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hearts of all who felt an interest in English poetry, by reviving its old glories at the moment when the last beam of inspiration seemed to have faded from the sky.
Those who take their impression of Cowper's translation of Homer from tradition, may perhaps think it an entire failure. A failure the critical world has pronounced it: but it may be well to inquire, whether it would be possible to satisfy the public expectation; and whether any one could possibly have succeeded better? We think it evident that the failure arose from the nature of the undertaking : it was an attempt to convey an idea to English readers of writings which are called inimitable, and therefore untranslatable. There is something undefined and obscurely great in the idea which the world has of the Homeric inspiration; and unless the translator could give his work the same antiquity, and surround it with the same glory of classical associations, it might present a perfect image of the simple greatness of the original, without awakening any similar feeling. An English Homer,-a Homer of the eighteenth century, was condemned beforehand. Every critic could feel safe in pronouncing it wholly unworthy of the original ; and the public, discouraged by their blind guides, felt no interest in proceeding to inquire whether their judgment was just. Had they expected anything like what they were likely to find; had they exacted nothing more than talent and industry were able to do,-had they, in a word, looked for a translation, instead of a new original, their reasonable expectations would have been fully answered. We recommend to our readers, who feel an interest in the reputation of Cowper, and lament his failure in this great undertaking, to consider what they may reasonably look for, and having thus given some distinctness to their views, to read the work. This will be doing justice to the translator, and, if we may trust our own experience, they will find their candor amply repaid. At the same time, we do not think Cowper's versification remarkably happy. It was wrought with infinite pains, and corrected and revised, till the music satisfied his ear: but in the Task, and in the Translation, he pleases more by expressive and eloquent language, than by any peculiar sweetness in the sound. But whatever gratification the work may afford, will be counterbalanced by the reflection, that it consumed time and labor that might have been better spent upon original writings: these would have been far less exhausting to his mind and spirits, while they brought infinitely greater returns of fame.
Many of Cowper's smaller pieces, in which he followed the suggestions of his own feelings without waiting for others to prescribe his subject, and urge him to write, are among the most beautiful exhibitions of his power. The lines addressed to Mary, his faithful and devoted friend, who made so generous a sacrifice of all other enjoyments to the single one of securing his comfort, of guarding him against the assaults of disease, and sustaining him when the blow had fallen, are one of the most affecting tributes which genius ever paid to virtue. And the lines addressed to his mother, on receiving her picture from a friend, are equally touching and sweet. Nothing could exceed the sacredness, with which every thing connected with her was treasured in the sanctuary of his soul; early as he lost her guidance, he had felt the loss in after life as the beginning of all his sorrows; he had felt as if, had Providence spared her a little longer, she might have given a direction to his feelings, that would have saved him from some of those trials which had almost broken his heart; she was the angel of his visions,—the bright spirit which always stood before him in his imaginations of Heaven. He remembered her as young, beautiful, and holding a relation to him which inspired the deepest reverence and affection. So firmly was her image set in his remembrance, that not a day ever passed without his thinking of her, and calling up those recollections of his childhood, connected with her, which no time could wear away; and now, when he stands in the valley of departing years, and on looking back sees the light of the sun, which is set to him, still shining on the hills of youth, from which he came down so long ago, he writes with a sensibility and pathetic earnestness, which fills every heart with sympathy, and we had almost said, every eye with tears.
But in these days, when living poets are but little read, and the dead · forgotten lie,' we are taking up more time than many of our readers will think necessary, in speaking of the life and genius of Cowper. But he claims our notice, as a man remarkable both for his intellectual history and power, the former being extraordinary almost without example, and the latter such as is not often exceeded. As respects an interest in poetry, also, we live in such times as usually follow a period of great intellectual excitement,-times, when the public taste grows indifferent, and gentle harps are struck altogether in vain. We want some one to come forward in the spirit and power of Cowper, who shall speak in a voice which shall compel the world to listen,--and in a voice too, which religion and virtue, as well as literary taste, can hear with applause. We are confident that such an one will appear; whatever may be said of new directions given to the mind in this self-complacent age, so long as the mind exists, it will treasure poetry as an art which does much to exalt it; there never will be a time when cultivated minds will cast this pearl away. It may be valued at some periods more than at others : it may be less regarded now, than it has been in former times; but these are only transient and passing changes; it will survive them all, and will last as long as the world endures. .
Art. II.--Decandolle's Botany.
