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the secrets of the universe must confess, “there was the hiding of his power;" the veil behind which HE retires from mortal scrutiny " Whose throne is darkness in the abyss of light,
A flood of glory, which forbids the sight;" — while yet it shines to the lowest soundings of the sea, throughout the infinite of space, and into the heart of
Thus, not from what they appear, but from what we know that they are, or believe them to be, we look upon these “ lesser lights,” which require darkness to reveal them, and in return render midnight more illustrious than noon-day, - we look upon these with a delight which purifies, and almost spiritualises, the senses themselves, as the vehicles of such unearthly revelations. Then, with a meaning more emphatic than the author of the apostrophe himself contemplated, we join our voices with his, in crying,
“ Ye stars, which are the poetry of heaven !". But in touching “ the lyre of Heaven,” (to borrow the happy figure of a living poet, in reference to the discovery of the planet Herschel,) there is yet another note — a key-note, which, with its chords, embodies the harmonies of all created things, whether visible or invisible, whether they belong to the material or the spiritual world.
The sun shining in his strength, the moon walking in her brightness, the stars revolving in their ranks, may all be withdrawn from the scene, and leave heaven empty, — yet then will be presented to the
eye and to the mind, the sublimest spectacle on which the one can look or the other can meditate. There is a brief interval between the first peep of dawn and the flush of morning, when it is no longer night, and yet not day, but akin to both.
Who hath not seen (in boyhood at least), when the moon has gone down, the last star disappeared, and the sun is unrisen, — the deep blue firmament, without a shade of cloud, or a luminous speck to soil its ineffable purity ? Who has not seen it swelling from the ring of the horizon into boundless amplitude above,
deepening in tone as it rises in elevation, till at the zenith its intensity of colour defies the search of human optics ? The longer we gaze, the less we discern; space, infinite space, recedes, and recedes, and recedes, leaving perfect conviction that we might follow it for ever, yet never reach the roof of that vault, which, to a superficial glance, appears as solid as adamant, and as palpable as the surface of a molten mirror. Then, though no spectacle can be more august and magnificent, none can be more simple and unique. Form, colour, magnitude, all meet in the eye at once; and the image is so entire, that nothing could be added or subtracted without dissolving the whole.
Yet, all this while, we know that it is not what it first appears, — an arch of sapphire; nor what it afterwards might seem, — unoccupied, unpeopled nonentity. The mind goes to work, and, in the absence of every phenomenon that could aid imagination -from memory alone - it arrays that hyaline above in the beauty of morn, the glory of noon, the pomp of
evening, and the diversified phases of night; it darkens the vault with clouds, rends it with lightning, shakes it with thunder, deforms it with tempests; or brings forth, in season, rain, hail, and snow, vapour, and mist. But recollective imagination rests not here, in realising things unseen. All “ the poetry of heaven," of which the stars are the symbols, is perused and enjoyed even to transport, in contemplating the clear, blank, beautiful expanse, -worlds, suns, and systems, numbers without number, pour into being, as they came into it, at the word, “ Let there be light.” We know that the whole material universe does verily exist within that seeming void, which we are exploring, at the same instant, with the eye of the body and the eye of thought.
Yet more, much more, than this is included (inevitably included) in the association of ideas awakened by the silent, solitary firmament. We feel that all the invisible world of spirits, disembodied or pure, - I say feel, because, abstract them as we may, every idea we can frame of spiritual essences will be crudely material,- we feel that all these must be somewhere within that impenetrable veil, which is itself the only perfect emblem of eternity, and is eternity made visible. But I dare not pursue the flight further! I must not presume to spy out “the secrets of the desolate abyss," or,
“ with the deep-transported mind, to soar Above the wheeling poles, and at heaven's door Look in."
It is enough to have pointed out the way, which
those of my auditory, who have nerve and power enough, may trace to infinity. Such, I am persuaded, will be more and more satisfied with this conclusion, which I would draw from the whole of the antecedent examples: - It is the nature of poetry, and the office of the poet, from things that are seen to disclose things that are not seen. And hence, to every subject that can be the theme of true poetry, the language of Scripture (neither irreverently nor inappropriately) may be extended; "the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” For those objects which, by near contact, strongly affect the senses, are the realities of mortal life; which either perish in the using, or from which we ourselves must perish, and see, know, suffer, or enjoy them no more for ever. Yet the same objects, when removed to that due distance, which clothes them with picturesque or poetical beauty, by being thus made ideal, are made immortal, and of the nature of the thinking principle itself, which,
“ secured of its existence, smiles
The Poetical in Childhood and Old Age. To come home to our own bosoms and personal experience. I have said, that there is much, very
much, of what is poetical even in ordinary life. Of this, Hope and Memory constitute the principal elements; and these, for the most part, are exercised in reference to age before it arrives, and childhood when it is past,
6 Till youth's delirious dream is o’er,
Sanguine with hope, we look before,
when error charms no more, For bliss we look behind.” There is this difference between rational and brute beings,-that the latter live wholly to the present time and the present scene ; and it is only under peculiar excitement, when separated from their young, hurried on by the impulse of appetite, or suddenly removed to a strange place, that they seem conscious of any objects but those around them, and which press immediately upon their senses. They do not spontaneously call up recollections; the past, the absent, and the future, are alike forgotten, unregarded, or unknown. But man, endowed with intelligence, lives, in the present time, chiefly as a point between that which is gone by, and that which is to come ; and in the present scene, chiefly as the centre of what is around him. He looks behind and before, above and beneath, and on either hand : but at different stages of the journey of life, his attention is more especially attracted in contrary directions.
The infant, so soon as it begins to think and reason, looks wholly before it, in the pursuit of knowledge and power, while desire increases with what it feeds upon, and hope grows out of every indulgence.