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sonably doubt how far thay have been the means of enriching, in any great degree, our stores of national poetry, or are likely to bind a wreath more permanent than that woven by the caprice of fashion, or the prevailing appetite for novelty, round the brows of the object of their patronage.
From the time that the poetical labours of Burns and Bloomfield gained for their authors that deserved popularity, to which genuine talent, wherever found, is justly entitled, various candidates for like success, prompted either by their own self-love, or by the favourable opinion of partial friends and patrons, have made their appearance; resembling the gifted writers of the « Farmer's Boy," or the " Cotter's Saturday Night," in nothing but their want of early education, and their obscure situation in life. Ploughmen, milkmaids, and other similar prodigies have thus acquired an ephemeral celebrity; and the error of these writers appears to us far more excusable than that of their professed admirers, in mis-, taking the very common disease of a love for rhyming, for that rare poetic genius which, in all ages, has been accorded only to a favoured few. Most of these have flourished their brief day, indebted for their temporary success principally to that feeling of the mind, which has been happily defined " the effect of novelty upon ignorance." We are far from being disposed to regret that such attempts should have contributed to the comforts or enjoyments of those who have made them; but every principle nf sound judgment aud impartial criticism lead us to deplore the influence which even the short-lived favour with which they have been received has had, in vitiating the taste of no small portion of the public. In opposition to the judicious assertion of an elegant writer of our own, that
"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance," an opinion has been engendered among many unreflecting persons, that the most natural and pleasing poetry is the offspring of mental powers intuitive and uncultivated; and instead of requiring that marked superiority of knowledge, which the sage in Rasselas regarded as indispensable to the formation of the poetic character, they appear to hail the existence of consummate ignorance as a happy omen of success in the votary of the muses. While such sentiments
prevail, the evil of incompetent intruders info the walks of literature will obviously be an increasing one; and the " scribimus indocti dectique" a complaint better founded than ever.
Though the author of the poems before ns is undeniably superior in correct observation, vigour of intellect, aud native talent, to many others who have come before us with pretensions of a similar description, we do not consider him as forming an exception to the general tenor of the observations with which we have introduced our notice of his volumes. We do not conceive that occasional sweetness of expression, or accurate delineations of mere exterior objects, can atone for a general deficiency of poetical language, or the indulging in a style devoid of uniformity and consistency. The Village Minstrel is the principal poem in the collection, and is evidently intended to afford a picture of the peculiar circumstances and early scenes of the author's life. To himself this topic is no doubt peculiarly interesting; and his descriptions may very probably be productive of amusement to those who are familiar with the originals. To us, however, the writer's mention of himself appears, in general, too egotistical and querulous, and the local subjects and rural amusements, whatever opinion may be entertained of the colours in which he has pourtrayed them, have not, we think, been very judiciously selected for the purpose of inspiring general interest. There is, besides, something more than homeliness, approximating to vulgarity, in many of his themes, and it must be admitted that these are described in most suitable language. What shall we say, for instance, of lines like the following? "But soldiers, they're the boys to make a
rout.'' "The bumptious Serjeant struts before his
men." "His friends so poor and clothes excessive
dear." "And don't despise your betters 'cause
they're old." "Up he'd chuck sacks as one would hurl a
stone." *' And in disgrace at last each jockey
bumps adown." "And monstrous fun it makes to hunt the
P'g> As, soap'il and larded, through the crowd
he flies; Thus, turn'd adrift, he plays them many a
«<lf heard a squish
"If nought was seen he*
squash sound.'' , . .
« While merrily the snuff irei.-** Pmcltm9
round the ring." M,.
"Yon parish huts, where want is shoi
die." "Eat it all an' she would, for she car'd not
a pin, She'd other fish frying as then."
If it be urged that such language is appropriate to the subjects treated of, we reply, that subjects to which such language is best adapted, are not those which a poet should have chosen; or, if selected for the exercise of his muse, he should have spoken of them in the dialect that " the muses love."1 When a writer who had submitted his production to the inspection of Voltaire, contended, in defence of some passage which the latter censured as low, that it was natural, the wit replied, " Avec
permission, Monsieur, mon est bien
naturel. et cependant je parte des enlottes.'"
