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down as true and good, and being mingled with whatever was really good and true, became of more perilous malignity than the extravagances and atrocities of poetry, which too often did not even pretend to regard good manners; yet of which the greater part, preserved from the devastations of time, abounding, as it does, with faults and errors, contains lessons without number, and unequalled in form and beauty, whereby the mind may be enlarged, the noblest passions moved towards the noblest objects, and the imagination chastened by morality, clear, simple, practical, and radiantly contrasted with the complex, subtle, dark, bewildering notions of most of the philosophers.
Here I conclude this rhapsody, as some may deem it, on the pre-eminence of poetry; asking only for it that indulgence, which I should be most willing to grant, for myself, to any champion of music, painting, sculpture, eloquence, history, or philosophy, who, in this place or any other theatre where liberal sentiment may be freely expressed, should plead for the pre-eminence of his favourite art over mine.
LECTURES ON POETRY.
WHAT IS POETICAL.
The nature, or rather the essence, of poetry, I cannot define, and shall therefore not attempt it; but I think that I may illustrate the subject, and show, at least, what is poetical, by examples, which (if I succeed in making mine understood) any body may multiply at pleasure, and employ them as tests of whatever assumes to be poetry, by its structure, style, or colouring
That which is highest, purest, loveliest, and most excellent to the eye or to the mind, in reference to any object, either of the senses or the imagination, is poetical. Poetry presents the most comprehensive view of all its subjects, in their fairest shape, and most natural symmetry, after having divested them of whatever is little, mean, or unattractive; softening asperities, blending discordancés, sinking superfluities, harmonising all parts, and placing the whole in such connection, due distance, and convenient light, as shall at once satisfy the understanding with what is revealed, excite the imagination towards that which
is hidden, and prompt the curiosity to follow out all that is implied and consequential. For it is not alone the glowing images, the bold conceptions, the felicite ous language, and the sublime, terrific, or delightful emotions, with which the author captivates, enchains, or surprises, both listeners and loiterers; it is not these alone which constitute the charm, and secure the dominion of poetry. No; it is principally that secret, undefined, and incommunicable art, by which the author works at once upon the mind of the reader, and sets the reader's mind at work upon itself, with thick-coming fancies, of which those lent by the poet are but the precursors; so that the longer he dwells, and the oftener the man of right feeling returns to the strain that first transported him, after the novelty and effervescence are past, he will find his own fancy, his own affections, his own intelligence, exercised anew, and not seldom in a new way, with the theme and its embellishments; which, being nature and truth (however figuratively invested), will no more weary contemplation than the most familiar scenes of the universe tire the sight. For, if there be one characteristic of poetry which exalts it above every other species of literature, as well as distinguishes it from the most refined of manual arts, it is this,-that, whatever it may be in its essence, genuine poetry is, in its effect, the highest of all mental, imaginative, and passionate enjoyments, of which the whole process is independent of the senses. I hesitate not to affirm, that no external excitement whatever does necessarily contribute towards the pleasure derived from it, for even the metre is rather address
ed to the mind than to the ear, and is, indeed, more frequently communicated through the eye, (which, however, merely takes in the visible signs of the hidden meaning,) than either by reading aloud, or hearkening to another who reads. I appeal to those present who are most skilled in the delicacies of rhythmical periods, whether any recitation of verse, by the most accomplished declaimer, can reach the enchantment of the numbers of true poetry, which a person of fine nerve and pure taste can conceive in the silence of thought, while he looks upon the page that records them, Do not the harmonies of Shakspeare himself ring more melodiously in remembrance, than they were ever made to sound in reality from the lips of a Kemble or a Siddons ?
Truth a Test of Poetry. But I am to endeavour, by illustrations of what is poetical, to enable those who choose to follow the same course of analogy, to judge for themselves of any composition in verse, whether it can justly lay claim to the former epithet. In the first place, the test of true poetry is the test of truth itself. Two Mongol-Tartar chiefs, from the borders of China, some years ago, came to St. Petersburgh to acquaint themselves with the learning and arts of Europeans; bringing this recommendation, that they were the best and most sensible men belonging to their tribe. Among other occupations, they were engaged to assíst a German clergyman, resident in that city, in a translation of St. Matthew's Gospel into their native
tongue. This work was carried on for many months, and day by day they were accustomed to collate, with the minister, such portions of the common task as one, the other, or all three had completed; in the course of which, they would often ask questions respecting circumstances and allusions, as well as doctrines and sentiments, contained in the book, which, to be faithful interpreters, they deemed right to understand well for themselves beyond the literal text. On the last day, when the version was presumed to be as perfect as the parties could render it, the two saisangs (or chiefs) sat silent but thoughtful, when the manuscript lay closed upon the table. Observing something unusual in their manner, their friend enquired whether they had any questions to ask. They answered - None;" and then, to the delight and amazement of the good man, — who had carefully avoided, during their past intercourse, any semblance of wishing to proselyte them, — they both declared themselves converts to the religion of that book. So they proved in the sequel, but with that part of the history, though exceedingly interesting, we have not to do at present. One remark which the elder made, and the younger confirmed, has caused this reference to them. He said, have lived in ignorance, and been led by blind guides, without finding rest.
We have been zealous fol. lowers of the doctrines of Shakdshamani (the Fo of the Chinese), and have studied the books containing them attentively; but the more we studied, the more obscure they appeared to us, and our hearts remained empty. But in perusing the doctrines of