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man for motion and for rest? Confident are tune-so the Mains, sir, has been uninhabited we that that obese elderly gentleman beside for a good many years.” But he had been the coachman-whose ample rotundity is en- speaking to one who knew far more about the cased in that antique and almost obsolete in- Mains than he could domand who was not vention, a spenser--needed not to have been sorry that the Old Place was allowed to stand, so carried in a whirlwind to his comfortable undisturbed by any rich upstart, in the venehome. Scarcely is there time for pity as we rable silence of its own decay. And this is behold an honest man's wife, pale as putty the moss-house that we helped to build with in the face at a tremendous swing, or lounge, our own hands--at least to hang the lichen or lurch of the Highflier, holding like grim tapestry, and stud the cornice with shells! We death to the balustrades. But umbrellas, pa- were one of the paviers of that pebbled floor rasols, plaids, shawls, bonnets, and great-coats --and that bright scintillating piece of spar, with as many necks as Hydra—the Pile of Life the centre of the circle, came all the way from has disappeared in a cloud of dust, and the Derbyshire in the knapsack of a geologist, faint bugle tells that already it has spun and who died a Professor. It is strange the roof reeled onwards a mile on its destination. has not fallen in long ago; but what a slight
But here comes a vehicle at more rational ligature will often hold together a heap of ruins pace. Mercy on us-a hearse and six horses from tumbling into nothing! The old mossreturning leisurely from a funeral! Not im- house, though somewhat decrepit, is alive; probable that the person who has just quitted and, if these swallows don't take care, they it, had never, till he was a corpse, got higher will be stunning themselves against our face, than a single-horse Chay-yet no fewer than jerking out and in, through door and window, half-a-dozen hackneys must be hired for his twenty times in a minute. Yet with all that dust. But clear the way! “Hurra! hurra! twittering of swallows-and with all that frehe rides a race, 'tis for a thousand pound!" quent crowing of a cock-and all that cawing Another, and another, and another-all work- of rooks-and cooing of doves--and lowing ing away with legs and knees, arms and shoul- of cattle along the holms-and bleating of ders, on cart-horses in the Brooze-the Brooze! lambs along the braes—it is nevertheless a The hearse-horses take no sort of notice of the pensive place; and here sit we like a hermit, cavalry of cart and plough, but each in turn world-sick, and to be revived only by hearkeeps its snorting nostrils deep plunged in the kening in the solitude to the voices of other pail of meal and water-for well may they be years. thirsty--the kirkyard being far among the hills, What more mournful thought than that of a and the roads not yet civilized. May I ask, Decayed Family-a high-born race gradually friend,” addressing ourself to the hearseman, worn out, and finally ceasing to be! The re“whom you have had inside ?” “Only Dr. mote ancestors of this House were famous Sandilands, sir-if you are going my way, men of war--then some no less famous statesyou may have a lift for a dram!” We had men-then poets and historians—then minds always thought there was a superstition in still of fine, but of less energetic mould-and Scotland against marrying in the month of last of all, the mystery of madness breaking May; but it appears that people are wedded suddenly forth from spirits that seemed to have and bedded in that month too-some in warm been especially formed for profoundest peace. sheets-and some in cold-cold-cold-drip- There were three sons and two daughters, unping damp as the grave.
