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deeply our literature, our general intellectual cultivation, is imbued with the doctrines and associations of Christianity; and how much of the sculpture, painting, and architecture, of our world is religious or ecclesiastical in its uses and origin, as ex bibited in the edifices and other monuments of religion, with which all the countries of Christendom abound.
In the United States, a pervading universality of religious impression is less visible to the eye, than it is in many parts of Europe. Our immediate forefathers erred, I think, in their anxious proscription of the external signs of faith. When the Spaniard hears the toll of the vesper-bell, be he on the road or by the fireside, in the church or the paseo, he reverently joins in the brief aspiration of prayer uttered at once by a million of lips. Can this do evil ? On the contrary, does not the very spectacle itself impress and elevate the soul? Again. The losty proportions and the noble architecture of the great cathedral edifices of Europe tend irresistibly to solemnize the mind as you enter them, and to prepare it for the adoration of that Supreme Being, to whose bigb service they are dedicated. Is it wise to discard or undervalue such influences and impressions? Surely not. Reason is to be convinced ; but the heart also is to be touched, like the rock of Horeb by the rod of the prophet, if we would make the fountains of purity and faith to gush up from the inmost depths of the soul, and well forth their bidden treasures. True religion is a sentiment or emotion as well as an act of reason. The lawyiver or founder of public institutions, who neglects the means of guiding the conduct through the heart and the feelings, voluntarily throws away the most efficacious of all the implements of good; and the christian teacher, who, from over-refinemeut of rationalism, rejects them, leaves them to be employed by others, in the attack or perversion of the faith of the Gospel.
Modern English Poetry.—BYRON, SHELLEY,
In the lives and professed principles of several of the illustrious poets, who have made a naine in England and the world, since the opening of the present century, we are presented with very much that essentially detracts from the admiration which their genius and their works would, otherwise, command. And while those who speak the language which they so successfully employed, and so richly adorned, appear, for the most part, inclined to forget the faults of intellects whose greatness seems to add something to the dignity of human nature, we confess, that for ourselves, the natural glow of our admiration is dampened, if not entirely smothered, when we see that man in his best estate is yet so earthly and so sensual, so willing to claim kindred with the brute, though he be but a little lower than the angels. When we behold at once the splendor and the filth, “ the dirt and the divinity," of such a gifted genius as the author of " Childe Harold;" — when we notice the luxurious profligacy of the exquisite Moore; when we hear the philosophic blasphemy of Shelley, and,—alas, that even he should not be an exception—when we consider the reckless life and the one disgusting vice of Coleridge, bow are we led involuntarily to adopt the language of a greater than them all,
“ God of our fathers, what is man !
Nor do I name, of men, the common rout
For some great work, thy glory.”—Milton. In an age when the world is so far advanced in all that civilizes human nature and refines society, we have seen in England, the heart of Christendom, a constellation of men preëminently adorned and fitted for some great work to the glory of God, who, instead of so consecrating themselves, have allowed their writings to outrage all decency and religion, in a manner more gross and heathenish than would have been tolerable in the dark ages. It is not our purpose now to go into such a review of modern English poetry as shall revive all the clatter and cant which was so rise, and is even yet Auent on the disgusting licentiousness of Don Juan, or the blasphemy of Cain; but as Americans, who desire that the literature which is beginning to be formed, in our own dear land, should be free from all that has disgraced our seniors, we cannot but deem it of importance to express our views of the poetry of our language in these times, and to recommend those features of it, which, in our opinion, are alone worthy of imitation.
Not to enter upon a tedious examination of the host of anthors who could be introduced to illustrate what we hope to establish, we shall content ourselves with a concise analysis of three great masters, under whom most of the others can be arranged in appropriate classes. We bave three great contemporary names, which seem a kind of synonymy of the Progress of Poesy. In the writings of Lord Byron, we have the wild-fire of the wayward boy, the reckless outburst of the young man's feelings, the instability and error of mind undisciplined. Hence his poetry is chiefly valued by the young, and is too apt to be the first reading of the freshman in society, as it is, in truth, a shining mirror, that reflects the feelings, the passions, and the follies of our early years. In Shelley, we have the advancement of poetry into paths where she is attended by a show of philosophy, and guided by real learning. This poetry recommends itself to maturer mind; and perhaps we are not too highly complimenting it, when we say that it is of the highest order of merely human song, or poetry unbaptized. It is such as we begin to love, when Byron cloys; and when we are wearied with carving and tinsel, and are willing to turn to the pure sculpture in marble. Had his works been written in the days of Sophocles, they would have ranked with those of the Grecian himself; and Tully would have read them afterwards in his villa, nor dreamed that the Muse could take a higher flight. But the christian reader rests not contented with the soaring that bis eye can follow, for unlike the splendid heathen, he knows of worlds beyond Olympus, and of a lise that begins, when our mortal years have vanished. Of this glorious elevating influence of our religion the student finds no recognition in the classic pages of Shelley ; and it is then, when fully convinced of this one thing wanting, when sick with disappointment over nietres, which lack but virtue to make them perfect, it is then that the mind finds its desideratum in Wordsworth, and contents itself with his spiritual harmonies. This mighty master wins us last, but as he wins us not till we ourselves have entered the most perfect form of our mental education, our love for him is such, as we carry with us through life. When the student throws down the Cenci, and has long forgotten the Corsair, then may the christian scholar take up the works of Wordsworth, and breathe the pure air of an inspiration, like that which shall be bis native air, when unclothed of this eartbly clog, and born in heaven.
