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spend an evening in a manner which is both gratifying and Instructive, derive an impulse to engage in similar employments in their own homes. Still, there is something more than all this. I want you all to aim at such a degree of eultivation as would influence your daily life. And it seems to me that a right view of poetry, and a thorough knowledge of the best poets, would have this effect. observe, I say a right view of poetry. There are great mistakes made on this subject. Some people have very weak, sickly, sentimental, namby-pambyish views of poetry. They indulge a love of it which, I fear, I must designate by the term “mawkish.” Others, again, are extravagantly transcendental. They admire on the principle that all things are wonderful which they cannot understand. Their raptures are in precise proportion to the vagueness, and mysticism, and incomprehensibility of the authors they take up. Such views appear to me to be highly unfavourable to-if not utterly incompatible with—the practical influences I am here this evening to recommend." If poetical taste is to act on the events and duties of common life, it must be sound, strong, vigorous, masculine, and healthy. It must be formed, not by rhymes chiefly, not by mere musical cadence, not by exalted rhapsodies, but by the highest literature you can obtain, whether it be called prose or poetry ; by a study of the heart of things, rather than their surface; and, above all, by a profound and ins flexible reverence for truth. The application of this taste can scarcely begin too early. I know few better examples of it than that of a little child, taught by his mother poetry suited to his age. Always assuming that there is tro drudgery in the case—that the child is as willing to learn as the moth is to teach, without which little can be done always assuming this, great may be the good. Tales in verse, simple ballads, stories of animals, praises of stars, and flowers, and seasons, all tend first to put the feelings of children in a good direction, and then, working into their minds, lead to the formation of principles.
A very important part of the moral culture of the young, is found in the intelligent use of hymns. Even when they are first committed to memory, they have more power than is generally supposed, in maintaining pure Thoughts and gentle affections. But it is in after-life, when good hymns are recalled and repeated in times of trial;
power for sorrow, weariness, solitude, and temptation, that they prove of inestimable value. It is when, before the sleepless, troubled, careworn man, there is a sweet vision of the mother who called him to her knee in childhood, and heard his simple aspirations after goodness, and explained to him, as well as she was able, all that he had been saying--it is then that this kind of poetical taste is proved to be extremely precious. And so after childhood has passed into a kind of dreamy youth. How prone are all young people with imaginative and cultivated minds to delight in song! How large a number find what they consider their most appropriate mental nutriment either in books of poetry or in vocal music! Some orator once said in the House of Commons_“I care not who writes books or preaches sermons for the people—let me have the making of their ballads !” And certain it is, that whether the young pore silently over the authors they most delight in, or listen to charming songs at social parties, they are influenced for good or evil, to a great extent, by what so deeply interests them. Not to dwell upon the obvious fact that the mind grows upon what it chiefly likes, it would be easy to mention many songs of all kinds-sentimental, sorrowful, patriotic, joyous, comic—which linger in the memory, so as to be reproduced at critical times with great interest and pleasure. While some have cheered the mourner's heart, others have given an impulse to the brave and good. Every traveller in Catholic countries has been delighted by the simple melodies of the pilgrims whom he has met thus solacing their weary way; and every historian of battle-fields has written of the grand old songs which have nerved armies for their fearful struggle. What can be grander than Campbell's
Ye mariners of England,
That guard our native seas,
The battle and the breeze !
To match another foe,
While the stormy winds do blow,
And the stormy tempests blow.
It would be strange if our daily life were not affected by poetry, because that has been the theme of all great poets. Go back to the earliest and most sublime in the strains of Hebrew bards and prophets, and you will find no subject more frequently dwelt upon. With the “blind old man of Scio's rocky isle,” the passions of those who contended in war, were the favourite topic—the revenge that brought discord into the camp--the ambition that spared neither sex nor age. Virgil delighted in describing pastoral lifehow shepherds literally piped their songs as they tended their flocks and herds ; though, in a later age, when Rome had become corrupt as well as great, he sang “Arms and the Man.” Dante looked on the world from a religious point of view. He saw it as one to whom the final judgment was a present reality, finding his poetic spirit at home in regions where mortal foot has never trod-higher than heaven, deeper than hell. Tasso sang of the Crusades ; Spenser of the age of chivalry ; Chaucer of the faults of the priesthood, and various diversities of character; Milton of the logical subtleties, such as the origin of evil, and the conflicts of angels of various grades; and Shakespere !-it would be difficult to say what he did not sing of—so much more than is dreamt of in our philosophy. But they were all true to the human life of their respective times. In our own day, this topic has been made the subject of a distinct poem-rather pretty and rather common-place. If you
read Rogers's “Pleasures of Memory,” you fancy you hear a peal of bells from every page: they ring merrily at the birth of the hero ; they ring when he comes of age ; they ring, of course, at his marriage, and at the birth of his firstborn. If at length they toll for the gentleman at his funeral, it does not make us very sorry.
Another writer who has enlisted far greater sympathy in modern times, is Mrs. Hemans; and is not this because she so constantly stirs the depths of the human heart by dealing with the varied realities of life? Who can read such pieces as “The Spells of Home,” “The Graves of the Martyrs," “Our Daily Patlıs,” “The Things that Change,” « The World in the Open Air,” and “The Songs of our Fathers”—who can read any of these, and not find the current of his thoughts and feelings permanently improved ? But it is well to do more than read such pieces. There is great wisdom in committing them to memory.
come back to us at times when they prove instruciive and consolatory beyond the power of expression. To my friends of the working classes I would recommend warmly some of the poetry of Ebenezer Elliott, known as “The Com Law Rhymer.” There may be many things in his volumes savouring too strongly of the violent political struggles of his time, but for pictures of human life in the cottage, the workshop, the village circle, the great temple of na ture-who can compare with lim ? Here are some lines he wrote on unexpectedly seeing a new church, as he was: walking with a friend on a Sunday in Old Park Wood, near Sheffield:
I wondered, far beneath me to behold
side by side, how soon their dust may lie !
Like a tired angel sleeping on its wings. The power of poetical taste is never more fully shown than when it produces an effect like this. You are taking a walk through scenes familiar or altogether new-it does not matter which—and you see an object that appeals to te imagination. The train of thought which had pres, viously existed in the mind is at once displaced for another suggested by that object, and including, in its beautiful and glorious range, things visible and invisible, the living and the dead, some of the sweetest and holiest feelings of our nature. True it is that few, very few, could conceive 80 exquisite an idea as we find in the last four lines:-
Whene'er I pass a grave with moss o’ergrown,
No—we are not privileged to conceive original ideas like these; but in the mind imbued-thoroughly imbued with the true poetical taste which I hope it is the object of these Readings to cultivate, ideas will arise of no common or profitless character. Undoubtedly there are certain objects and certain seasons more favourable than others to call forth dormant faculties. The bursting spring, the glorious summer, the golden autumn, and the sombre winter, each has its peculiar attraction for individual minds; but it is possible to be independent of them all. Even when the eye is no longer privileged to behold the sky, with its daily and nightly beauty-with its wonderful and glorious variety of stars and planets, of grey clond, and bright cloud, and golden cloud, and deep delicious blue; when the ear can no longer listen, while day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge; when other pages of the book of Nature, her flowers, and groves, and landscapes, her rivers, and oceans, and everlasting hills, are all, to the outward sense, a blank;-even then the power of poetic taste may be yet a practical, a vigorous, and a blessed power. It will be possible to say then
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