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sixpence out of it, it has an awkward sound in the way of valuation. This anecdote was told me by persons who, if quoted by name, would prove that its genealogy is poetical as well as true. I can give my authority for this; and am ready to adduce it also for Mr. Southey's circulation of the falsehood before mentioned.
Of Coleridge, I shall say nothing-why, he may divine.' I have said more of these people than I intended in this place, being somewhat stirred by the remarks which induced me to commence upon the topic. I see nothing in these men, as poets, or as individuals little in their talents, and less in their characters, to prevent honest men from expressing for them considerable contempt, in prose or rhyme, as it may happen. Mr. Southey has the Quarterly for his field of rejoinder, and Mr. Wordsworth his postscripts to "Lyrical Ballads," where the two great instances of the sublime are taken from himself and Milton. "Over her own sweet voice
the stockdove broods;" that is to say, she has the pleasure of listening to herself, in common with Mr. Wordsworth upon most of his public appearances. "What divinity doth hedge" these persons, that we should respect them? Is it Apollo? Are they not of those who called Dryden's Ode “ a drunken song?" who have discovered that Gray's Elegy is full of faults, (see Coleridge's Life, vol. i. note, for Wordsworth's kindness in pointing this out to him,) and have published what is allowed to be the very worst prose that ever was written to prove that Pope was no poet, and that William Wordsworth is ?
In other points, are they respectable, or respected? Is it on the open avowal of apostasy, on the patronage of government, that their claim is founded? Who is there who esteems those parricides of their own principles? They are, in fact, well aware that the reward of their change has been any thing but honour. The times have preserved a respect for political consistency, and, even though changeable, honour the unchanged. Look at Moore: it will be long ere Southey meets with such a triumph in London as Moore met with in Dublin, even if the government subscribe for it, and set the money down to secret service. It was not less to the man than to the poet, to the tempted but unshaken patriot, to the not opulent but incorruptible fellow-citizen, that the warmhearted Irish paid the proudest of tributes. Mr. Southey may applaud himself to the world, but he has his own heartiest contempt; and the fury with which he foams against all who stand in the phalanx which he forsook, is, as William Smith described it," the rancour of the renegado," the bad language of the prostitute who stands at the corner of the street, and showers her slang upon all, except those who may have bestowed upon her her "little shilling."
Hence his quarterly overflowings, political and literary, in what he has himself termed "the ungentle craft," and his especial wrath against Mr. Leigh Hunt, notwithstanding that Hunt has done more for Wordsworth's reputation, as a poet (such as it is), than all the Lakers could in their interchange of self-praises for the last twenty-five years.
And here I wish to say a few words on the present state of English poetry. That this is the age of the decline of English poetry will be doubted by few who have calmly considered the subject. That there are men of genius among the present poets makes little against the fact, because it has been well said, that " next to him who forms the taste of his country, the greatest genius is he who corrupts it." No one has ever denied genius to Marino 2, who corrupted not merely the taste of Italy, but that of all Europe for nearly a century. The great cause of the present deplorable state of English poetry is to be attributed to that absurd and system.
1 [See Notices of Lord Byron's Life.]
2 [Tassoni was almost the only Italian poet of the era in which he flourished, who withstood the general corruption of taste introduced by Marino and his followers, and by the "imitated imitators of Lope de Vega; and he opened a new path, in which a crowd of pretenders have vainly endeavoured to follow him. FoscoLo.]
3" The Loves of the Triangles," the joint production of Messrs. Canning and Frere.]
