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Imitation, of Extension,-of Personification,-of Combination, &c.?

Do not the pleasures of imagination enable the mind to indulge its delight in aspiring to perfection?

In regions mild of calm and serene air,
Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,

Which men call earth, and with low thoughted care
Confined, and pestered in this pinfold here,

Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being, &c.

Do not the pleasures of imagination enable the mind to indulge its love of the invisible, and its creative powers?

There is a spirit within us, which arrays
The thing we dote upon with colourings
Richer than roses-brighter than the beams
Of the clear sun at morning, when he flings
His shower of light upon the peach, or plays
With the green leaves of June, and strives to dart
Into some great forest's heart,
And scare the Sylvan from voluptuous dreams.



The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn.



Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
Far sunken from the healthy breath of morn,
Far from the fiery noon, and eve's one star,
Sat gray-hair'd Saturn, quiet as a stone,
Still as the silence round about his lair;
Forest on forest hung about his head

Like cloud on cloud. No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer's day
Robs not one light seed from the feather'd grass,
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.

It is a stormy night, and the wild sea,
That sounds for ever, now upon the beach
Is pouring all its power. Each after each,
The hurrying waves cry out rejoicingly,


And, crowding onwards, seem as they would reach
The height I tread upon. The winds are high,
And the quick lightnings shoot along the sky,
At intervals. It is an hour to teach
Vain man his insignificance;
and yet,
Though all the elements in their might have met,
At every pause comes ringing on my ear
A sterner murmur, and I seem to hear
The voice of Silence, sounding from her throne
Of darkness mightier than all-but all alone-


Two voices are there; one is of the sea,
One of the mountains; each a mighty voice:
In both from age to age thou didst rejoice,
They were thy chosen music, liberty!
There came a tyrant and with holy glee
Thou fought'st against him; but hast vainly striven:
Thou from thy Alpine holds at length art driven,
Where not a torrent murmur's heard by thee.
Of one deep bliss thine ear hath been bereft :
Then cleave, O cleave to that which still is left;
For high soul'd maid, what sorrow would it be
That mountain floods should thunder as before,
And ocean bellow from his rocky shore,
And neither awful voice be heard by thee!


Does Fiction exceed Reality?



Bacon, speaking of Magic, says, Surely he shall not much err, who shall say, that this kind of magic is as far differing in truth of nature, from such a knowledge as we require, as the Books of the Jests of Arthur of Britain, or of Hugh of Burdeaux, differs from Cæsar's Commentaries in truth of story. For it is manifest, that Cæsar did greater things de vero,' than they durst feign of their Heroes; but he did them not in that fabulous manner." And, in his Novum Organum, Art. 87, after having mentioned various vain imaginations, he says, "The truth is, there seems to be the same difference in the doctrines of philosophy, between these vanities, and the real arts; as there is between the historical narrations of the exploits of Julius Cæsar, or Alexander the Great, and the achievements of Amadis de Gaul, or Arthur of Britain. For those celebrated emperors are found, in fact, to have accomplished greater things, than the other shadowy heroes are even feigned to have done; and yet this by such means as are no way fabulous or monstrous.'


William Wordsworth, in his preface to the Lyrical Ballads, "Whatever portion of this faculty we may suppose even the greatest poet to possess, there cannot be a doubt but that the language which it will suggest to him, must, in liveliness and truth, fall far short of that which is uttered by men in real life, under the actual pressure of those passions, certain shadows of which the Poet thus produces, or feels to be produced, in himself."


In a modern novel there is the following passage:"Were a thousandth part of the living romances of the time to be given to the world, those inventions which have staggered credulity would be pronounced tame and insipid, and all would declare what every one can vouch from his own experience, that romance is the mere commonplace of life, and, like some of the general phenomena of nature, is incredible only to those who do not examine into that which forms the very essence of their own being."

Which are the greatest, the pleasures of imagination or of reality?

