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reflection, find the passion so just, that we should be surprised if we had not wept, and wept at that very moment.
How astonishing is it, again, that the passions directly opposite to these, laughter and spleen, are no less at his command ! that he is not more a master of the great than the ridiculous in human nature; of our noblest tendernesses, than of our vainest foibles; of our strongest emotions, than of our idlest sensations !
Nor does he only excel in the passions: in the coolness of reflection and reasoning, he is full as admirable. His sentiments are not only in general the most pertinent and judicious upon every subject; but by a talent very peculiar, something between penetration and felicity, he hits upon that particular point on which the bent of each argument turns, or the force of each motive depends. This is perfectly amazing, from a man of do education or experience in those great and public scenes of life which are usually the subject of his thoughts : so that he seems to have known the world by intuition, to have looked through human nature at one glance, and to be the only author that gives ground for a very new opinion, that the philosopher, and even the man of the world, may be born, as well as the poet.
Preface to Shak peare.
HOMER AND VIRGIL COMPARED. On whatever side we contemplate Homer, what principally strikes us is his invention. It is that which forms the character of each part of his work; and accordingly we find it to have made his fable more extensive and copious than any other, his manners more lively and strongly marked, his speeches more affecting and transporting, his sentiments more warm and sublime, his images and descriptions more full and animated, his expression more raised and during, and his numbers more rapid and various. I hope, in what has been said of Virgil, with regard to any of these heads, I have no way derogated from his character. Nothing is more absurd or endless, than the common method of comparing eminent writers by an opposition of particular passages in them, and forming a judgment from thence of their merit upon the whole. We ought to have a certain knowledge of the principal character and distinguished excellence of each: it is in that we are to consider him, and in proportion to his degree in that we are to admire him. No author or man ever excelled all the world in more than one faculty: and as Homer has done this in invention, Virgil has in judgment. Not that we are to think Homer wanted judgment, because Virgil had it in a more eminent degree ; or that Virgil wanted invention, because Homer possessed a larger share of it: each of these great authors had more of both than perhaps any man besides, and are only said to have less in comparison with one another. Homer was the greater genius; Virgil, the better artist. In one we most admire the man ; in the other, the work. Homer hurries and transports us with a commanding impetuosity; Virgil leads us with an attractive majesty: Homer scatters with a generous profusion; Virgil bestows with a careful magnificence: Homer, like the Nile, pours out his riches with a boundless overflow; Virgil, like a river in its banks, with a gentle and constant stream. When we behold their battles, methinks the two poets resemble the heroes they celebrate : Homer, boundless and irresistible as Achilles, bears all before him, and shines more and more as the tumult increases; Virgil, calmly daring like Æneas, appears undisturbed in the midst of the action ; disposes all about him, and conquers with tranquillity. And when we look upon their machines, Homer seems like his own Jupiter in his terrors, shaking Olympus, scattering the lightnings, and firing the heavens; Virgil, like the same power in his benevolence, counselling with the gods, laying plans for empires, and regularly ordering his whole creation.
Preface to the Iliad.
ROBERT BLAIR. 1699-1746.
ROBERT BLAIR, the author of "The Grave," was born in 1699. But few particulars are known respecting his life. After receiving a liberal educa. tion, he travelled on the continent for further improvement, and in 1731 was ordained as a minister of the parish of Athelstaneford, in East Lothian, where he spent the remainder of his life, which was terminated by a fever, in 1746, in the forty-seventh year of his age.
« The eighteenth century has produced few specimens of blank verse of so powerful and simple a character as that of the Grave. It is a popular poem, not merely because it is religious, but because its language and imagery are free, natural, and picturesque. In the eye of fastidious criticism, Blair may be a homely and even a gloomy poet; but there is a masculine and pronounced character even in his gloom and homeliness, that keeps it most distinctly apart from either dryness or vulgarity. His style pleases us like the powerful expression of a countenance without regular beauty."!
i Campbell's Specimeps, vol. V. p. 204.
