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and were the perceptions of man so quick | taste is sacrificed: consequently, as our and clear as to carry the same principle along mental and material world is constituted, with him through all the transactions of his the dominon of taste must extend over a life, he would always act rightly. But, be- very limited and narrow sphere. yond the surface of things, man is unable to The difference of taste to be found judge at sight. Reflection requires time and amongst mankind, and the want of a univereffort, often more of both than he is willing sal standard of reference, have excited to bestow, and even when he is willing, the almost as many arguments in the sphere of right period of action is lost before he has poetry and the arts, as the difference of decided upon the right means.
creeds in the religious world. This subject By contemplating the character and ope- seems to be most satisfactorily decided, by ration of taste, we arrive at a dim and dis- attaching to the majority the same important perception of one of the attributes of tance in taste as in politics. The exercise the Divine nature; and even this imperfect of taste being to find the medium between view reveals a world of wonder in which all objectionable extremes—the centre of imagination is bewildered, and understand- eccentricity-it follows of necessity, that ing lost. We know the rapidity of thought whatever is admired by the greatest number, with which we decide in a moment, even must possess the greatest share of intrinsic during an instantaneous movement, which is excellence. But here, as in other cases, it the most graceful, the most effective, or the is highly important to make a distinction best mode of acting; and it may not perhaps between mere numbers, and numbers qualibe derogating from the supreme majesty to fied to judge; for how should that judgsuppose that the same effort of omnipotent ment be a test of merit
, to which merit is mind, created out of Chaos a universe of neither apparent nor intelligible ? The worlds, not only designing their form and gallery audience in a theatre may be well regulating their movements, in the centre of qualified to pronounce upon the height, the infinity; but also designing and regulating breadth, the complexion, or the agility of a their internal constitution, down to the slight- favourite actor; but who would appeal to est impulse of an infant's will, the meanest them to know whether he had exhibited to weed that lurks within the forest glade, or the lite the workings of deep-seated teering, the minutest insect that skims along the sur- or entered into the mental mysteries of an inface of the summer lake. The power of tellectual character? When, therefore, we judging when limited to a narrow sphere of speak of the majority of opinions being the operation constitutes the superiority of man strongest proof of the presence of good taste, above the brutes; the power of judging we would confine those opinions, not merely universally, instantaneously and infallibly, to a few learned men, the established critics belongs to God alone.
and censors of the day, but to the whole of We have said, and we repeat it with reve- the enlightened public, who constitute a rence, that the faculty of taste in the single community too numerous for long continued consideration of its mode of operating, bears prejudice, and too intelligent for egregious an humble relation to what we conceive of infallibility ; because its decisions are Why then, it may be asked, does a false prompt as to apply to immediate action, and taste sometimes prevail, even amongst this so extended as to comprehend all relative community, as in the case of Byron, * whose circumstances; or else it does not exist: for poetry so powerfully affected men's minds, let a sound be harsh, where it should be as to leave behind it a disrelish for all other ? soft; or soft, where it should be harsh ; let | A false taste may exist amongst the few, a movement be quick, or slow, as circum- from partial impressions, and local prejustances do not warrant; let a shadow, or a gleam of light break in upon the sphere of • The inequalities of Byron's style, naturally lead the beauty; let a word be found misplaced, or a writer to speak of his poetry in a manner that may at thought ill-timed; in short, let any single only apply to the extremes, unworthy of so great a mind,
times appear paradoxical: this remark of course can thread in general concord be broken, and to which his eccentric genius sometimes descended.
dices; but a false taste can only exist of harmony and grace. The presence of amongst the many, from the universality of taste being, however imperceptible, except the same impressions false to the principles by the absence of faults, it is difficult to of nature, and the same prejudices opposed bring forward instances in particular pasto the principles of good sense; a phenome-sages of the influence of this powerful but non which it is not often our misfortune to still indefinable charm. The following lines, behold; and I should account for the ex- familiar to every reader, or rather every traordinary bias given to the public taste by admirer of poetry, are remarkable for their the works of Byron, as arising from the adaptation of language, and harmony of power of his genius rather than the pecu- sound. liarity of his style ; and the generality of
“Primeval Hope, the Aönian museg say, readers not giving themselves trouble to
When man and nature mouru'd their first decay; make the distinction, they are still thirsting When every form of death, and every wo, for the same style, in the vain hope of find- Shot from malignant stars to earth below; ing it connected with the same genius.
