Reason And Imagination Essay Research Paper According

Reason And Imagination Essay, Research Paper

According to one mode of regarding those two classes of mental action which

are called Reason and Imagination, the former may be considered as mind

contemplating the relations borne by one thought to another, however produced;

and the latter as mind, acting upon those thoughts so as to colour them with its

own light, and composing from them as from elements, other thoughts, each

containing within itself the principle of its own integrity. ?2 The one is the

to poiein, or the principle of synthesis and has for its objects those forms

which are common to universal nature and existence itself; the other is the

to-logizein or principle of analysis and its action regards the relations of

things, simply as relations; considering thoughts, not in their integral unity

but as the algebraical representations which conduct to certain general results.

?3 Reason is the enumeration of quantities already known; Imagination [[is]] the

perception of the value of those quantities, both seperately and as a whole. ?4

Reason respects the differences, and Imagination the similitudes of things. ?5

Reason is to Imagination as the instrument to the agent, as the body to the

spirit, as the shadow to the substance.


?6 Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be “the expression of the

Imagination:” and Poetry is connate with the origin of man. ?7 Man is an

instrument over which a series of external and internal impressions are driven,

like the alternations of an ever-changing wind over an ?olian lyre; which move

it, by their motion, to ever-changing melody. ?8 But there is a principle within

the human being and perhaps within all sentient beings, which acts otherwise

than in the lyre, and produces not melody alone, but harmony, by an internal

adjustment of the sounds or motions thus excited to the impressions which excite

them. ?9 It is as if the lyre could accomodate its chords to the motions of that

which strikes them, in a determined proportion of sound; even as the musician

can accomodate his voice to the sound of the lyre. ?10 A child at play by itself

will express its delight by its voice and motions; and every inflexion of tone

and every gesture will bear exact relation to a corresponding antitype in the

pleasurable impressions which awakened it; it will be the reflected image of

that impression; and as the lyre trembles and sounds after the wind has died

away, so the child seeks by prolonging in its voice and motions the duration

{{Sig. 1v}} of the effect, to prolong also a consciousness of the cause. ?11 In

relation to the objects which delight a child, these expressions are, what

Poetry is to higher objects. ?12 The savage (for the savage is to ages what the

child is to years) expresses the emotions produced in him by surrounding objects

in a similar manner; and language and gesture, together with plastic or

pictorial imitation, become the image of the combined effect of those objects

and of his apprehension of them. ?13 Man in society, with all his passions and

his pleasures, next becomes the object of the passions and pleasures of man; an

additional class of emotions produces an augmented treasure of expressions, and

language, gesture and the imitative arts become at once the representation and

the medium, the pencil and the picture, the chisel and the statue, the chord and

the harmony. ?14 The social sympathies, or those laws from which as from its

elements society results, begin to develope themselves from the moment that two

human beings co-exist; the future is contained within the present as the plant

within the seed; and equality, diversity, unity, contrast, mutual dependance

become the principles alone capable of affording the motives according to which

the will of a social being is determined to action, inasmuch as he is social;

and constitute pleasure in sensation, virtue in sentiment, beauty in art, truth

in reasoning, and love in the intercourse of kind. ?15 Hence men, even in the

infancy of society, observe a certain order in their words and actions, distinct

from that of the objects and the impressions represented by them[[,]]. all

expression being subject to the laws of that from which it proceeds. ?16 But let

us dismiss those more general considerations which might involve an enquiry into

the principles of society itself, and restrict our view to the manner in which

the imagination is expressed upon its forms.


?17 In the youth of the world men dance and sing and imitate natural objects,

observing in these actions, as in all others, a certain rhythm or order. ?18

And, although all men observe a similar, they observe not the same order in the

motions of the dance, in the melody of the song, in the combinations of

language, in the series of their imitations of natural objects. ?19 For there is

a certain order or rhythm belonging to each of these classes of mimetic

representation, from which the hearer and the spectator receive an intenser and

a purer pleasure than from any other: the sense of an approximation to this

order has been called taste, by modern writers. ?20 Every man, in the infancy of

art, observes an order which approximates more or less closely to that from

which this highest delight results: but the diversity is not sufficiently

marked, as that its gradations should be sensible, except in those instances

where the {{Sig. 2r}} predominance of this faculty of approximation to the

beautiful (for so we may be permitted to name the relation between this highest

pleasure and its cause) is very great. ?21 Those in whom it exists in excess are

poets, in the most universal sense of the word; and the pleasure resulting from

the manner in which they express the influence of society or nature upon their

own minds, communicates itself to others, and gathers a sort of reduplication

from that community. ?22 Their language is vitally metaphorical; that is it

marks the before unapprehended relations of things, and perpetuates their

apprehension, until the words which re present them become through time signs

for portions and classes of thoughts, instead of pictures of integral thoughts;

and then, if no new poets should arise to create afresh the associations which

have been thus disorganized, language will be dead to all the nobler purposes of

human intercourse. ?23 These similitudes or relations are finely said by Lord

Bacon to be “the same footsteps of nature impressed upon the various subjects of

the world * –” and he considers the faculty which receives them as the

storehouse of axioms common to all knowledge. ?24 In the infancy of society

every author is necessarily a poet, because language itself is poetry; and to be

a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good which

exists in the relation, subsisting, first between existence and perception, and

secondly between perception and expression. ?25 Every original language near to

its source is in itself the chaos of a cyclic poem: the copiousness of

lexicography and the distinctions of grammar are the works of a later age, and

are merely the catalogue and the form of the creations of Poetry.

* De Augment. Scient. Cap. I Lib 3.


?26 But Poets, or those who imagine and express this indestructible order, are

not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance and architecture and

statuary and painting; they are the institutors of laws |&| the founders of

civil society and the inventors of the arts of life and the teachers, who draw

into a certain propinquity with the beautiful and the true that partial

apprehension of the agencies of the invisible world which is called religion.