degenerate from the ancient stateliness of the But we must up, and off. Not many gentle- race-the oldest on his approach to manhood men's houses in the parish--that is to say, old erect as the young cedar, that seems conscious family seats; for of modern villas, or boxes, of being destined one day to be the tallest tree inhabited by persons imagining themselves in the woods. The twin-sisters were ladies gentlemen, and, for any thing we know to the indeed! Lovely as often are the low-born, no contrary, not wholly deceived in that belief, maiden ever stepped from her native cottagethere is rather too great an abundance. Four door, even in a poet's dream, with such an air family seats, however, there certainly are, of as that with which those fair beings walked sufficient antiquity to please a lover of the along their saloons and lawns. Their beauty olden time; and of those four, the one which no one could at all describe-and no one bewe used to love best to look at was_THE held it who did not say that it transcended all MAINS. No need to describe it in many words. that imagination had been able to picture of A Hall on a river side, embosomed in woods angelic and divine. As the sisters were, so holms and meadows winding away in front, were the brothers--distinguished above all with their low thick hedgerows and stately their mates conspicuously, and beyond all single trees--on-on-on-as far as the eye possibility of mistake; so that strangers could can reach, a crowd of grove-topselms chiefly, single them out at once as the heirs of beauty, úr beeches—and a beautiful boundary of blue that, according to veritable pictures and true hills. “Good-day, Sergeant Stewart! farewell, traditions, had been an unalienable gift from Ma'am-farewell!" And in half an hour we
And in half an hour we nature to that family ever since it bore the are sitting in the moss-house at the edge of the name. For the last three generations none outer garden, and gazing up at the many win- of that house had ever reached even the meridowed gray walls of the Mains, and its high dian of life--and those of whom we now speak steep-ridged roof, discoloured by the weather had from childhood been orphans. Yet how stains of centuries. “ The taxes on such a joyous and free were they one and all, and house," quod Sergeant Stewart, “are of them- how often from this cell did evening hear their selves enough to ruin a man of moderate for- | holy harmonies, as the Five united together
. with voice, harp, and dulcimer, till the stars| sacred books, although too long he was as a star themselves rejoiced !One morning, Louisa, vainly sought for in a cloudy region, yet did who loved the dewy dawn, was met bewildered for a short time starlike reappear--and on his in her mind, and perfectly astray-with no death-bed he knew us, and the other mortal symptom of having been suddenly alarmed or creatures weeping beside him, and that there terrified—but with an unrecognising smile, was one who died to save sinners. and eyes scarcely changed in their expression, Let us away- let us away from this over. although they knew not--but rarely--on whom powering place and make our escape from they looked. It was but a few months till she such unendurable sadness. Is this fit celebradied--and Adelaide was laughing carelessly tion of merry May-day? Is this the spirit in on her sister's funeral day and asked why which we ought to look over the bosom of the mourning should be worn at a marriage, and earth, all teeming with buds and flowers just a plumed hearse sent to take away the bride. as man's heart should be teeming--and why Fairest of God's creatures! can it be that thou not ours--with hopes and joys? Yet beautiful art still alive? Not with cherubs smiling as this May-day is--and all the country round round thy knees--not walking in the free which it so tenderly illumines, we came not realms of earth and heaven with thy husband hither, a solitary pilgrim from our distant —the noble youth, who loved thee from thy home, to indulge ourself in a joyful happiness. childhood when himself a child; but oh! that No, hither came we purposely to such misery can be beneath the sun--shut up among the scenes which in boyhood we selin some narrow cell perhaps no one knows dom beheld through tears. And therefore where--whether in this thy native kingdom, or have we chosen the gayest day of all the year, in some foreign land--with those hands mana- when all life is rejoicing, from the grasshopper cled--a demon-light in eyes once most angeli- among our feet to the lark in the cloud. Mecalmand ringing through undistinguishable lancholy, and not mirth, doth he hope to find, days and nights imaginary shriekings and who after a life of wandering-and maybe not yellings in thy poor distracted brain !-Down without sorrow-comes back to gaze on the went the ship with all her crew in which banks and braes whereon, to his eyes, once Percy sailed ;—the sabre must have been in grew the flowers of Paradise. Flowers of Pathe hand of a skilful swordsman that in one radise are ye still—for, praise be to Heaven ! of the Spanish battles hewed Sholto down; the sense of beauty is still strong within usand the gentle Richard, whose soul-while he and methinks we could feel the beauty of this possessed it clearly--was for ever among the scene though our heart were broken.
