« הקודםהמשך »
fanaticisms of well-meaning but misguided zealots had fubsided, every species of useful and elegant knowledge recovered its strength, and arose with new vigour. Acquisitions, whether in theology or humanity, were no longer exclufively confined to the clergy: the laity eagerly embraced those purfuits from which they had long been unjustly restrained : and, foon after the reign of Elisabeth, men attained that state of general improvement, and those fituations with respect to literature and life, in which they have ever fince persevered.
But it remains to bring home, and to apply, this change in the sentiments of mankind, to our main subject. The customs, institutions, traditions, and religion, of the middle ages, were favorable to poetry. Their pageaunts, processions, spectacles, and ceremonies, were friendly to imagery, to personification and allegory. Ignorance and superstition, so opposite to the real interests of human society, are the parents of imagination. The
devotion of the Gothic times was romantic. The catholic worship, besides that its numerous exteriour appendages were of a picturesque and even of a poetical nature, disposed the mind to a state of deception, and encouraged, or rather authorised, every species of credulity: its visions, miracles, and legends, propagated a general propensity to the Marvellous, and strengthened the belief of spectres, demons, witches, and incantations. These illusions were heightened by churches of a wonderful mechanism, and constructed on such principles of inexplicable architecture as had a tendency to impress the soul with every false sensation of religious fear. The savage pomp and the capricious heroism of the baronial manners, were replete with incident, adventure, and enterprise : and the intractable genius of the feudal policy, held forth those irregularities of conduct, discordancies of interest, and dissimilarities of fituation, that framed rich materials for the minstrel-muse. The tacit compact of falhion, which promotes civility by
diffusing habits of uniformity, and therefore destroys peculiarities of character and situation, had not yet operated upon life: nor had domestic convenience abolished unwieldy magnificence. Literature, and a better sense of things, not only banished these barbarities, but superseded the mode of composition which was formed
Romantic poetry gave way to the force of reason and inquiry; as its own inchanted palaces and gardens instantaneously vanished, when the christian champion displayed the shield of truth, and baffled the charm of the necromancer. The study of the classics, together with a colder magic and a tamer mythology, introduced method into composition: and the universal ambition of rivalling those new patterns of excellence, the faultless models of Greece and Rome, produced that bane of invention, IMITATION. Erudition was made to act upon genius. Fancy was weakened by reflection and philosophy. The fashion of treating every thing scientifically, applied fpeculation and theory to the arts of writing. Judgment was advanced above imagination, and rules of criticism were established. The brave eccentricities of original genius, and the daring hardiness of native thought, were intimidated by metaphysical sentiments of perfection and refinement. Setting aside the confideration of the more, solid advantages, which are obvious, and are not the distinct object of our contemplation at present, the lover of true poetry will ask, what have we gained by this revolution?. It may be answered, much good sense, good taste, and good criticism. But, in the mean time, we have lost a set of manners, and a system of machinery, more suitable to the purposes of poetry, than those which have been adopted in their place. We have parted with extravagancies that are above propriety, with incredibilities that are more acceptable than truth, and with fictions that are more valuable than reality.
END OF THE SECOND VOLUME.