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kind, instead of the end to which they lead, not arise, in the first place from the competiare made the sole business of man's life, the tion, and the consequent labour that is now natural consequence must be, to render him actually necessary to secure the means of familiar indeed with nature, but familiar on subsistence; and in the second, from the pubsuch terms that he is in danger of forfeiting lic mind being too fully occupied with the achis reverence for the creator, and losing quisition of mere knowledge, to allow time sight of the connexion between the material for receiving deep impressions, without and the moral world.
which it is impossible either to write, or to We are not so blindly wedded to the va- feel poetically. If, for instance, in the cases garies of imagination as to speak of this already specified, the attention be wholly thirst for definite knowledge, as an evil. occupied in ascertaining the precise form of Far from it. But when the unenlightened, a leaf, where will be the impression of the or the imbecile mind becomes infected with majestic beauty of the forest ? is in dissectthis fever of acquisition; when the juvenile ing the organs of sense, what general idea philosopher is merely talking about what he can be formed of the melody of sound ? if ought to feel; when the puny artist no in examining the wing of the butterfly, what sooner beholds a tree, than he thinks it ne- observation can be made upon its airy and cessary to sketch it; when the student of fantastic flight? if in discovering the comnature tears in pieces every bird and insect ponent parts of a cloud, how should the that falls within his grasp; when books graceful involutions of the cloud be seen ? without number are eagerly inquired for, if in chiseling out minute fragments from looked into, laid aside, and never under the side of the mountain, how should a deep stood; when the finished and fully-educated sense of its grandeur pervade the soul ? or young lady displays her knowledge of the if in merely counting the stars as separate phraseology of foreign languages, and her spots of light, wliere will be the lasting imignorance of the spirit of her own; when press of their glory? the youthful metaphysician discourses elo- The modern observer having had little quently upon the nature and laws of mind time, and less inclination for the relative and matter, and hears with total vacuity of ideas which the contemplation of such objects understanding that there is a moral law; affords to the poetic mind, they pass away we cannot help feeling that something is from his thoughts as soon as his practical purwanting of the ultimate end of education, pose has been fulfilled, and never afterwards and that the mind may be stored with are recalled as links in the chain of associaknowledge, and yet be too ignorant of the tion connecting the material with the ideal right means of applying that knowledge to world. When the wild winds of autumn render its possessor wise.
tinted leaves from the forThe man of comprehensive mind, capable est; like the ruder blasts of a less physical of appreciating all things according to their calamity, despoiling the fair pictures of real value, will cultivate this knowledge of spiritual beauty; the summer garniture of material things for the sake of the truths green and golden foliage lives no longer in which it establishes, and the consequences remembrance. The woodland songster to which it leads; and will no more content breathes no more; and the living voice that himself with this examination of external answered the universal language of nature nature, than the sculptor will rest satisfied from the fields, the groves, and the silvery with having discovered the block of marble, waterfalls, is forgotten. The butterfly that out of which his figure is to be formed. lately fluttered round him like a winged
If the question might be asked without flower escaped from Flora's coronet, a spotimplying an ignorant and stupid want of ted specimen of a particular tribe-classed reverence for knowledge in general, we according to its name, lies before him faded, should propose for the consideration of those and lifeless, and dismantled of its beautywho regret the absence of poetry from the the memory of its aerial rambles extinguishworld of letters, whether the defect so obvi-ed with its transient and joyous life. The ous in the literature of the present day, may | cloud has passed, and all its graceful and
fantastic wreaths of mingled mist and light, pain; and it is this love, or this hatred, exfloating upon the pure ocean of celestial tending though an illimitable number of deblue, like a spirit half earthly half divine, grees and modifications, which constitutes wandering on its upward journey to the the very essence of poetry and which, were realms of bliss, have vanished with the sun- poetry struck out from the world would disapbeams that gave a short-lived glory to its pear along with it, and leave us nothing but a ephemeral existence. The lofty and majes- mere corporeal existence, unconnected with tic mountain no longer rises on the view; the attributes of an imperishable and elerand his towering summit pointing to the nal life. sky, the deep ravines that cross and inter- It may be a subject of something more sect his rugged sides like the foot prints of than curiosity, to ask what the world would the retiring deluge—the light upon his be without poetry. In the first place we golden brow, and the dark shadows that must strike out beauty from the visible crealie beneath like the frown of a mighty mon- tion, and love from the soul of man. We arch whose will is life or death-all these must annihilate all that has been