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(fervidos excludet ictus ), the author before us must needs represent the tree as an army with banners, and the innumerable shaking leaves as so many shields turned this way and that to ward off the rays.
Here arching vines their leafy banner spread,
The simple expression of Joshua—and the sun stood still, -is thus worked up and amplified by Mr. Pierpont.
• The sun can tell: -O'er Gibeon's vale of blood, Curving their beamy necks, his coursers stood, Held by that hero's arm, to light his wrath, And roll their glorious eyes, upon his crimson path.'-p. 9, 10.
We have two objections to these four lines. In the first place, there seems to be something very unappropriate,—if not absolutely profane,-in mingling the heathen mythology with the true religion: and, in the second place, even if this were perfectly proper, there still seems to be a great impropriety in making any additions to scriptural poetry. If it can be cast into regular verse without materially changing its substance, there can be no objection to the procedure; but to alloy it with extraneous thoughts appears to us very irreverent; and if the most terrible of all menaces are denounced against those who add a jot or tittle to the facts recorded in the sacred book, perhaps a correspondent denunciation should await those who are guilty of adding any thing to the poetry which it contains. What is here said applies generally to the poetry of the new school we have said so much about.--But we must pass on.-When a common writer has occasion to speak of poetic genius he goes no farther than to compare it, generally, with fire;--but the author before us would not stop short of representing the fire as coming out at the end of the fingers, and setting the whole room in a blaze. We can make nothing else out of the following lines:-
* As the young harper tries each quivering wire,
* And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken, and immediately the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed, --is a simple passage of the Acts which may have some distant resemblance to Mr. Pierpont's paraphrase. VOL. IX.
• With thundering crash, are burst bolts, bars, and locks;
A missionary's skiff shoots,” walks,' and 'glides' on the river of Paraguay,--bearing on her breast the apostolic star, lanched from the pierced hand of the Redeemer, and leaving a path of light in the east, which descends in a radiant curve to the west,--strikes upon the humble prow of the Jesuit's canoe, and glances off to the water below. What else are we to make of this paragraph?
• Round the bold front of yon projecting cliff,
Ordinary poets very frequently personify trees so far as to call their branches, arms;--Mr. Pierpont must pursue the şimile quite down to the fingers. There is something not only forced, but absolutely ludicrous, in the following allusion to long, sweeping fingers.'
Salet's harp, by patriot pride unstrung,
In another place he presents us with the still more ludicrous and boxing-like image of oak trees brandishing their arms and daring the winds to come on. He could not be satisfied, like other writers, with the bare metaphor of calling them giants.
With weary foot the nearest height he climbs,
These are all the passages which we can afford room for;— though they are by no means all that we might adduce. The whole poem is a mere tissue of similar descriptions: and to give it a thorough analysis, therefore, would occupy a great deal more space than can possibly be spared. Enough has been extracted, we apprehend, to give our readers a pretty just view of the work. When we see a writer borrowing his ideas from others, and then husbanding and making the most of them, as Mr. Pierpont has done in the passages cited above,-we are compelled to infer, either that he is deficient in original opulence of thought, or that he is too indolent to employ his own powers of reflection, and is content to live upon the reflection of his predecessors. Under which of these conclusions the author before us must fall, we have not the means of determining;—but from the richness of those occasional passages in which he abandons his leaders, and thinks for himself, we are inclined to believe that he is by no means destitute of talents for poetry. If Mr. Pierpont would always write such lines as these, we should be glad to meet him
Where lies our path?-though many a vista call,
Passages of this sort derive additional lustre from being surrounded by such obscure ones as the following;-in which there is such a confusion and mixture of metaphor that the most we can make out is, that Triumph is a wire-dancer:
• But if, when joy and gratitude inspire,
The whole of the first page is another very elaborate and obscure passage. We have found too many incongruous ex pressions for a poem no longer than this;—such as purple odours'-as if smells were known by their colour
No blackening thunder smok'd along the wall "And light and music mingle on the hill?
Glows with the light of melody and love'
! • The lightning flash fades on the serpent's tongue'
Or glow-worm burning greenly on the wall "And wakes the eternal tumult of the tides'--&c. And the author is too fond of alliteration.
