Imagens das páginas

tuous thing to attempt to gain futurity for a point of imaginative vision, and thus anticipate the judgment of posterity. As far as we may indulge in such speculation, we may fancy some eye, as yet unborn, conning what is now the fair page of some fresh book, but then turned into the “sere and yellow leaf;” and if it should chance to be a page on which is inscribed some shallow piece of pride in the Superiority of the age, some ostentation of the incomparable advancement of physical Science or the mechanic arts, or of universal education and the march of mind, or some loud boasting of political regeneration,--it might prompt the compassionate smile at such ebullitions of inordinate and short-sighted vanity; short-sighted, because these are matters in which, great as may be the achievements of one generation, they are usually outstripped and set aside by those of a succeeding generation. From such manifestations of our character we might be pronounced a sensuous, unimaginative generation,-self-centered, self-seeking, selfsatisfied, prone to divorce the present from both past and future, breaking covenant with the mighty dead by irreverent violation of time-honoured institutions and usages, as being, according to the phrase, behind the times, and not looking with prophetic eye to days that are to come. But the chief evidence of the character of an age is sought in its literature; and, contemplating that of our times, the writer of some distant day will find that there flourished during the early period of the nineteenth century a numerous company of poets, and among them not a few truly inspired, who would do honour to any age. Indeed, unimaginative and unpoetic as we are, too often, in the habit of considering the


generation of our own times, if we measure both the amount and merit and variety of the poetry which has been produced within the last thirty or forty years, this age, in the annals of English poetry, is surpassed only by the golden age of Queen Elizabeth, with which, indeed, it may not inappropriately be compared. The list of successful poets in our times is, in truth, a registry which contrasts finely with the poverty of several former periods; and, on approaching what may be called our contemporaries' poetry, I have found a necessity of making some selection from a numerous company of poets who would all be entitled to consideration in a more extended course. I have, therefore, chosen five names as worthy of chief distinction, hoping to be able occasionally to present some incidental notices of those to whom more space would, under other circumstances, be due. The choice names—chosen not without reflection, and with regard to their eminence and their influence —are the names of Scott, Coleridge, Southey, Byron, and Wordsworth. The ranks of the poets of the nineteenth century have been already thinned by death. Of the five names just repeated but two survive, and only one in the unimpaired possession of his genius. That one has witnessed the passing away of his brother bards, in quick succession too, within the last few years, a speedy action of death, not lost upon the thoughtful imagination of the survivor:—

“Like clouds which rake the mountain summit,
Or waves that own no curbing hand,
How fast has brother followed brother
From sunshine to the sunless land

“Yet I, whose lids from infant slumbers Were earlier raised, remain to hear A timid voice, that asks, in whispers, Who next will drop and disappear?” Byron, and Scott, and Coleridge, and Crabbe, and the Ettrick Shepherd, as he is called, to escape the unpoetic name of James Hogg,-and Mrs. Hemans, each having filled a space in the literature of this century, are in their graves. The survivors, not a few in number, are for the most part mute in song as the dead; but, to appreciate the extent of living poetic power, it is only necessary to recall the names of Rogers, and Campbell, and Moore, and Milman, and Southey, and Wordsworth, to say nothing of some others of good repute. It is a noticeable fact that among the poets of our days the one who first gained an honourable award of reputation, the first and oldest of them all, is still among the living, “a worthy and a prosperous gentleman,”—the poet Samuel Rogers. He came into public notice as the author of the “Pleasures of Memory,” which appeared during the last century; and he is now living in cheerful and esteemed old age, after a life of purity and affluent elegance, on the verge of eighty years. He stands truly the patriarch of the poets of the nineteenth century; and, as such, honour should first be done to him before I pass on to the chief subjects of this and the succeeding lectures. - Rogers's first poem was produced at a time most propitious to the acquisition of a general popularity. It was a period of poetical dearth. The career of Burns as well as of Cowper were wellnigh over when this poem

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upon the pleasurable emotions of memory was cordially and widely welcomed to supply a void in the public mind. .

It was on a theme of universal interest and of ready comprehension, and abounding in a succession of pleasing pictures, rather than presenting any lofty efforts of imagination; and, therefore, it is not surprising that it should have won, under such circumstances, a widespread favour. At the present day, or even somewhat later than the publication of the “Pleasures of Memory,” I do not think it could have secured so favourable a reception. There has since been so much of the stronger inspiration that the avenue to a poetic reputation is by no means so open to entrance. Indeed, this is shown by the state of popular opinion respecting some of Rogers's later poems. His “Italy,” for example, seems to me to show a far more vigorous and cultivated imagination,-to be, in a word, a greatly superior poem to his first poem ; but Rogers's name became first known as the Poet of Memory, and as such will it be preserved. Passages of genuine poetry are scattered through his “Italy,” giving it a higher value than is perhaps recognised. It is a descriptive poem, finely enriched, as descriptive poetry should be, with moral associations, in the present case arising chiefly from historical and biographical allusions. The interesting visit of the young Milton, a tra veller in Italy, to the aged Galileo, is thus introduced and fitly touched:—

“ Nearer we hail
Thy sunny slope, Arcetri, sung of old
For its green wine,—dearer to me, to most,
As dwelt on by that great astronomer,

Seven years a prisoner at the city-gate,
Tuet in but in his grave-clothes. Sacred be
His cottage; (justly was it called the jewel!)
Sacred the vineyard where, while yet his sight
Glimmered, at blush of dawn he dressed his vines,
Chanting aloud, in gaiety of heart,
Some verse of Ariosto. There, unseen,
In manly beauty, Milton stood before him,
Gazing with reverent awe, Milton his guest,
Just then come forth, all life and enterprise;
He in his old age and extremity,
Blind, at noonday exploring with his staff;
His eyes upturned as to the golden sun,
His eyeballs idly rolling. Little then
Did Galileo think whom he bade welcome;
That in his hand he held the hand of one
Who could requite him, who would spread his name
O'er lands and seas, great as himself, nay, greater:
Milton as little that in him he saw,
As in a glass, what he himself should be,
Destined so soon to fall on evil days
And evil tongues, so soon, alas ! to live
In darkness, and with dangers compassed round
And solitude.”

[There is a break in the manuscript here, which I have found it impossible to repair. Diligent search has been made for the missing matter, but without success.-ED.]

In the last lecture I had occasion to make some remarks on the subject of lyrical poetry, and its demand for a highly-musical versification and a variety of rhythm. The remarks were connected with the higher department of lyrical composition,-the Ode,-but now lead me to mention slightly the numerous contributions of a living poet to another department of lyrical poetry. No English writer, that I am aware of, has produced so many

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