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Southey for instance, or Campbell, would gain much credit for making a pair of shoes, although they may be made very well considering. We hardly think the Agricultural Society, even if lord Sommerville were preses, would bestow upon Walter Scott a prize for weaving the best piece of cloth, although the “warp and woof” might be very wonderful considering. Yet let a weaver, a shoemaker, or a tailor, produce a copy of verses, and he shall find those to extol him above the best poets of the time, and to silence all objection and criticism, by referring, as an apology, to that which should have withheld him from the attempt, his ignorance and his want of education. It will hardly be supposed, that, with the recollection of Burns fresh in our minds-Virgilium vidimus—we should doubt that, from the lower ranks of society may arise a poet in the noblest sense of the word, gifted with perception, with energy, with expression, and with sentiment. But when this divine influence is either withheld, or sparingly bestowed; where the individual, with every advantage of instruction and cultivation, could not have risen above elegant mediocrity; and far more when he could never have hoped to attain even that humble pitch,--we cannot allow that the literary public can be benefited by his poetical attempts, in a degree sufficient to compensate the loss which society sustains by turning the brain of an useful peasant or artisan. It is, indeed, a peculiarity of the present time, that there are a class of subaltern literati who act as crimps for the Muses, seducing honest ploughmen from their teams, mechanics from their shopboards, and milk maids from their pails, to enlist them in the precarious service of Apollo. We wish we could consider this folly as disinterested in proportion to its absurdity; but such patrons make a stalking-horse of the protegé, tagging the poetry of the paysan parvenu with their own more worthless dicta and commentaries, assuming the airs of a Mæcenas at a cheap rate, and, under pretence of doing justice to obscure merit, intruding upon the public their own contemptible personages in the character of its master of ceremonies. It was thus that Mr. Capel Lofft contrived to ride forward into public notice on the shoulders of poor BLOOMFIELD, who was able, partly by real, and partly by adventitious circumstances, to bring his load farther than any
one durst have predicated. We do not mean too curiously to scrutinize the justice of the popularity which this worthy and ingenious man acquired by his first poem. It was written on a pleasing subject; and with just and simple description, contained some poetry, though not of the first order. Our neighbours of England gave it not the less liberal encouragement, that they might boast an heaven-born genius of their own. But there is a meagreness and poverty in Mr. Bloomfield's poetry which place him at a distance incalculably beneath the Ayrshire ploughman, though superior unquestionably to almost all the other self-taught bards of the day. His latter verses, addressed to his Mother's Spindle, intimate more power and pathos than any thing we have yet seen of his composition.
The success of Burns had the effect of exciting general emulation among all of his class in Scotland who were able to tag a rhyme. The quantity of Scottish verses with which we were in- ' undated was absolutely overwhelming. Poets began to chirp in every corner like grasshoppers in a sunshine day. The steep rocks poured down poetical goal-herds, and the bowels of the carth vomited forth rhyming colliers; but of all the herd we can only distinguish James Hogg, a Selkirkshire shepherd, as having at all merited the public attention; and there cleaves to his poetry a vulgarity of conception and expression which we greatly question his ever being able to overcome. In other respects his talents, though less noticed, are at least equal to those of Mr. Bloomfield. Bloomfield's success has had nearly the same effect in England which the celebrity of Burns produced among the Caledonians: and various self-educated geniuses have sprung forward in the race, most of them, as in the case of Bloomfield and Capel Lofft, with riders on, as the jockies phrase it. Even Pratt, dry-foundered himself, has, like the old lame Houynhynm of Gulliver, placed himself in a vehicle drawn by a certain Joseph Blackett, in order to be dragged into celebrity by the exertions of this oppressed animal. But the surprise, groundless as we think it, excited by the first instance of the kind, is at an end, when the world sees that it only requires encouragement to convert some hundred score of tolerable tailors, shoemakers,
and lamp-lighters into very indifferent rhymers;--the wonder is at an end, and with the wonder ends the applause and the profit.
