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often most love where there is the least ac- they differ; and there is but one reason for quaintance with the object loved. So it is it, which is, because they are so. Again, with these good people who stare at the odd there are the gentle and conciliatory, who construction of our minds. Homely and say merely that they cannot quite think poor thoughts may be set off by facility and with you. Have they thought at all? Can gracefulness of language ; here they often they ibink at all? Granting both premises, want both.
have they thought or can they think Southey.-Harmonious words render or- rightly? dinary ideas acceptable ; less ordinary, plea- Southey.-To suppose the majority can, sant ; novel and ingenious ones, delightful. is to suppose an absurdity; and especially As pictures and statues and living beauty on subjects which require so much prepatoo, show better by music-light, so is poetry ratory study, such a variety of instruction, irradiated, vivified, glorified and raised into such deliberation, delicacy, and refinement. immortal life, by harmony.
When I have been told, as I often have been, Porson.-Ay, Mr. Southey, and another that I shall find very few of my opinion, thing may be noticed. The Muses should certainly no compliment was intended me; be as slow to loosen the zone as the Graces* yet there are few, comparatively, whom naare. The poetical form, like the human, 10 iure has gifted with intuition or exquisite be beautiful must be succinct. When we taste ; few whose ideas have been drawn, grow corpulent, we are commonly said to modelled, marked, chisellee, and polished, lose our figure. By this loss of figure we in a studio, well lighted from above. The are reduced and weakened. So, there not opinion of a thousand millions who are ig. being bone nor muscle nor blood enough in norant or ill-informed, is not equal to the your client, to rectify and support his accre. opinion of only one who is wiser. This is tions, he collapses into unswathable flabbi- too self-evident for argument; yet we hear ness. We must never disturb him in this about the common sense of mankind! A condition, which appears to be thought, in common sense which, unless the people recertain parts of the country, as much a ceive it from their betters, leads them only peculiar mark of Heaven's favor, as idiocy into common error. 1! such is the case, among the Turks. I have usually found his and we have the testimony of all ages for sticklers like those good folks dogmatical it, in matters which have most attracted and dull. One of them lately tried to per- their attention, matters in which their nearsnade me that he never is so highly poetical est interests are mainly concerned, in polias when he is deeply metaphysical. When tics, in religion, in the education of their I stared, he smiled benignly, and said with a families, how greatly, how surpassingly sigh that relieved us both, “Ah! you may be must it be in those which require a peculiar a Grecian !" He then quoted fourteen Ger-structure of understanding, a peculiar enman poets of the first order, and expressed dowment of mind, a peculiar susceptibility, his compassion for Æschylus and Homer. and almost an undivided application. In
Southey.- What a blessing are metaphy. what regards poetry, I should just as soon sics to our generation! A poet or other expect à sound judgment of its essentials who can make nothing clear, can stir up from a boatman or a wagoner, as from the enough sediment to render the bottom of I usual set of persons we meet in society ; a basin as invisible as the deepest gulf in persons not uneducated, but deriving their the Atlantic. The shallowest pond, if tur intelligence from little gutters and drains bid, has depth enough for a goose to hide round about : the mud is easily raised to its head in.
the surface in so shallow a receptacle, and Porson.-I quoted to my instructor in nothing is seen distinctly or clearly. Wherecriticism the Anecdote for Fathers : he as. as the humbler man has received no false sured me it is as clear as day; not meaning impressions, and may therefore to a limited a London day in particular, such as this. extent be right. As for books in general, But there are sundry gentlemen who like it is only with men like you that I ever cats see clearly in the dark, and far from open my lips upon them in conversation. clearly any where else. Hold them where, In my capacity of reviewer, dispassionate if they were tractable and docile, you might by temperament, equitable by principle, and, show them your objections, and they will moreover, for fear of offending God and of swear and claw at you to show how spiteful suffering in my conscience, I dare not leave you are. Others say they wonder that ju- behind me in my writings either a false estidicious men differ from them: no doubt mate or a frivolous objection.
