock-or the body of Patroclus in sively by his powers of describing inanimate dispute between the two armies to an ox-hide larded and phenomena? Nature, in the wide and proper stretched by the currier—we must condemn him utterly

as guilty of degrading his subject when he should exalt it. sense of the word, means life in all its circum

But the exaltation of his subject was no part of Homer's stances nature moral as well as external. As concern on these occasions; he intended nothing more the subject of inspired fiction, nature includes than the clearest possible impression of it on the minds of artificial forins and manners. Richardson is

his hearers."— Works, by Southey, vol. xv. p. 321.

When Johnson, in his Life of Gray, laid it down as a no less a painter of nature than Homer. Homer

rule that an epithet or metaphor drawn from Nature himself is a minute describer of works of art* ; ennobles Art, an epithet or metaphor drawn from Art and Milton is full of imagery derived from it. degrades Nature, he bad forgotten Homer, and the custom

of all our poets.) Satan's spear is compared to the pine that

[Othello, Act iii. Scene 3.)

($ The Tempest, Act. iv. Scene 1. One of the finest pas(* But are his descriptions of works of art more poetical

sages in Shakspeare is where he describes Fortune as a than his descriptions of the great feelings of nature? wheelwright would : Bowles's Inrariable Principles, p. 15.)

Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods,

[ocr errors]

nessed the spectacle of the launching of a ship Pope, while he is a great moral writer, though of the line, will perhaps forgive me for adding not elaborately picturesque, is by no means this to the examples of the sublime objects of deficient as a painter of interesting external artificial life. Of that spectacle I can never objects. No one will say that he peruses forget the impression, and of having witnessed Eloisa's Epistle without a solemn impression it reflected from the faces of ten thousand of the pomp of catholic superstition. In familiar spectators. They seem yet before me-I sym- | description, nothing can be more distinct and pathise with their deep and silent expectation, agreeable than his lines on the Man of Ross, and with their final burst of enthusiasm. It when he asks, was not a vulgar joy, but an affecting national Whose causeway parts the vale with shady rows?

Whose seats the weary traveller repose ? solemnity. When the vast bulwark sprang

Who taught that heaven-directed spire to rise ? from her cradle, the calm water on which she The Man of Ross, each lisping babe replies. swung majestically round gave the imagination Behold the market-place with poor o'erspread

The Man of Ross divides the weekly bread: a contrast of the stormy element on which she

He feeds yon almshouse, neat, but void of state, was soon to ride. All the days of battle and

Where Age and Want sit smiling at the gate : the nights of danger which she had toencounter, Him portion'd maids, apprenticed orphans blest,

The young who labour, and the old who rest. all the ends of the earth which she had to visit, and all that she had to do and to suffer for her

Nor is he without observations of animal country, rose in awful presentiment before the nature, in which every epithet is a decisive mind; and when the heart gave her a bene-touch, as, diction, it was like one pronounced on a living

From the green myriads in the peopled grass,

What modes of sight betwixt each wide extreme, being*

The mole's dim curtain, and the lynx's beam;

Of smell, the headlong lioness between,
In general synod, take away her power;

And hound sagacious, on the tainted green;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,

Of hearing, from the life that fills the flood,
As low as to the fiends.-Hamlet, Act ii. Scene 2.]

To that which warbles through the vernal wood;

The spider's touch, how exquisitely fine, (* In the controversy which these Specimens gave rise

Feels at each thread, and lives along the line. to, Mr. Bowles contended for this. Whether poetry be more immediately indebted to what is sublime or beauti. His picture of the dying pheasant is in every ful in the works of Nature or the works of Art?" and one's memoryt, and possibly the lines of his taking Nature to himself, he argued that Mr. Campbell's ship had greater obligations to nature than to art for its

bury Plain and it is nothing more than Hounslow Heath, poetic excellencies. “ It was indebted to Nature," he

or any other uninclosed down. writes, “for the winds that filled the sails; for the sunshine

