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as far as they are modified by a predominant passion; or by associated thoughts or images awakened by that passion; or when they have the effect of reducing multitude to unity, or succession to an instant; or lastly, when a human and intellectual life is transferred to them from the poet's own spirit,
“Which shoots its being through earth, sea, and air.”
In the two following lines for instance, there is nothing objectionable, nothing which would preclude them from forming, in their proper place, part of a descriptive poem: “Behold yon row of pines, that shorn and bow’d Bend from the sea-blast, seen at twilight eve.” But with the small alteration of rhythm, the same words would be equally in their place in a book of topography, or in a descriptive tour. The same image will rise into a semblance of poetry if thus conveyed : “Yon row of bleak and visionary pines, By twilight-glimpse discerned, mark 1 how they flee
From the fierce sea-blast, all their tresses wild
I have given this as an illustration, by no means as an instance, of that particular excellence which I had in view, and in which Shakspeare even in his earliest, as in his latest works, surpasses all other poets. It is by this, that he still gives a dignity and a passion to the ob
jects which he presents. Unaided by any previous excitement, they burst upon us at once in
life and in power.
“Full many a glorious morning have I seen
# * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur'd,
- Sonnet 107.
As of higher worth, so doubtless still more characteristic of poetic genius does the imagery become, when it moulds and colors itself to the circumstances, passion, or character, present and foremost in the mind. For unrivalled instances of this excellence, the reader's own memory will refer him to the LEAR, OTHELLO, in short to which not of the “great, ever living, dead man's” dramatic works? Inopem me copia fecit. How true it is to nature, he has himself finely expressed in the instance of love
in Sonnet 98.
“From you have I been absent in the spring,
Scarcely less sure, or if a less valuable, not less indispensable mark
will the imagery supply, when, with more than the power of the painter, the poet gives us the liveliest image of succession with the feeling of simultaneousness | With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace Of those fair arms, that held him to her heart, And homeward through the dark lawns runs apace:
Look how a bright star shootetk from the sky 1
4. The last character I shall mention, which would prove indeed but little, except as taken conjointly with the former; yet without which the former could scarce exist in a high degree, and (even if this were possible) would give promises only of transitory flashes and a meteoric power; is DEPTH, and ENERGY of THought. No man was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language. In Shakspeare's poems, the creative power, and the intellectual energy wrestle as in a war embrace. Each in its excess of strength seems to threaten the extinction of the other. At length, in the DRAMA they were reconciled, and fought each with its shield before the breast of the other. Or like two rapid streams, that at their first meeting within narrow and rocky banks mutually strive to repel each other, and intermix reluctantly and in tumult; but soon finding a wider channel and more yielding shores blend, and dilate, and flow on in one current and with one voice. The Venus and Adonis did not perhaps allow the display of the deeper passions. But the story of Lucretia seems to favor, and even demand their intensest workings. And yet we find in Shakspeare's management of the tale neither pathos, nor any other dramatic quality. There is the same minute and faithful imagery as in the former poem, in the same vivid colours, inspirited by the same impetuous vigour of thought, and diverging and contracting with the same activity of the assimilative and of the modifying faculties; and with a yet larger dis
play, a yet wider range of knowledge and reflection; and lastly, with the same perfect do. minion, often domination, over the whole world of language. What then shall we say? even this; that Shakspeare, no mere child of nature; no automaton of genius; no passive vehicle of inspiration possessed by the spirit, not possessing it; first studied patiently, meditated deeply, understood minutely, till knowledge become habitual and intuitive wedded itself to his habitual feelings, and at length gave birth to that stupendous power, by which he stands alone, with no equal or second in his own class; to that power, which seated him on one of the two glory-smitten summits of the poetic mountain, with Milton as his compeer not rival. While the former darts himself forth, and passes into all the forms of human character and passion, the one Proteus of the fire and the flood ; the other attracts all forms and things to himself, into the unity of his own IDEAL. All things and modes of action shape themselves anew in the being of MILTON ; while SHAKSPEARE becomes all things, yet for ever remaining himself. O what great men hast thou not produced, England my country ! truly indeed— Must we be free or die, who speak the tongue, Which SHAKsPEARE spake; the faith and morals hold,
Which MILTON held. In every thing we are sprung