Billeder på siden

relations of its parts through the intervention of our own organic structure; consequently original varieties in the structure of the brain and nerves may cause every individual to exist in a different world. Setting aside however, for the present, any further metaphysical speculations, I shall confine myself to a few observations on the ideal world of the Poet, which tend to illustrate the variety found in poetical compositions.

That the peculiar character of mind which forms the basis of Poetry is connate, was always admitted, and is proverbially expressed in the adage, Poëta nascitur, non fit. And the etymology of the word, derived from 70 TOLELV, denotes the creative fancy of the composer. The imagination is, therefore, the necessary qualification for the Poet, while the power of versification and rhyme is only auxiliary. Hence we have poetical prose; and likewise abundance of versification-admittedly prosing and unpoetical.

If we attempt to examine the poetic feeling by analyzing its effects on the character, we shall find that it produces, under nunierous modifications, a tendency in the mind to regard objects in a peculiar light, to view the world rather as we imagine it should be, than as it really is; and to indulge, assisted variously by other faculties, in numberless representations of it of a fictitious nature. From this source proceed Poems, Romances, and works of imagination in general. This peculiar faculty inducing the individual, less mindful of external impressions, to dwell a great deal in a world of his own creating, has been called Ideality. And all who have much Ideality have more or less of this character variously modified by the proportion in which the other faculties and passions exist in each individual. Hence one who is naturally amorous writes about Love, and according as he has also Timidity,

Hope, Wit, or a strong feeling of Attachment, writes in a melancholy, a sanguine, a ludicrous, or a friendly strain. Thus do we find enthusiasm sometimes wearing the garb of mystery, in the writings of mythological Bards; at others we find it cloaked with expressions of pointed satire, and often blazing forth in expressions of violent passions. The Ideality of every one dwells much on the prominent feelings of his mind; hence we can judge from poetical works of the character of individuals and of nations. Even there is an external form common to Poets, though much modified. Do we not notice the wild and outward rolling of the eyes, the large and high temples, and other marks known to the accurate observer of nature ? At the same time do we not distinguish in every one something peculiar? I shall now examine a few examples with respect to the primitive faculties of the mind. Shakespeare possessed Ideality, Imitation, Wit, Comparison, and great power of observation, combined with strong feelings in general. Hence his poetry is not of the wildest and most extravagant sort, but comprehends enlarged views of human nature given forth in Tragedy, Comedy, and theatrical composition in general. Milton seems to differ from him in not having so much of the imitative power; hence he wrote not in plays, but in heroic verse ; and his compositions, rendered truly classic by his education, are considered majestic. Hudibras is a poem the result of ideality and wit, while some of the pensive strains of Akenside are the offspring of melancholy. I need not extend particular instances; in all ages we have examples of poets of the various kinds; how different the dignity and descriptive disposition of Virgil from the satirical turn of Horace and Juvenal, or the mysterious air of Ovid's fictions ! How modified the same passion in different individuals, according as it was combined with other feelings. An arrangement of Poems relating to any one passion might be made from this source : and how different the flow of ideas in the four Elegiac Poets most celebrated at antient Rome! We can readily distinguish the style of Ovid's Elegies from those of Tibullus; and the latter is as different from Propertius, whose affected style is yet more like Ovid's than it is like that of Tibullus. Corinna was quite a town Lady, while the mistress of Tibullus might well be imagined a rustic creature; there is moreover much more of what the French call l'amour moral in this author. There was, however, in general less of the artificial refinements of feeling conspicuous among the antients than among the moderns. Hence se. veral odes of Anacreon have been said hy some writers to have been modern interpolations, more of a piece with the whimsical vagaries of Goethe, or of many writers of the seventeeuth century, than with the popular style of antient composition, which consisted chiefly in vivid and sensual descriptions of the natural feelings, and an admonition to make use of the fleeting hours. But this notion respecting the modern date of the odes was erroneous, as is shown by several subsequent commentators, cited in the notes to Fischer's edition of Anacreon.

I have merely introduced these remarks to shew how variously the poetic feeling influences the composition according to the strength of other faculties.

Catullus will be found in his odes and other poetical pieces to exhibit a great versatility of talent, and to combine many of the various qualities possessed singly by other writers. For this reason I have amused myself during my former leisure hours with interspersing; with some English notes on his

works I had gathered, a few parallel passages and odes' of a similar character, collected from the works of modern writers; which may perhaps amuse the reader, and serve as a key to proceed with the enquiry into the physical and acci. dental causes of different styles of composition, of which Catullus appears, to me at least, to contain more varied specimens than

any other poet. If it be said that I have laid too much stress on the mode of estimating the character of individuals or of nations by a perusal of their poetical works, I reply by admonishing my reader of the freedom given to thought, and to the candid expression of them by Poets, as well as Painters, in all ages, who, in their Pictures and Poems, do not depict men as they would wish to seem to be ; but by taking off their own masks, they represent men and manners as they really are, and in exposing themselves uplift the veil which civilization has thrown over the real causes of human actions; a liberty allowed them of old, as noticed by a poet himself, who reminds us that



« ForrigeFortsæt »