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ductions. From mere satiety it began to sigh after the freshness of its native poetry which was now beginning to revive. Its humble artlessness beamed once more in Goldsmith and Gray, its rich mellowness luxuriated again in Collins, its solemn majesty shone through the pompous declamation of Young, its adoration of external nature burst forth in the glittering enthusiasm of Thomson, and all the natural magic of its lowlier notes, the sweetness and delicacy of its homely affections, brightened up and relieved the sad despondency of Cowper. The introduction of German literature too gave a new turn to the poetical feeling, which, on the whole, conducted it nearer to its native channels. In the celebrated productions of that high-toned nation, there was a mine of original thought, a strength and bewildering vastness of conception, and a rich vein of solemn imagery and romantic tenderness. The strange perverseness of opinion amounting sometimes to a horrible sublimity of sentiment, the high-wrought passions of beings long accustomed to feed and indulge their most airy imaginations, were eagerly admired by a nation delighting in powerful sensations, and satiated with the cold and spiritless regularity which, however it might please for a time when supported by great talent, could never take root as in a congenial soil, and florish, and expand in Britain. It was at length to receive a final assault which destroyed its pernicious influence, while it left its brightest ornaments uninjured. While the qualities of the German bards were blending with the love of nature, the richness, and the gentleness which Thomson, Collins, and Cowper had revived in their primitive freshness, a new and inconceivable event occurred in the moral world, which, while it shook society to its deepest foundations, made a powerful impression on the regions of fancy, and gave to the pational mind that proud elevation and dignified consciousness, which completed the regeneration of our poetry.
It was indeed impossible, that an event like the French Revolution should not affect every nation of the civilized world which dared to contemplate its progress, and impart a new coloring to every art and feeling which was connected with the heart or allied to moral wisdom. The most listless and trilling were aroused into energy by events which succeeded each other with the force and rapidity of lightning; and which in their vastness and singular complexion resembled a horrible and long protracted vision. Every faculty of the mind was awakened, every feeling raised to an intenseness of interest, every principle and passion called into superhuman exertions. At one moment, all was hope and joy and rapture; the corruption and iniquity of ages seemed to vanish like a dream ; the unclouded heavens seemed once more to ring with the exulting chorus of peace on earth and good-will to men; and the spirit of a mighty and puissant nation, long confined in the dungeons of superstition, of despotism, seemed rising in native majesty to draw new inspiration from the rejoicing heavens. The most brilliant hopes were cherished for the advancement of human happiness, and the gigantic progress of intellect, and fresh prospects were daily opening, which, from the dim remoteness of their boundaries, filled us with painful delighi and with giddy rapture. On a sudden all was changed it was the smoothness of a torrent before it dashes through a frightful chasm—the little clouds which had passed unnoticed as silvery specks in the serene atmosphere expanded into a supernatural tempest, and, in a moment, all those “ gorgeous palaces” of beatific vision, those “ solemn temples" of liberty and truth, those “ cloud-capt towers” of sublime expectation were swept away, together with all the social institutions which preserved the gentler affections pure, even while liberty was imperfect, and which time and ancestry had rendered venerable. In the dreadful intoxication of those awful moments, man appeared in all the wild energy of the barbarian; the darkest imaginings of the past were far exceeded; every passion naked and undisguised by artificial refinement raged with the intenseness of agony; every modification of character, every vagary of sentiment, every secret motive of action were exhibited in the terrible changes of this august spectacle. Yet was the mind consoled under these overwhelming horrors by the meek triumphs of suffering virtue, the calm superiority of wisdom, and the yielding gentleness of devoted resignation. All its tenderest sympathies were excited by the destruction of the sacred monuments of antiquity, by beauty and majesty in distress, by the romantic virtue and the manly greatness of those illustrious persons who had been bred up in the midst of Juxury and pollution. All was strange excitement and breathless wonder. While cruelty stimulated ingenuity to invent new tortures for innocence, and impiety seemed resolved to step beyond the sanctuaries of the world, and to scatter darkness on the throne of heaven, life was almost suspended by a strong interest, a tumult of the passions, a dreadful yet sublime strength which grew out of indignation and horror. The ultimate results of this moral hurricane, this breaking up of the surface of society, this rending of the general heart, remote posterity alone can appreciate. But one of its immediate effects was to raise and darken the imagination, to deepen the shade of serious contemplation and to fill us with a delight in strong emotions. These new workings of the human mind, combining with the reflective grandeur of German literature, and the delicate and natural graces which had been already awakened, contributed to form that great age of poetry which is now florishing around us, and which we shall now proceed more minutely to consider.
I. In delineating the characters of the most celebrated living poets, "; we shall commence with Mr. SOUTHEY, without intending to pay any deference to the laurel which he has gathered at St. James's. It is a miserable and blighted sprig, amidst the everlasting wreathes which the gentle spirits of the Lakes had showered upon bis temples. His genius throws over it a transitory lustre, which must vanish with him; for it is most devoutly to be hoped, that no bard above the level of Cibber will hereafter condescend to wear it.
