Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

tain to all and every known branch of dence, they prospered; and thus the science. Next, there was taught to safeguards of Protestantism against every individual of Scottish birth, in Popery proved a source of prosperity our remotest glens, much important to Scotland, and a profitable patritruth and knowledge by the perusalmony to Scotsmen. But our forefaof the Bible. That book teaches thers did not rely upon the precauthat this world was formed by a Being tions already mentioned exclusively. of boundless intelligence and power- They added political sanctions to Prothat he adorned and enriched it with testantism, apparently of the weightiest vegetation of almost boundless variety, description. and placed on it a multiplicity of When the happy event occurred animals of different kinds—that he of the arrival of William, Prince of bestowed the world, thus furnished, Orange, and afterwards in making a upon a single human family, a man treaty of political union with Engand his wife, and their descendants in land, care was taken utterly to exclude all generations—that thus we are all Popery and Papists from the posseskindred of the same blood or race- sion of political power. that, unhappily, by eating a poisonous In the claim of right (Scots Acts of fruit contrary to a divine warning and Parliament, 1689, c. 13), by which prohibition, our first ancestors inflicted the Estates of the kingdom of Scotland disease and death upon their descen- declared the crown forfeited by King dants, and, what is worse, a selfish, James, and made an offer of it to Wil. sensual, and polluted corporeal consti- liam and Mary, the nephew and eldtution, unfit for the habitation of a est daughter of the deposed monarch, pure mind—that, with boundless gene- one of the chief, or rather the chief, rosity, a high or the highest celestial ground on which the Estates proceedintelligence interfered, assumed our ed, was the attempt to which James nature, and, by suffering as a man all bad been incited by the Popish priests that man can suffer, acquired the pri. to assume absolute power, in order to vilege of defeating the effect of death establish their ascendency. The claim by means of a resurrection that in of right contains the memorable dethe mean-while he requires us to act claration, “ That by the law of this towards each other with the same kingdom, no Papist can be king or spirit of beneficence with which he queen of this realm, or bear any office acted, to cultivate the virtues that pu- whatever therein." rify and elevate the human charac- By this declaration, the Estates proter, and he threatens due punishment ceed to claim, as matter of right, that to those that do otherwise--that he certain acts complained of, including prohibits all idolatry or worship of expressly the attempt to support Posaints or superstitious observances, and pery, committed by King James, shall all reliance on any interest or influence be held illegal, and on these conditions but his own, and the instructions he the Estates offer the crown to William has given, for the safety and exaltation and Mary. of men in a future state of existence. Thereafter, in 1707, when a treaty The result has been, that when a was made incorporating the kingdoms Scotsman has met his countryman of England and Scotland, the second in a foreign land, he believed he had article of the treaty declared, “ That met an intelligent, religious, and trust- all Papists, and persons marrying Paworthy man, to whom he was bound, pists, shall be excluded from, and for and in safety, to give countenance ever incapable to inherit, possess, or and aid. This, at least, was the prin- enjoy the imperial crown of Great ciple on which Scotsmen long acted. Britain, and the dominions thereunto An infidel Scotsman was accounted belonging, or any part thereof; and a monster in the moral world, no in every such case, the crown and go. more to be looked for than a mon, vernment shall from time to time destrous birth in animal nature. Other scend to, and be enjoyed by such permen said of Scottish Protestants as

son, being a Protestant, as should have of the first Christians, “ See, how inherited and enjoyed the same, in they love one another!” – and, ob. case such Papists, or persons marrytaining trust from their countrymen, ing Papists, were naturally dead.” By they were trusted by others, and there. the same treaty, a Scottish statute inby, with the aid of industry and pru- tituled, “ Act for securing of the Pro

testant religion and Presbyterian selfishness and folly, compared with Church Government," was in the that wisdom from above, which looks treaty of union “expressly declared over this earth as a nursery-ground to be a fundamental and essential con employed in rearing immortals to their dition of the said treaty of union in all distant home in eternity, and regards time coming."

all the business, the interests, the The Scottish Act here referred to arts, and the toils or inventions and (1706, sec. 6), confirms a former Act, improvements in this life, as a mere “Ratifying the Confession of Faith, training of themselves and their de. and settling Presbyterian Church go- scendants to a high destiny hereafter. vernment, with the haill other Acts of So our Protestant forefathers thought, Parliament relating thereto, in prose- and on such principles they acted. cution of the declaration of the Estates The result was, that Superintending of the kingdom, containing the Claim Beneficence granted a visible reward of Rights." The same statute ordains, in the face of the nations. The Bri. concerning teachers or office-bearers tish nation, and certainly Scotland, in any university, college, or school, in proportion to its extent, was en“ That, before or at their admission, abled to rear what is most valuable in they do and shall acknowledge and the universe-a multitude of virtuous profess, and shall subscribe to the and enlightened minds, men active, foresaid Confession of Faith as the bold, and persevering, and humane. confession of their faith."

