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rmlist is to a real porcupine, the remarks of criticism are to the images of poetry. What it so imperfectly decomposes, it cannot perfectly reconstruct. It is evidently as impossible to produce an Othello or a Macbeth by reversing an analytical process so defective as it would be for an anatomist to form a living man out of the fragments of his dissecting room. In both cases, the vital principle eludes the finest instruments, and vanishes in the very instant in which its- seat is touched. Hence those who, trusting to their critical skill, attempt to write poems, give us not images of things, but catalogues of qualities. Their characters are allegories; not good men and bad men, but cardinal virtues and deadly ■ins. We seem to have fallen among the acquaintances of our old friend Christian: sometimes we meet Mistrust and Timorous: some•lines Mr. Hate-good and Mr. Love-lust; and then again Prudence, Piety, and Charity.

That critical discernment is not sufficient to make men poets is generally allowed. Why it should keep them from becoming poets, is not perhaps equally evident. But the fact is, that poetry requires not an examining, but a believing frame of mind. Those feel it most, and write it best, who forget that it is a work of art; to whom its imitations, like the realities from which they arc taken, are subjects not for connoisseurship, but for tears and laughter, resentment and affection, who are too much under the influence of the illusion to admue the genius which has produced it; who are too much frightened for Ulysses in the cave of Polyphemus, to care whether the pun about Outis be good or bad; who forget that such a person as Shakspcare ever existed, while they weep and curse with Lear. It is by giving faith to the creations of the imagination that a man becomes a poet. It is by treating those creations as deceptions, and by resolving them, as neatly as possible, into their elements, that he becomes a critic. In the moment in which the skill of the artist is perceived, the spell of the art is broken.

These considerations account for the absurdities into which the greatest writers have fallen, when they have attempted to give general rules for composition, or to pronounce judgment on the works of others. They are unaccustomed to analyze what they feel; they, therefore, perpetually refer their emotions to causes which have not in the slightest degree tended to produce them. They feel pleasure in reading a book. They never consider that this pleasure may be the effect of ideas, which tome unmeaning expression, striking on the first link or a chain of associations, may have called up in their own minds—that they have themselves furnished to the author the beauties which they admire.

Cervantes is the delight of all classes of readers. Every schoolboy thumbs to pieces the most wretched translations of his romance, and knows the lantern jaws of the Knighterrant, and the broad cheeks of the 8quire, a* well as the faces of his own playfellows. The most experienced and fastidious judges are amazed at the perfection of that art which extract* inextinguishable laughter from the

greatest of human calamities, without once^vio lating the reverence due to u ; at that discriminating delicacy of touch which makes a character exquisitely ridiculous without impairing its worth, its grace, or its dignity. In Don Quixote are several dissertations on the principles of poetic and dramatic writing. No passages in the whole work exhibit stronger marks of labour and attention; and no passages in any work with which we are acquainted are more worthless and puerile. In our time they wouldscarcely obtain admittance into the literary department of the Morning Post. Every reader of the Divine Comedy must be struck by the veneration which Dante expresses for writers far inferior to himself. He will not lift up his eyes from the ground in the presence of Brunetto, all whose works are not worth the worst of his own hundred cantos. He does not venture to walk in the same line with the bombastic 8tatius. His admiration of Virgil is absolute idolatry. If indeed it had been excited by the elegant, splendid and harmonious diction of the Roman poet, it would not have been altogether unreasonable; but it is rather as an authority on all points of philosophy, than as a work of imagination, that he values the -dieid. The most trivial passages he regards as oracles of the highest authority, and of the most recondite meaning. He describes his conductor as the sea of all wisdom, the sun which heals every disordered sight As he judged of Virgil, the Italians of the fourteenth century judged of him; they were proud of him; they praised him; they struck medals bearing his bead; they quarrelled for the honour of possessing his remains; they maintained professors to expound his writings. But what they admired was not that mighty imagination which called a new world into existence, and made all its sights and sounds familiar to the eye and ear of the mind. They said little of those awful and lovely creations on which later critics delight to dwell—Farinata lifting his haughty and tranquil brow from his couch of everlasting fire—the lion-like repose of Sordello—or the light which shone from the celestial smile of Beatrice. They extolled their great poet for his smattering of ancient literature and history; for his logic and his divinity; for his absurd physics, and his more absurd metaphysics; for every thing but that in which he pre-eminently excelled. Like the fool in the story, who ruined his dwelling by digging for gold, which, as he had dreamed, was concealed under its foundations, they laid waste one of the noblest works of human genius, by seeking in it for buried treasures of wisdom, which existed only in their own wild reveries. The finest passages were little valued till th«y had been debased into some monstrous allegory. Louder applause was given to the lecture on fate and free-will, or to the ridiculous astronomical theories, than to those tremendous lines which disclose the secrets of the tower of hunger; or to that half-told tale ci" guilty love, so passionate and so full of tears. We do not mean to say that the contemporaries of Dante read, with less emotion than their descendants, of Ugolino groping amonp the wasted corpses of hi* children, or of Fran