4 Goldsmith has anticipated the definition of the Lake poetry, as far as such things can be defined. "Gentlemen, the present piece is not of your
atic depreciation of Pope, in which, for the last few years, there has been a kind of epidemical concurrence. Men of the most opposite opinions have united upon this topic. Warton and Churchill began it, having borrowed the hint probably from the heroes of the Dunciad, and their own internal conviction that their proper reputation can be as nothing till the most perfect and harmonious of poets — he who, having no fault, has had REASON made his reproach — was reduced to what they conceived to be his level; but even they dared not degrade him below Dryden. Goldsmith, and Rogers, and Campbell, his most successful disciples; and Hayley, who, however feeble, has left one poem "that will not be willingly let die" (the Triumphs of Temper), kept up the reputation of that pure and perfect style; and Crabbe, the first of living poets, has almost equalled the master. Then came Darwin, who was put down by a single poem in the Antijacobin 3; and the Cruscans, from Merry to Jerningham, who were annihilated (if Nothing can be said to be annihilated) by Gifford, the last of the wholesome sati
At the same time Mr. Southey was favouring the public with Wat Tyler and Joan of Arc, to the great glory of the Drama and Epos. I beg pardon, Wat Tyler, with Peter Bell, was still in MS.; and it was not till after Mr. Southey had received his Malmsey butt, and Mr. Wordsworth⚫ became qualified to gauge it, that the great revolutionary tragedy came before the public and the Court of Chancery. Wordsworth was peddling his lyrical ballads, and brooding a preface, to be succeeded in due course by a postscript; both couched in such prose as must give peculiar delight to those who have read the prefaces of Pope and Dryden; scarcely less celebrated for the beauty of their prose, than for the charms of their verse. Wordsworth is the reverse of Molière's gentleman who had been “talking prose all his life, without knowing it ;" for he thinks that he has been all bis life writing both prose and verse, and neither of what he conceives to be such can be properly said to be either one or the other. Mr. Coleridge, the future vates, poet and seer of the Morning Post, (an honour also claimed by Mr. Fitzgerald, of the "Rejected Addresses ",") who ultimately prophesied the downfall of Buonaparte, to which he himself mainly contributed, by giving him the nickname of “the Corsican," was then employed in predicating the damnation of Mr. Pitt, and the desolation of England, in the two very best copies of verses he ever wrote: to wit, the infernal eclogue of" Fire, Famine, and Slaughter," and the " Ode to the departing Year."
These three personages, Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge, had all of them a very natural antipathy to Pope; and I respect them for it, as the only original feeling or principle which they have contrived to preserve. But they have been joined in it by those who have joined them in nothing else: by the Edinburgh Reviewers, by the whole heterogeneous mass of living English poets, excepting Crabbe, Rogers, Gifford, and Campbell, who, both by precept and practice, have proved their adherence; and by me, who have shamefully deviated in practice, but have ever loved and honoured Pope's poetry with my whole soul, and hope to do so till my dying day. I would rather see all I have ever written lining the same trunk in which I actually read the eleventh book of a modern epic poem at Malta, in 1811, (I opened it to take out a change after the paroxysm of a tertian, in the absence of my servant, and found it lined with the name of the maker, Eyre, Cockspur Street, and with the epic poetry alluded to,) than sacrifice what I firmly believe in as the Christianity of English poetry, the poetry of Pope.
common epic poems, which come from the press like paper kites in summer there are none of your Turnuses or Didos in it; it is an historical description of nature. I only leg you ll endeavour to make your souls in unison wech mine, and hear with the same enthusiasm with which I have written." Would not this have made a proper proem to the Excursion, and the port and his pedler? It would have answered perfectly for that purpose, had it not unfortunately been written in good English.
5 [See ante, p. 421.]
6 [Sir James Bland Burgess's "Richard I." See antè, p. 449.]
