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Then the picturesque ruins are présented.
"The ruins too of some majestic place,
Boasting the pow'r of ancient Rome or Greece,
Dr. Johnson says, "the other stanzas are very "inferior,-inferior indeed :" and why are these superior? For this reason, because the highest views of human contemplation are opened in the first stanza, picturesque beauty in the last, and both according to NATURE.
The conclusion of this ode is in the high strain of the beginning; and yet, as objects of artificial life are less poetical than passions which belong to general Nature, the mind hardly admits the idea of " the last promotion," in the first stanza, or the word "assizes," relating to the great day of judgment, in the last; because with the expression "assizes" are associated the ideas of artificial life, the "judge's coach," and the javelin
I will now only request your Lordship to keep in mind what has been laid down: that Art is poetical, but Nature, in her sublime or beautiful features, with all their kindred associations, more so; that Art, in its combined appearances, is most poetical, when connected with associations or views of NATURE, and always, and under all circumstances, POETICAL, (unless the image be vulgar,) when ASSOCIATED with EMOTIONS and PASSIONS of the HUMAN HEART.
These are my premises: and having laid them down such as they cannot but be inferred from my original observations, unless garbled, I come to meet your Lordship on the fair ground of controversy.
On the subject of Pope's poetical character WE agree. You say he is inferior to Milton and Shakespeare. This is all I asked. But the subject of our present discussion is, I think, at all events interesting. I have received much pleasure from your Lordship's letter; and though I well know your great powers, I feel, after a more vulgar contest, as "breathing a freer air."
The first question is, "Whether images from what is sublime or beautiful in Art or Nature," be, per se, the most poetical.
Upon this first point we join issue, and stand opposed. You have taken this first axiom, which I thought, if well consi dered, would not be contended, and have, without periphrasis, promptly and powerfully opposed it. But remark, this is only the first part of a general proposition, as will be seen by referring to what I have said. The other part will be, per
haps, more clearly explained, as we procced. But first of the first.
LAUNCH OF THE BEAUTIFUL SHIP, CAMPBELL.
IT must here be observed, that in answer to the first part of my proposition, Mr. Campbell instanced the launch of a ship, as a WORK OF ART, beautifully poetical. My answer, taking his own description, was, that the ship so beautifully described by him was more indebted to Nature than Art. It was indebted to Nature for the winds, that filled the sails; for the sunshine, that touched them with lights; for the waves, on which it so triumphantly rode; for the associated ideas of the distant regions of the earth it was to visit, the tempests it was to encounter, and for being, as it were, endued with existence, "a thing of life."
I think what was said was an answer to Mr. Campbell, and I think so still. What other arguments he might advance I know not. His ship, as described by himself, in my opinion totally failed; and I believe Mr. Campbell saw, upon reflec
An attempt has lately been made to rob your Lordship of much of your originality as a poet. I have seen some extracts from a publication of this kind. Some of the examples are like the description of Monmouth. “Why is Macedon like Monmouth? because there is a river in Monmouth, and a river in Macedon." I have only seen a very few of these remarks. The beautiful image of the " ship," in the Corsair,
"That seems to walk the waves-a thing of life!"
which would not be necessary for your Lordship to add, unless an image from Nature was more beautiful than any you brought in the description of a ship from Art: this "living ship, however, has been traced to WILSON," who has also a "living ship of loveliness." I forget the words; but if the image is to be taken from your Lordship vi et armis, I may as well make my demand for in the poem, which, together with its unfortunate writer, formed part of your Satire, is the following description of " a ship" on her way:
The idea is the same: I objected to the words "lovely glory;" but somebody persuaded me to let them stay. But I do not believe that either your Lordship, or Mr. Wilson, borrowed from me; albeit, though, so to be told, your Lordship might smile.
I believe no mind, inclined to poetry, ever saw a ship in full sail, but has felt the propriety of the image.
I take this opportunity of thanking your Lordship for remembering the little anecdote, which I mentioned merely for the sake of showing the disadvantage of implicitly relying on the Reviews. Your recollection is better than mine. But the mode in which the circumstance had been commented on, was gratuitously ill-natured, for it had nothing to do with the criticism.
tion, that his new-launched ship, and even if it had braved, for a thousand years,
"The BATTLE and the BREEZE,"
must have surrendered.
Mr. Campbell declined, at least, further contest; whether because he would not, or because he thought he could not, is of no consequence. Your Lordship implies that he would not; I am bold to say he could not; and I am bolder to say, I think even your Lordship cannot.
Under its new, and gallant, and dauntless, and experienced, and NOBLE Captain, the battle is now to be fought again. And though years have made some impression, and different tracks of study have taken me far away from the scene of such discussions, and even desuetude from such contest be something, and disinclination more; yet, my Lord,
"Maugre your youth, strength, fortune, eminence-"
not unconscious of your powers, but more conscious of the soundness of my cause, I venture to meet you.
Before I examine your arguments, my first object will be to do them perfect justice, to place them in their full force, and not only to do so, but, if I doubt the meaning, to give the substance in my own language, that it may be seen whether I perfectly understand them or not.