cessa starting at the tremulous kiss, and drop}. the fatal volume. Far from it. i

eve that they admired these things less than him which of the players he liked best. We this he answered, with some appearance of in

ourselves, but that they felt them more. should perhaps say, that they felt them too much to admire them. The progress of a nation from barbarism to civilization produces a change similar to that which takes place during the progress of an individual from infancy to mature age. What man does not remember with regret the first time that he read Robinson Crusoe? Then, indeed, he was unable to appreciate the powers of the writer; or rather, he nei• ther knew nor cared whether the book had a writer at all. He probably thought it not half so fine as some rant of Macpherson about darkbrowed Foldath, and white-bosomed Strinadona. He now values Fingal and Temora only as showing with how little evidence a story may be believed, and with how little merit a book may be popular. Of the romance of Defoe he entertains the highest opinion. He perceives the hand of a master in ten thousand touches, which formerly he passed by without notioe. But though he understands the merits of the narrative better than formerly, he is far less interested by it. Xury, and Friday, and pretty Poll, the boat with the shoulder-of-mutton sail, and the canoe which could not be brought down to the water's edge, the tent with its hedge and ladders, the preserve of kids, and the den where the old goat died, can never again be to him the realities which they were. The days when his favourite volume set him upon making wheel-barrows and chairs, upon digging caves and fencing huts in the garden, can never return. Such is the law of our nature. Our judgment ripens, our imagination decays. We cannot at once enjoy the flowers of the spring of life and the fruits of its autumn, the pleasures of close investigation and those of agreeable error. We cannot sit at once in the front of the stage and behind the scenes. We cannot be under the illusion of the spectacle, while we are watching the movements of the ropes and pulleys which dispose it. The chapter in which Fielding describes the behaviour of Partridge at the theatre, affords so complete an illustration of our proposition, that we cannot refrain from quoting some parts of it. “Partridge gave that credit to Mr. Garrick which he had denied to Jones, and sell into so violent a trembling that his knees knocked against each other. Jones asked him what was the matter, and whether he was afraid of the warrior upon the stage!—‘O, la, sir,’ said ne, “I perceive now it is what you told me. I am not afraid of anything, for I know it is but a play; and if it was really a ghost, it could do one no harm at such a distance and in so much company; and yet if I was frightened, I am not the only person.”—“Why, who, cries Jones, ‘dost thou take to be such a coward here besides thyself?”—“Nay, you may call me a coward if you will; but if that little man there upon the stage is not frightened, I never saw any man frightencil in my life.' ... He sat with his eyes fixed partly on the Ghost and partly on Hamlet, and with his mouth open; the same passions which succeeded each other in Hamlet, suc

eceded likewise in him.

“Little more worth remembering occurred

We be- during the play. at the end of which Jones asked forth our tears, to the art by which those images have been selected and combined. We applaud the genius of the writer. We applaud our own sagacity and sensibility, and we are comforted.