But the Edinburgh Reviewers, and the Lakers, and IIunt and his school, and every body else with their school, and even Moore without a school, and dilettanti lecturers at institutions, and elderly gentlemen who translate and imitate, and young ladies who listen and repeat, baronets who draw indifferent frontispieces for bad poets, and noblemen who let them dine with them in the country, the small body of the wits and the great body of the blues, have latterly united in a depreciation, of which their fathers would have been as much ashamed as their children will be. In the meantime, what have we got instead? The Lake school, which began with an epic poem, " written in six weeks," (so Joan of Arc proclaimed herself,) and finished with a ballad composed in twenty years, as " Peter Bell's " creator takes care to inform the few who will inquire. What have we got instead? A deluge of flimsy and unintelligible romances, imitated from Scott and myself, who have both made the best of our bad materials and erroneous system. What have we got instead? Madoc, which is neither an epic nor any thing else? Thalaba, Kehama, Gebir, and such gibberish, written in all metres and in no language. Hunt, who had powers to have made" the Story of Rimini " as perfect as a fable of Dryden, has thought fit to sacrifice his genius and his taste to some unintelligible notions of Wordsworth, which I defy him to explain. Moore has But why continue?- All, with the exception of Crabbe, Rogers, and Campbell, who may be considered as having taken their station, will, by the blessing of God, survive their own reputation, without attaining any very extraordinary period of longevity. Of course there must be a still further exception in favour of those who, having never obtained any reputation at all, unless it be among provincial literati, and their own families, have none to lose; and of Moore, who, as the Burns of Ireland, possesses a fame which cannot be lost.
The greater part of the poets mentioned, however, have been able to gather together a few followers. A paper of the Connoisseur says, that "it is observed by the French, that a cat, a priest, and an old woman, are sufficient to constitute a religious sect in England." The same number of animals, with some difference in kind, will suffice for a poetical one. If we take Sir George Beaumont instead of the priest, and Mr. Wordsworth for the old woman, we shall nearly complete the quota required; but I fear that Mr. Southey will but indifferently represent the CAT, having shown himself but too distinctly to be of a species to which that noble creature is peculiarly hostile.
Nevertheless, I will not go so far as Wordsworth in his postscript, who pretends that no great poet ever had immediate fame; which being interpreted, means that William Wordsworth is not quite so much read by his cotemporaries as might be desirable. This assertion is as false as it is foolish. Homer's glory depended upon his present popularity: he recited, and without the strongest impression of the moment, who would have gotten the Iliad by heart, and given it to tradition? Ennius, Terence, Plautus, Lucretius, Horace, Virgil, Eschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Sappho, Anacreon, Theocritus, all the great poets of antiquity, were the delight of their cotemporaries. The very existence of a poet, previous to the invention of printing, depended upon his present popularity; and how often has it impaired his future fame? Hardly ever. History informs us, that the best have come down to us. The reason is evident; the most popular found the greatest number of transcribers for their MSS.; and that the taste of their cotemporaries was corrupt can hardly be avouched by the moderns, the mightiest of whom have but barely approached them. Dante, Petrarch, Ariosto, and Tasso, were all the darlings of the cotemporary reader. Dante's poem was celebrated long before his death; and, not long after it, States negotiated for his ashes, and
1 [The well-known lines under Milton's picture,
"Three poets, in three distant ages born," &c.]
2 The Rev. Richard Hole. He published in early life a versification of Fingal, and in 1789, "Arthur, a Postical Romanice." He died in 1503.j
disputed for the sites of the composition of the Divina Commedia. Petrarch was crowned in the Capitol. Ariosto was permitted to pass free by the public robber who had read the Orlando Furioso. I would not recommend Mr. Wordsworth to try the same experiment with his Smugglers. Tasso, notwithstanding the criticisms of the Cruscanti, would have have been crowned in the Capitol, but for his death.
