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he does well, in seeing that there is a fervor not of passion, and a poetry richer than the dreams of a sick fancy. The influence of the example is very obvious in his own poems.
It has given them a freshness, and a simplicity, often homely, but interesting. The tone of sentiment is high. His is the doctrine, which contains all, Faith in Man ; and his the ethics which may be all summed up in Love. And yet something, we know not what, makes us ever and anon suspect that he is not yet at home among these great ideas. He reasons too much about them. The Poet, as such, lives in his cherished sentiments; he does not preach them. The Poet differs from the Philosopher in this, that he holds the highest truth, without proclaiming it, often without knowing it. He does not discourse much about high matters and abstract ideas; but he feels them all the while he is talking about little casual things; a holy light goes forth from his heart over all around him; a holier glow is in his words. The Poet is known, not by what he talks about, but by the way in which he talks about any thing. What in the philosopher is thought, in him is feeling.
Our objection to Mr. Bacon's theory of poetry is this. He seems to underrate poetry in comparison with reflection. He speaks of it as hardly a solid thing, as the mere ornament, where reason is the substance. He denies its universal power over the common mind ; and seems to hint that the decay of poetry, (though he does not fear any such decay,) would be a comparatively small evil to society. We cannot agree with the following passage from the note above mentioned :
“ The poets can never wield the nation: he who thought that, give him the making of the songs of a nation, and he would thereby mould its character, was a Utopian in theory, and would have been found worse than that in practice. There is a set of principles to be elucidated, and sent abroad among the gifted and powerful spirits of the day, and there diffused, that they may work themselves gradually into the economy of society, with which poets have nothing to do. Poetry is too volatile in spirit, and delicate in substance, to affect the common mind to any considerable degree, where the philosopher has not previously been, and succeeded in laying a deep and broad foundation." - p. 129.
Now we believe that Poetry is a very substantial thing; a thing deep and eternal as the spirit of Man; one of the primeval forces of the moral universe. is earlier than Philosophy or Ethics, and is the foundation of them. Man, as philosopher, can only reflect on what Man, as poet, has felt. Philosophy, in itself, has no power at all, until it is lived and becomes poetry. Certainly feeling is the substance of life; ideas are only the forms. In desiring poetry to be wedded to a sound philosophy, which shall save it from passion, and make it pure and universal, true to the instincts of all men, our poet goes too far, and forgets that in true poetry the germ of the highest philosophy is contained. He thinks that philosophy is to work out the needed revolutions in society; and that when the “ solid columns of the superstructure” are already reared upon the basis of accurate knowledge, then“ the poet may step in and think to give it the decorations.” But shall poetry have no part in the revolution ? Does not it always help to mould characters and institutions? Much is due to Wordsworth for showing how much poetry gains by its union with pure philosophy. But this writer exaggerates the theory of Wordsworth, when he places the poetic element so low. “ A set of principles with
hich poets have nothing to do"! - How can this be said by a disciple of Wordsworth, whose ideal of a bard, is of one “who loves all things » ?
We admire the noble sentiments which breathe through this volume of poems. But considered as poetry, we think the poetic element does not predominate in them. It may be doubted whether Wordsworth is the fairest specimen of what may be distinctively called the poet. We should rather point to Burns; or to Byron, though, perhaps, corrupt as
man; or to Schiller, though philosophizing gradually
“Man is a gifted being. There is that
But in him is another principle
It sends him to the grave
- without one tear."
“ This is the lesson — love, love all the world!
He wrongs his nature who has learned to hate.
pp. 118, 119, 124, 125. The following is a professed imitation of Wordsworth. It is graceful, and musical, and simple ; and contains some deep philosophy in the form of deep feeling.
« THE FOUNTAIN.
What is there in a song,
And sit and ponder long?
And sparkles in the sun,
And sparkle as they run.
The wave wells beautifully, and
Sings as it pours along, -
Runs, murmuring a song.
Beside this fountain's brink?
I sit me here and think?
The robin whistles in the sky,
The squirrel's in the tree, -
My gun upon my knee.
Of yonder forest green,
At intervals is seen.
And forms and things to catch the eye,
And sounds of grove and grot,
They move, yet move me not.
For, looking in my face,
So little as the chase.
Then what is it that keeps me here
Beside this fountain's brink ?