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seed of future evil is sown, which sooner or later will produce its appropriate fruit.
The closing scene of Mr. Wilson's life was characteristic. “The righteous hath hope in his death.' This was eminently his case. His character was the growth of years, and its Christian virtues shone forth in mild and beautiful proportions in the immediate prospect of death. We must make room for the following simple and touching narrative of his last hours :
· On Lord's-day, June 11th, he was in a very happy frame of mind, and manifested that humility and self-abasement before God, for which he had been distinguished. Another of his faithful servants who waited upon him that day said to him, . There will no doubt be many prayers offered up for you, sir, to-day. He replied— Yes, probably there will; it is very kind of them to think of me, for I am most unworthy to be remembered in their prayers. By the grace of God I am what I am. He was much affected, and immediately after repeated with great feeling that verse of a well-known hymn which expressed his dying experience, that Christ is All.
• Other refuge have I none,
· Being reduced to a state of extreme debility, he was unable after this day to hold much communication with those around him. On the morning of the 14th, on going to his bed-side, he warmly took my hand; I said to him, referring to Psalm cxvi. 6, My dear father, you are brougbt very low, but God will help you.' He instantly replied, quoting the words of Samuel, 1 Sam. vii. 12, Hitherto he hath helped me;' thus erecting on his death bed, amidst the helpless infirmity of his animal nature, his last Ebenezer, bis dying testimony to the faithfulness of that God who was a very present help, even when heart and flesh were failing, and to whoin he could even then look, as the strength of his heart and his portion for ever. Having obtained help of God, he had continued unto this day, nearly the last day of life; and the God whom he had long served in health and vigour did not forsake him now that his strength was altogether failing. He who had been the guide of his youth continued his guide even unto death, and his God for ever and ever.
On the day following, the pain ceased-mortification having commenced. Of this, I apprehend, he was aware. When I inquired how he felt, on my first seeing him after this fatal symptom had supervened, he made some remark, the meaning of which I did not exactly perceive at the time; but I have since been led to suppose that he meant it as an intimation that now the struggle with pain was over, and the bitterness of death had ceased. He soon after sank into a state of lethargic torpor, in which he continued for some days, with only occasional, but very transient intervals of apparent consciousness. I have therefore no death-bed sayings to record ; but happily we needed no solemn testimony or renewed assurance from his dying lips, to the truth and efficacy of those evangelical doctrines and principles to which his whole life had borne witness.
During the two or three last days, although he continued with us, we were withdrawo from all sensible cominunication with him, and to all appearance he was, except during momentary intervals, cut off from all communication with the external world. But although we could hold no farther intercourse with our beloved and venerated relative, he was not alone ; for his heavenly Father was with him. Underneath him, even while the outward man was perishing,' were the everlasting arms. He died in faith. The life which he lived in the flesh had been by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him, and he died a believer in Jesus.
• My beloved and venerated father quietly fell asleep in Jesus, and entered into his heavenly rest shortly after midnight, June 17th, 1843.'--pp. 524—526.
In the event of a second edition we respectfully counsel the author to diminish the bulk of his volume, by omitting some portions which are not needful to the elucidation of his father's history or character. Much of the earlier chapters may be escluded with advantage; as also the Margate voyage, the Hampshire journey, and many of the extracts from popular works, taken from Mr. Wilson's memorandum book. We also except, —and solicit the writer's special attention to this point-the propriety of enumerating the minor contributions which were made by his father. There is an appearance of labour in the getting up of this part of the narrative which savours of display more than of usefulness, and which therefore militates against the beneficial tendency of the volume. The enumeration of such gifts is not needful for the illustration or enforcement of any principle, whilst it wearies the reader, and renders less attractive than might otherwise be, the book in which it is contained.
Art. 1V.-Poems. By Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, author of The
Seraphim,' &c. In Two Volumes. London : Edward Moxon.
People have often asked, "What is poetry?' and have received replies more obscure than the inquiry — replies, that remind us of William Penn's test of the wisdom to be gleaned from asking questions, ' That, friend, is as the answers may be. We shall not attempt any solution of the question, • What is poetry ?' considered as a demand for definition. In that sense it has received one or two replies which the world will not easily see amended-and, as to present use, the faculty to apprehend a definition is not always a concomitant of the power to appreciate that to which it refers. But, to draw our remarks into a circle, by ending where they began; as Sir Walter Scott made it the test of a truthful painting, that it excited in its beholders emotions similar to those which the objects it sought to represent would call up, so we appeal to all thoughtful and feeling minds, by the emotions these volumes awaken, whether they be not poetry.