Eternal King! whose potent arm sustains
DEATH-DIVIDED FRIENDSHIPS. Invidious Grave! how dost thou rend in sunder Whom love has knit, and sympathy made one! A tie more stubborn far than nature's band. Friendship! mysterious cement of the soul! Sweetener of life! and solder of society ! I owe thee much. Thou hast deserved from me Far, far beyond what I can ever pay. Oft have I proved the labors of thy love, And the warm efforts of thy gentle heart, Anxious to please. Oh! when my friend and I In some thick wood have wander'd heedless on. Hid from the vulgar eye, and sat us down Upon the sloping cowslip-cover'd bank, Where the pure limpid stream has slid along In grateful errors through the underwood, Sweet murmuring, methought the shrill-tongued thrush Mended his song of love; the sooty blackbird Mellow'd his pipe, and soften'd every note; The eglantine smell'd sweeter, and the rose Assumed a dye more deep; whilst every flower Vied with its fellow-plant in luxury Of dress! Oh! then the longest summer's day Seem'd too, too much in haste: still, the full heart Had not imparted half: 'twas happiness Too exquisite to last. Of joys departed Not to return, how painful the remembrance!
DEATH, THE GOOD MAN'S PATH TO ETERNAL JOY.
Thrice welcome Death!
High in his faith and hopes, look how he reaches
'Tis but a night, a long and moonless night; We make the grave our bed, and then are gone!
Thus, at the shut of even, the weary bird Leaves the wide air, and in some lonely brake Cowers down, and dozes till the dawn of day, Then claps his well-fledged wings, and bears away.
JAMES THOMSON. 1700—1748.
JAMES THOmson, the author of “The Seasons,” was the son of a Scotch clergyman, and was born in the year 1700. After completing his academic education at the University of Edinburgh, he entered upon the study of divinity; but a paraphrase of one of the Psalms having been given, by the professor of divinity, to the class, Thomson's exercise was in so poetical and figurative a style as to astonish all who heard it. This incident made him resolve to quit divinity for poetry, and, after some time, he went to London, poor and friendless, to try his fortune, with the manuscript of "Winter" in his pocket. It was with difficulty he found a purchaser for it, and the price given was trifling. It was published in 1726, and after a period of neglect, was admired and applauded, and a number of editions speedily followed. His « Summer" appeared in 1727, “Spring” in 1728, and « Autumn" in 1730.
After the publication of the Seasons, he travelled on the continent with the son of the Lord Chancellor Talbot, and on his return employed himself in the composition of his various tragedies, and his poem on “Liberty." These are by no means equal to his other performances, and are now but little read. In May, 1748, he finished his « Castle of Indolence," upon which he had been laboring for years. This is the noblest effort of his genius. “To it," says Campbell, “ he brought not only the full nature, but the perfect art of a poet. The materials of that exquisite poem are derived originally from Tasso; but he was more immediately indebted for them to the Faerie Queene." In. deed, of all the imitations of Spenser, it is the most spirited and beautiful, both for its moral, poetical, and descriptive power. He did not long survive its publication. A violent cold, through inattention, terminated in a fever, and carried him off on the 27th of August, 1748.
In nature and originality, Thomson is superior to all the descriptive poets except Cowper, and few poems in the English language have been more popular than the “ Seasons." “ It is almost stale to remark," observes Camp bell, “ the beauties of a poem so universally felt; the truth and genial interest with which he carries us through the life of the year; the harmony of succes. sion which he gives to the casual phenomena of nature; his pleasing transition from native to foreign scenery; and the soul of exalted and unseigned benevolence which accompanies his prospects of the creation. It is but equal justice to say that, amidst the feeling and fancy of the Seasons,' we meet with interruptions of declamation, heavy narrative, and unhappy digression."?
But though Thomson's merits as a descriptive poet are of the first order; though “he looks with the eye which nature bestows only on a poet, and with a mind that at once comprehends the vast, and attends to the minute, ** yet his greatest charm, and that which makes him so popular with all classes, is, that he looks also with a heart that feels for all mankind. As has been well said, “his sympathies are universal.” His touching allusions to the con
1 “When Thomson published his “Winter," it lay a long time neglected, in Mr. Spense made bocorable mention of it in his " Odyssey," which, becoming a popular book, made the poem universally known." - Warton.
9 "Thomson was blessed with a strong and copious fancy: he bath enriched poetry with a variety of new and original images, which he painted from nature itsell, and from his own actual observstions: his descriptions have therefore a distinctness and truth which are utterly wanting to those of poets who have only copied from each other, and have never looked abroad on the objects them selves." - Warton's Pope, 1. 12.