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shrinks not from the most accurate scrutiny; and our confidence in it, is honourable only as we are willing to submit it to the closest examination, without betraying fears of its final prevalence. It is an apostolic maxim, that we can do nothing against the truth," but for the truth.'
Mr. Brook dedicates his work to the rising generation among the various denominations of Protestants.' We add our recommendation to his, that the young persons for whom he discovers such true regard, and for whose welfare he expresses the most benevolent wishes, may attentively peruse such works as are calculated to instruct them in sound principles of religion, and from which they may imbibe the spirit of the purest civil and religious liberty. May they appreciate its blessings, and prove themselves worthy of that noble inheritance, which they enjoy, and for which their ancestors wrote, and suffered, and died. May they convey it, not only unimpaired, but improved, to the generations that shall succeed them.
Art. V. The Pilgrims of the Sun: a Poem. By James Hogg, Author of the Queen's Wake, &c. 8vo. pp. 148. price 7s. 6d. Murray. 1815.
THE name of James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, has already excited no small degree of interest in the public mind, from the character of his former productions. His "Queen's Wake," though very unequally written, displays a liveliness of conception, a richness of fancy, and a sweetness of versification, which deserve to obtain for the volume the award of popular favour. These qualifications afforded, at their first appearance, secret intimations to those who were best competent to appreciate genius, that the Author would, at no distant period, compel the public to a recognition of his claims, and cancel, by his subsequent works, whatever obligations the reception of his former volume had laid him under to his contemporaries.
It is no easy task for a young man, without either title or name that may ensure attention, to force his way through the hosts of versifiers that crowd the levee of Fame with their obstreperous claims; and in spite of fashion, prejudice, or envy, to stand forward as the rival or the compeer of Southey and of Wordsworth, of Byron and of Campbell, of Montgomery and of Scott. If his pretensions rest on the quality of his poetry especially, and not on any extrinsic circumstances, -if it be of that pure, imaginative cast, which is the most congenial to minds of kindred temperament that speak the same language, but which is unintelligible to a great proportion of the readers of
'lays,' and ballads, and tales,-the difficulty of his task be comes the greater.
With all due respect to the Public, whose servants we are, we must give it as our opinion, that poetry is the last thing which is estimated according to its intrinsic qualities, or read for the sake of the genuine pleasures of imagination. The soul of poetry, with which the partakers of its essential feelings hold converse, and which conveys to them its meanings by undefinable traits of expression and beamings of character, altogether eludes, or is ill-understood by, general readers, whose attention is occupied with little more than its physiognomical structure; and who think that when they have pronounced upon the organization of the verse, the arrangement of the subject, and some obvious peculiarities in its style, nothing further remains to require the exercise of their penetration.
There prevails a sort of literary materialism, which holds that genius consists in that external production which it animates; that language, the mere vehicle and medium of Thought, is itself the measure of the mind, and the ultimate object of attention in fact, that the art of the poet, the estimate of which is often taken from irrelevant accidents or subordinate features of his productions, is the intellectual essence that it serves only to develop., If poetry, however, be of any worth, either as a refined amusement, or a salutary exercise of the imagination, it is to be regretted, that it should not please for its own sake, and by means of those qualities which distinguish it from other composition; that it should not be suffered to have its natural effect on the mind, by exciting the imagination, instead of being contemplated merely as a subject of literary curiosity or criticism.
We have received so much gratification from the volume before us, that were we to express our opinion of its merits, under the warm impulse of the feelings it awakened, we fear that our praise would be thought partial or inordinate. Those whose fancies can admit of but one object of idolatry, and that object indebted for its elevation, perhaps, to fashion or prejudice, or whose judgements are under the bondage of one particular standard, may be eager to know to what school the Ettrick bard is attached; whether to the good old school of Pope or Dryden, about which some critics talk so much, or to that of some modern sect,-the poets of the lake,-or the minstrels of the border, or the gloomy school of the moral Salvator, the energy of whose pencil redeems his subjects from the feelings they would otherwise inspire.
Our Author seems to have made himself acquainted with the productions of each of these writers, and to have reserved free scope for his imagination, in exercising his skill in the varied styles of these writers respectively, yet maintaining in all of VOL. III.-N. S.
them an air of original thought and independent feeling, which exempts him completely from the charge of imitation.