It is easy to prove the immediate popularity of the chief poets of the only modern nation in Europe that has a poetical language, the Italian. In our own Shakspeare, Spenser, Jonson, Waller, Dryden, Congreve, Pope, Young, Shenstone, Thomson, Johnson, Goldsmith, Gray, were all as popular in their lives as since. Gray's Elegy pleased instantly, and eternally. His Odes did not, nor yet do they, please like his Elegy. Milton's politics kept him down. But the Epigram of Dryden, and the very sale of his work, in proportion to the less reading time of its publication, prove him to have been honoured by his cotemporaries. I will venture to assert, that the sale of the Paradise Lost was greater in the first four years after its publication, than that of "The Excursion" in the same number, with the difference of nearly a century and a half between them of time, and of thousands in point of general readers. Notwithstanding Mr. Wordsworth's having pressed Milton into his service as one of those not presently popular, to favour his own purpose of proving that our grandchildren will read him (the said William Wordsworth), I would recommend him to begin first with our grandmothers. But he need not be alarmned; he may yet live to see all the envies pass away, as Darwin and Seward, and Hoole, and Hole, and Hoyle have passed away; but their declension will not be his ascension; he is essentially a bad writer, and all the failures of others can never strengthen him. He may have a sect, but he will never have a public; and his "audience" will always be "few," without being "fit," -except for Bedlam.
It may be asked, why, having this opinion of the present state of poetry in England, and having had it long, as my friends and others well knew-possessing, or having possessed too, as a writer, the ear of the public for the time being I have not adopted a different plan in my own compositions, and endeavoured to correct rather than encourage the taste of the day. To this I would answer, that it is easier to perceive the wrong than to pursue the right, and that I have never contemplated the prospect "of filling (with Peter Bell 4, see its preface) permanently a station in the literature of the country." Those who know me best know this, and that, I have been considerably astonished at the temporary success of my works, having flattered no person and no party, and expressed opinions which are not those of the general reader. Could I have anticipated the degree of attention which has been accorded me, assuredly I would have studied more to deserve it. But I have lived in far countries abroad, or in the agitating world at home, which was not favourable to study or reflection; so that almost all I have kinds, but always passion: for in me (if it be not an Irishism written has been mere passion,-passion, it is true, of different to say so) my indifference was a kind of passion, the result of experience, and not the philosophy of nature. Writing grows a habit, like a woman's gallantry; there are women who have had no intrigue, but few who have had but one only; so there are millions of men who have never written a book, but few who have written only one. And thus, having written once, I wrote on; encouraged no doubt by the success of the moment, yet by no means anticipating its duration, and, I will venture to say, scarcely even wishing it. But then I did other things besides write, which by no means contributed either to improve my writings or my prosperity.
I have thus expressed publicly upon the poetry of the day the opinion I have long entertained and expressed of it to all
3 [Charles Hoyle, of Trinity College, Cambridge, author of "Exodus," an epic in thirteen books.]
4 [Peter Bell first saw the light in 1798. During this long interval, paina have been taken at differen times to make the production less unworthy of a favourable reception; or rather, to At it for filling permutnently a station, however humble, in the literature of my country.WORDSWORTH, 1819.]
who have asked it, and to some who would rather not have heard it as I told Moore not very long ago, "we are all wrong except Rogers, Crabbe, and Campbell." Without being old in years, I am old in days, and do not feel the adequate spirit within me to attempt a work which should show what I think right in poetry, and must content myself with having denounced what is wrong. There are, I trust, younger spirits rising up in England, who, escaping the contagion which has swept away poetry from our literature, will recall it to their country, such as it once was and may still be.
In the meantime, the best sign of amendment will be repentance, and new and frequent editions of Pope and Dryden.
