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ART. V.-RECENT POETRY: KINGSLEY; TRENCH; BURBIDGE AND CLOUGH.
1. The Saint's Tragedy, or the true Story of Elizabeth of Hungary, Landgravine of Thuringia, Saint of the Romish Calendar. By Charles Kingsley, Jun., Rector of Eversley. With a Preface by Professor Maurice. London: John W. Parker, West Strand.
2. The Story of Justin Martyr; Sabbation; and other Poems. By Richard Chenevix Trench. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street.
3. Poems from Eastern Sources. By Richard Chenevix Trench.
4. Ambarvalia-Poems. By Thomas Burbidge and Arthur H. Clough. London: Chapman and Hall, 186, Strand. F. Macpherson, Oxford.
Ir has always seemed to us an assertion the most false and untenable, that as science extends its discoveries, the province of poetry must contract. As the theology of some would reduce the Deity to a great First Cause, not the immanent Spirit of all things,-would designate Him the original Creator rather than the all-sustainer,-and in every new-found law of the material world, find a fresh link in the tremendous chain that severs us from God Himselfthe first of the great series-so the philosophy of others, following hard upon the same track, and by a mode of reasoning that we are unable to comprehend, has found likewise, in the increasing empire of scientific truth, a highway of banishment for the divine inspiration of the poet. What there can be in the recognition of a beautiful consistency, an harmonious order, characterizing this vast universe of nature as the natural expression of the changeless and ever-active will of the Great Supreme, to limit the sources or confine the action of poetic genius, we cannot even surmise, although we have often heard it confidently stated, that as Science advances, Poetry must retire; as the one spreads her dominion, the other must gradually
shrink away, till Science having acomplished her work, and revealed to the world every secret of creation, gazes over her vast domains, sole monarch of the mind-beholding not even the last point of space from which she has finally dislodged the spirit that once delighted and enraptured man. The theory seems to have arisen from an idea (partially true) that Poetry draws its vitality from the sphere of the unknown. Now though we believe that all the sublimest poetry of man is connected more or less with the mysterious, it is certainly not the case that all true poetry must owe its interest to its choice of topics above our human comprehension. There is a vast deal of descriptive poetry, of a high order, that concerns itself only with the beautiful things of this visible earth-hill and valley, and lake, and storm, curling vapour, and floating cloud-and though there should be a sense of the mysterious in the mind of the describing poet-a feeling of reverential wonder at the beauty or grandeur he would paint (the sources and continuous existence of which he cannot comprehend), still he is not necessarily conscious of this; at all events he does not necessarily give expression to the feeling, and as he deals with visual phenomena familiar to all, every one can see the power of the poet and the fidelity of his pen, and many would confess it who had no idea that there might be in his mind something more than a mere perception of the beautiful and sublime: there might be or there might not. The pleasure we derive from the purely descriptive poetry of Sir Walter Scott depends upon its faithfulness to the real beauties described, and perhaps to that infusion of the imaginative and the romantic, which leave the mind so much to fill up for itself; and though it may be said. that his poems, like his stories, owe something of their interest to the author's love of the marvellous, it can hardly be maintained that he deals much with the mysterious. Byron, too, one of the most vivid describers of Nature's beautiful and sublime features that can be cited, deals for the most part directly with the known, the visible and tangible, and not with the hidden powers beyond our reach. How did advancing Science affect his genius? Would he have written more or better, had its discoveries been fewer? We can see no reason why. But then we confess we hold mere descriptive poetry to belong decidedly CHRISTIAN TEACHER.-No. 47.
