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than by natural sentiments, or lively pictures of reality. They hear that the sublime is veiled in obscurity, and they are inclined to venerate whatever is obscure, as if it were necessarily sublime. Not only children, but poets themselves, are inclined to this mistake. Gray says, that the language of the age is never the language of poetry; and he was so much pleased with certain obsolete expressions in Dryden, that he made a list of them for his own practice, such as museful mopings, — roundelay of love, - ireful mood, -- furbished for the field, -foiled doddered oaks. Without stopping to examine whether these ornaments be truly poetic, we may safely assert that no one, merely by using them, can become a poet: lackeys do not become gentlemen by strutting in the cast clothes of their masters. Gray seems, however, to have planned with
one taste, and to have executed with another,
The Elegy in a Country Churchyard, and his Ode on Eton College, the most simple of his poetry, are perhaps the most generally
esteemed ; and his Hymn to Adversity does not seem to require the aid of uncouth phraseology, to make it equal to “Ruin seize thee, ruthless king !" or the Song of Odin.
To form a poetic taste, very different means must be employed. The attention must be early directed to those circumstances in nature, which are capable of exciting ideas either of the sublime or beautiful; and to such books as may assist in awakening the mind to obserYation. Perhaps the first introduction to poetry should be obtained from prose. Many short sentences of true poetry have been selected for children from the Old Testament. Many may be found in books of natural history. White of Selbourne describes the various 'flight of birds in the following manner :
“ Swallows sweep over the surface of the ground and water, and distinguish themselves by quick evolutions ; the ķing-fisher darts along like an arrow; sky-larks rise and fall perpendicularly as they sing; wood-larks hang poised in the air ;" &c.
Compare these with Pope's epithets in Windsor Forest" The whirring pheasant,”—“the clamorous lapwing,”—“the mounting lark,” &c.-It is obvious that the same habits of observation supplied: the prose writer with description, and. the poet with epithets.
From simple epithets and single sen. tences we may proceed to more finished passages, such as the following, from Mrs. Barbauld's Hymns:
“ The glorious sun is set in the west; the night dew falls, and the air, which was sultry, becomes cool."
“ The flowers fold up their coloured leaves; they fold themselves up, and hang, their heads on the slender stalk :” &c,
The sublime images in these hymns are happily suited to the comprehension of children; and their harmonious language charms the ear, without cheating the understanding. Many beautiful passages, proper for youth, may be found in Watts “ On the Improvement of the Mind ;” and in the measured prose of Fenelon there is much eloquence, which young people can taste and com:
prehend before they are old enough to read the whole of his Telemachus with advantage.
There is still wanting a mythology for children; that might lay the foundation for a poetic taste, without shocking decency, or inculcating vice and folly.-Lord Chesterfield, the abbè Tressan, and madame Monsigny, have compiled pleasing works on this subject, that may be safely put into the hands of children; but they have borrowed no ornaments from poetry. Surely such a work might be enriched with proper passages from the best translations of Homer, Virgil, and Ovid, from some of the french poets, and from the exquisite gems in the Botanic Garden.
When our pupils have obtained some general knowledge of mythology, and have acquired the rudiments of a taste for poetic language, it will then be the proper time to introduce them to our classical poets.
In education, however, as in all the affairs of life, the right must often yield to the expedient; and we must consider not merely what is the besť possible, but rather what is the most feasible, in the existing circumstances. It is not to be supposed, that preceptors can be prevailed upon immediately to change their usual practice; nor can it be expected that parents, although convinced of the errour of putting fine poetry too early into the hands of children, should have sufficient strength of mind to let their pupils appear ignorant of what others of the same age are taught. It is therefore probable, that the practice of teaching young people a certain quantity of poetry by rote will long prevail, both in schools and in private families.--With this belief, the author has endeavoured to render a few popular poems intelligible to young readers.
Those who have long established prepossessions in favour of L'Allegro and Il Penseroso may perhaps deem it a species of literary sacrilege, to criticise any part of these poems, and will turn with disgust from the detailed explanation of lines, which they suppose must be intuitively understood by kindred soulsa