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try makes known, and the meagre, the superficial, the less true representations of the novel, will lose their undue fascination. Poetry is the very highest form of literature. It is in fact the noblest, by far, of all the arts. Sculpture, painting, and music, all combined, are but a faint expression of the human soul, in comparison with poetry. So far above those of other men, are the thoughts and the diction of the poet, that in all ages he has been said to be inspired. A special gift of divinity has been thought to be vouchsafed to him. When God put the harp into the hand of David, he conferred greater glory, than when he put upon him the crown of royal power. We of this generation, are still under the spell of the harp, but the power of the crown is gone forever. And old Homer! when will his power die ? And the glory of Italy, is Dante. His great soul fills his country with celestial light. And there is Shakspeare ! How England rises in glory at his name! The world is full of poetry.
The heavens, the earth, and the sea, have each their poetry. And God has given to these men the power to interpret it; and blending it with the richness of their own souls, to shadow it forth to ordinary men. Philosophers and poets are sent into the world to teach and exalt duller minds. If it were not for these great teachers, the race of men would ever be barbarous. Strike out of human history all the works of genius, and take away from human culture all their influence, and how humble would be every page. The philosopher forms the opinions of the world, the poet forms their sentiments. The one wields his prerogatives over the mind, the other over the heart. And what is the human heart? On one side is heaven, on the other is hell. Over this bright, and over this gloomy region the poet wields his prerogatives. It is with the heart in its joys, and in its sorrows, in its pride and in its
humiliation, that the poet has to deal. It is no wonder then, that poets have always been the best beloved of a nation's great minds. His spell is upon the heart. In youth, when love kindles its first flame upon the altar of the heart, poetry breathes its soft breath upon it, and gives it a heavenly warmth. And it gives à fragrance and a beauty to every flower of joy that blooms in the happy vales of that early period, and paints in brightest hues of hope the horizon of the future. And it constantly whispers into the ear of youth all those little joys it likes to hear. It tells the heart its own secrets of love, better than it knows them itself. And this is what Robert Burns has done better than any poet. He has depicted the sentiments of the youthful heart, with a power truly divine. He realized in his own soul more fully than any
other man the ideal perfection of human love. And this selfish age should be taught this sweetest mystery of the heart. The necessities of life are so continually impressing men with the value of utilitarian considerations, that the heart loses its generous tenderness. From this sordid state of the affections, love is the best preservative : for when its youthful freshness has passed away in the heart's slower pulses, it is still the central flame that warms all the affections. If, therefore, I have succeeded in drawing attention to this peculiar feature of Burns's poetry, while I have given due consideration to the others, I have done what I designed to do, and deem it sufficient apology for having written another work on Burns, when so many abler minds have done so, but have not given so much prominence to this peculiar feature, which is so characteristic of the poet. And I have further endeavored to defend Burns, as a man, from false opinions of him. It will be seen, that when he was about to die, he felt deep concern for his fame, not only as a poet,
but as a man. He felt, at that moment, when the soul often realizes, in an extraordinary degree, all its worth, what Cicero has so beautifully described in his oration for the poet Archias.
“ Nor ought we,” says Cicero, “to dissemble this truth, which cannot be concealed, but declare it openly: we are all influenced by the love of praise, and the greatest minds have the greatest passion for glory. The philosophers themselves prefix their names to those books which they write upon contempt of glory ; by which they show that they are desirous of praise and fame, while they affect to despise them. For virtue desires no other reward, for her toils and dangers, but praise and glory: take but this away, and what is there left in this short, this scanty career of human life, that can tempt us to engage
and so great labors ? Surely, if the mind had no thought of futurity, if she confined all her views within those limits which bound our present existence, she would neither waste her strength on so great toils, nor harass herself with so many cares and watchings, nor struggle so often for life itself; but there is a certain principle in the breast of every good man, which both day and night quickens him to the pursuit of glory, and puts him in mind that fame is not to be measured by the extent of his present life, but that it runs parallel with the line of posterity.”
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