to the lowest class, and it is certainly true that as we rise thence to a higher and a higher, we find ourselves approaching nearer and nearer to a conviction of the fact, that the poetical is largely based on the mysterious. At the same time, the truth is not one that will be always realised; for when we come to dramatic poetry, though now and then (as in the case of Hamlet) the mysteries of life are distinctly recognised, few would call the vivid delineation of fine characters by Shakspere or Schiller, poetry that dealt directly with the mysterious and unknown. We do not say that this opinion would be strictly correct ; for in the play of human affections, in the fluctuation of human feelings, in the inconsistencies of human character, there lies as deep a mystery as can well be found. The life of the spirit is indeed a hidden life; but still this mystery is one with which all are so familiar, consciously or unconsciously, that if it is not brought prominently forward by the dramatist, his works are not supposed to depend for their interest and vitality on their reference to things unseen and unsearchable. Nor is it so, indeed, more than incidentally. He may take his observations entirely from without; his instincts may give him free admission into the characters of men, and though nothing is more strange and inexplicable than this intuitive sympathy, the mysterious means by which his knowledge was obtained does not necessarily impress his own mind, nor will it appear upon the face of his productions. Here then is poetry dealing with the actual and familiar, rather than with the mysterious and unknown; and yet this is one of the most fruitful spheres of exercise for the divine art, and though really concerned with the deep secrets of human nature, and setting forth the strange varieties of human thought and feeling, purpose and disposition, is, to all appearance, treating of those manifest relations of life which owe their interest, not to our ignorance of the laws of mind which the progress of metaphysical science has in some degree dispelled, and may dispel yet further, but to human sympathies and affections, which never change from age to age. When, therefore, it is said, that the existence of poetry is only compatible with limited knowledge, the statement can by no means receive our assent; for it seems to ignore the fact that half our finest Poets deal
with human character familiar to us all, and claim our attention through the universality of those elements of our nature, which they clothe in the beautiful garments of their inventive fancy. And what can science do here? It can never explain away the freedom of the human will, can never show us to be systematic pieces of mechanism, who are living voluntary agents, and, accordingly, the portraiture of man, with all his passions and wilfulness, his nobleness and sin, his joys and sorrows, his speculative thought and ardent sympathy, will remain for ever, and among all people, a subject of deep interest and profound study and while the poet is penetrating the mysterious veil of the soul by a quick perception and ready experience, he may display his characters so completely in the true light of nature, as to leave no apprehension upon the reader's understanding of the mysteries which he grasps and rules and though he is really treading in a land, the rise and growth of which he cannot possibly explain, still it cannot be called a land unknown, being, as it is, one which he has so carefully and so fully surveyed, though by means which he himself cannot comprehend. And, again, were the theory true that mystery must be the companion or nurse of poetry, the omniscient Creator, the great Пoinτns of the Universe, could claim no such title at all; and indeed, according to some, He is but a wondrous mechanician of surpassing science, who performs His great works by availing Himself of His perfect knowledge of the properties which He has Himself invented. We, however, are wont to look upon His creations as produced at the same moment, and by the same spontaneous exercise of volition, with which their coherent properties are first conceived. We are wont to regard the Deity as the great and sublime poet; for what is the bright vision of this earth's beauty but the glorious realization of His grand imaginative thought? and what are His diviner works-the spirits of heroes and of saints, but the expression of His pure desire and wakeful affection? what the great ideal of humanity himself, but the fulness of the Deity's conception and the offspring of His perfect love? And yet there can be no mystery with God. Poetry, therefore, which would seem to be, in all its higher phases, the expression of affections through the medium of imagination, may con
cern itself with things intelligible and familiar, that lie immediately within the region of experience: it does not necessarily require the aid of mystery; and yet we freely confess, that the noblest strains of man are those in which he rises above the actual and demonstrable to the invisible and unknown.
Now because poetry and mystery are perceived to be often closely bound together, therefore it has been alleged that the ancients only (Homer and Hesiod, e. g.) could indulge their imaginations with full freedom and success ;that they could sing of the dusky air and the pure ether, as we cannot do, who are taught to think of the atmosphere as an elastic fluid, composed for the most part of nitrogen and oxygen, in the proportion of 79 to 21: that Horace or Virgil could celebrate with effect the wandering moon or stormy winds, a task impossible for us to undertake with advantage, who know all about them, since we are able to predict and explain the eclipses of the former and even to describe its interior, and to account for the incursions and changes of the latter by the processes of rarefaction and condensation. But surely if the poet can no longer indulge his fancy upon these themes,-in picturing, e. g., the earth's real shape and limits (now discovered), or in conceiving brilliant theories about the stars, and their relative positions, and modes and periods of revolution, his eye is but opened to a vaster region of the infinite mysteries around him, which the discovery of nature's secrets but enables him more keenly to discern. The old bards looked on earth and man with eyes unenlightened by the now explored wonders of creation, and the constantly increasing revelations to the wakeful soul, with which our modern poets must be familiar. The position from which inspired men of former times looked out upon the world, was certainly one girt closely with thick clouds and dense mists, which we may say have now been swept away; but if those clouds and mists once precluded the possibility of man's perceiving the law and system of the universe (unfavourable to poetry), of which we of the present day have become conscious, they also must have disabled him from perceiving, or even surmising, the power and grandeur of creation, and the vast infinitude of that realm of mystery beneath which he stood. The region of the unknown