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virtue. And we think it not unworthy of remark, that the views and feelings of a mind thus exercised and improved are as much unknown to common understandings, as if they were the conceptions of the inhabitant of some other planet. Such un. dorstandings are never visited by them, and are not aware of their capacity for receiving them.
Nor do we think that the vicious tendency of not a few poems, the productions of our most favoured Bards, forms any valid objection to what has now been advanced. Such productions are universally regarded as the spurious issue of the Muse, and are ever lamented as the prostitution of the faculties which most ennoble and beautify our rational nature. They are the creations of some evil hour, when Ran. cour, Envy, or Spleen, was exerting a demoniacal influence over the mind, and causing the genius of Poesy to act in subserviency to its own malignant purposes. And it is only when he is again bronght under the fell and gloomy sway of these diabolical passions, that the poet himself can relish his own immoral effusions. With the reader the case is exactly similar. His imagination will brood with new and fond delight over the pages of the sensual poet, if the current of his thoughts has been tainted by vicious indulgences or the contagion of evil example; but should virtue be the peaceful and happy tenor of his life, he will turn in disgust from the page, the reading of which might sully the purity of his mind. Whilst, therefore, the poet addresses himself to the imagination of his reader, bis object is, through means of that spiritual faculty, to form the taste, and to free the soul from the dominion of those grosser passions, of a corporeal na sure, the indulging of which sinks man below the level of the inferior animals.
And if the tendency of poetry in general is to promote intellectual and moral improvement, the advancement of religion is the direct and sole object of the Sacred Muse. The origin of Sacred Poetry is. divine. It was the inspiration of the Almighty which tuned the hearts of the Hebrew Bards and opened their lips in songs of praise. And sweet and sublime were the numerous strains which they uttered, from the time that Moses sung of Israel's deliverance from her bondage in Egypt, till the joyful Virgin burst forth into sweetest notes of thanksgiving and praise, at the thought of giving birth to him who was to deliver mankind from a deeper thraldom. And in every age has the Muse been found the handmaid of Religion, though her sons have too frequently been prodigal of their gifted endowments. In every country, too, has Religion assigned her a place in ber temple, to kindle in her votaries the flame of devotion and fill their hearts with the love of her own adorable attributes. In truth, Religion and the praise of virtuous and heroic actions, were the first and for a long time the only themes of the Poet. Nor is this at all wonderful. Both Religion and Poetry address themselves to the affections, and the former, as well as the latter, not unfrequently operates on these through means of the imagination. Either of them alone is fitted to impart a high relish to the soul, but their combined influence affords the highest mental enjoyment. The poet who courts the sacred Muse will, accordingly, be the most affecting and interesting of any. Religion, the noblest of all subjects, is his theme, and devotion, the life and soul of Religion, inspires his genius and enlivens his affections. Lofty and glowing conceptions on subjects the most momentous, he embellishes with all the decorations of the
ical IT1 ' exith yal ted
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tuneful art. As a christian, he can take no view of the works and ways of the Almighty, or of the present situation and future destiny of man, which, as a poet, he may not render more lovely, more grand or more awful. God is an invisible spirit, and the movements of his providence are often dark and mysterious. But the poet who consecrates his genius to the service of heaven, can, as it were, conjure up the perfections of Deity from behind the curtain of creation, and show them acting in harmony for the comfort and happiness of the universe. In his view, the joyous face of spring is the smile of the Creator, winning man back to his favour and inviting him to taste of his goodness. The regular return of the seasons he regards as the fulfilment of God's ancient promise. In a partial evil he discovers a general good; in a seeming calamity he discovers a real blessing. But the plan of redemption is his darling theme. It is his delight to expatiate on the love which could devise, and on the condescension which could execute the god-like scheme. He loves to dwell on the mercy which delighted in procuring pardon for a whole world of transgressors. Often do his lines breathe the spirit of genuine repentance, and godly sorrow for sin. Often are they fraught with the aspirations of a mind panting after bigher attainment in the christian life. And should the terrors of the Lord become the subject of his Muse, he arrays the realities of a judgment to come in the blackest and most appalling colours. Religious subjects present themselves to him in endless variety. He feels it to be the highest exercise of his genius to pen the hymn of praise. Never is he conscious of greater elevation of sentiment than when he feels, as it were, the Divinity stirring within him, and awakening his en
Bato tuneful art.