When Murder bared her arm, and rampant War
Yoked the red dragons of her iron car ; Happy would it be for mankind, for public When Peace and Mercy, banish'd from the plain, taste, and public morals, if the same mind,
Sprung on the viewless winds to lleaven again ;
All, all forsook the friendless guilty mind, purified from all alloy, could return again to
But Hope, the charmer, linger'd still behind." earth, to prove to the world that the same power may be directed to higher purposes And in the description of the fate of the without losing its influence, and the same “hardy Byron," how perfectly does the beauty, and the same harmony, be touched sound of each line correspond with its sense, by a hand more true to the principles of Mowing on like a continued stream of meloeternal happiness.
dy, without interruption from any word or In looking for instances of the display of idea not purely poetical. taste in poetry, it is necessary to confine our observation to the present times; for as we
"And such thy strength-inspiring aid that bore
The hardy Byron to his native shorehave before remarked, that which was in In horrid climes, where Chiloe's tempests sweep strict accordance with good taste a century
Tumultuous murmurs o'er the troubled deep,
'Twas bis to mourn misfortune's rudest shock, ago, is not so now; because the different
Scourg'd by the winds, and cradled on the rock, customs and manners of mankind have in- To wake each joyless morn, and search again troduced different associations; and expres
The farish'd haunts of solitary men;
Whose race, unyielding as their native storm, sions which formely conveyed none but Know not a trace of nature but the form ; elevated and refined ideas, are now connect- Yet, at thy call, the hardy tar pursued, ed with those of a totally different nature.
Pale, but intrepid, sad, but unsubdued,
Pierced the deep woods, and hailing from afar, We are inclined to think that the works
The moon's pale planet, and the northern star : of Milton would have afforded the finest Paused at each dreary cry, unheard before, example of taste, as well as power, in the
Hyænas in the wild, and mermaids on the shore;
Till, led by thee o'er many a cliff' sublime, age in which he lived, because in cases He found a warmer world, a milder clime, where the senses have dominion-the ac- A home to rest, a shelter to defend, cordance of sense with sound, for instance
Peace and repose, a Briton and a friend !") he is inimitable. But the language of The idea conveyed in the following lines, Milton is sometimes too quaint for modern is well worthy of a poetic mind. Others ears, and in his pages we occasionally meet seem to have selt the same, but none have with single words that startle us with asso- done more ample justice to the feeling, than ciations foreign to what is now considered as the elegant bard from whom we quote. poetical. We cannot quote a more perfect example
“ Who that would ask a heart to dullness wed,
The waveless calm, the slumber of the dead ? of taste in modern language, than the writ
No; the wild bliss of nature needs alloy, ings of our poet Campbell, in which, espe- And fear and sorrow fan the fire of joy! cially his Pleasures of Hope, it would be And say, without our hopes, without our fears, difficult to find an ill-chosen word, or an idea
Without the home that plighted love endears,
Without the smile from partial beauty won, not in strict accordance with the principles Oh! what were man 1-a world without a sun.”
Ana when the poet exclaims,
And we shall share, my Christian boy!
The foeman's blood, the avenger's joy!
But hark, the trump-lo-morrow thou
In glory's fires shall dry thy tears : Like angel visits, few and far between,"-
Even from the land of shadows now we feel that to such a mind, hope would
My father's awful ghost appears,
Amidst the clouds that round us roll come as a blessed messenger, whose tidings
He bids my soul for battle thirstwould be of things sublime, and pure, and He bids me dry the last-the firstelevated above the low wants and wishes
The only tears that ever burst
From Outalissi's soul; of a material existence.
Because I may not stain with grier We know of but one word in the whole The death-song of an Indian chief." of this beautiful poem which is at variance with good taste, and we quote the line, not Bavaria,” full of the deep pathos of poetic
Campbell's "lines on leaving a scene in from the pleasure of pointing out a single feeling, afford one of the most splendid infault in the midst of a thousand merits, but
stances of the power of that faculty, which for the purpose of showing how forcibly an error in taste strikes upon the attention and chords of true harmony, and waken the
can strike with the rapidity of thought the the feelings of the reader.
genuine music of the soul-the echo of its " The living lumber of his kindred earth."
