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A little masterpiece in a very difficult style: Catullus himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humour, it is worthy of the Ancients: and even more so, from the completeness and unity of the picture presented.
Perhaps no writer who has given such strong proofs of the poetic nature has left less satisfactory poetry than Thomson. Yet this song, with 'Rule Britannia' and a few others, must make us regret that he did not more seriously apply himself to lyrical writing.
clxxiv With what insight and tenderness, yet in how few words, has this painter-poet here himself told Love's Secret!
clxxvii 1. 1 Aeolian lyre: the Greeks ascribed the origin of their Lyrical Poetry to the Colonies of Aeolis in Asia Minor.
Thracia's hills (1. 9) supposed a favourite resort of Mars. Feather'd king (1. 13) the Eagle of Jupiter, admirably described by Pindar in a passage here imitated by Gray. Idalia (1. 19) in Cyprus, where Cytherea (Venus) was especially worshipped.
1. 6 Hyperion: the Sun. St. 6-8 allude to the Poets of the Islands and Mainland of Greece, to those of Rome and of England.
1. 27 Theban Eagle: Pindar.
1. 5 chaste-eyed Queen: Diana.
clxxix From that wild rhapsody of mingled grandeur, tenderness, and obscurity, that medley between inspiration and possession,' which poor Smart is believed to have written whilst in confinement for madness.
the dreadful light: of life and experience.
Attic warbler: the nightingale.
218 clxxxiv sleekit, sleek: bickering brattle, flittering flight: laith, loth: pattle, ploughstaff: whyles, at times: a daimenicker, a corn-ear now and then: thrave, shock: lave, rest: foggage, after-grass: snell, biting: but hald, without dwelling-place: thole, bear: cranreuch, hoar-frost: thy lane, alone: a-gley, off the right line, awry.
225 clxxxviii stoure, dust-storm; braw, smart.
greet, cry: daurna, dare not.-There can hardly exist a poem more truly tragic in the highest sense than this: nor, perhaps, Sappho excepted, has any Poetess equalled it.
230 exciii fou, merry with drink: coost, carried: unco skeigh, very proud: gart, forced: abeigh, aside: Ailsa craig, a rock in the Firth of Clyde: grat his een bleert, cried till his eyes were bleared: lowpin, leaping: linn, waterfall: sair, sore: smoor'd, smothered: crouse and canty, blithe and gay.
cxciv Burns justly named this one of the most beautiful songs in the Scots or any other language.' One stanza, interpolated by Beattie, is here omitted:-it contains two good lines, but is out of harmony with the original poem. Bigonet, little cap: probably altered from béguinette: thraw, twist: caller, fresh.
CXCV Burns himself, despite two attempts, failed to improve this little absolute masterpiece of music, tenderness, and simplicity: this Romance of a life' in eight lines.-Eerie: strictly, scared: uneasy.
233 cxcvi airts, quarters: row, roll: shaw, small wood in a hollow, spinney: knowes, knolls. The last two stanzas are not by Burns.
234 excvii jo, sweetheart: brent, smooth: pow, head. --cxcviii leal, faithful.
St. 3 fain, happy.
cxcix Henry VI founded Eton.
Written in 1773, towards the beginning of Cowper's second attack of melancholy madness-a time when he altogether gave up prayer, saying, For him to implore mercy would only anger God the more.' Yet had he given it up when sane, it would have been 'maior insania.'
cciii The Editor would venture to class in the very first rank this Sonnet, which, with 204. records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petrarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish: Shakespeare's more passion; Milton's stand supreme in stateliness; Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the ancients would have called Irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to his loving and ingenuous nature.-There is much mannerism, much that is unimportant or of now exhausted interest in his poems: but where he is great, it is with that elementary greatness which rests on the most universal human feelings. Cowper is our highest master in simple pathos.
ccv Cowper's last original poem, founded upon a story told in Anson's 'Voyages.' It was written March 1799; he died in next year's April.
cevi Very little except his name appears recoverable with regard to the author of this truly noble poem, which
appeared in the Scripscrapologia, or Collins' Doggerel Dish of All Sorts,' with three or four other pieces of merit, Birmingham, 1804.-Everlasting: used with side-allusion to a cloth so named, at the time when Collins wrote.