There will be found as comfortable metaphysics, and ten times more poetry, in the "Essay on Man," than in the "Excursion." If you search for passion, where is it to be found stronger than in the epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, or in Palamon and Arcite? Do you wish for invention, imagination, sublimity, character? seek them in the Rape of the Lock, the Fables of Dryden, the Ode of Saint Cecilia's Day, and Absalom and Achitophel: you will discover in these two poets only, all for which you must ransack innumerable metres, and God only knows how many writers of the day, without finding a tittle of the same qualities, with the addition, too, of wit, of which the latter have none. I have not, however, forgotten Thomas Brown the Younger, nor the Fudge Family 2, nor Whistlecraft; but that is not wit it is humour. I will say nothing of the harmony of Pope and Dryden in comparison, for there is not a living poet (except Rogers, Gifford, Campbell, and Crabbe,) who can write an heroic couplet. The fact is, that the exquisite beauty of their versification has withdrawn the public attention from their other excellences, as the vulgar eye will rest more upon the splendour of the uniform than the quality of the troops. It is this very harmony, particularly in Pope, which has raised the vulgar and atrocious cant against him : — because his versification is perfect, it is assumed that it is his only perfection; because his truths are so clear, it is asserted that he has no invention; and because he is always intelligible, it is taken for granted that he has no genius. We are sneeringly told that he is the "Poet of Reason," as if this was a reason for his being no poet. Taking passage for passage, I will undertake to cite more lines teeming with imagination from Pope than from any two living poets, be they who they may. To take an instance at random from a species of composition not very favourable to imagination - Satire: set down the character of Sporus3, with all the wonderful play of fancy which is scattered over it, and place by its side an equal number of verses, from any two existing poets, of the same power and the same variety-where will you find them?
I merely mention one instance of many, in reply to the injustice done to the memory of him who harmonised our poetical language. The attorneys' clerks, and other self
1 [I certainly ventured to differ from the judgment of my noble friend, no less in his attempts to depreciate that peculiar walk of the art in which he himself so grandly trod, than in the inconsistency of which I thought him guilty, in condemning all those who stood up for particular “schools” of poetry, and yet, at the same time, maintaining so exclusive a theory of the art himself. How little, however, he attended to either the grounds or degrees of my dissent from him will appear by the following wholesale report of my opinion ia "Detached Thoughts:"-" One of my notions different froin those of any contemporaries, is, that the present is not a high age of English poetry. There are more poets (soi-disant) than ever there were, and proportionally less poetry. This thesis I have maintained for some years, but, strange to say, it mesteth not with favour from my brethren of the shell. Even Moore shakes his head, and firmly believes that it is the grand age of British poesv."-MOORE.]
2 [In 1812, Mr. Moore published "The Two-peany Post-bag; by Thomas Brown the Younger; and in 1818, "The Fudge Family in Paris."]
"Let Sporus tremble A. What? that thing of silk Sporns, that mere white curd of ass's milk?
Sure or sense, alas! can Sporus feel?
Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?
P. Yet let me flap this bug with gilded wings,
In mumbling of the game they dare not bite.
Eternal smiles his e puness betray,
As shallow stresins run dimpling a 1 the way.
Whether in flond impotence he speaks.
And, as the prompter breathes, the puppet squeals;
educated genii, found it easier to distort themselves to the new models than to toil after the symmetry of him who had enchanted their fathers. They were besides smitten by being told that the new school were to revive the language of Queen Elizabeth, the true English; as every body in the reign of Queen Anne wrote no better than French, by a species of literary treason.
Blank verse, which, unless in the drama, no one except Milton ever wrote who could rhyme, became the order of the day, or else such rhyme as looked still blanker than the verse without it. I am aware that Johnson has said, after some hesitation, that he could not “prevail upon himself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer." The opinions of that truly great man, whom it is also the present fashion to decry, will ever be received by me with that deference which time will restore to him from all; but, with all humility, I am not persuaded that the Paradise Lost would not have been more nobly conveyed to posterity, not perhaps in heroic couplets, although even they could sustain the subject if well balanced, but in the stanza of Spenser or of Tasso, or in the terza rima of Dante, which the powers of Milton could easily have grafted on our language. The Seasons of Thomson would have been better in rhyme, although still interior to his Castle of Indolence; and Mr. Southey's Joan of Arc no worse, although it might have taken up six months instead of weeks in the composition. I recommend also to the lovers of lyrics the perusal of the present laurcate's Odes by the side of Dryden's on Saint Cecilia, but let himn be sure to read first those of Mr. Southey.
