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like a consul in the garments of triumph; and his demeanour gave evidence of an uncontroled spirit, briginating in the consciousness of unlimited erudition, and of a high place in the august temple of English hierarchy. But Drayton, though not a leviathan in literature, was a charming poet in the natural age of English verse, when Chaucer was read ; when Spenser was honoured ; when Shakespeare lived; and when Sidney played at tournament and told the tales of Arcadia. Burton has highly praised him, and the learned Selden has written notes on the Polyolbion. I am afraid, that we do not ponder enough on the poetick pages of English bards, who wrote curiously, but most pleasantly, when England was young in letters. We do not drink at the fountain, where the water is purest ; we do not climb to the top of the tree, where the fruit is the fairest ; we do not ascend to the summit of the hill, where the prospect is widest and the air most sweet ; but our indolence makes us grovel below ; we gather a few fruits, which are shrivelled ; and we suck in tainted water, which had corrupted in its course, and gives no nourishment. sHAREspeaRE’s MULBERRY TREE.
ONE Gastrell cut down the mulberry tree, which Shakespeare planted in his own garden at Stratford. This was profanation indeed. The legends of the Catholick church tell wonderful stories about bits of the coffin of Joseph of Arimathea, and the house of the Virgin Mary at Loretta. What miracles might not the chips of the mulberry tree have performed on the devout minds of the worshippers of Shakespeare Such is the power of association, that, in very flexible fancies, we
Vol. III. No. 2. I
may easily believe, that the most beautiful thoughts would have been produced on so enthnsiastick a subject. We might have had from bards of purity and poetry odes equal to “the dove” of Anacreon, and sonnets superiour to “the laurel” of Petrarch. Gastrell will hereafter receive no mercy from the lovers of Shakespeare, and he will and ought to be a mark for the archers, a fit subject for the keenest shafts of the satyrist. The classical traveller visits the Tusculan villa of Cicero, and no longer finds a record or tradition of the spreading plane tree, in the cool shade of which Crassus and Antonius discoursed “de oratore.” In like manner, when the pilgrim and poet, after a revolution of more than eighteen hundred years, shall inquire for the garden of Shakespeare, though he will find no vestige and hear no curious tale of the mulberry tree, yet his righteous indignation will rejoice at the reflection, that perpetual shame rests on the name of Gastrell, who unfeelingly destroyed in full luxuriance the hallowed object of Shakespeare’s cultivation. No peace shall rest on his tomb. No one shall boast a lineage from the Goth. Whenever, in coming years, the jubilee of Shakespeare shall be kept with pageantry and pomp, with revelry and song on the banks of the Avon, the names of those, who love the poet, shall be received with welcome and greeting, but no blessing of pleasant remembrance shall descend on the memory of Gastrell, and his name shall not mar the feast-time and merry holiday of poetry and her worshippers. LovE AND Cris VALRY.
I NEveR believed in the existence of a golden age, when shepherds piped under trees, and when love was as pure as the water of the brook ; but I have sometimes imagined, in the reverie of romance, that I should like to have lived in the feudal ages, “when all the men were brave, and all the women were chaste.” The times of Arthur and the knights, of Charlemagne and the peers, of the Virgingueen, with her flower of chivalry, have delighted my mind, and entranced my imagination. Love and courage then gave kisses of union, and every baron of virtue might then fight for a lady of love. Escutcheons, blazoned with the heraldry of honour and purity, and on the same brass-glittering shield were seen, and in curious courtesy, doves, the emblems of love, and lions, the pictures of bravery. The virgins of the imperial court were noble in lineage, renowned for their beauty, and beyond the praise of poetry for their virtue. The gallant knights and proud nobility were famous for their deeds of conquest in defence of honour and the ladies. In the time of chivalry, purity was the glory of
the women, and beauty was the
sister of purity. Then was the period of real love, then there was a true language to tell the conceptions of congenial souls; but gentlemen and peers exist no longer, and where are the damsels of the castle, where are the fair ladies of the court : In the room of chivalry, there is interestedness, there is falsehood, baseness, infamy. When a man now talks love to a girl, he is thinking of her land and her gold ; he now seeks to grasp her wealth, or gratify his lust. But the men are not solely to blame. The women are not pure ; they are not lovely ; they have affectation of sentiment, and they have falseness of heart. It is a miserable age, when contracts of marriage are deeds of bargain and
sale; when love is prostituted to venality ; when the awful obligations of the matrimonial rite, mutually given and received in the presence of a christian minister and assembly, are nothing but legalizations of wrong and indentures of infamy. Oh, it is a miserable age. There was a time, when the armour of a hero was the record of his greatness, and the pledge of his success in gaining the hallowed heart of the baron's daughter. If the helmet waved with the white feather of conquest and constaney ; if the shield was sculptured by the order of the sovereign with the atchievements of honourable war, the knight never sued in vain; if the heart of the female did not acknowledge another knight, not brighter in arms, not purer in affection, but a more legitimate lover, because fortunately he was first. This was noble, high minded, and full of generosity. But in these degenerated days of miserable pelf, men and women change their minds about love and marriage, as about houses and carriages. The first never buy a wife, and the second never entrap a husband, till wealth is accumulated into coffers, or till lust riots within, and calls aloud for revelry. I am not melancholy or mad. I look on the world with pleasure, and on my past days with joyfulness, but I cannot cry huzza to a state of society, where wealth in matrimony is the first, and the second, and the third requisite. When a man “has made a good mateh,” he is to be pitied, for his years will be miserable; when a girl is “well settled,” she is doomed to sorrow, for her heart knows no companion. Oh, that the days are gone, which were hallowed by the purity of the virgins of Lowerstein, and brightened with the glory of the barons of Hohenzollern.
