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Shepherd. Then the clergy, again, were they to devote theirsells, tooth and nail, to their manifold duties, ane micht argue that they wou'd hae time neither to sleep nor eat, nor attend to the ither common comforts and affections that form the cement of domestic life. Yet the clergy are far frae being a very immoral, irreligious, or home-hating class of people ; and manses are amazingly crowded wi' weans, sir, on the verra sma’est steepens —
North. Why, certainly, according to Mr. Moore's argument, a deep divine, engaged on some great theological work, would make but an indifferent husband. Bụt look at him, James-yes, look at our Dr. Wodrow
Shepherd. And look, I beseech you, at his pew o'weans.
North. All the most distinguished poets of the age in Britain, are either middle-aged, or elderly, or old gentlemen. They are, therefore, not at all dangerous, personally, to the fair sex. Cupid sneers at them
-Venus jeers—and Hymen weeps, like a crocodile, with his hands in bis breeches-pockets.
Shepherd. Haw ! baw! haw!
North. Breathe the tender passion as they may, not a young lady in the land who would not prefer to the best of them, any undeformed ensign in a marching regiment, either of the foot or the dra
Shepherd. The sex has aye been desperate fond o' the army.
North. It is fortunate for some of the old bards that they have wives. Crabbe, Bowles, Wordsworth, Southey, Moore, and others-fourscore - threescore-and-ten-and threescore-have long been happily provided with that leading article. So are Milman and Barry Cornwall, and most of “the rest” between forty and fifty ; two or three are widowers—and the remainder likely to remain bachelors for life. Not a female bosom beats, with a pulsation worthy the name of beating, at this moment, for any British bard.
Shepherd. I'm no sure o' that, sir. But prate awa'.
North. The sex regard all the bachelors as so many old fogies—as so many uncles; and the idea would be too much for the gravity of any of the dear creatures, of the celebration of her marriage rites with the prettiest and most popular poet, seeing that he is aged, either by a bishop or a blacksmith.
Shepherd. Prate awa', sir-prate awa'.
North. The truth is, that, in modern times at least, poets, whatever their time of life, have been held rather cheap by the fair sex. I suspect it was the same in the ancient world-and in the days of chivalry and roinance, singing certainly was less esteemed by young ladies than fighting, and a poet with his pen had no chance whatever against & knight with his lance.
Shepherd. Prate awa'sir-prate awa'.
North. There are reasons for all this lying deep in human nature.
Shepherd. Lying deep in human nature ! Doon wi’ the bucket, and then roun' wi' the windlass, and up wi't again fu'o' the clear waters frae the well o' truth.
North. Making love, and making love-verses, are two of the most different things in the world ; and I doubt if both accomplishments were ever found highly united in the same gifted individual. Few Irishmen, in the first, excel Tom Moore; in the second, millions. Lord Byron, in lyrical measures, was a formidable wooer; but in plain matter-of-fact courtship, he had to stoop his anointed head to Corporal Casey.
Shepherd. Who was he?
North. Apollo himself, god though he was of light, and music, and medicine, setting aside two or three trivial amours, was a harmless sort of a body; while there were other deities who could not have tagged together two rhymes, before whom goddesses and nymphs fell flat as flounders.
Shepherd. Prate awa', sir-prate awa'.
North. Inspiration, in short, is of little avail either to gods or men, in the most interesting affairs of life-those of the heart. To push your way in them, there is nothing, in the long run, like a good plain prose. Now, though it must be granted, that, in much that passes for poetry, there is no inconsiderable mixture of that useful commodity, yet it is so diluted as no long to be strong drink; and repeated doses of it administered to a maiden in the shade, fail to produce the desired effect—the intoxication of love. The pretty dear seems to sip the philtre kindly; and the poet doubts not that she is about to fall into his arms. But she merely
“ Kisses the cup, and passes it to the rest,”
and next morning, perhaps, is off before breakfast in a chaise-and-four to Gretna Green, with an aide-de-camp of Wellington, as destitute of imagination as his master.
Shepherd. Prate away', sir-prate awa'.
