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now, be hailed, as we delight to know that they were hailed some thirty or forty years ago; still I do not despair of poetry ultimately recovering from the staggering blows which science has inflicted in the shape of steam conveyance of electro-magnetism-of geological exposition of political economy-of statistics-in fact, by a series of disenchantments. Original genius in due time must, from new elements, frame new combinations; and these may be at least what the kaleidoscope is to the rainbow, or an explosion of hydrogen in the gasometer to a flash of lightning on the hills. But this alters not my position-that all facts are prose, until coloured by imagination or passion. From physic we have swept away alchemy, incantation, and cure by the royal touch; from divinity, exorcism, and purgatory, and excommunication; and from law, the trial by wager of battle, the ordeal by touch, and the mysterious confessions of witchcraft. In the foamy seas, we can never more expect to see Proteus leading out his flocks; nor, in the dimpling stream, another Narcissus admiring his own fair face; nor Diana again descending on Latmos to Endymion. We cannot hope another Una, "making a sunshine in the shady place;" nor another Macbeth, meeting with other witches on the blasted heath; nor another Faust, wandering amid the mysterious sights and sounds of another Mayday night. Robin Hoods and Rob Roys are incompatible with sheriffs and the county police. Rocks are stratified by geologists, exactly as satins are measured by mercers; and Echo, no longer a vagrant classic nymph, is compelled quietly to succumb to the laws of Acoustics.
Ballad Poetry.-The Revival of the Romantic School.-Sir Walter Scott; his poetry and the feudal system; his popularity and imitators; his nationality and transcendent genius-The Lay-Marmion-Lady of the Lake-Lord of the Isles-Songs and Ballads.-Professor Wilson and Lord Byron :-Isle of Palms-City of the Plague-Fairy Legends-Unimore.-Extracts, Morning Picture-The Course of Grief.-Thomas Campbell and James Montgomery; The Pleasures of Hope-Lyrical Poems-Gertrude of Wyoming.-Early decline of Campbell's powers; his classical elegance and high standard of taste.-Specimens from O'Connor's Child, and Stanzas on Battle of Alexandria.-James Montgomery's Wanderer of SwitzerlandWest Indies-World before the Flood-Greenland-Pelican Island-and Lyrics.-Extracts, The Sky of the South-Prayer.-The legitimate aims of poetry. The use and abuse of genius.
COMMON to every human heart there is a certain class of emotions, the expressions of which "turn as they leave the lips to song;" and hence the primitive form of poetry in the ballad. It is also to be remarked, that throughout all countries the themes of these ballads are the same "Ladye love, and war, renown, and knightly worth."
So large a portion even of the poetry of Homer takes this shape, that it has been seized upon as a leading feature in the controversy regarding the unity of the authorship of the "Iliad" and "Odyssey"—a controversy first started by Scaliger in his "Poetics," and afterwards followed out by Wolf in his "Prologomena;" and many of these separate gems of narrative were by Dr Maginn-who at same time repudiated the heresydisjoined from the context, and translated under the
PRIMITIVE FORM OF POETRY IN THE BALLAD.
title of "Homeric Ballads."
Mr Macaulay thinks it highly probable that the traditionary legends of primitive Rome also existed in the same popular form, and hence their reappearance, under his plastic touch, in the "Ancient Lays." It has been the same *" from Zembla to the line;" for, among others, Davis, in his "Researches," mentions those of the Chinese; Sir William Jones, the Persian and Arabic; Leyden, the Malay and Sanscrit; Weber and Jamieson present the Swedish, German, and Danish; Herbert, the Icelandic and Norse; Bowring, the Russian, Polish, and Hungarian; Lockhart and Frere, the Spanish; Percy, Ellis, and Ritson, the English; Hailes, Scott, Motherwell, and Robert Chambers, the Scottish.
In every case these songs and ballads are valuable, not only as poetical, but as historical records. They show the idiosyncrasies of a people-the habits, customs, and manners, which "long wont" has metamorphosed almost into a second nature; and the peculiarities and circumstances which have gone towards the formation of national character at different times in particular regions of the world.
