Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

—often wild and crude no doubt-on the great topics of the day, and opens his weekly or daily newspaper with as much interest as many a more gifted politician. But out of twenty farm labourers you will seldom find more than one who is 66

a scholar,” and can read with such ease and pleasure to himself as to take up a newspaper or magazine. These poor fellows have been all their lives in the fields. Ignorant, but not innocent ; animal-like in their habits, but not, like the animals, obeying the law of their being with no aim that is not of the earth, earthy, and without resources in their few hours of relaxation—can we wonder that these men are what they are, or rather is it not a marvel that they are so respectful to their superiors, and so willing to help and oblige their equals? I wish that the legislature would assist in providing education for a “bold peasantry," who would certainly be more "their country's pride” than they are at present, if only they could read and write, and were thus put in the way of gaining the advantages which this modest instruction will afford. I never heard any argument raised against parliamentary interference in this matter which, however fair-seeming in theory, was not utterly cast to the winds by the stern facts which surround us on all sides, admitting of no question, and conveying, as it seems to me, one simple and authoritative moral. But if Government can do something, how much remains for private benevolence and forethought. Religious instruction is of infinite value to these tough, rugged natures, as it is to us all; but it should be combined with those social appliances which are especially required by the labouring man. I care little for the exhortations of a Christian landlord to his tenants if at the same time he suffer them to live in unhealthy and overcrowded cottages; nor can I esteem a country clergyman for his denunciation of degrading amusements if he do not show a heartiness and good-will in promoting every healthful and innocent recreation. “ Who can estimate,” says Mr. Helps, “how much money is spent for the enjoyment of the clean sanded floor and comparative comfort of the pot-house which might be had as cheaply at home." But even if the labourer's home were all that it ought to be, he requires, beyond the rest and refreshment of his own fireside, some seasonable recreation. On this matter I could speak strongly, as I feel strongly ; but the author of “Friends in Council" has taken it up so frequently, and has treated it so effectively, that little remains to be said on the subject. Take, however, for what they are worth these few thoughts on the condition of our rural poor.

HARTLEY. And this wise prelection has been evolved from the core of a poetical discussion. Who will dare to deny the utility of poetry?

Talbot. It would be easier to question the present proof of its value. But it is certain that poetry contains within itself the seed of all noble thoughts, of all true philosophy. The man who studies our greatest poets, and follows the leadings of their genius, will be carried into many regions of intellectual activity. Poetry is the pioneer of philosophy and science, and in poetry must all true science and philosophy terminate. It is thus that it is termed by Wordsworth “the first and last of all know

ledge.”

HARTLEY. Doubtless he considered that this Alpha and Omega of knowledge was contained in his own volumes ; for Wordsworth seldom cared to read, and still more rarely to praise, the works of other poets. And now, as the thread of my commentary on Thomson has been so aptly broken by TALBOT, I think it may be as well to close it altogether; for the poet's sake, lest I should be inclined to reveal some of his poetical delinquencies; for our own, because the “ linked sweetness ” of this poetical diversion may possibly be drawn out too far. So, then, we may consider that the “ Seasons" are closed, that the ghost of Thomson is laid, that his poetic fame as a rural poet is duly apportioned, and need fear no more the agitation which is caused by a tempest of discordant criticism.

STANLEY. So might it be, if we three critics ruled the world poetic; but, alack ! we have no more claim to such a government than Sancho Panza had to rule in Barataria.

TALBOT. Let us dream like Sancho, and we shall equally enjoy the sweets of power in reversion. If we possessed it in reality, we might find our position as uncomfortable as that of the poor squire.

CHAPTER VII.

Poesy !—Thou sweet'st content
That e'er heaven to mortals lent.
Though they as a trifle leave thee
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee;
Though thou be to them a scorn
That to nought but earth are born ;
Let

my life no longer be
Than I am in love with thee.
Though our wise ones call thee madness,
Let me never taste of gladness
If I love not thy maddest fits
More than all their greatest wits.

WITHER.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The days we had passed at Lynton were not spent in intellectual idleness. In our long rambles we discussed many of the great topics of the day, and gained—I speak at least from my own experience--a more buoyant and healthful spirit, from the light and strength produced by such intercourse. Indeed, I have often discovered the solution of a moral or intellectual problem by unconstrained converse with a friend. I may have pondered over it myself till the brain has become dizzy, and the mind bewildered ; while he, on the contrary, in looking at it freshly, will discern at once those salient points for which I had long been eagerly, yet vainly, searching.

These observations are suggested to me by some remarks in my note book, which follow in order of time the conversations I have just recorded. It was a dull heavy evening,

and the outward gloom was increased by two unpleasant letters I had received from London. I was feeling depressed, and confessed my disinclination for any poetical divertisement.

STANLEY. To yield to mere impulses of feeling, is to weaken one's intellectual stamina. Better never to yield at all, than to yield too easily to mental weariness, or the love of change. I remember being once cautioned by a friend to avoid a life full of "brackets" or “ parentheses." The advice was sound, and I have oftentimes felt its value when the discomforts or perplexities of existence have threatened to oppose its healthful progress, when some sorrow or annoyance stops the current of daily thought, and tempts one to idleness and indecision. But the joyous and gladsome-voiced Lyn, bounding towards the sea, with never-ceasing eagerness, with untiring life, is not curbed into stagnation by the rocks which oppose

its course, but winds round them, or leaps over them in mirthful swiftness. Let us learn a lesson from the stream, and fight on gallantly in spite of all obstacles.

HARTLEY. Poets-not the greatest, but of the second order--are of all men the most prone to despondency. Their strength of wing carries them upward into a region of joy and sunlight, and there for awhile happy thoughts will sustain them buoyantly; but anon a cloud conceals the glory, their singing-robes become moist and heavy with earth-born vapours, and burdened and soiled they fall wearily to the ground. You know what Wordsworth says: “We poets in our youth begin in gladness, But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.”

« AnteriorContinuar »