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dignation at the question, “the King, without doubt.'-'Indeed, Mr. Partridge,’ says Mrs. MilJer, “you are not of the same opinion with the town; for they are all agreed that Hamlet is acted by the best player who was ever on the stage.”—“He the best player!' cries Partridge, with a contemptuous sneer; ‘why I could act as well as he myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did. And then, to be sure, in that scene, as you called it, between him and his mother, where you told me he acted so fine, why, any man, that is any good man, that had such a mother, would have done exactly the same. I know you are only joking with me; but indeed, madam, though I never was at a play in London, yet I have seen acting before in the country, and the King for my money; he speaks all his words distinctly, and half as loud again as the other. Anybody may see he is an actor.’” In this excellent passage Partridge is represented as a very bad theatrical critic. But none of those who laugh at him possess the tithe of his sensibility to theatrical excellence. He admires in the wrong place; but he trem bles in the right place. It is indeed because he is so much excited by the acting of Garrick, that he ranks him below the strutting, mouthing performer, who personates the King. So, we have heard it said, that in some parts of Spain and Portugal, an actor who should represent a depraved character finely, instead of calling down the applauses of the audience, is hissed and pelted without mercy. It would be the same in England, if we, for one moment, thought that Shylock or Iago was standing before us. While the dramatic art was in its infancy at Athens, it produced similar effects on the ardent and imaginative spectators. It is

said that they blamed Æschylus for frightening

them into sits with his Furies. Herodotus tells us, that when Phrynichus produced his tragedy on the fall of Miletus, they fined him in a penalty of a thousand drachmas, for torturing their feelings by so pathetic an exhibition. They did not regard him as a great artist, but merely as a man who had given them pain. When they woke from the distressing illusion, they treated the author of it as they would have treated a messenger who should have brought them fatal and alarming tidings, which turned out to be false. In the same manner, a child screams with terror at the sight of a person in an ugly mask. He has perhaps seen the mask put on. But his imagination is too strong for his reason, and he entreats that it may be taken off. We should act in the same manner, if the grief and horror produced in us by works of the imagination amounted to real torture. But in us these emotions are comparatively languid. They rarely affect our appetite or our sleep. They leave us sufficiently at ease to trace them to their causes, and to estimate the powers which produce them. Our attention is speedily diverted from the images which cal.

Yet, though we think that, in the progress of

nations towards refinement, the reasoning

powers are improved at the expense of the imagination, we acknowledge, that to this rule there are many apparent exceptions. We are not, however, quite satisfied that they are more than apparent. Men reasoned better, for example, in the time of Elizabeth than in the time of Egbert; and they also wrote better poetry. But we must distinguish between poetry and a mental act, and poetry as a species of composition. If we take it in the latter sense, its excellence depends, not solely on the vigour of the imagination, but partly also on the instruments which the imagination employs. Within certain limits, therefore, poetry may be improving, while the poetical faculty is decaying. The vividness of the picture presented to the reader is not necessarily proportioned to the vividness of the prototype which exists in the mind of the writer. In the other arts we see this clearly. Should a man, gifted by nature with all the genius of Canova, attempt to carve a statue without instruction as to the management of his chisel, or attention to the anatomy of the human body, he would produce something compared with which the Highlander at the door of the snuff-shop would de- serve admiration. If an uninitiated Raphael were to attempt a painting, it would be a mere daub; indeed, the connoisseurs say, that the early works of Raphael are little better. Yet, who can attribute this to want of imagination ? Who can doubt that the youth of that great artist was passed amidst an ideal world of beautiful and majestic forms ? Or, who will attribute the difference which appears between his first rude essays, and his magnificent Transfiguration, to a change in the constitution of his mind? In poetry, as in painting and sculpture, it is necessary that the imitator should be well acquainted with that which he undertakes to imitate, and expert in the mechanical part of his art. Genius will not furnish him with a vocabulary: it will not teach him what word most exactly corresponds to his idea, and will most fully convey it to others: it will not make him a great descriptive poet, till he has looked with attention on the face of nature; or a great dramatist, till he has felt and witnessed much of the influence of the passions. Information and experience are, therefore, necessary; not for the purpose of strengthening the imagination, which is never so strong as in people incapable of reasoning—savages, children, madmen, and dreamers; but for the purpose of enabling the artist to communicate his conceptions to others. In a barbarous age the imagination exercises a despotic power. So strong is the perception of what is unreal, that it often overpowers all the passions of the mind, and all the sensations of the body. At first, indeed, the phantasm remains undivulged, a hidden treasure, a wordless poetry, an invisible painting, a silent music, a dream of which the pains and pleasures exist to the dreamer alone, a bitterness which