The varied opinions formed of Miss Barrett - the contrast between the degrees assigned to her on the scale of excellence, reminds one of what is said by John Foster, in his Journal, about truth,—that she may be likened to a beautiful statue seen by a crowd of spectators at many different angles and distances, and therefore appearing to each one differently to all the rest. In order to come near enough to what we would rightly behold, let us consider the aspect under which their author presents these poems to us; let us examine the preface; if it be true to its idea, that is a part which in no work should be overlooked, especially where, as in this case, it is the truthful voice of the writer—the very key to the objects and aims of the after pages. Listen, now, to what they are; of her expressed design in individual poems we may speak when we consider them. Now hear the views with which, as a poet, she speaks to the public :
• If it were not presumptuous language on the lips of one to whom life is more than usually uncertain, my favourite wish for this work would be, that it be received by the public as a step in the right track, towards a future indication of more value and acceptability. I would fain do better,—and I feel as if I might do better : I aspire to do better. It is no new form of the nympholepsy of poetry, that my ideal should fly before me; and if I cry out too hopefully at sight of the white vesture receding between the cypresses, let me be blamed gently if justly. In any case, while my poems are full of faults, as I go forward to my critics and confess, they have my heart and life in them,- they are not empty shelled. If it must be said of me, that I bave contributed immemorable verses to the many rejected by the age, it cannot at least be said that I have done so in a light and irresponsible spirit. Poetry has been as serious a thing to me as life itself; and life has been a very serious thing: there has been no playing at skittles for me in either. I never mistook pleasure for the final cause of poetry; nor leisure, for the hour of the poet. I have done my work, so far, as work-not as mere hand and head work, apart from the personal being, but as the completest expression of that being, to which I could attain, and as work I offer it to the public,-feeling its short-comings more deeply than any of my readers, because measured from the height of my aspiration,—but feeling also that the reverence and sincerity with which the work was done, should give it some protection with the reverent and sincere.'—p. xii.
We feel that this preface spreads an Ægis over its writer; criticism, at least, may not touch her. We are, indeed, deeply moved, as the image glides before us of the solitary poetess, the love of her glorious art rising above her weakness and her weariness, 'as a flame, tempest swayed,'—forgetting completely the toil of the way in its inspiring end, as the Persian Prince, for that his heart was full of the lady of his love, overlooked that it was a path of gold he trampled, in bounding to her. Well may we resolve against our indolence when we remember Elizabeth Barrett Barrett. We think upon the peaceful people whom warriors left unconquered because they could not fight where there was no resistance ; of Cour de Lion saying, as he turned his weapon from the Knight of the Leopard, 'I cannot strike one who neither trembles nor strives;' of virgins unharmed by lions in their hunger; of Una, safe in her wanderings; of all images that figure to us the might of gentleness, the greatness of humility, as we read this aspiration and appeal. We must say one word on the allusion they contain, -and which is repeated in several of the poems,-to a circumstance necessary to be considered in forming a right appreciation of them, – the impaired health of the writer. There are few entirely unqualified to estimate how a weakened frame restrains the flights of mind; how thoughts, amid which, at other times, she moves as in her home, seem then to elude her grasp, or to stifle her with their greatness; to be unwieldy when she would pour them into the mould of language, and intangible when she would array them as a defence. Then, our very earnestness of desire to alter the exact idea, seems to call up a cloud of words that mock us, and we can only make our conception visible by marking off, as it were, what does not belong to it, that so the dweller within the boundary line may rise upon the thought of the reader. In carefully considering these poems, not abstractedly, but as a true reflection of the mind of their author, it appears to us, that their having been wrought through a mental strength somewhat borne down by bodily weariness, will explain, and win forbearance for those passages, which, compared with happier parts, seem laboured or perplexing. We do not forget that there are times when illness repays for long exhaustion, by intervals of power; when it seems to loosen instead of tightening the bonds of the flesh, and through the attenuation of the tenement, the spirit takes a wider range beyond it, when the power to embody waits on the power to conceive,—when words are warmed through with the sunshine of feeling, and the felicities of language weave a transparent garb for the subtle thought. It is part of the law of compensation, and of such bright seasons these volumes afford proof; yet they may claim forbearance even while they command admiration, for the weight of indisposition is daily felt, and its periods of expansion are rare. We repeat, the strength of the mind is here far more striking than the weakness of the body; yet these volumes may be considered a remarkable physchological phenomenon as truly as Mozart's ‘Requiem,' or Mrs. Hemans's 'Antique Greek Lament. We cannot leave this subject without remarking the pure, vigorous, and cheerful tone of thought which distinguishes them. There is no repining; life, whether a sad or joyous season, is spoken of as given for exertion whose results end not with time,-nay, as being cheered by the toil that ennobles it, or, better still, as passed in peace through Him whose it is. If we are perplexed in choosing passages in proof, it is by their number, not their rareness. Perhaps we do not select the best evidence, but enough is found in this noble Sonnet on Work:
tie, vigorous here is no given forheered
• What are we set on earth for? Say, to toil.