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Thou creepest round a dear-lov'd Sister's bed
• I utterly recant the sentiment contained in the Lines
Of whose omniscient and all-spreading Love
Aught to implore were impotence of mind, it being written in Scripture, “ Ask, and it shall be given you," and my human reason being moreover convinced of the propriety of offering petitions as well as thanksgivings to Deity.
ATTEMPTED IN THE MANNER OF THE REV. W. L. BOWLES.
Non ita certandi cupidus, quam propter amorem
INTRODUCTION TO THE SONNETS.
The composition of the Sonnet has been regulated by Boileau in his Art of Poety, and since Boileau, by William Preston, in the elegant preface to his Amatory Poems: the rules, which they would establish, are founded on the practice of Petrarch. I have never yet been able to discover either sense, nature, or poetic fancy in Petrarch's poems; they appear to me all one cold glitter of heavy conceits and metaphysical abstractions. However, Petrarch, although not the inventor of the Sonnet, was the first who made it popular; and his countrymen have taken his poems as the model. Charlotte Smith, and Bowles are they who first made the Sonnet popular among the present English : I am justified, therefore, by analogy, in deducing its laws from their compositions. The Sonnet then is a small poem, in which some lonely feeling is developed. It is limited to a particular number of lines, in order that the reader's mind, having expected the close at the place in which he finds it, may rest satisfied; and that so the poem may acquire, as it were, a totality,--in plainer phrase, may become a whole. It is confined to fourteen lines, because as some particular number is necessary, and that particular number must be a small one, it may as well be fourteen as any other number.
When no reason can be adduced against a thing, custom is a sufficient reason for it. Perhaps, if the Sonnet were comprised in less than fourteen lines, it would become a serious Epigram; if it extended to more, it would encroach on the province of the Elegy. Poems, in which no lonely feeling is developed, are not Sonnets because the author has chosen to write them in fourteen lines; they should rather be entitled Odes, or Songs, or Inscriptions. The greater part of Warton's Sonnets are severe and masterly likenesses of the style of the Greek επιγραμματα. .
In a Sonnet, then, we require a development of some lonely feeling, by whatever cause it may have been excited; but thcse Sonnets appear to me the most exquisite, in which moral sentiments, affections, or feelings, are deduced from, and associated with, the scenery of Nature. Such compositions generate a habit of thought highly favourable to delicacy of character. They create a sweet and indissoluble union between the intellectual and the material world. Easily remembered from their briefness, and interesting alike to the eye and the affections, these are the poems which we can “lay up in our heart, and our soul," and repeat them “when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise up. Hence, the Sonnets of Bowles derive their marked superiority over all other Sonnets; hence they domesticate with the heart, and become, as it were, a part of our identity.
Respecting the metre of a sonnet, the writer should consult his own convenience.-Rhymes, many or few, or no rhymes at all whatever the chastity of his ear may prefer, whatever the rapid expression of his feelings will permit;—all these things are left at his own disposal. A sameness in the final sound of its words is the great and grievous defect of the Italian languge. That rule therefore, which the Italians have established, of exactly four different sounds in the Sonnet, seems to have arisen from their wish to have as many, not from any dread of finding more. But surely it is ridiculous to make the defect of a foreign language a reason for our not availing ourselves of one of the marked excellencies of our own. “The Sonnet (says Preston) will ever be cultivated by those who write on tender pathetic subjects. It is peculiarly adapted to the state of a man violently agitated by a real passion, and wanting composure and vigor of mind to methodize his thought. It is fitted to express a momentary burst of passion,” &c. Now, if there be one species of composition more difficult and artificial than another, it is an English Sonnet on the Italian model. Adapted to the agitations of a real passion ! Express momentary bursts of feeling in it! I should sooner expect to write pathetic axes or pour forth extempore eggs and altars! But the best confutation of such idle rules is to be found in the Sonnets of those who have observed them, in their inverted sentences, their quaint phrases, and incongruous mixture of obsolete and Spenserian words: and when, at last, the thing is toiled and hammered into fit shape, it is in general racked and tortured Prose rather than any thing resembling Poetry.
The Sonnet has been erer a favourite species of composition with me; but I am conscious that I have not succeeded in it. From a large number I have retained ten only, as beneath mediocrity. Whatever more is said of them, ponanius lucro.
My heart has thank'd thee, Bowles ! for those soft strains
ON A DISCOVERY MADE TOO LATE.
Thou bleedest, my poor Heart! and thy distress
Thou should'st have loved it most, when most oppressid.
Thou gentle Look, that didst my soul beguile,
TO THE RIVER OTTZR.
Dear native Brook! wild Streamlet of the West !