the heart only knoweth, a joy with which a stranger intermeddleth not. The machinery, by which ideas are to be conveyed from one person to another, is as yet rude and defective. | Between mind and mind there is a great gulf. The imitative arts do not exist, or are in their lowest state. But the actions of men amply prove that the faculty which gives birth to those arts is morbidly active. It is not yet the inspiration of poets and sculptors; but it is the amusement of the day, the terror of the night, the fertile source of wild superstitions. It turns the clouds into gigantic shapes, and the winds into doleful voices. The belief which springs from it is more absolute and undoubting than any which can be derived from evidence. It resembles the faith which we repose in our own sensations. hus, the Arab, when covered with wounds, saw nothing but the dark eyes and the green kerchief of a beckoning Houri. The Northern warrior laughed in the pangs of death, when he thought of the mead of Walhalla. The first works of the imagination are, as we have said, poor and rude, not from the want of genius, but from the want of materials. Phidias could have done.nothing with an old tree and a fish-bone, or Homer with the language of New Holland. Yet the effect of these early performances, imperfect as they must necessarily be, is immense. All deficiencies are to be supplied by the susceptibility of those to whom they are addressed. We all know what pleasure a wooden doll, which may be bought for sixence, will afford to a little girl. She will re{. no other company. She will nurse it, dress it, and talk to it all day. No grown-up man takes half so much delight in one of the incomparable babies of Chantrey. In the same manner, savages are more affected by the rude compositions of their bards than nations more advanced in civilization by the greatest masterpieces of poetry. In process of time, the instruments by which the imagination works are brought to perfection. Men have not more imagination than their rude ancestors. We strongly suspect that they have much less. But they produce better works of imagination. Thus, up to a certain period, the diminution of the poetical powers is far more than compensated by the improvement of all the appliances and means of which those powers stand in need. Then comes the short period of splendid and consummate excellence. And then, from causes against which it is vain to struggle, poetry begins to decline. The progress of language, which was at first favourable, becomes fatal to it, and, instead of compensating for the decay of the imagination, accelerates that decay; and renders it more obvious. When the adventurer in the Arabian tale anointed one of his eyes with the contents of the magical box, all the riches of the earth, however widely dis persed, however sacredly concealed, ". visible to him. But when he tried . ment on both eyes, he was struck wit

ixir was to the ness. What the enchanted . to the sight of

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of glorious illusions, but when it becomes too copious, it altogether destroys the visual power.

As the development of the mind proceeds, symbols, instead of being employed to convey images, are substituted for them. Civilized men think as they trade, not in kind, but by means of a circulating medium. In there circumstances the sciences improve rapidly, and criticism among the rest; but poetry, in the highest sense of the word, disappears. Then comes the dotage of the fine arts, a second childhood, as feeble as the former, and far more hopeless. This is the age of critical poetry, of poetry by courtesy, of poetry to which the memory, the judgment, and the wit contribute far more than the imagination. We readily allow that many works of this description are excellent; we will not contend with those who think them more valuable than the great poems of an earlier period. We only maintain that they belong to a different species of composition, and are produced by a different faculty.

It is some consolation to reflect that this critical school of poetry improves as the science of criticism improves; and that the science of criticism, like every other science, is constantly tending towards perfection. As experiments are multiplied, principles are better understood.

