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And choral symphonies, day without night,
Him first, him last, him midst, and without end.
If better thou belong not to the dawn,
Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling morn
And nourish all things; let your ceaseless change
His praise, ye winds, that from four quarters blow,
Fountains, and ye that warble, as ye flow,
Bear on your wings, and in your notes his praise.
To hill or valley, fountain, or fresh shade,
Scarcely less worthy of the theme are the similar aspirations of a faithful worshipper and priest of Nature, who disdained not to follow closely in the
same noble though beaten track, and to draw from the same familiar but exhaustless fountain.
"Nature attend! join every living soul,
Oh, talk of Him in solitary glooms!
Where o'er the rock, the scarcely waving pine
Fills the brown shade with a religious awe.
And ye, whose bolder note is heard afar,
Who shake th' astonish'd world, lift high to heaven
Sound his stupendous praise, whose greater voice
From world to world, the vital ocean round,
Nor is it only in acts of general worship and praise that our inanimate fellow-creatures seem to unite and sympathize with us. The special interpositions of Divine mercy for the benefit of mankind, are considered by our excited fancies to fix the admiring attention of the universe: nor, as we fondly deem, were the awe and wonder due to the most stupendous of such events confined alone to angels and the heavenly host of intelligent spectators.
"But peaceful was the night,
His reign of peace upon the earth began:
Whispering new joys to the mild ocean,
"The stars, with deep amaze,
And will not take their flight,
Or Lucifer that often warn'd them
But in their glimmering orbs did glow,
"And, though the shady gloom Had given day her room,
The sun himself withheld his wonted speed,
And hid his head for shame,
As his inferior flame
The new enlighten'd world no more should need:
He saw a greater Sun appear
It is not alone in seasons of exultation that Nature thus affords her sympathy. Events, too, of Divine judgment, or of deep guilt and wide-spread disaster, seem to excite her dread or claim her condolence. The oracles of sacred truth have recorded the agitations and apparent agonies of the material world, at periods of signal solemnity or surpassing horror; and the imagination of the poet is tempted to feign things similar, where their moral suitableness is his only warrant. Το the mind of Milton, contemplating, in its fulness of sin and misery, that first and dreadful disobedience which "Brought death into the world and all our woe,"
the poetical belief was unavoidable, that the elements of nature lamented over the fall of those who had been set to rule their fellow-creatures in the image of their Creator. At the transgression of Eve,
"Earth felt the wound, and Nature, from her seat,
Sighing through all her works, gave signs of woe
At the final ruin of both our parents"Earth trembled from her entrails, as again
In pangs; and Nature gave a second groan;
Sky lower'd; and, muttering thunder, some sad drops
Wept at completing of the mortal sin."
The Pagan fabulists called in the aid of such bold images on similar occasions of tragic horror, though of less universal interest. The sun recoiled
Than his bright throne or burning axle- in his course, that he might not look
tree could bear."
on the hideous banquet prepared for
Earth, air, and seas, with prodigies were sign'd,
And birds obscene, and howling dogs divined."
Here, indeed, as in other instances, poetry addresses, as fictions, to the imagination, the same conceptions which superstition would force upon the reason as facts. In both operations the same natural principle is busy; nor can we suppose such a principle to have been engrafted on our frame without a design that it should bear noble fruit. In superstition it is perverted and abused; în poetry it is directed to its proper use, and confined within its just limits. Nor is there, perhaps, in the constitution of man a more singular provision than that by which imagination is thus allowed to wield, innocently and beneficially, the full moral power of so many illusions, which, if adopted by the understanding as literal truths, would enslave the reason and debase the soul.
The supposed sympathy of general creation with the affairs of man, as manifested in prodigies and extraordinary appearances, is obviously a figure which ought to be sparingly employed in poetry, particularly by a Christian poet writing to a Christian and enlightened age. If such machinery, which we are taught to appropriate to the most awful and momentous events, be introduced on every petty and pitiful occasion of human distress, it becomes ludicrous from its absurdity or shocking by its profaneness. And it is surely a settled rule in poetical taste, that no strong image shall be presented to us, for the sake of mere ornament or surprise, where it cannot command the assent of the imagination and the sympathy of the heart.
