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sometimes to yield to the notion that our modern days are unpoetic, and that the sphere of imagination has been contracted by the influences of later times. But when this half century shall be looked back to from a distance, the judgment of posterity cannot but be that it was distinguished by great poetic fertility and power—a period that has produced many elaborate poems of a high order, and a large amount of such minor poetry, as may be seen, when such poetry is good, shining in modest beauty in the same sky with the larger luminaries. Considering the number of poets who have been successful in their appropriate spheres, the amount, the variety, and the merit of the poetry which the nineteenth century has already given to English literature, it may be more fitly compared with the Elizabethan age, rich as it was in the company of poets, than with any other period of our language. Indeed it

may

be added, that one cause of literary power in our times is to be discovered in this, that never before has there been such dutiful zeal for the revival and restoration of the elder literature; never before has that literature been so carefully and reverently studied. The best criticism on Shakspeare, on Spenser, on Milton, is that which this century has produced; and within the same time has there been the most earnest desire to promote the study of Bacon and the great divines.

In attempting to group, with reference to time, the poets of the present century—the poets of our own timessome curious considerations at once present themselves. It is now more than a quarter of a century since the death of Byron and of Shelley, both poets of a younger generation than Wordsworth; and we begin to think of them as belonging to past times, while the elder poet survives, now in his eightieth year. But what is more remarkable, there are living two poets, who were known as poets when Wordsworth was a youth-Bowles and Rogers, each on the verge of fourscore and ten. It seems scarcely credible that there should be living now a poet (I refer to Mr. Rogers) whose first poem was published sixty-four years ago, in 1786, fourteen years before the death of Cowper, (whom he has survived half a century,) and within a twelvemonth after the publication of the Task.* A subsequent poem of Rogers, "The Pleasures of Memory,” a subject of universal interest agreeably presented, established his reputation, and was no doubt the prompting of Campbell's poem on "Hope.” Rogers' higher poetic power is, however, to be found in a later work, which, appearing at a time when new poets had gained the public ear, never attained the same popularity as his earlier poem, which was more fortunate in its time. From the poem-I allude to the "Italy"-I am tempted to cite one passage for the sake of the fine picture it gives of an occurence of which I made a passing mention in a former lecture—the interview of Galileo and Milton:

“Nearer we hail
Thy sunny slope, Arcetri, sung of old
For its green vine, dearer to me, to most,
As dwelt on by that great astronomer,
Seven years a prisoner at the city-gate;
Let in but in his grave-clothes. Sacred be
His cottage, (justly was it called the Jewel,)
Sacred the vineyard, where while yet his sight
Glimmer'd, at blush of dawn, he dress'd his vines,
Chaunting aloud in gayety of heart

* This was written in 1850, and now, in 1855, this aged poet still lives, the survivor of him who thus spoke of him. W. B. R.

Some verse of Ariosto. There, unseen,
In manly beauty, Milton stood before him,
Gazing with reverent awe, Milton his guest,
Just then come forth, all life and enterprise ;
He in his old age and extremity,
Blind, at noonday exploring with his staff,
His eyes upturned as to the golden sun,
His eyeballs idly rolling. Little then
Did Galileo think whom he bade welcome,
That in his hand he held the hand of one
Who could requite him, who would spread his name
O'er lands and seas; great as himself, nay greater:
Milton, as little, that in him he saw,
As in a glass, what he himself should be;
Destined so soon to fall on evil days
And evil tongues; so soon, alas ! to live
In darkness, and with dangers compassed round,
And solitude."*

Of the other aged poet, William Lisle Bowles, who has survived so many of his brother bards, I can only remark, in so cursory a survey of the contemporary literature as this must be, that Coleridge acknowledged a deep obligation to his poems-a tribute which in itself is proof of some beauty and power in them.

The most decided and marked influence of a contemporary production is that which is known to have been exerted by Coleridge's Christabel-an influence that may be traced on the genius of Scott, Shelley, and Byron. It was an influence that Scott acknowledged with all his characteristic frankness, and Byron too, though with more reserve, for it was not his habit to acknowledge or perhaps to recognise such influences.

« Christabel” was circulated in manuscript many years before it was published; and, recited among the poets, it made, especially on their minds, an impression that proved an agency of poetic inspiration to them. Mr. Lockhart tells us that the casual recitation of “ Christabel” in Scott's presence so“ fixed the music of that noble fragment in his memory,” that it prompted the production of the “Lay of the Last Minstrel.”*

* Italy, p. 115.

It was a great lesson to the poets, in that it disclosed an unknown, or at least forgotten, freedom and power in English versification—a music the echoes of which are to be heard in the poems both of Scott and Byron. The grandeur of its imagery, too, moved the poets to whom it was made known, as in that sublime and familiar passage on a broken friendship:

“They stood aloof, the scars remaining,

Like cliffs which had been rent asunder;
A dreary sea now flows between;

But neither heat, nor frost, nor thunder,
Shall wholly do away, ween,

The marks of that which once hath been." “Christabel” proved its influence over the poetry that followed, by the power with which both the natural and the supernatural were imaged in it; in the latter respect, particularly, Scott felt the power of the poem. There is probably nothing finer of its kind in poetry than those passages which tell of the wicked might of witchcraft in the

eye of the witch, who has assumed a beautiful human form: it is first felt as Christabel passes with her by the nearly extinct embers on the hall-hearth:

“They pass the ball that echoes still,
Pass as lightly as you will!
The brands were flat, the brands were dying,
Amid their own white ashes lying;

* Lockhart's Scott, vol. ii. p. 210.

But when the lady passed, there came
A tongue of light, a fit of flame;
And Christabel saw the lady's eye,
And nothing else saw she thereby,
Save the boss of the shield of Sir Leoline tall,

Which hung in a murky old niche in the wall.” And in that other passage, which shows the magic might of witchcraft in the witch's eye as she fascinates her mute victim with it, the shrinking up of the eye, the sudden dilation again when the look of innocence is counterfeited once more, and Christabel's unconscious imitation of the serpent-look that fascinated and appalled her :

“A snake's small eye blinks dull and shy,
And the lady's eyes they shrunk in her head-
Each shrank up to a serpent's eye;
And with somewhat of malice, and more of dread,
At Christabel she looked askance!
One moment--and the sight was fled !
But Christabel in dizzy trance,
Stumbling on the unsteady ground;
Shuddered aloud, with a hissing sound.
And Geraldine again turned round;
And like a thing that sought relief,
Full of wonder and full of grief,
She rolled her large bright eyes divine
Wildly on Sir Leoline.

The maid, alas! her thoughts are.gone;
She nothing sees—no sight but one !
The maid devoid of guile and sin,
I know not how, in fearful wise,
So deeply had she drunken in
That look, those shrunken serpent eyes,
That all her features were resigned
To this sole image in her mind;
And passively did imitate
That look of dull and treacherous hate !

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