In some countries, in our own, for example, there has been an interval between the downfall of the creative school and the rise of the critical, a period during which imagination has been in its decrepitude, and taste in its infancy. Such a revolutionary interregnum as this will be deformed by every species of extravagance.

The first victory of good taste is over the bombast and conceits which deform such limes as these. But criticism is still in a very imperfect state. What is accidental is for a long time confounded with what is essential. Geseral theories are drawn from detached facts. How many hours the action of a play may be allowed to occupy—how many similes an epic poet may introduce into his first book—whether a piece which is acknowledged to have a beginning and end may not be without a middle, and other questions as puerile as these, formerly occupied the attention of men of letters in France, and' even in this country. Poets, in such circumstances as these, exhibit all the narrowness and feebleness of the criticism by which their manner has been fashioned. From outrageous absurdity they are preserved indeed by their timidity. But they perpetually sacrifice nature and reason to arbitrary canons of taste. In their eagerness to avoid the mala prokitrita of a foolish code, they are perpetually rushing on the mala in u. Their great predecessors, it is true, were as bad critics as themselves, or perhaps worse; but those predecessors, as we have attempted to show, were inspired by a faculty independent of criticism, and therefore wrote well while they judged ill.

In time men begin to take more rational and comprehensive views of literature. The analysis of poetry, which, as we have remarked, must at best be imperfect, approaches nearer ■nH nearer to exactness. The merits of the

wonderful models of former times are justly appreciated. The frigid productions of a later age are rated at no more than their proper value. Pleasing and ingenious imitations of the manner of the great .roasters appear. Poetry has a partial revival, a St. Martin's Summer, which, after a period of dreariness and decay, agreeably reminds us of the splendour of its June. A second harvest is gathered in; though, growing on a spent soil, it has not the heart of the former. Thus, in the present aire, Monti has successfully imitated the style of Dante; and something of the Elizabethan inspiration has been caught by several eminent countrymen of our own. But never will Italy produce another Inferno, or England another Hamlet. We look on the beauties of the modern imitations with feelings similar to those with which we see flowers disposed in vases to ornament the drawing-rooms of a capital. We doubtless regard them with pleasure, with greater pleasure, perhaps, because, in the midst of a place ungenial to them, they remind us of the distant spots on which they flourish in spontaneous exuberance. But we miss the sap, the freshness, and the bloom. Or, if we may borrow another illustration from Queen Scheherezade, we would compare the writers of this school to the jewellers who were employed to complete the unfinished window of the palace of Aladdin. Whatever skill or cost could do was done. Palace and bazaar were ransacked for precious stones. Yet the artists, with all their dextenty, with all their assiduity, and with all their vast means, were unable to produce any thing comparable to the wonders which a spirit of a higher order had wrought in a single night.

The history of every literature with which we are acquainted confirms, we think, the principles which we have laid down. In Greece we sec the imaginative school of poetry gradually fading into the critical. JEschylus and Pindar were succeeded by Sophocles; Sophocles by Euripides; Euripides by the Alexandrian versifiers. Of these last, Theocritus alone has left compositions which deserve to be read. The splendid and grotesque fairy-land of the Old Comedy, rich with such gorgeous hues, peopled with such fantastic shapes, and vocal alternately with the sweetest peals of music and the loudest bursts of elvish laughter, disappeared forever. The masterpieces of the New Comedy are known to us by Latin translations of extraordinary merit. From these translations, and from the expressions of the ancient critics, it is clear that the original compositions were distinguished by grace and sweetness, that they sparkled with wit and abounded with pleasing sentiments, but that the creative power was gone. Julius Ca;sar called Terence a hall' Menander—a sure proof that Menanc*r was not a quarter Aristophanes.

The literature of the Romans wa« merely a continuation of the literature of the Greeks. The pupils started from the point at which their masters had in the course of many generations arrived. They thus almost wholly missed the period of original invention. The only Latin poets whose writings exhibit much

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