« PredošláPokračovať »
can any, I should imagine be hinted at in those appropriated to Satire, Miscellaneous Poets and Translators.
In thus combating the opinions of those who have been solicitous to depreciate our present poetry, I have selected the text of Mr. Headley as conveying the sentiments of the whole body, and more especially as his general good taste might probably for a time even impart weight and consequence to a critical error.
Of the Editor of the Select Beauties of Ancient English Poetry as a Scholar, a Critic and a Man, I entertain a very high opinion; he was beloved by his friends, I understand, with an enthusiasm which his amiable qualities fully justified, and I have only to lament that his prejudices in favour of our elder poetry should so far have vitiated his judgment as to preclude any fair estimate of the value of modern genius.
Offspring of other times, ye visions old!
Pursuits of Literature.
The popular superstitions of every country afford not only amusement to the credulous and inquisitive, but furnish subjects of curious speculation to the philosopher and historian. The genius and manners of a people, their progress in civilization, and even the very character of the country and climate they exist in, may, in a great measure, be ascertained from the nature of their mythological creed. In the early stages of society, where no extensive or complicated union has taken place for mutual defence and protection, man is exposed to perpetual and numerous dangers; in a state of almost continual warfare with the tribes around him, or employed in the severe and almost equally dangerous toils of the chace for his daily subsistence, he is altogether indebted for life and safety to his own individual exertions; hunger and revenge call aloud for gratification, and occupy every intellectual effort of the Being thus situated, every direction of his muscular strength. Obnoxious to various perils, at one time almost perishing for want of food, at another putting in practice every wily stratagem to entrap a foe or protect himself; ignorant of the causes and effects of all the mighty phenomena of nature which surround him, and conscious from dire experience of his own frequent inefficiency, to gratify his appetites, or satiate his resentments, the savage naturally looks for assistance beyond the pale of mortality. Unacquainted however with any rational system of religion, he calls into being, and gives local habitation and a name to, the wanderings of a terrified imagination; the thunder, the lightning, and the whirlwind, the roaring of the mountain torrent, the sighing of the gathering storm, the illusive
meteors of night, and the fleeting forms of clouds and mist, are with him the appalling tones and awful visitations of supernatural beings. He hears the spirit of the whirlwind or the water shriek, and either implores the assistance, or deprecates the wrath of agents whose powers are gigantic, and whose modes of operation are illimitable and Should he inhabit a country peculiarly rude and gloomy in its aspect, where the almost boundless heath, the stupendous mountain, or the darkening forest form the prominent features of the landscape, where silence and solitude, unbroken but by the harsh screaming of the bird of prey, or the tumults of the rushing tempest, brood over the scene in solemn majesty, his superstitious fears partake of the wild and melancholy sublimity which the objects before him are calculated to inspire, and breathe a much severer spirit than the credulity of a country more fertile and chearful in its produce and appearance could give rise to.
territory in Europe better exemplifies these observations than Scotland, in which, while a peculiar system of superstition, sublime and awful in its general texture, and strongly