deep, but secret passions. We cannot read We are ready to imagine from this line, these lines without feeling that there is a that the author has scarcely been aware of language for the wounded spirit—a voice the high degree of beauty and refinement amidst the solitudes of that which pervades his work. "Lumber," in
“ Unknown, unploughed, untrodden shore,'' the poetical writings of Pope, "inight have occurred without any breach of taste, be- whose melancholy cadence is in unison with cause his concise and forcible style is more the feelings which we may not, dare not, utcharacterised by power, than elegance; and ter; and we inwardly bless the mournful lumber might, therefore, have been in keep minstrel for the wild sweet melody of his ing with the general tone of his expressions. most harmonious lyre. Were we to attempt But here, where all is music to the ear, and to quote passages from these lines, the harmony to the mind, this uncouth word is temptation would extend to the whole of this decidedly out of place; and while longing inimitable poem, we can only recommend it to exchange it for another, we can only to the reader as one of the finest specimens wonder that there should be but one small of poetic taste, as well as poetic feeling, blemish in so many fair and beautiful pages which our language affords. of genuine poetry, adorned throughout After all that has been said on the subwith the most tender, refined, and elevated ject, we feel that taste is something to be thoughts.
felt, rather than defined, yet of such unparGertrude of Wyoming is another poem alleled importance to the poet, that wanting strikingly illustrative of the influence of this requisite, he may sing for ever, and yet taste. In the death-song of the Indian sing in vain. As well might the musician chief, we observe how skilfully the poet has expect to charm his audience, by playing blendea the indignant spirit of an injured what he assures them is the finest music, on man, with the strong affections, wild meta- a broken or defective instrument, as the phors, and wilder visions, of that interesting poet hope to please without making himand dignified people.
self thoroughly acquainted with the princi" And I could weep ;--th' Oneyda chief
ples of taste-perhaps we should rather His descant wildly thus began;
say, with what is, or is not in accordance But that I may not stain with grier The death-song of my father's son!
with its rules, for as a principle, taste has Or bow this hend in wo;
not yet arrived at a definite state of existFor by my wrongs, and by my wrath! To-morrow Areouski's breath,
ence; and if the young poet should read (That fires yon heaven with storms and death,) “ The pleasures of Hope” with reference to Shall light us to the fne:
this subject, and not feel in his very soul the
presence and the power of taste, he might exercise of imagination? We should rather bid adieu to the worship of the muses, and say, that its sphere of action is widened to devote his genius to objects less elevated an incalculable extent. Is there any thing and sublime.
that weakens the mind, or destroys its native power ? No. The habits of the present race of men are distinguished by indefatigable industry, and general application,
and regulated by those laws of strict and CONCLUSION.
unremitting discipline, which are univer
sally acknowledged to strengthen the unWe have now examined the four requi- derstanding, and invigorate the mental fasites for writing poetry, to none of which it culties. Is there any thing to warp the pubwould be wise to assign a station of pre- | lic taste, and establish a false standard of eminence, because they are equally neces- merit? Never since the world began, were sary to the success of the poet's art-impres-mankind more penetrating, and at the same sion to furnish lasting ideas, imagination to time more extensive in their observations, create images from such ideas, power to more universally free from the shackles of strike them out with emphasis and truth, tyranny and superstition, as well as from all and taste to recommend such as are worthy uniformly prevailing prejudice, than now. of approbation, and to dismiss such as It is clear then, that the deficiency in our are not. We have also been daring poetical enjoyments arises from a want of enough to maintain that poetry, as a princi- the due proportion of clear and deep imple, pervades all nature, and if the fact be pressions. We have not stored up the neacknowledged that poetry is neither writ- cessary materials for imagination, power, ten with that ardour, nor read with that de- and taste to work with, and therefore the | light, which characterised an earlier era in machinery of the mind, so far as relates to
our history, it becomes an important and in- poetry, remains inactive. We possess not teresting inquiry, What is the cause ? the key to its secret harmonies, and there
