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"Ut Pictura Poesis.
I Do not think that I could better open my subject for this evening,-viz., "Poetry," than by a slight recitation from the old, quaint, but stanch adherent of the muses, George Withers, who, with a degree of feeling approximating somewhat to fanaticism, thus writes
"Poesy, thou sweet'st content
That ever heaven to mortals lent;
Though they as a trifle leave thee,
Whose dull thoughts cannot conceive thee,
Though thou be to them a scorn,
That to naught but earth are born!
May my life no longer be
Than I am in love with thee."
Such is the deeply enthusiastic tone, the very spirit with which to approach and cultivate poetry, the language of the imagination and the passions,-the
oldest and most beauteous offspring of literature.
proof of its antiquity we have only to point to the book of Job, the most ancient composition and poem in the world, where, as truly and nervously observed by Gilfillan in his remarkable work, the "Bards of the Bible," "poetry dropped on and from" its author "like rain from a thick tree; and grandeur-a grandeur almost disdaining beauty, preferring constellations to flowers, making its garlands of the whirlwind, became his very soul." Pope declared that that book surpassed the noblest parts of Homer. And such is precisely the fact, beyond the possibility of cavil. Not to mention that it contains some of the most magnificent descriptions of natural objects and phenomena to be found in any language, we must search its page in order to notice the earlier forms of those sublime and beautiful images, and prodigal of feeling, which so delight us in the poets of our own day, and in which Job anticipated, by many ages, Homer, Pindar, and Sophocles. And yet, this deathless trio -three such redoubted names as these
to what a towering eminence have they culminated ! Homer, not only the poet, who, transcendently
Sports with our passions and commands the heart.
And draws at will the captive soul along ;
We feel the pleasing anguish of suspense;"
but the historian, philosopher, painter, critic, and romancer of the universe-the possessor of true electricity of intellect, whose poetry is the real heroic, full of life and action, bright as the day, strong as the ocean; the perusal of whose verses, to use an observation of the sweet-worded Willmott, is like opening a window into a garden when the south wind fans the roses up the wall; and of whom Bossuet, the eloquent French preacher, pronounced, "Before I begin to write, I always read a little of Homer, for I love to light my lamp at the sun." Pindar, the bold and soaring composer of the ode, "Growing, like Atlas, stronger with its load," and relative to whom we meet, in that memorable poem, the "Temple of Fame," with these glowing lines:
"Four swans sustain a car of silver bright,
With heads advanced, and pinions stretch'd for flight,
Here like some furious prophet Pindar rode,
And Sophocles, the dignified moralist of antiquity,
with that king's look which, down the trees Follow'd the dark effigies
Of the lost Theban ;"
and whose noble and liberty-breathing tragedies enjoy, I believe, the honour of a station among the list of proscribed emanations of genius in a certain "Index Expurgatorius" of Cardinals totally devoid of one generous emotion, and Cardinals, the majority of whom, at least, to employ a very significant expression, will never live a week after they are dead! Their praise and their censure are equally contemptible! I do not intend, here and now, to enter into any recondite inquiries as to the derivation of the term "Poetry;" much has been advanced upon the
subject to little point or purpose, and many arguments and reasonings urged, more akin to "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal," than possessing the ring of the genuine metal. In a few words, Poetry is—not merely verse-making, but the creation of thought, worked out and exemplified in innumerous modes; such, at least, is its highest characteristic. Goethe has well stated, "Lively feeling of situations, and power to express them, make the poet ;" and on the authority of the immortal Dryden—“ Profit and delight are the two ends of poetry in general." Abandoning, then, all technical phraseology, all terms and definitions, marked too often chiefly by difficulty or obscurity, it shall constitute my earnest endeavour to shew, with what degree of power I may, some few salient aspects of the beauties, objects, and pleasures of poetry; and, not servilely adhering to very rigid connexion, so to diversify the argument as, I hope, may in some measure equally excite and satisfy interest.
The mission of poetry ("Sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid, still first to fly where sensual joys invade," as Goldsmith writes in his ever-charming "Deserted Village,") all must confess to be a grand one. It, as Hazlitt says, with a kind of rapture, "lays us in the lap of a lovelier nature, by stiller streams and fairer