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vious, that poetical beauty is to be traced to the operations of the mind alone, selecting from sensible and intellectual beng such images of matter and affections of mind, as she thinks best qualified to elicit such mental emotions as she intends to excite.
“Take away the waves, the winds," says Lord Byron, “and there will be no ship at all, not only for poetical, but for any other purpose." To which you think it sufficient to reply, “then its very existence depends upon them.” But do you seriously think this reply satisfactory, or can you possibly have any doubt of what Lord Byron asserts—that the existence of the ship depends upon 6 the wind and waves ?” Who would ever think of building a ship if there had been neither wind nor waves ? So far from building such a machine ; the very idea of it would have never suggested itself to mankind.
To your argument, that the ship owes all its poetical beauty to the sun, wind, and waves, Lord Byron replies “If the waves had only foam upon their bosoms—if the winds only wafted the sea-weed to the shore-if the sun shone neither upon pyramids nor fleets, nor fortresses, would its beams be equally poetical ?” to which you triumphantly reply ;-If it (the sun) shone upon none of the emmets of earth, man, or his little works, it would be equally a stupendous object in the visible creation, per se, abstractedly, and equally sublime ; " and it would be poetical, equally poetical, whether it shone on pyramids or posts, fortresses or pig-sties,” a “brass warming pan, or a footman's livery, though neither pig-sties nor posts could be sublime or beautiful with or without it.
The absurdity of this defence is so obvious, that I doubt whether it is worth commenting upon. You tell us, that if the sun never shone upon man, “it would be equally a stupendous object, per se, abstractedly, and equally sublime.”
Pray, Mr. Bowles, if the sun “ never shone upon man or his little works,” to whom would it be sublime or stupendous ? To man it could be neither one nor the other, if it never shone upon him ; for in this case, the earth would be enveloped in darkness, and man never attached the idea of sublimity to a inaterial object which he never perceived. Neither could it be sublime to the brute creation, for, so far as we are acquainted with the modes and limits of their perceptions, the idea of sublimity is an idea of which they never formed any conception. It could not be sublime to any higher order of being than man, if it never shone, because it is its resplendent light that renders it sublime ; nor can you tell whether, with all its splendor, it is sublime to any order of being but man himself. The sun, for ought that either you
or I know, may appear like a dim lamp, compared to the insufferable splendor, magnitude, and magnificence of other orbs; and if so, they would not deem it either stupendous or sublime. The same reasoning which led you to suppose, that objects have a per se, or abstract poetical beauty in themselves, has also led you to suppose, that objects, and the words which express them, have also a per se or abstract sublimity, unconnected with the perceptions, feelings, emotions, passions, and sympathies of man. You do not seem to be aware, that when an object is pronounced sublime, this sublimity merely expresses, that the object has the quality of producing a certain emotion in the mind of man, which he expresses by the term sublime. It would, however, be absurd to suppose, that an object will produce the same emotion in other beings that it produces in us; for the nature of every emotion is determined by the mutual relation that exists between the natural sensibilities of the percipient, and the qualities of the thing perceived. Now, as the natural sensibilities or sensations of every being vary with its natural organisation, or original structure, and as this original structure is different in all the different species of animated being, it necessarily follows, that the same object will excite different sensations in all the different classes or tribes of animals to which it is presented, and consequently, the emotion to which we attach the term sublime, will not be the emotion produced in any other being but ourselves, because no other being is originally constituted like man. If you can point out any other being similarly constituted, I say that being is a man, in the strictest sense of the expression. A turkey-cock will fly at a person who wears a red mantle, because this color produces a disagreeable sensation in him, which is not felt by other animals.
The meaning of words, therefore, must be universally understood, with regard to the perceptions which they convey to, and the sensations, emotions or passions which they excite in, the mind of man alone. Words have no meaning in themselves abstractedly; for there can be no affinity between a sound and an idea. They derive their meaning, therefore, from a mere arbitrary convention; from an agreement among mankind to attach certain ideas to certain vocal sounds. But as the objects or qualities that excite these ideas in us, would produce different ideas in other beings, they would use different words to express them, or attach a different meaning to the words which are adopted by us. If the object that produces a sensation of disgust in us, produce a sensation of pleasure or luxury in another animal, it is obvious, that if these animals, (supposing them gifted with language) and we, express these different sensations by the same word, we must attach
different ideas to it. When, therefore, we call the sun a sublime object, we deceive ourselves in supposing that the word sublimity has any meaning abstracted from the emotion which it produces in ourselves, as it would not produce the same emotion in any
other being. If the sun then never shone upon man, it is absurd, in the highest degree, to say that it would still be stupendous and sublime, as these are terms that express emotions peculiar to man alone.