?27 Hence all original religions are allegorical or susceptible of allegory, and

like Janus have a double face of false and true. ?28 Poets, according to the

circumstances of the age and nation in which they appeared were called in the

earlier epochs of the world legislators or prophets: a poet essentially

comprises and unites both these characters. ?29 For he not only beholds

intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which

present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present,

and his thoughts are the forms of {{Sig. 2v}} the flower and the fruit of latest

time. ?30 Not that I assert poets to be prophets in the gross sense of the word,

or that they can fortell the form as surely as they foreknow the spirit of

events: such is the pretence of superstition which would make poetry an

attribute of prophecy, rather than prophecy an attribute of poetry. ?31 A Poet

participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one; as far as relates to his

conceptions time and place and number are not. ?32 The grammatical forms which

express the moods of time, and the difference of persons and the distinction of

place are convertible with respect to the highest poetry without injuring it as

poetry, and the choruses of ?schylus, and the book of Job, and Dante’s Paradise

would afford more than any other writings examples of this fact, if the limits

of this paper did not forbid citation. ?33 The creations of sculpture, painting

and music are illustrations still more decisive.


?34 Language, colour, form, and religious and civil habits of action are all the

instruments and materials of poetry; they may be called poetry by that figure of

speech which considers the effects as a synonime of the cause. ?35 But poetry in

a more restricted sense expresses those arrangements of language, and especially

metrical language which are created by that imperial faculty whose throne is

curtained within the invisible nature of man. ?36 And this springs from the

nature itself of language which is a more direct representation of the actions

and the passions of our internal being, and is susceptible of more various and

delicate combinations than colour, form or motion, and is more plastic and

obedient to the controul of that faculty of which it is the creation. ?37 For

language is arbitrarily produced by the Imagination and has relation to thoughts

alone; but all other materials, instruments and conditions of art have relations

among each other, which limit and interpose between conception and expression.

?38 The former is as a mirror which reflects, the latter as a cloud which

enfeebles, the light of which both are mediums of communication. ?39 Hence the

fame of sculptors, painters and musicians, although the intrinsic powers of the

great masters of these arts, may yield in no degree to that of those who have

employed language as the hieroglyphic of their thoughts, has never equalled that

of poets in the restricted sense of the term; as two performers of equal skill

will produce unequal effects from a guitar and a harp. ?40 The fame of

legislators and founders of religions, so long as their institutions last, alone

seems to exceed that of poets in the restricted sense: but it can scarcely be a

question whether if we deduct the celebrity which their flattery of the gross

opinions of the vulgar usually conciliates, together with that which belonged to

them in their higher character of poets {{Sig. 3r}} any excess will remain.


?41 We have thus circumscribed the word Poetry within the limits of that art

which is the most familiar and the most perfect expression of the faculty

itself. ?42 It is necessary however to make the circle still narrower, and to

determine the distinction between measured and unmeasured language; for the

popular division into prose and verse, is inadmissible in accurate philosophy.


?43 Sounds as well as thoughts have relation both between each other and towards

that which they represent, and a perception of the order of those relations, has

always been found connected with a perception of the order of the relations of

thoughts. ?44 Hence the language of poets has ever affected a certain uniform

and harmonious recurrence of sound without which it were not poetry, and which

is scarcely less indispensible to the communication of its influence, than the

words themselves without reference to that peculiar order. ?45 Hence the vanity

of translation; it were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might

discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from

one language into another the creations of a poet. ?46 The plant must spring

again from its seed or it will bear no flower — and this is the burthen of the

curse of Babel.


?47 An observation of the regular mode of the occurrence of this harmony, in the

language of poetical minds, together with its relation to music, produced metre,

or a certain system of traditional forms of harmony and language. ?48 Yet it is

by no means essential that a poet should accomodate his language to this

traditional form, so that the harmony which is its spirit, be observed. ?49 The

practise is indeed convenient and popular and to be preferred, especially in

such composition as includes much action: but every great poet must inevitably

innovate upon the example of his predecessors in the exact structure of his

peculiar versification. ?50 The distinction between poets and prose-writers is a

vulgar error. ?51 The distinction between philosophers and poets has been

anticipated. ?52 Plato was essentially a poet — the truth and splendour of his

imagery and the melody of his language is the most intense that it is possible

to conceive. ?53 He {{Sig. 3v}} rejected the measure of the epic, dramatic and

lyrical forms, because he sought to kindle a harmony in thoughts divested of

shape and action, and he forebore to invent any regular plan of rhythm which

would include under determinate forms, the varied pauses of his style. ?54

Cicero sought to imitate the cadence of his periods but with little success. ?55

Lord Bacon was a poet. * His language has a sweet and majestic rhythm which

satisfies the sense no less than the almost superhuman wisdom of his philosophy

satisfies the intellect; it is a strain which distends, and then bursts the

circumference of the readers’ mind and pours itself forth together with it into

the universal element with which it has perpetual sympathy. ?56 — All the

Authors of revolutions in opinion are not only necessarily poets as they are

inventors, nor even as their words unveil the permanent analogy of things by

images which participate in the life of truth; but as their periods are

harmonious and rhythmical and contain in themselves the elements of verse; being

the echo of the eternal music. ?57 Nor are those supreme poets, who have

employed traditional forms of rhythm on account of the form and action of their

subjects, less incapable of perceiving and teaching the truth of things, than

those who have omitted that form. ?58 Shakespear, Dante and Milton (to confine

ourselves to modern writers.) are philosophers of the very loftiest powers.

* See the Filium Labyrinthi, and the Essay of Death particularly.


?59 A Poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth. ?60 There

is this difference between a story and a poem, that a story is a catalogue of

detached facts, which have no other bond of connexion than time, place,

circumstance, cause and effect; the other is the creation of actions according

to the unchangeable forms of human nature, as existing in the mind of the

creator, which is itself the image of all other minds. ?61 The one is partial,

and applies only to a definite period of time, and a certain combination of

events which can never again recur; the other is universal and contains within

itself the germ of a relation to whatever motives or actions have place in the

possible varieties of {{Sig. 4r}} human nature. ?62 Time, which destroys the

beauty and the use of the story of particular facts, stript of the poetry which

should invest them, augments that of Poetry and forever developes new and

wonderful applications of the eternal truth which it contains. ?63 Hence

epitomes have been called the moths of just history; they eat out the poetry of

it. ?64 A story of particular facts is as a mirror which obscures and distorts

that which should be beautiful: Poetry is a mirror which makes beautiful that

which is distorted.


?65 The parts of a composition may be poetical, without the composition as a

whole being a poem. ?66 A single sentence may be considered as a whole though it

may be found in the midst of a series of unassimilated portions; a single word

even may be a spark of inextinguishable thought. ?67 And thus all the great

historians, Herodotus, Plutarch, Livy, were poets; and although the plan of

these writers, especially that of Livy, constrained them from developing this

faculty in its highest degree they make copious and ample amends for their

subjection, by filling all the interstices of their subjects with living images.


