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Alas! what mystic changes mark
Our pilgrimage below!
The gleams of pleasure glow,
Beneath the night of woe!
We learn not why the lustre dies,
Nor why the darkness spreads ; For oft on Penury's wintry skies
The soul its sun-light sheds ; While wreaths that Fortune's votaries prize
Are placed on aching heads.
And e'en fair Virtue's holy spell
Not always here avails !
How oft her magic fails,
And hideous gloom prevails.
And what we hear, or what we see,
And what we think, or feel ; As dream-like as the clouds
be That through the twilight steal ! Oh, God! each mortal mystery,
Thou only canst reveal !
AN INDIAN DAY.
Lo! Morning wakes upon the grey hill's brow, ,
And wave his verdant wreath,-a lustre pale
The silver rays, insufferably bright,
The dead repose, the Moslem's hands illume
MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH.
The Elegiac Sonnets of Mrs. Charlotte Smith were once very popular compositions. I lately returned to them with a pleasurable feeling, for as I had not read them since my boyhood, when they seemed productions of extraordinary beauty, I was curious to discover the nature of the change that years and more extensive reading had effected in my taste. It is sufficiently remarkable how the same reader will sometimes fluctuate, at intervals, in his literary fancies; but the fickleness of the public mind is still more surprising. How many once popular writers are now despised or forgotten, while some who were formerly neglected are regarded with idolatry! With respect to the particular case of Charlotte Smith, I confess that my individual opinion has corresponded to a considerable extent with the variation of the general judgment; and the verses that seemed very exquisite poetry to my boyish taste, make a very different impression upon me now. Her poems, ran through numerous and large editions on their first appearance, and it is curious to trace, in various contemporary publications, the respect with which they were treated by some of the first critics of her time*. Cowper, who was assuredly no mean judge of poetical excellence, speaks of her "charming Sonnetst.” It is true
• The Gentleman's Magazine (of that day) gravely observed, that “it is trifling praise for Mrs. Smith's Sonnets to pronounce them superior to Shakspeare's and Milton's.”
+ Mathias, the author of the Pursuits of Literature, thus alludes to her in one of the notes to that work :—“Mrs. Charlotte Smith has great poetical powers, and a pathos which commands attention." Sir Egerton Brydges, in the second edition of his Censura Literaria, speaks of her poetry in the following terms :"There is so much unaffected elegance ; so much harmony and pathos in it; the images are so soothing and so delightful ; and the sentiments so touching, so con, sonant to the best movements of the heart, that no reader of pure taste can grow weary of perusing them.” In an article on Chalmers's English Poets (apparently by Southey) in the Quarterly Review, No. 23, it is observed that “Charlotte Smith's descriptions, whether in prose or verse, have always the charm of well-selected truth."
that he also thought the frigid Hayley a poet, but at one period his taste would have been called in question if he had esteemed him less. The "Triumphs of Temper” did not try the temper of our ancestors, but was really, for a considerable period, a very popular performance. But Cowper himself was one of those who commenced the grand revolution in our poetical literature which brought such writers as his friends Hayley and Mrs. Smith into comparative contempt, and who first taught us by precept and example that English verse was capable of great improvement, notwithstanding what was long considered the actual perfection of Pope. I do not mean to fall into the too common injustice of those who think it necessary, when they admire the greater freedom and variety of the present systems of versification, to deny all merit to poetry of a different order. I am not exclusive in my taste, and can read alternately such poets as Coleridge and Pope with a disposition to enjoy and appreciate their very opposite and peculiar excellencies both of style and matter. The dreaminess, the profound intensity, and the subtle and mystical harmonies of the one, need not render us insensible to the terseness, the wit and energy, and the less elaborate, though more precise music of the other. The great facility with which Pope's manner was imitated by his followers was one cause of the decline of his popularity ; for when it was found that every poetaster had got his tune by heart, the public grew sick of the repetition, and soon thought less respectfully of what at first was a marvel and a luxury. In this re-action of taste, the great poetical idol of his time is now as much depreciated as he was formerly over-rated; and it seems by many critics to be utterly forgotten, that Pope's chief excellence is by no means dependent on the mere sound of his couplets. His works not only teem with wit and wisdom, expressed with wonderful felicity and precision, but display some of those finer and more ethereal qualities that ought long ago to have settled the idle question of, whether he was a true poet or merely a clever writer in verse. His Rape of the Lock, and several descriptive passages in the Windsor Forest, afford indisputable evidence that he possessed a fancy at once delicate and prolific, and that he could "look on nature with a poet's eye." If Pope had lived in later times, he would probably have been a very different kind of poet, and have attended more to the culture and development of his imagination. It was formerly the fashion to regard poets as mere “ men of wit about town,” but they are now expected to be at once fanciful and profound. People at last begin to make a distinction between verse and poetry, and cleverness and genius. Mere talent in a poem is no longer respected as it used to be, for there is now a general love of poetry for its own sake, and readers look less for smart and pointed passages of shrewd sense and satire, than for thoughts and words steeped in the hues of imagination. The consequence is that a much higher and more ethereal tone pervades the poetry of the day; and readers, accustomed to strains of loftier mood, turn with something like disgust from the verses that charmed them in their earlier years. The old common-places of poetry no longer deceive us, and the artificial expressions in which many writers of mere verse once enveloped their sickly sentimentalities, and thus passed upon the world for poets, are now utterly discarded ; and if an author's style be not fresh and natural, he is not endured. Even Pope himself indulged too much in the use of epithets that were nothing more than sounding expletives, that became the more disgusting from their eternal repetition by his servile herd of imitators.
The lady, to whose Sonnets I must now return, deals very liberally in the old fashioned diction, and in that querulous egotism and fantastic melancholy which were common to all her contemporary Sonneteers. According to their notions, to be truly poetical it was necessary to be sad, and the whole world was to be informed of their affliction. Anna Seward is severely witty on Mrs. Smith's Sonnets. " Never,” she says, “ were poetical whipt syllabubs in