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comfortably without a wife; and since the 1820, I have been a monogamist. But I confess that there is a sameness in that system. I should like much to try polygamy for a few years. I wish Milton had explained the duties of a polygamist; for it is possible that they may be of a very intricate, complicated, and unbounded nature, and that such an accumulation of private business might be thrown on one's hands, that it could not be in the power of an elderly gentleman to overtake it; occupied, too, as he might be, as in my own case, in contributing to the Periodical Literature of the age.
North. Sir, the system would not be found to work well in this climate. Milton was a great poet; but a bad divine, and a miserable politician.
Tickler. How can that be ?-Wordsworth says that a great poet must be great in all things.
North. Wordsworth often writes like an idiot; and never more so than when he said of Milton, “ his soul was like a star, and dwelt apart!" For it dwelt in tumult, and mischief, and rebellion. Wordsworth is, in all things, the reverse of Milton
a good man, and a bad poet. Tickler. What !—That Wordsworth whom Maga cries up as the Prince of Poets ?
North. Be it so; I must humour the fancies of some of my friends. But had that man been a great poet, he would have produced a deep and lasting impression on the mind of England; whereas his verses are becoming less and less known every day, and he is, in good truth, already one of the illustrious obscure.
Tickler. I never thought him more than a very ordinary man-with some imagination, certainly, but with no grasp of understanding, and apparently little acquainted with the history of his kind. My God! to compare such a writer with Scott and Byron!
North. And yet, with his creed, what might not a great poet have done ?—That the language of poetry is but the language of strong human passion !—That in the great elementary principles of thought and feeling, common to all the race, the subject-matter of poetry is to be sought and found ! —That enjoyment and suffering, as they wring and crush, or expand and elevate, men's hearts, are the sources of song! And what, pray, has he made out of this true and philosophical ereed ?-A few ballads (pretty at the best), two or
THE EXCURSION-FEMALE POETS.
three moral fables, some natural description of scenery,
and half-a-dozen narratives of common distress or happiness. Not one single character has he created—not one incident-not one tragical catastrophe. He has thrown no light on man's estate here below; and Crabbe, with all his defects, stands immeasurably above Wordsworth as the Poet of the Poor.
Tickler. Good. And yet the youngsters, in that absurd Magazine of yours, set him up to the stars as their idol, and kiss his very feet, as if the toes were of gold.
North. Well, well ; let them have their own way awhile. I confess that the “ Excursion” is the worst poem, of any character, in the English language. It contains about two hundred sonorous lines, some of which appear to be fine, even in the sense, as well as the sound. The remaining seven thousand three hundred are quite ineffectual. Then, what labour the builder of that lofty rhyme must have undergone ! It is, in its own way, a small Tower of Babel, and all built by a single man!
Tickler. Wipe your forehead, North ; for it is indeed a most perspiring thought. I do not know whether my gallantry blinds me, but I prefer much of the female to the male poetry of the day.
North. O thou Polygamist!
Tickler. There is Joanna Baillie. Is there not more genius, passion, poetry, in the tragedy of Count Basil, than in any book of Wordsworth?
North. Ten times.
Tickler. There is Mrs Hemans. Too fond, certes, is she of prattling about Greece and Rome, and of being classical, which no lady can hope to be who has never been at one of the English public schools, and sat upon the fifth form. But is there not often a rich glow of imagery in her compositions, fine feelings and fancies, and an unconstrained and even triumphant flow of versification which murmurs poetry?
North. There is.
Tickler. Is not L. E. L.' a child of genius, as well as of the Literary Gazette; and does she not throw over her most impassioned strains of love and rapture a delicate and gentle spirit from the recesses of her own pure and holy woman's heart?
North. She does.
1 Miss L. E. Landon, afterwards Mrs Maclean: born in 1802—died in 1838, at or near Sierra Leone.
Tickler. And was not Tighe an angel, if ever there was one on earth, beautiful, airy, and evanescent as her own immortal Psyche ?
North. She was.
Tickler. And what the devil, then, would you be at with your great bawling He-Poets from the Lakes, who go round and round about, strutting upon nothing, like so many turkeycocks gobbling with a long red pendant at their noses, and frightening away the fair and lovely swans as they glide down the waters of immortality ?
North. With Fahrenheit at 80 in the shade, I praise the poetry of no man."
. You have carte blanche to abuse everybody, Tickler, till the thermometer is less ambitious. Tickler. Wordsworth is a poet-but unluckily is a weak
His imagination shows him fine sights, but his intellect knows not how to deal with them, so that they evanislı in glittering and gorgeous evaporation.
North. Just so, Tickler--and then how ludicrously be overrates his own powers. This we all do; but Wordsworth's pride is like that of a straw-crowned king in Bedlam. For example, he indited some silly lines to a hedge-sparrow's nest with five eggs, and, years afterwards, in a fit of exultation, told the world, in another poem equally childish, that the “ Address to the Sparrow” was one strain that will not die!" Ha! ha! ha! Can that be a great man?