Summary of Book Fourth
It proves sufficiently the lavish wealth of our own age in Poetry that the pieces which, without conscious departure from the standard of Excellence, render this Book by far the longest, were with very few exceptions composed during the first thirty years of the Nineteenth century. Exhaustive reasons can hardly be given for the strangely sudden appearance of individual genius: that, however, which assigns the splendid national achievements of our recent poetry to an impulse from the France of the first Republic and Empire is inadequate. The first French Revolution was rather one result, the most conspicuous, indeed, yet itself in great measure essentially retrogressive,-of that wider and more potent spirit which through enquiry and attempt, through strength and weakness, sweeps mankind round the circles (not, as some too confidently argue, of Advance, but) of gradual Transformation: and it is to this that we must trace the literature of Modern Europe. But, without attempting discussion on the motive causes of Scott, Wordsworth, Shelley, and others, we may observe that these Poets carried to further perfection the later tendencies of the Century preceding, in simplicity of narrative, reverence for human Passion and Character in every sphere, and love of Nature for herself:-that, whilst maintaining on the whole the advances in art made since the Restoration, they renewed the half-forgotten melody and depth of tone which marked the best Elizabethan writers: that, lastly, to what was thus inherited they added a richness in language and a variety in metre, a force and fire in narrative, a tenderness and bloom in feeling, an insight into the finer passages of the Soul and the inner meanings of the landscape, a larger sense of Humanity,-hitherto scarcely attained, and perhaps unattainable even by predecessors of not inferior individual genius. In a word, the Nation which, after the Greeks in their glory, may fairly claim that during six centuries it has proved itself the most richly gifted of all nations for Poetry, expressed in these men the highest strength and prodigality of its nature. They interpreted the age to itself-hence the many phases of thought and style they present:-to sympathize with each, fervently and impartially, without fear and without fancifulness, is no doubtful step in the higher education of the soul. For purity in taste is absolutely proportionate to strength-and when once the mind has raised itself to grasp and to delight in excellence, those who love most will be found to love most wisely.
But the gallery which this Book offers to the reader will aid him more than any preface. It is a royal Palace of Poetry which he is invited to enter:
Adparet domus intus, et atria longa patescunt
though it is, indeed, to the sympathetic eye only that its treasures will be visible.
ccviii This beautiful lyric, printed in 1783, seems to anticipate in its imaginative music that return to our great early age of song, which in Blake's own lifetime was to prove,-how gloriously! that the English Muses had resumed their 'ancient melody':-Keats, Shelley, Byron, he overlived them all.
stout Cortez: History would here suggest Balboa: (A.T.) It may be noticed, that to find in Chapman's Homer the 'pure serene' of the original, the reader must bring with him the imagination of the youthful poet; he must be a Greek himself,' as Shelley finely said of Keats.
The most tender and true of Byron's smaller poems. This poem exemplifies the peculiar skill with which Scott employs proper names:-a rarely misleading sign of true poetical genius.
ccxxvi Simple as Lucy Gray seems, a mere narrative of what has been, and may be again,' yet every touch in the child's picture is marked by the deepest and purest ideal character. Hence, pathetic as the situation is, this is not strictly a pathetic poem, such as Wordsworth gives us in 221, Lamb in 264, and Scott in his Maid of Neidpath, 'almost more pathetic,' as Tennyson once remarked, 'than a man has the right to be.' And Lyte's lovely stanzas (224) suggest, perhaps, the same remark.
CCXXXV In this and in other instances the addition (or the change) of a Title has been risked, in hope that the aim of the piece following may be grasped more clearly and immediately.
This beautiful Sonnet was the last word of a youth, in whom, if the fulfillment may ever safely be prophesied from the promise, England lost one of the most rarely gifted in the long roll of her poets. Shakespeare and Milton, had their lives been closed at twentyfive, would (so far as we know) have left poems of less excellence and hope than the youth who, from the petty school and the London surgery, passed at once to a place with them of 'high collateral glory.'
It is impossible not to regret that Moore has written so little in this sweet and genuinely national style. ccxlvi A masterly example of Byron's command of strong thought and close reasoning in verse:-as the next is equally characteristic of Shelley's wayward intensity.
Bonnivard, a Genevese, was imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy in Chillon on the lake of Geneva for his cour
ageous defence of his country against the tyranny with which Piedmont threatened it during the first half of the Seventeenth century.-This noble Sonnet is worthy to stand near Milton's on the Vaudois massacre. ccliv Switzerland was usurped by the French under Napoleon in 1800: Venice in 1797 (255).
cclix This battle was fought Dec. 2, 1800, between the
cclxii After the capture of Madrid by Napoleon, Sir J.
The Mermaid was the club-house of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and other choice spirits of that age. cclxxiii Maisie: Mary.-Scott has given us nothing more complete and lovely than this little song, which unites simplicity and dramatic power to a wild-wood music of the rarest quality. No morai is drawn, far less any conscious analysis of feeling attempted:-the pathetic meaning is left to be suggested by the mere presentment of the situation. A narrow criticism has often named this, which may be called the Homeric manner, superficial, from its apparent simple facility: but firstrate excellence in it is in truth one of the least common triumphs of Poetry. This style should be compared with what is not less perfect in its way, the searching out of inner feeling, the expression of hidden meanings, the revelation of the heart of Nature and of the Soul within the Soul,-the analytical method, in short, -most completely represented by Wordsworth and by Shelley.
Wolfe resembled Keats, not only in his early death by consumption and the fluent freshness of his poetical style, but in beauty of character:-brave, tender, energetic, unselfish, modest. Is it fanciful to find some reflex of these qualities in the Burial and Mary? Out of the abundance of the heart
cclxxviii correi: covert on a hillside. Cumber: trouble. cclxxx
This book has not a few poems of greater power and more perfect execution than Agnes and the extract which we have ventured to make from the deep-hearted author's Sad Thoughts (No. 224). But none are more emphatically marked by the note of exquisiteness.
316 cclxxxi st. 3 inch: island.
320 cclxxxiii From Poetry for Children (1809), by Charles and Mary Lamb. This tender and original little piece seems clearly to reveal the work of that noble-minded and afflicted sister, who was at once the happiness, the