Another disadvantage attending the Village Minstrel, is, the involuntarycomparison which it forces on the mind with the exquisite poem of Beattie; a comparison that can hardly prove favourable to the Northamptonshire bard. We do not allude to the plan of the poem, for Mr. Clare's Minstrel appears to be without any, and is composed principally of detached descriptions, most of which might change places with one another, without the reader's being conscious of the alteration. But not only in the structure of the verse, but in many imitative passages, we seem to perceive an attempt to present us in Ltibhi. with a species of travestie of our old acquaintance Edwin, and we cannot approveof the experiment. Indeed the author of the present collection seems, on more than one occasion, to have lost sight of his ground, being previously occupied by those whom he could hardly expect to displace. We could have dispensed with his verses on Solitude, after Grainger's Ode on the same subject; his " Sorrows for the Death of a favourite Tabby Cat," will hardly be sympathised in, by those who bear Gray's Selima in remembrance, and it is very unfortunate for his " Song to a City Girl," that it cannot be read without recalling to our minds the inimitable old ballad, "Oh, come with me, and be my love."
An allusion has already been made to the productions of Burns and Bloomfield. In both these writers, the defect
of early education appears to have been in great measure supplied, in the former by such natural abilities, as perhaps, with the exception of Shakspearc, scarcely any other man ever possessed; and in the latter, there is strong reason to suspect, by the refining touches 'the fostering hand, by which they , • first presented to the public. But "ere( volumes before us, the consenVnres ,"f this (lefect <"e perpetually 'I'.".!' l's l .j-'Ijeauthor seems always inclining an equal flight;
visible, capable of su and hence, il
ve meet with a passage we'arclisnosed to approve, it is fre
! w «« httraduction to speciquently but an >'^ £^
mens of the, batlios v ""- i«__„i
exceeded by the citations of the learned
XleTusnW. For example:
«0 native „».•». ■««" t0 my he,rt clings nea. "»J yovAfol boars,
Than you yeEdeL^.^yy affection.' Nought in this world w<TM'
dearer, , ^ 0^ How
Than you, ye plains o, ^
fiou-ersT1 The following verses we "Hve no hesitation in pronouncing bea\ itiful; indeed it appears to us, that th»*re are no others equal to them in the whole collection:
"I cannot pass the very bramble, weeping 'Neath dewy tear-drops that its spears
surround, Like harlot's mock'ry, on the wan cheek
creeping, Gilding the poison that is meant to
wound." But would any' one imagine, that they are almost immediately preceded, in the sainepiece, by such a line as, "Winding the zig-zag lane, turning and
turning?" Again, speaking of the lark, Clare says, "With. day-break's beauties I have much
been token, As thy first anthem breath'd its melody.'' Can there be a greater contrast, than that between the richness and force of the latter of these two lines, and the feeble vulgarity of that which precedes it?
We must likewise mark our strong disapprobation of the innovating style introduced in many parts of these volumes, by the employment of unauthorised contractions, and the use of words that have hitherto been strangers alike to our prose and poetry. Take, out of many, the subjoined specimens.
"Aud then, for sake ofs boys and wenches dear."
"And"? merry sport when hardest came
again." "And well's he knows, with ceremony
kind." "While I, as unconcern'd, went soodling
on." "He heard the tootling robin sound her
knell." "it yah set any store by one yali will." "How he to scape shooVd many a pace
beyond." We leave it to the sober judgment of our readers, to decide, whether these, though indisputable, are desirable additions to our language. We may perhaps be told, that a Glossary is annexed to the book ; but this does not alter our view of the subject. If the example of Burns. Ramsay, Ferguson, or oilier Scottish poets be pleaded, we answer, that they employed a dialect in general use through an entire country, and not the mere patois of a small district. If the peculiar phraseology of the Northamptonshire rustics is lo be licensed in poetry, we see no reason why that of Lancashire, Somersetshire, and other counties should not be allowed an equal currency; and thus our language would be surprisingly enriched, by the legitimization of all (he varieties of speech in use among the canaille, throughout the kingdom.
Our surprise is not unfrequenfly excited, by meeting with lines whose weakness can scarcely be exceeded. "As grinning north winds horribly did
blow, And pepper'd o'er my head their hail and
snow." "Last spring he was living, but now he's
no more!" The following effusions of filial affection may perhaps do honour to theheart of the writer, but certainly reflect little credit on his muse. "Bless thee, my father! thou'st been kind
to mc, And God, who saw it, will be kind to thee." "My mother too, thy kindness shall be
met, And e'er I'm able, will I pay the debt; For what thou'st done, and what gone
through for me, My last earn'd sixpence will I break with
thee." The annexed instances, as well as numerous others, of" vile alliteration," are likewise to us, who are no admirers of that figure of speech, a strong impeachment of the author's good taste. "While maidens fair, with bosoms bare,
Go coolly lo their cow#." "Now wenches listen, and let lovers lie."