To the heaven-born genii and inspired young scriveners of the day much of this will appear paradox: it will appear so even to the higher order of our critics; but it was a truism twenty years ago, and it will be a re-acknowledged truth in ten more. In the meantime, I will conclude with two quotations, both intended for some of my old classical friends who have still enough of Cambridge about them to think themselves honoured by having had John Dryden as a predecessor in their college, and to recollect that their earliest English poetical pleasures were drawn from the little nightingale" of Twickenham. The first is from the notes to the Poem of the "Friends."4
"It is only within the last twenty or thirty years that those notable discoveries in criticism have been made which have taught our recent versifiers to undervalue this energetic, melodious, and moral poet. The consequences of this wart of due esteem for a writer whom the good sense of our predecessors had raised to his proper station have been NUMEROUS AND DEGRADING ENOUGH. This is not the place to enter into the subject, even as far as it affects our poetical numbers alone, and there is matter of more importance that requires present reflection."
The second is from the volume of a young person learning to write poetry, and beginning by teaching the art. Hear him: 5
Or at the ear of Eve, familiar toad,
Half froth, haif venom, spits himself abroad,
In puns, or politics, or tales, or ties,
Or spite, or smut, or rhymes, or blasphemies,
4 [Written by Lord Byron's early friend, the Rev. Francis Hodgson.] 5 In a manuscript note on this passage of the pamphlet, dated Nov. 12. 1821, Lord Byron says," Mr. Keats died at Rome about a year after this was written, of a decline produced by his having burst a blood vesse, on reading the article on his Endynion' in the Quarterly Review. I have read the arucie before and since; and although it is bitter, I do not think that a man should permit himself to be killed by it. But a young inan little dreams what he must inevitably encounter in the course of a life ambitious of public notice. My indignation at Mr. Keats's depreciation of Pope has hardly permitted me to do justice to his own genius, which, malgre all the fantastic fopperies of his style, was undoubtedly of great promise. His fragment of Hyperion seems actually inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as Eschylus. He is a loss to our literature: and the more so, as he himself, before his death, is said to have bom persuaded that he had not taken the right line, and was re-torming his style upon thạ more classical models of the language.]
"But ye were dead
To things ye knew not of-were closely wed
Mark'd with most flimsy mottos, and in large
A little before, the manner of Pope is termed,
I thought "foppery" was a consequence of refinement! but n'importe.
The above will suffice to show the notions entertained by the new performers on the English lyre of him who made it most tuneable, and the great improvements of their own "variazioni."
The writer of this is a tadpole of the Lakes, a young disciple of the six or seven new schools, in which he has learnt to write such lines and such sentiments as the above. He says "easy was the task" of imitating Pope, or it may be of equalling him, I presume. I recommend him to try before he is so positive on the subject, and then compare what he will have then written and what he has now written with the humblest and earliest compositions of Pope, produced in years still more youthful than those of Mr. Keats when he invented his new" Essay on Criticism," entitled " Sleep and Poetry" (an ominous title), from whence the above canons are taken. Pope's was written at nineteen, and published at twenty-two.
Such are the triumphs of the new schools, and such their scholars. The disciples of Pope were Johnson, Goldsmith, Rogers, Campbell, Crabbe, Gifford, Matthias, Hayley, and the author of the Paradise of Coquettes; to whom may be added Richards, Heber, Wrangham, Bland, Hodgson, Merivale, and others who have not had their full fame, because "the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong," and because there is a fortune in fame as in all other things. Now, of all the new schools-I say all, for, “like Legion, they are many"- has there appeared a single
"Envy her own snakes shall feel,
And Persecution inourn her broken wheel,
"Round broken columns clasping ivy twined,
"Hail, bards triumphant! born in happier days;
"Amphion there the loud creating lyre
Strikes, and behold a sudden Thebes aspire
"So Zembla's rocks, the beauteous work of frost,
Till the bright mountains prop the incumbent sky,
The gather'd winter of a thousand years.
