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ing ceased to be vague, grew into a full conception, fed by the fire and genius within, words would be found, and according as they were adequate or inadequate to realize the full feeling and thought labouring within, would the poet be deemed able or otherwise. Doubtless these faculties exist in very different proportions in ordinary minds. Of men, equally poetically constituted in thought, imagination, affection, and so forth, some will be able readily to express in suitable language the most commonplace ideas, while others cannot well express the most profound or beautiful. But it generally happens, we believe, that the two faculties go together in very equal proportions, so that in the great majority of cases it will prove true, that of any given number of men, he who expresses himself in prose or verse with the most facility and beauty, has in other respects the most poetical temperament. If a man be a true poet in power, and vividness, and depth, and beauty, of feeling and conception, we hold that he will not remain obscure, from want of ability to use that mother-tongue which in childhood we find it so easy to acquire. The singular power of Byron to fuse his ideas into languagethe very living representative of his thought, is certainly given to few; but when we see writers (like Miss Barrett, now Mrs. Browning, e. g.) to whom feelings, ideas and imaginations seem much more abundantly supplied than words, still succeeding in giving an expression, albeit not the best, to their thoughts, and showing us their minds in their books, we are not disposed to believe in a hypothetical class of dumb poets. This century, at all events, has had a large share of eloquent speech from many melodious voices. And if our own generation is grown somewhat cold and worldly, still the soul and the voice of the poet have not yet vanished from the midst of us. The real check
upon the poetical spirit of an age is the tyranny of mere formal conventionalism, hollow pretence, and mammonworship, which have somewhat signalized our times, and which our modern prophets are everywhere inveighing against. And certainly while these remain, and the dominant interests of society can be expressed by such names as Hudson and California, the old affections of the human heart seeming to have fled from the world, and to linger only in a few of the toiling and striving Brotherhood of
different lands, burning in the Hungarian's and the Roman's breast, and wakening here and there amongst us flashes of the old English fire, we may naturally have cause to fear lest poetry should shortly steal away to some planet in the sky, or some island in the distant seas, and refuse to dwell among the calculating phlegmatics of this very civilized world. But in truth we have no fear. The deep human interests of our life can never be lost sight of, and if they were, diviner interests would fill up the void. The trust and aspiration of the religious mind are of perennial growth, and were the lesser perceptions of fancy, and the lower themes of earthly joy, all snatched from the poet at once, the diviner element within him would commence a strain that would never be silent more. Inspiration cannot fail till the Deity has either severed our souls from His, or ceased Himself to be.
Look to the facts before us. Let us only glance at the list of our own modern poets, and mark their number and variety. We need not mention the particular merits of Scott or Byron, of whom we have already spoken, and who are certainly by no means among our best modern poets. But Coleridge has left behind him poems of a spiritual nature worthy of everlasting remembrance, showing, as they do, his consciousness of the mysterious, and his sympathy with the sublime and beautiful, to a degree, and in a manner, that had perhaps never been manifested before. Southey, too, has won a deathless fame. In his Thalaba he has given to future generations not merely a singularly vivid picture of oriental life, but a feast for young enthusiasm, and a lesson for Christian faith, that will receive the gratitude of earnest readers to the latest age. Wordsworth, in his Odes to Duty and Immortality, in his lines on Tintern Abbey, in parts of the Excursion, and in many Sonnets, has vindicated for all time the right of solemn thought to expression by the melody of numbers. Shelley's inspiration will live and move the soul for ever. His brilliant creations, his terrible tragedy, his unrivalled Adonais, and his many wonderful effusions of exquisite lyric beauty, can never lose their power to astonish and delight the reader of the English tongue. Keats, too, through his less inspired productions, characterised, however, by their warm glow and rich luxuriance of imagery, is neither dead
nor sleepeth. Tennyson stands unequalled for his fine fancy, his delicate perception of the beautiful, his glowing rhapsodies of feeling, his subtle discrimination of the fine shades of difference separating human characters, and his marvellous power of expressing inexpressible thoughts and states of the inmost soul by talismanic words, which, without describing at all, intuitively put the reader in possession of the oft-remembered feeling so strange and inexplicable even to the most ready sympathy. His burning truths, his pathetic melodies, his quaint fancies, his rich and refined colouring, have made his works treasures of rare hope and promise, to a country just bereft of grander genius of a more masculine order, in the youthful and uncompanioned Shelley !—and Tennyson is with us still, and one song in his Princess (Tears, idle tears!)—proves that he can still truly say,
"O, I see the crescent promise of my spirit hath not set,
Ancient founts of inspiration well thro' all my fancy yet!" Kirke White was but in his youth some five and forty years ago, at the time of his premature decay, and had a spirit of rare promise quite in sympathy with our own times. Burns passed away but a short time before him, and long shall Scotland and Great Britain store up and sing his matchless songs. Campbell, by his vigorous writing, his simple ballads, and glowing descriptions, has won a noble fame. Hood has bequeathed to the world a few pathetic verses, and a few sonnets superior, we think, to any in the language. Browning claims an honoured notice and true reverence for his deep thoughts, and powerful imagery, and the ease and boldness of his diction. To Procter (Barry Cornwall) we are indebted for songs of great force, and often of great beauty, and dramatic fragments no less remarkable. William Stanley Roscoe has cast upon the lap of time records of his graceful spirit, too divinely sweet, classical, and plaintive, ever to be lost. Leigh Hunt has written various pieces of real merit. Talfourd, from the cold courts of law, has given us Ion, with its exceeding grace, and gentle dignity, and that sculpture-like composure peculiar to the Grecian stage and Cowper, Charles Wesley, Heber, Keble, Montgomery, and Milman, have furnished the Christian church with strains of religious
fervour and poetic genius, so moving and melodious,— arrows of the spirit anointed so potently from the tissues of their own conscious being,-that entering, they must deeply thrill the heart of the sinner and the worshipper, so long as sinners and worshippers there shall be to take these inspired words upon their lips.