Porson.-Racy wine comes from the high ** Zonamque segnes solvere Gratiæ,” Tvineyard. There is a spice of the scoundrel in most of our literary men; an itch to filch Southey.-I cannot recollect them in the and detract in the midst of fair-speaking Greek. and festivity. This is the reason why I Porson.-Indeed! Perhaps I dreamt it never have much associated with them. then ; for Greek often plays me tricks in There is also another: we have nothing in my dreams. common but the alphabet. The most popu- Southey.--I wish it would play them lar of our critics have no heart for poetry; oftener with our poets. It seems to enterit is morbidly sensitive on one side, and tain a peculiar grudge against the most utterly callous on the other. They dandle celebrated of them. some little poet, and will never let you take Porson. Our conversation has been enhim off their knees; him they feed to burst. livened and enriched by what seemed suffi. ing with their curds and whey: another ciently sterile in its own nature ; but, by they warn off the premises, and will give tossing it about, we have made it useful. him neither a crust nor a crumb, until they Just as certain lands are said to profit by hear he has succeeded to a large estate in scrapings from the turnpike-road. After this popularity, with plenty of dependents; then sieving, after this pounding and triturition they sue and supplicate to be admitted of the coarser particles, do you really find among the number; and, lastly, when they | in Mr. Wordsworth such a vigor and variety, hear of his death, they put on mourning, such a selection of thoughts and images, as and advertise to raise a monument or a club. authorize you to rank him with Scott and room to his memory. You, Mr. Southey, Burns and Cowper ? will always be considered the soundest and Southey.-Certainly not: but that is no the fairest of our English critics; and in- reason why he should be turned into ridideed, to the present time, you have been cule on all occasions. Must he be rejected the only one of very delicate perception in and reviled as a poet, because he wishes to poetry. But your admirable good-nature be also a philosopher? Or must he be has thrown a costly veil over many defects taunted and twitted for weakness, because and some deformities. To guide our aspi- by his nature he is quiescent ?' rants, you have given us (and here accept Porson.--No indeed; though much of my thanks for them) several good inscrip- this quiescency induces debility, and is altions, much nearer the style of antiquity ways a sign of it in poetry. Let poets enthan any others in our language, and better joy their sleep ; but let them not impart it, -indeed much better-than the Italian nor take it amiss if they are shaken by the ones of Chiabrera. I myself have nothing shoulder for the attempt. I reprehended original about me; but here is an inscrip- at our last meeting, as severely as you tion which perhaps you will remember in yourself did, those mischievous children Theocritus, and translated to the best of who played their pranks with him in his my ability.
easy chair; and I drove away from him
those old women who brought him their INSCRIPTION ON A STATUE OF LOVE. drastics from the Edinburgh Dispensary. « Mild he may be, and innocent to view,
Poor souls! they are all swept off! Sidney Yet who on earth can answer for him ? You Smith, the wittiest man alive, could not Who touch the little god, mind what ye do! keep them up, by administering a nettle " Say not that none has caution'd you : although and a shore to this unsaved remnant of the Short be his arrow, slender be his bow,
Baxter Christians. The king Apollo's never wrought such wo."
- Southey.—The heaviest of them will kick This, and one petty skolion, are the only at you the most viciously. Castigation is things I have attempted. The skolion is not undue to him ; for he has snipt off as written by Geron, and preserved by Ariste- much as he could pinch from every author netus:
of reputation in his time. It is less un" He who in waning age would moralize,
generous to expose such people than to With leaden finger weighs down joyous eyes;
defend them. Youths too, with all they say, can only tell
Porson.—Let him gird up his loins, howWhat maids know well:
ever, and be gone; we will turn where cor" And yet if they are kind, they hear it out rection ought to be milder, and may be more As patiently as if they clear'd a doubt.
efficient. Give a trifle of strength and I will not talk like either. Come with me; Look at the tree !
austerity to the squashiness of our friend's
poetry, and reduce in almost every piece "Look at the tree while still some leaves are green; its quantity to half. Evaporation will renSoon must they fall. Ah! in the space between Lift those long eyelashes above your book,
der it likelier to keep. Without this proFor the last look !"
