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as to bestow the "hallowed name" upon such writers as the Sprats, and Yaldens, and Dukes, and Pomfrets, et hoc genus omne," whom the
WORDSWORTH'S White Doe of Ryl- courtesy and ignorance of a former
THE three great master-spirits of our day, in the poetical world, are Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron. But there never were minds more unlike to each other than theirs are, either in original conformation or in the course of life. It is great and enduring glory to this age, to have produced three Poets, of perfectly original genius,-unallied to each other, drinking inspiration from fountains far apart,—who have built up superb structures of the imagination, of distinct orders of architecture, -and who may indeed be said to rule, each by a legitimate sovereignty, over separate and powerful provinces in the kingdom of Mind. If we except the Elizabethan age, in which the poetical genius of the country was turned passionately to the drama, and which produced an unequalled constellation of great spirits, we believe that no other period of English literature could exhibit three such Poets as these, standing in conspicuous elevation among a crowd of less potent, but enlightened and congenial Worthies. There is unquestionably an etherial flush of poetry over the face of this land. Poets think and feel for themselves, fearlessly and enthusiastically. There is something like inspiration in the works of them all. They are far superior indeed to the mere clever verse-writers of our Augustan age. It is easy to see in what feelings, and in what faculties, our living Poets excel their duller prose brethren; and the world is not now so easily duped,
age admitted into the poetical brotherhood. Unless a Poet be now a Poet indeed,—unless he possess something of " the vision and the faculty divine," he dies at once, and is heard of no more. There is, of necessity, in so poetical an age as this, a vast crowd of deluded followers of the Muse, who mistake the will for the power. the evil of this is not great. The genuine Poets, and these alone, are admired and beloved. Of them we have many; but we believe that we speak the general voice, when we place on a triple throne, Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron.
Though greatly inferior in many things to his illustrious brethren, Scott is perhaps, after all, the most unequivocally original. We do not know of any model after which the form of his principal Poems has been moulded. They bear no resemblance, and, we must allow, are far inferior to the heroic Poems of Greece; nor do they, though he has been called the Ariosto of the North, seem to us to resemble, in any way whatever, any of the great Poems of modern Italy. He has given a most intensely real representation of the living spirit of the chivalrous age of his country. He has not shrouded the figures or the characters of his heroes in high poetical lustre, so as to dazzle us by resplendent fictitious beings, shining through the scenes and events of a half-imaginary world. They are as much real men in his poetry, as the " mighty Earls" of old are in our histories and annals. The incidents, too, and events, are all won
derfully like those of real life; and when we add to this, that all the most interesting and impressive superstitions and fancies of the times are in his poetry incorporated and intertwined with the ordinary tissue of mere human existence, we feel ourselves hurried from this our civilized age, back into the troubled bosom of semibarbarous life, and made keen partakers in all its impassioned and poetical credulities. His Poems are historical narrations, true in all things to the spirit of history, but everywhere overspread with those bright and breathing colours which only genius can bestow on reality; and when it is recollected, that the times in which his scenes are laid and his heroes act were distinguished by many of the most energetic virtues that can grace or dignify the character of a free people, and marked by the operation of great passions and important events, every one must feel that the poetry of Walter Scott is, in the noblest sense of the word, national; that it breathes upon us the bold and heroic spirit of perturbed but magnificent ages, and connects us, in the midst of philosophy, science, and refinement, with our turbulent but high-minded ancestors, of whom we have no cause to be ashamed, whether looked on in the fields of war or in the halls of peace. He is a true knight in all things,-free, courteous, and brave. War, as he describes it, is a noble game, a kingly pastime. He is the greatest of all War-Poets. His Poetry might make a very coward fearless. In Marmion, the battle of Flodden agitates us with all the terror of a fatal overthrow. In the Lord of the Isles, we read of the field of Bannockburn with clenched hands and fiery spirits, as if the English were still our enemies, and we were victorious over their invading king. There is not much of all this in any modern poetry but his own; and therefore it is, that, independently of all his other manifold excellencies, we glory in him as the great modern National Poet of Scotland,-in whom old times revive,-whose Poetry prevents History from becoming that which, in times of excessive refinement, it is often too apt to become-a dead letter, and keeps the animating and heroic spectacles of the past moving brightly across our every-day world, and flashing out from them a
kindling power over the actions and characters of our own age.