Above a hundred years of still aug. In consequence of these stipulations, menting prosperity, riches, aggranand of the concurrence of the English disement, and terrestrial glory sucnation in the deeply-rooted convic- ceeded, and terminated in so exalting tion, that it is impossible to conduct Protestant Britain, that although in with success the affairs of a Protes- territory and population not the fourth tant people if political power is to be of the nations of Europe, yet it rose granted to adherents of Popery, not to such a height of ascendency, that only were the doors of Parliament in the tremendous contest which endshut against Papists, but the royal ed in 1815,' the other European moline of succession to the crown was narchs generally submitted to receive altered. It was settled, on failure of the pay of Britain, and scarcely rethe issue of Queen Anne, on the fa. tained their thrones except by its sup. mily of Hanover, as being Protes- port and patronage.

The navy of tants descended in the female line Britain ruled every island and every from James VI. (1. of England), to shore of the ocean—one hundred mil. the exclusion of Popish descendants lions of people were her subjectsof the same prince, and the descend- her agriculture and every science and ants of his son, Charles I., because subordinate art were improved-her the latter, although nearer heirs, were warriors were skilful and brave ; and all Papists.

while other lands had been wasted Man could do no more; and well by contending and hostile armies, no may we talk with pride of the enlight. enemy bad encamped within her ened sagacity of our ancestors. Look European territory. back through the records of past ages,

But while the tree flourished thus and every memorial of departed time- fair, and spread abroad its branches, the ponderous magnificence of ancient a canker-worm had found access to its Egypt-the beautiful statuary and root-to that root, its Protestant chasplendid eloquence of Greece - the

the racter, to which it owed its health and military toil of the Roman legions, by beauty, of the transcendant value of which they were enabled to grind which so many in our days have apdown the nations and their own peo- peared unconscious. ple into servitude, all are mere mo

Author of 6 Political numents of superb and strenuous

Fragments, 1830."

N

NO, CCLXXXVI. VOL. XLVI,

A PROSING UPON POETRY.

If poetry has been justly described minately, and applied it to matter that as an intellectual luxury, it ought to we do not recognise as at all.poetical; be added — following out the analogy while in these later times we more implied in the expression—that it is a frequently observe a style of thought luxury very intimately connected with highly poetic brought down into the intellectual industry, and with moral prosaic form. What, then, beside the as well as mental advancement. The accession of verse distinguishes poetry excitement of mind which a great poet from prose? We answer, that poetry affords, is no bad introduction, and no has pleasure, excitement, passion, for bad accompaniment, to habits of re- a distinct, acknowledged, ultimate flection. That contemplation he in- end; and that, from this peculiarity in duces in us of whatever is beautiful its aim, arises whatever is characterisand magnificent, of whatever is ten- tic in its thought or expression. In der, passionate, and elating, in this the poem objects are portrayed, reflecwide spectacle of nature and of man, tions are put forth, for their very intrinsically delightful as it is, cannot beauty and tenderness, for the elevaend in itself, but must needs conduct to tion or even the shock and tumult of lofty subjects, and stimulate to intense mind which they occasion; for we all and gravest efforts of meditation. know that our nature delights in beThe better order of poetry not only ing roused-delights in excitementrequires a thoughtfulness in the reader, though the feeling kindled be not ex. as a prior condition of its enjoyment, actly of that class called pleasurable. but incites him also, by the hue it Other writers, indeed, share this obcasts on all things, to still further ject with the poet, but with them it is thinking: it ascends with him from subordinate, or is a means to some height to height, teaching him at each further end; with him it is an end in point gained upon the landscape, to see itself—it may be his sole end-it is with the heart also as well as with the always an avowed and admitted pureyeto see the prospect before him pose. He who, for instance, narrates not only in that truth of form and the incidents of a war to deliver a outline which the dry light of reason faithful account of it to posterity, is reveals, but also in that charm and the historian ; he who speculates on allurement of colour which it is the the causes and remote consequences office of imagination and the passions of the war to frame his science of poto supply.