cess, you will shortly have it only in the form of extracts. You talk of philosophy ciseness is desirable, and copious where in poetry; and in poetry let it exist ; but copiousness can yield delight. When he let its veins run through a poem, as our aims at what is highest in poetry, the draveins run through the body, and never be matic, he falls below his Fables. However, too apparent ; for the prominence of veins, I would not compare the poetical power of in both alike, is a symptom of weakness, Cowper with his ; nor would I, as some feverishness, and senility. On the ground have done, put Young against him. Young where we are now standing, you have taken is too often fantastical and frivolous; he one end of the blanket, and I the other ; but pins butterflies to the pulpit.cushion; he it is I chiefly who have shaken the dust out. suspends against the grating of the charnel. Nobody can pass us without seeing it rise house colored lamps and comic transparen. against the sunlight, and observing what a cies-Cupid, and the cat and the fiddle; he heavy cloud there is of it. While it lay opens a large store-house filled with minute quietly in the flannel, it lay without sus. particles of heterogeneous wisdom, and unpicion.
palatable goblets of ill-concocted learning, Southey.-Let us return, if you please, to contributions from the classics, from the one among the partakers of your praise, schoolmen, from bomilies, and from farces. whose philosophy is neither obtrusive nor What you expect to be an elegy turns out abstruse. I am highly gratified by your an epigram ; and when you think he is commendation of Cowper, than whom there bursting into tears, he laughs in your face. never was a more virtuous or more amiable Do you go with him into his closet, pre. man. In some passages, he stands quite pared for an admonition or a rebuke, he unrivalled by any poet of this century ; shakes his head, and you sneeze at the none, indeed, modern or ancient, has touch-powder and perfumery of his peruke. Woned the heart more delicately, purely, and der not if I prefer to his pungent essences effectively, than he has done in Crazy Kate, the incense which Cowper burns before the in Lines on his Mother's Picture, in Omai, altar. and on hearing Bells at a Distance.
Porson.-Young was, in every sense of Porson.—Thank you for the mention of the word, an ambitious man. He had bells. Mr. Wordsworth, I remember, speaks strength, but he wasted it. Blair's Grave in an authoritative and scornful tone of has more spirit in it than the same portion censure, on Cowper's “church-going bell,” of the Night Thoughts ; but never was potreating the expression as a gross impro- etry so ill put together ; never was there priety and absurdity. True enough, the so good a poem, of the same extent, from church-going bell does not go to church any which so great a quantity of what is mere more than I do ; neither does the passing trash might be rejected. The worse blembell pass any more than I ; nor does the ish in it is the ridicule and scoffs, cast not curfew-bell cover any more fire than is con- only on the violent and the grasping, but tained in Mr. Wordsworth's poetry : but equally on the gentle, the beautiful, the stuthe church-going bell is that which is rung dious, the eloquent, and the manly. It is for people going to church--the passing- ugly enough to be carried quietly to the bell for those passing to heaven-ihe cur. grave--it is uglier to be hissed and hooted few-bell for burgesses and villagers, to cover | into it. Even the quiet astronomer, their fires. He would not allow me to be called well-spoken, nor you to be called well... "
called well. “With study pale, and midnight vigils spent,” read, and yet, by this expression, I should is not permitted to depart in peace, but (of mean to signify that you have read much, all men in the world !) is called a “ proud and I should employ another in signifying man,” and is coolly and flippantly told that you have been much read. Incom- that parably better is Cowper's Winter than “Great heights are hazardous lo weak heads," Virgil's, which is, indeed, a disgrace to the Georgics, or than Thomson's, which in
which the poet might have turned into a places is grand. But would you on the
verse, if he had tried again, as we willwhole compare Cowper with Dryden? "To the weak heads great heights are bazardous.”