The van and rear of the class of occasional poets being thus reviewed, we turn our attention to the main body. In this vast host we discover those whom reasons and feelings, as various as theirtalents, have thrown into the same studies. In the poems of Mrs. Opie and Mrs. Hunter, and especially in those of the former, we have much of the elegance, simplicity, and tenderness, which ought to mark sentimental poetry. We do not, in this excursion of the feeling or of the fancy, except grandeur of sentiment, or the ardent vigour of poetical language. It is enough that there be novelty, or at least beauty, in the sentiments, and simple elegance in the mode of expression. Yet excellence in this is as difficult to attain as the successful execution of a bolder plan. The graces of Metastasio, and the charms of the pathetic sonnets of Petrarch, are not more easily caught than the wild and fantastic beauties of Ariosto, nor even than the bold tone of the epic Muse. But, though perfection in either kind of composition may be equally difficult of attainment, the sentimental poet has, nevertheless, an advantage over his rivals. To perform exquisitely upon the flute, or upon the violin, is, perhaps, equally difficult; but tolerable execution upon the first is more pleasing, because the notes are sweeter in themselves: thus the poetry which awakens a natural and amiable train of feeling, which reminds us of the romantic sentiments of youth, and speaks to us again of a fairy-land which we had lost for years, finds in every bosom a judge inclined to receive it with favour propor. tioned to the modesty of its pretensions. This is more particularly the case, when we can discover that the heart of the poet beats in unison with his lyre. Some of Mr. Lisle Bowles's sonnets, connected with the remarkable and melancholy circumstances from which they had 'their origin, are of this affecting and interesting kind. This amiable and elegant writer greatly mistook his own genius, when he departed from a style of composition in which he had acquired well-earned laurels, to write his poem upon the “Spirit of Discovery," which is, to say the best, a very heavy production.
Among the poems which have not received their due share of public attention, we are disposed to reckon Mr. PoLWHELE's “ Influence of Local Attachment,” which contains some passages of great beauty: but its desultory plan has, probably, been unfavourable to its popularity.
We might add to this list the name of Professor SMYTHE of Cambridge, whose beautiful “Invocation to the Southern Breeze," is fresh in the memory of all readers of poetry; of Mr. MONTGOMERy, in whose productions there is often a solemn and tender pathos, peculiarly his own, and we might enumerate many other respectable names; but our plan is limited, and the lyrical bards of England are numerous as the leaves in Vallambrosa.
Some commemoration might be due to those, who, having been former favourites of the public, have decently retired from the stage, warned by increasing age, or the change of taste in their contemporaries: But to address a poet on his past fame, is like calling to the remembrance of an antiquated beauty her former conquests, and conveys rather insult than compliment. Neither are we entitled to mention those persons of poetical talent who have been content with the applause of a small circle, although this class includes the names of Mundy, one of our best descriptive poets; and of Mrs. Tighe, whose lamented death we have so recently to deplore.
We therefore close these notices, made in the spirit of kindness towards the authors mentioned, and of forbearance towards those omitted. That the list is perfect we do not pretend; yet it contains as much worth, and as much talent united, as has adorned Britain, at least since the reign of queen Anne. Nor is it our smallest boast, that the Muses have been, of late, generally engaged in the cause of virtue and morality, and that the character of the libertine and spendthrift are no longer the free quent accompaniments of the sacred name of Poet.
FOR THE PORT FOLIO. MR. Editor,
Since the mint of the United States is exclusively employed in coining half dollars, and cents, and half cents, which do not even bear a likeness of the ruling chief magistrate, much less an occasional impression of the events of his age; and contribute nothing more towards American history than the eagle and thirteen stripes upon one side, and an imaginary head on the other; permit one of your correspondents to present to the public, through the medium of your useful miscellany,
A DESIGN FOR A MEDAL
1682. The scene of West's Treaty is laid by that excellent painter (whom we are proud to own as our countryman) at Chester (then called Upland) a Swedish settlement, at which the proprietary landed in the month of October, 1682. William Penn appears in the centre offering presents to the Indian king with one hand, and pointing with the other to a map of the land he wished to purchase, in the hands of Thomas Story, the first recorder of Philadelphia; behind whom are seen James Logan, so many years secretary of the province, (founder of the Loganian Library,) and David Lloyd, some time chief-justice, who built a mansion house near this spot, which remained for half a century a place of general resort, and is at this day one of the very few memorials of those times, which the subsequent rapidity of improvement has left standing upon the banks of the Delaware. All these portraits, however, are introduced by poetic license, neither of those three eminent characters having arrived in