?68 Having determined what is poetry, and who are poets, let us proceed to

estimate its effects upon society.


?69 Poetry is ever accompanied with pleasure: all spirits on which it falls,

open themselves to receive the wisdom which is mingled with its delight. ?70 In

the infancy of the world, neither poets themselves nor their auditors are fully

aware of the excellency of poetry: for it acts in a divine and unapprehended

manner, beyond and above consciousness: and it is reserved for future

generations to contemplate and measure the mighty cause and effect in all the

strength and splendour of their union. ?71 Even in modern times, no living poet

ever arrived at the fulness of his fame; the jury which sits in judgement upon a

poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers: it must

be [[impanelled]] in pannelled by Time from the selectest of the wise of many

generations. ?72 A Poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness, and sings to

cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors {{Sig. 4v}} are as men

entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and

softened, yet know not whence or why. ?73 The poems of Homer and his

contemporaries were the delight of infant Greece; they were the elements of that

social system which is the column upon which all succeeding civilization has

reposed. ?74 Homer embodied the ideal perfection of his age in human character;

nor can we doubt that those who read his verses were awakened to an ambition of

becoming like to Achilles, Hector and Ulysses: the truth and beauty of

friendship, patriotism and persevering devotion to an object, were unveiled to

the depths in these immortal creations: the sentiments of the auditors must have

been refined and enlarged by a sympathy [[with]] which such great and lovely

impersonations until from admiring they imitated, and from imitation they

identified themselves with the objects of their admiration. ?75 Nor let it be

objected, that these characters are remote from moral perfection, and that they

can by no means be considered as edyfying paterns for general imitation. ?76

Every epoch under names more or less specious has deified its peculiar errors;

Revenge is the naked Idol of the worship of a semi barbarous age; and

self-deceit is the veiled Image of unknown evil before which luxury and satiety

lie prostrate. ?77 But a poet considers the vices of his contemporaries as the

temporary dress in which his creations must be arrayed, and which cover without

concealing the eternal proportions of their beauty. ?78 An epic or dramatic

personage is understood to wear them around his soul, as he may the antient

armour or the modern uniform around his body; whilst it is easy to conceive a

dress more graceful than either. ?79 The beauty of the internal nature cannot be

so far concealed by its accidental vesture, but that the spirit of its form

shall communicate itself to the very disguise; and indicate the shape it hides

from the manner in which it is worn. ?80 A majestic form, and graceful motions

will express themselves through the most barbarous and tasteless costume. ?81

Few poets of the highest class have chosen to exhibit the beauty of their

conceptions in its naked truth and splendour; and it is doubtful whether the

alloy of costume, habit etc. be not necessary to temper this planetary music for

mortal ears. {{Sig. 5r}}


?82 The whole objection however of the immorality of poetry rests upon a

misconception of the manner in which poetry acts to produce the moral

improvement of man. ?83 Ethical science arranges the elements which poetry has

created, and propounds schemes and proposes examples of civil and domestic life:

nor is it for want of admirable doctrines that men hate, and despise, and

censure, and deceive, and subjugate one another. ?84 But poetry acts in another

and a diviner manner. ?00 It awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering

it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. ?85

Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world; and makes familiar

objects be as if they were not familiar; it re-produces all that it represents,

and the impersonations clothed in its Elysian light stand thenceforward in the

minds of those who have once contemplated them, as memorials of that gentle and

exalted content which extends itself over all thoughts and actions with which it

co-exists. ?86 The great secret of morals is Love; or a going out of our own

nature, and an identification of ourselves with the beautiful which exists in

thought, action or person, not our own. ?87 A man to be greatly good, must

imagine in tensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of

another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become

his own. ?88 The great instrument of moral good is the imagination: and poetry

administers to the effect by acting upon the cause. ?89 Poetry enlarges the

circumference of the imagination by replenishing it with thoughts of ever new

delight, which have the power of attracting and assimilating to their own nature

all other thoughts, and which form new intervals and interstices whose void

forever craves fresh food. ?90 Poetry strengthens the faculty which is the organ

of the moral nature of man in the same manner as exercise strengthens a limb.

?91 A Poet therefore would do ill to embody his own conceptions of right and

wrong which are usually those of his place and time in his poetical {{Sig. 5v}}

creations, which participate in neither. ?92 By this assumption of the inferior

office of interpreting the effect, in which perhaps after all he might acquit

himself but imperfectly, he would resign a glory in a participation in the

cause. ?93 There was little danger that Homer or any of the eternal poets,

should have so far misunderstood themselves as to have abdicated this throne of

their widest dominion. ?94 Those in whom the poetical faculty, though great, is

less intense as Euripedes, Lucan, Tasso, Spencer have frequently affected a

moral aim and the effect of their poetry is diminished in exact proportion to

the degree in which they compel us to advert to this purpose.


?95 Homer and the cyclic poets were followed at a certain interval by the

dramatic and lyrical Poets of Athens; who flourished [[contemporaneously]]

contemporaneosly with all that is most perfect in the kindred expressions of the

poetical faculty; architecture, painting, music, the dance, sculpture,

philosophy, and we may add the forms of civil life. ?96 For although the scheme

of Athenian society was deformed by many imperfections which the poetry existing

in Chivalry and Christianity have erased from the habits and institutions of

modern Europe; yet never at any other period has so much energy, beauty and

virtue been developed; never was blind strength and stubborn form so disciplined

and rendered subject to the will of man, or that will less repugnant to the

dictates of the beautiful and the true, as during the century which preceeded

the death of Socrates. ?97 Of no other epoch in the history of our species have

we records and fragments stamped so visibly with the image of the divinity in

man. ?98 But it is Poetry alone, in form, in action or in language which has

rendered this epoch memorable above all others, and the storehouse of examples

to everlasting time. ?99 For written poetry existed at that epoch simultaneously

with the other arts, and it is an idle enquiry to demand which gave and which

received the light, which all as from a common focus have scattered over the

darkest periods of succeeding time. ?100 We know no more of cause and effect

than a constant conjunction of events: Poetry is ever found to coexist with

whatsoever other arts contribute to the happiness and perfection of man. ?101 I

appeal to what has already been established to distinguish between the cause and

the effect.


