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fence of the cross has not ceased; nay, it exists, perhaps, most inveterately, though less apparently, in those countries where the religion of the state has been refined from the gross superstitions of the dark ages; for there the humbling doctrines of the Gospel are, as of old, a stumbling-block to the self-righteous, and foolishness to the wise in their own esteem. Many of our eminent poets have belonged to one or the other of these classes; it cannot be surprising, then, that they either knew not, or contemned “the truth as it is in Jesus.”

There is an idle prejudice, founded upon the misapprehension of a passage in Dr. Johnson's life of Waller, and a hint of the like nature in his life of Watts, --that sacred subjects are unfit for poetry, nay, incapable of being combined with it. That their native majesty and grace cannot be heightened by any human art of embellishment, is most freely admitted; but that verse, as well as prose, may be advantageously associated with whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, in religion, we have the evidence of the Scriptures themselves, “ in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms,” where they testify concerning Christ and his sufferings, in strains the most exalted that poesy can boast. We have evidence to the same effect in many of the most perfect and exquisite compositions of uninspired poets, both in our own and in other countries. The Editor of “ THE CHRISTIAN PSALMIST" hopes to have an early opportunity of showing, that Dr. Johnson's assertion respecting the incompatibility of poetry with devotion, is not nearly so comprehensive as it has been ignorantly assumed to be; and that what he has actually asserted on this head, is invalidated by matter of fact, the only satisfactory test of the truth of such positions. At present it will be sufficient to affirm, in despite of this oracle of criticism,—which, when examined closely, will be found as ambiguous, and as capable of being explained to nothing, as other oracles were wont to be,—that, had our greatest poets possessed the religious knowledge of our humblest writers of hymns, they might have been the authors of similar compositions, not less superior to the ordinary run of these, than their own best poems are above the incorrigible mediocrity of their contemporaries. But in their default, we are not without abundant proof, that hymns may be as splendid in poetry as they are fervent in devotion; and in this volume will be found many popular pieces, the untaught workmanship of men who had no names in literature, but whose piety inspired them to write in verse, and sometimes with a felicity which the most practised masters of song might envy, but, unless the “ Spirit gave them utterance,” could not compass with their utmost art.

Let us give an example from each of three favourite poets of the last generation, who, had they consecrated their talents to the service of the sanctuary, would have been of all others the most likely to have originated hymns, uniting the charms of poesy with the beauties of holiness :

“ See the wretch, that long has tost
On the thorny bed of pain,
At length repair his vigour lost,
And breathe and walk again :
The meanest floweret of the vale,
The simplest note that swells the gale,

The common sun, the air, the skies,
To him are opening Paradise.”

Gray's Fragment on Vicissitude. It cannot be questioned that this is genuine poetry; and the beautiful, but not obvious thought in the last couplet, elevates it far above all common-place. Yet there is nothing in the style, nor the cast of sentiment, which might not be employed with corresponding effect on a sacred theme, and in the texture of a hymn. Indeed, the form of the stanza, and the tone that tells of personal experience in the fact which the writer mentions, remind one strongly of the vivid feeling and fluent versification of Charles Wesley in some of his happiest moods; while the concluding idea is precisely the same with that of Dr. Watts, in a hymn which would not have discredited Gray himself:

“ The opening heavens around me shine

With beams of sacred bliss,
When Jesus shows his mercy mine,

And whispers, “I am his.'” The following stanzas are almost unrivalled in the combination of poetry with painting, pathos with fancy, grandeur with simplicity, and romance with reality:

“ How sleep the brave, who sink to rest,
By all their country's wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mould,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy's feet have ever trod.
By fairy-hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung ;
There Honour comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall awhile repair
To dwell a weeping hermit there.”

Collins. 1746.

The unfortunate author of these inimitable lines, a little while before his death,-in a lucid interval of that madness to which “ a wounded spirit” had driven him,-was found by a visitor, with the Bible in his hand. You see,” said the poor sufferer, “ I have only one book left; but it is the best!” Oh! had he found that one, that best book, earlier, and learned to derive from it those comforts which it was sent from heaven to convey to the afflicted, could not he have sung the “ death of the righteous,” in numbers as sweet, as tender and sublime, as these on “ the death of the brave ?” Christian views and scriptural images, might here have been quite as harmoniously blended with human regrets and blessed remembrances.

But we proceed to exhibit a third specimen of an English lyric, very different from either of the for


“The wretch, condemn'd with life to part,

Still, still on hope relies;
And every pang that rends his heart

Bids expectation rise.
Hope, like the glimmering taper's light,

Adorns and cheers the way;
And still, as darker grows the night,

Emits a brighter ray." Is this poetry? Every reader feels that it is. Yet, if the same ideas were to be given in prose, they could not well be more humbly arrayed. Nothing can be more simple, nothing more exquisite; and hymns, in the same pure and natural manner, might be adapted to every subject in alliance with religion. But by whom? Not by one who had only the delicate ear, the choice expression, the melodious measures, and the fine conceptions of Goldsmith; but by him who, to all these, should add the piety of Watts, the ardour of Wesley, and the tenderness of Doddridge. Had Goldsmith possessed these latter qualifications, (and they were all within his reach,) would he not have left hymns as captivating in their degree, as any of those few, but inestimable productions, which have rendered him the most delightful of our poets, to the greatest number of readers.

It may be superciliously answered, that all this is mere speculation; and it may be reasonably demanded, that some examples of hymns of merit should be adduced, to establish beyond dispute the possible union of poetry with devotion. This shall be done in the sequel ; at present, we will only offer a small extract from one of the best known hymns of the only great poet of our country who has written such things; and we offer it as worthy of being classed with the foregoing quotations from Gray, Collins, and Goldsmith, and as showing, that a heart, filled with the peace of God, has language suitable to its enjoyments, and capable of communicating a sense of them to every other heart not dead to sympathy:

“ The calm retreat, the silent shade,

With prayer and praise agree,
And seem by thy sweet bounty made

For those that follow Thee.
There, if thy Spirit touch the soul,

And grace her mean abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,

She communes with her God!
There, like the nightingale, she pours

Her solitary lays,
Nor asks a witness to her song,
Nor sighs for human praise."

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