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essential literature is to be found in poetry, especially if it be such as English poetry is, the embodiment of the very highest wisdom and the deepest feeling of our English race. I hope to show in my next lecture, in treating the subject of our language, how rich a source of enjoyment the study of English verse, considered simply as an organ of expression and harmony, may be made; but to readers who confine themselves to prose, the metrical form becomes repulsive instead of attractive. It has been well observed by a living writer, who has exercised his powers alike in prose and verse, that there are readers “to whom the poetical form merely and of itself acts as a sort of veil to every meaning, which is not habitually met with under that form, and who are puzzled by a passage occurring in a poem, which would be at once plain to them if divested of its cadence and rhythm; not because it is thereby put into language in any degree more perspicuous, but because prose is the vehicle they are accustomed to for this particular kind of matter, and they will apply their minds to it in prose, and they will refuse their minds to it in

"* verse.

The neglect of poetical reading is increased by the very mistaken notion that poetry is a mere luxury of the mind, alien from the demands of practical life-a light and effortless amusement. This is the prejudice and error of ignorance. For look at many of the strong and largely cultivated minds which we know by biography and their own works, and note how large and precious an element of strength is their studious love of poetry. Where could we find a man of more earnest, energetic, practical cast of character than Arnold ?-eminent as an historian, and in other the gravest departments of thought and learning, active in the cause of education, zealous in matters of ecclesiastical, political, or social reform; right or wrong, always intensely practical and single-hearted in bis honest zeal; a champion for truth, whether in the history of ancient politics or present questions of modern society; and, with all, never suffering the love of poetry to be extinguished in his heart, or to be crowded out of it, but turning it perpetually to wise uses, bringing the poetic truths of Shakspeare and of Wordsworth to the help of the cause of truth; his enthusiasm for the poets breaking forth, when he exclaims,“ What a treat it would be to teach Shakspeare to a good class of young Greeks in regenerate Athens; to dwell upon him line by line and word by word, and so to get all his pictures and thoughts leisurely into one's mind, till I verily think one would, after a time, almost give out light in the dark, after having been steeped, as it were, in such an atmosphere of brilliance !!*

* Taylor's Notes from Books, p. 215.

This was the constitution not of one man alone, but of the greatest minds of the race; for if our Anglo-Saxon character could be analyzed, a leading characteristic would be found to be the admirable combination of the practical and the poetical in it. This is reflected in all the best English literature, blending the ideal and the actual, never severing its highest spirituality from a steady basis of sober, good sense-philosophy and poetry

6 "

* Arnold's Life, p. 284, (American Edition,) in a letter to Mr. Jus

tice Coleridge.

forever disclosing affinities with each other. It was no false boast when it was said that “Our great poets have been our best political philosophers ;'* nor would it be, to add that they have been our best moralists. The reader, then, who, on the one hand, gives himself wholly to visionary poetic dreamings is false to his Saxon blood; and equally false is he who divorces himself from communion with the poets. There is no great philosopher in our language in whose genius imagination is not an active element : there is no great poet into whose character the philosophic element does not largely enter. This should teach us a lesson in our studies of English literature.

For the combination of prose and poetic reading, a higher authority is to be found than the predominant characteristic of the Saxon intellect as displayed in our literature. In the One Book, which, given for the good of all mankind, is supernaturally fitted for all phases of humanity and all conditions of civilization, observe that the large components of it are history and poetry. How little else is there in the Bible! In the Old Testament all is chronicle and song, and the high-wrought poetry

of prophecy. In the New Testament are the same elements, with this difference, that the actual and the imaginative are more interpenetrated-narrative and parable, fact and poetry blended in matchless harmony; and eren in the most argumentative portion of holy Writ, the poetic element is still present, to be followed by the vision and imagery of the Apocalypse.

Such is the unquestioned combination of poetry and

* Preface to Henry Taylor's Notes on Books.

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prose in sacred Writ—the best means, we must believe, for the universal and perpetual good of man; and if literature have, as I have endeavoured to prove in the previous lecture, a kindred character, of an agency to build up our incorporeal being, then does it follow that we should take this silent warning from the pages of Revelation, and combine in our literary culture the same elements of the actual and the ideal or imaginative.

But, as it is the poetic culture which is most frequently discarded, let me follow out this high authority in that direction. You will recall how, when it was the divine

purpose to imprint upon the memory of the chosen race what should endure from generation to generation, the minister of the divine will was inspired to speak, not in the language of argument or law, but in the impassioned strains of the imagination. The last tones of that voice which had roused his countrymen from slavery and sensuality in Egypt, and cheered, and threatened, and rebuked them during their wanderings, which had announced the statutes of Jehovah, had proclaimed victory to the obedient and judgment on the rebellious—the last tones, wbich were to go on sounding and sounding into distant ages, were the tones of poetry. The last inspiration which came down into the soul of Moses burst forth in that sublime ode which was his death-song. And why was this? “ It shall come to pass, are the words, 6 when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness, for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouth of their seed.Well may we conceive how, in after times, when Israel was hunted by the hand of Midian into caves and dens when, smitten by the Philistine, the ark of God was snatched away-when, after Jerusalem had known its highest glory, the sword of the King of the Chaldees smote their young men in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor maiden, old man nor him that stooped for age, or when the dark-browed Israelite was wandering in the streets of Nineveh or Babylon, an exile and a slave,-how must there have arisen on his sad spirit the memory of that song, with its sublime images of God's protection, now forfeited, “as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him!”

I know that there is a way in which some people turn a deaf ear to this, saying that it is Oriental imagery, an Asiatic fashion of speech. Yes, but none the less, in the all-foreseeing purposes of Him who inspired it, was it meant for all after time and all after generations of menin the West no less than in the East. The ancient and the Hebrew song had a modern and a larger destiny; it was to pass into a body of English words, and so come unto us.

This proof of the value of poetic culture is fortified when you

reflect how that which may be reverenced as the

very ideal of poetry-I mean that which flowed from direct divine inspiration—has always proved its adaptation to the hearts of men in all ages, in the Christian as well as in the Jewish church, in all their conditions of joy and of woe. The Holy City was given over to the fearful fulfilment of prophecy by the bloody sword of the Chaldean and the Roman-its temple and town razed to the ground, to be for a weary length of centuries trodden on by the infidel foot of the Saracen; and yet the sounds that issued from the harp of Jerusalem's king, silenced in


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