« 上一頁繼續 »
Poetry then, is the natural language of the moral, the intellectual, the spiritual, and religious nature of man. Reason and the moral sense, though constituent elements of man, are but a small part of his nature. They are intended to guide and direct him. But there must be something in him impulsive as well as directive, otherwise he would remain forever at rest. There are the affections, which knit our hearts to our natural connexions, to home and country. There are the passions, those hopes which naturally spring up in our minds with the consciousness of virtue, and those fears which are the natural offspring of ill desert. Then there are the sentiments, reverence for the unseen Power upon which we depend, enthusiasm for the true and the just, admiration for courage, fortitude and magnanimity. There is within us a tender and undying sympathy with human nature, a susceptibility to pleasure in the contemplation of beauty, whether in nature or art, an awe for that mysterious Holiness which seems to brood over and pervade the universe. There are besides, pleasures of the imagination. The memory, or the bare conception of these realities,
brings to us a sort of reflection, like the second rainbow, a milder degree of these original pleasures. Here then is the wide and beautiful domain of poetry, to express and thus to awaken the passions; to give utterance to the sentiments, and thus to refine and exalt them; to call into exercise, and thus strengthen the sympathies, to point out and delineate beauty, to call up from the buried treasures of the past the stores of memory and imagination,—this is the high and glorious office of poetry, for which it has claimed and received in all ages, the highest homage of the human heart.
The first sentiment which called poetry into being was patriotism. I ought perhaps, rather to call it an affection, for it is too strong a feeling to rank with the fainter emotions which are denominated sentiments. Few of us ever become fully aware of the strength of those ties which bind our hearts to our country. There are occasions, however, which bring it out, and show us that it dwells in the very centre of our being. We live in an age of comparative peace. We love it for its own sake, and for the advantages it brings. We abhor the scenes of carnage and blood, of violence and plunder, which war never fails to occasion. We live, moreover, under the mild reign of the Prince of Peace. Nay, we form peace societies, and meet together and talk with rapture of a universal millenium. But let us hear that one of our fellow citizens has been wronged, or falsely imprisoned by the public authorities of a foreign nation, let us hear that our flag has been insulted or our territory invaded, and the blood boils in our veins, a spirit rises within us that nothing can repress. The ignoble advantages of trade and gain are flung to the winds as nothing worth, blood and treasure weigh but as the small dust of the balance, and the cry
of war rolls like thunder from one end of the continent to the other.
If you would know the depth of the sentiment of patriotism, go travel in a foreign land, journey on day after day, week after week, and see nothing but strange men, and stranger manners, costumes, and habits. You come at length in sight of a noble city. Your eye wanders in admiration and delight over its spires, it towers, its battlements and fortifications, till at last among the groves of masts which people its harbor, it catches a
glimpse of the star spangled banner, in whose folds float the honor, the majesty, and the power
of your country. Your tongue is motionless, but your streaming eyes and heaving bosom will tell more eloquently than words how much you love your country.
It was this deep and overpowering sentiment that first found utterance through poetry. The first song, of which we have any record, was chaunted upon the shores of the Red Sea, after a great national deliver
Standing as the Hebrews did in safety, and surveying the sea through which they had passed, covered with the wrecks of their enemies, human nature could not keep silence. The voice of joy and gratitude broke forth, and it spoke in poetry.
"And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances, and Miriam answered them,"
""Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously, The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.”
Or as another poetess of our own times has rendered it into modern verse;
“Sound the loud timbrel o’er Egypt's dark sea, Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free."
At a later period Hebrew patriotism spake once more through poetry, but it was in another strain. It was when the glorious ages of the nation were over, and had become a tale of other times. It was when the daughter of Zion, plucked up from her native seats, was borne away into captivity. It was when she paused in her journey to slavery, and with streaming hair and dust upon her head sat down by the rivers of Babylon.
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, Yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst
thereof; For they that carried us away captive required of
us a song, And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion,
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
In the same manner it was patriotism that first kindled poetry among the Greeks. It