“ There can be nothing more poetical in its aspect," he that touched them with light; for the waves on which it

continues, "than the city of Venice. Does this depend so triumphantly rode; for the associated ideas of the dis

upon the sea or the canal ? tant regions of the earth it was to visit ; the tempests The dirt and sea-weed whence proud Venice rose. was to encounter; and for being, as it were, endued with Is it the canal which runs between the palace and the existence-a thing of life."

prison, or the Bridge of Sighs, which connects them, that “ Mr. Bowles asserts," says Lord Byron, “ that Camp render it poetical? There would be nothing to make the bell's Ship of the Line' derives all its poetry not from canal of Venice more poetical than that of Paddington, art but from nature. • Take away the waves, the winds, were it not for its artificial adjuncts." the sun, &c. &c., one will become a stripe of blue bunting, But why should Nature and Art be made divisible by and the other a piece of coarse canvas on three tall poles.' these controversialists? in poetry they are not 80 :Very true; take away the waves, the winds, and there will Ούτε φύσις ικανή γίνεται τέχνης άτερ, ούτε πάν τέχνη be no ship at all, not only for poetical, but for any other wey qúo W KEKTNHévn. Without Art Nature can never purpose; and take away the sun, and we must read Mr. be perfect, and without Nature Art can claim no being. Bowles' pamphlet by candle-light. But the poetry of the In & poet no kind of knowledge is to be overlooked-to a Ship does not depend on the waves, &c.; on the contrary, poet nothing can be useless.) the Ship of the Line confers its own poetry upon the [t Ah! what avail his glossy varying dyes, waters, and heightens theirs. What was it attracted the His purple crest, and scarlet-circled eyes thousands to the launch? They might have seen the The vivid green his shining plumes unfold, poetical calm water at Wapping, or in the London Dock, His painted wings, and breast that flames with gold ? or in the Paddington Canal, or in a borse-pond, or in a

IV indsor Forest. slop-basin, or in any other vase! Mr. Bowles contends," This is like Whitbread's Phænix, which Sheridan averred Lord Byron goes on to say, “ that the pyramids of Egypt that he had described " like a poulterer; it was green and are poetical because of the association with boundless yellow, and red and blue: he did not let us off for a single deserts,' and that a pyramid of the same dimensions' feather."Byron's Works, vol. vi. p. 372. would not be sublime in Lincoln's Inn Fields : not so When Pope epithetises the Kennet, the Loddon, the poetical certainly; but take away the pyramids,' and Mole, and the Wey, he is very happy; and he is equally what is the desert ?' Take away Stone-henge from Salis so when he poetizes the fish.)

winter piece may by this time [1819] have poet,” says that writer, “should i crossed the recollection of some of our brave attentive to and familiar with ever adventurers in the polar enterprise.

season, every variation of light ar So Zerbla's rocks, the beatueous work of frost,

nature, every rock, every tree, an Rise white in air, and glitter o'er the coast;

in her secret places. He who has Pale suns, unfelt at distance, roll away,

to observe these, and who cannot w And on the impassive ice the lightnings play; Eternal snows the growing mass supply,

distinguish every hue in her varie Till the bright mountains prop th' incumbent sky; so far deficient in one of the essent As Atlas fix'd, each hoary pile appears,

of a poet.” Every rock, every leaf, The gather'd winter of a thousand years.

