« AnkstesnisTęsti »
of thought. But in everything which is to send the soul into herself, to be admonished of her weakness or to be made conscious of her power; wherever life and nature are described as operated upon by the creative or abstracting virtue of the imagination; wherever the instinctive wisdom of antiquity and her heroic passions uniting, in the heart of the poet, with the meditative wisdom of later ages, have produced that accord of subimated humanity, which is at once a history of the remote past and a prophetic annunciation of the remotest future,—there, the poet must reconcile himself for a season to few and scattered hearers. Grand thoughts (and Shakespeare must often have sighed over this truth), as they are most naturally and most fitly conceived in solitude, so can they not be brought forth in the midst of plaudits without some violation of their sanctity. Go to a silent exhibition of the productions of the sister art, and be convinced that the qualities which dazzle at first sight, and kindle the admiration of the multitude, are essentially different from those by which permanent influence is secured. Let us not shrink from following up these principles as far as they will carry us, and conclude with observing--that there never has been a period, and perhaps never will be, in which vicious poetry, of some kind or other, has not excited more zealous admiration, and been far more generally read, than good; but this advantage attends the good, that the individual, as well as the species, survives from age to age: whereas, of the depraved, though the species be immortal, the individual quickly perishes; the object of present admiration vanishes, being supplanted by some other as easily produced; which, though no better, brings with it at least the irritation of novelty,—with adaptation, more or less skilful, to the changing humours of the majority of those who are most at leisure to regard poetical works when they first solicit their attention.
Is it the result of the whole that, in the opinion of the writer, the judgment of the People is not to be respected? The thought is most injurious; and could the charge be brought against him, he would repel it with indignation. The People have already been justified, and their eulogium pronounced by implication, when it was said, above-that, of good poetry, the individual, as well as the species, survives. And how does it survive but through the People? what preserves it but their intellect and their wisdom?
The voice that issues from this spirit, is that vox populi which the Deity inspires. Foolish must he be who can mistake for this a local acclamation, or a transitory outcry-transitory though it be for years, local though from a nation. Still more lamentable is his error, who can believe that there is anything of divine infallibility in the clamour of that small though loud portion of the community, ever governed by factitious influence, which, under the name of the PUBLIC, passes itself, upon the unthinking, for the PEOPLE. Towards the Public the writer hopes that he feels as much deference as it is entitled to; but to the People, philosophically characterized, and to the embodied spirit of their knowledge, so far as it exists and moves, at the present, faithfully supported by its two wings, the past and the future, his devout respect, his reverence, is due. He offers it willingly and readily; and, this done, takes leave of his readers, by assuring them-that, if he were not persuaded that the con
tents of these volumes, and the work to which they are subsidiary, evinced something of the "vision and the faculty divine;" and that, both in words and things, they will operate in their degree, to extend the domain of sensibility for the delight, the honour, and the benefit of human nature, notwithstanding the many happy hours which he has employed in their composition, and the manifold comforts and enjoyments they have procured to him, he would not, if a wish could do it, save them from immediate destruction; from becoming at this moment to the world, as a thing that had never been.
Page 19.-The Blind Highland Boy.
It is recorded in "Dampier's Voyages," that a boy, the son of a captain of a man-of-war, seated himself in a turtle-shell, and floated in it from the shore to his father's ship, which lay at anchor at the distance of half a mile. Upon the suggestion of a friend, I have substituted such a shell for that less elegant vessel in which my blind voyager did actually intrust himself to the dangerous current of Loch Leven, as was related to me by an eye-witness.
Page 104.-To the Daisy.
This poem, and two others to the same flower, were written in the year 1802; which is mentioned because in some of the ideas, though not in the manner in which those ideas are connected, and likewise even in some of the expressions, there is a resemblance to a poem (lately published) of Mr. Montgomery, entitled, "A Field Flower." This being said, Mr. Montgomery will not think any apology due to him; I cannot, however, help addressing him in the words of the father of English poets:
The story of this poem is from the German of FREDERICA BRUN.
Page 134.-The Horn of Egremont Castle.
This story is a Cumberland tradition; I have heard it also related of the Hall of Hutton John, an ancient residence of the Huddlestones, in a sequestered valley upon the river Dacor.
Page 144.-The Solitary Reaper.
This poem was suggested by a beautiful sentence in a MS. Tour in Scotland written by a friend, the last line being taken from it verbatim.
Page 164.-Song at the Feast of Brougham Castle.