This I think due to every one, whose sentiments I might be called upon to oppose, more especially due to a person like your Lordship; and if such fairness, or any thing like such fairness, had been used towards me, I should not have been assailed by so many flippant fallacies, so many gross and palpable perversions.
The substance of your arguments, detached from the jokes, I conceive to be as follows.
The ship gives as much beauty to the waters as it receives from them. If the SUN were taken away, what then? The If ship, if I understand your Lordship, would not be seen. Mr. Bowles's pamphlet was not read by the light of the sun, it must be read by candle-light!! Allow me to substitute for Mr. Bowles's pamphlet Lord Byron's poems. No beauty is added to them by the sun; for whether they are read by sunlight or candle-light, they are equally beautiful. I have read them by both: But the sun adds beauty to a ship; therefore this argument, which I think must be written by candle-light, does not hold; for it is as clear as "the SUN AT NOON-DAY," that "the sun" neither gives nor takes from the beauty of Lord Byron's poems, let them be read where they will; but it
does give beauty, essential beauty, to the ship.
2nd. Thousands of people went to see the launch of the
ship, who would not look upon the sea, particularly as it was calm, and calm water might be seen in the London Dock, Paddington Canal, a horse-pond, a slop-basin, or in any other vessel!
3rd. The wind that filled the sails of the ship, might be heard through the chinks of a PIGSTY; and the sun might shine on a BRASS WARMING-PAN!
This, I conceive, my Lord, is the substance of your argument; which, if it had come from any one but yourself, I should have thought scarcely worth answering: as an argument, the bare statement almost confutes it. The least fair discussion will shatter it to rags, reduce it to the blue bunting of which the streamer of the ship is composed, and I had almost said, make it to be consigned to that " other vessel," whatever it be, which has so facetiously entered your Lordship's high poetical imagination. Allow me first to show you what you have not done, before I examine what you have done, by way of argument.
You have not answered, nor attempted to answer, all the arguments which have been already brought forward on this
Mr. Campbell, in his description of the ship, spoke not only of the effect of the sun, the seas, and the wind, but added other ideas; its visiting the remote parts of the earth, the tempests it might encounter, and described it, in his poetical vision," a thing of life." I said, the ideas of its visiting distant regions were ideas from Nature, which conspire to make this sight more interesting to the poet's thoughts, and therefore more poetical."
These you have not touched; and I am sure, if you had, and could bring no arguments but from Paddington Canal, &c. my "fortress" would not have much to fear from your Lordship's somewhat grotesque battery. Whatever motive Mr. Campbell had for not defending his own Seventy-four, I think your Lordship, in argument at least, has not succeeded, however delightful your publication may be in other respects.
And now, my Lord, to point our guns, to open our fire, and endeavour to blow your PIG-STIES, BRASS WARMING-PANS, and THAT OTHER VESSEL," into shatters.
But, let be me fair; let the reader compare what you advance with the substance I have given.
"Mr. Bowles asserts, that Campbell's Ship of the Line' dérives all its poetry not from Art,' but from Nature.'
Take away the waves, the winds, the sun, &c. &c. one will be come a stripe of blue bunting; and the other a piece of coarse canvass on three tall poles.' Very true; take away the 'waves,' the winds,' and there will be no ship at all, not only for poetical, but for any other purpose; and take away
the sun,' and we must read Mr. Bowles's pamphlet by candle-light. But the poetry' of the Ship' does not depend on the waves,' &c.; on the contrary, the Ship of the Line' confers its own poetry upon the waters, and heightens theirs. I do not deny that the waves and winds,' and above all the sun,' are highly poetical; we know it to our cost, by the many descriptions of them in verse: but if the waves bore only the foam upon their bosoms, if the winds wafted only the sea-weed to the shore, if the sun shone neither upon pyramids, nor fleets, nor fortresses, would its beams be equally poetical? I think not: the poetry is at least reciprocal. Take away the Ship of the Line' swinging round' the calm water,' and the calm water becomes a somewhat monotonous thing to look at, particularly if not transparently clear; witness the thousands who pass by without looking on it at all. What was it attracted the thousands to the launch? they might have seen the poetical calm water' at Wapping, or in the London Dock,' or in the Paddington Canal, or in a horse-pond, or in a slop-basin, or in any other vase. They might have heard the poetical winds howling through the chinks of a pigsty, or the garret window; they might have seen the sun shining on a footman's livery, or on a brass warming-pan; but could the calm water,' or the wind,' or the sun,' make all, or any of these poetical?' I think not, Mr. Bowles admits the Ship' to be poetical, but only from those accessaries: now if they confer poetry so as to make one thing poetical, they would make other things poetical; the more so, as Mr. Bowles calls a Ship of the Line' without them, that is to say, its' masts, and sails, and streamers, blue bunting,' and coarse canvass,' and tall poles.' So they are; and porcelain is ' clay, and man is dust, and flesh is grass; and yet the two latter at least are the subjects of much poesy."
The commencement, my Lord, is ominous. Mr. Bowles never said, nor is it consistent with the principles he has adopted to say, Mr. Campbell's ship derives ALL its poetry from Nature. If this misstatement, in principio, was intentional, I need not have appealed to you for my character of candor.
Mr. Bowles said, and says, that poetical beauty in a depends not on Art but Nature." ALL its poetry, he