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OTHER EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY WRITERS
“My dear Rogers, if we were both in America, we should be tarred and feathered, and, lovely as we are by nature, I should be an ostrich and you an emu.”—Sidney Smith.
“Though Nature's sternest painter, yet the best." —Byron (of Crabbe).
" When I repeated ‘Hohenlinden' to Leyden, he said, 'Dash it, man, tell the fellow I hate him; but, dash it, he has written the finest verses that have been published these fifty years.”—Sir Walter Scott.
“Of all the song-writers that ever warbled, or chanted, or sung, the best, in our estimation, is verily none other than Thomas Moore.”
GEORGE CRABBE (1754–1832), after a hard youth, attracted the notice of Edmund Burke, and through his influence became a happy country curate and a popular poet. “ The Village” and “The Parish Register" are his best works. In them he depicts the rural life of his day with such fidelity and success that Byron called him
Nature's sternest painter, yet the best.” His usual metre is the heroic couplet modelled on Pope's. Horace Smith indeed called him a Pope in worsted stockings. Within his field Crabbe is a powerful and genuine poet.
William Blake (1757-1827) has been finely called the first who burst into that silent sea of imaginative poetry that was unknown to readers of Pope. His Poetical Sketches ” were written between 1768 and 1777, five years before the publication of Cowper's“ Poems,” nine before Burns's, and fifteen before “ The Lyrical Ballads of Wordsworth and Coleridge. It is probable that Blake was the poetical preceptor of both the last-named bards. At all events, Wordsworth wrote of him: "His poems undoubtedly are the production of insane genius, but there is something in the madness of this man that interests me more thanthe sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.” Blake died unknown, yet in his “ Songs of Innocence” he left the world a priceless book. To this day it remains the best of all volumes of children's poetry. To its songs may be traced the beginnings of the modern reverence for childhood. Every student of English literature should copy into his notebook, or, better, learn by heart, “ The Introduction to Songs of Innocence," " Infant Joy," “ Infant Sorrow," and “The Tiger."
Samuel Rogers (1763–1855) was at once a rich banker, a man of the world, and a popular poet. His chief works were“ The Pleasures of Memory” 1792, “Human Life” 1819, and “ Italy” 1822. Of
the first, fifteen editions were required before 1806. The first and second were written in heroic couplets, the third in blank verse. Rogers believed in making haste slowly; it took him, nine years to write his “Pleasures of Memory,” nine to finish his “Human Life," and sixteen to complete his “Italy.” To authors in distress he was a generous patron, to those in prosperity a jovial host. He was noted
for his wit. When somebody said that a certain loquacious fellow was growing deaf, he said: “It is from want of practice.” When a member of parliament criticized him, he wrote:
“Ward has no heart, they say, but I deny it;
He has a heart—he gets his speeches by it.” In Human Life” he describes a wife as
“A guardian angel o'er his life presiding,
Doubling his pleasures and his cares dividing.” In one of his short poems, On a Tear,” he thus states Newton's law of gravitation:
"That very law which moulds a tear
And bids it trickle from its source,-
And guides the planets in their course.”
“Nature denied him much,
And, what transcends them all, a noble action." Byron admired Rogers excessively and recorded his admiration in a pyramid in which he undertook to show the relative literary eminence of his contemporaries. Every item in it is wrong. Observe that Shelley, Keats, Jane Austen, and Byron himself are conspicuous by their absence. To reconstruct the pyramid in accordance with the facts is a good exercise.
Southey The many About a hundred of the hymns of James Montgomery (17711854) are still in common use. Some of his poems contain bits of real poetry. For instance:
“Hope against hope and ask till ye receive.”
The World Before the Flood. “Joy too exquisite to last And yet more exquisite when past.”
The Little Cloud. “Remembered joys are never past."
Ibid. “Friend after friend departs;
Who hath not lost a friend ?
Life and Death. “If God hath made this world so fair,
Where sin and death abound,
Prayer. Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1820) was a great original investigator in physics and chemistry, a good story-teller, a poet, and a fisherman. He founded the science of agricultural chemistry; was the first to decompose potash, soda, baryta, strontia, lime, and magnesia; and discovered laughing gas, sodium, barium, strontium, calcium, and magnesium. In 1815 he invented the safety lamp for miners. His “Salmonia, or Days of Fly-fishing," is an excellent imitation of Izaak Walton.
In 1799 there was published in Edinburgh a poem called the “ Pleasures of Hope,” which contained this passage about Poland:
Oh, bloodiest picture in the book of Time !
The storm prevails, the rampart yields a way,
And conscious Nature shuddered at the cry!' The author of this tremendous sermon on the results of unpreparedness wa Thomas Campbell (1777–1844). The“ Pleasures of Hope” went through four editions in a year, and is still well worth reading. Campbell wrote several other poems that can hardly fail to interest American students. Among these are “ Gertrude of Wyoming,"
,a story in Spenserian stanzas of the 1778 Indian massacres in Pennsylvania; “ Lochiel's Warning ”; “ The Battle of the Baltic,” a superb battlepiece; “Ye Mariners of England," the best naval ode ever written; "Hohenlinden ”; “The Exile of Erin ”; “Lord Ullin's Daughter,” a perfect ballad; “ Ode to the Memory of Burns ”; “ The Soldier's Dream”; “ The Last Man,” and “ The Song of the Greeks.” Sir Walter Scott said that Campbell had wings that would bear him to the skies. Another critic declares that he is sure of an immortality of quotation. Some of his best lines and stanzas follow:
“'Tis distance lends enchantment to the view.”
Pleasures of Hope. “The wolf's long howl from Oonalaska's shore."
Ibid. Like angel-visits, few and far between."
Ibid. “A stoic of the woods—a man without a tear."
Gertrude of Wyoming.
Ibid. “ Their swords are a thousand, their bosoms are one."
Lochiels Warning. “ 'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore, And coming events cast their shadows before."
Ibid. “ Shall victor exult, or in death be laid low,
With his back to the earth and his feet to the foe!