FOR THE A.W"THOLOGY.
PARALLEL BETWEEN COW PER AND bu RNs.
[From the Censura Literaria for November, 1805.]
THE genius of Burns was more sublime, than that of Cowper. Both excelled in the familiar : but yet the latter was by nature as well as education more gentle, more easy, and delicate : he had also more of tenuity, while Burns was more concise, more bold, and energetick. They both also abounded in humour, which possessed the same characteristicks in each ; one mild, serene, and smiling ; the other daring and powerful, full of fire and imagery. The poems of one fill the heart and the fancy with the soft pleasures of domestick privacy, with the calm and innocent occupations of rural solitude, the pensive musings of the moralist, and the chastised indignation of pure and simple virtue : the poems of the other breathe by turns Grief, Love, Joy, Melancholy, Despair, and Terrour; plunge us in the vortex of passion, and hurry us away on the wings of unrestrained and undirected fancy.
Cowper could paint the scenery of Nature and the simple emotions of the heart with exquisite simplicity and truth. Burns could array the morning, the noon, and the evening in new colours; could add new graces to female beauty, and new tenderness to the voice of love. In every situation in which he was placed, his mind seized upon the most striking circumstances, and combining them anew, and dressing them with all the fairy trappings of his imagination, he produced visions, such as none but "“ poets dream.” Wherever he went, in whatever he was employed, he saw every
thing with a poet’s eye, and clothed it with a poet's tints. The hearts and tempers of these bards seem to have been cast in moulds equally distinct : while Cowper shrunk from difficulties and was palsied with dangers, we can conceive Burns at times riding with delight in the whirlwind, performing prodigies of heroism, and foremost in the career of a glorious death. We can almost suppose in his athletick form and daring countenance, had he lived in times of barbarism, and been tempted by hard necessity to forego his principles, such an one as we behold at the head of a banditti in the savage scenery of 'Salvator Rosa, gilding the crimes of violence and depredation by acts of valour and generosity In Cowper, on the contrary, we view a man only fitted for the most refined state of society, and for the bowers of peace and security. There is a relative claim to superiority on the side of Burns, on which I cannot lay so much stress as many are inclined to do. I mean his want of education, while the other enjoyed all the discipline and all the advantages of a great publick school. If the addiction to the Muses, and the attainment of poetical excellence were nothing more than an accidental application of general talents to a particular species of intellectual occupation, how happens it that among the vast numbers educated at Westminster, or Eton, or Winchester, or Harrow, among whom there must be very many of very high natural endowments, and where day after day, and year after year, they are habituated to poetical composition by every artifice of emulation, and every advantage of precept and example, so few should attain the rank of genuine poets, while Burns in a claybuilt hovel, amid the labours of the plough and the flail, under the anxiety of procuring his daily bread, with little instruction and few books, and surrounded only by the humblest society, felt an irresistible impulse to poetry, which surmounted every obstacle, and reached a felicity of expression, a force of sentiment, and a richness of imagery scarce ever rivalled by an union of ability, education, practice, and laborious effort Thinking therefore that poetical talent is a bent impressed by the hand of Nature, I cannot give the greatest weight to subsequent artificial circumstances ; but yet I must admit that in the case of Burns they were so unfavourable, that no common natural genius could have overcome them. On the contrary, there were some points in the history of Burns more propitious to the bolder features of poetry, than in that of Cowper. He wrote in the season of youth, when all the passions were at their height; his life was less uniform, and his station was more likely to encourage energy and enthusiasm, than the more olished and more insipid ranks, to which the other belonged. In the circles of fashion, fire and imFo are deemed vulgar; and ith the roughnesses of the human character all its force is too often smoothed away. An early intercourse with the upper mobility is too apt to damp all the generous emotions, and make one ashamed of romantick hopes and sublime conceptions. From