North. If such have been often the fate even of young bards— and Sir Walter, with his usual knowledge of human nature, has charmingly illustrated it in the story of Wilford*_how much more to be pitied must they be, who have served the Muses, till the crow-feet are blackening below their eyes, and who are labouring under symptoms, not to be concealed, of incipient pot-bellies !
Shepherd. Let's return to the smashin' o' Muir.
North. There is no need to knock the nail on the head any longer with our sledge-hammers, James. Yet I cannot help expressing my
* In the poera of “Rokeby."-M.
wonder at the confusion of Mr. Moore's ideas, as well as at the weakness of his argument. He wishes to prove that “men of the higher order of genius” are seldom good domestic characters ;* and yet he huddles and jumbles them altogether,-poets, philosophers, and so forth,making his reasonings the most miscellaneous and heterogeneous hotch-potch that ever was set down on a table.
Shepherd. Are you dune wi' cuttin him up, or only gaun to begin ?
North. I am somewhere about the middle, James.
North. To prove that men of the higher order of genius—no matter what kind are unfitted for the calm affections and comforts that form the cement of domestic life, Mr. Moore observes, that “one of the chief causes of sympathy and society between ordinary mortals being their dependence on each other's intellectual resources, the operation of this social principle must naturally be weakened in those whose own mental stores are most abundant and self-sufficing, and who, rich in such materials for thinking within theinselves, are rendered so far independont of the external world.”
Shepherd. Would you repeat that again, sir, for it souns sae sonorous, that the words drown the ideas? 'Tis like the murmur o'a bit waterfa', or a hive o' bees, which the indolent mind loves to listen to, and at : times amaist deludes itself intil the belief that there's a meanin' in the murmur—as if the stream soleeloqueeze and the insects deealogueezed wisdom in the desert. Would you repeat that again, sir ?
North. Be shot if I do. Why, James, all that is
Shepherd. Drivel. Dungeons o' learning there are-leevin' dungeons o' dead learning-in wham the operation o' the social principle is weak indeed-less than the life that's in a mussel. The servant lass has to gang in upon him in his study, and rug him aff his chair by the cuff o' the neck, when the kail's on the table, and the family has gien the first preliminary flourish o' the horn-spoons.
North. Picture drawn from life.
Shepherd. Aiblins. But“ men o' the higher order o! genius," sir, I manteen, are in general impatient o' solitude, though dearly do they love it; and sae far frae their mental stores being abundant and selfsufficing, why, the mair abundant they are, the less are they self-sufficing; for the owners, “rich in such materials for thinking within them
* The particularly singular fact that Moore himself was a genius, and also a good domestie character, may be taken as a set-off to his peculiar theory. Numerous other examples might be given-foremost among them that of Sir Walter Scott, whose Lite by Lockhart exhibits him to us in all his home relations, so favourably yet so truly, that we know not whether his head or heart is inost to be respected and beloved. There was Canıpbell, also, an admirable domestic character. Peel, O'Connell, and Brougham ; Southey, Wordsworth, and Vilson ; Crabbe, Dickens, and Talfourd, certainly were “men of the higher order of genius." yet each and all of these (not to multiply instances) were attached to their home, and to the dear ones around their hearth. Mr. Thomas Moore's assertion is not borne out by the facts. He could answer as was done by another person in a case not much dissimilar, “So much the worse for the facts !"-M
DOMESTIC LIFE OF GENIUS.
sells, would think and feel that they were in a worse condition than that o' the maist abjeck poverty and powperism, gin they werena driven by a sense and an instinct, fierce and furious aften as a fivver, to pour their pearls, and their jewels, and their diamonds, and their gold and silver, oot in great glitterin' heaps afore the astonished, startled, and dazed een otheir fellow-creatures, less prodigally endowed by nature, and then wi’ a strange inixture o' pride and humbleness, to mark the sudden effect on the gazers—inwardly exclaiming _“I did it !”
North. Did what ?
Shepherd. Why, by inspiring them with a sense of beauty, elevated their hail moral and intellectual being, and enabled their fellowcreatures to see farther into their ain hearts, and into the heart o' the hail creation !