?102 {{Sig. 6r}} It was at the period here adverted to, that the Drama had its

birth; and however a succeeding writer may have equalled or surpassed those few

great specimens of the Athenian drama which have been preserved to us, it is

indisputable that the art itself never was under stood or practised according to

the true philosophy of it, as at Athens. ?103 For the Athenians employed

language, action, music, painting, the dance, and religious institutions, to

produce a common effect in the representation of the highest idealisms of

passion and of power; each division in the art was made perfect in its kind by

artists of the most consummate skill, and was disciplined into a beautiful pro

portion and unity one towards the other. ?104 On the modern stage a few only of

the elements capable of expressing the image of the poets conception are

employed at once. ?105 We have tragedy without music and dancing; and music and

dancing without the highest impersonation of which they are the fit

accompaniment, and both without religion and solemnity. ?106 Religious

institution has indeed been usually banished from the stage. ?107 Our system of

divesting the actor’s face of a mask, on which the many expressions appropriated

to his dramatic character might be moulded into one permanent and unchanging

expression, is favourable only to a partial and inharmonious effect; it is fit

for nothing — but a monologue where all the attention may be directed to some

great master of ideal mimicry. ?108 The modern practise of blending comedy with

tragedy, though liable to great abuse in point of practise, is undoubtedly an

extension of the dramatic circle; but the comedy should be as in King Lear,

universal, ideal and sublime. ?109 It is perhaps the intervention of this

principle which determines the balance in favour of King Lear against the Œdipus

Tyrannus or the Agamemnon, or, if you will, the trilogies with which they are

connected; unless the intense power of the choral poetry, especially that of the

latter, should be considered as restoring the equilibrium. ?110 King Lear, if it

can sustain the comparison, may be judged to be the most perfect specimen of the

dramatic art existing in the world; in spite of the narrow conditions to which

the poet was subjected by the ignorance of the philosophy of the Drama which has

prevailed in Modern Europe. ?111 Calderon in his religious Autos has attempted

to fulfil some of the high conditions of dramatic representation neglected by

Shakespear; such as the establishing a {{Sig. 6v}} relation between the drama

and religion, and the accomodating them to music and dancing, but he omits the

observation of conditions still more important, and more is lost than gained by

a substitution of the rigidly defined and ever repeated idealisms of a distorted

superstition for the living impersonations of the truth of human passion.


?112 But we digress. ?113 — The connexion of scenic exhibitions with the

improvement or corruption of the manners of men, has been universally

recognized: in other words the presence or absence of poetry in its most perfect

and universal form has been found to be connected with good and evil in conduct

or habit. ?114 The corruption which has been imputed to the drama as an effect

begins, when the poetry employ in its constitution, ends: I appeal to the

history of manners whether the [[periods]] of the growth of the one and the

decline of the other have not corresponded with an exactness equal to any other

example of moral cause and effect.


?115 The drama at Athens or wheresoever else it may have approached to its

perfection, ever co-existed with the moral and intellectual greatness of the

age. ?116 The tragedies of the Athenian poets are as mirrors in which the

spectator beholds himself, under a thin disguise of circumstance, stript of all,

but that ideal perfection and energy which every one feels to be the internal

type of all that he loves, admires and would become. ?117 The imagination is

enlarged by a sympathy with pains and passions so mighty that they distend in

their conception the capacity of that by which they are [[conceived]] concieved;

the good affections are strengthened by pity, indignation, terror and sorrow;

and an exalted calm is prolonged from the satiety of this high exercise of them

into the tumult of familiar life; even crime is disarmed of half its horror and

all its contagion by being represented as the fatal consequence of the

unfathomable agencies of {{Sig. 7r}} nature; error is thus divested of its

wilfulness; men can no longer cherish it as the creation of their choice. ?118

In a drama of the highest order there is little food for censure or hatred: it

teaches rather self knowledge and self-respect. ?119 Neither the eye or the mind

can see itself unless reflected upon that which it resembles. ?120 The drama so

long as it continues to express poetry, is as a prismatic and many sided mirror,

which collects the brightest rays of human nature and divides and reproduces

them from the simplicity of these elementary forms; and touches them with

majesty and beauty, and multiplies all that it reflects, and endows it with the

power of propagating its like wherever it may fall.


?121 But in periods of the decay of social life, the drama sympathizes with that

decay. ?122 Tragedy becomes a cold imitation of the form of the great

master-pieces of antiquity, divested of all harmonious accompaniment of the

kindred arts; and often the very form misunderstood: or a weak attempt to teach

certain doctrines, which the writer considers as moral truths; and which are

usually no more than specious flatteries of some gross vice or weakness with

which the author in common with his auditors are infected. ?123 Hence what has

been called the classical and the domestic drama. ?00 Addison’s Cato is a

specimen of the one, and would it were not superfluous to cite examples of the

other! ?124 To such purposes Poetry cannot be made subservient. ?00 Poetry is a

sword of lightning ever unsheathed, which consumes the scabbard that would

contain it. ?125 And thus we observe that all dramatic writings of this nature

are unimaginative in a singular degree; they affect sentiment and passion: which

divested of imagination are other names for caprice and appetite. ?126 The

period in our own history of the greatest degradation of the drama is the reign

of Charles II when all forms in which poetry had been accustomed to be expressed

become hymns to the triumph of kingly power over liberty and virtue. ?127 Milton

stood alone illuminating an age unworthy of him. ?00 At such periods the

calculating principle pervades all the forms of dramatic exhibition, and poetry

ceases to be expressed upon them. ?128 Comedy loses its ideal universality: wit

succeeds to humour; we laugh from self complacency and triumph instead of

pleasure; malignity, sarcasm |&| contempt succeeds to sympathetic merriment; we

hardly laugh, but we smile. ?129 Obscenity, which is ever blasphemy against the

divine beauty in life, becomes, from the very veil which it assumes, more active

if less disgusting: {{Sig. 7v}} it is a monster for which the corruption of

society for ever brings forth new food; which it devours in secret.


?130 The Drama being that form under which a greater number of modes of

expression of poetry are susceptible of being combined than any other; the

connexion of beauty and social good, is more observable in the drama than in

what ever other form: and it is indisputable that the highest perfection of

human society has ever corresponded with the highest dramatic excellence: and

that the corruption or the extinction of the drama in a nation where it has once

flourished is a mark of a corruption of manners, and an extinction of the

energies which sustain the soul of social life. ?131 But, as Machiavelli says of

political institutions, that life may be preserved and renewed, if men should

arise capable of bringing back the drama to its principles. ?132 And this is

true with respect to poetry in its most extended sense: all language,

institution and form require not only to be produced but to be sustained: the

office and character of a poet participates in the divine nature as regards

providence no less than as regards creation.


