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of honor, and consists in ornaments of silver and gold, in the stars and grang crosses of nobility, or in the amusements by which men are charmed into submission. We may, then, say, though in a different sense from the origi nal, “ Amusement is the happiness of those who cannot think.” But in what does the strengta of liberal governments consist? In something of far higher authority than the will of any mortal; in something more ennobling than all other honor; in the only true divine right of savereignty, the virtue of the people.
This is a strong foundation; but is it not one which is more to be desired than expected ? It is little to the honor of human nature that the principle of fear has been found to have a more powerful influence than the principle of virtue. Such has been the case; and liberal principles, from the want of power to preserve them in their purity, have too often produced effects which it seemed contrary to their nature to produce. Though they may be beneficial to themselves, they will be corrupted, unless there is that degree of intellectual and moral cultivation in the community which we are not justified in expecting. It is true, that there is little hope of virtue and learning among a people without liberal irinciples to encourage and support them. Some portion of freedom is certainly necessary before virtue can be expected to display herself, and exert her influence openly, and before the mind can exercise to advantage the faculties with which it is gifted. But does it follow that this liberty will always reform a community ? Liberal principles may be adopted too suddenly, before the character of a people is prepared for them, and then, while they produce not the happiness which they otherwise would produce, will create anarchy or oppression.
Thus it appears that some information and virtue are required for the protection of liberty. But, when frve principles are established, and they are producing contentment, virtue may not be secured, may not be pre served. All the effect which fear has over the mind is removed, and the faculties are roused to life and exertion from a state of tranquillity, but a tranquillity like that of the tombs. To escape from the terror of despotism, is a blessing; but there is danger of the slavery of vice. Virtue is, indeed, encouraged by liberty to come forward to the
light, and to exercise herself for the benefit of man; but vice meets with like encouragement, and will readily seize its opportunity to gratify itself, and to exert its corrupting influence.
The unfortunate terminations of many revolutions in favor of liberty, are to be found in the want of virtue and knowledge among the people, who are consequently incapable of governing themselves.
Since, then, liberal principles have been so constantly abused, unless the people are, in a high degree, virtuous and enlightened, we must look for strength to the checks provided against the abuse of power in the separate departments of government; not to the agreeable, though poisonous prin ciples of liberty, but to the antidote which is constantly administered against thuis wangerous effects.
Disputations are exercises in which parties reason in opposition to each other on some question proposed. They are verbal contests respecting the truth of some fact, opinion, proposition, or argument.
As literary exercises, they are principally of two kinds, Phi. losophical, and Forensic Disputations.
Philosophical Disputations are those in which some philosophical fact, principle or theory is discussed.
Forensic Disputations are those in which some legal, moral or political subject is argued.
OF A FORENSIC DISPUTATION.
Whether Popular Superstitions or Enlightened Opinion, be most favorable
to the growth of Poetical Literature. Fable and superstition form so large a part of the ground-work of ancient poetry, and are so intimately connected with that of all succeeding ages, that a partial investigation of this subject might lead us to very erroneous conclusions. From the bare consideration of this fact, we might be induced to give assent to that opinion, which would make superstition indispensable to the production of poetry, and which would thereby confine its progress to a certain period in the civilization of the world. We might as well, however, consider the dross as a constituent of the virgin gold, as suppose that the imperfections and errors connected with poetry were essential to the divine art.
