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dignifies and adorns these common artificial incidents with unexpected touches of picturesque beauty, with the graces of sentiment and with the novelties of original genius." Wharton says further, that “poetry is not always unconnected with passion, and then gives an instance out of the poem where Milton speaks of the body of his lost friend. But he might have added that poetry itself is a passion; that Fleet Street and “the Mitre,” though very good things, are not the only ones; that these two young friends lived in the imaginative, as well as the every-day world ; that the survivor most probably missed the companion of his studies more on the banks of the Arethuse and the Mincius, than he did in the college grounds; in short, that there is a state of poetical belief, in which the images of truth and beauty which are by their nature lasting, become visible and affecting to the mind in proportion to the truth and beauty of its own tact for universality. Bacon, though no poet, had it, and adorned his house with pagan sculptures; because, being a universal philosopher, he included a knowledge of what was poetical. All the poets have had it as a matter of course, more or less; but the greatest most of all. Shakespeare included it for the very reason that he left no part of the world unsympathized with ; namely, that he was, of all poets, the most universal.
Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill. These Miltonic lines flowed from the same pen that recorded the vagaries of Falstaff and Mrs. Quickly. Dr. Johnson would have made a bad business of the heathen mythology. He did so when he made a Turk pull his enemy out of the “Pleiad's golden chariot."* He was conversant only with what is called real life; wonderfully well indeed, and with great wit and good sense; but there he stopped. He might have as soon undertaken to describe a real piece of old poetical beauty, or passion either, as clap his wig on the head of Apollo. He laughed with reason at Prior, for comparing his Chloes to Venus and Diana, and talking of their going out a hunting with ivory quivers graceful at their side. This was the French notion of using the Greek fables; and with the French, indeed, the heathen mythology became the most spurious and the most faded of drugs. They might as well have called a box of millinery the oracle of Delphi. The Germans understood it better, but we do not think it has ever been revived to more beautiful account than in the young poetry and remote haunts of imagination of the late Mr. Keats. He lamented that he could not do it justice. “Oh, how unlike,” he cries, speaking of the style of his fine poem, Hyperion,
To that large utterance of the early gods !
But this was the modesty of a real poet. Milton himself would have been happy to read his Hyperion aloud, and to have welcomed the new spirit among the choir of poets, with its
Elysian beauty, melancholy grace.
Mr. Shelley beautifully applied to his young friend the distich of Plato upon Agathon, who having been, he says, a morning star among the living, was now an evening
* In his tragedy of Irene. Gibbon has noticed it somewhere in the Decline and Fall.
star in the shades. Here, also, was the true taste of the antique. Nay, it is possible that the melancholy of modern genius to the eyes of which a larger and obscurer world has been thrown open, may have discovered a more imaginative character in the mythology of the ancient poets, than accompanies our usual notion of it. The cheerfulness of all those poets, except the dramatic ones, and the everlasting and visible youth of their sculptures, come before us, and make us think of nothing but Pan and Pomona, of Bacchus, Apollo, and the Graces. Nor is it possible to deny that this is the general and perhaps the just impression, though exaggerated; and that the Pythian organ, with all its grandeur, does not roll such peals
Of pomp and threatening harmony as those of the old Gregorian chapels, and the mingling hierarchies of earth and heaven.* Unfortunately the grandest parts of all religions have hitherto appealed to the least respectable of our passions, - our fear. It is the beauty of the truly divine part of Christianity that it appeals to love ; and if it then inspires melancholy, it is one of a nobler sort, animating us to endeavor and promising a state of things, to which the grandeur both of Paganism and Catholicism may become as the dreams of remembered sickness in infancy.
At all events, it is certain that some of the great modern poets in consequence of their remoteness from the age of pagan belief, and its every-day effect on the mind, often
* On the Feast of St. Michael and All Saints, the Catholic Church believes that the whole of the faithful on earth and in heaven, with all the angelical hierarchies, are lifting up their voices in unison ! one of the sublimest and most beautiful fancies that ever entered into the heart of man.
write in a nobler manner upon the gods of antiquity than the ancients themselves. He that would run the whole round of the spirit of heathenism to perfection, must become intimate with the poetry of Milton and Spenser; of Ovid, Homer, Theocritus, and the Greek tragedians; with the novels of Wieland, the sculptures of Phidias and others, and the pictures of Raphael, and the Caraccis, and Nicholas Poussin. But a single page of Spenser or one morning at the Angerstein Gallery, will make him better acquainted with it than a dozen such folios as Spence's Polymetis, or all the mythologists and book-poets who have attempted to draw Greek inspiration from a Latin fount.
ON THE GENII OF THE GREEKS AND ROMANS, AND THE SPIRIT THAT WAS SAID TO HAVE WAITED ON SOCRATES.
HE angelical or middle beings of the Greeks
and Romans are called by the common name of genii, though the term is not correct, for the Greeks were unacquainted with the word
genius. Their spirit was called a demon ; and we suspect that a further distinction is to be drawn between the two words, for a reason which will be seen by and by. The ill sense in which demon is now taken, originated with the Fathers of the Church, who, assuming that a pagan intelligence must be a bad one, caused the word to become synonymous with devil. But there are few things more remarkable than the abundant use which the Church made of the speculations of the Greek philosophers, and the contempt with which indiscreet members of it have treated them. Take away the subtleties of the Platonic theology from certain sects of Christians, and their very orthodoxy would tumble to pieces.
Demon, if it be derived, as most of the learned think, from a word signifying to know by inquiry, and the root of which signifies a torch, may be translated the enlightened, or, simply, a light or intelligence. A blessed spirit, eternally increasing in knowledge or illumination (which some think will be one of its beatitudes), gives an enlarged sense to the word demon.
Plato certainly had no ill opinion of his demon, even when the intelligence was acting in a manner which the vulgar pronounced to be evil, and upon which the philosopher has delivered a sentiment equally profound and humane. The following may be regarded as a summary of his notions about the spiritual world. Taking up the religion of his country, as proclaimed by Hesiod and others, and endeavoring to harmonize it with reason, he conceived that, agreeably to the ranks and gradations which we fancy in nature, there must be intermediate beings between men and gods, — the gods themselves being far from the top of spirituality. We have already stated his opinions on that subject. Next to the gods came the demons, who partook of their divinity mixed with what he called the soul of the world, and ministered round about them as well as on earth ; in fact, were the angels of the Christian system but a little more allied to their superiors. “What other philosophers called demons,” says the devout platonical Jew Philo, “ Moses usually called angels.” * Next to
* There is good reason to believe that Dionysius, the pretended Areopagite, who is the great authority with writers upon the angelical nature, was a Platon