Mr. Southey is by far the most voluminous of modern poets, as well as the most varied in his style and the boldest in his conceptions. His imaginings are sometimes more gorgeous than those by which- we are bewildered in the most fantastic of orieutal devices, and his sweet touches of domestic peace and of child-like innocence are as pure and true to nature, as if his contemplations were exclusively pastora). He cloathes all the images that strike his mind with the majesty of his verse, and being inspired with confidence that they are worthy of admiration, he is too philanthropic to consign any of them to oblivion; or even to delay, by laborious arrangement, the pleasure they are calculated to excite. Hence he presents us with animated sketches rather than finished pictures--with prospects magnificent in the outline, but defective in the finishing ; powerful in ihe design, but faint and inexpressive in the detail ; and destitute of that exquisite blending of shades which completes the beauty on which the eye can at once luxuriate and repose. In his ideal worlds all incongruities are united ; temples of every order engage our wonder, bright palaces are intermingled with venerable ruins, and magviticent colonnades lead us to peace-breathing cottages. There are many separate objects which dazzle or enchant us, delicate gleans of fancy will awaken delicious trains of thought, and aniable groups, which seem almost to have been imaged in heaven, but they are neither in keeping, nor artfully connected, and therefore excite no general feeling, and evince no pervading character. The memory cannot repose upon the extended fiction, because the interest is frittered away by the varied scenes upon which it is divided.
The principal characteristic of Mr. Southey's poetry is the affinity it bears to the feelings, and the visions of childhood. His sublime as well as his geuile pictures are only recollections gilded and combined by fancy, of the hopes which beguiled him amidst its shadows. On these he has delighted to gaze till their loveliness became far lovelier, and the noontide majesty of his genius was diffused over them. His illustrations and his marvels seem recollected from the days of purity, of joy, and of wonder. The cærulean palaces supported by pillars of fame-the crystal and
submarine cities-the temples of rainbow and cloud—the prodigies thrown back from the wildest regions of romance, and the dazzling enchantments of Arabian story--the superhuman demons and blessed spirits equally unearthly--are nearly allied to those strange visions, with which the cradle of life is encircled. His characters which are intended to represent human beings, are moulded from the same pure materials, and have the charms which earth has not yet sullied, the celestial bloom which it has not impaired, and the sanctity breathed upon the soul in its native regions fresh and glowing around them. He interests us with no strong passion, no full-swoln and over-powering joy, no emotions with which the whole vigor of the soul must grapple, no awful struggles with calamity, no specimens of that mingled character which the purest and the mightiest assume. Even Love with him is the affection of children or of angels. It is not only purified from the images of sense, but is derived from a different origin, and seems to descend from above, only as a genial influence to hallow the bosom that receives it, and to awaken its perceptions to a sense of the loveliness of creation. He contemplates man in embryo, as the chemist examines “ young diamonds in their early dew.” He is engaged only with the simple elements of our species, and developes the first mighty' but indistinct stirrings of the divinity within us. The passages in which he chiefly speaks to the heart, are those in which, instead of grouping the early visions of the mind into fantastic shapes, he simply recals the memory of their joys, and enables us to repose, in the holiness of imaginatiou, amidst the delicious imagery with which they surrounded us. Often by a gentle gleam of his fancy we see, with a gush of rapture, some lovely and secluded scene opened to our view, where once we used to wander, and which we had else forgotten. The embosoined nook, endeared by a thousand thrilling associations, seems vividly present to the inward eye of the mind, illuminated by the poet's genius, as with a tinge of golden moonlight. In this natural magic he in some degree resembles Wordsworth ; though there is this important difference between them, the latter preserves the feelings of the child in the powerful intellect of the man, the former with the dreaminess retains much of the weakness of infancy.
In Mr. Southey's mind every thing is subordinate to its poetry. He has been so accustomed to an unbounded roving of fancy, that the ordinary modes of acquiring truth are rejected with disdain. The varied principles, both religious and political, which he has in their turns so fervently defended, have been the result, not of extended enquiry, but of the predominance of peculiar
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classes of association, and the change of poetical feelings. His sentiments have altered precisely as his imagination has loved to destroy or to revere. When first he entered on his course, he shaped out visions of bliss, in the regions of republican equality, with an ease and distinctness which compelled him to believe them prophetic. He was filled with an abhorrence of the tyranny of custom, with a desire to walk abroad in the abstractions of his mind, unshackled by the restraints of social life, and a restless dislike of every regulation by which the vigor of the soul is restrained. He was not sufficiently strong to exercise the poet's true prerogative, to retire within himself, there to drink of the deep spring of unearthly joy, which neither ambition nor ridicule can disturb, and to smile at the tumult and bustle of an ordinary world. Instead of lending its radiance to surrounding objects, and seeing its own loveliness reflected in them, his fancy built all its ætherial imagery on the ruin of thrones and of temples. Wild and uncultivated nature possessed all his affections; and being then a stranger to any local attachments he turned his eyes, wearied with European disasters, to the deep solitude of the Western Hemisphere. Thither he resolved to bend his course, with two congenial associates, and to open a scene of perfect enjoyment amidst the sweet repose of transatlantic scenery. There he hoped to expatiate in wilds untrodden by human footsteps, and to adore the Fountain of Universal Being, without the rites and pride of religion, he regarded as heartless. Another Eden seemed already to bloom on the banks of the Susquehana, where the breeze, unpolluted by the feverish breath of the crowd, would whisper only innocence and love :-realms, where saints might long to expire, and which angels would delight to inhabit.
After this scheme had failed, Mr. Southey's affections began to run in a holier and more secluded channel, and his enthusiasm in the cause of freedom began to decay. He sought repose in the blessings of society, and the good which yet lingered in the walks of actual existence. His imagination was tired of roving over the gay but level prospects which his former creed had opened before him, and he longed for some established sanctuary, whose venerableness might elevate him with fresh inspiration, and for those peculiar loves, those fond attachments to consecrated spots, and that soothing power of reverence mingled with joy, to which the garishness of his prospects had made him a stranger. When once his feelings had taken this direction he reversed his political faith in order to enable him to indulge them. From a citizen of the world he became a patriot, and from a patriot he softened into a courtier. Instead of destroying, he now writes to establish,