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-on the contrary, often strengthened; and there is a grand austerity which the imagination more than admires—which the conscience scarcely condemns. The feeling, the conviction from which that austerity grows, is in itself right; for it is a feeling—a conviction of the perfect righteousness of God—the utter worthlessness of self-left man—the awful sanctity of duty-and the dreadfulness of the judgment-doom, from which no soul is safe till the seals have been broken, and the Archangel has blown his trumpet. A religion planted in such convictions as these, may become dark and disordered in its future growth within the spirit; and the tree, though of good seed and in a strong soil, may come to be laden with bitter fruit, and the very droppings of its leaves may be pernicious to all who rest within its shade. Still, such shelter is better in the blast than the trunk of a dead faith; and such food, unwholesome though it be, is not so miserable as famine to a hungry soul.
Grant, then, that there may be in Mr Montgomery's poetry certain sentiments, which, in want of a better word, we call Sectarian. They are not necessarily false, although not perfectly reconcilable to our own creed, which, we shall suppose, is true. On the contrary, we may be made much the better and the wiser men by meditating upon them; for while they may, perhaps, (and we are merely making a supposition,) be too strongly felt by him, they may be too feebly felt by us they may, perhaps, be rather blots on the beauty of his poetry than of his faith—and if, in some degree, offensive
in the composition of a poem, far less so, or not at all, in that of a life.
All his shorter poems are stamped with the character of the man. Most of them are breathings of his own devout spirit, either delighted or awed by a sense of the Divine goodness and mercy towards itself, or tremblingly alive not in mere sensibility to human virtues and joys, crimes and sorrows, for that often belongs to the diseased and depraved—but in solemn, moral, and religious thought, to all of good or evil befalling his brethren of mankind. “A sparrow cannot fall to the ground”-a flower of the field cannot wither immediately before his eyes—without awakening in his heart such thoughts as we may believe God intended should be awakened even by such sights as these; for the fall of a sparrow is a scriptural illustration of his providence, and his hand framed the lily, whose array is more royal than was that of Solomon in all his glory. Herein he resembles Wordsworthless profound certainly-less lofty; for in its highest moods the genius of Wordsworth walks by itself-unapproachable on the earth it beautifies. But Montgomery's poetical piety is far more prevalent over his whole character; it belongs more essentially and permanently to the man. Perhaps, although we shall not say so, it may be more simple, natural, and true.
More accordant, it certainly is, with the sympathies of ordinary minds. The piety of his poetry is far more Christian than that of Wordsworth's. It is in all his feelings, all his thoughts, all his imagery; and at the close of most of his beautiful compositions, which are so often avowals,
confessions, prayers, thanksgivings, we feel, not the moral, but the religion of his song. He “improves” all the “occasions” of this life, because he has an “eye that broods on its own heart;" and that heart is impressed by all lights and shadows, like a river or lake whose waters are pure-pure in their sources and in their course. He is, manifestly, a man of the kindliest home-affections; and these, though it is to be hoped the commonest of all, preserved to him in unabated glow and freshness by innocence and piety, often give vent to themselves in little hymns and odelike strains, of which the rich and even novel imagery shows how close is the connexion between a pure heart and a fine fancy, and that the flowers of poetry may be brought from afar, nor yet be felt to be exotics—to intertwine with the very simplest domestic feelings and thoughts—so simple, so perfectly human, that there is a touch of surprise on seeing them capable of such adornment, and more than a touch of pleasure on feeling how much that adornment becomes them—brightening without changing, and adding admiration to delight-wonder to love.
Montgomery, too, is almost as much of an egotist as Wordsworth; and thence, frequently, his power. The poet who keeps all the appearances of external nature, and even all the passions of humanity, at arm's length, that he may gaze on, inspect, study, and draw their portraits, either in the garb they ordinarily wear, or in a fancy dress, is likely to produce a strong likeness indeed; yet shall his pictures be wanting in ease and freedom—they shall be cold and stiff--and both passion
and imagination shall desiderate something characteristic in nature, of the mountain or the man. But the poet who hugs to his bosom every thing he loves or admires--themselves, or the thoughts that are their shadows—who is himself still the centre of the enchanted circle--who, in the delusion of a strong creative genius, absolutely believes that were he to die, all that he now sees and hears delighted would die with him—who not only sees
“ Poetic visions swarm on every bough,” but the history of all his own most secret emotions written on the very rocks—who gathers up the many beautiful things that in the prodigality of nature lie scattered over the earth, neglected or unheeded, and the more dearly, the more passionately loves them, because they are now appropriated to the uses of his own imagination, who will by her alchymy so further brighten them that the thousands of eyes that formerly passed them by unseen or scorned, will be dazzled by their rare and transcendant beauty,he is the “ prevailing Poet!” Montgomery neither seeks nor shuns those dark thoughts that will come and go, night and day, unbidden, forbidden across the minds of all men—fortified although the main entrances may be; but when they do invade his secret, solitary hours, he turns even such visitants to a happy account, and questions them, ghostlike as they are, concerning both the future and the past. Melancholy as often his views are, we should not suppose
him man of other than a cheerful mind; for whenever the
theme allows or demands it, he is not averse to a sober glee, a composed gayety that, although we cannot say it ever so far sparkles out as to deserve to be called absolutely brilliant, yet lends a charm to his lightertoned compositions, which it is peculiarly pleasant now and then to feel in the writings of a man whose genius is naturally, and from the course of life, not gloomy indeed, but pensive, and less disposed to indulge itself in smiles than in tears.