Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

dignity. The leading character of Mr. Barton's poetry is not that which can be properly designated by the epithet descriptive ; yet scattered over every portion of the work is to be found IMAGERY vigorously conceived and distinctly and vividly brought out. Of the pieces more peculiarly rich in this province of the art may be mentioned " The Valley of Firn,Playford," Verses on seeing a Sketch of an old Gate Way.” and “ Leiston Abbey ;' but these, delightfully as they abound in touches worthy of the pencil of Poussin or of Claude, are mingled with so much of what appeals distinctly to the heart, as to claim their character almost exclusively from their power of impression on the moral feelings.

Sentiment, indeed, in the best and noblest acceptation of the term, as including many of the most awful and interesting truths which belong both to our present and our future state of existence, and expressed with a simplicity which endears all that it wishes to enforce, forms the prominent feature of Mr. Barton's book; and it is one on which, as beyond all others of incalculable importance, I would fix, for some little time, the attention of my readers.

Placed in a world of exquisite beauty, yet surrounded with a thousand evils, the consequences of his own transgression, man is called to pass his transient day in gratitude, humility and sorrow, -feelings which prepare the heart, as well for the proper enjoyment of what is truly valuable on earth, as for that more perfect happiness which may await us in another world. It is indeed, by this bond of similarity, that the present life becomes indissolubly connected with that better one which is to follow; for the emotions which have sprung here, from a just contemplation of

the beauties and beneficence of creation, shall not die; they shall live beyond the forms to which they owe their birth, and shall carry forward our existence for ever.

A conviction of this kind pervades the entire series of Mr. Barton's poetry, and is expressed indeed, at the opening of his volume, in a manner equally eloquent and emphatic. Many of Mr. Barton's poems are expressly written with the view of reconciling the wearied and heart-broken mourner to the numerous privations which so often render our passage through this world but a pilgrimage of pain and sorrow; of shewing that life is to be estimated, not by its duration, but by the mode in which it has been employed; of directing our hopes firmly on that unchangeable state whither we are hourly tending, and, in the mean while, of so recommending the enjoyment of the beauties, the harmonies, and sublimities of material nature, as may contribute to render them not only subservient to a better comprehension of our future being, but the medium through which we may approach the precincts even of deity itself.

He has succeeded in enforcing these topics with all the eloquence, which an earnestness in the cause, together with beauty of diction, sweetness of versification, and vigour of thought, can communicate.

It has ever been a cherished idea, with those who love to look beyond the confines of mere organized matter, that the intercourse of mind is not altogether lost, even in this life, by the stroke which has severed the bonds of mortality; that though incognizable to our senses, the friends whom we loved are still present to our thoughts and actions, and however unconscious we may be of such an agency, are permitted and enabled, from their more intimate union with the universal world of spirits, to impress on the intellect of man, such trains and combinations of thought, as are best calculated, not only to assuage the evils, which must ever assail us, in our passage through this vale of tears, but such as shall prepare us for that mode and form of being to which they have been long assimilated, and we are rapidly approaching

of associations thus prompted and originated, assuredly those which shall lead to a belief in the superintending agency of the departed spirits of the blessed, must be among the most soothing and satisfactory; for then, to adopt the beautiful language of Mr. Barton :

They tell us that change of existence,

Has not sever'd, but strengthened each tie,
And that, though we may think them at distance,

Yet are they in spirit still nigh;
There is yet an unbroken union,

Though mortality's curtain may fall,
And souls may keep up their communion,

Through the God of the spirits of all! In fact it may be justly said that, independent of this probable and peculiar intercourse, so naturally dear to our sympathies and feelings, our communication with the Deity, and consequently with the world of spirits, is perpetually sustained by the impress of his mighty mind, on all the works of creation. It is this silent language, the interpretation of which has conferred the highest of all possible distinctions on philosophers, poets, and divines, that he has led us, not only to a knowledge of ourselves, but, as far as our finite faculties will permit to a just conception of the attributes of God himself; it is this, in fiuc, which has prepared the human mind for the reception of revealed truth, and which carries us forward, rejoicing in our course, into realms of interminable existence.

Of these sublimely moral and intellectual lessons, as derived from the glorious forms of external nature, the collection of Mr. Barton, presents us with many happy examples.

But of all the objects which nature presents to our view, there is none comparable, in point of grandeur and sublimity, to the ocean. Whether beheld in a state of quiescence, or under the aspect of commotion, it is alike productive of thoughts which agitate and dilate the soul with awe, and fear, and wonder. To express the feelings and conceptions to which such an object and its associations lead; to paint the crowding and tumultuary ideas, the visions of glory and infinity, of rapture and devotion, which kindle on our imaginations, and burn within our souls, on this occasion; which melt us into tears, or thrill us with a shuddering delight; must be, even to the most exalted talent, a work of difficulty and danger. It has, notwithstanding, been attempted by many, but as might be concluded, by few with success. Among the number, however, who have risen from the effort undefeated, we may now, I am happy to add, enrol the name of Barton, whose poem, entitled “ The Sea,” is one of the most beautiful in his collection; and it is so, because it has given the impression of this magnificent element on the mind, with a truth and energy of feeling which have seldom been surpassed.

Nor has Mr. Barton restricted himself to the works of nature; those of man have alike contributed to call forth the energies of his mind, and

the moral painting of his muse.

To a contemplative disposition, indeed, few objects afford more appropriate gratification than the mouldering relics of departed grandeur. There is a silent language in their dissolution which reaches to the heart, and we bow before the spirit of the times of old, humiliated, but rendered better by the awful voice of other years,—by that conviction which, ages ago, whispered to the wisest of the sons of men, that all on earth is vanity.

Of this salutary intercourse with the memory of days long gone by, with the vestiges of dying beauty, and decaying magnificence, Mr. Barton has afforded us some highly interesting specimens. Among these, the poem entitled, · Leiston Abbey', has a claim to peculiar distinction.

The poetry of Mr. Barton is of a description which merits the study and the approbation of his contemporaries. For it is truly gratifying to be able to declare, that it is uniformly not only the friend of virtue and religion, but that it possesses qualities in a high degree calculated to impress both on the feelings and affections.

It is, indeed, when composition exhibits this noble and beneficial tendency, that we rejoice to find it, in a literary point of view, such as may recommend it to the purest taste, and the severest judgment, such as shall be likely to insinuate the love of God and man into the hearts and minds of those who are ranked among the polished and refined—such, in short, as may possibly counteract the virulent poison of which this most delightful of the human arts has, in our days, been so often impiously, and, we may almost add, sacrilegiously rendered the vehicle.

« PreviousContinue »