Abbildungen der Seite

only illustrious for conquests, may raise for a moment a sigh of pity, or the transient effusions of applause. But a people like the Welsh, satisfied with their mountains, who had been forced into a long and unequal contest in defence of their native rights, with few other resources than their valour and a fond attachment to their liberties, though falling in the ruins of their country, will have a claim on the esteem, and excite the admiration of the world, as long as manly sentiment and freedom shall remain. But, in reflecting on the history of this nation with a just and discriminating spirit, we are frequently led to survey its manners and national character with the opposite emotions of pleasure and disgust. We are not, however, to estimate that character too nicely by the standard of civilized judgement. It is true, that there were traits in the genius of that people, marking in their manners the deepest ferocity; it is true, that caprice, and levity, and the spirit of discord, too often prevailed in their councils, and governed their conduct; and it is also true, that striking defects may be traced in their policy and laws, ruinous to themselves, and disgraceful to a less cultivated period. But the vices of an uncivilized people are in some degree softened, and even balanced by their virtues. A spirit, unsubdued by danger and misfortunes,--hospitable manners and eager friendships,-a high relish for the arts of music and of poetry,-with a principle of justice inherent in their laws, are qualities to be thrown into the opposite scale. And no doubt, the influence of these, blending the lighter with the darker shades, softened the asperity of ruder features, and tempered into a milder mass the colouring of the whole. But the spirit of freedom, and an ardent love of their country, were the most distinguishing traits in their character. These were the animating springs of their genius, and enabled them to sustain, through a long succession of ages, the most striking reverses of fortune: and it is the collision of such vicissitudes, by calling into exertion public virtue and heroism, which imparts dignity to the character of man, and constitutes the true glory of a nation."*

* Warrington, vol. ii. p. 290-1-2.

ART. III.-Philosophical Poems, by Henry More, Master of Arts, and Fellow of Christ's Colledge, in Cambridge. Cambridge, 1647.

A Platonick Song of the Soul, treating

The Life of the Soul;
Her Immortalitie;

Of The Sleep of the Soul;
The Unitie of Souls, and
Memorie after Death.

Cambridge, 1647.

Dr. Henry More, the Platonist, and the friend of Milton, was a writer of very considerable celebrity in his own day. He was born at Grantham, in Lincolnshire, in 1614, and was sent to Eton School, where he gained more than ordinary distinction. He afterwards proceeded to Christ College, Cambridge, then in the height of its reputation, and eulogized by Milton, for the liberal patronage it extended to men of learning and good morals; of which Mede, Cudworth, and our author, were honourable instances. Of this "courteous and learned*" Society, More subsequently became a fellow. He afterwards took the degree of Doctor in Divinity. He was of a remarkably meditative turn of mind, even in his childhood, as appears from various anecdotes recorded by himself and others; and the insatiable thirst of knowledge by which he was actuated, and especially the deep interest he felt on the subject of religion, induced him to devote himself to a life of study in the seclusion of his own college; nor could the earnest solicitations of his friends, nor successive offers of the most liberal promotion, prevail upon him to abandon his paradise, as he emphatically called it. Attempts were even made (in the words of the writer, from whom this account is principally taken) to decoy him into a bishopric. "His friends got him as far as Whitehall, in order to the kissing his Majesty's hand for it; but as soon as he understood the business, which it was then necessary to acquaint him with, and till then had been concealed from him, he could not, by any means, or upon any account, be prevailed upon to stir a step further towards it." He is mentioned by Burnet, in conjunction with Cudworth, Whichcote, and others, as one of the founders of the Cambridge School of Divines, known by the name of Latitudinarians, whose aim it was to restore the old connexion between religion and philosophy, and by a new infusion of learning and active piety, to quicken the decaying energies of the Church of England. Burnet characterises him, with conciseness and felicity, as "an open-hearted and sincere

* Milton.

Christian philosopher;" and describes him as a zealous opponent, both in public and private, of the atheistical opinions, which, from a concurrence of causes, are known to have been at that time extremely prevalent. He is also recorded in the history of philosophy, as one of the earliest assertors of the Cartesian System, and a correspondent of Des Cartes himself; as one of the original members of the Royal Society; and as an opponent of Hobbes, who is reported to have said, "that if his own philosophy was not true, he knew none that he should sooner like than More's, of Cambridge." His works, which were collected by himself in three volumes folio, 1679, have fallen into subsequent neglect, owing partly to the prevalence of contrary opinions, and partly to the real or supposed mysticism which pervades them. He died in 1687.

