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the sacred poetry, but all high and serious poetry, may be traced to some germ of revealed truth. The highest kuman poetry is in affinity with the divine poetry; and, however they may differ in degree, I do not believe that they are separated by characteristic difference in kind. What are the Latin hymns of the mediæval church, such as that famous one on the Day of Judgment, which clung to the dying lips of Walter Scott, murmuring snatches of it when his mind had on all else faded away,—what were those poems but human versions of inspiration ?* What are the hymns of Ken and of Keble but echoes from the lyric song of the Bible? Wordsworth's sublime communings with nature do but amplify and reiterate the Psalmist's declaration of the glory of God as manifested in the universe; and when the poet shows that
“Heaven lies about us in our infancy,”+ and teaches the holiness and beauty of the innocence of childhood ka theme for sophisticated man to reflect onwhat is this but an expression of the truth that is contained in the Saviour's words, “of such is the kingdom of heaven ?"
Aubrey De Vere's thoughtful lines on Sorrow, are but an echo of the divine teaching :
* “We very often heard distinctly the cadence of the Dies Iros; and I think the very last stanza that we could make out was the still greater favourite :
Stabat mater dolorosa,
Dum pendebat filius.” Lockhart's Scott, vol. x. p. 214. As this volume is passing through the press, we have received the news of Mr. Lockhart's death at Abbotsford, in December, 1854. W. B. R.
† Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality. Works, p. 388. * Aubrey De Vere's Waldenses, with other poems quoted in an Essay on De Vere's Poems, in Taylor's Notes from Books, p. 215.
“ Count each affliction, whether light or grave
God's messenger sent down to thee. Do thou
Strong to consume small troubles ; to commend
Again : another living poet does but teach how to apply a well-known text, and feel its truth the more, when he says:
“We live not in our moments or our years—
Knowing that mercy ever will endure.”+ This is a poet's teaching of the cheerfulness of Christian faith and the love of Christian content and happiness;
† Sonnet by the Rev. R. C. Trench, quoted in Church Poetry, or Christian Thoughts in Oli and Modern Verse, p. 62.
and this is but the rebuke of unchristian sullenness, and the praise of Christian thankfulness :
* Some murmur, when their sky is clear
And wholly bright to view,
In their great heaven of blue.
If but one streak of light,
The darkness of their night.
In discontent and pride,
And all good things denied ?
How love has in their aid
Such rich provision made."
• Trench's Poems, p. 116.
Literature of the Sebenteenth and Eighteenth Centuries.*
Milton's old age-Donne's Sermons—No great school of poetry with
out love of nature-Blank in this respect between Paradise Lost and Thomson's Seasons—Court of Charles the Second-Samson Agonistes—Milton's Sonnets—Clarendon's History of the Rebellion-Pil. grim's Progress-Dryden's Odes-Absalom and Achitophel-Rhym. ing tragedies-Age of Queen Anne-British statesmen-EssayistsTatler-Spectator-Sir Roger De Coverley—Pope-Lord Bolingbroke-English infidels-Johnson's Dictionary-Gray-Collins Cowper-Goldsmith-The Vicar of Wakefield-Cowper-Elizabeth Browning.
In proceeding to the literature of the close of the seventeenth century, we approach a period which is marked by great change. Heretofore in the succession of literary eras there had been a continuity of influence, which had not only served to give new strength and develope new resources, but to preserve the power of the antecedent literature unimpaired. The present was never unnaturally or disloyally divorced from the past. The author in one generation found discipline for his genius in reverent and affectionate intercourse with great minds of other days. Such was their dutiful spirit of discipline, strengthening but not surrendering their own native power—the discipline so much wiser and so much more richly rewarded in the might it gains, than the self-sufficient discipline, which, trusting to the pride of origi
* Thursday, February 14, 1850
nality or the influences of the day, disclaims the ministry of time-honoured wisdom. Milton was studious of Spenser, and Spenser was grateful and reverent of Chaucer ; and thus, as age after age gave birth to the great poets, they were bound “each to each in natural piety.” But when we come to those who followed Milton, the golden chain is broken. The next generation of the poets abandoned the hereditary allegiance which had heretofore been cherished so dutifully, transmitted so faithfully.
It was at this time that the earlier literature began to fall into neglect, displaced with all its grandeur and varied
power of truth and beauty, displaced for more than a century by an inferior literature, inferior and impurer, so that for more than a hundred years, many of the finest influences on the English mind were almost wholly withdrawn. Indeed, it is only within the present century that the restoration of those influences has been accomplished. Here we see within our own day, the revival of early English literature, bringing from dust and oblivion the old books to light and life again, to do their perpetual work upon the earth—the work that was denied to them by an age that was unworthy of them. No longer since than ten years or less, there was no good edition of the complete works of Chaucer. Ten years ago, the sermons of the greatest preacher of the times of James the First, Donne, the Dean of St. Paul's, were almost inaccessible, entirely so, I might say, to scholars in this country, in the first and very rare folio edition. Even the writings of Jeremy Taylor were a rare treasure, until about twentyfive years ago, Bishop Heber did the good service of giving ready access to them in a modern edition; and not to speak of the miscellaneous literature, over which the dust