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SACRED POETRY.

CHAPTER III.

People now-a-days will write, because they see so many writing; the impulse comes upon them from without, not from within ; loud voices from streets and squares of cities call on them to join the throng, but the still small voice that speaketh in the penetralia of the spirit is mute; and what else can be the result, but, in place of the song of lark, or linnet, or nightingale, at the best a concert of mocking-birds, at the worst an oratorio of ganders and bubbleys ?

At this particular juncture or crisis, the disease would fain assume the symptoms of religious inspiration. The poetasters are all pious—all smitten with sanctityChristian all over—and crossing and jostling on the Course of Time as they think, on the high-road to Heaven and Immortality. Never was seen before such a shameless set of hypocrites. Down on their knees they fall in booksellers' shops, and, crowned with foolscap, repeat to Blue-Stockings prayers addressed in doggerel to the Deity! They bandy about the Bible as if it were an Album. They forget that the poorest sinner has a soul to be saved, as well as a set of verses to be damned; they look forward to the First of the Month with more fear and trembling than to the Last Day; and beseech a critic to be merciful upon them

with far more earnestness than they ever beseeched their Maker. They pray through the press—vainly striving to give some publicity to what must be private for evermore; and are seen wiping away, at tea-parties, the tears of contrition and repentance for capital crimes perpetrated but on paper, and perpetrated thereon so paltrily, that so far from being worthy of hell-fire, such delinquents, it is felt, would be more suitably punished by being singed like plucked fowls with their own unsaleable sheets. They are frequently so singed; yet singeing has not the effect upon them for which singeing is designed; and like chickens in a shower that have got the pip, they keep still gasping and shooting out their tongues, and walking on tip-toe with their tails down, till finally they go to roost in some obscure corner, and are no more seen among bipeds.

Among those, however, who have been unfortunately beguiled by the spirit of imitation and sympathy into religious poetry, one or two—who for the present must be nameless—have shown feeling; and would they but obey their feeling, and prefer walking on the ground with their own free feet, to attempting to fly in the air with borrowed and bound wings, they might produce something really poetical, and acquire a creditable reputation. But they are too aspiring; and have taken into their hands the sacred lyre without due preparation. He who is so familiar with his Bible, that each chapter, open it where he will, teems with household words, may draw thence the theme of many a pleasant and pathetic song. For is not all human nature, and all human

life shadowed forth in those pages? But the heart, to sing well from the Bible, must be embued with religious feelings, as a flower is alternately with dew and sunshine. The study of The Book must have been begun in the simplicity of childhood, when it was felt to be indeed divine—and carried on through all those silent intervals in which the soul of manhood is restored, during the din of life, to the purity and peace of its early being. The Bible must be to such a poet even as the sky—with its sun, moon, and stars—its boundless blue with all its cloud-mysteries—its peace deeper than the grave, because of realms beyond the graveits tumult louder than that of life, because heard altogether in all the elements. He who begins the study of the Bible late in life, must, indeed, devote himself to it-night and day—and with a humble and a contrite heart as well as an awakened and soaring spirit, ere he can hope to feel what he understands, or to understand what he feels—thoughts and feelings breathing in upon him, as if from a region hanging, in its mystery, between heaven and earth. Nor do we think that he will lightly venture on the composition of poetry drawn from such a source. The very thought of doing so, were it to occur to his mind, would seem irreverent; it would convince him that he was still the slave of vanity, and pride, and the world.

They alone, therefore, to whom God has given genius as well as faith, zeal, and benevolence—will, of their own accord, fix their Pindus either on Lebanon or Calvary-and of these but few. The genius must be

high—the faith sure—and human love must coalesce with divine, that the strain may have power to reach the spirits of men, immersed as they are in matter, and with all their apprehensions and conceptions blended with material imagery, and the things of this moving earth and this restless life.

So gifted and so endowed, a great or good poet, having chosen his subject well within religion, is on the sure road to immortal fame. His work, when done, must secure sympathy for ever; a sympathy not dependent on creeds, but out of which creeds spring, all of them manifestly moulded by imaginative affections of religion. Christian Poetry will outlive every other; for the time will come when Christian Poetry will be deeper and higher far than any that has ever yet been known among men.

Indeed, the sovereign songs hitherto have been either religious or superstitious; and

“ the day-spring from on High that has visited us” spreads wider and wider over the earth, “the soul of the world, dreaming of things to come,” shall assuredly see more glorified visions than have yet been submitted to her ken. That Poetry has so seldom satisfied the utmost longings and aspirations of human nature, can only have been because Poetry has so seldom dealt in its power with the only mysteries worth knowing—the greater mysteries of religion, into which the Christian is initiated only through faith, an angel sent from heaven to spirits struggling by supplications and sacrifices to escape from sin and death.

These, and many other thoughts and feelings con

as

cerning the “ Vision and the Faculty divine,” when
employed on divine subjects, have arisen within us,
on reading—which we have often done with delight-
“ The Christian Year,” so full of Christian poetry of
the purest character. Mr Keble is a poet whom
Cowper himself would have loved—for in him piety
inspires genius, and fancy and feeling are celestialized
by religion. We peruse his book in a tone and temper
of spirit similar to that which is breathed upon us by
some calm day in spring, when all imagery is serene and
still-cheerful in the main-yet with a touch and a
tinge of melancholy, which makes all the blended bliss
and beauty at once more endearing and more profound.
We should no more think of criticising such poetry than
of criticising the clear blue skies—the soft green earth
-the “ liquid lapse” of an unpolluted stream, that

“ Doth make sweet music with the enamellid stones,
Giving a gentle kiss to every flower

It overtaketh on its pilgrimage." All is purity and peace; as we look and listen, we par. take of the universal calm, and feel in nature the presence of Him from whom it emanated. Indeed, we do not remember any poetry nearly so beautiful as this, which reminds one so seldom of the poet's art. We read it without ever thinking of the place which its author may hold among poets, just as we behold a “ lily of the field” without comparing it with other flowers, but satisfied with its own pure and simple loveliness; or each separate poem may be likened, in its unostentatious -unambitious—unconscious beauty-to

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VOL. II.

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