Southey.--Dryden possesses a much richer In the same funny style he writes store of thoughts, expatiates upon more topics, has more vigor, vivacity, and ani. “O that some courteous ghost would blab it out. mation. Never sublime, never pathetic, and What 'lis they are." therefore never a poet of the first order, he Courtesy and blabbing, in this upper world yet is always shrewd and penetrating, ex. of ours, are thought to be irreconcilable ; plicit and perspicuous, concise where con- but blabbing may not be indecorous, nor derogatory to the character of courtesy, in a through. Give me Chaucer in preference. ghost. However the expression is an un- He slaps us on the shoulder, and makes us couth one ; and when we find it so employ spring up while the dew is on the grass, ed, we suspect the ghost cannot have been and while the long shadows play about it in keeping good company, but, as the king all quarters. We feel strong with the said to the miller of Mansfield, that his freshness around us, and we return with a “courtesy is but small.” Cowper plays in keener appetite, having such a companion the playground, and not in the churchyard. in our walk. Among the English poets, Nothing of his is out of place or out of both on this side and the other side of season. He possessed a rich vein of ridi. Milton, I place him next to Shakspeare : cole, but he turns it to good account, open- but the word next, must have nothing to do ing it on prig parsons and graver and worse with the word near. I said before, that I do impostors. He was among the first who not estimate so highly as many do the put to flight the mischievous little imps of mushrooms that sprang up in a ring under allegory, so cherished and fondled by the the great oak of Arden. Wartons. They are as bad in poetry as Southey.—These authors deal in strong mice in a cheese-room. You poets are distillations for foggy minds that want exstill rather too fond of the unsubstantial. citement. In few places is there a great Some will have nothing else than what they depth of sentiment, but everywhere vast call pure imagination. Now air-plants exaggeration and insane display. I find ought not to fill the whole conservatory; the over-crammed curiosity-shop, with its other plants, I would modestly suggest, are incommodious appendages, some groworth cultivating, which send their roots tesquely rich, all disorderly and disconpretty deep into the ground. I hate both nected. Rather would I find, as you would, poetry and wine without body. Look at the well-proportioned hall, with its pillars Shakspeare, Bacon, and Milton; were these of right dimensions at right distances; your pure imagination men ? The least of with its figures, some in high relief and them, whichever it was, carried a jewel of some in lower; with its statues, and its poetry about him, worth all his tribe that busts of glorious men and women, whom I came after. Did the two of them who recognize at first sight; and its tables of wrote in verse build upon nothing? Did the rarest marbles and richest gems, inlaid their predecessors? And, pray, whose in glowing porphyry, and supported by im. daughter was the Muse they invoked ? perishable bronze. Without a pure simWhy, Memory's. They stood among sub- plicity of design—without a just subordina. stantial men, and sang upon recorded ac- tion of characters—without a select choice tions. The plain of Scamander, the prom- of such personages as either have interested ontory of Sigæum, the palaces of Tros and us, or must by the power of association, Dardanus, the citadel in which the Fates without appropriate ornaments laid on solid sang mournfully under the image of Miner. materials, no admirable poetry of the first va, seem fitter places for the Muses to order can exist. alight on, than artificial rockwork or than Porson.—Well, we cannot get all these faery-rings. But your great favorite, I things, and we will not cry for them. hear, is Spenser, who shines in allegory, Leave me rather in the curiosity-shop than and who like an aerolithe is dull and beavy in the nursery. By your reference to the when he descends to the ground.
noble models of antiquity, it is evident Southey.--He continues a great favorite that those poets must value the ancients with me still, although he must always lose who are certain to be among them. In our a little as our youth declines. Spenser's is own earliest poets, as in the earlier Italian a spacious but somewhat low chamber, hung | painters, we find many disproportions; but with rich tapestry, on which the figures are we discern the dawn of truth over the mostly disproportioned, but some of the depths of expression. These were soon faces are lively and beautiful; the furniture lost sight of, and every new comer passed is part creaking and worm-eaten, part fra- further from them. I like Pietro Perugino a grant with cedar and sandal-wood, and aro-thousand-fold better than Carlo Maratta, and matic gums and balsams; every table and Giotto a thousand-fold better than Carlo mantelpiece and cabinet is covered with Dolce. On the same principle, the day. gorgeous vases, and birds, and dragons, and break of Chaucer is pleasanter to me than houses in the air.
the hot dazzling noon of Byron. Porson.—There is scarcely a poet of the Southey.-I am not confident that we same eminence, whom I have found it so ever speak quite correctly, of those who delightful to read in, or so tedious to read, differ from us essentially in taste, in opinion, or even in style. If we cordially wish they feed, is too silly for grave reprehen. to do it, we are apt to lay a restraint on sion. But there are certain men who are ourselves, and to dissemble a part of our driven by necessity to exhibit some sore convictions.
absurdity ; it is their only chance of obtainPorson.-An error seldom committed. ing a night's lodging in the memory.