sity of hue in nature's variety ! I am well aware that neither these nor

this botanising perspicacity might similar instances will come up to Mr. Bowles's

to a Dutch flower-painter ; but So idea of that talent for the picturesque which plays no such skill, and yet he is a he deems essential to poetry*. “The true great, and affecting poet. Even in [* It is remarkable that, excepting the Nocturnal

the desert island of Philoctetes, Reverie of Lady Winchelsea, and a passage or two in the minute observation of nature's hue Windsor Forest of Pope, the poetry of the period between

places. Throughout the Greek trage the publication of Paradise Lost and The Seasons does not contain a single new image of external nature; and scarcely

is nothing to show them more at presents a familiar one, from which it can be inferred that servers of inanimate objects than a the eye of the poet had been steadily fixed upon his object, Pope's discrimination lay in the much less that his feelings had urged him to work upon

shades of human manners, which a it in the spirit of genuine imagination. To what a low state knowledge of the most obvious and important phe as interesting as those of rocks and nomena had sunk, is evident from the style in which

moral eloquence he is for ever den Dryden bas executed a description of night in one of his

sibi. The mind of a poet employ
tragedies, and Pope his translation of the celebrated moon-
light scene in the Iliad. A blind man, in the habit of centrating such lines as these des
attending accurately to descriptions casually dropped from

creative power, which
the lips of those around him, might easily depict these
appearances with more truth. Dryden's lines are vague,

“ Builds life on death, on change duration

And bids th' eternal wheels to know the bombastic, and senseless; those of Pope, though he had Homer to guide him, are throughout false and contradic- might well be excused for not des tory. The verses of Dryden, once highly celebrated, are

the minutely picturesque. The vin forgotten; those of Pope still retain "their hold upon public estimation,”-nay, there is not a passage of descriptive sonality of his satire is a fault of th poetry, which at this day finds so many and such ardent admirers.-WORDSWOKTH, Supp. to the Pref.

The groves, the mountain-tops, the headl

Stand all apparent, not a vapour streaks Here is the passage in Dryden Mr. Wordsworth alludes

The boundless blue, but ether opened wid

All glitters, and the shepherd's heart is c
All things are hush'd as Nature's self lay dead ;
The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head;
The little birds in dreams their songs repeat,

The scraps of external nature in Lee, Otwi
And sleeping flowers beneath the night-dew sweat:

are no whit better than Dryden's. Swift ga Even lust and envy sleep; yet love denies

touches of artificial nature in his City Show Rest to my soul, and slumber to my eyes.

ing in Town, but it was left to Thomson and The Indian Emperor.

us to country life.

Mr. Southey has given no bad comment o And here the moonlight scene in Homer as rendered by

from Pope we have quoted above :-"Here,” Pope and by Cowper :

"are the planets rolling round the moon ; h As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night!

gilt and glowing with stars; here are trees O'er heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light,

and mountains tipt with silver by the moonli When not a breath disturbs the deep serene,

is the whole sky in a flood of glory; appearai And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene;

found either in Homer or in nature ; finally, Around her throne the vivid planets roll,

glowing skies, at the very time when they a And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole,

ing forth a flood of glory, are represented as O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed

The astronomy in these lines would not app And tip with silver every mountain's head;

traordinary to Dr. Herschell than the ima Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,

person who has observed a moonlight scene.' A flood of glory bursts from all the skies:

vol. xii. p. 87.] The conscious swains rejoicing in the sight,

[t With Shakspeare it is otherwise : his i Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light.-Pope.

ture is unsurpassed for truthfulness and dis As when around the clear bright moon, the stars personation. Description in Shakspeare is Shine in full splendour, and the winds are hush'd, ceived by the ear, and perceived by the eye.]

1

to:

!

not of the poet. But his wit his not all his charm. He glows with passion in the Epistle of Eloisa, and displays a lofty feeling, much above that of the satirist and the man of the world, in his Prologue to Cato, and his Epistle to Lord Oxford *. I know not how to designate the possessor of such gifts but by the name of a genuine poet +

qualem vix repperit unum Millibus in multis hominum consultus Apollo.

A USONIUS.

(* Mr.Campbell might have added his noble conclusion to The Dunciad, which is written in the highest vein of poetry, and exhibits a genius that wanted direction, opportunity, or inclination, rather than cultivation or increase of strength.)

