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might easily be mistaken for Keble's. We quote the following stanzas on the daily service, not only on account of their exquisite beauty and truthfulness, but as a noble exemplification of the harmony between the Church, the mind, and nature.
“ When the gorgeous day begins
In the world's remotest east,
Bringing back some glorious feast;
Kneels the faithful English priest ;
Spread for Eucharistic prayer.
Gains the travelled sun that day,
Still new priests begin to pray;
Still one prayer salutes his ray;
Sees the festal light appear,
Early rise, their song to rear;
Raise they then the anthem clear;
Fades adown their west afar,
Faithful as the vesper star,
Where our eastern altars are ;
Wakes a new earth-girding prayer.” If the English language contains many lines which partake more of the simple, solemn beauty of nature and the Church than these, we have yet to meet them. They would do honor to the pen of any poet, living or dead. There are, however, many passages of which we can not thus speak, as for example:
“ But call me a Jew or a Pagan,
I'd pray the good LORD to forgive,
'T is so, I would die and would live." Again
“ So I prayed, and went on in my way,
Blessing God for the Church He hath given ;
My steed on his journey was gay,
So was I on my journey to Heaven."
“ As I joined in the throng from the village
That were keeping Št. Barthelmy's day,
And festival greeting to pay;" lines all amiable in sentiment, but below Mr. Coxe's powers, prosaic, and monotonously faulty in versification. In fact, there is a “fatal facility" about Ballad writing, as Byron has somewhere remarked of octo-syllabic verse, which, without special care makes it degenerate into diffuse sing-song. It may be the jingle accompanying the Ballad which gives to some of the contents of this volume a sprightliness which we dislike, and which detracts from the solemnity of religious sentiments. If the sonnet be overtame on the one hand, common ballad verse is too lively on the other, for the meet presentation of Catholic truth; whose severe sobriety requires that it should be penned in language that makes the mind think, and the tongue move slow, rather than in words which admit of being trolled to the tune of some lively ditty. The beauty of holiness can best be portrayed and praised in the Cathedral-like verse of Milton, Cowper, Wordsworth, or in the more musical numbers of Pope, Goldsmith, Crabbe, and Campbell.
Ballad verse is pleasing and simple, and there is something in it which catches the ear of the many, and ensures a present popularity; but it is not the species of writing best calculated for endurance, or for the expression of exalted religious sentiment. It is destitute of that inherent strength which gives to higher orders of composition, that tenacious grasp upon the mind which generation after generation can not shake off. We are firmly persuaded, that the age generally is in fault, in the desertion of the full, rich, condensed harmony of our great poets, which has been given up, at the very moment when, after the struggle of centuries, the English language has been developed into its ultimate and Augustan perfection. Mr. Coxe has followed, we imagine, rather the taste of the times, than his own, since he gives abundant evidence of his power to do justice to more classic modes of writing. The Church should have the best of every thingcarved work, cedar and vermillion, as well in her literature as in her temples. What we desire to see, is Catholic truth, indited by genius, in classic numbers.
One only fault more have we to find, and that is with the use of such words as "yestreen" and "countree," which from modern lips, even in poetry, savor of affectation. Let every age speak its own language. We have dwelt upon blemishes of this kind, because we consider them the result of a wrong principle, being likened by our author, in the preface, to the moss and ivy that cling round a pointed arch, giving to poetry more of “Gothic roughness” than of “Doric delicacy;" "and having, therefore, the merit of being in keeping with the architectural symbolism of our Holy Faith." Now the Church is never rough in her architecture where she can avoid it, but delights in giving to her sanctuaries a minute delicacy of enrichment, unknown to the Grecian temple. It is her poverty, and not her will consents to the curtailment of one particle of foliaged tracery. Up in the hidden height where corbel, boss, and pendant lurk, she carves her net-work tracery for God, though scarcely human eye can see it; and the ivy that gathers round her portals, is the handwork, not of the architect, but of time and nature—and instead, therefore, of being in keeping with the intentional roughness of poetic composition—rather represents the ever fresh and clinging affections, which as centuries roll on, surround those who build the lofty rhyme for God. Mr. Coxe has thrown so much vigor, thought, and melody into a species of writing, which even in the hand of genius is apt to become careless scribbling, that we should hail with joy any future production of his pen thrown into a more classic mould.
Deeming the poetic faculty, when properly cultivated, and accompanied with a life of study, prayer, action and self-denial-to be no evanescent fire of youth, but a divine light wbich shineth more and more unto the perfect day, and even in age and nature's decline, is as the sun when he goeth down in his strength, serenely majestic amid clouds—we have spoken freely of Mr. Coxe's earlier verses ; neither praising what we can not admire, nor defrauding of its just tribute what is commendable. We trust often to meet him again in more sustained, because maturer efforts. With his genius and elevated views of the province of the poet, it can scarcely be, but that he will write something which mankind, or rather, the Church,“ will not willingly let die."
