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and high-sounding nonsense, as to be not only ridiculous, but unintelligible. We read some sentences over repeatedly, and thought our intellect most obtuse, that we could comprehend no meaning and detect no sense among these choice and sonorous words : but after attentive consideration, we arrived at the conclusion that there was no meaning there. Perhaps our readers may be more successful, and we will offer them a passage which fully illustrates our assertion, while it affords a fair specimen of the style we have been censuring.
" His (Sir Philip Sidaey's) power does not seem so much to lie in the intellect as in the heart : not so much in the conflicting strife of intellectual prowess, or in the gigantic grasp of mental migbtiness, as in the deep-drawn sighings of the soul--as in officiating as the high priest of its sanctuary-as in exhaling from thence its clouds of imprisoned myrrh and frankincense to heaven. The current of his emotions flows on in unperturbed and imperturbable serenity, undisturbed by troublous eddy or agitated ferment, catching and reflecting all the beauties which expanded nature presents, and receiving splendour and brightness from the silvery gleams which his fancy sheds upon it in its course.”
In another article, on the progress of literature, the Reviewer thus speaks of Coleridge :
"—His holy and most sweet tale of Christabel, with its rich enchantments and richer humanities—the depths, the sublimities, and the pensive sweetnesses of his tragedies—the heart-dilating septiments scattered through his · Friend'-—and the stately imagery which breaks upon us at every turn of the golden paths of his metaphysical labyrinths. And if he has a power within him mightier than that which even these glorious creations indicate, shall he be censured because he has deviated from the ordinary course of the age, in its developement; and, instead of committing his imaginative wisdom to the press, has delivered it from his living lips !”
Mr. Coleridge might well exclaim, “protect me from my friends from my enemies I can protect myself.” Was there no other poem that the Reviewer could eulogize, but the unfortunate Christabel? In the same article, he says of Barry Cornwall
“ He sweetly illustrates that holiest of human emotions, which, while it will entwine itself with the frailest twig, or dally with the most evanescent shadow of creation, wasting its excess of kindliness on all around it, is yet able to look on tempests, and be never shaken.' Love is gently omnipotent in his poems ; accident, and death itself, are but passing clouds, which scarcely vex, and which cannot harm it."
There is no speculation in these sounding and numerous words. How much better is their character of Crabbe's works, where they speak like men of this world.
Art. X. Rosalie, a Tale ; by PALMIRA JOHNSON. New-York.
G. Long. 1821. pp. 36.
• They,' says Lord Bacon, that desire to excel in too many matters, out of levity and vainglory, are ever envious; it being impossible but many, in some of those things, should surpass them. That we excel in “many matters,” we have long insisted, and finally established; but our claims to poetical genius have been mostly either doubted or denied.—The galling consciousness that poetry is the “ complete varnish" of mental refinement,—that its cultivation evinces the excellence of our taste, and its production the ripeness of our talents,—all these teach us to deny with earnestness and anger, the imputation of being an unpoetical nation.
That we have no poem of standard excellence, written in this country, we may admit—and still claim very fair pretensions to poetical taste and genius. When we speak of standard excellence, we mean such a poem as at once causes national pride to claim, and yields pleasure and interest in the perusal; from which splendid passages may be selected, glowing with pure and original thought ;- not the poetry of reading, and of other poets, but poetry of that unequivocal cast, which bears the hardy features of genius, and enables every reader, by the simple and natural instruction of feeling, to say—the author of that book is a poet. In making this unreserved admission, we take from our assailants all foothold for argument, inasmuch as we have been attacked for the poetry that has been published in this country: ill nature having confined the scale of our powers to the little we have produced, without examining why we have not done better, or whether we are denied the power to improve. We are aware that all arguments that may be offered, accounting for our poetical deficiencies upon the score of our want of that refinement which belongs to older countries, will be met with the old and well established maxim—that a true poet derives his high claims, not from accidental circumstances, or refined education, but fresh and pure from the hand of nature alone. Old maxims should be received and examined with great respect, because, what has been frequently repeated for a long period, must have been cautiously investigated, by the sifting co-operation of truth and time; but we admit the old maxim, and only rely upon another view of our situation, not inconsistent with its existence.
Poetry has been in all countries produced by leisure, retirement, and a settled state of society. Leisure induced reflection, retireinent gave thought a regulated and refined direction, and a settled state of society produced peculiar wants, demanding and encouraging intellectual amusements, to replace the anxiety of danger, or the ferocity of aggression.
In former times, agriculture and war were the chief employments of mankind : “the pomp and circumstance” of glorious contest, as then carried on, elevated the mind to high thoughts, and the domestic and natural charms of rural life, presented those sweet reflections to which refinement can add nothing, save increased skill to impart them. Learning next followed, and a very awkward appearance she made: her captives had not yet learned to trip lightly in her gyves, and the genius of the poet halted in pedantry. Time and taste, placed learning in its proper province, showing how it improved poetry, as a fine road does a rich country-creating nothing, but facilitating all.
Commerce with its changes and chances, next gave “ a deep immedicable wound" to poetry: trade in all her subdivided requisitions, called away many a fine poet to wealth and comfort, instead of condemning him to fame and hunger. Law flourished, science and certainties all bore commercial relations; and neglected poetry found mankind too busy to notice her many merits and sweet delights. Still, learning received encouragement, but it was mercantile encouragement; every exertion of the human mind was encountered on the threshold of experiment, with a commercial “cui bono ?” Such was the state of poetry and learning in England, towards the end of the eighteenth century.
