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and interests; he knew these well, level of common life. Those who for he felt them exquisitely: and have passed their time principally these he has depicted with such in what is called a domestic circle ; vividness, and accuracy of colouring, who have been accustomed to look as not only enables bis readers to for, and to find, their principal ocdeduce the character of the Scotch cupation and pleasure within that peasantry, but also carries him, in circle; and who are united by ties spite of himself, into their presence, of friendship or love, to the memand makes him feel and think, forbers who compose it, know full well, the moment, as they are represented that even in the daily and ordinary by the poet to have felt and thought occurrences of such a kind of life,
But the richest and most exqui- there are many incidents full of insite pieces of the poetry of Burns, terest; there are many opportuniare those in which he pours forth ties that admit of the display, many his own personal feelings, especially occasions that call forth the exerhis feelings of deep and solemn love. cise, of the domestic charities and There is in these pieces a sublimity feelings; and that many of the and holiness, as well as an ardent daily and most common occupations and touching warmth of feeling, of such a life,—which to those which, in our opinion, are not to be whose hearts are not framed for it, found in the writings of any other seem insipid and tiresome,-lay a poet. What can be more exqui- firm hold on the thoughts and sitely beautiful—what can raise the feelings of such as are by pa. thoughts and feelings of the reader ture moulded, and by habit achigher above earth and all its vani- customed to it. In the display ties,—what poetry can enter so of most of the occupations, pleadeeply into the soul, and fill it so sures, and sympathies of quiet completely, as the little piece of and regular domestic life, Cowper Burns, « To Mary in heaven?” excels; and in the midst of ihis We are disposed to place this piece display, he pours forth such amiable in the highest rank of poetry, be- feelings,--such a kind solicitude for cause it unfolds and depicts what the temporal and spiritual welfare all must have felt, whose hearts are of his fellow-creatures,—such a organized in a manner best fitted to strong recommendation of what is discharge the duties, and to receive excellent,—and such a pointed, but and enjoy the highest pleasures of at the same time kind-hearted and human life.
charitable, censure of what is vicious Cowper, though in some respects or blameable,—that we are equally resembling Burns, is a poet of a very delighted with the character wbicá different character and rank: he,too, the poet unconsciously draws of is principally occupied with domestic himself, and with the picture which life. But his pictures of this kind of he exbibits of the life that he relife are not filled with its rarest inci- commends, and himself followed. dents, and its highest pleasures and and enjoyed. feelings; but rather with many of From this short and necessarily its every-day occurrences, and with imperfect sketch of the characters those dnties, characters, and feel. of Burns and Cowper, it will apings belonging to it, which are not pear, that though they are so difraised, by their intensity, above the ferent, yet they possess many fea
'tures in common; and that both in to the feeling, under the undivided what they differ, and in what they, and undistracted influence of which correspond, they each display most' that subject could best be treated. strongly many of the characteristic Jo the poetry of Wordsworth traits of British intellect and feel. we may trace a man of a very difings. They are also distinguished ferent character, both with respect by another circumstance; they too to the powers of his mind, and the tally disregard what may be called formation and feelings of his heart, the mere mechanism of poetry; from either Burns or Cowper. that which we have already pointed Burns could not live without ihe out as having originated chiefly in society of his fellow-creatures ; Pope, and which goes to fix the without always having some object essence of poetry in the mere se- towards whom his full and warm lection and collocation of words; heart could, as it were, flow out in which exhibits the corporeal form the full tide of its affection, either and features of poetry, without its of friendship or love. All his animating soul. Not that Burns' thoughts, all his duties, all his poetry is destitute, in many places, pleasures,- his whole life was soof language, such as, with many of cial : perhaps if circumstances had the school of methodical poetry (if favoured him, he might have been it so may be called) would have able to bave satisfied his soul, thus been deemed amply sufficient to constituted by nature, with the disconstitute poetry of itself, without charge of the duties, and the enjoythe thoughts by which it is ani- ment of the pleasures, of a calm and mated and supported: but in bim regular domestic life. But, as he the language is a subordinate con- was placed, and perhaps as he was sideration ; it seems not to have formed, these did not satisfy him. been sought after, but to have Cowper, however, they did satisfy ; flowed involuntarily, and almost and in the writings of these two unconsciously, at the command of poets we have a most highly finished his ardent feelings. With respect and interesting picture of man in to Cowper, he is very careless in society; of man acted upon by bis his language ; but this very careless- feelings towards his fellow.creatures; ness is adınirably suited to his sub- his thoughts constantly filled with ject, and to his mode of treating it. what regards them; and his chief He wrote not so much from a full and most cherished pleasures derived heart, from keen feelings, or from from their fellowship.