?133 Civil war, the spoils of Asia, and the fatal predominance first of the

Macedonian, and then of the Roman arms were so many symbols of the extinction or

suspension of the creative faculty in Greece. ?134 The bucolic writers who found

patronage under the lettered tyrants of Sicily and Œgypt were the latest

representatives of its most glorious reign. ?135 Their poetry is intensely

melodious; like the odour of the tuberose it overcomes and sickens the spirit

with excess of sweetness; whilst the poetry of the preceding age was as a

meadow-gale of June which mingles the fragrance of all the flowers of the field

and adds a quickening and harmonizing spirit of its own which endows the sense

with a power of sustaining its extreme delight. ?136 The bucolic and erotic

delicacy in written poetry is correlative with that softness in statuary, music,

and the kindred arts, and even in manners and institutions which distinguished

the epoch to which we now refer. ?137 Nor is it the poetical faculty itself or

any misapplication of it to which this want of harmony is to be imputed. ?138 An

equal sensibility to the influence of the senses |&| the affections is to be

found in the writings of Homer and Sophocles. ?139 the {{Sig. 8r}} former

especially has clothed sensual and pathetic images with irresistible

attractions. ?140 Their superiority over these succeeding writers consists in

the presence of those thoughts which belong to the inner faculties of our

nature, not in the absence of those which are connected with the external: their

incomparable perfection consists in a harmony of the union of all. ?141 lt is

not what the erotic poets have, but what they have not, in which their

imperfection consists. ?142 It is not inasmuch as they were Poets, but inasmuch

as they were not Poets, that they can be considered with any plausibility as

connected with the corruption of their age. ?143 Had that corruption availed so

as to extinguish in them the sensibility to pleasure, passion and natural

scenery, which is imputed to them as an imperfection, the last triumph of evil

would have been atchieved. ?144 For the end of social corruption is to destroy

all sensibility to pleasure; and therefore it is corruption. ?145 It begins at

the imagination and the intellect as at the core, and distributes itself thence

as a paralyzing venom, through the affections into the very appetites, until all

become a torpid mass in which hardly sense survives. ?146 At the approach of

such a period, Poetry ever addresses itself to those faculties which are the

last to be destroyed, and its voice is heard, like the foot steps of Astr?a,

departing from the world. ?147 Poetry ever communicates all the pleasure which

men are capable of receiving: it is ever still the light of life; the source of

whatever beautiful, or generous, or true can have place in an evil time. ?148 It

will readily [[be]] confessed that those among the luxurious citizens of

Syracuse and Alexandria who were delighted with the poems of Theocritus were

less cold, cruel and sensual than the remnant of their tribe. ?149 But

corruption must utterly have destroyed the fabric of human society before Poetry

can ever cease. ?150 The sacred links of that chain have never been entirely

disjoined, which descending through the minds of many men is attached to those

great minds whence as from a magnet the invisible effluence is sent forth which

at once connects, animates and sustains the life of all. ?151 It is the faculty

which contains within itself the seeds at once of its own and of social

renovation. ?152 And let us not circumscribe the effects of the bucolic and

erotic poetry within the limits of the sensibility of those to whom it was

addressed. ?153 They may have perceived the beauty {{Sig. 8v}} of these immortal

compositions, simply as fragments and isolated portions: those who are more

finely organized, or born in a happier age, may recognize them as episodes to

that great poem, which all poets like the co-operating thoughts of one great

mind have built up since the beginning of the world.


?154 The same revolutions within a narrower sphere had place in Antient Rome:

but the actions and forms of its social life never seem to have been perfectly

saturated with the poetical element. ?155 The Romans appear to have considered

the Greeks as the selectest treasuries of the selectest forms of manners and of

nature and to have abstained from creating in measured language, sculpture,

music or architecture any thing which might bear a particular relation to their

own condition whilst it should bear a general one to the universal constitution

of the world. ?156 But we judge from partial evidence, and we judge perhaps

partially. ?157 Ennius, Varro, Pacuvius and Accius, all great poets, have been

lost. ?158 Lucretius is in the highest, and Virgil in a very high sense, a

creator. ?00 The chosen delicacy of the expressions of the latter are as a mist

of light which conceal from us the intense and exceeding truth of his

conceptions of nature. ?159 Livy is instinct with poetry. ?00 Yet Horace,

Catullus, Ovid, and generally the other great writers of the Virgilian age, saw

man and nature in the mirror of Greece. ?160 The institutions also and the

religion of Rome were less poetical than those of Greece, as the shadow is less

vivid than the substance. ?161 Hence Poetry in Rome seemed to follow rather than

accompany the perfection of political and domestic society. ?162 The true Poetry

of Rome lived in its [[institutions]] instituons; for whatever of beautiful,

true and majestic they contained could have sprung only from the faculty which

creates the order in which they consist. ?163 The life of Camillus; the death of

Regulus; the expectation of the senators in their godlike state of the

victorious Gauls; the refusal of the republic to make peace with Hannibal after

the battle of Cann?, were not the consequences of a refined calculation of the

probable personal advantage to result from such a rhythm and order in the shews

of life, to those who were at once the poets and the actors of these im{{Sig.

9r}} mortal dramas. ?164 The imagination beholding the beauty of this order,

created it out of itself according to its own idea: the consequence was empire,

and the reward everliving fame. ?165 These things are not the less poetry quia

carent vate sacro {{i.e., “because they lack a sacred poet”}}. They are the

episodes of that cyclic poem written by Time upon the memories of men. ?166 The

Past, like an inspired rhapsodist, fills the theatre of everlasting generations

with their harmony.


?167 At length the antient system of religion and manners had [[fulfilled]]

fufilled the circle of its revolutions. ?168 And the world would have fallen

into utter anarchy and darkness, but that there were found poets among the

authors of the Christian and Chivalric systems of manners and religion, who

created forms of opinion and action never before conceived; which copied into

the imaginations of men became as generals to the bewildered armies of their

thoughts. ?169 It is foreign to the present purpose to touch upon the evil

produced by these systems: except that we protest, on the ground of the

principles already established, that no portion of it can be attributed to the

poetry they contain.