Homer has left a monument of genius which will be read and admired by remote ages yet to come; but will it be looked upon as one of those prodigies of former times, the history of which alone remains to them, for which, in their time, they can find no parallel or counterpart? Will, then, his poetry be viewed as the production of an art peculiar to former ages, but in those times unknown; a shadow, an illusion, which has vanished before the increasing light of civilization; or will it not rather be admired and venerated, as one of the earliest fountains to which posterity can trace the magnificent stream, which, in their age, may be extending its healthy and invigorating influence through all the channels of society? Yet the idea that superstitious opinions are essentially important to the production of poetry, would exclude the possibility of any great progress in the art. Since error must gradually disappear before knowledge and civilization, and since superstition must vanish wherever Christianity sheds its blessed influence, it follows, that poetry must, some day, in the progress of the world, be seen in the decline. The possibility of this, we should be un willing for a moment to admit. Poetry is not the peculiar characteristic of a rude and imperfect state of society; it is not a plant which can thrive only in the soil of ignorance; on the contrary, an art
, which I do not say: keeps pace with the improvement of society, but is destined rather to precede it; to be, as it were, man's GUIDE to indefinite advancement. In proof of our position, we need only refer to the elevating influence of poetry itself an influence admitted by all, and one which every breast has more or less experienced. The poet's influence is through the feelings, and, as man kind in their nature have been, and always will be, essentially the same the true poet, in the exercise of his profession, has the key to the sensibili ties and affections of his fellow-men; when he touches the strings of his lyre, it is only to produce those notes with which every bosom throbs is unison. It becomes, then, an easy task for him to instruct and to elevate, to call man away from the absorbing influence of worldly passions and pursuits, to a view of what is most elevated in his own nature, and most noble in the creation around him, to wean him from the present, and fit him for the future. This exertion of a refining and elevating influence is a pre rogative of the poet admitted by all; but must, we also believe, that, when he is most successful in his glorious office, he is at the same time dimin ishing the power and will in his fellow-men to appreciate or countenance his works.
The poet's peculiar liberty and privilege is to give free wing to his imagination; a liberty allowed by every one. In poetry, indeed, we look for fiction, though its legitimate object be truth. Popular superstitions, therefore, afford an easy and ample subject for the poet's pen, and always must, to some degree, enhance the beauty and attraction of his works. For what are popular superstitions but the dreams of the imagination perhaps the fantasies of the poet's own brain? It is asserted by some writers, that the Greeks were indebted for their mythology to the writings of Hesiod and Homer; that their religious notions were vague and unsettled until the fertile imagination of their poets devised for them a system of worship. Indeed, we may safely believe, that a great proportion, if not most of the superstitions, which have prevailed in the world, have sprung into existence at the poet's calling. When this is not the case, they owe their origin to the disordered imagination of some less-gifted mind. From the wonders and beauties of nature, then, one of the poet's most fertile themes, he can no longer receive inspiration, when the float ing visions of superstition no longer surround them; when belief in that which ignorance, or the fancy of former poets, has generated, has been resigned for more rational opinions. The genius of poetry forbids such a sentiment. Does the flower which has blossomed and faded from the creation become destitute, in the poet's eye, of poetical associations, be cause he cannot credit the imaginative belief of ancient bards, that Flora has it in her care, while the sporting Zephyrus fans its petals, parched by the mid-day sun? Is the distant planet less worthy a place in the poet's thought, because its secret influence, whether good or evil, can no more be credited ? Does “old ocean” lose any of its sublimity, because it is no longer, even in the poet's mind, peopled by the Tritons, Nereids, and father Neptune? Such, and like notions, were the theme of ancient poets and their countrymen gave willing credence to their tales. The modern bard might as well stalk the streets in the toga and the buskin, as bring
into his lines the dreams of heathen mythology. Yet he is not circum•cribed by narrow bounds, because he may not follow, in the regions of imagination, the wild excursions of the ancients, or because his own light fancy may soar no higher than less active reason can accompany her.
The true poet, so far from requiring, will decline the guidance or dictation of his predecessor. It is his office and his pride to present his subject in a novel and interesting view; to shed upon it new light, and invest it with additional attractions. If we admit this, we need have no appre. hensions that the muse will be invoked in vain, though she may not ha courted, as in former days.
We would not willingly detract from the merits of ancient poetry, or that of any bard that has yet dawned upon the world; but as we would not limit the progress of any art or science by the advancement which they may have reached in former times, so we would not circumscribe the “divinest of all arts ” within the narrow boundary of a few centuries in the world's infancy.
Whether Popular Superstitions or Enlightened Opinion be most favorable
to the growth of Poetical Literature. “Good sense,” says Coleridge, " is the body of poetic genius, fancy its drapery, motion its life, and imagination its soul,” -— and it is the remark of one who had learned to analyze with exactness the feelings of the poet. Let us see how well examination justifies the definition. We may consider the subject under two heads :- 1st. Do superstition and enlightened opinion united promote poetical literature ? 2d. If they are not capable of being thus united, do our ordinary occupations promote that literature ?