Tickler. Had that man in youth become the member of any profession (which all poor men are bound to do), he would soon have learned in the tussle to rate his powers more truly. How such a man as Jeffrey, with his endless volubility of ingenious argumentation, would have squabashed him before a jury! Suppose him Attorney-general in the Queen's trial, stammering before Brougham, who kept lowering upon him with that cadaverous and cruel countenance, on a sudden instinct with a hellish scorn! Or opposed in Parliament to the rapier of Canning, that even while glancing brightly before the eye, has already inflicted twenty disabling wounds ! Or editor of a Poetical, Philosophical, and Political Journal, SCOTT.
1 " With Fahrenheit at 80 in the shade, I praise the poetry of no man.” Christopher was very intolerant of heat; and his remark accounts, humorously enough, for the somewhat capricious and disparaging tone of criticism which pervades this dialogue.
and under the influence of a malignant star, opposed, vi et armis, to Christopher North, the Victor in a Thousand Fields !
North. Ay, ay, Tickler-my dear Tickler-He would have found his level then-but his excessive vanity ....
Tickler. Contrasted with the unassuming, and indeed retiring modesty-I might say bashfulness — of your mind and manners, sir, the arrogance of the stamp-master ....
North. Hush—no illiberal allusion to a man's trade.
Tickler. I ask pardon. No person more illiberal on this very point than our lyrical ballad-monger. His whole writings, in verse and prose, are full of sneers at almost every profession but his own—and that being the case ....
North. Scott's poetry puzzles me—it is often very bad.
North. Except when his martial soul is up, he is but a tame and feeble writer. His versification in general flows on easily-smoothly-almost sonorously—but seldom or never with impetuosity or grandeur. There is no strength, no felicity in his diction—and the substance of his poetry is neither rich nor rare. The atmosphere is becoming every moment more oppressive. How stands the Therm. ?
Tickler. Ninety. But then when his martial soul is upand up it is at sight of a spear-point or a pennon—then indeed you hear the true poet of chivalry. What care I, Kit, for all his previous drivelling-if drivelling it be—and God forbid I should deny drivelling to any poet, ancient or modern—for now he makes my very soul to burn within me,-and, coward and civilian though I be,-yes, a most intense and insuperable coward, prizing life and limb beyond all other earthly possessions, and loath to shed one single drop of blood either for my King or country,—yet such is the trumpet-power of the song of that son of genius, that I start from my old elbow-chair, up with the poker, tongs, or shovel, no matter which, and flourishing it round my head, cry,
“ Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley, on!" and then, dropping my voice, and returning to my padded bottom, whisper,
“Were the last words of Marmion!” North. Bravo-bravo-bravo! Tickler. I care not one single curse for all the criticism that
ever was canted, or decanted, or recanted. Neither does the world. The world takes a poet as it finds him, and seats him above or below the salt. The world is as obstinate as a million mules, and will not turn its head on one side or another for all the shouting of the critical population that ever was shouted. It is very possible that the world is a bad judge. Well, then-appeal to posterity, and be hanged to you—and posterity will affirm the judgment, with costs.
North. How you can jabber away so, in such a temperature as this, confounds me. You are indeed a singular old man.
Tickler. Therefore I say that Scott is a Homer of a poet, and so let him doze when he has a mind to it; for no man I know is better entitled to an occasional half-canto of slumber.
North. Did you ever meet any of the Lake-Poets in private society?
Tickler. Five or six times. Wordsworth has a grave, solemn, pedantic, awkward, out-of-the-worldish look about him, that rather puzzles you as to his probable profession, till he begins to speak—and then, to be sure, you set him down at once for a Methodist preacher.
North. I have seen Chantrey's bust.
Tickler. The bust flatters his head, which is not intellectual. The forehead is narrow, and the skull altogether too scanty. Yet the baldness, the gravity, and the composure, are impressive, and, on the whole, not unpoetical. The eyes are dim and thoughtful, and a certain sweetness of smile occasionally lightens up the strong lines of his countenance with an expression of courteousness and philanthropy.
North. Is he not extremely eloquent ?
Tickler. Far from it. He labours like a whale spoutinghis voice is wearisomely monotonous—he does not know when to have done with a subject-oracularly announces perpetual truisms-never hits the nail on the head-and leaves you amazed with all that needless pother, which the simple bard opines to be eloquence, and which passes for such with his Cockney idolators, and his catechumens at Ambleside and Keswick.
North. Not during dinner, surely?
Tickler. Yes— during breakfast, lunch, dinner, tea, and supper,-every intermediate moment,-nor have I any doubt that he proses all night long in his sleep.