Henry Lord Clifford, &c. &c., who is the subject of this poem, was the son of John Lord Clifford, who was slain at Towton Field; which John Lord Clifford, as is known to the readers of English history, was the person
who, after the battle of Wakefield, slew, in the pursuit, the young Earl of Rutland, son of the Duke of York who had fallen in the battle, "in part of revenge," say the authors of the "History of Cumberland and Westmoreland," "for the earl's father had slain his." A deed which worthily blemished the author (saith Speed); but who, as he adds, "dare promise anything temperate of himself in the heat of martial fury? chiefly, when it was resolved not to leave any branch of the York line standing; for so one maketh this lord to speak." This, no doubt, I would observe by-theby, was an action sufficiently in the vindictive spirit of the times, and yet not altogether so bad as represented; " for the earl was no child, as some writers would have him, but able to bear arms, being sixteen or seventeen years of age, as is evident from this (say the Memoirs of the Countess of Pembroke, who was laudably anxious to wipe away, as far as could be, this stigma from the illustrious name to which she was born)," that he was the next child to King Edward IV., which his mother had by Richard Duke of York, and that king was then eighteen years of age; and for the small distance betwixt her children, see Austin Vincent in his book of Nobility, page 622, where he writes of them all. It may further be observed, that Lord Clifford, who was then himself only twentyfive years of age, had been a leading man and commander two or three years together in the army of Lancaster before this time, and therefore would be less likely to think that the Earl of Rutland might be entitled to mercy from his youth. But independent of this act, at best a cruel and savage one, the family of Clifford had done enough to draw upon them the vehement hatred of the house of York; so that, after the battle of Towton, there was no hope for them but in flight and concealment. Henry, the subject of the poem, was deprived of his estate and honours during the space of twenty-four years; all which time he lived as a shepherd in Yorkshire, or in Cumberland, where the estate of his father-inlaw (Sir Lancelot Threlkeld) lay. He was restored to his estate and honours in the first year of Henry VII. It is recorded that, "when called to Parliament, he behaved nobly and wisely; but otherwise came seldom to London or the Court; and rather delighted to live in the country, where he repaired several of his castles which had gone to decay during the late troubles." Thus far is chiefly collected from Nicholson and Burn; and I can add, from my own knowledge, that there is a tradition current in the village of Threlkeld and its neighbourhood, his principal retreat, that in the course of his shepherd life he had acquired great astronomical knowledge. I cannot conclude this note without adding a word upon the subject of those numerous and noble feudal edifices spoken of in the poem, the ruins of some of which are, at this day, so great an ornament to that interesting country. The Cliffords had always been distinguished for an honourable pride in these castles; and we have seen that after the wars of York and Lancaster they were rebuilt; in the civil wars of Charles I. they were again laid waste, and again restored almost to their former magnificence by the celebrated Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, &c. &c. Not more than twenty-five years after this was done, when the estates of Clifford had passed into the family of Tufton, three of these castles, namely, Brough, Brougham, and Pendragon, were demolished, and the timber and other materials sold, by Thomas Earl of Thanet. We will hope that, when this order was issued, the earl had not consulted the text of Isaiah, lviii. 12, to which the inscription placed over the gate of Pendragon Castle, by the Countess of Pembroke (I believe his grandmother) at the time she repaired that structure, refers the reader," And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places:
thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in." The Earl of Thanet, the present possessor of the estates, with a due respect for the memory of his ancestors, and a proper sense of the value and beauty of these remains of antiquity, has, I am told, given orders that they shall be preserved from all depredations.
Page 165.-Earth helped him with the cry of blood.
This line is from the "Battle of Bosworth Field," by Sir John Beaumont (brother to the dramatist), whose poems are written with so much spirit, elegance, and harmony.
Page 166. And both the undying fish that swim
Through Bowscale tarn, &c.
It is imagined by the people of the country that there are two immortal fish inhabitants of this tarn, which lies in the mountains not far from Threlkeld. Blencathara, mentioned before, is the old and proper name of the mountain vulgarly called Saddle-back.
Page 167.-Armour rusting in his halls
The martial character of the Cliffords is well known to the readers of English history; but it may not be improper here to say, by way of comment on these lines and what follows, that, besides several others who perished in the same manner, the four immediate progenitors of the person in whose hearing this is supposed to be spoken, all died in the field.
Page 176. And wondrous length and strength of arm.
The people of the neighbourhood of Loch Katrine, in order to prove the extraordinary length of their hero's arm, tell you that "he could garter his tartan stockings below the knee when standing upright." According to their account he was a tremendous swordsman; after having sought all occasions of proving his prowess, he was never conquered but once, and this not till he was an old man.
Page 278.-Seen the "Seven Whistlers" in their nightly rounds,
For overhead are sweeping" Gabriel's Hounds."
Both these superstitions are prevalent in the midland counties of Eng land; that of "Gabriel's Hounds" appears to be very general over Europe, being the same as the one upon which the German poet, Bürger, has founded his "Ballad of the Wild Huntsman."
Page 302.-Much did he see of men.
"We learn from Cæsar, and other Roman writers, that the travelling merchants who frequented Gaul and other barbarous countries, either newly conquered by the Roman arms, or bordering on the Roman conquests, were ever the first to make the inhabitants of those countries