Aide.' "Keep oft' the bothering bustle of the
wind." We trust our readers will readily perceive that the above strictures have not been dictated by a spirit of fastidious or splenetic criticism; they have been prompted solely by a wish to rescue our literature from the inroads attempted to be made upon it by false taste or mistaken benevolence. It is with real pleasure that we turn from this unwelcome part of our task, to point out some favourable specimens of the native talent which we have already said the author possesses, and which would, we doubt not, in other cireumstauccs than those in which he has been placed, have developed themselves to much greater advantage.
The following apostrophe possesses considerable spirit, and unfortunately contains but too much truth.
"O England, boasted land of liberty, With strangers, still thou mayst thy title own, But thy poor slaves the alteration see, With many a loss to them the truth is known: Like emigrating bird thy freedom's flown, While mongrel clowns, low as their rooting plough, Disdain thy laws to put in force their own; And every village owns its tyrants now, And parish slaves must live as parish kings allow." In his invocation to poverty, the author has evidently written from the genuine impulse of his feelings,and has embodied them in a manner that can hardly fail to excite the sympathy of every reader not destitute of sensibility. "O Poverty! thy frowns were early dealt O'er him who mourn'd thee, not by fancy led, To whine and wail o'er woes be never felt, Staining his rhymes with tears he never
shed, And heaving sighs a mock song only bred:— Alas! he knew too much of every pain, That shower'd full thick on his UBshelter'd head, And, as his tears and sighs did erst complain, His numbers took it up, and wept it o'er
again." In our opinion, however,- the writer of the present collection has excelled in his sonnets more than in any other species of composition that he has attempted. The second volume contains upwards of fifty of these short poems,
many many of which need not shrink from a comparison with the productions of Joftier bards in the same department. Our limits will not admit of extracting more than two or three among those that have struck us most: but justice to the poet requires us to observe, that several others are to bs found, not at all inferior in merit to those that we have inserted.
"Ah, when this world and 1 have shaken hands, And all the frowns of this sad life got through, When from pale care and sorrow's dismal lands, I turn a welcome and a wish'd adieu; How blest and happy, to eternal day,
To endless happiness without a pain, Will my poor weary spirit sail away, That long long-looked for « better place' to gain: How sweet the scenes will open on her eye, Where no more troubles, no more cares annoy; All the sharp sorrows of this life torn by, And safely moor'd in heaven's eternal joy: Sweet will it seem to Fate's oppressed
worm, As trembling sunbeams creeping from the
storm." "I seek for peace—1 care not where 'tis found; On this rude scene in briars and brambles drest, If peace dwells here, 'tis consecrated ground. And owns the power to, give my bosom rest; To soothe the rankling of each bitter wound, Gall'd by rude Envy's adder—biting jest, And worldly strife;—an> I am looking round For peace's hermitage, can it be found! Surely that breeze that o'er the blue wave curl'd, Did whisper soft,' thy wanderings here are blest;' How ditferent from the language of the world; Nor jeers, nor taunts in this still spot are given: Its calms a balsam to a soul distrest; And where peace smiles, a wilderness is heaveu." "The spring is gone, the summer-beauty wanes, Like setting sun-beams in their last decline; As evening's shadows, lingering on the plains, Gleam dim and dimmer till they cease to shine,
The busy bee hath humm'd himself to rest; Flowers dry to seed, that held the sweets of spring; Flown is the bird, and empty is the nest? His broods are rear'd, no joys are left to sing. There hangs a dreariness about the scene, A present shadow of a bright has been. Ah, sad to prove that pleasure's golden springs, Like common fountains, should so quickly dry, And be so near allied to vulgar things— The joys of this world are but born to die."
Several passages in the above exlracts are very pleasing, and in no small degree poetical; indeed, they must be confessed to be very superior to any thing that could have been anticipated from the limited resources and defective education of a man like Clare. So far* therefore, he is certainly entitled to praise. But we fear, when every allowance is made, that sober judges will hardly be disposed to assign these poems at the utmost, a place above mediocrity; and the elegant critic of antiquity expressly tells us,
« Mediocribus esse poetis,
Nou di, non homines, non concessere columnar."