litics, is the philosopher; he who apWe purpose to discourse, for a brief peals to the success of that war to space, not very learnedly or profound- stimulate his fellow-citizens to similar ly, but yet not altogether idly or un- enterprises, is the orator; if any one profitably, on the nature and scope of should depict the battle for the sake poetic literature, and on the part which of the battle itself-for the wonder may be assigned to it in the great and the passion of the scene-he is work of mental cultivation. And first, the poet. The historian seeks prein what does poetry consist ? That eminently for truth of statement; the it is distinguished not only by the philosopher generalizes on the operapeculiarity of verse or metre, but tion of causes ; the orator, practical also by a peculiarity in the cast of in his object, aims at impelling men thought, in the very substance of along a given line of action or of conthe composition, is universally ac- duct; the poet deals with his materials knowledged. As we certainly can- for the very animation and delight not, in the utmost, generosity of which the contemplation of them afour criticism, allow that verse is al- fords. It is not impossible that one ways the vehicle of poetry, so, on and the same person may, to a certain the other hand, we must frequently extent, combine the aims and qualities confess that there is much of poetry of all these writers, and be at once in compositions where no traces are historian and philosopher, orator and to be found of rhyme or metre. Some poet; and indeed it rarely happens of our earlier writers, it is manifest, that any literary composition bas, used the form of verse quite indiscri- strictly speaking, but one end in view,

and illustrates but one mode of genius, When he would teach in any thought. The work and the intellec, other mode than this—when he would tual workman, are to be classed accord: advance his great argument by direct ing to what is predominant in the appeals to reason when a desire to composition. Even the poet is not convince the understanding becomes compelled to write all poetry, and to predominant in the composition-even have no other end in view but what is Milton, greatest master of his art as distinctive of his art. He may seek he undoubtedly is, loses for a while to instruct as well as to please--he the character of poet, and lies exposed may record facts as well as invent to the censure of speaking in the manfictions_he may urge precept with ner of a “ school divine." the moralist, or assist in the exposition This, then, is the main distinction of schemes of philosophy; but still, of poetry, that its own end is answered whatever his subject, whatever the in its very beauty, or the vivid inter, class of readers he addresses, his first est of some kind which it excites. and prominent design-the end by This is the characteristic of every wbich he is to fulfil all other ends-is species-whether it be the lyric, which to delight, to move, to animate, and gives us the very rapture of the hour; occupy the heart. Unless successful or the didactic, wherein a subject not here, it matters not by what name he peculiarly exciting, and therefore not calls his composition, or in what form peculiarly fitted for the poet, is made he casts it, he is no poet; but this to engage us by the apt examples, and accomplished, the addition of didactic felicitous expressions, and collateral matter, or didactic purpose, will work topics, with which he illustrates and no forfeiture of his title.

adorns it ; or whether it be the draIt will not be inferred, because the matic, in which the artist conceals poet has this object of excitement in himself from view, and pushes before view, that therefore his verse, when us, in complete lineaments, and vivid completed, will answer no purpose but with speech and action, the various that of temporary excitement. The characters of mankind; or whether, poet is often the highest of all teachers, finally, the epic, wherein, as from the and leaves behind the most enduring very chair of poetry, the man endowed instruction. How can he deal with with all the learning of his age, and great topics-agitate strong passions with heart expanded to his theme, --provoke to deep reflection-and not rescues some great event with all its be a great teacher ? : But then, so far burning passions from the lapse of as he is a poet, his tuition lies in this, time, and tells it out to the world and that he places before us events or to. to all posterity. pics of surpassing interest, of power This peculiarity in the end of poetry to rouse the mind, to subdue it or en- will be found to lie at the basis of all kindle. He teaches as the painter and which distinguishes it as a mode of the sculptor teach, when they present writing. It is immediately connected to us scenes and forms breathing a with its form of composition; the thousand reflections into the beholder. pleasure-giving writer adds to his lanHe teaches us as nature and the world guage the studied melody of verse teach. Milton, in his great epic, pro- adds the measured cadence of metre, poses “ to justify the ways of God to or the recurrence of rhyme. This man." What graver design ?-what leads him to the construction of that purpose more profound ? But this refined poetic diction, whose character purpose is not peculiar to him; lie it is, that it presents no debasing or shares it with every divine who either disagreeable association of ideas; and writes or preaches. He is a poet in the selection of language, it induces because he performs his lofty task by him to avoid scientific, technical, or disclosing to us the very regions of merely erudite expressions, and cling Heaven and Paradise, Chaos and Tar- in preference to that verpacular diatarus-by peopling these regions with lect which carries with it more pathos, beings fitted to the climes in which as it is more closely allied to the wants they are seen to move-by making and passions of men. It is this, too, us thrilling spectators of the eventful which accounts for his more abundant history transacted in these regions, use, than any other writer, of a figuraand by those beings, so wonderfully tive style, of imagery, and allusion. portrayed, imagined, created by his All men employ metaphors and simi. les, but the prose writer more fre- which it invests with music and imaquently to illustrate a meaning, while gery.

