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Where dew-drops thick as early blossoms hung,
Are not the ideas as thick as the blossoms, and as brilliant as the dew-drops ?
Bloomfield has another merit; it is his own, and he deserves a statue for it. In his “Rural Tales," he has succeeded in the patriotic attempt to render the loves and joys, the sports and manners, of English peasants interesting. I recollect no poet before him, who, by a serious, unaffected delineation of humble life, as it actually exists, had awakened strong sympathy, in people more prosperously circumstanced, towards the lower classes of the community. In Goldsmith's “Deserted Village,” much entertainment is afforded, and compassion excited, by the inimitable skill and pathos of the author in displaying the characters, pastimes, wrongs, and sufferings of the natives of " Auburn :" but still the reader condescends to be pleased, or to pity; and the poet is rather their advocate than their neighbour, or one of themselves; - there is little of fellow-feeling in the case. Gay and others, who have pretended to celebrate rural swains and maidens, have always degraded them by a mixture of the ludicrous with the true, to give spirit to their descriptions; thereby making, what might have been natural and affecting, merely grotesque and amusing. I take no account here of that most artificial of all kinds of verse, while it pretends to be the most natural, — the pastorals of our earliest poets, or those of later ones down even to Pope (in imitation of very questionable models in
classic literature), and numberless Arcadian masquerades in Continental languages, full of splendid faults, which need not be either exposed or reprobated here, - I take no notice of these; they have been long and worthily exploded, as having no more reference to the state of society in this island, or elsewhere under the moon, than to the manners and customs of the inhabitants of that planet itself, if such there be. Bloomfield has done for England, what all her native bards have done for Scotland. “ Richard and Kate," “ Walter and Jane,” and “ The Miller's Maid,” therefore, are unique and original poems, which, by representations equally graphic and dramatic of what they really are, have rescued English peasants from unmerited reproach, and raised them to equality with their Scottish neighbours, whose character, in verse at least, is associated with all that is romantic in love or delightful in song,
A paragraph of description, minute and elaborate to a degree, yet expanded into such magnificence, that in its progress it fills the mind with glory as its subject does the heavens, while, being introduced as a simile, it is associated with moral sentiment of that high cast which makes “ the whole of unintelligent creation poor,”
must close this section :
6 As the ample moon,
Yea with her own incorporated, by power
It would be impossible to define the limits, or lay down the laws, of what passes in our own country under the title of Lyric Poetry. In these brief papers, there is no room to expatiate upon terms; it will, therefore, be more convenient, and quite as profitable, to elucidate this nondescript division of the subject by examples and comments, rather than by abstract disquisition. Italy, rich in
Italy, rich in every kind of poetry, except the purely descriptive, stands without rival among the nations of Europe in lyric composition. Yet, till Mr. Mathias, some twenty years ago, published six volumes of " Componimenti Lirici de più illustri Poeti d'Italia,” the names of Filicaja, Guidi, Testi, Celio Magno, and others, were scarcely known among us, while those of Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, were associated only with the “Divina Commedia," “ Sonetti,” “ Orlando Furioso," and “ Gerusalemme Liberata.” It is true that there are myriads of pieces called Lyrics in our language and every year adds thousands to the number; yet
it would be impossible to select, from all our poets of former days, half a dozen volumes of English Lyrics, in every respect equal to these. Dryden, Collins, and Gray, - nor must we forget the exuberant but almost unreadable Cowley, -stand, without question, before all other English writers of Odes, yet the whole round of their pieces of permanent and unchangeable value might be comprehended within the space of one of Mr. Mathias's little volumes; and the most acute and industrious editor might be safely challenged to compile two more, of approximating worth, out of all the works of all the dead. This is not stated to dishearten our countrymen, or to depreciate their language. Their mother tongue and their mother wit are, at least, of equal proof with those of modern Italy, and her most gifted sons. It is expressly to stimulate our living bards to study those models of lyric excellence, that I hold them so high, and would excite my contemporaries to rival and transcend them by original models of their own, of equal or surpassing grace, freedom, elegance, and energy, combining every beauty of thought with corresponding harmony of expression. All this is possible in the English language, but it has rarely indeed been accomplished. Let us briefly notice three of these great Italian masters.
Vincenzio Filicaja had drunk deeply both of the stream of Helicon, and of
66 Siloa's brook, that flow'd Fast by the oracle of God.”
The fire of the Muses, and the fire of the altar,
equally burned in his bosom, and sparkled through
. No poet ever more successfully followed the steps of the inspired prophets, in their paths of highest elevation, or deepest humility. His Canzone
* The Majesty of God," and that addressed to “Sobieski, King of Poland,” but more especially the two incomparable odes on the “Siege and Deliverance of Vienna,” (formerly alluded to) display his powers in all their splendour and perfection. There is wonderful energy and pathos in his language; and the figure of repetition, as in the Sacred Scriptures, is often and most effectively employed.
Celio Magno is one of the most pathetic of all poets. His Canzone on the death of his father, and another in contemplation of his own decease, breathe such transporting tenderness, that the mind, possessed by a melancholy more delicious than gladness, resigns itself wholly to the reverie, and dwells and dotes on chosen passages without strength or desire to leave them. Can any mortal man read such lines as the following, once only ?“ Lasso me! che quest' almà e dolce, luce,
Questo bel ciel, quest'aere, onde respiro,
Febo, o scopre per lor più Cintia i rai.” Or this apostrophe of lingering regret? « Oh 1 di nostre fatiche empio riposo,
E d'ogni uman sudor meta infelice