And so, these poets seem just adapted to the march of mind. Byron catches our boyhood; and if we escape the wretched consequences which bis siren numbers are calculated to entail upon us, we yield ourselves to the graceful finger of Shelley, and are led by his upward guidance to fields Elysian of the mind. When passion is sobered, and nature begins to feel the dignity of thought; when the heart's first affections are allayed, and the soul begins to doat on all things lovely; it is then that Shelley comes with a seeming philosophy to seduce the contemplative, and with his classic finish to enamour the scholar. But if Wordsworth awes us thence, by those mysterious answerings which we find in his every verse, to the yearnings which are naturally felt by him, who can say with the Roman, omnia fui, et nihil erpedit ; then are we liberated and unshackled ; then first we feel that we are indeed, at the same time, worshippers of beauty and disciples of true philosophy; and this, because, then first, we begin to appreciate a religion which makes real and enduring all legitimate forms of symmetry and perfection. It is true that Wordsworth is beyond our natural appreciation, very often ; but it is so, because he is above it; and because he soars, if not with Milton into the Heaven of heavens, at least, into those regions of pure sunlight, which are far over the vapors and mists of the valley, and into which the eye of the earthling can seldom penetrate.
of the poet of passion, we shall say but little ; since, as might be reasoned à priori, he is much better known and appreciated than the superior twain, who, in a greater or less degree, may be characterized as pocts of thought. It has been truly remarked, that Byron's heroes are never characters, but only the personifications of passions. Of the mass of his poems, it was well said by the great Göthe, that they were only parliamentary speeches in disguise. Those who have read the parliamentary efforts of his lordship know well enough how little there is to commend in the plain prose of thoughts, which, if tagged with rhyme, would have been the thread-bare recitation of every schoolboy. But it is not for us to discuss him, in those manifestations of his own character which he gave us in bis Giaour, Lara, or the Bride. We rather follow him to the wanderings which bis spirit took in maturer years, when he bad become aware of the wrong principles of poetry, which, with all his scorn of principles of poetry, he had been following all bis life, and when he began to write for immortality, and to dabble in religion, and to assume philosophy. It is in this light, that his character as a poet is too little regarded ; and while the world has been nauseated with reviews and magazine-critiques of bis lighter follies, how little do we hear in the way of critical investigation of his tragedies, of the Mystery of Heaven and Earth, or even of the more stupendous one of Cain! Yet only by these last, can his claim to be called a great poet be at all successfully argued. They are certainly the highest efforts of his invention and his only attempts at logic or theology. Perhaps, however, we must except some strophes of Childe Harold, which smatter in metaphysics.
In Heaven and Earth, we have a lyric drama, that is sublimer than Æschylus, and which is throughout much in the style of that great dramatist's choral pieces. In this sublime work, while he occasionally allows bis numbers to degenerate into irreverence and blasphemy, he generally restrains them, to use bis own words, “ within the bounds of spiritual politeness.” It is, however, by making his blasphemers noble and interesting characters, while the pious are represented not like Abdiel, but tame as "douce Davie Deans,” that the poison of his artful irreligion is, perhaps fatally, imparted. But in the “ Mystery of Cain,” we have from induction to epilogue, one long, inwoven lie, in which the common coin of scoffers since the time of Apuleius has been scraped together, and burnished into a lustre that is still insufficient to set off so much brass for gold. Its chief personae are Abel and other very religious-women! Cain, a kind of Lord Byron ; a great philosopher and reasoner, in his own conceit, but in fact a miserable dupe, and a great utterer of sophisms, sounding vastly like sense, but very little like poetry, being, for the most part, the SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. I.