?170 It is probable that the poetry of Moses, Job, David, Solomon and Isaiah had

produced a great effect upon the mind of Jesus and his disciples. ?171 The

scattered fragments preserved to us by the biographers of this extraordinary

person, are all instinct with the most vivid poetry. ?172 But his doctrines seem

to have been quickly distorted. ?173 At a certain period after the prevalence of

a system of opinions founded upon those promulgated by him, the three forms into

which Plato had distributed the faculties of mind underwent a sort of

apotheosis, and became the object of the worship of the civilised world. ?174

Here it is to be confessed that — “Light seems to thicken,[["]] {{Shakespeare,

Macbeth III.ii.50-53.}}

the crow makes wing to the rooky wood,

Good things of day begin to droop and drowze

And nights black agents to their preys do rouze.

{{Shakespeare, Macbeth III.ii.50-53}}


?175 But mark how beautiful an order has sprung from the dust and blood of this

fierce chaos! ?176 how the World, as from a resurrection, balancing itself on

the golden wings of knowledge and of hope, has reassumed its yet unwearied

flight into the Heaven of time! ?177 Listen to {{Sig. 9v}} the music, unheard by

outward ears, which is as a ceaseless and invisible wind nourishing its

everlasting course with strength and swiftness.


?178 The poetry in the doctrines of Jesus Christ, and the mythology and

institutions of the Celtic conquerors of the Roman Empire, out lived the

darkness and the convulsions connected with their growth and victory, and

blended themselves into a new fabric of manners and opinions. ?179 It is an

error to impute the ignorance of the dark ages to the Christian doctrines or to

the predominance of the Celtic nations. ?180 Whatever of evil their agencies may

have contained sprung from the extinction of the poetical principle, connected

with the progress of despotism and superstition. ?181 Men, from causes too

intricate to be here discussed, had become insensible and selfish: their own

will had become feeble and yet they were its slaves, and thence the slaves of

the will of others: lust, fear, avarice, cruelty and fraud characterised a race

amongst whom no one was to be found capable of creating in form, language or

institution. ?182 The moral anomalies of such a state of society are not justly

to be charged upon any class of events immediately connected with them, and

those events are most entitled to our approbation which could dissolve it most

expeditiously. ?183 It is unfortunate for those who cannot distinguish words

from thoughts that many of these anomalies have been incorporated into our

popular religion.


?184 It was not until the eleventh century that the effects of the poetry of the

Christian and the Chivalric systems began to manifest them selves. ?185 The

principle of equality had been discovered and applied by Plato in his republic,

as the theoretical rule of the mode in which the materials of pleasure and of

power produced by the common skill and labour of human beings ought to be

distributed among them. ?186 The limitations of this rule were asserted by him

to be determined only by the sensibility of each, or the utility to result to

all. ?187 Plato, following the doctrines of Tim?us and Pythagoras, taught also a

moral and intellectual system of doctrine comprehending at once the past, the

present and the future condition of man. ?188 Jesus Christ divulged the sacred

and eternal truths contained in these views to mankind, and Christianity, in its

abstract purity, became {{Sig. 10r}} the exoteric expression of the esoteric

doctrines of the poetry and wisdom of antiquity. ?189 The incorporation of the

Celtic nations with the exhausted population of the South, impressed upon it the

figure of the poetry existing in their mythology and institutions. ?190 The

result was a sum of the action and reaction of all the causes included in it;

for it may be assumed as a maxim that no nation or religion can supersede any

other without incorporating into itself a portion of that which it supersedes.

?191 The abolition of personal and domestic slavery, and the emancipation of

women from a great part of the degrading restraints of antiquity were among the

consequences of these events.


?192 The abolition of personal slavery is the basis of the highest political

hope that it can enter into the mind of man to conceive. ?193 The freedom of

women produced the poetry of sexual love. ?194 Love became a religion, the idols

of whose worship were ever present. ?00 It was as if the statues of Apollo, and

the muses had been endowed with life and motion and had walked forth among their

worshippers; so that earth became peopled by the inhabitants of a diviner world.

?195 The familiar appearance and proceedings of life became wonderful and

heavenly; and a paradise was created as out of the wrecks of Eden. ?196 And as

this creation itself is poetry, so its creations were poets; and language was

the instrument of their art: “Galeotto fu il libro, e chi lo scrisse”. {{Dante,

Inferno V.137}} The Proven?al Trouveurs, or inventors preceeded Petrarch, whose

verses are as spells which unseal the inmost enchanted fountains of the delight

which is in the grief of Love. ?197 It is impossible to feel them without

becoming a portion of that beauty which we contemplate: it were superfluous to

explain how the gentleness and the elevation of mind connected with these sacred

emotions can render men more amiable, more generous, and wise, and lift them out

of the dull vapours of the little world of self. ?198 Dante understood the

secret things of love even more than Petrarch. ?00 His Vita Nuova is an

inexhaustible fountain of purity of sentiment and language: it is the idealized

history of that period, and those intervals of his life which were dedicated to

love. ?199 His apotheosis of Beatrice in Paradise and the gradations of his own

love and her loveliness by which as by steps he feigns himself to have ascended

to the throne of the Supreme Cause, is the most {{Sig. 10v}} glorious

imagination of modern poetry. ?200 The acutest critics have justly reversed the

judgement of the vulgar and the order of the great acts of the “Divine Drama” in

the measure of the admiration which they accord to the Hell, Purgatory and

Paradise. ?201 The latter is a perpetual hymn of everlasting love. ?202 Love

which found a worthy poet in Plato alone of all the antients has been celebrated

by a chorus of the greatest writers of the renovated world; and the music has

penetrated the caverns of society, and its echoes still drown the dissonance of

arms, and superstition. ?203 At successive intervals Ariosto, Tasso, Shakespear,

Spenser, Calderon, Rousseau and the great writers of our own age have celebrated

the dominion of love; planting as it were trophies in the human mind of that

sublimest victory over sensuality and force. ?204 The true relation borne to

each other by the senses into which human kind is distributed has become less

misunderstood; and if the error which confounded diversity with in equality of

the powers of the two sexes has been partially recognized in the opinions and

institutions of modern Europe, we owe this great benefit to the worship of which

Chivalry was the law, and poets the prophets.


