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5. We are aware that it is objected to poëtry that it gives wrong views and excites false expectations of life, peoples the mind with shadows and illusions, and builds up imagination on the ruins of wisdom. That there is a wisdom against which poetry wars-the wisdom of the senses, which makes physical comfort and gratification the supreme good, and wealth the chief interest of life-we do not deny; nor do we deem it the least service which poetry renders to mankind, that it redeems them from the thraldom of this earth-born prudence.
6. But, passing over this topic, we would observe that the complaint against poëtry, as abounding in illusion and deception, is, in the main, groundlèss. In many poems there is mōre of truth than in many histories and philosophic theories. The fictions of genius are often the vehicles of the sublimest verities, and its flashes often open new regions of thought, and throw new light on the mysteries of our being. In poetry, when the letter is falsehood, the spirit is often profoundest wisdom.
7. And if truth thus dwells in the boldest fictions of the poet, much more may it be expected in his delineations of life; for the present life, which is the first stage of the immortal mind, abounds in the materials of poetry, and it is the highest office of the bard to detect this divine element among the grösser pleasures and labors of our earthly being. The present life is not wholly prosaic, precise, tame, and finite. To the gifted eye it abounds in the poetic.
8. The affections which spread beyond ourselves, and stretch far into futurity; the workings of mighty passions, which seem to arm the soul with an almost superhuman energy; the innocent and irrepressible joy of infancy; the bloom, and buoyancy, and dazzling hopes of youth; the throbbings of the heart when it first wakes to love, and dreams of a happiness too vast for earth; woman, with her beauty, and grace, and gentleness, and fullness of feeling, and depth of affection, and her blushes of purity, and the tones and looks which only a mother's heart can inspire, these are all poetical.
9. It is not true that the poet paints a life which does not exist. He only extracts and concentrates, as it were, life's ethereal essence, arrests and condenses its volatile fragrance, brings together its scattered beauties, and prolongs its mōre refined but ĕvanes'cent joys; and in this he does well; for it is
good to feel that life is not wholly usurped by cares for subsistence and physical gratifications, but admits, in measures which may be indefinitely enlarged, sentiments and delights worthy of a higher being.
10. This power of poëtry to refine our views of life and happinèss is more and more needed as society advances. It is needed to withstand the encroachments of heartless and artificial manners, which makes civilization so tame and unin'teresting. It is needed to counteract the tendency of physical science, which-being now sought, not, as formerly, for intellectual gratification, but for multiplying bodily comforts-requires a new development of imagination, taste, and poetry, to preserve men from sinking into an earthly, material, ep'icure'an' life.
WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING, D. D., an eminent American divine, was born at Newport, R. I., April 7th, 1780. At the age of twelve he was sent to New London, Conn., to prepare for college under his uncle, the Rev. Henry Channing. His father, an able and hospitable lawyer, soon afterward died, to which, in connection with a revival which then swept over New England, he attributed the commencement of his decidedly religious life. He entered the freshman class of Harvard College in 1794, where he graduated with the highest honors. He became pastor of the Federal Street Church, Boston, in 1803. The society rapidly increased under his charge, and his reputation and influence became marked and extensive. He married, in 1814; visited Europe for his health, in 1822; and died at Bennington, Vt., October 2, 1842. He published many admirable addresses and letters. His nephew, William E. Channing, collected and published six volumes of his writings in 1848. A selection of his writings, entitled "Beauties of Channing," has been published in London; and many of his essays, at various times, have been translated into German. Among the best of his general writings are his "Remarks on the Character and Writings of Milton;" on "Bonaparte;" on "Fenelon ;" and on "Self-Culture."
178. TO THE POET.
HOU, who wouldst wear the name
Of poët mid thy brethren of mankind,
And clothe in words of flame
Thoughts that shall live within the general mind,—
The pastime of a drowsy summer day.
1 Ep'i cu re' an, pertaining to Epicurus, a celebrated Greek philosopher, whose theory was based
upon the opinion that pleasure constitutes the highest human happiness; hence, given to luxury.
2. But gather all thy powers,
And wreak them on the verse that thou dost weave, And in thy lonely hours,
At silent morning or at wakeful eve,
While the warm current tingles through thy veins,
3. No smooth array of phrase,
Artfully sought and ordered though it be,
Upon his page with languid in'dustry,
To touch the heart or fire the blood at will?
Let thy lips quiver with the passionate thrill;
5. Then, should thy verse appear
Halting and harsh, and all unaptly wrought,
Save in the moment of impassioned thought;
Of passion find an utterance in thy lay,
A blast that whirls the dust
Along the howling street and dies away;
But feelings of calm power and mighty sweep,
Like currents journeying through the windless deep.
7. Seek'st thou, in living lays,
To limn the beauty of the earth and sky?
Before thine inner gaze
Let all that beauty in clear vision lie;
8. Of tempests wouldst thou sing,
Or tell of battles-make thyself a part
Of the great tumult; cling
To the tossed wreck with terror in thy heart;
Scale, with the assaulting höst, the rampart's height,
9. So shalt thou frame a lay
That haply may endure from age to age,
And they who read shall say:
What witchery hangs upon this poet's page!
What art is his the written spells to find
That sway from mood to mood the willing mind! BRYANT.
179. THE BELLS.
EAR the sledges with the bells-
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
In a sort of Runic ' rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
Bells, bells, bells
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
What a world' of happiness their harmony foretells!
1 Runic (ronik), an epithet applied to the language and letters of the ancient Goths.
"Tin`tin nǎb`u lã' tion, a tinkling sound, as of a bell or bells.
From the molten-gölden nötes,
And all in tune,
What a liquid ditty floats
To the turtle-dove that listens, while she gloats
Oh, from out the sounding cells,
What a gush of euphony voluminously wells!
On the Future! how it tells
To the rhyming and the chiming of the bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells !
How they scream out their affright!
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune,
In a clamorous appealing to the mercy of the fire,
By the side of the pale-faced moon.
What a tale their terror tells
How they clang, and clash, and rōar!
On the bosom of the palpitating air!
Yet the air, it fully knows,
By the twanging