"The Pilgrims of the Sun" is a poem in four cantos; or it may be considered as forming four successive poems. The subject by which they are exquisitely linked together into unity of plan, is simply a tradition respecting a meek and beauteous maiden, who, on the third night of the waning moon,' was borne away during a state of trance from this lower world, and traversed, in company with a celestial guide, the regions of the Solar System. On her spirit's return to earth, and re-entrance into its bodily mansion, she discovers herself to be alone, within a newly opened grave, and the garments of the dead enveloping her form. The attempt of an old monk, whom her recovery puts to flight, to enrich himself with the jewels buried with her, and who, to complete his purpose, cuts the rings off from her finger, awakens her from her trance; and the sequel of the narrative restores the maiden to her disconsolate lady mother, and to the reality of her angel companion in the form of a minstrel lover. Little stress is to be laid on the choice of a subject, and the tale is probably familiar to many of our readers; and the idea, at all events, is such as any one might have adopted and treated according to his fancy. But we are disposed to believe, that, in the hands of no contemporary poet, would it have been susceptible of the alternate sportiveness of invention, daring elevation, richness of sentiment, and tender playfulness, by which our Author has contrived to sustain and perpetually to vary the interest of the story. The effect is increased by his reserving for the last canto a sort of denouement, which serves to throw an air of probability over the wildly romantic fiction that has detained us in a state of wonder.
The first part of the poem is in the form of a legendary ballad, than which nothing could be better adapted to the poet's purpose. The character of the heroine partakes of the genuine style of old romance, and prepares us for her mysterious ad
'On form so fair, on face so mild,
On such a pure untainted mind
The dawn of truth did never beam.
• She learned to read, when she was young,
And she thought by night, and she read by day,
And the more she thought, and the more she read
She feared the half, that the bedesmen said,
Was neither true nor plain to man.
Yet she was meek, and bowed to heaven
Each morn beneath the shady yew,
Or the sun began his draught of dew.
And aye, she thought, and aye, she read,
For the doubts that on her bosom preyed
Were more than maiden's mind could bear.'
At length the yearning anxiety which grew upon her, to lift the veil of the invisible world, is to be satisfied. One eve, when she had prayed and wept till daylight faded on the wold,' there came to her a beautiful youth, with the mien of an angel, who took her gently by the hand, and bade her rise and cast off her earthly weeds, and go with him to that far distant land from which he came to take her where she longed to be.'
She only felt a shivering throb,
More lightsome, pure, and fair than he.'
No sooner had she arrayed herself in the robe of unearthly make, with which he presented her, than
Upward her being seemed to bound;
And scarce can keep him to the ground.
Tho' rapt and transient was the pause,
She scarce could keep to ground the while,
Hung to the earth by viewless pile.'
The exquisite beauty and appropriatenesss of this simile, will not fail to strike the minute observer of nature. We must give the stanzas which describe the departure of the twain on their ethereal voyage.
He spread his right hand to the heaven,
She did not linger, she did not look,
But she thought she saw her very form,
Stretched on the green-wood's lap alone.' p. 8.
Our limits oblige us to put a restraint upon our inclination, or we should, with pleasure, extract nearly the whole of the description in the subsequent stanzas of the appearances that un
folded themselves to the virgin as she advanced. To us it appears to be not less distinguished by imagery, and felicity of conception, than by a high strain of poetical diction. We must coutent ourselves with selecting the following stanzas, on account of the natural and touching thought which they contain. • The first green world that they passed bye Had 'habitants of mortal mould;
For they saw the rich men, and the poor,
And they saw the young, and they saw the old.
But the next green world the twain past byc,
For all were in the bloom of youth,
And all their radiant robes the same.
And Mary saw the groves and trees,
That pleasant land is lost in light,
To every searching mortal eye;
So nigh the sun its orbit sails,
That on his breast it seems to lie.
And though its light be dazzling bright,
Far up the hills of Scottish land. p. 19.
The apostrophe to the harp of Judah, by which the poet prepares his readers for the change of style in the following part, is very artfully managed, and the allusion to the shepherd hand, in which it was wont to delight, introduced in the invocation of our shepherd bard, is extremely beautiful.
I will bear my hill-harp hence,
And hang it on its ancient tree;
The scenes that ope'd to Mary Lee.'
The second part of this highly imaginative poem is founded on the fiction, that the sun is the seat of the local majesty of Deity, and the residence of the celestial Hierarchy. This fiction is imbodied in all the splendours of poetry. The Author has evidently taken Milton for his model, and it is as much as we dare say, that in some passages it would be difficult to determine the degree of his distance from the model which he has chosen. The authoritative majesty which invests the Christian Mæonides, and which procures, even for the defects of his great poem, a sort of respectful deference, constitutes an incommuni