And now, a word, before we conclude, concerning the future. It is to that, that we confidently look for the highest creations of poetry. The “Te Deum” and the “Gloria” discourse sweeter music to the ear, than the opera, or the oratorio; and thus we conceive that Catholic poetry is capable of taking a higher flight than the poetry of the passions, with its harlot gaudiness, or even the religious poetry which is not instinct with the true spirit of Revelation. The imaginative magnificence of Milton, more at home in hell than heaventhe purgatorial terrors of Dante, the embattled pomp of Tasso, the heathen philosophy of Pope, the Mantuan strains of Thomson, are none of them in the exact harmony of things, for want of the Divine UTOTOTOJIS, which an uncorrupted Faith can alone yield. As for such men as Byron and Shelly, who surrendered to Satan what was given to sing the praises of God, it is not in Epicurean voluptuousness, or lava-like outpourings of passion, to save them from neglect. Society will more and more ask of the poet what he means; and if he has no meaning, or a bad one, will turn from him; as little relishing to see the evil of the heart decked in flowers, as the filth of the dissecting room. The imagination has been too much regarded as an outlawed faculty, which bodies forth the form of things unknown. Had this been all which the imagination and the pen of Shakspeare achieved, we fear his fame would have vanished from the world, before the dust from his coffin. It is because he depicted the real, that it has lived. Poetry in its highest human efforts has held up a mirror to man as he is. `In the pages of Byron and Shelly it has shown what devils would have him be. There is still left for it the sacred task of declaring with a melody, unsurpassed in its lower walks, and with the sound mind which the Spirit giveth to the Church, what Divine grace makes him. How profusely rich are the materials which lie before the truly Christian poet, who must necessarily look at every thing with a different eye from other men, and need, therefore, feel no embarrassment because the ground has been traveled over before. There is the history of six thousand years, during which Satan and his angels have been contending with God for the souls of men in a world written all over, within and without, with hieroglyphic indications of the Divine will. There is a Book whose lightest word is replete with Heavenly wisdom, overlaying the whole period and reaching onward to the judgment. There is a soul alike in all men, a miniature of the universe, in which the same war is passing as in the world at large. There are the lives, errors, graces, deaths of saints and martyrs—past experience, present contests, prophetic hope. There is a Church entrusted with the keys to all that, in the soul, the world, nature, and history, is mysterious; and may we not apply to poetry written under her guidance, what our author has well said of architecture: Amos "O God, how beautiful and vast
Men's minds and fancies grow,
Their warm ideas flow." There is, there must be, it is the Reason's faith, and like the Rock on which the Reason rests, immovable, a power in goodness and in Truth Divine, to impart, even to poetry, a beauty which no lesser power can yield.' Even the Greeks, those anthromorphists of abstractions, gave to the robed Minerva a severe divinity of loveliness, before which the charms of ocean's daughter seem insipid. And most assuredly the faith which has produced Apostles and Martyrs, and wrestled with the Prince of the power of the air, can tune to highest harmony the poets lyre.
As an element in education it is impossible to speak too highly of the influence of poetry. It reaches the youthful heart, when most other things fail
. Too often has it commended a poisoned chalice to the lips. May the children of the Church, henceforth find in it, healthful nutriment to the soul, as well as instruction to the mind. There are many signs which show that society, at the present time, is peculiarly susceptible to the emotions which a true Catholic poetry can produce. Increased taste in architecture, fondness for symbolism, earnestness and activity of mind, not to say a warm though ill-regulated devotional spirit, are encouraging symptoms. Out of the Church there is no poetic originality of a sufficiently powerful kind to take hold of the public mind, and incite it to action. We are sated with mediocral repetitions, which aim at nothing. Society perceives the hollowness and evil of the Byronic school, but has nothing wherewith to replace it. As models of style, the public taste must soon revert to the old masters. A fair field is open for the thoughts and genius of the Church, to tread in their steps, but with
higher aim, and deeper meaning. In this vast field, Mr. Coxe promises to be no unworthy workman. What he may achieve, is left for coming years to determine. He has given pledges of no common character. Let him gird himself patiently and prayerfully to his task, and try what human genius, as well as“ human lore baptized” can do. And surely, the humble hope to do something for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom, and the deep conviction that he is uttering words of Eternal Truth, and not dallying with ephemeral fancies, should be incentives not inferior to the empty desire of fame, which has so often kindled the imagination of genius.