In the address to the reader in the Sylva Sylvarum, Bacon thus concludes: "This work of Natural History is the world, as God made it, and not as men have made it, for it hath nothing of imagination."

That there are pleasures of imagination, who can doubt? Who can think, without delight, of the Lady in Comus, or of Ariel?

Where the bee sucks, there suck I,
In a cowslip's bell I lie.

So far from doubting the existence of these pleasures, it is obvious that they are so intense, as, without the greatest caution, to absorb and mislead the mind.



"Great pleasures," says Philosophy, are only for extraordinary occasions." May I," says the old maxim, "be wise enough to write one poem, and wise enough not to write more than one."

I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy

The sleepless soul that perished in his pride :
Of him who walked in glory and in joy,

Following his plough along the mountain side.
By our own spirits we are deified:

We poets, in our youth, begin in gladness,

But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.


The question, therefore, is not whether there are pleasures of imagination, or whether these pleasures, when properly

directed, that is when they are real, are not exquisite, but whether, when excessive or erroneous, they are not exceeded by the real delights of the same nature for which they are substituted.

Are not the delights of true more exquisite than the delights of false religion, of the Christian than of the Turk? Are not the delights of real affection and love more exquisite than all such delights conceived by imagination? Take any specimen of imaginary love, and contrast it with reality. Take, for instance, the milkmaid's song from Marlowe :

We will sit upon the rocks,

And see the shepherds feed our flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses,
And twine a thousand fragrant posies:
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs.

Contrast this with the description of real affection:

For five campaigns

Did my sweet Lucy know
Each hardship and each toil
We soldiers undergo.
Nor ever did she murmur,
Or at her fate repine,
She thought not of her sorrow,
But how to lessen mine:
In hunger, or hard marching,
Whate'er the ill might be,
In her I found a friend,

Who ne'er deserted me:
And in my tent when wounded,
And when I sickening lay,
Oft from my brow, with trembling hand,
She wiped the damps away.

And when this heart, my Lucy,
Shall cease to beat for thee, &c.

Can this reality be contrasted with the fiction from Marlowe, without acknowledging the truth of Sir W. Raleigh's


Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

What should we talk of dainties then,
Of better meat than's fit for men?
These are but vain, that's only good,
Which God has blest, and sent for food.

Again, let any imagination exceed the grief of a family as described in the following verse from an old song:

"His mother from the window look'd,

With all the longings of a mother—
His little sister, weeping, walk'd

The green wood path to meet her brother.
They sought him east, they sought him west,
They sought him all the forest thorough;
They only saw the cloud of night,

They only heard the roar of Yarrow!"

Take again the pleasures of kindness. We all remember the account in the beginning of Tom Jones, of Mr. Allworthy's return from London, when he retired much fatigued to his chamber. 66 Here, having spent some minutes on his knees, a custom which he never broke through on any account, he was preparing to step into bed, when, upon opening the clothes, to his great surprise, he beheld an infant, wrapt up in some coarse linen, in a sweet and profound sleep, between his sheets." The servants were summoned. When Mrs. Deborah came into the room, and was acquainted by her master with the finding the little infant, her consternation was rather greater than his had been; nor could she refrain from crying out, with great horror of accent as well as look, " My good sir! what's to be done? If I might be so bold as to give my advice, I would have it put in a basket, and sent out and laid at the churchwarden's door. It is a good night, only a little rainy and windy; and, if it was well wrapt up, and put in a warm basket, it is two to one but it lives till it is found in the morning.' Mr. Allworthy had now got one of his fingers into the infant's hand, which by its gentle pressure seeming to implore his assistance, out-pleaded the eloquence of Mrs. Deborah.

Let any imaginary pleasure of kindness be contrasted with this; or if this be supposed imaginary, take the following extract from an account published some years since by a person who, at midnight, was intrusted in London with a respite for two men, who were to be executed in the country, at the distance of sixty miles, the next morning at eight o'clock. He says, "The horse-guards' clock struck eleven as I entered Whitehall; before twelve o'clock I, with the respite in my


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