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ON THE TEMPEST.
THE POET'S EYE, IN A FINE FRENZY ROLLING,
AND AS IMAGINATION BODIES FORTH
THE FORM OF THINGS UNKNOWN, THE POET's Pen
TURNS THEM TO SHAPE, AND GIVES TO AIRY NOTHING
A LOCAL HABITATION, AND A NAME.
MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
It has been well observed, that the play of the TEMPEST, carries us beyond the limits of nature, without forsaking sense ;-its enchantment no doubt has given to fiction all the appearance of reality; but the genius of poetry having now in modern times, left the abodes of supernatural beings, the poet revels no more, in those uncontrolled and boundless dominions of fancy. Shakspere, however, wrote congenial to the period in which he lived; the lofty powers of his imagination knew no bounds, and in soaring far beyond the regions of terrestrial existence, to please the taste, and suit the prejudices of his day, he has given to the world, a magnificent proof, of the
extent of his genius, and has left behind him, a source of intellectual enjoyment, that will ever influence the heart of man, with the sweetest and tenderest emotions. The mental vigor displayed in the Tempest, furnishes a beautiful illustration of the powers of the human brain, and in a moral and poetical point of view, presents to us, scenes and events truly pleasing and instructive; but amidst all this grandeur and beauty, the calm spirit of philosophy, will ever have something to deplore, connected as it is, with a subject, which inits effects, has tended in former days, to promote great evil. Every age and country have had their superstitions, and though the belief in the existence of preternatural beings, has given birth to those inventions, from which poetry derives its highest distinctions, and created a sublimity of thought, and a nobleness of enthusiasm, that almost sanctifies the dreams of fiction,-yet the origin of those supernatural fancies, it must be admitted, can be traced to no other source than the extreme ignorance of the human mind. Mankind, in former ages, were entirely excluded from a knowledge of the operations of nature;-totally unacquainted with those principles of science, which distinguish the philosophy of the present day, they became the slaves of their own fears, and under the gloomy sway of that gothic darkness, which for centuries prevailed in Europe, every element was imagined the residence of a demon;-ghosts, goblins, and witches, were the terror of the world, the belief of which, entailed not only calamity and misery upon individuals, but operated materially against the destiny of nations: the unhappy fate of the brave but unfortunate Maid of Orleans, one instance amongst many that could be recorded, while it awakens our sympathy, will ever remain an indelible stain upon the page of history. Even in the plenitude of ancient Rome, the influence of such belief guided the destinies of that great empire, as Plutarch tells us, that the energies of Marcus Brutus were greatly destroyed, by his having seen in his camp the ghost of Julius Cæsar, the night previous to the battle of Phillippi.
It would, however, be foreign to my purpose, to enter minutely into the history of the human mind, connected with superstition, the detail of which, will always present a durable monument of human folly ;-science has done much, in our day, to give to the aspect of human affairs, a very different character; but, melancholy as it is to contemplate, the vestiges of ignorance and barbarism still surround us ;-there are men in these later times, who, endowed with much talent, have allowed their minds to be shackled with all the trammels of prejudice, and have indicated in their writings, a great reluctance to throw off the superstition of former ages :- Dr. Samuel Johnson and Sir Walter Scott are a lamentable proof of this, the latter implying, in his work on Demonology, that while a belief exists in the immortality of the soul, there will always be a prevalence of those opinions. Scott, however, never wrote as a philosopher; his
ideas upon this subject are not to be relied on, having neither the impression of candour, nor the semblance of honesty; his works certainly display great talent, combined with deep research ; but, throughout the vast range of his extensive productions, there is scarcely one sentiment to be found, which will secure to him, the praise of posterity, or show that his mind was ever imbued with that elevation of thought, to serve and promote the true interests of mankind. The strong love of life which is interwoven with the feelings of man, has made him look forward to an existence beyond the grave, and in approaching
That undiscover'd country, from whose bourne
his mind, amidst the storms which on his wayward and troubled journey often assail him, is solaced by enjoying the prospect, of those scenes of future bliss, which he trusts, are awaiting him ;-the most virtuous of men, have in all past times, maintained the soul's immortality, and those of the present day, would, in all probability, feel themselves degraded, were we to impute to them, the belief of ghosts, and such other phantasies ;—the reasoning of Scott, is therefore untenable, as it is consolatory to know, that the progress of science and philosophy, is doing every thing to banish from the world such absurdities, those fancies of the mind being now, happily, confined only to that very illiterate portion of mankind, whose fate is so pathetically alluded to by the immortal Gray