scholar who has not made his master ashamed of him? unless it be Sotheby, who has imitated every body, and occasionally surpassed his models. Scott found peculiar favour and imitation among the fair sex: there was Miss Holford, and Miss Mitford, and Miss Francis; but, with the greatest respect be it spoken, none of his imitators did much honour to the original, except Hogg, the Ettrick shepherd, until the appearance of" The Bridal of Triermain," and "Harold the Dauntless," which in the opinion of some equalled if not surpassed him; and lo! after three or four years they turned out to be the Master's own compositions. Have Southey, or Coleridge, or 't other fellow, made a follower of renown? Wilson never did well till he set up for himself in the " City of the Plague." Has Moore, or any other living writer of reputation, had a tolerable imitator, or rather disciple? Now, it is remarkable, that almost all the followers of Pope, whom I have named, have produced beautiful and standard works; and it was not the number of his imitators who finally hurt his fame, but the despair of imitation, and the ease of not imitating him sufficiently. This, and the same reason which induced the Athenian burgher to vote for the banishment of Aristides, "because he was tired of always hearing him called the Just," have produced the temporary exile of Pope from the State of Literature. But the term of his ostracism will expire, and the sooner the better, not for him, but for those who banished him, and for the coming generation, who
"Will blush to find their fathers were his foes."
I will now return to the writer of the article which has drawn forth these remarks, whom I honestly take to be John Wilson, a man of great powers and acquirements, well known to the public as the author of the City of the Plague," "Isle of Palms," and other productions. I take the liberty of naming him, by the same species of courtesy which has induced him to designate me as the author of Don Juan. Upon the score of the Lake Poets, he may perhaps recall to mind that I merely express an opinion long ago entertained and specified in a letter to Mr. James Hogg, which he the said James Hogg, somewhat contrary to the law of pens, showed to Mr. John Wilson, in the year 1814, as he himself informed me in his answer, telling me by way of apology that "he'd be d-d if he could help it;" and I am not conscious of anything like "envy" or "exacerbation" at this moment which induces me to think better or worse of Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge as poets than I do now,
"Thus, when we view some well-proportion'd dome,
All comes united to the adiniring eyes:
No monstrous height, or breadth, or length appear;
A thousand similar passages crowd upon me, all composed by Pope before his two-and-twentieth year; and yet it is contended that he is no poet, and we are told so in such lines as I beg the reader to compare with these youthful verses of the "no poet." Must we repeat the question of Johnson, "If Pope is not a poet, where is poetry to be found?" Even in descriptive poetry, the lowest department of the art, he will be found, on a fair exa. mination, to surpass any living writer.
4 [Thomas Jaines Matthias, Esq., the well-known author of the Pursuits of Literature, Imperial Epistle to Kien Long, &c. In 1814, Mr. M. edited an edition of Gray's Works, which the University of Cambridge published at its own expense. Lord Byron did not admire this venerable poet the less for such criticism as the following:-"After we have paid our primal homage to the Dards of G.eece and of ancient Latium, we are invited to contemplate the literary and poetical dignity of modern Italy. If the influence of their persuasion and of their example should prevail, a strong and steady light may be relumined and diffused amongst us, a light which may once again conduct the powers of our rising ports from wild whirling words, from crude, rapid, und uncorrected productions, from an overweening presumption, and from the delusive conceit of a pre-established reputation, to the labour of thought, to patient and repeated revision of what they write, to a reverence for themselves and for an enlightened public, and to the fixed unbending principles of legitimate composition." -Preface to Gray.
5 (Dr. Thomas Brown, professor of moral philosophy in the University of Edinburgh, who died in 1820.]
6 [Author of "Wallace, or the Fight of Falkirk," "Margaret of Anjou," and other poems.)
7 Miss Mary Hussel Mitford, author of "Christina, or the Maid of the South seas," "Wallington Hall," "Our Village," &c. &c.]