devised have passed away from thought and memory, for ornament or delight, without a bodily and a tiny particle of stone-a grain of gran- and material use. We should no longer ite remains in the hand of the modern philoso- need a centre of light and glory to illupher, as his sole memorial of a mountain. minate the world, but the same principle Or when he grasps the telescope, and strains of light uniformly diffused, without reflechis eye to count the stars ; before his labours tion, and without shadow, would supply the cease, a dim line of light begins to mark out practical purposes of man. The moon the eastern horizon, and one after another might hide her radiance, and the stars the stars retire before the brighter radiance might vanish, or remain only as spots of of ascending day, like guardian angels who black upon a dusky sky, to guide the nightly have watched the wanderer through his traveller, and lead the adventurous bark dark, and dubious, and earthly way, relin- across the sea. Half the feathered songquishing their faithful trust before the un- sters of the woods might plume their wings folding gates of Heaven. But the mere man for an eternal flight, and the rest might of science retires into his closet, and pricks cease from their vocal music, and let the out the constellations in separate spots, bet- woods be still. Rivers and running streams ter satisfied to have ascertained the percep- might glide on without a ripple or a mortible number of stars in any given section of mur-reflecting no sunshine-adding nothe hemisphere, than to have felt their light, thing to the harmony of nature; and the their glory, and their magnificence, reign- ocean might lie beneath a heaven withing and ruling over the midnight world. out clouds or colour, stretched out in the
We repeat, that no mind can be poetical waveless repose of never-ending sleep. whose exercise is confined to mere physical The trees might rear their massive trunks observation, and whose sphere of action ex- without their leafy mantle of varied green, cludes all those modes of receiving and re- the flowers might bow their heads and die; taining impressions which are either imme- and the wild weeds of the wilderness that diately or remotely connected with the feel- weave themselves into a carpet of rich and ings, the passions, and the affections. varied beauty, might perish from the earth
The nature of our being admits of two and leave its urface barren and unclothed. important distinctions-physical and moral. Of animal life, the beasts of burden, and And it is the great merit of poetry, that it the fleshly victims of man's appetite, would constitutes an indissoluble bond of union be alone remain ; while in man himself, we tween the two. We could not have been must extinguish his affections, and render sensible of the different nature of good and void his capacity to admire ; and having evil, but for our capacity of receiving plea- moulded the creation to a uniform corressure and pain. It is thus we learn to love pondence with his earthly and coporeal nawhatever is conducive to our happiness—to ture, we must leave him to the exercise of hate or avoid whatever is productive of his faculties—first, to see, without beholding
beauty-to hear, without distinguishing principle in art, after he ceased to recognise harmony from discord, or to distinguish it in nature. As the facilities for bodily enwithout preference-to esteem the effluvium joyment are multiplied, improved, and reof the stagnant pool as delicate an odour as fined, man becomes luxurious and artificial the perfume of the rose-to taste without in his habits. He withdraws from all famiregard to flavour-and to feel with equal liar acquaintance with natural things, and indifference the downy pillow, or the rude surrounds himself with all that is curious in couch where the hardy peasant seeks re- human invention, and exquisite in the work pose. Then in the higher regions of his of human hands. But still the principles of mental faculties, to observe, without any beauty, derived from external nature, pursue sense of sublimity—to calculate without ar- the slave of art, and he studies how to imiriving at an idea of infinity-to measure, tate the variety, the splendour, and the magwithout reference to illimitable space-to re- nificence, which the meanest peasant may sist, without forming a conception of abso- enjoy in greater perfection, without invenlute power-to build without reflecting upon tion, and without price. duration—to pull down, without looking for- Perception of beauty is one of the most ward to annihilation. And in the vacant decided characteristics, by which man is sphere of passion and affection, to receive distinguished from the brute. We discover benefits, and remain insensible to favour- no symptoms of admiration in animals of a to stand on the brink of destruction, without | lower grade than ourselves. The peacock terror—to await the result of experiment, excites no deference from the splendour of without hope—to meet without pleasure-to his plumage, nor the swan from her snow part without grief-and to live on with the white feathers, and the verdant fields in same uniformity of existence, without emo- their summer bloom, attract no more, than tion-not idle, for that would imply a sense as their flowery sweets allure the insect of the pain of labour, and the pleasure of tribe, who in their turn are followed by their repose ; but perpetually active, yet active foes. To man alone belongs the prerogawithout desire. Such would be the world, tive of appreciating beauty because admiraand such the condition of man, were all that tion is graciously designed as the means of appertains to the nature of poetry extinct. leading him on to moral excellence.