?205 The poetry of Dante may be considered as the bridge thrown over the stream

of time which unites the modern and the antient world. ?206 The distorted

notions of invisible things which Dante and his rival Milton have idealised, are

merely the mask and the mantle in which these great poets walk through eternity

enveloped and disguised. ?207 It is a difficult question to determine how far

they were conscious of the distinction which must have subsisted in their minds

between their own creeds and that of the people. ?208 Dante at least appears to

wish to mark the full extent of it by placing Riph?us whom Virgil calls

justissimus unus {{Virgil, Aeneid II.426}} in Paradise, and observing a most

heretical caprice in his distribution of rewards and punishments. ?209 And

Milton’s poem contains within itself a philosophical refutation of that system

of which, by a strange and natural antithesis, it has been a chief popular

support. ?210 Nothing can exceed the energy and magnificence of the character as

expressed in Paradise Lost. ?211 It is a mistake to suppose that he could ever

have been intended for the popular personification of evil. ?212 Implacable

{{Sig. 11r}} hate, patient cunning, and a sleepless refinement of device to

inflict the extremest anguish on an enemy, these things are evil; and although

venial in a slave are not to be forgiven in a tyrant; although redeemed by much

that ennobles his defeat in one subdued, are marked by all that dishonours his

conquest in the victor. ?213 Milton’s Devil as a moral being is as far superior

to his God as one who perseveres in some purpose which he has conceived to be

excellent in spite of adversity and torture, is to one who in the cold security

of undoubted triumph inflicts the most horrible revenge upon his enemy — not

from any mistaken notion of inducing him to repent of a perseverance in enmity,

but with the alledged design of exasperating him to deserve new torments. ?214

Milton has so far violated the popular creed (if this shall be judged to be a

violation) as to have alledged no superiority of moral virtue to his God over

his Devil. ?215 And this bold neglect of a direct moral purpose [[is]] the most

decisive proof of the supremacy of Milton’s {{Sig. 11v}} genius. ?216 He mingled

as it were the elements of human nature, as colours upon a single pallet, and

arranged them into the composition of his great picture according to the laws of

epic truth; that is, according to the laws of that principle by which a series

of actions of the external universe, and of intelligent and ethical beings is

calculated to excite the sympathy of succeeding generations of mankind. ?217 The

Divina Comedia, and Paradise Lost have conferred upon modern mythology a

systematic form; and when change and time shall have added one more superstition

to the mass of those which have arisen and decayed upon the earth, commentators

will be learnedly employed in elucidating the religion of ancestral Europe, only

not utterly forgotten because it will have been stamped with the eternity of



?218 Homer was the first, and Dante the second epic poet: that is, the second

poet the series of whose creations bore a defined and intelligible relation to

the knowledge, and sentiment, and religion, and political condition of the age

in which he lived, and of the ages which followed it: developing itself in

correspondence with their developement. ?219 For Lucretius had limed the wings

of his swift spirit in the dregs of the sensible world: and Virgil with a

modesty that ill became his genius, had affected the fame of an imitator even

whilst he created anew all that he copied; and none among the flock of mock

birds, though their notes were sweet, Apollonius Rhodius, Quintus Calaber,

Smyrn?us, Nonnus, Lucan, Statius or Claudian have sought even to fulfil a single

condition of epic truth. ?220 Milton was the third Epic Poet: for if the title

of epic in its highest sense be refused to the ?neid still less can it be

conceded to the Orlando Furioso, the Gerusalemme Liberata, the Lusiad or the

Fairy Queen.


?221 Dante and Milton were both deeply penetrated with the antient religion of

the civilized world; and its spirit exists in their poetry, probably in the same

proportion as its forms survived in the unreformed worship of modern Europe.

?222 The one preceeded and the other followed, the Reformation at almost equal

intervals. ?223 Dante was the first religious reformer, and Luther surpassed him

rather in the rudeness and acrimony, than in the boldness of his censures of

papal usurpation. ?224 Dante was the first awakener of entranced Europe; he

created a language in itself music and persuasion out of a chaos of inharmonious

barbarisms. ?225 He was the congregator of those great spirits who presided over

the restoration of learning; the Lucifer of that starry flock which in the

thirteenth century shone forth from republican Italy, as from a heaven, into the

darkness of the benighted world. ?226 His very words are instinct with spirit;

each is as a spark, a burning atom of inextinguishable thought; and many yet lie

covered in the ashes of their birth, and pregnant with a lightning which has yet

found no conductor. ?227 All high poetry is infinite; it is as the first acorn

which contained all oaks potentially. ?228 Veil after veil may be undrawn and

the inmost naked beauty of the meaning never exposed. ?229 A great Poem is a

fountain for ever overflowing with the waters of wisdom and delight; and after

one person and one age has exhausted all its divine effluence which their

peculiar relations enable them to share; another and yet another succeeds, and

new relations are ever developed, the source of an unforseen and an unconceived



?230 The age immediately succeeding to that of Dante, Petrarch and {{Sig. 12r}}

Boccaccio was characterised by a revival of painting, sculpture, music and

architecture. ?231 Chaucer caught the sacred inspiration, and the superstructure

of English literature is based upon the materials of Italian invention.


?232 But let us not be betrayed from a defence into a critical history of poetry

and its influence on society. ?233 Be it enough to have pointed out the effects

of poets in the large and true sense of the word upon their own and all

succeeding times.


?234 But poets have been challenged to resign the civic crown to reasoners and

mechanists on another plea. ?235 It is admitted that the exercise of the

imagination is most delightful, but it is alledged that that of reason is more

useful. ?236 Let us examine as the ground of this distinction what is here meant

by Utility. ?237 Pleasure or good in a general sense, is that which the

consciousness of a sensitive and intelligent being seeks, and in which when

found it acquiesces. ?238 There are two kinds of pleasure, one durable,

universal and permanent; the other transitory and particular. ?239 Utility may

either express the means of producing the former, or the latter. ?00 In the

former sense whatever strengthens and purifies the affections, enlarges the

imagination, and adds spirit to sense, is useful. ?240 But the meaning in which

the author of the Four Ages of Poetry seems to have employed the word utility is

the narrower one of banishing the importunity of the wants of our animal nature,

the surrounding men with security of life, the dispersing the grosser delusions

of superstition, and the conciliating such a degree of mutual forbearance among

men as may consist with the motives of personal advantage.


?241 Undoubtedly the promoters of utility in this limited sense, have their

appointed office in society. ?242 They follow the [[footsteps]] foosteps of

poets, and copy the sketches of their creations into the book of common life.