We often hear it remarked of the allusions of the poet are more fre- a certain strain of thought, that it is quently employed to deepen an im- fit for poetry, but out of place else. pression. His object is to increase where. Now, how is this? Do those the sentiment, whatever it may be- who use this language intend to insult love, or terror, or admiration—which the poet with a privilege to be irrais due to the subject of his verse, by tional? Hardly so.

But the poet is mingling with it a sentiment of the an artist who, working in language as like nature derived from some other other artists work in stone or metal, source. Thus, to take the simplest of has it for his professed object to emall examples, a rose and the young body in his verse the various forms of damsel who gathers it are two very human thought. If, therefore, a sentidifferent objects; the one cannot aid ment is natural, pleasing, and comus in understanding the other ; but monly felt-if it takes a recognised both originate the feeling of beauty in place among the moods, or even the an eminent degree, and therefore the caprices of humanity—it is a fair topic poet, from time immemorial, has min. for poetry, though its reasonableness gled them together in his strain. He may not admit of very severe examinacontrives that they should reflect their tion. We oblige the poet, in the sen. beauty on each other.

Even impres- timents he utters, to adhere to reality sions that are but remotely analogous rather than to reason. He is bound are made to assimilate, as when the to describe us accurately ; we do not stability of the inanimate rock is in- make him responsible for the rationtroduced to the mind in connexion ality of all our sentiments. What if, with the moral constancy of some re- in the ardour of his imagination, he doubtable hero. To this play of ima- forgets, or seems to forget, some very gination there is no limit. Objects sober and undoubted truth, the oblithe most distant and various, animate vion will be pardoned him if it be the and inanimate, spiritual and material, natural result of his imaginative mood. of nature, art, or history, are all In such cases it is the poet's knowledge brought together to serve the occa- not to know. Science, for example, sions of the poet. They are assembled teaches us to regard all the events of by a word—they contribute to the the material world as linked together desired effect-they are dispersed in in an unfailing series of cause and an instant. They are presented in effect-the most vagrant and subtle of just one aspect, and that often only for the elements are reduced, we know, a moment, the very propriety of their beneath the control of a severe and im. introduction frequently depending on mutable legislation - the very wind this evanescent manner of their ap may no longer blow as it lists-and pearance. The poet's eye, in that the clouds themselves, that used to be glance of his from earth to heaven, the very playthings of chance, are fa. catches at the remotest objects, seiziņg shioned and freighted as the law directs, them in that one attitude in which they and are piloted to their destination harmonize. We must follow it with along a destined course. All nature something of the same quickness, for is bound down on her ceaseless and if we look long and slowly at the inevitable wheel. But what if the images presented to us, an incongruous poet will take a quite different view of or absurd effect may sometimes be the moving but inanimate scene ? piroduced; as we may have had occa- What if he grows indignant at the sion to observe, when some bungling bondage, at the perpetual toil and or malicious critic has first spoiled the gervitude, imposed upon all nature ? poet's allusion, by bringing it out in What if he will loose her, and have grosser characters than it would bear, her free, and will assign to the eleand then held up to ridicule his own ments a spontaneous movement, like damaged and distorted copy.

that of man? What if the summerThis peculiarity in the end of poetry cloud pauses at her own leisure on the not only justifies the musical form of mountain-top, or the “ river wanders its composition, and thus, its imagina- at her own sweet will ?"—the sentitive style of writing, but accounts, ment, though it would be quite as. also, for an especial license given to tounding and ridiculous from the man it in the very thought or sentiment of science, falls with grace from the

« ForrigeFortsett »