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sorbing interest, that they look with impatience on any thing which does not bear directly on it. A great political authority of the present day has counselled the young men of this country, and especially of the Working Classes, not to waste their time on literature, but to read the newspapers, which, he says, will give them all the education that is essential. Persons of this class seem to fancy that the all-in-all of man is "to get on;" according to them, to elevate men means, chiefly, to improve their circumstances; and, no doubt, they would look with infinite contempt on any effort such as this, to interest men on subjects which, most assuredly, will not give them cheaper food or higher wages. "Lecture them," they will say, "on the principles of political economy, in order to stem, if possible, the torrent of those dangerous opinions that threatens the whole fabric of society. Give them,
if you will, lectures on science, on chemistry, on mechanics, on any subject which bears on real and actual life; but, really, in this work-day age, rhyming is out of place and out of date. We have no time for Poetry and prettiness." If, indeed, to have enough to eat and enough to drink were the whole of man-if the highest life consisted in what our American brethren call "going a-head"-if the highest ambition for
Working Men were the triumph of some political faction, then, assuredly, the discussion of our present subject would be waste of breath and time.
But it appears to me, that in this age of Mechanics and Political Economy, when every heart seems "dry as summer dust," what we want is, not so much, not half so much-light for the intellect, as dew upon the heart; time and leisure to cultivate the spirit that is within us. The author of "Philip Van Artevelde," in his last published volume, "The Eve of the Conquest," has well described this our state of high physical civilization and refinement, in which knowledge is mistaken for wisdom, and all that belongs to man's physical comfort and temporal happiness is sedulously cared for, while much that belongs to our finer and purer being is neglected. an age of grim earnestness not the noble earnestness of stern Puritanism for high principles, but one which is terrible only when the purse is touched.
“Oh, England! 'Merry England,' styled of yore!
Where is thy mirth? Thy jocund laughter where ?
Nor harvest-home, nor Christmas mummers rare,
The tired mechanic at his lecture sighs, And of the learned, which, with all his lore,
Has leisure to be wise?"
Whatever objection may deservedly belong to this Lecture, I hope that no "tired mechanic " will sigh over its tediousness or solemnity. I believe that recreation is a holy necessity of man's nature; and it seems to me by no means unworthy of a sacred calling to bestow an hour on the attempt to impart not uninstructive recreation to Working Men.
There are some other objections, however, connected with the subject, which must be noticed. Poetry may be a fitting study for men of leisure, but it seems out of the question for Working Men;-a luxury for the rich, but to attempt to interest the poor in it, is as much out of place as to introduce them into a cabinet of curiosities, or a gallery of pictures. I believe such a feeling has arisen partly from this cause-that the Poetry of the last age was eminently artificial, unnatural, and aristocratic; it reflected the outer life of modern society and its manners, which are conventional, uniform, polished, and therefore unnatural, and not of general human interest. I will read to you a description of that which one of the poets of that age thought to be the legitimate call and mission of the poet. Thus writes Pope:
"Poetry and criticism are by no means the universal concern of the world, but only the affair of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle men who read there . . .
"All the advantages I can think of, accruing from a genius for Poetry, are the agreeable power of self-amusement, when a man is idle or alone; the privilege of being admitted into the best company, and the freedom of saying as many care
less things as other people without being so severely remarked on."
You will scarcely wonder that when a poet could thus write of his art, working men and real men, who have no time for prettinesses, and have not the privilege of being "admitted into the best company," should be indifferent to Poetry, and that it should have come to be reckoned among the luxuries of the wealthy and idle; nor will you be surprised that one who thought so meanly of his high work and duty, should never, with all his splendid talents, have attained to any thing in Poetry beyond the second rank, that in which thought and memory predominate over imagination, and in which the heart is second to the head; for much of Pope's Poetry is nothing more than ethical thoughts tersely and beautifully expressed in rhyme.
There is another reason, however, for this misconception. The Poetry of the present age is, to a great extent, touched, tainted if you will, with mysticism. Let us trace the history of this.
A vigorous protest was made at last against the formalism of the Poetry of the last century. The reaction began with Wordsworth, Scott, and Byron, and the age of conventional Poetry was succeeded by the Poetry of sentiment and passion. But, by degrees, this wave also spent itself; and another came. Wordsworth was the poet of the few; the border minstrelsy of Scott exhausted itself even during his own life; and when that long, passionate wail of Byronism had died away,-a phase of tempestuous feeling through which every man, I suppose, passes in one portion or other of his existence-men began to feel that this life of ours was meant for something higher than for a man to sit down to rave and curse his destiny; that it is at least manlier, if it be bad, to make the best of it, and do what may be done. Next came, therefore, an age whose motto was "Work." But now, by degrees, we are beginning to feel that even work is not all our being needs; and, therefore, has been born what I have called the Poetry of Mysticism. For just as the reaction from the age of Formalism was the Poetry of Passion, so the reaction from the age of Science, is, and I suppose ever will be, the Poetry of Mysticism. For men who have felt a want which work cannot altogether satisfy, and have become con