so different from its hymning when lost to
sight in the sky-will fail to call forth the We have often exposed the narrowness and deepest responses from the sanctuary of our weakness of that dogma, so pertinaciously ad- spirit. hered to by persons of cold hearts and limited “ Let no pious ear be offended," says Johnunderstandings, that Religion is not a fit theme son, “if I advance, in opposition to many aufor poetical genius, and that Sacred Poetry is thorities, that poetical devotion cannot often beyond the powers of uninspired man. We please. The doctrines of religion may indeed do not know that the grounds on which that be defended in a didactic poem ; and he who dogma stands have ever been formally stated has the happy power of arguing in verse, will by any writer but Samuel Johnson; and there-not lose it because his subject is sacred. A fore with all respect, nay, veneration, for his poet may describe the beauty and the grandeur memory, we shall now shortly examine his of nature, the flowers of spring and the harstatement, which, though, as we think, alto- vests of autumn, the vicissitudes of the tide gether unsatisfactory and sophistical, is yet a and the revolutions of the sky, and praise his splendid specimen of false reasoning, and Maker in lines which no reader shall lay aside. therefore worthy of being exposed and over. The subject of the disputation is not piety, but thrown. Dr. Johnson was not often utterly the motives to piety ; that of the description is wrong in his mature and considerate judg- not God, but the works of God. Contemplaments respecting any subject of paramount tive piety, or the intercourse between God and importance to the virtue and happiness of the human soul, cannot be poetical. Man, admankind. He was a good and wise being; mitted to implore the mercy of his Creator, and but sometimes he did grievously err; and plead the merits of his Redeemer, is already in never more so than in his vain endeavour to a higher state than poetry can confer. exclude from the province of poetry its noblest, “ The essence of poetry is invention ; such highest, and holiest domain. Shut the gates invention as, by producing something unof heaven against Poetry, and her flights along expected, surprises and delights. The topics this earth will be feebler and lower-her wings of devotion are few, and being few are univerclogged and heavy by the attraction of matter sally known; but few as they are, they can be
and her voice-like that of the caged lark, made no more; they can receive no grace from
novelty of sentiment, and very little from no- | all didactic poetry? And who ever heard of velty of expression. Poetry pleases by ex- an essential distinction between piety, and hibiting an idea more grateful in the mind motives to piety?_Mr. James Montgomery, in than things themselves afford. This effect a very excellent Essay prefixed to that most proceeds from the display of those parts of interesting collection, “The Christian Poet," nature which attract, and the concealment of well obseryes, that “motives to piety must be those that repel, the imagination; but religion of the nature of piety, otherwise they could must be shown as it is; suppression and addi- never incite to it—the precepts and sanctions tion equally corrupt it; and such as it is, it is of the Gospel might as well be denied to be known already. From poetry the reader justly any part of the Gospel.” And for our own expects, and from good poetry always obtains, parts, we scarcely know what piety is, sepathe enlargement of his comprehension and the rated from its motives—or how, so separated, elevation of his fancy; but this is rarely to be it could be expressed in words at all. hoped by Christians from metrical devotion. With regard, again, to descriptive poetry, Whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, the argument, if argument it may be called, is is comprised in the name of the Supreme Be- still more lame and impotent. “A poet,” it is ing. Omnipotence cannot be exalted; Infi- said, “may describe the beauty and the grannity cannot be amplified; Perfection cannot be deur of nature, the flowers of the spring and improved.
the harvests of autumn, the vicissitudes of the “ The employments of pious meditation are tide and the revolutions of the sky, and praise faith, thanksgiving, repentance, and supplication. his Maker in lines which no reader shall lay Faith, invariably uniform, cannot be invested aside.” Most true he may; but then we are by fancy with decorations. Thanksgiving, told, “the subject of the description is not God, though the most joyful of all holy effusions, but the works of God!" Alas! what trifling yet addressed to a Being without passions, is what miserable trifling is this ! In the works confined to a few modes, and is to be felt of God, God is felt to be by us his creatures, rather than expressed. Repentance, trembling whom he has spiritually endowed. We canin the presence of the Judge, is not at leisure not look on them, even in our least elevated for cadences and epithets. Supplication to moods, without some shadow of love or awe; man may diffuse itself through many topics in our most elevated moods, we gaze on them of persuasion; but supplication to God can with religion. By the very constitution of our only cry for mercy.
intelligence, the effects speak of the cause. "Of sentiments purely religious, it will be We are led by nature up to nature's God. The found that the most simple expression is the Bible is not the only revelation-there is anmost sublime. Poetry loses its lustre and its other-dimmer but not less divine-for surely power, because it is applied to the decoration the works are as the words of God. No great of something more excellent than itself. All poet, in describing the glories and beauties of that pious verse can do is to help the memory the external world, is forgetful of the existence and delight the ear, and for these purposes it and attributes of the Most High. That thought, may be very useful; but it supplies nothing to and that feeling, animate all his strains; and the mind. The ideas of Christian Theology though he dare not to describe Him the Ineffaare too simple for eloquence, too sacred for ble, he cannot prevent his poetry from being fiction, and too majestic for ornament; to re- beautifully coloured by devotion, tinged by commend them by tropes and figures, is to piety--in its essence it is religious. magnify by a concave mirror the sidereal he- It appears, then, that the qualifications or misphere.