Were it possible to concentrate the dark There are philosophers who argue against features of this gloomy picture into a small the existence of positive enjoyment. I am compass, it would be in the simple idea of ignorant, and I feel no anxiety to learn what the exclusion of beauty from nature, or of they can say to prove that admiration,the perception of beauty from the soul of true admiration, untainted by the remotest man. Beauty is not necessary to our bodily touch of envy, is not positive enjoymentexistence. Nature would afford the same that, when the soul expands with a concepcorporeal support, did we look upon her va- tion of excellence, unseen, unknown, unfelt ried character with a total absence of all before—of excellence, not merely as it resense of admiration. Why then is this inef- lates to fitness for physical purposes; but of fable charm diffused through all creation, that which combines the principles of intelits essence so mingled with man's nature, lectual beauty, with the attributes of our that where he finds food for admiration, he moral nature-excellence which leads us finds intellectual enjoyment; and where he into a new world of thought to expatiate in finds it not, he thirsts for it as for a fountain fields of glory, and to drink of the waters of of excellence, until he works his way immortality, it knows no positive enjoyment. through difficulty and dangers 10 partici- For never was the enlightened mind excited pate, even in the smallest measure, of its in- to the highest sense of admiration, without exhaustible supply of pure and natural re- feeling an extension of being beyond the freshment.
narrow limits of mortal life; and this exThat this insatiable desire for beauty forms pansion naturally conducts us into a sphere a part of the constitution of man, is suffi- of illimitable felicity. Hence arise the difciently proved by his still following the same ferent heavens which mankind have con
structed for themselves out of the materials their number, and the greater facility with of earthly enjoyment, and hence our inter- which their influence has been diffused. nal evidence of the belief, that the true hea- It may be answered, that we have still ven promised to the faithful, will comprehend the works of these poets to refer to for all that we pine for of happiness, all that we amusement and instruction. And are we admire of beauty, and more than all that we to rest in this low and languid satisfaction, can conceive of excellence.
which extends to nothing but our poetry? This intense perception of beauty—this We have the same conveniences of life tribute of the heart to excellence—this ad- which belonged to our forefathers; are we miration of physical and thence of moral | satisfied with them? The same use of magood, which dignifies the mind with the chinery; are we satisfied with that? We noblest aims, is so nearly allied to poetic have the same knowledge of the surface of feeling, that we question whether one could the globe-we can count the same number exist without the other; and if the diminu- of stars—and class the same kinds of anition of poetic fervour be symptomatic of a mals and plants; and are we satisfied ? We decreased capacity of admiration, we have have the same knowledge of chemistry, to look, not only to the depreciated character electricity, hydrostatics, optics, and gravitaof our literature, but of our taste, and our tion; and yet we are not satisfied. No:morals. Nor is this view of the subject too the principle of improvement—the desire of widely extended to be supported by reason, progress, extends through every manual since the first step to improvement is to ad- occupation, through every branch of science, mire what is better-the nearest approach and through every variety of art, and leaves to perfection, to admire all things worthy, the region of poetry a void, for future ages in their true proportion—and to admire that to wonder at, and despise. It is our ambimost which is supremely good.