As a christian, he can take no view of the works and ways of the Almighty, or of te present situation and future destiny of man, which as a poet, he may not render more lovely, taette grand or more awful. God is an invisible spirit
, an the movements of his providence are often dark and mysterious. But the poet who consecrates his ges. ius to the service of heaven, can, as it were, conjure up the perfections of Deity from behind the curtain of creation, and show them acting in harmon for the comfort and happiness of the universe. la his view, the joyous face of spring is the smile the Creator, winning man back to his favour and inviting him to taste of his gooduess. The regular return of the seasons he regards as the falfilment of God's ancient promise. In a partial evil be discovers a general good; in a seeming calamity be discovers a real blessing. But the plan of redemption is his darling theme. It is his delight to ex. patiate on the love which could devise, and on the condescension which could execute the god-like scheme. He loves to dwell on the mercy which de lighted in procuring pardon for a whole world of transgressors. Often do bis lines breathe the spirit of genuine repentance, and godly sorrow for sin. Often are they fraught with the aspirations of a mind panting after bigher attainment in the christian life. And should the terrors of the Lord be come the subject of his Muse, he arrays the realities of a judgment to come in the blackest and most appalling colours. Religious subjects present them. selves to bim in endless variety. He feels it to be the higbest exercise of his genius to pen the hymn of praise. Never is he conscious of greater elevation of sentiment than when he feels, as it were, the Divinity stirring within him, andawakening his en
ergies to extol his Maker. Never does the flame of piety burn higher or brighter within him, than when gratitude to his Redeemer is his gladsome theme. Often does he attempt to recall the happy feelings with which he was visited when engaged on these important topics, and is sad when the effort has been fruitless. Whilst his other works may have ceased to afford him any pleasure, his devotional strains continue to afford him new and fresh delight. And when in his more sober hours, the former may prove to him the cause of no small pain, the latter are the lines, which, in bis dying moments, he would not wish to blot. We feel confident that we speak the opinion of every sober-minded person, in asserting that if any one of his productions afforded Lord Byron pleasure in the rapid moments of his dissolution, that one was his Hebrew Melodies. And if this impressive consideration were allowed to have its full weight, it might have the desirable effect of preventing many of our poets from writing, in the gay hours of health, what they will not be able to relish in the prospect of eternity. Though this world were to be the permanent abode of man, still would the poet be justified in saying ;
“An Atheist's laugh’s a poor exchange
For Deity offended." But when we reflect that he who offends his Creator, must soon meet bim as his judge, what mad. ness can be compared with the folly of him, who defies the frown of Omnipotence !
We hail it as a happy symptom both of the im. provement of the public taste, and the progress of religion, that immoral poetry, though the production of the most gifted genius, is, at present, reprobated alike by the critic and the public. The time, we
trust is for ever gone by, in which immorality, whether in conduct or composition, is to be regarded as a test of genius. We flatter ourselves that we al. ready see the virtuous temper of the age, impressed on the works of our choicest authors. We long to see more of its effects, and to witness their reciprocal action on society at large.
We know not a more delightful or improving exercise, than the reading of sacred poetry. Essential truths are thereby conveyed to the mind in a form best fitted to gain them welcome admission. The advantage of this mode of communicating religious instruction bas long been felt. It is especially beneficial in forming the minds of the young to a taste for religion. It is impossible, we think, to present exhortations to virtue and piety, or dissuasions from vice, in a form less repulsive than that in which they are presented by the poet. As the mappers of one man are naturally more engaging than those of another man ; 80 poetry, of its own nature, is more attractive than prose. The poet must always keep in view the first end of his art, to please; this necessarily excludes from his composition any thing that might seem harsh and forbidding. Besides, he is constantly moving the affections and raising agreeable sentiments in the mind. These circumstances will serve in some measure to explain the fact above alluded to, that the application of the doctrines and precepts of religion, is never less displeasing than when it is made by the poet. Verse seems to carry along with it the power of winning over the wayward affections of the soul, and bending them to its will. Under its influence, the mind feels less reluctance in submitting itself to the dominion of truths which formerly seemed revolting. The obduracy of the heart is felt to give way before the