blights of this kind the early situation of Burns protected him. The heaths and mountains of Scotland, among which he lived, braced his nerves with vigour, and cherished the bold and striking colours of his mind. But it seems to me vain and idle to speculate upon education and outward circumstances, as the causes or promoters of poetical genius. It is the inspiring breath of Nature alone, which gives the powers of the genuine bard, and creates a ruling propensity, and a peculiar cast of character, which will rise above every impediment, but can be substituted by neither art nor labour. To write mellifluous verses in language, which may seem to the eye and the ear adorned with both imagery and elegance, may be a faculty neither unattainable, nor even uncommon. But to give that soul, that predominance of thought, that illuminated tone of a living spirit, which spring in so inexplicable a manner from the chords of the real lyre, is beyond the reach of mere human arrangement, without the innate and very rare gift of the Muse. That gift has regard neither to rank, station, nor riches. It shone over the cradles of Surry, and Buckhurst, amid the splendour of palaces, and the lustre of coronets ; it shone over those of Milton, and Cowley, and Dryden, and Gray, and Collins, amid scenes of frugal and unosa
tentatious competence and medi
ocrity ; it shone over that of Burns, in the thatched hovel, the chill abode of comfortless penury and humble labour. If there be any who doubt whether, in the exercise of this gift, Burns contributed to his own happiness, let them hear the testimony of himself. “Poesy,” says
he to Dr. Moore, “ was still a darling walk for my mind ; but it was only indulged in according to the humour of the hour. I had usually half a dozen, or more pieces on hand ; I took up one or other as it suited the momentary tone of the mind, and dismissed the work as it bordered on fatigue. My passions, when once lighted up, raged like so many devils, till they got vent in rhyme, and then the conning over my verses, like a spell, soothed all into quiet !” In truth, without regard to happiness, or misery, the impulse of the true, poet towards his occupation is generally irresistible, even to the neglect of all, to which prudence and self-interest imperiously dictate his attention. Thus placed in the conflict of opposite attractions, he too often falls a victim to the compunctions of mental regret, and the actual stripes of worldly adversity. But the die is cast; even the misery, which
is endured in such a cause, is dear to him ; and the hope that his memory will live, and the pictures of his mind be cherished when his bones are mouldering in the dust, is a counterpoise to more than ordinary sufferings |
I do not mean to encourage the idea, that the imprudences, and much less the immoralitics, of Burns, were absolutely inseparable from the brilliance of his talents, or the sensibilities of his heart. I am not justifying, I only attempt to plead for them, in mitigation of the harsh and narrow censures of malignity and envy. I call on those of dull heads and sour tempers to judge with candour and mercy, to respect human frailties, more especially when redeemed by accompanying virtues, and to enter not into the garden of Fancy with implements too coarse, lest in the attempt to destroy the weeds, they pluck up also all the flowers.
ONE might imagine, that the "unavoidable calamities of life would sufficiently exercise our philosophy, without unnecessarily adventuring into experiments of patience ; that mankind would prefer the improvement of their pleasures to the advancement of their pains; that there would be more pupils of the garden of Epicurus, than disciples of the tub of Diogenes. But hourly experience confirms the uncertainty of calculations in morals ; and though the politician may prophecy from incidents the motion of empires, and the astronomer determine by phenomena the visitations of com
ets, there are no diviners in ethicks, that can prognosticate the inclinations of the soul. Tempers, touched by the same spark, explode into a variety of directions, and you may as readily assign a pathway to the hurricane in the wilderness, as regulate the consequences resulting from a principle.
Since the apostacy of our parents, and the entailment of their punishment, it has been the busi. ness of the theologian and moralist to alleviate the severities of our allotment. Precepts have accordingly been poured forth on the conduct of life, till their sources are dry, and the efforts of the mod