To them Scotland in some measure owes its greatest poet, in so far at least as determining the bent of his genius was concerned; for it was while listening with rapt ear to the stirring or plaintive minstrelsies of the Border districts that the fire of song awakened in the young heart of Walter Scott; and his first great appearance was in presenting these traditionary stores in a collected form to the world, accompanied by imitations of their style and manner, so accurate and striking as at once to prove the close study he had given them, and the depth of that impression which the originals had made on his feelings and fancy. In many of these strange wild fragments and relics, there is a pathos and a sublimity which, we are not ashamed to confess, constrain our thoughts into those lacuna-those profound
ANCIENT BORDER BALLADS.
hidden recesses of man's nature and condition-far more effectually than ever was achieved by more artistic strains. Their charm lies in their intense nature-the only intense or earnest school I am inclined to recognise; now by their pathos awakening feelings too deep for tears as in "The Flowers of the Forest" and “Ellen of Kirkconnel;" and now by their dauntless and heroic outbursts, dirling the heart-strings like the martial tir-a-la of a trumpet-as in "The Battle of Otterburn" and "The Douglas Tragedy;" giving, as it were, an assurance of inspiration, and almost realising the magical attributes of Kilspindie the Harper, or of Orpheus of old, or of the Syrens three, "amid the flowery-kirtled Naiades." To add to the interest of all this, the authors, even in name and whereabouts, have utterly perished and passed away, and their lays come to our ears like the bodiless voice of Cona-Eolian sounds circling the misty mountain-tops, or murmuring through the pastoral valleys-unclaimed relics floating down the stream of time, like drift-wood to the ocean.
At this shrine Scott kindled the torch of his genius, and set himself in earnest to work out scenes of interest, and images of beauty and power, from the warblings of scalds, and bards, and troubadours, and minnesingersin short, from the vast mass of materials which were open to him in the hitherto almost unappropriated and rich vast quarry of the feudal system; and the first grand result came forth in "The Lay of the Last Minstrel❞—a poem which at once took public opinion by storm, and distanced, utterly distanced, all competition in the race of popularity. Whiteheads, Pyes, Hooles, Hayleys, Darwins, and Sewards, were at a coup swept from the literary theatre stage, like the unoccupied chairs and shifting scenes, and we were called in at once to witness the death and burial of Boileau and French criticism. "The strain now heard was of a higher mood;" it was one of freedom and freshness and force.
THE LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL.
By a wave of his wand, the magician repeopled his country with the burghers of the past-regarrisoned each time-worn castle with helmet and spear, and buffjerkin-reawoke the melodious choir in each grey crumbling abbey-and gave back to Night her ghost, her witch, and her fairy,-in whose mystic presence Scott hesitated not to say of the most stalwart knight, Sir William of Deloraine-of one who feared not the face of man-that
somewhat was he chilled with dread,
And the hair did bristle upon his head."
In short, the only analogy to the sweeping current of his verse is to be found in his own description of a stream swollen by autumnal rains, which
Down from the mountains did roaring come;
Like the mane of a chestnut steed."
In energy and originality, and in affluence of thought and matter, "The Lay" takes the lead, in excellence as in priority of appearance, of all Scott's other great works. In it he is like a man who has opened up a rich vein of gold and precious metal, and is prodigally lavish of the treasures around him-the first digger in a newly-discovered California. It is not only fine in passages, but gorgeously rich through all its parts. His figures have the bold outline and ornate costume of Vandyke; while his landscapes combine the freshness of Gainsborough, and the picturesqueness of Turner, with the massy shadows of Thomson of Duddingstone. As if the subject in hand was not enough, each canto opens, by way of voluntary, with a burst so vigorous and fresh as can only be likened to the luxury of vegetation on the first digging over of a fertile virgin soil; and the description of Melrose Abbey by moonlight-the apostrophe to love-the comparison of the Teviot to