But to what purpose do you maintain that the sun would be stupendous and sublime, whatever it shone upon, or if it did not shine at all? Lord Byron never asserted the contrary : he only said, it would not be as poetical, if it had neither pyramids nor fleets, nor fortresses to shine upon. Is this assertion disproved by saying it would be stupendous and sublime ? If you think there is no difference between a stupendous and a poetical object : if you claim the liberty of confounding terms so perfectly distinct in their nature, you may argue to eternity without any danger of being confuted; for there is no arguing with a man who attaches what ideas he pleases to the expressions which he makes use of. But the sun, you add, “ would be equally poetical, whether it shone on pyramids or posts, fortresses or pig-sties, a brass warming-pan, or a footman's livery.” It is curious, that you should quote two lines, almost immediately after making this assertion, which prove its absurdity. Trying the poetical effect of the sun, you compare the two following lines :
The Sun shines white upon the rocks
The Sun shines while upon the warming-pan. The first of these lines you consider poetical, but the second you do not, though you told us immediately before that the sun is equally poetical whether it shines upon pyramids or a brass warming-pan. Who can understand such logic? or to what purpose are we told, that the sun is poetical whatever it shines upon, whether on pig-sties or a brass warming-pan, when you tell us, the moment you make it shine upon the warming-pan,” that it is no longer poetical ? It seems then that a brass warming-pan, notwithstanding your logic, has the power of destroying the poetry
Yet I suspect that Pope could bring the sun and the warming-pan together in such a manner, that without destroying the poetry of the sun, he would make both it and the warmingpan poetical at the same moment, though they have both lost their poetry in your hands ;-a proof that the poetry of objects is neither to be sought for in themselves, nor in the mere act of bringing them together; and that it has its origin in the manner alone in which they are associated.
of the sun.
Perhaps you will reply, that Pope could not make the sun poetical shining on a warming-pan, that it is poetical in verse only when it shines on natural objects, and that therefore though it is not poetical shining upon the warming-pan, it is exceedingly so shining upon the rocks. To this I have only to reply, that if you will not admit the sun shining upon the warming-pan to be poetical, after telling us it would be poetical, stupendous, and sublime, whether it shines on warming-pans or pig-sties, or if it never shone at all upon man or any of his works ; at least you must admit that its being a work of art cannot prevent it from being a poetical object; unless you maintain, that the first of the two following lines is not poetical, though you have immediately after quoted it as such, in making an experiment with the “ evening beam," for no purpose that I can perceive, but that of turning your own theory into ridicule ; or at least of placing its absurdity in the most conspicuous point of view.
Pale on the lone tower falls the evening beam
Pale on my grey wig falls the evening beam. The first of these lines you call poetical, and so it unquestionably is ; but is not the “lone tower,” on which the evening beam rests, as much the work of art as your unpoetical grey wig? And is it not more poetical than the evening beam itself, though an image taken from one of the sublimest objects in nature? Who then can decide when the sun is or is not poetical, if we are to be guided by your invariably erroneous and discordant princi
“ Mr. Campbell,” you say, “ introduced the sun needlessly, if it did not make the ship more poetical.” But, as Lord Byron justly observes, if it makes one thing poetical, why not another ? The observation is philosophically just; and therefore the question may be repeated, if it has rendered Mr. Campbell's ship poetical, why has it not had the same effect on your grey wig and warmingpan? And yet you confidently tell us, this is an argument unworthy of Lord Byron. Would you condescend to tell us why it is unworthy of him ? I suspect you would more willingly have us believe it so, than be obliged to tell the reason.
You must, however, be content to admit with Lord Byron, that if the sun makes one thing poetical, it will have the same effect upon another, till you assign a reason for disagreeing with him. If you could evade the force of an argument by saying it is unworthy, it is absurd, you could easily confute all the logicians and metaphysicians that ever wrote. The truth is, you saw Lord Byron's argument unanswerable, and you dexterously' slipped away from it, by affecting to think it unworthy of an answer.
Lord Byron asks, “ Did any painter ever paint the sea only, without the addition of a ship, boat, wreck, or some such adjunct ?” To
prove that such adjuncts are not necessary to render the sea poetical, you quote the following passage from Crabbe, in which there is neither ship nor wreck introduced :
With ceaseless motion comes and goes the tide ;
It rolls, in ebb, yet terrible and deep. A school-boy could perceive, that this is not a description of the sea, but of the flowing and ebbing of the tide up and down the channel ; which presents a picture to the mind very different from a broad, extended, monotonous sheet of water. This, however, you are pleased to call a description of the sea, and a description too, which “ might rival the greatest poet that ever lived.” And you particularly direct his Lordship’s attention to its “ metre and imagery.” Now, Sir, without the remotest intention of derogating from the poetical powers of Crabbe, I must say, that the description appears to me totally destitute of imagery, and therefore so extremely bleak and cheerless, that it has scarcely any thing in it to constitute poetry but the metre itself. Imagery, in poetry, is not the mere picture or image of the object described, but kindred images, taken from other objects in the works of nature or of art, in which the object described is clothed and decorated. But what images are introduced into this description of the tide, but what absolutely belong to it, and which watermen and fishwomen are every day attributing to it, except the epithet “ majestic" alone? All the other qualities and attributes conferred upon it, such as coming, going, flowing, filling, vast, wide, deep, terrible, are only what strikes every observer the moment he looks upon it. Besides, though the description is so short, the poet, for want of imagery, has been obliged to express the same thought
First he represents the tide coming and going, and finishes his description by expressing the same thought over again in different words. The descriptive terms are all general, and an object described in general terms was never poetically described. Lord Kames, in his « Elements of Criticism,” lays it down as a rule, “to avoid, as much as possible, general and abstract terms. Images, which are the life of poetry, cannot be raised in any perfection, but by introducing particular objects.” This rule is completely violated in Crabbe's description of the tide, which, notwithstanding, you say, "might rival the greatest poet that ever lived.” So you are pleased to think ; but I suspect few of would compare it with the following description of a sea-view