North. Good, James, good. But to pitch our conversation on a lower key, allow me to say, that “thinking within themselves," when too long pursued, is of all employments the most wearisome and barren to which men can have recourse—and that “men of the higher order of genius," knowing that well, so far from feeling that they are independent of the external world,” draw thence their daily bread and their daily water, without which their souls would speedily perish of inanition.
Shepherd. Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key ? It's at the top o' the gawmut.
North. The materials for thinking within ourselves are gathered from without; in the gathering, we have enjoyed all varieties of delight; and is it to be thought that the gardens where these flowers grew and still are growing, are to be forsaken by us, after we have, during a certain number of seasons, culled garlands wherewith to adorn our foreheads, or plucked fruit wherewith to sustain and refresh our souls ?
Shepherd. Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key, sir ? It's at the tap o' the gawmut.
North. No, James. Men of the higher order of genius never long forsake the Life-Region, and is not its great Central Shrine, James, the Hearth! The soul that worships not there, my dear Shepherd-and true worship cannot be unfrequent, but it is perennial, because from a source that the dews of heaven will not let run dry-will falter, fail, and faint, in the midst of its song, and will know, ere that truth invades, one after another, its many chambers, that the wing that soareth highest in the sun, must bave slowly waxed in the shade
Shepherd. Ca' ye that pitchin' your tawk on a laigh key? It's at the tap o' the gawmut.
North. That the Bird of Jove, sun-starer and cloud-cleaver though he be
Shepherd. Yet is happy to sink down frae heaven, and fauld up his magnificent wings at the edge o' his eyry, fond, o' the twa unfledged cannibals sleepin' wi' fu' stainmachs there, cozy in the iniddle o a mighty nest, twenty feet in circumference, and covering the haill platform o' the tap o' the cliff, aye, as fond, sir, though I alloo a hantle fiercer, as ony cushy-doo on her slight and slender “ procreant cradle," -you can see through't, ye ken, sir, frae below, and discern whether she hae eggs or young anes,-in the green gloom o' some auld pine central in the forest.
North. Yes, James, all great poets are great talkers*— .
Shepherd. Tiresome aften to a degree—though sometimes, I grant to Mr. Muir, that they are a sulky set, and as gruffly and grimly silent as if they had the toothache, or something the matter wi' their inside. Far be it frae me to deny, that “men o' the higher order o' genius” are aften disagreeable deevils. They maun aften be a sair fash to their wives and their weans—and calm as the poet's cottage looks, upon the hill or in the dell, mony a rippet is there, sir, beyond the power o'the imagination o' ony mere proser to conceive. Oh, aye, sir! mony a fearfu' rippet, in which, whether appellant or respondent, defender or pursuer, the “man o' the higher order o genius ” wishes, wi' tears in the red een o' him, nu that his wife and weans were a' dead and buried —for nae provocation in their power can drive the distrackit fallow to that—but that he himself had never been kittled, or, it kittled, instead o'hae'n been laid in the cradle by Apollo, and tended on by the Muses -nine nurses, and nae less—which o' them wat and which o' them dry it's no easy for me at this distance o time to remember he had been soockled like ither honest men's bairns, at the breast o' his nain mither, had shown nae precocious genius in his leading strings,—but, blessed lot ! had died booby o' the lowest form, and been buried amang the sabs o' a' that ever saw him, a wee senseless sumph, as stupid as a piggie, yet as happy as a lamb!
North. Hee! hee! hee! James !
Shepherd. Aye, clear your throttle. You've gotten a vile crinklin' cough, sir,—a short, kirkyard cough, sir—a wheezy host, sir-an asthmatic,
* They generally are. Yet Thomas Hood was a great poet, and very silent in society-even in that with which he was most familiar. To me, he ever appeared as if afraid to waste in conversation ideas which he could put into writing. Even at the time when he was making all the world smile, at his multitudinous poems (on paper), he rarely attempted the slightest play upou words, but would sit, a silent and apparently a meditative listener.-M.