صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

of the human mind. It is with reference to this great, and interesting subject, that we are so deeply interested in all that concerns lord Byron, and especially in all that is recorded of him, in his biography, by Moore. We think we see in it some of the most appropriate and powerful illustrations of the adaptation of the faith of the gospel—not merely to the human mind in general—but to each of its faculties, and to each of its emotions;—to the will, the understanding, the imagination, the memory—to the hopes, the fears, the joys, and the sorrows of man. That which interests us the more in this subject, as it relates to Byron, is, that this appears to us to have been the light in which the evidences and the duties of religion could have been presented with the greatest effect to his mind; and the light in which they are calculated to produce the most salutary effect upon similar minds. It is the light also, in which Dr. Kennedy tailed to present it, though he acknowledged its great importance. Lord Byron, if we may be excused the familiarity of the expression on a subject like this, was not a matter-of-fact man, except as facts enabled him to discover and express great principles connected with the philosophy of the human mind —and therefore the argument for Christianity drawn from history and prophecy was not the one best calculated to interest and convince him. In the figurative language of his biographer, uttered on another occasion—" he delighted to wander only amid the ruins of the heart, to dwell in places which the fire of feeling had desolated, and like the chestnut tree, which grows best in volcanic soils, to luxuriate most where the fire of passion had left its mark." Now, we would fain have gone with him, having the gospel in our heart and on our lip, and as we gazed with him on such desolations, especially as they existed in his own dreary soul— we would have tried to show him, how, by the power of this gospel—

"Those ruins might be built again,
And all that dust might rise."

We would have tried to convince him how its blessed spirit, descending upon the parched soil of the human heart, like dew upon the mown grass, would make it to rejoice and blossom like the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley. Availing ourselves of that characteristic of his mind, which led him, on one of his voyages to the east, as he laid his

hand on a dagger, to wonder how a man would fee), after
committing murder;—we would have endeavored to show
him, on the principles of a just philosophy, how the powers
and affections of the mind will operate, when a man has
once repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. With
the Bible in our hands, as the foundation of our theory, we
would have tried to illustrate to him, how, by "the power of
mighty love" to Christ, the before disordered soul of man
can be made to revolve in peaceful and eternal harmony
around the centre of its affection—the sun of reason shining,
resplendent, in a clear heaven—the cool atmosphere of
chastened feelings again spreading freshness and vigor amid
the hectic workings of turbulent passion—order succeeding
confusion—and all the raging elements of the soul stilled,
like the tempest of Galilee, by the voice of Jesus. We
would have labored to convince him, that there is the same
adaptation of the "Sun of righteousness" to the mental,
as there is of the sun of nature to the natural world ;—that
when we turn from it, all is dark—and when we return to
it, all is brightness. As we beheld his soul in darkness, and
saw it well-nigh bursting with the struggling power of un-
controlled and irrepressible passion; we would have pointed
him to the sweet sentence, "Come unto me, all ye that labor
and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." We would
have said— »

"Here bring thy wounded heart,
Here tell thine anguish—
Earth hath no sorrow, heaven cannot heal."

Some of our readers may not sympathize with us, strongly, in these sentiments; but we hope there are others who will. In the language of another, we think that "we have measured our ground here, and know what we say, and whereof we affirm." It is a theme on which we dwell with absorbing interest, the more attentively we contemplate the wonderful workings of the human mind, in the exercise of its moral and intellectual faculties; but chiefly, as in the instance before us, in the play of its mighty passions. We look with hope and confidence to the time, when a system of mental philosophy, on strictly Christian principles, shall be given to the world, in which it shall be shown that the law and gospel of God can alone regulate the wanderings of mind, as the law of gravitation alone can regulate the wanderings of matter. We believe that this kind of evidence for the truth of Christianity, while it may not entirely supersede, will with many minds, far outweigh that which is historical. To assist us in our meditation upon this subject, we esteem the two volumes of Moore's Life of Lord Byron a rich store-house of illustration; and as we lay them by, for this purpose, we experience an unaffected melancholy, in the thought, that in turning them to such a use, we deduce good from that which is in itself evil, and cause the wickedness of man to praise God.

Article VII.
BRYANT'S POEMS.

Poems. By William Cullen Bryant. Boston: Russell,
Odiorne and Metcalf, 1834. pp. 240.