restrictions with which Dr. Johnson is willing Here Dr. Johnson confesses that sacred sub- to allow that there may be didactic and dejects are not unfit—that they are fit-for di- scriptive sacred poetry, are wholly unmeandactic and descriptive poetry. Now, this is a ing, and made to depend on distinctions which very wide and comprehensive admission; and have no existence. being a right, and natural, and just admission, Of narrative poetry of a sacred kind, Mr. it cannot but strike the thoughtful reader at Montgomery well remarks, Johnson makes no once as destructive of the great dogma by mention, except it be implicated with the statewhich Sacred Poetry is condemned. The doc- ment, that “the ideas of Christian Theology trines of Religion may be defended, be allows, are too sacred for fiction-a sentiment more in a didactic poem-and, pray, how can they just than the admirers of Milton and Klopbe defended unless they are also expounded? stock are willing to admit, without almost pleAnd how can they be expounded without being nary indulgence in favour of these great, but steeped, as it were, in religious feeling? Let not infallible authorities.” Here Mr. Montgosuch a poem be as didactic as can possibly be mery expresses himself very cautiously-per. imagined, still it must be pervaded by the very haps rather too much so-for he leaves us in spirit of religion-and that spirit, breathing the dark about his own belief. But this we do throughout the whole, must also be frequently not hesitate to say, that though there is great expressed, vividly, and passionately, and pro- danger of wrong being done to the ideas of foundly, in particular passages; and if so, Christian theology by poetryma wrong which must it not be, in the strictest sense, a Sacred must be most painful to the whole inner being
of a Christian ; yet that there seems no neces“But,” says Dr. Johnson, “the subject of sity of such a wrong, and that a great poet, the disputation is not piety, but the motives to guarded by awe, and fear, and love, may move piety." Why introduce the word “ disputa- his wings unblamed, and to the glory of God, tion," as if it characterized justly and entirely leven amongst the most awful sanctities of his
faith. These sanctities may be too awful for some degree, breathe audibly some of the “fiction"_but fiction is not the word here, any emotions which constitutes its blessedness; more than disputation was the word there. poetry may even help the soul to ascend to Substitute for it the word poetry; and then, re- ihose celestial heights; because poetry may flecting on that of Isaiah and of David, con- prepare it, and dispose it to expand itself, and versant with the Holy of Holies, we feel that it open itself out to the highest and holiest influ
not profane those other sanctities, if it be, ences of religion ; for poetry there may be inlike its subject, indeed divine. True, that those spired directly from the word of God, using bards were inspired--with them
the language and strong in the spirit of that
word unexistent but for the Old and New Of prophet and of poet was the same ;
Testament. but still, the power in the soul of a great poet,
We agree with Mr. Montgomery, that the not in that highest of senses inspired, is, we
sum of Dr. Johnson's argument amounts to may say it, of the same kind-inferior but in this--that contemplative piety, or the interdegree;
for religion itself is always an inspira- course between God and the human soul, cantion. It is felt to be so in the prose of holy not be poetical. But here we at once ask our
selves, what does he mean by poetica) ?
66 The men-Why not in their poetry?
If these views be just, and we have express- essence of poetry," he says, “is inventioned them “boldly, yet humbly”-all that remains such invention as, by producing something to be set aside of Dr. Johnson's argument is, unexpected, surprises and delights.” Here, " that contemplative piety, or the intercourse again, there is confusion and sophistry. There between God and man, cannot be poetical.
is much high and noble poetry of which invenMan, admitted to implore the mercy of his Cre- tion, such invention as is here spoken of, is ator, and plead the merits of his Redeemer, is not the essence. Devotional poetry is of that already in a higher state than poetry can character. Who would require something unconfer."
