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have in all languages been the most copiously furnished. There ts, however, a great difference in the variety and compass of intellectual ideas afforded by these two sources of enjoy. ment, The bacchanalian has little more scope in his lyric effusions, thạn to ring changes upon the hilarity, or rather delirium, inspired by his favourite indulgence, which puts to flight all the suggestions of care and melancholy, and throws the soul into that state of felicity which springs from exalted animal spirits, and a temporary suspension of the reasoning faculties, The essence, therefore, of this kind of pleasure, if such it can be called, is an excess--something gross and degrading, adverse to thought, and therefore barren of sentiment. The ingenuity of poets has, indeed, connected it with a vivacity of imagination that is very captivating, especially when enforced by the presence of the flowing bowland jovial companions ; and it must be confessed that actual singing is seldom so heartily enjoyed as in the chorus of a convivial party. But, without such an accompaniment, the drinking-song flattens upon the perusal, and its glowing expressions appear little better than exèravagant. It is likewise apt to sink into coarseness and vulgarity; so that the more select collections of vocal poetry will bear
but a small admixture of these compositions, which succeed so well in “ setting the table in a roar.”
You admit, Sir, in the passage just quoted, that there has been a lax morality employed by poets in excusing and varnishing the pleasures of love and wine, and that these pleasures are always prone to pass the bounds of moderation. You call the bilarity of the Bacchanalian a delirium, springing from no better source than a temporary suspension of the reasoning faculties. You express a doubt of calling it even a pleasure ; and admit the essence of it to be an c.ccess,--something gross and degrading.
Afterwards, in stating the different kinds of Songs, which you have introduced into your Collection, you say " A very scanty assortment of Convivial Song's succeeds, dedicated to the festal board, and imitating the gaiety and freedom of the Anacreontic lays. It was impossible altogether to omit a class so universally received into Song-Collections ; but as I feel no ambition to be regarded as a priest of Bacchus, I have limited my choice to a small specimen of those which have been inspired by wit and poetry, as well as by wine.” (p. xlvii.)
To a Convivial Song, a festal board, or gaiety, I desire not to make any general ob
jection. All depends on the bounds within which they are kept. If the freedom be a freedom from the strictest decorum and sobriety, we may object to it as primarily wrong, and we may also object to it as defeating its own end, as (on the whole, and in a course of repetitions,) producing less real pleasure than festivity duly regulated. The Convivial Songs in your Col. lection appear to me to contain many highly objectionable passages: and I am happy to be able to produce your own authority (in the first quotation) in opposition to passages which appear to promote the excess you have decidedly blamed.
In your Letters on Poetry (L. ix. p. 121.) where you have mentioned Milton's Comus, you say that “ It represents the triumph of virtue over lawless pleasure; and the author deserves high applause for the skill with which, after exhilarating the mind with the festal gaiety of Comus, and even assailing the reason with sophistical arguments in favour of licentiousness, he finally brings over the reader to the side of sobriety by the charms of poetic eloquence. Here again, Sir, we have your support in opposition to such festal gaiety as that of Comus. But, I will ask, Is there not danger that these sophistical arguments in favour of licentiouse,
ness, especially when set off by a lively strain of poetry and music and a lively manner, will make an impression, which the “ more solid arguments in favour of sobriety” may not be able to counteract? Something of this kind you seem to apprehend from the “ eloquent harangue" which Thomson has put into the mouth of Indolence in his Poem of The Castle of Indolence : “ I know not, indeed, whether it is not almost too persuasive for the moral effect of the piece, especially when enforced by the delicious picture of the life led in the mansion of pleasure. No wonder that the poet himself was too well disposed to become a subject of the Power whose allurements he so feelingly describes; and we may believe that he spoke from his heart when he exclaimed
“ Escap'd the castle of the Sire of sin, Ah! where shall I so sweet a dwelling find ?” (L. xvi. p. 221.)
In your Letters to your Son, (Vol. 2. L. xv. p. 272.) speaking of “ the effects of poetry in softening and humanizing the soul,” you say, “I am most pleased with a story told of the effect of a happy quotation from Homer made by the philosopher Xenocrates. This truly respectable man being sent as ambassador to the court of Antipater, for the redemption of some
Athenian captives, was courteously invited by the prince to sit down with him to supper. He instantly replied to the offer in the generous words spoken by Ulysses to Circe on the same occasion :
o Circe! who of human soul possess'd
Antipater was so struck with the ingenuity and patriotism of this application, that he immediately ordered the release of the prisoners.”
What would have been the effect, Sir, if instead of storing his mind with patriotic and moral sentiments, he had been only, or chiefly, versed in Bacchanalian poetry, and cited some such passage as many of those contained in your selection of convivial Songs ?
You seem to me to be perfectly aware of the fascination of such compositions, and especially in the " convivial party”; and, surely, Sir, it is, on that very account, the business of the poet and the moralist, to endeavour to moderate this propensity and to restrain it within its due bounds. You have disclaimed the being regarded as a “ priest of Bacchus”. This must certainly be commended: and I can only