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Classification-Poems relating to the Passions or the Affections,
Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, by Pope-Cowper's Lines on the Receipt of my Mother's Picture-Burns's Cotter's Saturday NightReflective, Meditative, and Semi-Didactic Poems—Sir Walter Raleigh -The Soul's Errand-Byrd's My Mind to me a Kingdom Is—Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, by Byron-Shelley's Queen Mab—The Revolt of Islam-William Cullen Bryant's Thanatopsis-J. G. Holland's Poems -- Bitter-Sweet Kathrina - Keble's Christian Year - Robert Browning's Poems-Christmas Eve--Easter Day-Prospice--Imagi. native Poetry-Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis and Rape of Lucrece
-- Byron's Don Juan-Coleridge-Kubla Khan—The Cloud—To a Skylark - Shelley — Alastor; or, the Spirit of Solitude - Keats's Hyperion-Edgar Allen Poe—The Raven-Annabel Lee-William Cullen Bryant—The Land of Dreams—Browning and TennysonAlgernon Charles Swinburne-Garden of Proserpine--Walt Whitman-Humorous Poetry-Qualities of Wit and Humor-Miscellaneous Humorous Poems—John Gilpin-Burns's Tam O'ShanterThe Rejected Addresses, by James and Horace Smith—The Ingoldsby Legends—Thomas Hood—Thackeray-J. R. Lowell's Biglow Papers
- Other American Humorists—Translations—Homer: Chapman, Pope, Tickell, Cowper, Derby, Bryant-Virgil: Gawain Douglas, Surrey, Phaier, Stanihurst, Dryden, Pitt, Conington, Morris Other Translations-Horace-Juvenal—Dante—Literary Forgeries -Thomas Chatterton-The Mynstrelles Song-James Macpherson -Ossian's Poems.
A LARGE number of poems still remain unnoticed because they cannot, by any strict classification, be included in any one of the preceding divisions of poetry. Most of these, however, may be described in one or the other of the following classes:
1. Poems relating to the passions and the affections, but not lyrical in their construction.
2. Poems of a reflective or meditative character, or semididactic in their aim or tendency.
3. Poetry of a purely imaginative character not included in any other class.
4. Humorous poetry. 5. Translations. We propose, in the present chapter, to notice a few of the most noteworthy poems belonging to each of the abovenamed classes.
1. In the first class may be placed The Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, by Alexander Pope. It is founded on the well-known story of Abelard and Eloisa, who lived in the twelfth century. Abelard, a canon in the Cathedral of Paris, and widely known for his learning, loved Eloisa, the piece of Fulbert, an ecclesiastic, and they were privately espoused. The poetical epistles written by Abelard to Eloisa during the period of their espousal are said to have been the first love-poems written in Northern France. “You composed,” says Eloisa in one of her letters to him,
many verses in amorous measure, so sweet, both in their language and their melody, that your name was incessantly in the mouths of all, and even the most illiterate could not be ignorant of you. This it was, chiefly, that made women admire you. And, as most of these songs were on me and my love, they made me known in many countries, and caused many women to envy me. Every tongue spoke of your Eloisa; every street, every house, resounded with my name.”
These epistles and love-poems, it has been truthfully said, when collected, composed the first book that had been produced in Europe for six hundred years which would give any pleasure in the reading. Notwithstanding the private espousal of Abelard and Eloisa and their mutual devotion, Eloisa, through a false sentiment of generosity and religious sentiment, refused marriage, and they finally retired, each to a separate convent, where they passed the remainder of their lives in seclusion. "It was many years after this separation,” says Pope, “that a letter of Abelard's to a friend, which contained the history of his
misfortunes, fell into the hands of Eloisa. This, awakening all her tenderness, occasioned those celebrated letters out of which the following is partly extracted. Abelard died in 1142, and Eloisa in 1163; they were buried, side by side, in the monastery of the Paraclete; the tomb was afterwards removed to the cemetery of Pere la Chaise, in Paris, where it now stands."
The closing lines in Pope's poem may be quoted as a fair illustration of the character of the whole:
May one kind grave unite each hapless name,
Hallam says: “Pope has done great injustice to Eloisa, in his unrivaled epistle, by putting the sentiments of a coarse and abandoned woman into her mouth. Her refusal to marry Abelard arose, not from an abstract predilection for the name of mistress above that of wife, but from her disinterested affection, which would not deprive him of the prospect of ecclesiastical dignities, to which his genius and renown might lead him.”
M. Taine says: “I wish I could admire Pope's works of
imagination, but I cannot. In vain I read the testimony of his contemporaries, and even that of the moderns, and repeat to myself that in his time he was the prince of poets; that his Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard was received with a cry of enthusiasm ; that a man could not then imagine a finer expression of true passion; that to this very day it is learned by heart, like the speech of Hippolyte in the Phèdre of Racine; that Johnson, the great literary critic, ranked it among the happiest productions of the human mind;' that Lord Byron himself preferred it to the celebrated ode of Sappho. I read it again and am bored; this is not as it ought to be; but, in spite of myself, I yawn, and I open the original letters of Eloisa to find the cause of my weariness."
We may include, also, in this division Cowper's very pathetic little poem, Lines on the Receipt of My Mother's Picture. This production is remarkable for its purity and tenderness of sentiment, rather than for any vividness of imagination or any more than ordinary beauty of expression. It is the genuine depth of feeling, which we know to come direct from the poet's heart, that we admire. The manner, too, in which past scenes and events are depicted is charming because of its artlessness.
I heard the bell toll’d on thy burial day,
The poem is marred, however, by the frequency with which the author refers to himself in a derogatory strain
-an humble, but none the less disagreeable, species of egotism. It is also rendered faulty by the intermixture of trivial and vulgar thoughts and circumstances with those of a graver and nobler character. For example:
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home,
Yet there is much beauty in the following similes, notwithstanding the labored air which seems, at first, to disfigure them:
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast
The Cotter's Saturday Night, by Robert Burns, is one of the noblest poems in our language. The hint of the plan of this poem was taken from Fergusson's Farmer's Ingle, but the sentiment had its origin in the actual home-life of the poet and the influence of those solemn words, “Let us worship God,” uttered by his own “priest-like” father