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He, who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
All who have read this article will agree with what Washington Irving has said of his friend that his close observation of the phenomena of nature, and the graphic felicity of his details, prevent his descriptions from ever becoming general and commonplace; while he has the gift of shedding over them a genuine grace that blends them all into harmony, and of clothing them with moral associations that make them speak to the heart. Perhaps we were wrong in dissenting from Mr Irving's other opinion, that his poetry is characterised by "the same indigenous style of thinking, and local peculiarity of imagery, which gives such novelty to the pages of Cooper." His friend's descriptive writings, he says, are essentially American. They transport us, he adds, "into the depths of the solemn primeval forest, to the shores of the lonely lake, the banks of the wild nameless stream, or the brow of the rocky upland, rising like a promontory from amidst a wide ocean of foliage, while they shed around us the glories of a climate fierce in its extremes, but splendid in all its vicissitudes." We object now but to the last part of this elegant panegyric. There are no fierce extremes in Mr Bryant's poetry. That his writings "are imbued with the independent spirit and the buoyant aspirations incident to a youthful, a free, and a rising country," will not, says Mr Irving, be the "least of his merits" in the eyes of Mr Rogers, to whom the volume is inscribed; and in ours it is one of the greatest; for we, too, belong to a country who, though not young-God bless her, auld Scotland !-hath yet an independent spirit and buoyant aspirations, which she is not loth to breathe into the bosom of one of her aged children-CHRISTOPHER North.
POETRY OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT.
ALL poets are poets of the poor. For, is not the whole human race a poor race, subject to sin, sorrow, and death? Princes are paupers, autocrats, almsmen-and they know they are, in spite of their subjects or slaves. The world is a workhouse, and its rulers overseers. Their high mightinesses, the magistrates, are all accountable to the colic; and, even in this life, obedient to the diet of worms. Who but a fool dare lift up his voice and say, "I am rich," when palsy at the very moment may wring his mouth awry, or apoplexy smite him into a breathing clod? Strip the rich man of his purple and fine linen—and what an exposure of shrivelled skin-marrowless bones-flesh not like grass, but straw! Beauty, thought, intellect, genius, virtue —what, in this mysterious life of ours-what even are they? Shut your eyes and open them, and what a ghastly transfiguration! In their room, loathsomeness, imbecility, idiocy, insanity, vice, wretchedness, and woe; and is it not enough of itself to convince us in our worst pride, that we are all most miserably poor, to think that the round earth is not merely trenched all over with our graves, but composed of our very dust?
This is one light in which humanity may be truly viewed, if there be truth in the Two Testaments. And in no other light could it be truly viewed, if we do not believe in a Future State. Now, the ancient-the heathen world, did not believe in a Future State-though it did all it could-strove with all its mind, heart, and soul, so to believe-deified heroes-and changed them into stars. Imagination created its own mythologies, fluctuating between heaven and earth, and there was something of a saving spirit even in that superstition. How fair, and how foul were those creations of genius! Their worst sins, and their most pitiable weaknesses, did his worshippers attribute to Almighty Jove. The character of
his court-however veiled in beauty and in grandeur by a people as sensual as imaginative-partook of that assigned to the Ruler of Olympus. And Nature's self was outraged by the anthropomorphism that covered earth's most beautiful and illustrious regions with shrines dedicated to idols and oracles that sanctioned sin, while, in ambiguous responses, they shadowed forth Fate.
Such, then, was Religion. And how fared Philosophy? Till Socrates arose, what an assemblage of pestilental clouds! Sometimes the edges showed fringed with light—but the Sun of Truth had there no abiding tabernacle in the sky-the luminary was not eclipsed but withdrawn-and all life below lay in shadow. Their Poetry? It was in much divine. But oh! those dismal Tragedies-elevating but to cast downkindling the torch of Hope but that it might be extinguished by Despair glorifying the history of man's mortal life by ancestral splendours made more lustrous in the light of the lyre, and then showing us in dreary Hades, thin, objectless, wailing, wretched, and, in their shadowy miseries, unintelligible ghosts!
Christianity came and what a change was wrought on man's knowledge of heaven and of earth! Wretches as we all are-it told us we are all brethren in wretchedness-and the load was at a few words lightened by Sympathy and Love. But it told us far more- -that there is but one God-a truth which philosophy never of itself discovered, though it might suspect that He cared for his creatures" that the blue sky bends over all," and that the sun is a type of that eye that sees the sparrow fall to the ground, to the ground go temple and tower, and the citied ground itself turned topsy-turvy by earthquake.
