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From his watch-tower in the skies,
Meadows trim with daisies pied,
Such was the sensibility of that great man to the gentle, every day beauties of rural life, and it fills us with astonishment at the universality of his genius, which could turn from this visible, diurnal sphere, and create in the unfathomable regions of perpetual darkness, the sublimely terrifie abstractions of Sin and Death.
In the more ardent temperament of Byron, this love of nature assumed a still more intense and passionate form. His description of the thunder storm by night among the Alps and over the lake of Geneva, has perhaps for thrilling intensity of feeling never been equalled.
"All heaven and earth are still-though not in sleep,
All is concenter'd in a life intense,
But hath a part of being, and a sense
“Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt
Binding all things with beauty;—'t would disarm The spectre Death, had he substantial power to harm.
“The sky is changed!—and such a change! Oh night,
mountain now hath found a tongue, And Jura answers, through her misty shroud, Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!
“And this is in the night:-most glorious night!
And now again 't is black,
-and now, the glee Of the loud hills shakes with its mountain-mirth, As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth.”
No where perhaps, in all literature, is the deep sympathy of the human heart with the beauty and sublimity of nature so vividly expressed as in this most memorable description.
Finally, I come to speak on that which is the main subject of this lecture, the immediate moral influence of poetry.
Poetry is the grand expositor of the moral and religious nature of man.
All true poets are to a greater or less extent preachers of righteousness, and often when they least intend it. They utter the true voices of universal humanity. They give utterance in clearest and most definite expression to those moral convictions, which are God's primitive law written upon the heart. The soul of every man that is born into the world has a feeling of the nobleness and the glory of virtue. It has the consciousness that it was made for virtue. It has as deep a sense of the meanness and the degradation of vice. These sentiments no personal misconduct can ever change. No man despises and abhors the sinner so much as he does himself. And no man has a heartier admiration for virtue than the habitual transgressor. It follows then, that the moral sentiments of good and bad men are the same. It follows likewise, that no flower of spring, no tint of the evening sky, can appear more beautiful to the eye, than moral loveliness and purity do to the mind. Mountain or ocean is not more sublime than incorruptible integrity, unconquerable fidelity, heroic courage in defence of truth and honor, than that self sacrificing love that is stronger than death. All these qualities are in the highest degree poetic, and the poet if he speak at all, must sing their praise. Whilst he is setting them forth in that exalted eloquence in which it is his prerogative to speak, he is stimulated in his task by the consciousness that he is uttering the sentiments of all mankind, and will meet a response in every human heart.