Southey.-Sometimes, however. I for Southey.Send the Ishmaelite back again example did not expose in my criticisms to his desert. He has indeed no right to half the blemishes I discovered in the style complain of you ; for there are scarcely two and structure of Byron's poetry, because 1 men of letters at whom he has not cast a had infinitely more to object against the stone, although he met them far beyond the morals it disseminated ; and wbat must tents and the pasturage of his tribe; and have been acknowledged for earnestness in leave those poets also, and return to consithe greater question, might have been mis-der attentively the one, much more origitaken for captiousness in the less. His nal, on whom we began our discourse. partisans, no one of whom probably ever Porson.-Thank you. I have lain in ditchread Chaucer, would be indignant at your es ere now, but not willingly, nor to conpreference. They would wonder, but hard template the moon, nor to gather celandine. ly with the same violence of emotion, that I am reluctant to carry a lantern in quest of he was preferred to Shakspeare. Perbaps my man, and am but little contented to be his countrymen in his own age, which rare told that I may find him at last, if I look long ly happens to literary men overshadowingly enough and far enough. One who exbibits great, had glimpses of his merit. One no sign of life in the duration of a single would naturally think that a personage of poem, may at once be given up to the unCamden's gravity, and placed beyond the dertaker. pale of poetry, might have spoken less con Southey.-It would be fairer in you to retemptuously of some he lived among, in gard the aim and object of the poet, when his admiration of Chaucer. He tells us he tells you what it is, than to linger in both in prose and verse, by implication, those places where he appears to disadvan. how little he esteemed Shakspeare.- tage. Speaking of Chaucer, he says, “he, surpas. Porson.-My oil and vinegar are worth sing all others, without question, in wit, more than the winter cabbage you have set and leaving our smattering poetasters by before me, and are ill spent upon it. In many leagues behind him,
what volume of periodical criticism do you
not find it stated, that the aim of an author "Jam monte potitus Ridet anhelantem dura ad fasligia turbam.'
being such or such, the only question is
whether he has attained it ? Now instead Which he thus translates for the benefit of of this being the only question to be solved, us students in poetry and criticism-- it is pretty nearly the one least worthy of " When once himself the steep-top hill bad won,
attention. We are not to consider whether At all the sort of them he laught anon,
a foolish inan bas succeeded in a foolish unTo see how they, the pitch thereos to gain,
dertaking ; we are to consider whether his Puffing and blowing do climbe up in vain." production is worth any thing, and why it is, Nevertheless we are indebted to Camden for
or why it is not? Your cook, it appears, is preserving the best Latin verses, and indeed
| disposed to fry me a pancake; but it is not
his intention to supply me with lemon-juice the only good ones that had hitherto been
and sugar. Pastiness and fatness are the written by any of our countrymen. They
qualities of a pancake, and thus far be bas were written in an age when great minds
attained his aim ; but if he means it for me, were attracted by greater, and when tribute
let him place the accessaries on the table, was paid where tribute was due, with loy
lest what is insipid and clammy, and (as alty and enthusiasm.
housewives with great propriety call it) sad, "Drace ! pererrari novit quem terminus orbis grow into duller accretion and inerter vis
Quemque simal mundi vidit uterque polos, cidity the more I masticate it. My good Mr. Si taceant homines, facient te sidera notum; Southey, do not be offended at these homely Sol nescit comitis immemor esse soi."
| similes. Socrates uses no other in the paPorson.—A subaltern in the supplementages of the stately Plato ; they are all, or ry company of the Edinburgh sharpshooters, nearly all, borrowed from the artisan and the much prefers the slender Italians, who fill trader. I have plenty of every sort at band, their wallets with scraps from the doors of but I always take the most applicable, quite rich old houses. To compare them in rank indifferent to the smartness and glossidess and substance with those on whose bounty of its trim. If you prefer one from another