8 Miss Eliza Francis published, in 1815," Sir Willibert de Waverley; or, the Bridal Eve."]
9 ("Oh! I have had the most amusing letter from Hogg, the Ettrick minstrel and shepherd. He wants me to recommend him to Murray; and, speaking of his present bookseller, whose bills' are never lifted,' he adds, totidem verbis, "God d-n hin, and them both. I laughed, and so would you too, at the way in which this execration is introduced. The said Hogg is a strange being, but of great, though uncouth, powers. I think very highly of him as a poet; but he, and half of these Scotch and Lake troubadours are spoilt by living in little circles and petty societies.” — Byrun Letters.]
although I do know one or two things more which have added to my contempt for them as individuals.
And, in return for Mr. Wilson's invective 1, I shall content myself with asking one question; Did he never compose, recite, or sing any parody or parodies upon the Psalms (of what nature this deponent saith not), in certain jovial meetings of the youth of Edinburgh ?? It is not that I think any great harm if he did; because it seems to me that all depends upon the intention of such a parody. If it be meant to throw ridicule on the sacred original, it is a sin; if it be intended to burlesque the profane subject, or to inculcate a moral truth, it is none. If it were, the Unbelievers' Creed, the many political parodies of various parts of the Scriptures and liturgy, particularly a celebrated one of the Lord's Prayer, and the beautiful moral parable in favour of toleration by Franklin, which has often been taken for a real extract from Genesis, would all be sins of a damning nature. But I wish to know if Mr. Wilson ever has done this, and if he has, why he should be so very angry with similar portions of Don Juan - Did no "parody profane" appear in any of the earlier numbers of Blackwood's Magazine?
I will now conclude this long answer to a short article, repenting of having said so much in my own defence, and so little on the " crying, left-hand fallings off and national defections" of the poetry of the present day. Having said this, I can hardly be expected to defend Don Juan, or any other living" poetry, and shall not make the attempt. And although I do not think that Mr. John Wilson has in this instance treated me with candour or consideration, I trust that the tone I have used in speaking of him personally will prove that I bear him as little malice as I really believe at the bottom of his heart he bears towards me; but the duties of an editor, like those of a tax-gatherer, are paramount and peremptory. I have done.
1 [This is one of the many mistakes into which his distance from the scene of literary operations led him. The gentleman, to whom the hostile article in the Magazine is here attributed, has never, either then or since, written upon the subject of the noble poet's character or genius, without giving vent to a feeling of admiration as enthusiastic as it is always eloquently and powerfully expressed. MooRg.]
2 [The allusion here is to some now forgotten calumnies which had been circulated by the radical press, at the time when Mr. Wilson was a candidate for the Chair of Moral Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh.]
Antigonus, when it was told him that the enemy had such volleys of arrows that they did hide the sun, said, That falls out well, for it is hot weather, and so we shall fight in the shade.
There was a philosopher that disputed with Adrian the Emperor, and did it but weakly. One of his friends that stood by afterwards said unto him, Methinks you were not like yourself last day, in argument with the Emperor: I could have answered better myself. Why, said the philosopher, would you have me contend with him that commands thirty legions?
There was one that found a great mass of money digging under ground in his grandfather's house and being somewhat doubtful of the case, signified it to the emperor that he had found such treasure. The emperor made a rescript thus: Use it. He writ back again, that the sum was greater than his state or condition could use. The emperor writ a new rescript thus: Abuse it.
One of the seven was wont to say, that laws were like cobwebs: where the small flies were caught, and the great break through.
An orator of Athens said to Demosthenes, The Athenians will kill you if they wax mad. Demosthenes replied, And they will kill you, if they be in good sense.
There was a philosopher about Tiberius that, looking into the nature of Caius, said of him, That he was mire mingled with blood.
There was a king of Hungary took a bishop in battle, and kept him prisoner: whereupon the pope writ a monitory to him, for that he had broken the privilege of holy church and taken his son: the king sent an embassage to him, and sent withal the armour wherein the bishop was taken, and this only in writing-Vide num hæc sit vestis filii tui? Know now whether this be thy son's coat?
Demetrius, king of Macedon, had a petition offered him divers times by an old woman, and answered he had no leisure; whereupon the woman said aloud, Why then give over to be king.