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In answer cooed the cushat dove
Two more considerations are, however, suggested by tl.e above passage. The first, that the love of natural history, excited by the continual attention now given to all wild land) scape, heightens reciprocally the interest of that landscape, and becomes an important element in Scott's description, leading him to finish, down to the minutest speckling of breast, and slightest shade of attributed emotion, the portraiture of birds and animals; in strange opposition to Homer's slightly named "sea-crows, who have care of the works of the sea," and Dante's singing-birds, of undefined species. Compare carefully a passage, too long to be quoted,—the 2nd and 3rd stanzas of canto vi. of Rokeby.
The second, and the last point I have to note, is Scott's habit of drawing a slight moral from every scene, just enough to excuse to his conscience his want of definite religious feeling; and that this slight moral is almost always melancholy, Here he has stopped short without entirely expressing it—
"The mountain shadows
Like future joys to Fancy's eye."
His completed thought would be, that those future joys, like the mountain shadows, were never to be attained. It occurs fully uttered in many other places. He seems to have been constantly rebuking his own worldly pride and vanity, but never purposefully:
"The foam-globes on her eddies ride,
"Foxglove, and nightshade, side by side,
"Her dark eye flashed; she paused and sighed;—
And hear the thought he gathers from the sunset (noting first the Turnerian color,—as usual, its principal element):
"The sultry summer day is done.
That is. as far as I remember, one of the most finished pieces
"'Twere sweet to mark the setting day
• To say, 'Thus pleasures fade away;
Youth, talents, beauty, thus decay,
And again, hear Bertram:
"Mine be the eve of tropic sun:
In all places of this kind, where a passing thought is suggested hy some external scene, that thought is at once a slight and sad one. Scott's deeper moral sense is marked in the conduct of his stories, and in casual reflections or exclamations arising out of their plot, and therefore sincerely uttered; as that of Marmion:
"Oh, what a tangled web we weave,
But the reflections which are founded, not on events, but on scenes, are, for the most part, shallow, partly insincere, and, as far as sincere, sorrowful. This habit of ineffective dream ing and moralizing over passing scenes, of which the earliest type I know is given in Jaques, is, as aforesaid, usually the satisfaction made to our modern consciences for the want of a sincere acknowledgment of God in nature: and Shakspere has marked it as the characteristic of a mind "compact of jars."
In the reading of a great poem, in the hearing of a noble oration, it is the subject of the writer and not his skill,—his passion, not his power, on which our minds are fixed. We see as he sees, but we see not him. "We become part of him, feel with him, judge, behold with him; but we think of him as little as of ourselves. Do we think of JEschylus while we wait on the silence of Cassandra, or of Shakspere, while we listen to the wailing of Lear? Not so. The power of the masters is known by their self-annihilation. It is commensurate with the degree in which they themselves appear not in their work. The harp of the minstrel is untruly touched, if his own glory is all that it truly records. Every great writer may be at once known by his guiding the mind far from himself to the beauty which is not of his creation, and the knowledge which is past his finding out.
I admit two orders of poets, but no third; and by these two orders I mean the Creative (Shakspere, Homer, Dante), and Reflective or Perceptive (Wordsworth, Keats, Tennyson). But both of these must be Jirst-r&te in their range, though their range is different; and with poetry second-rate in quality no one ought to be allowed to trouble mankind. There is quite enough of the best,—much more than we can ever read or enjoy in the length of a life; and it is a literal wrong or sin in any person to encumber us with inferior work. I have no patience with apologies made by young pseudo-poets, "that they believe there is some good in what they have written: that they hope to do better in time," &c. Some good! If there is not all good, there is no good. If they ever hope to do better, why do they trouble us now? Let them rather courageously burn all they have done, and wait for the better days. There are few men, ordinarily educated, who in moments of strong feeling could not strike out a poetical thought, and afterwards polish it so as to be presentable. But men of sense know better than so to waste their time; and those who sin
cerely love poetry, know the touch of the master's hand on the chords too well to fumble among them after him. Nay, more than this; all inferior poetry is an injury to the good, inasmuch as it takes away the freshness of rhymes, blunders upon and gives a wretched commonalty to good thoughts; and, in general, adds to the weight of human weariness in a most woful and culpable manner. There are few thoughts likely to come across ordinary men, which have not already been expressed by greater men in the best possible way; and it is a wiser, more generous, more noble thing to remember and point out the perfect words, than to invent poorer ones, wherewith to encumber temporarily the world.
Keats, describing a wave, breaking, out at sea, says of it—
"Down whose green back the short-lived foam, all hoar,
That is quite perfect, as an example of the modern manner. The idea of the peculiar action with which foam rolls down a long, large wave could not have been given by any other words so well as by this "wayward indolence." But Homer would never have written, never thought of, such words. He could not by any possibility have lost sight of the great fact that the wave from the beginning to the end of it, do what it might, was still nothing else than salt water; and that salt water could not be either wayward or indolent. He will call the waves "over-roofed," "full-charged," "monstrous," "compact-black," "dark-clear," "violet-colored," "wine-colored," and so on. But every one of these epithets is descriptive of pure physical nature. "Over-roofed" is the term he invaris.blj uses of anything—rock, house, or wave—that nods over at the brow; the other terms need no explanation; they are as