from their fellowship. The wriaffections which totally absorbed tings of Wordsworth display a very him, as from a placid and contem- different picture ; but one, at least, plative attachment to the more sober of equal merit and rarity-weought, and common blessings, pleasures, perhaps, to have said, of greater meand duties of domestic life; and rit and rarity. The poetry of therefore highly expressive and figu. Wordsworth unfolds wliat passes rative language would have been in the mind of a man who lives (so inconsistent with the tone of his to speak) on contemplation ; who poetry; and if it had been admitted, derives from the most trivial objects must have been the result of a stu- of nature, from the most common died attention to it, and therefore occurrences of life, matter for the unsuitable both to the subject and most profound reflection. Whoever
bas been long and much accustomed he never can be popular ; because to commune with his own thoughts, his poetry appeals to reflections and and to attend to his own feelings at feelings that find no sympathy extimes when they absorbed him so cepi in a very few, and even by completely as to shut his bodily and those it cannot be estimated at its mental eyes to all objects, must real value. know, that at these periods there Southey, Coleridge, and Wilson, rise up, and are cherished with most are poets, in some respect and deexquisite pleasure, thoughts and gree, of the same class as Wordsfeelings which, as it were, take us worth; but their poetry is not so out of the world, and place us in full of contemplativeness as that of a world of our own creation. The Wordsworth. It enters more abroad most common objects or incidents, into society; though from society to minds of this stamp, when under it gathers materials somewhat akin the influence of this mood, will to those which Wordsworth seeks, call forth reflections and feelings, exclusively from his own heart. the exquisiteness of which, when Southey is a very voluminous poet : well expressed, all who are simi- but in all bis writings the same chalarly constituted will acknowledge; racter prevails; the same beauties though, by those whose minds and and the same faults. His beauties hearts are cast in a different mould chiefly consist in depicting scenes they will be deemed childish or of rich or tranquil nature, such as fantastical.
are to be found in reality; or in If we have succeeded in explain- creating scenes of a grander and ing our meaning, we shall have more sublime character, drawn eaconveyed an idea, though but a tirely from his own imagioation. faint and imperfect one, of what In both respects he is frequently we conceive to be the essential and very happy; and the full flow of distinguishing character of Words- exuberant language, which in other worth's poetry. It is of a singular parts of his poetry weakens its effect kind : it does not go abroad among by expanding and diluting the conmankind, their passions, feelings, ception of the poet, is here proor pursuits, to seek for the objects ductive of a good effect. His other on which it may work : all the ma- beauties consist in depicting, with terials necessary for it are in abund- much nature and feeling, the chariance within the mind of the poet ties of the human heart; especially binself;
these materials, those which he himself has felt most though suggested by the appear- exquisitely: in exemplification and ances of nature, or the character or proof of this opinion, it is necessary actions of man, are not created by only to refer the reader to that most them; they merely touch the spring exquisite and touching picture of of poetry in the poet, and there his own family, wbich he has drawn proceeds a copious flow of poetry in his poem on the Battle of Waterof the highest kind. Had ibe loo. In this short poem may disworld contained no living being but tinctly be traced much of the Wordsworth himself, still from the strength, and much of the weakstores of his own mind, or ratherness of Southey as a poet. There from the feelings of his own heart, is much bad taste (indeed all the he would have become a poet : but poets of this school are guilty of Io many
most frequent and gross violations dered of little or no avail, by passing of good taste); there is much po- beyond their peculiar and legitimate verty and puerility of thought (and boundaries into the regions of extrathis is another of their besetting vagance, bombast, and bad taste, sins); and in every thing that re- On the whole, if Coleridge had been Jates to the battle,-in every thing gifted with a larger portion of good that requires the display of very sense, sound judgment, and correct strong powers, or the delineation of taste, he would have raised himself the more impetuous and violent to a much higher rank as a poet : passions of the human heart,- his natural talents appear to us Southey, in this and in all his higher than those of Southey, poems, fails most egregiously. and even of a loftier description,
