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country, and heaves its billows with the voice of the ocean.
It is supposed that the fall of an apple to the ground directed Newton to the investigation and discovery of the law of gravitation: that the sound of a smith’s hammer gave to Pythagoras the first hint of his theory of music; and that a wretched dramatic performance, by an Italian of the name of Adreino, awakened the soul of Milton to the grand conception of Paradise Lost. Genius implies such vast comprehension, such facility in the association of ideas, as enable a person to call in the conceptions that are necessary to execute the design in which he is engaged. We will always discover that great stores of materials have been collected by his fancy, and subjected to his judgment. He darts with rapidity: over the fields of his investigation; and by this rapidity his ardour becomes more inflamed, “ The velocity of his motion sets him on fire, like a chariot-wheel which is kindled by the quickness of its revolution." *
Since then invention is the infallible criterion of genius, and invention in poetry is active imagination; since taste is necessary in order to form a polished genius, and taste is dependent on the judgment and sensibility; it is evident that genius is intimately allied with all these powers, and its correctness and improvement must proceed from their universal or partial conjunction.
If such then is the exalted nature of genius, the joy and satisfaction which are connected with it are entitled to the same eminence. All those pleasures which Addison has traced from the source of imagination belong to genius; for genius is the parent of imagination. The subjects upon which genius is exercised should also be respected and revered; for they are the fields of pure and rational satisfaction. Whatever affords a proper entertainment, whatever softens the calamities of human life, is useful. Literature, next to religion, is the fountain of our greatest consolation and delight. Though it is a solemn truth that the profoundest erudition disconnected with religion cannot enlighten the dark region beyond the grave, or afford consolation on the bed of death; yet, when in union with religion, literature renders men more eminently useful, opens wider their intellect to the reception of divine light, banishes religious superstition, and bow's the knee with purer adoration, before the throne of God. Literature, on the rugged journey of life, scatters flowers; it overshadows the path of the weary, and refreshes the desert with its streams, He who is prone to sensual pursuits, may seek his joy in the acquirement of silver and gold, and bury his affections with his treasure in his coffers. The nobler soul, enlightened by genius and taste, looks far above these possessions; his riches are the bounty of knowledge, his joys are those which the wealth of the miser cannot purchase. He contemplates ' nature in her various forms, and finds companions where persons of different pursuits would experience the deepest solitude. “The studies of literature," says Cicero,” afford nourishment to our youth, delight our old age, adorn prosperity, supply a refuge in adversity, are a constant source of pleasure at home, are no impediment while abroad, attend us in the season of the night, and accompany us in our travels and retirements."
It is the design of the following poem to draw no more than the general outlines of genius, to describe its progress, to ascertain the marks by which it may be known, and to give the prominent features of those writers who have excelled in its different departments. Analytical writers have divided genius into two kinds. The one belongs to the sciences; the other to the arts. The one is employed in the discovery of truth: the other in the production of beauty. The one addresses its discoveries to the understanding; the other its productions to the taste. The one explores the labyrinths of intricacy; the other wanders through the mazes of delight. The characteristic of the one is penetration; but that of the other is brightness. In the following poem no such distinction is drawn, but genius is considered under different directions, and as influenced by various causes. The author does not pretend to do justice to all those characters, who have been distinguished for their genius; he has exercised
his judgment in introducing only those whom he thought would prove striking and confirming examples of the doctrines which he has advanced. The notes have been added to explain pas which may be doubtful, and to support general assertions which may require some confirmation. Prosaical illustrations, if pertinent to the subjects of the poem, it has been thought might prove pleasing and instructive to the larger class of readers.
The author shall not supplicate the candour, or indulgence of any individual, or any tribunal in favour of his poem. He is willing that it should stand or fall by its solitary merit. Whatever may be its fate, it was written with an honest intention, during those moments of leisure, in which he could withdraw from the severer studies of his profession. If literature and morals are not benefitted by this effort; it will not be disgraceful to have failed in the design to promote them.