We cannot but regret, that those who were disposed to serve the author, have not hit upon a better expedient than that of endeavouring to force public patronage in his favour, on the ground of claims which we cannot consider as established, notwithstanding the imposing assertions of an anonymous writer, in an introduction prefixed to the poems, that "Clare has created more never-dying forms in the personification of things inanimate and abstract, and has scattered them more profusely about our paths, than perhaps any poet of the age, but one." Such extravagant commendation could hardly be admitted on the mere ipse dixit, even of a judge of recognised and unquestionable ability: much less can it be acceded to on the ginttnd of unknown authority.
For the Monthly Magazine.
LETTER from NEW FUlBt'ROH. NEW HELVET1A, in Brash., by a SWISS Colonist, dated January 28(A, 1821.
IT is near two years that' I have been separated from you and my ancient country. (This was the district of Porentruy, which was taken from France, in 1815, and united to the Canton of Berne; since that event, the emigrations for Brasil have been considerable sideraMe.) If I have delayed writing, it was that I might thoroughly aseertain every point of onr situation for yon to judge of.
We are all well satisfied with our new conntry. and are treated with such liberality, that we fee! as if we had always belonged Jo it. The district is intersected with lofty mountains, with pleasant valliesbelow them : the forests are replenished with various kinds of animals, some of tliem troublesome, but none hurtful.
On arriving at our destination, Moroqneimado, we found tenements ready prepared for us, very neat and convenient. Our houses may be called the principal in New Fribnrgh, which is increasing as a settlement. Our lands are rich in vegetable productions; kidney beans and potatoes are in abundance.
The whole colony is divided into a hundred families, from fifteen to eighteen individuals each. Every farm or portion of land contains about 750 bratien (each six feet, ten inches) in length, by 300 in breadth. Besides the farms, lands are given to all who apply for them, and as many as they desire. Throughout the whole country the air is very salubrious; we enjoy perfect health', and can easily put up with the great heats, which very seldom exceed 30 degrees. They are also moderated by a gentle, fresh breeze, felt throughout the day. The temperature is never cold, and we have here only two seasons, spring and summer. The quality of the soil is excellent, three degrees wore productive than in Switzerland, and requiring infinitely less cultivation.
Potatoes, kidney beans, green and dried rice and flesh meat, with coffee, are what we chiefly live upon. Beef, well tasted, is not above 2Jd.per lb. bread 3d. (five and six sous) but in still greater plenty is hog's flesh, from Id. to ljd. per pound. W'e have no great call for wine, which sells at one livre, 10 sous a bottle; but (he wines from Madeira, the Canaries and Portugal, are very good, as is also a brandy made of the sugar-cane, and all as cheap as in Switzerland.
What has liecn circulated in the Gazettes of Europe, respecting a mortality prevalent in our establishments, is wholly unfounded. We have had a sort of sickness or disease since our arrival in the New World, But an epidemic, contracted in Holland during our loug stay there, was caught by se
veral individuals, and whole families have berome the victims of it. It was not till after some months residence in the climate of America, that the malady disappeared. It carried off about a fifth part of onr number.
We cannot too highly extol the truly pateraat conduct of the king. Our reception, by hiscommissaries,on landing at Rio Janeiro, was every way gracious: this was on the 28th of November. 1819. All that was promised on quitting our own country has been scrupulously performed. During the first year of our arrival I touched 6 franc) a day, at the rate of 20 sous per head, for my whole family. At present we have only half of that sum, but this is compensated by many other advantages.
According to this detail, which is every way consonant with fact, yon will doubtless conclude that our situation is agreeable, and leaves no wish to be gratified. One desideratum only remains to complete my satisfaction, and that is that you were one of us, to share in our good fortune, which may be truly said to be enviable. Ours is the abode of peace and conientment, with no bad neighbours to disturb us, nor any thing to interrupt our quiet, except sometimes the apes and the parrots. As to the chicanery of law and its litigations, this Is a second land of promise. No disputes here for a foot of land, much less an acre. Judges acting without pay, render justiccfo all indiscriminately whether rich or poor. We have a director and an inspector, both of whom evince the most friendly attentions towards us.
To the Editor of the Monthly Magazine. SIR,
HAVING read in your Magazine for September, 1821, (he account of the extraordinary phenomenon of a fawn's skull having been found in the solid wood of an ash-tree, I beg leave to suggest the following explanation.
It is well known that forty or fifty years ago, when timber was comparatively of little value, tenants were permitted to cut off the tops of ash-trees, for the purpose of fire wood, and that trees so cut, are called pollards; if however, the operation be not repeated, the tree will by means of what are termed its leaders, recover from the injury, the wood forming above the crown, and growing nearly straight as before; but if the pith or heart is exposed to the