?243 They make space and give time. ?00 Their exertions are of the highest value

so long as they confine their administration of the concerns of the inferior

{{Sig. 12v}} powers of our own nature within the limits [[[of is]]] due to the

superior ones. ?244 But whilst the sceptic destroys gross superstitions, let him

spare to deface, as some of the French writers have defaced, the eternal truths

charactered upon the imaginations of men. ?245 Whilst the mechanist abridges,

and the political œconomist combines, labour, let them beware that their

speculations, for want of correspondance with those first principles which

belong to the imagination, do not tend, as they have in modern England, to

exasperate at once the extremes of luxury and want. ?246 They have exemplified

the saying; “To him that hath, more shall be given; and from him that hath not

the little that he hath shall be taken away.” {{Mark, NT: Mark 4.25}} ?247 —

The rich have become richer, and the poor have become poorer; and the vessel of

the state is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis of anarchy and despotism.

?248 Such are the effects which must ever flow from an unmitigated exercise of

the calculating faculty.


?249 It is difficult to define pleasure in its highest sense; the definition

involving a number of apparent paradoxes. ?250 For, from an inexplicable defect

of harmony in the constitution of human nature, the pain of the inferior is

frequently connected with the pleasures of the superior portions of our being.

?251 Sorrow, terror, anguish, despair itself are often the chosen expressions of

an approximation to the highest good. ?252 Our sympathy in tragic fiction,

depends on this principle: tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the

pleasure which exists in pain. ?253 This is the source also of the melancholy

which is inseperable from the sweetest melody. ?254 The pleasure that is in

sorrow, is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself. ?255 And hence the

saying, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of

mirth.” {{OT: Ecclesiastes 7.2}} ?256 Not that this highest species of pleasure

is necessarily linked with pain. ?257 The delight of love and friendship, the

extacy of the admiration of nature, the joy of the perception, and still more of

the creation of poetry is often wholly unalloyed.


?258 The production and assurance of pleasure in this highest sense is true

utility. ?259 Those who produce and preserve this pleasure are poets or poetical



?260 The exertions of Locke, Hume, Gibbon, Voltaire, Rousseau {{Sig. 13r}} * and

their disciples in favour of oppressed and deluded humanity are entitled to the

gratitude {{Sig. 13v}} of mankind? ?261 Yet it is easy to calculate the degree

of moral and intellectual improvement which the world would have exhibited, had

they never lived. ?262 A little more nonsense would have been talked for a

century or two; and perhaps a few more men, women and children burnt as

heretics. ?263 We might not at this moment have been congratulating each other

on the abolition of the Inquisition in Spain. ?264 But it exceeds all

imagination to conceive what would have been the moral condition of the world if

neither Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Calderon, Lord Bacon,

nor Milton had ever existed; if Raphael and Michael Angelo had never been born;

if the Hebrew poetry had never been translated; if a revival of the study of

Greek Literature had never taken place; if no monuments of antient sculpture had

been handed down to us; and if the poetry of the religion of the antient world

had been extinguished together with its belief. ?265 The human mind could never,

except by the intervention of these excitements, have been awakened to the

invention of those grosser sciences, and that application of analytical

reasoning to the aberrations of society, which it is now attempted to exalt over

the direct expression of the inventive and creative faculty itself.

* (to the name of Rousseau.) Although Rousseau has been thus classed, he was

essentially a poet. The others, even Voltaire, were reasoners.


?266 We have more moral, political and historical wisdom than we know how to

reduce into practice: we have more scientific and œconomical knowledge than can

be accommodated to the just distribution of the produce which it multiplies.

?267 The poetry, in these systems of thought, is concealed by the accumulation

of facts and calculating processes. ?268 There is no want of knowledge

respecting what is wisest and best in morals, government and political œconomy,

or at least what is wiser and better than what men now practise and endure. ?269

But we “let I dare not wait upon I would, “like the poor cat in the adage”.

{{Shakespeare, Macbeth I.vii.44-45}} ?270 We want the creative faculty to

imagine that which we know; we want the generous impulse to act that which we

imagine; we want the poetry of life: our calculations have outrun conception; we

have eaten more than we can digest. ?271 The cultivation of those sciences which

have enlarged the limits of the empire of man over the external world has, for

want of the poetical faculty, proportionally circumscribed those of the internal

world, and man, having enslaved the elements, remains himself a slave. ?272 To

what but a cultivation of the mechanical arts in a degree disproportioned to the

presence of the creative faculty which is the basis of all knowledge is to be

attributed the abuse of all invention for abridging and combining labour, to the

exasperation of the inequality of mankind? ?273 From what other cause has it

arisen that the discoveries which should have lightened, have added a weight to

the curse imposed on Adam? ?274 Poetry, and the principle of Self, of which

money is the visible incarnation, are the God and the Mammon of the world.


?275 The functions of the poetical faculty are two fold: by one it creates new

materials of knowledge, and power, and pleasure; by the other it engenders in

the mind a desire to reproduce and arrange them according to a certain rhythm

and order, which may be called the beautiful and the good. ?276 The cultivation

of poetry is never more to be desired than at periods when from an excess of the

selfish and calculating principle, the accumulation of the materials of external

life exceed the quantity of the power of assimilating them to the internal laws

of human nature. ?277 The body has then become too unwieldy for that which

animates it.


?278 Poetry is indeed something divine. ?279 It is at once the centre and

circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that

to which all science must be referred. ?280 It is at the same time the root and

the blossom of all other systems of thought: it is that from which all spring,

and that which adorns all; and that which if blighted denies the fruit and the

seed, and withholds from the barren world the nourishment and the succession of

the scions of the tree of life. ?281 It is the perfect and consummate surface

and bloom of things; it is as the odour and the colour of the rose to the

texture of the elements which compose it; as the form and splendour of unfaded

beauty, to the secrets of anatomy and corruption. ?282 What were Virtue, Love,

Patriotism, Friendship — What were the scenery of this beautiful universe which

we inhabit – - what were our consolations on this side the grave — and what

were our aspirations beyond it — if Poetry did not ascend to bring light and

fire from those eternal regions where the owl-winged faculty of calculation,

dare not ever soar? ?283 Poetry is not like reasoning, a power to be exerted

according to the determination of the will. ?284 A man cannot say, “I will

compose poetry.” ?285 The greatest poet even cannot say it: for the mind in

creation is as a fading coal which some invisible influence, like an inconstant

wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within, like the

colour of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious

portions of our natures are unpropheti


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