expected and surprising in a strain of thanksThere is something very fine and true in the giving, repentance, or supplication ? Such sentiment here; but the sentiment is only true feelings as these, if rightly expressed, may exin some cases, not in all. There are different alt or prostrate the soul, without much-withdegrees in the pious moods of the most pious out any aid from the imagination-except in spirit that ever sought communion with its God as far as the imagination will work under the and its Saviour. Some of these are awe- power of every great emotion that does not abstruck and speechless. That line,
solutely confound mortal beings, and humble
them down even below the very dust. There “Come, then, expressive silence, muse his praise !"
may be “no grace from novelty of sentiment," denies the power of poetry to be adequate to and “very little from novelty of expression"adoration, while the line itself is most glorious to use Dr. Johnson's words--for it is neither poetry. The temper even of our fallen spirits grace nor novelty that the spirit of the poet is may be too divine for any words. Then the seeking the strain we hear is of a higher creature kneels mute before its Maker. But mood;" and “few as the topics of devotion are there not other states of mind in which we may be," (but are they few?) and "univerfeel ourselves drawn near to God, when there sally known,” they are all commensurate-nay, is no such awful speechlessness laid upon us far more than commensurate with the whole --but when, on the contrary, our tongues are power of the soul--never can they become unloosened, and the heart that burns within will affecting while it is our lot to die; even from speak? Will speak, perhaps, in song~in the the lips of ordinary men, the words that flow inspiration of our piety breathing forth hymns on such topics flow effectually, if they are earand psalms--poetry indeed—if there be poetry nest, simple, and sincere; but from the lips of on this earth? Why may we not say that the genius, inspired by religion, who shall dare to spirits of just men made perfect--almost per- say that, on such topics, words have not flowed fect, by such visitations from heaven-will that are felt to be poetry almost worthy of the break forth—“rapt, inspired,” into poetry, Celestial Ardours around the throne, and by, which may be called holy, sacred, divine ? their majesty to “link us to the radiant angels,"
We feel as if treading on forbidden ground-than whom we were made but a little lower, and therefore speak reverently; but still we do and with whom we may, when time shall be not fear to say, that between that highest state no more, be equalled in heaven? of contemplative piety which must be mute, We do not hesitate to say, that Dr. Johnson's down to that lowest state of the same feeling doctrine of the effect of poetry is wholly false. which evanishes and blends into mere human If it do indeed please, by exhibiting an idea emotion as between creature and creature, more grateful to the mind than things themthere are infinite degrees of emotion which selves afford, that is only because the things may be all imbodied, without offence, in words themselves are imperfect-more so than suits -and if so imbodied, with sincerity and hu- the aspirations of a spirit, always aspiring mility, will be poetry, and poetry too of the because immortal, to a higher sphere--a higher most beautiful and affecting kind.
order of being. But when God himself is, “Man, admitted to implore the mercy of his with all awe and reverence, made the subject Creator, and plead the merits of his Redeemer, of song-then it is the office the sacred office is already in a higher state than poetry can of poetrynot to exalt the subject, but to exalt confer.
." Most true, indeed. But, though po- the soul that contemplates it. That poetry etry did not confer that higher state, poetry can do, else why does human nature glory in may nevertheless, in some measure and to the “ Paradise Lost?"