Coleridge is a much more subtle though not of such a rare kind as and metaphysical poet than any those of Wordsworth ; but to these others of the same school; he talents he certainly has not done sometimes soars much higher than justice. they do; and not unfrequently sinks Wilson is known to the public even lower than them. In his po- only by two poeins of any length, etry i here is much that will weary the Isle of Palms, and the City of and disgust by its puerility and ab- the Plague: but from these, in our surdity; but there are passages, even opinion, may be drawn a pretty acin that most absurd of all his poems, curate idea of the peculiar character Christobell, which come on the and merit of his poetry. mind of the reader, like the Oasis respects be resembles what are called to the traveller in the midst of the the Lake Poets- Wordsworth, Sou. deserts, and refresh bim by their they, and Coleridge ; like them, fragrance and richness, or hurry the feelings and occupations of the bim away by their hold on common people, or the pleasures of his feelings. Coleridge has taken a a retired and contemplative life, are deep view into the human heart; the sources from which he draws but his view is not always vnpreju- bis most favourite, and highlydiced, nor does he always tell what wrought materials ; but he is more he has seen there, uvmixed with sad, pensive, and melancholy, ihan what his prejudice prompts, or his the rest of bis brethren ; and often own peculiar theory of the human takes delight in entering eveninto the mind and affections insinuates. regions of disgusting pain and miNeither he, nor any other poet of sery. When, however, he passes this school, is the poet of society ; from these subjects to those of a though Southey and he seem more cheerful description,--to the draw from it, and the feelings and depicting of the innocent pleasures
, affections to which it gives birih, of youth,-- of the bursting forth much more than Wordsworth does. and overflowing of the warmest and In another respect Coleridge must purest affections of the human be distinguished from his fellow heart; and of the charms which poets : he has greater powers in de- nature bolds forth to those whose picting the gloomy or ierrible; and eyes and feelings are open and alive these powers would produce a still to her beauties,-he is a most destronger effect in the reader than lightful poet. they do, if they were not often ren- In all these poets of the Lake
school (we use this designation not were laid, the period of history, in contempt or ridicule, but as a they embraced,—the characters short and descriptive appellation) that were exhibited, -the vividthere is a warm and benevolent ness with which these, and the deaspiration after the happiness of lineations of natural scenery were their fellow-creatures, which is very brought before the reader,—and the pleasing: and though their dreams familiarity of the measure and lanof the perfectibility of man, and guage,-contributed essentially to their prejudices regarding the evils render them popular.
That they of society,—the more pure happi. have sunk so utterly into neglect ness and virtue of uncivilized life, and oblivion, the poet is himself and the comparative innocence of to blame : he repeated and imithe lower, and profligacy of the tated himself, not only too often, higher ranks,-have passed away, but at much too short intervals ; yet there still lingers in their wri- and each succeeding poem seemed rings so much of the impression to have been finished with much left by those dreams and prejudices, less care and attention than its imas renders them emphatically the mediate predecessor. In fact, the favourite poets of all who look for- first poem, the Lay of the Last ward to future periods of improve- Minstrel, especially where the Minment, not in the sciences or the strel himself appears,—where his arts, but in the moral condition and solitariness, his age, his infirmities, happiness of mankind,-or who --The recollections which overcame regard those who walk in the him,—and the gratitude which humbler paths of life as most fa- bursts from his heart at the unexvoured wib respect to real and pure pected kindness shown him),—are enjoyment, and partaking least both depicted with so mucb nature and of the ills and the vices of hu- effect,-placed Walter Scott on a manity.
higher eminence as a poét than be Perhaps the annals of poetry in has been able to relain by any of his no country exhibit such a striking subsequent publications. His great proof of rapid rise, and as rapidly merits are the vivid picturesqueness declining popularity, as the poems of his delineations of natural scenery, of Walter Scott have experienced. and of the affections, feelings, At one time they were praised too thoughts, and passions of the buman highly; and now, as generally hap- mind, chiefly as they shew them. pens in such cases, they have sunk selves in the workings of the features, too low. The causes both of their rather than in the language to which former popularity, and present neg- they give birth, or the actions that lect, lie near the surface; and may flow from them ; – the insight his therefore easily be detected and told. poems afford into the manners, When they first appeared, they pos- habits, and mode of life of our half sessed a strong stimulus of novelty; barbarous ancestors; and, occaand that novelty was of a kind sionally, the high working up of which, independent of the mere some of the most remarkable and circumstance of novelty, was sure to interesting incidents in his poems. create a general interest. The But in the midst of these excelromantic nature of their stories, lencies, none of which are of the scenes in which the events the highest order, or the rarest