Principes de la Classification naturelle, &c. Par M.
mentée. Paris. 1819. 2. A Grammar of Botany, illustrative of artificial, as well
as natural Classification, with an explanation of Jussieu's system. By Sir James EDWARD SMITH, H. D. President of the Linnæan Society, &c. London and
New York. 1822. 3. Introduction to the Natural System of Botany : or a
systematic View of the Organization, Natural Affinities, and Geographical Distribution of the whole Vegetable Kingdom. By John LINDLEY, F. R. S., L. S., G. S., Professor of Botany in the University of London, &c. First American Edition, with an Appendix, By John TORREY, M. D. New York. 1831.
The botanical student, who has rambled over mountain and marsh, with a box under his arm, and a bundle of grass or a shrub in his hands, must have been conscious how like one demented he often appeared to the unlettered rustics; and while the query, so invariably put to him, · What is that good for?' received no satisfactory reply, how plainly their looks, more expressive than language, told him that he had better stop gathering good-for-nothing weeds, and take to some honest and profitable employment. This thing is too common to be wondered at, and is moreover easily enough explained on the ground of ignorance of any end or object in science, save that of the most direct practical utility. But how is it to be accounted for that men, whose education and intelligence, we should suppose, must have carried them beyond such unworthy views of the nature of science, too often entertain notions respecting botany, as confused and mean as those of the most uncultivated mind? Why is it, that they can look on the plants of the field, clothed in the rich garniture of a summer month,-in spite of the beauty that allores their gaze, and the admirable arrangement of organs, whereby the whole economy of vegetation is maintained,—without receiving any uncommon ideas of wisdom or power, and perhaps turn away from them all, as unworthy of a passing notice? Why is it that they can hear of the labors of botanists, of their travels by sea and land, amid suffering and privation, with no other effect, perhaps, than to call up more vividly to their imagination the picture of Obed Battius, or some other equally miserable caricature of enthusiastic devotion to'a favorite science ?
The truth, indeed, is too obvious to be questioned, that botany does not bear that character of dignity and importance in the public view, which has long since been obtained by many other of the natural sciences. This may be sufficiently explained, at least, we know nothing else that can explain it,-by the single fact, that very little has been done by its friends towards introducing to general attention the more elevated and philosophical portions of the science,—those only that can make it respectable with thinking and well educated minds. When a person lights upon a botanical book, and finds it,-as nineteen times out of twenty he will find it,--a catalogue of hard names, followed by still harder descriptions in an unknown tongue, or it may be designed for juvenile minds, and of course presenting nothing to him very striking in point of novelty or importance, it is not to be wondered at that he should imbibe no favorable impressions concerning it. From such we might reasonably expect to hear the complaint, that botany has furnished none of the useful and astonishing results of chemistry ; that it gives rise to none of those grand and over
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powering conceptions, which the study of astronomy crowds upon the mind ; that we find in it little of the strong dramatic interest, so powerfully awakened by the changing scenes of creation and destruction which geology displays. In short, however well calculated its study may be considered to arrest the attention and induce good habits of observation in the young, or to afford those of riper age a pleasing relaxation from other pursuits, it is too commonly regarded as destitute of those general views and profound discussions that require much thinking, or the exercise of a severe and precise logic. It may be said, and no doubt with justice, that such erroneous notions are the fault of those who entertain them, and that little knowledge of any subject can ever be expected, if a man cap be turned from its pursuit at the first appearance of a technical word, or confine himself to the pages of a school-book. This may be true enough, but it is our business at present to show the cause of this prejudice, not its unreasonableness.
The books; that are put into the hands of beginners in this country, contain chiefly the merest elementary descriptions of the organs of plants, and perhaps a meagre account of their functions ; being written by persons who are incapable, from their limited attainments, of conveying the slightest idea of the more elevated parts of the science. Books of a higher order, we know, have been occasionally published here; but without a single exception that we can think of at this moment, they have been the productions of authors who have not attained the highest rank in the science, nor been duly sensible of the advances made in it by others. While the works of Sir J. E. Smith have found editors and publishers with us, the masterly writings of Decandolle and Brown have been suffered to remain under the veil of a foreign or dead tongue, unheard of by the great mass of botanical students. Had half the efforts been made to present the science in a light at all worthy of its real merits, that have been used in teaching words, or disseminating loose and superficial views, its pretensions to a high character would long since have been seen and acknowledged. We should not now be obliged to say, at the risk of being suspected of exaggeration, that no science is more distinguished than botany for the enlargement and permanence of its general views, for the strictness and accuracy of its reasonings, for the sure and cautious deductions on which its great principles are established,