The first point we shall not strive to establish. Popular superstitions are very few at the present day. Intelligence is widely diffused ; books and readers are multiplying, and enlightened opinion is setting up a very wide dominion. It is now thought impossible for superstition and educa tion to exist together. Then are our ordinary occupations, in the second place, favorable to poetical literature ? Admitting that enlightened opinion is gaining the ascendency, let us see whether it favors the imagination, - whether a prevailing shrewdness, and the common affairs of life, are sufficient, without the aid of superstition, for poets and novelists.
Life is made up of realities; our wants, though continually supplied, are continually to be supplied. The atmosphere of the world is the chilling atmosphere of reality, exertion, and disappointment. There is little poetry in common life; little poetry in unrewarded exertion, or unde served oppression, or disappointed ambition. Yet these make an essen tial part of life, and they are precisely what give such a matter of fact, anpoetical tone to most minds. How many feel, as they follow where their duties direct them, any thing of poetry or romance ? Are not all disheartened at times by the plain realities of their lot? Notwithstanding many happy connexions, we sometimes feel ourselves, both as individuals and nations, too much féttered, and want something to delight and en noble, as well as keep us alive." This deficiency is supplied by the emo wions springing from popular delusion; which, stealing like a mist over
the picture oefore us, softens the whole landscape. The restraints of society may fetter poetic genius, but the vision and the faculty divine cir cumstances cannot entirely repress; whenever it is curbed by the world popular superstition frees it from its bondage, and kindles again the trampled spark.
What we degrade as superstition, is, in truth, the very soul of poetry, and no more separable from it than soul from body. It may fail of ita object, and make gross what ought to be pure, but the spirit that would condemn superstition on such grounds, would spurn a picture of the Madonna because the same pencil might have delineated a vixen. Super. stition springs from the imagination and fancy; poetical literature is directly addressed to these powers of mind, and cannot flourish without them. Philosophy and history are not dependent on them; if they state facts, and draw just conclusions, their ends are attained. Superstition, or the contrary, is an embodying of the grand, the tender, the terrific, as suits the mind, - the creating, as it were, a world of passions and percep tions too spiritual for common life, and yet too natural not to be exercised Now, is not all this poetry in its true sense?
Every imaginative or superstitious nation has abounded in poetical literature. Their peculiarities of thought assist the author, besides culti vating the taste and exercising the imagination of the reader. The success of modern poetic literature, notwithstanding our want of superstition is not unfavorable to this view. A change has been effected in this kind of writing corresponding to the extension of education. The novelist now draws from human nature rather than superstition; formerly materials were abundant and fanciful, but they were not employed with discretion Perhaps the magnificence of Milton will be adduced as an instance of no superstition in the author, and requiring none in the reader. But Miltons adorn every age. Milton's poetry has been compared to the ocean; and although the ocean is sublime in its own native grandeur, yet the beauty of the inland stream the lesser poetic strain — is increased when it sounds through the hidden ravine, and is overshadowed by the dark foliage of superstition.
Observe the untutored inhabitants of the mountain, -- where the link is shortest between nature and nature's God, — where every cliff is invested with some popular legend, and every valley and lake and hill-top may tell some tale of fancy, some dreaming of speculation,
observe these, as they pay there the vows of a wild superstition, and do you not contemplate the very essence of poetry? Is there no poetry in superstition? Then bid Macbeth and Hamlet be forgotten, and consign“ the Wizard of the North” to an unheeded tomb. Call the dreams of his fancy the follies of disease, and pity them. If we deny the poeticai nature of superstition, what shall be said of those places where the genius of Scott has revelled till it has hallowed the very traditions of ignorance? Can we make powerless the wand which, in Shakspeare's hand, called the murdered to the banquet, harassed the guilty conscience, and urged the ir resolute to revenge?
A good proof that mere enlightenment does little for imaginative writers, may be found in this country. We are wanting in popular legends, and, be it said with deference to wise opponents, wanting in poetical literature. Our poets and novelists are few, and feel too little the inspiration of an American home. Our national character may be the better for this ; but our pursuits have made us, as & people, vastly unpo