Living and dead then, we have a very host of poets of our own age,-the greater and the less,-witnesses indubitable to the falsehood of the theory, that advancing time as it leads on the march of science must narrow the realm and lower the rank of the poet.
We might have cited instances innumerable from foreign countries, but surely our own affords a sufficiently ample catalogue. Nor is even this quite complete. Others live to whom we still look for greater and better works than they have yet produced. And across the Atlantic there are writers by whom the title of poet has been fairly earned, and who, using our own language, we are wont to think of as our own. Two at least we may mention,-Bryant, whose compositions are few, but some of them truly graceful, and others evincing power; and the more productive Longfellow, whose harmonious numbers seem sometimes like the wild airs of an Æolian harp, or broken melodies borne upon the night-wind, or the echoes of some sweet symphony lost floating over crested waves. If his Evangeline had been written in any other metre, it might have been an immortal poem; and even as it is, the awkwardness of the metre escapes you as you read, and light and beauty gather round the page. This poem, like many others, exhibits the untraversed regions of song remaining still,regions absolutely boundless,-where human history is the subject, and all creation the theatre of action, which the poet may deal with as he will.
The name of one venerated man we have omitted from the above list of our modern poets, because we look upon him more as a man of poetic temperament, than as, properly speaking, a poet, although he has written some few lines of real beauty. The friend and frequent host of Coleridge, Wordsworth, Godwin, Hazlitt, Leigh Hunt, Talfourd, and others of well-known names, with a character more interesting than any, and a genius almost more singular, Charles Lamb claims attention, rather as the
author of the Essays of Elia, than as the writer of a fragmentary tragedy and a few sonnets. In his own line he can never be surpassed; his wit and humour, his quick and delicate sensibility, his large and everflowing sympathies, the vein of tender pathos that ran through his most beautiful thoughts, said or written,-the mixture of manhood's intellect with childhood's innocence, the quaint sweetness and ineffable grace that invested his whole character, have given him a position in the literary world, isolated and remarkable; and while we cannot well class him with our poets, we could not pass, without a comment, one so eminently poetical in taste and temperament. And when we turn from his works to his life, this judgment only gains strength. His self-devotion there was heroic, and yet calmly veiled; it bore the true ideal stamp; and, beside a selfish ungenuine man like Cole. ridge, he rises up a phoenix of light and glory, and one true line of some simple verse of his, carries more poetic inspiration with it to the reader, than all that Coleridge, in his three volumes, has left behind. Unfortunately for mankind, Lamb's very failing connects him with the poet race. For though there have been many bright exceptions, many whom we have mentioned, and others whom we have not, bore or bear the character of men of selfindulgent habits. The many exceptions, especially in latter days, prove the weakness we allude to, to be not inseparable from poetical genius, which it so sadly blights and mars. Lamb had excuses to which none else can lay claim. One purpose the presence of this weakness seems, at all events, to answer to the outlying world. It draws an almost certain line of severance between those who may and those who may not be open to the direct inspirations of God. We cannot believe that the Father would ever continue consciously to breathe high and divine thoughts into the mind that had freely surrendered its own dignity, and yielded up the energy of will to the pressing inclination of the hour. In occasional bursts of sincere repentance He might not withhold His love, but in cases of habitual weakness, we cannot suppose Him to assist with His awakened thought, the native genius He has given. Here He must act only in general laws-at a distance from the poet's mind. Hereby