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mass. And what great political as well as moral benefits may yet be evolved from this principle! Let but the spirit of sympathy, thus auspiciously commenced, be continued, and the hostile barriers within which the different ranks were entrenched will be removed; and the parties themselves, instead of being arrayed against each other for a warfare of extermination, will be able to meet in a spirit of mutual cordiality and love. The lord will no longer be branded as a tyrant, nor the peasant considered as a slave, but all, however different in degree, will reciprocate the amenities of life, as the inheritors of the same nature, and the children of one common family.
While adverting to the high moral character of the modern school of poetry, it would be ungenerous to omit the mention of one very important source in which it has originated. And here, it is only necessary to allude to that illustrious series of female writers by which the nineteenth century has been adorned. The development of female talent, and the consequent high rank which the sex have been enabled to assume in the scale of moral and intellectual being, is a circumstance altogether unprecedented in the history of civilized society. Learned and intellectual females, indeed, had appeared in almost every age,
but it was as isolated examples: each stood alone, with a bright, but sad and solitary, lustre. Sometimes, also, in our own country, a talented woman had dared to step into the ranks of authorship, during the paroxysm of some literary excitement; but she was regarded as a marvel, or rather a monstrosity, and treated accordingly. She was banished from her own sex as a renegade, and kept aloof by the other as an interloper. It was thought that, by courting the public gaze, she had violated the rules of womanly decorum; and let her talents be what they might, she was called a deserter from her proper vocation of needlework and housekeeping. Such was the general feeling; and the result that ensued was natural. Authoresses deemed themselves bound to unsex themselves in self-defence; and having begun by a defiance of public opinion, they often ended by the forfeiture of their own esteem, sc that they outdid the recklessness of a worthless age, by the looseness and profligacy of their writings. Upon this head, we need only advert to the Behns, the Heywoods, and the Manlys, of the beginning of the eighteenth century. But when the
education of both sexes was more justly equalized, so that female talent became less rare, and therefore less wondered at; and when such an endowment was not considered incompatible with female delicacy and gentleness, they could then venture to write from the overflowings of their hitherto suppressed hearts, without fear of being scowled into silence. And how natural was it, that their fondest and best efforts should be directed towards poetry! The first notes, indeed, with which they ventured to join the choral strain, were in a voice soft, gentle, and low—“ an excellent thing in woman;"—but as the song of the age proceeded, and swelled into a wider grandeur, their sweet, clear, feminine accents were heard over the whole thunder-peal, like the notes of the high-toned flute over the deep crash of the orchestra. And how was it possible that poets could write indecorously in the company of such coadjutors? Or how could they fail to be elevated and refined by the force of such examples? A more than chivalrous delicacy was introduced by the entrance of these fair impersonations of the Muses, and a rivalry ensued of mutual courtesy, in which masculine strength was softened by female tenderness. Thus, war began to lose its glory, and havoc its magnificence; sublimity was mingled with softness and beauty; while the grandeur of public action was alternated with the virtues and the fcelings of domestic life. It was as if an angel had descended, to rebuke the evil passions of humanity, and to show where real happiness was to be found, by irradiating all its secret springs and obscure recesses. Such a halo was thrown over all the gentle charms and virtues of human existence, as could only have emanated from the highest state of intellect, animated and directed by the fondest impulses of the female heart.
It is no mystery, that the political eras which occur in the intellectual history of man are both few and brief. In the course of a century, or even a single generation, a whole constellation of distinguished poets arises, after which ages of prosaic existence frequently intervene. This must necessarily be the case, from the nature of poetry itself. In those departments of intellect that merely depend upon calculation and research, the mind can proceed continuously; and thus the progress of general science can be calculated by a regular succession of steps. But poetry is subject to no such formal rule,
It is the result of impulse, and, like every impulse, it is irregular and transient. Some master-mind suddenly appears, and arrests the world with a new song: the spirit of melody awakens kindred echoes; and a tuneful throng are evoked, as if from the grave, until the enthusiasm expires, and leaves the world to its former silence. Such is now the situation of England. Her third poetical era is closing, and although sweet notes are still vibrating in our ears, they are swan-like notes, that speak of a dying close. The present generation of men who have arrived at maturity, are like the entranced audience of a theatre, who have fed upon glorious sounds and magnificent pageants-but the curtain is falling, and they must now hie them away to the cold realities of every-day life. But as these remembrances of the theatre will return in the light of day, and amidst the bustle of the world, so the recollections and delights of the poetical age will be cherished after its departure; and society, even in the midst of its labours in physical science and political economy, will pause, to speak of these past pleasures, and endeavour to revive them. This will suffice to secure the popularity of poetry even in an age of prose. But society is also performing a still higher task. It is now asking, wherefore, and for what good purpose, it was so moved and excited? The duty is now in process of weighing and estimating the moral worth of the performance, as well as the comparative excellence of the actors.
In this manner, poets, who were unduly raised by adventitious circumstances, have been reduced to their proper level, while those who were lowered by calumny or neglect, have been restored to their fitting station. In this manner, also, a stern inquest has been held
upon the tendencies of the poetry itself, to separate the morally bad from the good, and stamp the former with reprobation, and the latter with its merited immortality.
Another age of poetry will succeed—but at what distance of time, who shall venture to predict? A few generations only may intervene, or perhaps whole centuries : possibly, even the latter will be the case, if the length of the repose is to be measured by the greatness of the exertion that has preceded it. In the mean time, society will continue to cherish the rich poetical bequest of the nineteenth century until the cycle has revolved, when the intellectual character shall receive a fresh impul: e, and a new minstrelsy be produced. Other poets will then arise who will supersede with the freshness of youth their predecessors, then become venerable names, and who will devise new combinations of thought, and stamp with a new impress the generation over which they are called to preside. But let that time be as distant as it may, the labours of those who last preceded them have cleared for them the way, and furnished them with a glorious starting-point, from which they may soar to an excellence hitherto unattained. They have broken, and we trust for ever, the cold and narrow despotism of art, and restored nature to her legitimate authority. It is true, indeed, that while they fought for this great revolution, there was much in their efforts that partook of the nature of a political anarchy; much of fanaticism in their devotedness to that cause for which they laboured so nobly and so well. But the emancipation itself which they achieved for posterity is a boon so valuable, that its incidental extravagances will be forgotten, or only remembered as warnings and examples. And what a heartinspiring picture might be drawn of the poetry of the future age, thus taught and invigorated from that of the past! By what majestic measures will the onward march of humanity be upheld and conducted, as it progresses towards those glorious destinies in which the world itself shall become like heaven, and man be but “ a little lower than the angels!"