Amidst this melancholy prospect for learning and poetry, there still survived a redeeming power in England, arising from the nature of rank and property, which continued in familiesand left certain classes independent of commerce. By their members, literature was either directly aided from individual application-by the means they afforded to their children-or the patronage they extended to authors. Commerce raised the value of real possessions, and by simply seeking the gains of trade, conferred an undesigned benefit on poetry and learning.
Perhaps the nature of ranks in England may have no small influence in the maintaining and promotion of poetry. It is a natural feeling of human nature to respect and look up to those who are placed above us, either by worldly state or natural talents :-to recommend ourselves to them by our best exertions, incited by the hope of gain, or the desire of distinction, is no novel course to those who reflect on human wants, or the means we exert to supply them. Excellent poetry can only be found where patronage, of some kind or other, is extended to its aid. And whether such patronage flow from public or private munificence, the effect is the same, though varying in degree.
If this reasoning is correct, let it be applied to the past and present state of our own country. Have we distinct classes, to
encourage or support an exclusive application to poetry, or even general literature? Have we colleges with appendant institutions, by whose means indigent talent may be fostered, and when matured by learning, rewarded with profit, and so expanded into utility and fame?
We have an immense commerce—the spirit of traffic pervades every thing on the face of our continent, and education is encouraged because good order and prosperity in trade call for it, as a necessary incident: Literature has a share of our attention, because by it, relaxations from the cares of commerce are pleasantly filled up. Industry, coupled with a profitable object, is the distinguishing characteristic of our people. In Holland it is fashionable to be a man of business—with us, every thing that looks like idleness, is promptly rewarded either with angry reproach, or unconcealed contempt. This is right, and it has a very salutary effect; but, like many good principles, it carries us too far. No distinction is taken between positive inexertion, and that kind of application, whose result is not ready at hand, or whose ultimate advantage is not open to the powers of arithmetic. A wealthy merchant who trades in banks or lands, ships or stocks, begins the education of his son right early, with a view to make him a lawyer, a physician, or a clergyman : he enters him at college, when a school-madam has scarcely resigned her lawful authority over him, and, after struggling a few years through languages and sciences, his education is completed with his “commencement speech," and he betakes himself “scarce half made up” to a learned avocation, with scholarship nearly sufficient to entitle him to admission into a European college. If, after a young man has shaken himself free from his professor's bonds, a love of learning leads him to a further cultivation of letters, his friends are alarmed, and a variety of gloomy opinions are given on his case—that he is losing his time that he should begin professional studies—that his learning, when commercially summed up, will fully meet the drafts of either law, physic, or divinity--and what has he to do with languages and sciences, when he has left college ? All this may be worldly wisdom--but it is very unreasonable to seek and expect grain, where the green blade has been cropped close. Why should we look for profound learning when its pursuit is prevented ? and why should we hope for poetical excellence, when the leisure by which it is cultivated and produced, is denied-by branding its votary as an idler, because he is guilty of devoting himself to one species of labour, in preference to another? It is a great mistake to suppose that poetic talent, even in natural poets, does not require studious cultivation. Pope thought differently. How great is the inequality between the early, and matured productions of the best poets ! In this view, there is nothing humiliating in a confession of the puny state of our poetical efforts :-we are not eminent in learning, nor excellent in poetry; neither do we make chronometers, fine watches, lace, and a thousand other things, which older countries produce: but we possess the means of their production, should the demands and institutions of society require and support them.
If the number and excellence of British poets declined from the ardent pursuit of trade, though cherished in academic bowers guarded by entailed possessions, and courted to exertion by the smiles of rank and the hopes of preferment and profit; surely we have no reason to hope for poetical reputation, when pressed down by a like cause, and unsustained by like institutions. Why should the same debilitating principle, which smote the poetry of England in full grown vigour with feebleness, strike health and excellence into the poetic aspirations of a new country?
The little book before us is the effort of an American lady, and as such claims our attention, while its poetic merit challenges our respect. Every man of sense and sentiment, must view with hearty satisfaction the literary improvement of the females of his country. It gives the most unequivocal testimony of the refinement of society ; because the exercise of female attainment is always domestic and social. The wisdom, wit, or imagination of man may be of unrivalled excellence and the domestic circle still share but little of their influence, in pleasure or improvement, -professional duties, abstraction, or an unamiable cast of temper, may obscure his qualities; but the business of woman is domestic duty; therefore the place of weary relaxation to men is the scene of enlivened exertion to females, and in proportion as the minds of women are neglected or improved, the society which they give tone to, must be rude or polished.
The diction, thought, and versification, display refined taste, carefully improved by education : and though the poem, taken generally, wants that interest which might be produced from a better story, and incidents more skilfully enlarged or disposed; yet as it stands, perhaps the proportionable interest it creates by the force of poetic talent alone, is more a matter of credit to the lady, than if we were surprised into applause by the novelty of the tale, or the unexpectedness and ingenuity of the incidents. The following description of a storm at Hell-gate, is natural, flowing, and forcible.
•Where Hell-gate boils with awful roar,
High forming o'er a rocky steep,