The character of Henry More is one upon which the mind dwells with peculiar delight. He appears to have combined, in an extraordinary degree, simplicity of heart with independence in thought and life, and an enthusiastic temperament with a logical head, and consummate practical good sense. He was a lover of truth for its own sake, and he pursued it with the intense and unwearied zeal of a Plato or an Anaxagoras. His life was spent in the search after true wisdom and goodness, and in communicating the result of his inquiries to others. These were his food-the element in which he breathed. The loftiness of his views raised him far above "the smoke and stir of this dim spot," above the seductions of interest, or the gratifications of malignity or sensuality, those canker-worms of intellectual as well as moral excellence. It is not wonderful, that a character of so much piety, purity, and benevolence, should have united the suffrages of contemporaries in its behalf, to a degree seldom paralleled.

The "Song of the Soul" is divided into four parts; Psychozoia, or the Life of the Soul; Psychathanasia, or the Immortality of the Soul; Antipsychopannychia, or a Confutation of the Sleep of the Soul after Death; and Antimonopsychia, or a Confutation of the Unity of Souls. It is, as the title expresses, an exposition of the nature, attributes, and states of the Soul, according to that system of Christianized Platonism which the writer had adopted. It is evidently written with an enthusiastic love of the subject; and under the full influence of Platonic inspiration. The author's design was the same with that of the great philosophical poet of our own days,

to rouse the sensual from their sleep Of death, and win the vacant and the vain To noble raptures,

by an exhibition of their own capabilities of excellence and enjoyment. This noble design shines through the whole, and

animates the dulness of his laboured and prosaic argumentation. Not that his doctrines are unpoetical in themselves: whatever opinion may be formed as to the truth of the Platonic philosophy, it will not be denied, that, in its lofty and imaginative tenets, there is something adapted to the purposes of poetry. But Henry More was no Prometheus. He may have perceived the capabilities of his subject, but he wanted the animating touch to waken it into life and beauty. Dry argument, unornamented statements of fact, awkward and ill-sustained fiction, compose the greater part of his poem. His zeal could not, like the indignation of Juvenal, supply the deficiencies of nature. His diction is copious, not select; his versification rugged, and incorrect in the extreme. Notwithstanding all his faults, however, we fully assent to the observation of a writer, whose path we have frequently crossed in our antiquarian researches, and whose opinion on matters of taste, though not always accurate, is generally of some value, that "amidst the uncouth allegory, and still more uncouth language, of this strange series of poems, there are a few passages to be found of extreme beauty."* We shall proceed, without further preface, to gather these flowers into one garland, for the delectation of our readers. We think we may fairly count upon their gratitude, when it is considered that the poem under consideration consists of more than ten thousand lines, and that it is one which no person is ever likely to peruse, except a zealous Platonist, an unwearied reader of poetry, or a Retrospective Reviewer.

The first part," Psychozoia, or the Life of the Soul," consists of a series of obscure allegories, generally inartificial, and sometimes coarse, with an occasional intermixture of noble sentiment or brilliant description. We shall not attempt to follow him through the intricate turnings and miry lanes of his allegory, but shall content ourselves with selecting, from among the happier passages, such as may, with least hazard, be separated from the context. The following is part of a description of the vest of one of his imaginary personages:

"There you may see the eye-lids of the morn
With lofty silver arch displaid i' th' east,
And in the midst the burnisht gold doth burn;
A lucid purple mantle in the west
Doth close the day, and hap the sun at rest.
Nor doth these lamping shewes the azur quell,
Or other colours: where't beseemeth best
There they themselves dispose; so seemly well
Doth light and changing tinctures deck this goodly veil.

Southey-Notes to The Curse of Kehama.

"But 'mongst these glaring glittering rows of light,
And flaming circles, and the grisell gray,
And crudled clouds, with silver tippings dight,
And many other deckings wondrous gay,
As Iris and the Halo," &c.

"I saw pourtrai'd on this sky-coloured silk
Two lovely lads, with wings fully dispread

Of silver plumes, their skins more white than milk,
Their lilly limbs I greatly admired,

Their cheary looks and lusty livelyhed:

Athwart their snowy brest, a scarf they wore
Of azur hew; fairly bespangeled


Was the gold fringe. Like doves so forth they fore."

He thus speaks of the presiding power of imagination:

"She sees and swayes imagination

As she thinks good; and if that she think good

She lets it play by't self, yet looketh on,

While she keeps in that large strong-beating floud That makes the poet write, and rave as he were wood.†

"Prophets and poets have their life from hence;
Like fire into their marrow it searcheth deep,
This flaming fiery flake doth choak all sense,
And binds the lower man with brazen sleep:
Corruption through all his bones doth creep,
And raging raptures do his soul outsnatch:
Round-turning whirlwinds on Olympus steep
Do cast the soul, that earst they out did catch:
Then stiller whispering winds dark visions unlatch."

In the second canto, he thus invokes the Deity:

"Now sith my wandring bark so far is gone,
And flitten forth upon the ocean main,
I thee beseech, that just dominion
Hast of the sea, and art true soveraign
Of working phancie when it floats amain
With full impregned billows and strong rage
Enforceth way upon the boyling plain,

That thou wouldst steer my ship with wisdome sage,
That I with happy course may run my watery stage.”

[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »