« PreviousContinue »
beaten shore when a galley with full sails swept along the foaming tide, and impressed upon the tablet of his heart a perfect picture of majesty and grace-that he should have witnessed the tear of agony exchanged for the smile of hope, and acknowledged-feelingly acknowledged, how blessed are the tender offices of mercy-that he should have heard the cry of the oppressed, and seen the breaking of their chains, with the inmost chords of his heart's best feelings thrilling at the shout of liberty-that he should have trembled beneath the desolating storm, and hailed the opening in the tempestuous clouds from which the mild radiance of returning peace looked down-that he should have bent over the slumbering infant, until his imagination wandered from the innocence of earth to the purity of heaventhat he should have contemplated female beauty in its loveliest, holiest form, and then by a slight transition, passed in amongst the angelic choir, and tuned his harp to celebrate its praise, where beauty is the least of the attributes of excellence-in fine, that he should have bathed in the fount of nature, and tasted of the springs of feeling at their different sources, choosing out the sweetest, the purest,
and the most invigorating, for the delight of mankind, and the perpetual refreshment of his own soul.
As in society it is impossible to know whether any particular language has been learned until we hear it spoken, so it would be difficult to single out individual instances of the existence, or the absence of deep impressions; because, a mind may be fully endowed with this first principle of poetry, and yet without the proper medium for making it perceptible to others, we may consequently never be aware of the presence of such a capability even where it does exist. It will, however, eminently qualify the possessor for feeling and admiring poetry, and thus it is but fair to suppose, that there are many individuals undistinguished in the multitude, who possess this faculty in the same degree as the most celebrated poet, but who for want of some or all of the three remaining requisites, have never been able to bring their faculty to light. Where, amongst the four requisites for writing poetry, this alone is wanting, however highly cultivated the mind of the writer may be, and however mature his judgment, this single deficiency will have the effect of rendering his poetry monotonous and
unimpressive, even where it is, critically speaking, free from faults; because it is impossible that he should be able to convey to others clear or forcible ideas of what he has never felt clearly or forcibly himself. Dr. Johnson was a poet of this description; and on the other hand, instead of pointing out instances, we have no hesitation in asserting that every man who has written impressively, ingeniously, powerfully, and with good taste, has been possessed, in an eminent degree, of the faculty of receiving and remembering impressions.
IMAGINATION is the next qualification essential in the poetic art. As a faculty, imagination is called creative, because it forms new images out of materials with which impression has stored the mind, and multiplies such images to an endless variety, by abstracting from them some of their qualities, and adding others of a different nature; but that imagination does not actually create original and simple ideas, is clear, from the fact that no man by the utmost stretch of his rational faculties, by intense thought, or by indefatigable study, can imagine a new sense, a new passion, or a new creature. Imagination, therefore, holds the same relation to impression, as the finished picture does to the separate colours with which the artist works. Judi
ciously blended, these colours produce all the different forms and tints observable in the visible world; and by arranging and combining ideas previously impressed upon the mind, and shaping out such combinations into distinct characters, imagination produces all the splendid imagery by which the poet delights and astonishes mankind. When he describes an object new to his readers, it is seldom new to himself, or if new as a whole, it is familiar in its separate parts. If for instance he sings the praises of maternal love, he refers to the memory of his own mother, and the strong impression left upon his mind by her solicitude and watchful care-if the song of the nightingale, he recalls the long summer nights, ere forgetfulness had become a blessing, when to listen was more happy than to sleep-if the northern wind, he hears again the hollow roar amongst the leafless boughs, that was wont to draw in the domestic circle around his father's hearth-if the woodland music of the winding stream, he knows its liquid voice by the rivulet in which he bathed his infant feet-if the tender offices of friendship, he has enjoyed them too feelingly to forget their influence upon the soul