Poetry is as various as the characters and passions of men, and the aspects of nature. A definition can no more com- i prehend it, than a single form can shut up the spirit of life. All criticism founded on a theory must be imperfect and partial. Wherever a being exists, actuated by the thoughts and passions of man; wherever a spreading landscape, or the mighty and mysterious ocean, or the blue vault of heaven, or the stars or the clouds, are to be seen; wherever the west wind whispers, or the storm roars, or the birds sing—there are the elements of poetry. Whoever has an eye to see, and a soul to feel them—that man has the spirit of poetry. Whoever has, besides, the gift of apt and harmonious expression—that man has the poetic genius, and is the true poet. Thus poetry appears under an infinite variety of forms, and poets are naturally divided into an infinite variety of corresponding classes. The sympathies of some are stirred up only by the sight of human feelings, or by scenes in which human passions are the mighty agents; and these men delight in witnessing the collision of mind with mind, and in portraying the energies called into action by struggle

and conflict. They conceive a character, identify themselves with it for the time, place it in contact with other characters, and by the mere force of sympathy and imagination, give it the same power over other men's sympathies and imaginations, that a living man would possess under the like circumstances. This kind of talent is the most essential element of dramatic genius. There are others who delight in taking a single passion, and tracing it through all its turns and windings. They present glowing pictures of feelings or states of mind, but care little for action or dramatic representation. They are fond of speculation, and perhaps run occasionally into metaphysical obscurity. Their poetry will be more likely to reflect their own thoughts, than the images of characters which surround them. It will be more intensely individual, and narrower in the range of its themes, than the poetry of the former class. It will be less popular, but more exciting to minds of a serious cast. It will furnish food for meditation and introspective examination. It will fall in better with the humor of a mind given to solitary musings, and will be likely to cherish a sobered romance of thought, in direct hostility to the gaiety of tonish life and fashionable talk. Such poetry may be more or less liked, but it is no less genuine poetry. There are again others, whose genius is excited by odd traits of character. These are hit off by them with admirable truth, and are generally very attractive to the reader's mind. They form a class that may be designated as the humorists. They have not the severity of satire, but gain their object by lively sallies and playful exaggeration. They are poets, for they give one view of human life, by combining the scattered gleams of oddity and frolicsomeness, that glance here and there upon the surface of human existence, like occasional inbreaks of sunlight amidst the showers of an April day. Then as to the general manner or style of handling subjects, there are great diversities. The minds of some are tuned to harmony, and all subjects accommodate themselves to harmonic laws. All the phenomena of nature are described in smooth and flowing numbers. Human passions lay aside their intense exclamations, their broken expressions, their startling vehemence, and soften themselves down to the music of the poet's mind. Distorted attitudes are turned by his plastic genius into grace and dignity. The face, wrinkled and furrowed by the strong workings of stormy emotions appears no more, but in its place rises up the smooth and classic countenance, the serene brow and the waving locks of Apollo. Then come the opposite class, with whom every thing is strong, or connected with strong emotion. The feelings and passions, in their representations, spread into gigantic proportions. Language becomes nervous, bold, and sometimes harsh, under their vigorous handling. Characters are sketched rather than finished, and assume a certain vaslness and grandeur, rather than a well defined outline and an expression intelligible to all because speaking sentiments common to all. These are the Michael Angelos of poetry. They do not give pleasure to the common throng, but they inspire awe, and sometimes fill a cold and fastidious taste with disgust. Yet these are poets, and in the highest class.

There are yet others, whose taste leads them aside from the walks of men, to the contemplation of the works of nature. The seasons in their succession, night and day, the sky, the winds murmuring in the branches, the verdure of fields, the many-tinted flowers, have for them a language, inspire them with the feeling of poetry, and dictate a musical flow of "numerous verse." They look upon the inanimate works of God as on the faces of familiar friends. In the compositions of such poets there is generally a regularity of structure, a calmness and repose breathed over the sentiments, and a beautiful selectness in the language, which make them the favorites of tasteful and gentle spirits. Such, in its general character, is the genius of Bryant. His natural turn is for the calm, the subdued, the elegant. A flower is to him an animated being. He communes with it as if it had the language of consolation, encouragement, and hope. The primeval forests of our country fill him with reverence. Their solemn shades are sanctified to his mind by the presence of the Eternal Spirit. He connects them with ancient worship, and describes man as choosing them for places of prayer before the Almighty was adored in temples built by human hands. The mountains, brooks and rivers are alike his companions. Hence springs the peculiarly delightful effect of his poetry. It brings the mind to the same pleasurable state that nature herself inspires. If we ascend a hill-top, towards the close of a summer day, and look abroad over the outspread landscape, the distant village, the blue mountains in the back-ground, softened by the aerial perspective, the variety of lawn and woodland and

« السابقةمتابعة »