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Thus song, the breath of heaven, had power to bind,
We have mentioned this writer as inclined to melancholy. It is, however, by no means a moody melancholy, but has more of tenderness than gloom. The lines on the burial-place of the patriarchs will illustrate our meaning.
“ A scene sequester'd from the haunts of men,
We could with pleasure indulge ourselves farther, but our limits confine us, at present, to two more selections. The first is the energetic expression of passion, and furnishes an appropriate example of the distinction first made by Lord Kaimes, between the actual imitation of the passions, and the mere description of them.
-"A reprobate by birth, To heaven rebellious, unallied on earth, VOL. III. Nen Series. 63
Whither, O whither shall the outcast flee?
The sentiments of the next passage must meet a powerful echo from every voice, were it only from association with existing circumstances.
“ His heart exulting whisper'd' All is mine,
Yet seldom suffered, where his country died,
Sufficient has now been quoted to enable the reader to judge of the nature and versification of this poem. The passages have been taken nearly at random, and are not superior to many others that offered themselves to our attention; particularly those relating to the battle between these antediluvian warriors--the giant kingthe translation of Enoch-and the death and character of the
To those whose interest may have been excited by this imperfect sketch, we add only, that the work concludes with the expulsion of the giants, and the union of Javan with Zillah.
Of the minor pieces in this volume, they are, with few exceptions, worthy of the author of " The Mole Hill,” and “The Common Lot,” two of the most original poems, for their kind, to be found in the compass of cotemporary literature. The moral poetry of Mr. Montgomery is, indeed, always of the noblest kind. He presents us with no train of truisms-no frigid dissertations on abstract fitness—none of the common-places of ethics: but has the merit of enlivening our attention to trite truths and familiar rules of conduct, by throwing round them the lights of a rich imagination through the softening medium of a feeling heart. In this respect he reminds us of the writings of Chateaubriand, making due allowance for the superiority of the latter in that onction which is an advantage the French language possesses over our
Notwithstanding the satisfaction we have derived from the examination of this production, we shall not be surprised if it should not attain immediate or general popularity. The diction may not always, perhaps, be found sufficiently dignified; and the writer may have been led into this error by a laudable desire, pushed to an extreme, of imitating the simplicity of the sacred writings. This, however, is not frequent; and there are abundantly more instances where vigour of thought has been accompanied with correspondent force of expression. From the evils incidental to the nature of the subject, the author has more to apprehend; but these he shares only in common with all his predecessors who drew their materials from the scriptures, Milton and Klopstock
not excepted. The golden compasses with which the Creator is described by the former as measuring the universe, excited the surprise of Gibbon,* who calls it“ puerile in him, though such an image had been truly sublime in Homer. Our philosophical ideas of the deity are injurious to the poet. The same attributes de base our divinity which would have extolled the Jupiter of the Greeks. The sublime genius of Milton was cramped by the sys tem of our religion, and never appeared to so great an advantage as when he shook it a little off; while, on the contrary, Propertius, a cold and insipid declaimer, owes all his reputation to the agreeable pictures of his mythology.” This critic may, indeed, justly be considered as no unprejudiced witness, since his infidelity may have influenced his taste; but similar opinions are entertained by many whose intellectual integrity is liable to no suspicion. But, waiving all discussion of a topic which would be sufficient of itself to fill an article far less circumscribed than the present, another cause of fear for the success of this poem is in its length. It has been observed with some plausibility that the age of epics has past-a remark equally applicable to all long poems, whatever be their nature, in an age when literary merchandise is judged by the weight, and the value of a book is inversely as its matter. Former critics would deny the claim of a rhymer to the title of poet, because he had not written enough.t At present, a similar conclusion is drawn from premises precisely the reverse, and a man shall cease to be applauded as a poet if he have written too much. Alas for the mutability of human tastes! On the other hand, a writer may derive consolation from these fluctuations, since they afford ground for probable calculation, that if the age of epics have gone by, it has not gone forever; the very existence of opposite opinions in ourselves, is an argument in favour of the revival of other ones in the generation that succeeds usreflection as well calculated to moderate the exultation of the popular, as to diminish the despondence of the unsuccessful. After an age of bigots, said Ganganelli, comes an age of freethinkers; and so long as the world we inhabit is proverbially a
Essai sur les Belles Lettres.
+ Cumberland, &c. on Gray.
changing world, the historian of the human mind may trace alike on all subjects continual alternation.
We cannot better conclude this article than with the lines on the power of poetry, in which Mr. Montgomery has so well asserted the dignity of his art.
“ There is a living spirit in the lyre,