To man was now given a new—that is, a regenerated spirit. And wicked as the world yet is-it is peopled now with Thoughts and Feelings that were not before the Advent, because inconceivable by mere human reason and by the mere human heart. Compared with his condition before that Era, man is already even here in a superior state of Being-for what some philosophers yet foolishly call Intuitions are Revelations; the Celestial Future is felt to be as sure as the Terrestrial Present; and the wide Soul of the Christian world prostrates itself in Faith before the Judgment-Seat, seen by
that spiritual sense not subject to ocular deception, as the iris may be looking at the iris. Religion-Philosophy-Poetrynow all are-and may be, truly called Divine.
The theme we have touched upon is too high to be fitly treated by us-but as it is of poetry that we wish now chiefly to speak-in relation to the great change wrought by religion on the revealed duties and destinies of man-we ask you to reflect for yourselves on the spirit by which all true poetry is now pervaded and imbued-that you may feel the mighty difference between it and that which characterised the best poetry of the civilised world of old. What had that poetry to do with the mass of mankind? Homer was the most humane of all the bards. And in the Odyssey we see sweet glimpses of lowly life. In Euripides, too, there is much love and wisdom, satisfied to feel and think, even on the high tragic stage, of humble duties and common cares, and to speak of them in language that, though it may awaken the disdain of Schlegel and Mitchell, was pleasant music to the ears of Socrates and Milton. But the great Greek poets, like the great Greek philosophers, it may be truly said, sang but of kings and heroes; and the audiences that listened to their lays-strange to say-seem never to have wondered why the Muses cared but for personages conspicuous in the broad daylight of fame, and almost wholly forgot the persons obscurely toiling in the shade of obscurity. Pastoral life, indeed, had its poetry, and we are not ignorant of Theocritus. But the Sicilian rather dallied with his subject, in fond flirtation, than enjoyed it with a passionate love. His genius beautified rusticity, without in aught doing violence to the truth of nature. But either his own heart was not sufficiently stirred of itself, or the beings and their condition with whom his poetry is conversant-and that we believe was the truth-had not that in them-for, after all, they were slaves—which must be outwardly shown in the ongoings of rural life, before its character and concerns can at once justify, demand, and inspire the poet's song. His pastorals, except in the art of composition, may not for a moment be compared with those of the Italian poets after the revival of literature; far less, surely, with those of Ramsay and Burns. The Gentle Shepherd of the Pentlands belongs to quite another race of beings; and the sire in the "Cottar's Saturday Night," with the Bible on his knees-that
was a vision familiar to all Scottish eyes-but such a one as Greek eyes never saw, nor was ever revealed by Apollo to his
Poetry, which ought to be "wide and general as the casing air," has not even yet, perhaps, been inspired by its own full and perfect spirit. Christian poets have not always carried with them their Christianity into their works; they have unawares retained too much of the Druidical worship-and sought for inspiration in the woods-even setting up idols there or making themselves the gods of their own religion. Yet all the great poems in our language are coloured by Christianity, and the claims of all human beings to the same rights and privileges before God, are not only admitted, but illustrated; the Book of Nature is read by the light of the Bible; in The Fairy Queen, Una is Heavenly Truth; and the poet of The Excursion sits reverently by the lowliest grave, and draws from the green turf his highest inspirations, remembering the Cross.
And here we are reminded of the words with which we began-all poets are the poets of the Poor. Perhaps we expressed ourselves, in our opening paragraph, less solemnly than was fitting, and, if so, you will pardon us. But now you at least know our meaning; and will, we hope, go along with us while we say yet a few words more about that one word-the Poor. Leaving, but not forgetting, that other view of humanity, that we are poor creatures-take the word "Poor" in its ordinary sense, and let us think together of them-as we believe we have said elsewhere-who earn bread by sweat. They exemplify the curse pronounced on our first parents-do they not likewise exemplify the blessing promised to their seed? All are equal in the sight of God—to save all sinners God died-and has God, among his other gifts, given genius to his creatures, which shall not be used by its possessors for his glory, and for the good of all whom He has created in his own image?
This is the Catholic faith; and it is held now by all the priesthood. Their creed is not now expounded and settled for them by a committee of critics. Laymen-all men who are not poets-dare not now speak of low subjects-vulgar characters-mean incidents-including therein, with the exception of a few millions, all the human race, and almost all