tion to impress upon the page of history the Is it then a thing of small importance that advance that has been made in every other we should cease to admire ? that we should field of intellectual operation ; but we are losc, not only the most brilliant portion of satisfied that history should record a time our literature, but the happiest moments of when the genius of the English nation cast our existence? We have observed what a off the wreath of poesy, and trampled her void would be left in the natural world by brightest glories in the dust-when the harp the extinction of poetic feeling, we have of these once melodious isles was silentnow to consider what a void would be left and when the march of Britain's mind was in the world of letters by the absence of unaccompanied by the music of her affecpoetry as an art. We must not only seal |tions. up the fountain from whence flows the me- Next in importance to the impressions lody that has softened down the asperities derived immediately from nature, are those of our own passions; but turning to the derived from books, which if less obvious to page of history, and tracing back the con- the senses, and consequently less distinct, nexion of civilization with poetry, we must instruct the mind with greater facility and strike out from the world the influence of precision; and we behold another cause of the mighty genius of Homer, in refining the the absence of deep impressions, in the exmanners of a barbarous people, in trans- cessive reading which characterises the mitting to posterity a faithful record of their present times. It is not certainly the most national and social character, and in kind- gracious mode of pointing out the evil, for ling in other minds the sparks of embryo those who multiply books to complain of genius, from that ancient period down to the their being read; but by excessive reading present time. And if the influence of this we desire to be understood to refer to that single poet be insufficient to establish the voracious appetite for books which exceeds general importance of poetry, we have that the power of digestion. of other poets, inferior perhaps in their indi- Time was when a well-written book had vidual power, but deriving importance from an identity in the hearts of its readers-a
place in memory, and almost in affection, visions of celestial and infernal beings were its choice passages referred to for illustra- arrayed in the glory of his own genius, or tion on every momentous occasion, and its shadowed out by the mighty power of his pointed aphorisms quoted as indisputable majestic mind. evidence of truth. Through the sentiments It is not thus in the present day. Books of the author, we became acquainted with are now spoken of as certain quantities of his personal character, and took him with printed paper; and authors, a class of men us into solitude as a companion who would too numerous to be distinguished, mix with! never weary; and into society as the sup- the multitude, creating less emotion by their porter of our arguments, and the prompter bodily presence, than the bare idea of an of our most brilliant thoughts.
author created formerly. This general difSuch were the times when Goldsmith, fusion of knowledge—this removal of the Addison, and Johnson, accompanied us in barriers by which literature has hitherto the circle of daily communion with our fel- been restricted to an enlightened few, is unlow creatures, and we looked around us, and questionably a national, and public good; discovered the same principles of thought but it calls for a greater effort of intellectual and action which their minds had suggested, power to render the influence of mind as pooperating through all the links of human tent as it is extensive. Unless this effort is fellowship, through all the changes of world- made, the effect of the present system will ly vicissitude, and through all the varieties be, to generalize the principle of intelligence of station and circumstance in which man- so as to neutralize the two extremes, which the same being, is to be found. Such were have separated the highly-gifted from the the times, when by every mountain side, or wholly-unenlightened; and while the lower “wimpling burn,” we found the versatile class of minds are beiter taught, and better spirit of Burns, animated by the fresh invig- cultivated, the average of talent will be the orating breeze of morning; or, leaning in same, because we shall want the light of musing attitude over the arch of the rustic those brilliant geniuses that rose like suns bridge, and listening to the melodious flow amid a world of stars. of the rippling stream as it worked its It is necessary, therefore, not that we way through rocks and reeds, scorning to should read fewer books, but that we should linger in its woodland course, even beneath | read them more studiously; and as knowthe fascination of a poet's gaze-we saw his ledge is advancing with rapid strides, that keen eye mark the flight of the “whirring we should endeavor to keep pace with it, by partridge," and then look wistfully upon its a more definite application of solid thought fall, as if he sued the deed; orhe has turned to the subjects laid before us in such numupon us with the lively sallies of his play- ber and variety. It is the mode of reading, ful wit, half pathos, half satire, but ever the not the number of books read, that fornis the genuine language of a noble heart, and a sum of the evil here alluded to ; and we appoetic soul. Such were the times, when we peal 10 any one conversant with the society shaped out our own ideas, and traced them of the present day, whether it is not wearito their origin, according to the principles of some to the ear, to listen to the catalogue of Locke, whose very soul was mingled with names of books, and names of authors, which the atmosphere of our private studies, watch-form the substance of general conversation, ing over the eccentric flights of imagination, (except where politics take precedence of and calling back the mind to its proper ex- literature, and the names of public men are ercise upon sensible or definite things. Such substituted for the nature of public measures,) were the times, when every flower, and instead of the facts those books record, the every tree, was associated with the sairer arguments they maintain, the truth they Powers and loftier trees of Milton's Paradise; establish, or the genius which adorns their when our conceptions of peace, and purity, pages; and still less do we hear of the manand happiness, were immediately derived ner in which they develope the nature and from his descriptions of the short-lived inno- principles of the mind of the writer. cence of our first parents; and when our When we behold the piles of heteroge