(t Mr. Bowles' position is this, that Pope saw rural or field nature through what Dryden expressively calls the spectacles of books : that he did not see it for himself, as Homer, Virgil, Chaucer, Shakspeare, and Milton saw it,—as it was seen by Thomson and Cowper--that his country nature is by reflection, cold, unwarming, and dead-coloured that he did not make what Addison calls additions to nature, as every great poet has donethat Dr. Blacklock's descriptive nature is as good, who was blind from his birth-that focks that graze the tender green in Pope graze audibly in true descriptive writersand that his Paradise had been a succession of alleys, platforms and quincunxes-a Hagley or a Stowe, not an Eden, as Milton has made it. All this is true enough, but its importance has been over-rated. Pope is still a great poet, though he did not dwell long in the mazes of fancy, but stooped, as he expresses it, to truth, and moralised his song--that he made sense, or wit, or intellectuality hold the place of mere description, and gave us peopled pictures rather than landscapes with people. True it is too that imagination (a nobler kind of fancy) is the first great quality of a poet--that when it is found united to all the lesser qualities required, it forms what Cowley calls poetry and sanctity. Mr. Campbell has properly extended the offices of poetry, and written a defence of Pope, which will exist as long as Eloisa's Letter, or any poem of its great writer,

Gray, whose scattered touches of external nature are exquisitely true, has laid it down as a rule that description, the most graceful ornament of poetry as he calls it, should never form the bulk or subject of a poem : Pope, who was not very happy in his strokes from landscape nature-that where it forms the body of a poem, it is as absurd as a feast made up of sauces; while Swift, who

Of the poets in succession to Pope I have spoken in their respective biographies. knew nothing of trees and streams, and lawns and meads, objected to Thomson's philosophical poem that it was all deseription and nothing was doing, whereas Milton engaged men in actions of the highest importance.

To try poetry by the sister art.--in painting we see that a mere landscape, is of less value than a landscape with figures and a story, that is, where the art of both, in representing nature, is the same. An historical landscape, like the subject of Joshua commanding the sun to stand still, where high acts are performed in alliance with inanimate nature, seems to meet the ideas of Pope, of Swift, and of Gray. “ Selection," says Fuseli, falsely, " is the invention of a landscape painter."

To diversify and animate his poems, Thomson had recourse to episodes of human interest. The first Shipereck was devoid of story, it was all description; as Falconer left it, there was an action to heighten and relieve tho nature, that made description the secondary object of the poem.

Had not the notes to this Essay already run to a disproportionate length, we had been tempted to extract what Crabbe says in defence of Pope, and that portion of poetry he himself excelled in ; to have quoted Lord Byron's exaggerated praises, and Mr. Southey's depreciatory notice of the same writer. We must find room, however, for Mr. Bowles's short character from his Final Appeal, observing generally on this subject, that in lowering the rank of the poetry that Pope sustains, too much stress has been laid upon Horace's exclusion of himself from the name of a poet on the score of his Epistles and Satires, which was a becoming modesty too literally understood. When a man lowers himself, there are always some ready to take him at his own valuation.

“ As a poet," says Mr. Bowles, “I sought not to depreciate, but discriminate, and assign to him his proper rank and station in his art among English poets ; below Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton, in the highest order of imagination or impassioned poetry; but above Dryden, Lucretius, and Horace, in moral and satirical. Inferior to Dryden in lyric sublimity; equal to him in painting characters from real life (such as are so powerfully deli. peated in Absalom and Achitophel); but superior to him in passion-for what ever equalled, or ever will approach, in its kind, the Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard ? In consequence of the exquisite pathos of this epistle, I have assigned Pope a poetical rank far above Ovid. I have placed him above Horace, in consequence of the perfect finish of his satires and moral poems; but in descriptive poetry, such as Windsor Forest, beneath Cowper or Thomson."Final Appeal, 1825, p. 55.]

SPECIMENS

OF

THE BRITISH POETS.

« PředchozíPokračovat »