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It must be obvious to the reader, that for the sake of preserving rhyme in the second opening stanza to this wildered scene, the writer has got bewildered into a grammatical blunder. "The hills," "their heights," "their shadows," of course all plural, by such the verb active, "to scoop," ought to have been governed, a rule which would be in force. even in Professor Nimmo's* class-room; but concluding that grammar formed no branch of education in James' School, or supposing an error in the press, let scoop or scoops pass. Here is the third stanza.
Stranger of heaven! I bid thee hail!
Shred from the pall of glory riven,
That flashest in celestial gale,
Broad pennon of the King of Heaven!
"Stranger of heaven," such, we opine, the comet. must be allowed; but for the remainder of this epithetical profusion, a word or two. "Shred," a
tatter or patch torn from the "pall of glory," (the phraseology is at best equivocal), implying as it were glory consigned to funereal doom, and mirabile dictu, that same shred floating in celestial gale as the broad pennon of Heaven's King. Verily these are solecisms in poetical diction which might emanate only from the head of one who, instead of gazing upon a comet,
*The candidate for every vacated chair in the University of Edinburgh.
"Had fixed his eyes so long upon the moon,
We come now to the fourth stanza.
Art thou the flag of woe and death,
From angel's ensign-staff unfurl'd?
Here is a compromise effected by an abrupt transition from assertion to interrogatories. Instead of either the shred or the broad pennon, the comet is now supposed only the flag of an ensign angel, and its direful forebodings are wisely lulled to rest in the succeeding verses, which denote the poet's descent for a time to the regions of common sense. No, from thy pure pellucid beam,
That erst o'er plains of Bethlem shone,
No latent evil we can deem,
Fair herald, from the eternal throne.
Thy streaming locks, so lovely pale,
If the phrase, "wilderness of glowing spheres," may be passed sub silentio, these four stanzas are
both unexceptionable and beautiful, so that hypercriticism itself may not touch them. We come now to the climax.
Oh! on thy rapid prow to glide,
To sail the boundless skies with thee,
Like foam-bells on a tranquil sea:
Where other moons and planets roll.
Jamie Hogg riding on a comet !
Heaven's fiery horse beneath his warrior form,
Paws the light clouds, and gallops on the storm!.
The idea is truly and highly poetical. In sublimity, it is only equalled in Campbell's Indian fabled descent of Brama; but there is this difference between, that Hogg's ascent is far less patriotic than Brama's descent. To "plow the twinkling stars aside," would be to overturn the Newtonian system of philosophy-ploughman-like indeed, but yet with a vengeance and to give us instead, the system of a new and somewhat spurious LORD BACON. Very like there are icicles at the pole, but who knows of embers about the sun that has not made a near approach there, holding fast the mane of a comet? To brush off both may be no easy task. We must, as before, suppose a Hogg upon a comet making so near an approach, that his tail and bristles may perform the brushing operation. They no doubt
get terribly singed, and the adhesive matter so quickly melted, that he loses his seat, and tumbling like Icarus of old, with a facilis descensus, alights with a sad clatter of bones and tusks only, among the polar icicles, and thus accomplishes the wished for job. To Mr. Hogg and Napoleon Buonaparte may yet only be applied the couplet of Lord Byron,
Who would soar the solar height,
You may, Mr. Editor, receive this (hyper-criticism if you will) as an attempt either to show how difficult it must be to produce an altogether unexceptionable poem, or how perfectly easy it is (as the times of late give proof) to exhibit a good man or a good poem in a ridiculous view. At any rate, these stanzas, with all their real or supposed blemishes, and with their "cant poetical" expressions, such as "pellucid beam," "empyreal blue," " ambient beam," &c. display a poetical imagination and an enthusiasm, which more learned pretenders would, to inhale, in vain cudgel their brains from this month of December until the night of the longest day in June 1826.
A DEFINITION OF WIT.
IT may be demanded what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth impart ? To which question I might reply, as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man, It is that which we all see and know: any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance, than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle on clear and certain notions thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in that allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale: Sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: Sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humorous expression: Sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude: Sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting, or in cleverly retorting an objection : Sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a starting metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense: Sometimes a scenical