That imagination should be exhausted, is fore the language of poetry is unintelligible a moral impossibility ; because the creation to our ears. of a thousand images in no way disquali- The silence of our ablest poets, and the fies for the creation of a thousand more; want of any leading or distinguished poem any one quality extracted from a former to fill up the present vacuum in our literaimage, and added to the whole or a part of ture, sufficiently prove the fact to which we another, being sufficient for the creation of allude. The last popular work of this kind one, that shall appear to the world entirely that issued from our press, was“ The Course original or new. That power should be ex- of Time;" but its popularity rather resempended, is no less an absurdity in thought; bled an instantaneous flash, than a steady because that being the vital principle by and lasting light. It forced its way in the which thoughts are generated, man can flush of the moment to every respectable only cease to think when he ceases to feel, library in the kingdom-was read with wonand only cease to feel when he ceases to der-closed with satisfaction-and, what exist. And that taste should have lost its is very remarkable, affords no quotations. influence over the human mind, is equally Since this time we have had none to awaken at variance with common sense ; because a general interest. We see many noticed with increased facility in collecting and by the reviewers-kindly and encouragingly comparing evidence for the establishment of noticed, and we doubt not their title to such true excellence, taste must unavoidably be- approbation; but we do not deny ourselves come more definite in its nature, and more one ordinary indulgence that we may buy determinate in its operations. Beyond this, them, or when they are bought, look upon we may ask, is there any thing in the cus- them as a solid mass of substantial happiness toms, occupations, or mode of education pe- set apart for our private and insatiable enculiar to the present day, which hinders the joyment. We do not reverence the authors
of our felicity, as if they were beings of a We have attempted to prove, that gisted order, endowed with a superhuman | the same beauty, and the same connexion capacity of penetrating into the souls of men. with refined and elevated thought may still We do not listen when they tell us of our be found in the external world, and that the own secret passions, as if we heard the mu- soul of man is still animated by the same sic of an inspired minstrel, nor when they passions and affections, as when genius sing of the revolutions of time, as if a potent kindled the fire of poetry, and, lighting up and oracular voice dealt out the destiny of the charms and the wonders of creation, mankind. Either we have grown indifferent, stimulated the enthusiasm of him who and heedless, and almost deaf to the lan- deems himself “creation’s heir." It follows guage of poetry, or the spirit of the art has then as a necessary consequence, that the ceased to operate in producing those harmo- connexion between man and nature, is not nious numbers that were wont to charm the the same; that he holds no longer the spiritworld.
ual converse with all things sweet and lovely, Yet when the facilities for acquiring know. solemn and sublime, in the external world, ledge are multiplying every day, when it has that was wont to fill his soul with admiration become almost as difficult to remain un- and love, and to instruct his heart in the learned, as to learn, when the infant mind is feeling of the presence of an invisible intellitrained up to the continnal application of its gence, connected with his own being by the faculties in all the different branches of art indissoluble bond of sympathy, real or imand science, when the memory is stored with aginary. Man now studies nature as a map, a fund of information which at one time rather than a picture—with reference to lowould have been deemed incredible, when cality, rather than beauty. He sees the not only the ordinary and beaten track of whole, but he studies only the separate learning is thrown open to the multitude, but parts, and to his systematic mind, the vegeflowery and meandering paths are devised table, animal, and mineral kingdoms, are : to entice, and woo, and charm into the bow- distinct subjects of consideration, scarcely ers of academic lore, is it possible there can to be thought of in the same day. He looks be any defect or disadvantage in the general around him with microscopic eye, and if his system upon which youth is trained ? attention fixes upon the rich and varied
If it be the ultimate aim of mankind to foliage of the ancient forest, it is to single ascertain of what materials the world is out particular specimens of trees and plants, made, and out of these materials to construct and to class them according to Linnæus ; new facilities for bodily enjoyment, that we
while from the musical inhabitants of these may eat more luxuriously, move more rapid- woods, he selects his victims, and applies the ly, repose more softly, clothe more sumptu- same minute examination to the organs from ously, and in short, live more exempt from whence the sweetest melody of nature flows. mental, as well as bodily exertion, I should The idle butterfly, fluttering above his woodanswer, that the present system of education, land path, or resting upon the unsullied peand the general tone of thought and conver- tals of the delicate wild rose, has neither sation, was the best that could possibly be charm nor beauty in his eye, unless he devised. But in looking at the means, we counts the spots upon its wing. The mounare too apt to disregard the end. In devot- tain rises in the distance, and he hastens to ing our endeavours to the attainment of examine the strata of which it is composed. knowledge, to forget the attainment of wis- The vapours roll beneath him, and he pondom; and take credit to ourselves for having ders upon the means of their production. spent an active life, when it has been wholly The stars are shining above in all the ma. i! unproductive of any increase in the means of jesty of cloudless night, and he counts the happiness, except what mere activity affords. number, and calculates the distance of the
We know that nature is no less capable of worlds of light. producing poetical ideas, than it was when All these we freely grant are right and gifted men were inspired by the cool shade, fitting occupations for a rational and intelthe glowing sunshine, or the radiance of the lectual being; but when pursuits of this