Play'd Mercy's beams—the lainbent light of love'• The lordly lion leaves his lonely lair'• How sad the Saviour's song! how sweet! how holy!
With thundering crash are burst bolts, bars and locks'. • Through rifted rocks and hollow rumbling caves'• Or deep beneath him burst with boundless roar'- &c. Upon the whole, then, we cannot think very highly of Mr. Pierpont's Airs of Palestine. It is evidently the result of great labour; for great labour, indeed, constitutes the principal attribute of that class of writers to which he belongs; and it is on account of this very circumstance, too, that they fail of producing any thing which, in the true sense of the word, can be denominated poetry. The fetching and carrying of similies too far has long been a subject of critical reprobation. Writers of the purest taste are sometimes detected in it; though none but the metaphysical and semi-metaphysical writers have ever reduced such bad taste to a regular and systematic method of composition. The two leading faults of the system are, that, in the first place, it detracts greatly from the pleasure received in the perusal of poetry, by constantly associating with what we read a sense of the great labour employed in producing it;-while, secondly, it destroys all the force of metaphorical allusion, by tracing analogies beyond those particulars in which the two things compared can be at all alike. When Mr. Pierpont tells us, for example, that music and religion together have power to liquidate the frozen heart, and evaporate it to heaven, --could it have escaped him that a man, left without a heart at all, must be a very strange sort of a creature? Or when he represents the oak as brandishing his arms to challenge the winds,—does he not force us to see that the oak could do no such thing till the winds had actually encountered him, and that the challenge, therefore, must necessarily come subsequently to the duel? All metaphors are, at the bottom, without any stable support; and the only way in which they become forcible at all, is by the exhibition of such superficial ramifications as are obviously analogous. By carrying the simile further, we are shown its fundamental inapplicableness, and grow sceptical at once about the applicableness of all the superstructed particulars. We forget, besides, the occasion on which it is introduced, by being called off to inspect the parts of the simile itself:--and thus, in two ways, the extravagant pursuit of metaphors is calculated to destroy their force and appropriateness. We look upon the taste of the school of this sort of poetry, therefore, as radically and essentially vitious.
We have taken this pains to expose its general faultiness, because we are afraid, that, although neither the form nor the size of the present eruption is so aggravated as that of the original stream,—-yet, if not checked at the source, it will augment as it proceeds, and become, at length, too strong to be opposed by such feeble obstructions as our poor quills.
A streain which will scarce bear a straw at its source (said a Persian king to his son, when he cautioned him against neglecting even small enemies) grows in its course strong enough to carry away a camel and its burthen.' We consider Mr. Moore as a great deal more to blame than Mr. Pierpont; though, we think, the poetry of the latter is more extravagantly metaphysical than that of the former. And the very greatest praise which, it appears to us, can be bestowed upon the Sacred Songs or the Airs of Palestine-is--that they are pretty things. Art. VII. A Biographical Dictionary of the living Authors
of Great Britain and Ireland; comprising literary Memoirs and Anecdotes of their Lives; and a Chronological Register of their Publications; with the Number of Editions printed; including Notices of some foreign Writers, whose Works have been occasionally published in England. Illustrated by a Variety of Communications from Persons of the first Emi
nence in the World of Letters. London. 8vo. pp. 449. 1816. W!
E had occasion to remark, in a former volume, that the con
tents of this work very strangely belie the title-page. You will seek in vain for the memoirs,' anecdotes,' and `communications from persons of the first eminence,' about which so much vaunting is displayed. The biography,' of which we are led to form such great expectations, consists, in general, of the name of the author-of the time of his birth-and of the number of his titles;- followed by a chronological list of books which he has put forth. Now and then, indeed, we have some very interesting details:--but it is regularly the case that the most insignificant authors occupy by far the greatest portion of room. We have found several articles, however, which have considerably amused us,—and a part of which we shall proceed to extract.
• BROTHERS, RICHARD, a native of Placentia, Newfoundland, formerly a lieutenant in the navy. This crack-brained fanatic, about twenty years ago, excited a considerable share of public at