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Was straighten’d for the grave; and as the folds
· Alas, my noble boy!—that thou should'st die!
Thou, who wert made so beautifully fairThat death should settle in thy glorious eye,
And leave his stillness in this clustering hair! How could he mark thee for the silent tomb,
My proud boy, Absalom ?
“Cold is thy brow, my son!--and I am chill,
As to my bosom I have tried to press theeHow was I wont to feel my pulse's thrill,
Like a rich harp-string, yearning to caress thee! And hear thy sweet ‘my Father' from these dumb
And cold lips, Absalom! The grave hath won thee!—I shall hear the gush Of music, and the voices of the
young, And life will pass me in the mantling blush,
And the dark tresses to the soft winds flungBut thou no more with thy sweet voice shall come
To meet me, Absalom!
Like a bruised reed is waiting to be broken,
Yearn for thine ear to drink its last deep token! It were so sweet, amid death's gathering gloom,
To see thee, Absalom!
With death so like a gentle slumber on thee,
If from this wo its bitterness had won thee!May God have call’d thee like a wanderer home,
My erring Absalom!"
He cover'd up his face, and bow'd himself
A VINDICATION OF POETRY.
Poetry has sometimes, and perhaps justly, been esteemed the divinest of all arts; for it is the breathing or expression of that principle or sentiment which is deepest and sublimest in human nature: in other words, of that thirst or aspiration, to which no mind is wholly a stranger, for something purer and lovelier, something more powerful, lofty, and thrilling, than ordinary and real life affords. No doctrine is more common among Christians than that of man's immortality; but it is not so generally understood, that the germs or principles of his whole future being are now wrapped up in his soul, as the rudiments of the future plant in the seed. As a necessary result of this constitution, the soul, possessed and moved by these mighty though infant energies, is perpetually stretching beyond what is present and visible, struggling against the bounds of its earthly prison-house, and seeking relief and joy in imaginings of unseen and ideal being. This view of our nature, which has never been fully developed, and which goes farther towards explaining the contradictions of human life than all others, carries us to the very foundation and sources of poetry. He who cannot interpret by his own consciousness what has now been said, wants the true key to works of genius. He has not penetrated those sacred recesses of the soul, where poetry is born and nourished, and inhales immortal vigour, and wings herself for her heavenward flight. In an intellectual nature framed for progress and for higher modes of being, there must be creative energies, powers of original and ever growing thought; and poetry is the form in which these energies are chiefly manifested. It is the glorious prerogative of this art, that it “makes all things new” for the gratification of a divine instinct. It indeed finds its elements in what it actually sees and experiences, in the worlds of matter and mind; but it combines and blends these into
new forms, and according to new affinities; breaks down, if we may so say, the distinctions and bounds of nature; imparts to material objects, life, and sentiment, and emotion, and invests the mind with the powers and splendours of the outward creation; describes the surrounding universe in the colours which the passions throw over it, and depicts the mind in those modes of repose or agit of tenderness or sublime emotion, which manifest its thirst for a more powerful and joyful existence. To a man of a literal and prosaic character, the mind may seem lawless in these workings; but it observes higher laws than it transgressesthe laws of the immortal intellect; it is trying and developing its best faculties; and in the objects which it describes, or in the emotions which it awakens, anticipates those states of progressive power, splendour, beauty, and happiness, for which it was created.
Poetry, then, far from injuring society, is one of the great instruments of its refinement and exaltation. It lifts the mind above ordinary life, gives it a respite from depressing cares, and awakens the consciousness of its affinity with what is
pure and noble. In its legitimate and highest efforts, it has the same tendency and aim with Christianity; that is, to spiritualize our nature. True, poetry has been made the instrument of vice, the pander of bad passions; but when genius thus stoops, it dims its fires, and parts with much of its power; and even when poetry is enslaved to licentiousness or misanthropy, she cannot wholly forget her true vocation. Strains of pure feeling, touches of tenderness, images of innocent happiness, sympathies with what is good in our nature, bursts of scorn or indignation at the hollowness of the world, passages true to our moral nature, often escape in an immoral work, and show us how hard it is for a gifted spirit to divorce itself wholly from what is good. Poetry has a natural alliance with our best affections. It delights in the beauty and sublimity of outward nature
and of the soul. It indeed portrays with terrible energy, the excesses of the passions; but they are passions which show a mighty nature, which are full of power, which command awe, and excite a deep, though shuddering sympathy. its great purpose is, to carry the mind beyond and above the beaten, dusty, weary walks of ordinary life;—to lift it into a purer element, and to breathe into it more profound and generous emotion. It reveals to us the loveliness of nature, brings back the freshness of youthful feeling, revives the relish of simple pleasures, keeps unquenched the enthusiasm which warmed the spring-time of our being, refines youthful love, strengthens our interest in human nature by vivid delineations of its tenderest and loftiest feelings, spreads our sympathies over all classes of society, knits us by new ties with universal being, and through the brightness of its prophetic visions, helps faith to lay hold on the future life.
It has been objected to poetry, indeed, that it gives wrong views and excites false expectations of life, peoples the mind with shadows and illusions, and builds up imagination on the ruins of wisdom. That there is a wisdom against which poetry wars—the wisdom of the senses, which makes physical comfort and gratification the supreme good, and wealth the chief interest of life—no one can deny; nor is it the least service which poetry renders to mankind, that it redeems them from the thraldom of this earth-born prudence. But not to enlarge on this topic, it may be observed, that the complaint against poetry, as abounding in illusion and deception, is in the main groundless. In many poems there is more of truth than in many histories and philosophic theories. The fictions of genius are often the vehicles of the sublimest verities, and its flashes often open new regions of thought, and throw new light on the mysteries of our being. In poetry the letter is falsehood, but the spirit is often the profoundest wisdom. And if truth thus dwells in