Byron is in all respects the very opposite of Scott. He never dreams of wholly giving up his mind to the influence of the actions of men, or the events of history. He lets the world roll on, and eyes its wide-weltering and tumultuous waves-even the calamitous shipwrecks that strew its darkness-with a stern, and sometimes even a pitiless misanthropy. He cannot sympathise with the ordinary joys or sorrows of humanity, even though intense and overpowering. They must live and work in intellect and by intellect, before they seem worthy of the sympathy of his impenetrable soul. His idea of man, in the abstract, is boundless and magnificent; but of men, as individuals, he thinks with derision and contempt. Hence he is in one stanza a sublime moralist, elevated and transported by the dignity of human nature; in the next a paltry satirist, sneering at its meanness. Hence he is unwilling to yield love or reverence to any thing that has yet life; for life seems to sink the little that is noble into the degradation of the much that is vile. The dead, and the dead only, are the objects of his reverence or his love; for death separates the dead from all connexion, all intimaey with the living; and the memories of the great or good alone live in the past, which is a world of ashes. Byron looks back to the tombs of those great men " that stand in assured rest;" and gazing, as it were, on the bones of a more gigantic race, his imagination then teems with corresponding births, and he holds converse with the mighty in language worthy to be heard by the spirits of the mighty. It is this contrast between his august conceptions of man, and his contemptuous opinion of men, that much of the almost incomprehen sible charm, and power, and enchantment of his Poetry exists. We feel ourselves alternately sunk and elevated, as if the hand of an invisible being had command over us. At one time we are a little lower than the angels; in another, but little higher than the worms. We feel that our elevation and our disgrace are alike the lot of our nature; and hence the Poetry of Byron, as we before remarked, is read as a dark, but still a divine revelation.
If Byron be altogether unlike Scott, Wordsworth is yet more unlike Byron. With all the great and essential faculties of the Poet, he possesses the calm and self-commanding powers of the Philosopher. He looks over human life with a steady and serene eye; he listens with a fine ear" to the still sad music of humanity." His faith is unshaken in the prevalence of virtue over vice, and of happiness over misery; and in the existence of a heavenly law operating on earth, and, in spite of transitory defeats, always visibly triumphant in the grand field of human warfare. Hence he looks over the world of life, and man, with a sublime benignity; and hence, delighting in all the gracious dispensations of God, his great mind can wholly deliver itself up to the love of a Aower budding in the field, or of a child asleep in its cradle; nor, in doing so, feels that Poetry can be said to stoop or to descend, much less to be degraded, when she embodies, in words of music, the purest and most delightful fancies and affections of the human heart. This love of the nature to which he belongs, and which is in him the fruit of wisdom and experience, gives to all his Poetry a very peculiar, a very endearing, and, at the same time, a very lofty character. His Poetry is little coloured by the artificial distinctions of society. In his delineations of passion or character, he is not so much guided by the varieties produced by customs, institutions, professions, or modes of life, as by those great elementary laws of our nature which are unchangeable and the same; and therefore the pathos and the truth of his most felicitous Poetry are more profound than of any other, not unlike the most touching and beautiful passages in the Sacred Page. The same spirit of love, and benignity, and etherial purity, which breathes over all his pictures of the virtues and the happiness of man, pervades those too of external nature. Indeed, all the Poets of the age, and none can dispute that they must likewise be the best Critics,-have given up to him the palm in that Poetry which commerces with the forms, and hues, and odours, and sounds, of the material world. He has brightened the earth we inhabit to our eyes; he has made it more musical to our ears;
he has rendered it more creative to our imaginations.
We are well aware, that what we have now written of Wordsworth is not the opinion entertained of his genius in Scotland, where, we believe, his Poetry is scarcely known, except by the extracts from it, and criticisms upon it, in the Edinburgh Review. But in England his reputation is high,
indeed, among many of the very best judges, the highest of all our living Poets; and it is our intention, in this and some other articles, to give our readers an opportunity of judging for themselves, whether he is or is not a great Poet. This they will best be enabled to do by fair and full critiques on all his principal Poems, and by full. and copious quotations from them, selected in an admiring but impartial spirit. We purpose to enter, after this has been done, at some length into the peculiarities of his system and of his genius, which we humbly conceive we have studied with more care, and, we fear not to say, with more knowledge and to better purpose, than any writer in the Edinburgh Review. Indeed, the general conviction of those whose opinions are good for any thing on the subject of Poetry is, that, however excellent many of the detached remarks on particular passages may be, scarcely one syllable of truth-that is, of knowledge has ever appeared in the Edinburgh Review on the general principles of Wordsworth's Poetry, or, as it has been somewhat vaguely, and not very philosophically, called, the Lake School of Poetry. We quarrel with no critic for his mere critical opinions; and in the disquisitions which, ere long, we shall enter into on this subject, we shall discuss all disputed points with perfect amenity, and even amity, towards those who," toto cœlo," dissent from our views. There is by far too much wrangling and jangling in our periodical criticism. Every critic, nowa-days, raises his bristles, as if he were afraid of being thought too tame and good-natured. There is a want of genial feeling in professional judges of Poetry; and this want is not always supplied by a deep knowledge of the laws. For our own parts, we intend at all times to write of great living Poets in the same spirit of love and reverence with which it is natural to regard the dead and the sanctified;