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Two žaunets, and an Juscription on a špring.
BY THOMAS WARTON.
It is curious that Warton, who was by no means a great poet, should have written some of the most favorite sonnets in the language. The reason is, that they were upon subjects he understood, and that the writer was in earnest. Upon most, indeed upon any occasions, Warton's mind was not sufficiently active or excitable to be moved into much eloquence of expression. The Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford, was a luxurious Protestant monk, who found something to minister to his satisfaction in everything around him, Gothic architecture, books, country walks, &c., not omitting the club-room and the pipe; but he was content, in general, to admire them through the medium of the thoughts of others, and so let the companions of his mind speak for him. He was susceptible, however, of strong general impressions; and as these, in the instances before us, were made by his favorite subjects, they are given with corresponding truth. Almost all his sonnets (they are only nine), but especially these two, notwithstanding conventional phrases, have elegance, simplicity, and a touching fervor. Nobody had written on the particular topics before him, at least not poetically; so that his modesty was not tempted into imitation. It makes us regret that he did not oftener take up new subjects, especially when we see the original eye for nature which is discernible even in his half centos from the poets he admired. It must be allowed, nevertheless, that the good comfortable collegian was made rather to feel sentiment in others, than to express it in his own sturdy person.
INSCRIPTION OVER A CALM AND CLEAR SPRING,
HERE quench your thirst, and mark in me
An emblem of true charity;
WRITTEN IN A BLANK LEAF OF DUGDALE'S
By fancy's genuine feelings unbeguild,
WRITTEN AFTER SEEING WILTON HOUSE. FROM Pembroke's princely dome, where mimic art
Decks with a magic hand the dazzling bowers,
* The Monasticon is an account of the monasteries existing in England before the Reformation.
+ The seat of the Pembroke family; where there was, and is, & fine collection of pictures.
IVRITTEN AFTER SEEING WILTON HOUSE,
How to life's humbler scene can I depart,
low cell how cheat the sullen hours ?
The dispute respecting the merits and authenticity of the poems of Ossian has long settled down, we believe, into an admission of the former, and a conclusion that Macpherson invented them, assisted by traditional fragments. It is a pity Macpherson ever suffered the dispute to take place; for it has left him a doubtful reputation both for genius and honesty, when perhaps nobody would have questioned either. The fragments may have excelled the inventions; but hardly any one, except a man of genius, could have put them so well together, notwithstanding the violation of times and manners. There is a great deal of repetition and monotony; yet somehow these faults themselves contribute to the welcome part of the impression. They affect us like the dreariness of the heaths and the moaning of the winds. But the work would not have stood its ground, and gained the admirers it has, did it not possess positive beauties ; veins of genuine feeling and imagination. It is understood that an Italian translation was a favorite with Bonaparte and his officers during the early republican times. The present king of Sweden, Oscar Bernadotte, is said, we believe, to have been named after the son of Ossian. But even these illustrious testimonies to its merit are unnecessary after the single one of Gray, who in his Letters repeatedly expresses his admiration, particularly of the passages before us. We shall extract his notice of them by way of argument as well as critique. It is hardly requisite to mention, that Macpherson does not attribute these passages to Ossian. He has put them in a note, and says they were written by some imitator 56
a thousand years afterwards !" Gray takes no notice of
this; nor shall we. If they are not of the same manufacture as the rest, ghost is not like ghost, nor a wind a wind.
Observe how beautifully Gray talks of the gust of wind."recollecting itself,” and resembling the voice of a spirit.
“I have received,” he says to his friend Mr. Stonhewer," another Scotch packet with a third specimen, inferior in kind (because it is merely description), but full of nature and noble wild imagination. Five bards pass the night at the castle of a chief (himself a principal bard); each goes in his turn to observe the face of things, and returns with an extempore picture of the changes he has seen (it is an October night, the harvest month of the Highlands). This is the whole plan; yet there is a contrivance, and a preparation of ideas, that you would not expect. The oddest thing is, that every one of them sees ghosts (more or less). The idea that struck me and surprised me most, is the following :—One of them (describing a storm of wind and rain) says,
“Ghosts rido on the tempest to-night ;
Sweet is thoir voice between the gusts of wind;
Did you never observe (while rocking winds are piping loud) that pause, as the gust is recollecting itself, and rising upon the ear in a shrill and plaintive note, like the swell of an Æolian harp ? I do assure you there is nothing in the world so like the voice of a spirit. Thomson had an ear sometimes: he was not deaf to this; and has described it gloriously, but given it another differcnt turn, and of more horror. I cannot repeat the lines : it is in his Winter. There is another very fine picture in one of them. It describes the breaking of the clouds after the storm, before it is settled into a calm, and when the moon is seen by short intervals.
66 The waves are tumbling on the lake,
And lash the rocky sides,