“Whatever is great, desirable, or tremen- and excellence suppose misery, and are imdous, is comprised in the name of the Supreme perfection, but the instrument and capacity of Being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted-In- all duty and all virtue.” Happy he whose finity cannot be amplified-Perfection cannot faith is finally “fixed in the beloved point!" be improved." Should not this go to prohibit But even of that faith, what hinders the poet all speech-all discourse—all sermons con- whom it has blessed to sing? While, of its cerning the divine attributes ? Immersed as tremblings, and veerings, and variations, why they are in matter, our souls wax dull, and the may not the poet, whose faith has experienced, attributes of the Deity are but as mere names. and still may experience them all, breathe Those attributes cannot, indeed, be exalted by many a melancholy and mournful lay, as, poetry. “The perfection of God cannot be suaged, ere the close, by the descent of peace? improved”- nor was it worthy of so wise a Thanksgiving, it is here admitted, is the man so to speak; but while the Creator abideth "most joyful of all holy effusions;" and the in his own incomprehensible Being, the crea- admission is sufficient to prove that it cannot ture, too willing to crawl blind and hoodwinked be “confined to a few modes." 66 Out of the along the earth, like a worm, may be raised by fulness of the heart the tongue speaketh;" and the voice of the charmer, “some sweet singer though at times the heart will be too full for of Israel,” from his slimy track, and suddenly speech, yet as often even the coldest lips prove be made to soar on wings up into the ether. eloquent in gratitude-yea, the very dumb do
Would Dr. Johnson have declared the use-speak-nor, in excess of joy, know the miracle lessness of Natural Theology? On the same that has been wrought upon them by the power ground he must have done so, to preserve con- of their own mysterious and high enthusiasm. sistency in his doctrine. Do we, by exploring That“repentance, trembling in the presence wisdom, and power, and goodness, in all ani- of the Judge, should not be at leisure for camate and inanimate creation, exalt Omnipo- dences and epithets,” is in one respect true; tence, amplify infinity, or improve perfection ? but nobody supposes that during such moWe become ourselves exalted by such divine ments--or hours-poetry is composed; and contemplations-by knowing the structure of surely when they have passed away, which a rose-leaf or of an insect's wing. We are re- they must do, and the mind is left free to meminded of what, alas! we too often forget, and ditate upon them, and to recall them as shaexclaim, “Our Father which art in Heaven, dows of the past, there is nothing to prevent hallowed be thy name!" And while science them from being steadily and calmly contemexplores, may not poetry celebrate the glories plated, and depictured in somewhat softened and the mercies of our God?
and altogether endurable light, so as to become The argument against which we contend proper subjects even of poetry—that is, proper gets weaker and weaker as it proceeds the subjects of such expression as human nature gross misconception of the nature of poetry on is prompted to clothe with all its emotions, as which it is founded becomes more and more soon as they have subsided, after a swell or a glaring—the paradoxes, dealt out as confidently storm, into a calm, either placid altogether, or as if they were self-evident truths, more and still bearing traces of the agitation that has more repulsive alike to our feelings and our ceased, and have left the whole being selfunderstandings. “The employments of pious possessed, and both capable and desirous of meditation are faith, thanksgiving, repentance, indulging itself in an after-emotion at once and supplication. Faith, invariably uniform, melancholy and sublime. Then, repentance cannot be invested by fancy with decorations. will not only be “at leisure for cadences and Thanksgiving, though the most joyful of all epithets,” but cadences and epithets will of holy effusions, yet addressed to a Being supe-themselves move harmonious numbers, and rior to us, is confined to a few modes, and is give birth, if genius as well as piety be there, to be felt rather than expressed. Repentance, to religious poetry. Cadences and epithets are trembling in the presence of the Judge, is not indeed often sought for with care, and pains, at leisure for cadences and epithets. Suppli- and ingenuity; but they often come forth uncation to men may diffuse itself through many sought; and never more certainly and more topics of persuasion ; but supplication to God easily than when the mind recovers itself from can only cry for mercy.” What a vain attempt some oppressive mood, and, along with a cerauthoritatively to impose upon the common tain sublime sadness, is restored to the fuč. sense of mankind! Faith is not invariably possession of powers that had for a short uniform. To preserve it unwavering-un- severe season been overwhelmed, but afterquaking-to save it from lingering or from wards look back, in very inspiration, on the sudden death-is the most difficult service to feelings that during their height were nearly which the frail spirit-frail even in its greatest unendurable, and then unfit for any outward strength-is called every day-every hour and palpable form. The criminal trembling of this troubled, perplexing, agitating, and at the bar of an earthly tribunal, and with reoften most unintelligible life! “Liberty of morse and repentance receiving his doom, will,” says Jeremy Taylor, “ is like the motion might, in like manner, be wholly unable to set of a magnetic needle towards the north, full of his emotions to the measures of speech; out trembling and uncertainty till it be fixed in the when recovered from the shock by pardon, or beloved point: it wavers as long as it is free, reprieve, or submission, is there any reason and is at rest when it can choose no more. It why he should not calmly recall the miseries is humility and truth to allow to man this and the prostation of spirit attendant on that liberty; and, therefore, for this we may lay our hour, and give them touching and pathetic exfaces in the dust, and confess that our dignity pression?