Much room, however, is still left for a natural and less exalted use of those sympathetic affections that may be supposed to subsist between ourselves and material objects, in their ordinary or less marvellous manifestations. We are readily inspired with a love for them, and would willingly believe that they feel a love for us; and this, when once imagined, is easily read in their commonest aspects and operations.
Our love for external objects may be excited by those qualities that address the feelings of sublimity or beauty. Mountains, rocks, and rivers, the ocean and the orbs of heaven, fields, forests, trees, and flowers, when beheld with any intensity of admiration, and more especially when viewed in an individual rather than in a collective character, will involuntarily borrow an air of life and an aptitude for affection from the same ideas that invest them with grandeur and loveliness. We shall have abundant opportunity of illustrating this rule, in the course of our further observations on the subject; but may here, in connexion with it, insert two passages, which, although too well known to have the charm of novelty, will please the more the oftener they are studied, and which seem here to be peculiarly appropriate, as giving an adequate expression to the powerful affections and ideal visions to which we have referred. If to any reader there appears a vagueness and obscurity in some part of these noble verses, let him ask himself if, without much of mystery and darkness, it is
possible to think or to speak of those bonds of moral connexion that unite man with material nature, and which seem designed, by the imaginations thus arising even from the perceptions
of sense, to prepare him for other scenes in which faith shall be lost in sight, conjecture in intuition, and matter in spirit.
"And O ye fountains, meadows, hills, and groves,
Yet in my heart of hearts I feel your might;
I only have relinquish'd one delight
To live beneath your more habitual sway.
I love the brooks which down their channels fret,
The clouds that gather round the setting sun,
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
The feelings excited by the grander and more awful forms of natural power-the hurricane, the thunderstorm, the earthquake, must from their intensity be favourable to personifica tion; yet we shall have occasion to notice an important distinction observable in such cases. We recognise a simple and natural impersonation in that beautiful passage of the Evangelist, where Jesus" arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; επιτιμησε τοις ανεμοις και τη θαλασση censured them, took them to task as erring and presumptuous,-"and there was a great calm. But the men mar
velled, saying, What manner of man
ton has used a similar image in the
"Silence, ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace,'
Said then the Omnific Word, 'your discord
Nor stay'd; but on the wings of cherubim
"The sky is changed!--and such a change! Oh, night,
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
"And this is in the night :-Most glorious night!
There is great talent and power in this spirited and striking description; though, in passing, we suppose we may say, that critics are now pretty well agreed as to the incongruity of the concluding image. It is too fanciful for a picture of which sublimity should be the predominating tone; and it is not very certain that there is any intelligible sense in it. The birth of a young earthquake naturally leads us to wonder what an old earthquake can be; and whether the young of earthquakes need to be nursed and fed till they are able to do mischief, or whether the slighter shocks are to be considered as infant earthquakes, giving a kick and a squall at the breast, (do they belong to the mammalia?) while those of a more formidable magnitude are to be held as big and burly adults. These questions are not easily resolved; and, however answered, are not favourable to the poet's purpose. But it is not in reference to this part of the description that we have quoted the stanzas. We wish to consider whether the personifications here introduced, and none can be more vivid, are truly conducive to a high effect of sublimity, where the mental enthusiasm that produces them stops short
at these material ministers of heaven, and is not led upwards to think of a living power far higher than those which are the creatures of its own fancy. A Godless description of a midnight thunder-storm among the Alps, seems to us to be at variance, we do not say with piety, but with poetical truth and with human feeling. In such a scene, and on such a night, the soul cannot rest satisfied with the mere belief of the fancy that the leaping thunder is alive, and that the mountains are shouting in fellow-feeling to each other. We know with an awful conviction, that, if the representation is true at all, there is something at work that is less visionary than these airy dreams; and if not taught that we are in the dread presence of Divinity, we either turn from the picture in disappointment, or unavoidably view it as exhibiting the revelry of demons, rather horrible and hideous than solemn or sublime. Compare the lively impersonations of Byron with the description of the Pagan poet, in which all personification is swallowed up in one great image of the supreme deity of his mythology, and say which of them is the more true to nature and to poetry.