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they have not always acknowledged it; sometimes it was but a dim confused perception of the truth which they obtained; being dazzled by the blaze of their own genius, they have mistaken that for a divine effluence, and worshipped it in the place of that greater glory, of which it was but a faint reflex and emanation. Sometimes it was pride of intellect which forbade them to bow down to any other God than that which bore the impress of self: sometimes it was a kind of pantheistic worship of nature, as an abstract divinity; so enamoured were they of the fair face of creation, that they forgot the Creator; the works, how beautiful! how perfect! But the workman, what of Him? We have spoken in the past tense, and it might be thought that our remarks were meant to apply to poets of pagan lands, and of benighted ages of the world's history; but alas! they are equally applicable to all ages, and to all lands; and especially to our own country and age of christian enlightenment. Many of the most gifted singers of the present day, of the most fervent and devoted spirits, might have served as high-priests in the temple of Apollo, and offered adoration at the shrine of Flora, Ceres, and the Bona Dea, and other pagan impersonifications of the sun, and the earth, with its beauties and riches. To such as these the flowers, those stars of earth, are not the living, glowing, breathing “charactery"
in which the Almighty writes instructive lessons of His wisdom and goodness, telling the sick, the weary, and the sad at heart, that
“Whoso careth for the flowers
Will care much more for them.”
To such the stars, those flowers of heaven, are not bright revelations of the Deity who sustains and directs them in their courses.
“For ever singing as they shine,
The hand that made us is divine."
To such the whispering gales, the rustling boughs, the humming insects, the singing rills, and the warbling birds, speak not of an ever watchful, ever wakeful Power, to which in every emergency the prayerful soul may turn. Calm and soothing as is doubtless the influence of nature, upon the troubled souls of all who submit themselves to her gentle teachings, yet with how much greater satisfaction and delight must those contemplate her beauties and share her calm enjoyments, who see in her various changes and aspects but so many revelations of Almighty love, and read in her fair lineaments the wondrous story of redeeming grace.
“Alas! that mankind sees Him not,--the Great
as J. Stanyan Bigg, the latest, but not the least, of the true poets of the present cycle, has finely said. We must give another extract from his “Night and the Soul,” published too late for quotation in the body of our volume:
“Nature is still, as ever, the thin veil
This is high and holy teaching. Well were it if every mere nature-worshipper could be brought to the same conviction as the poet of “Night and the Soul,” and confess that,
“Religion is the true Philosophy!
The soul upon its knees holds God by the hand.
"I do believe!” how few are there among the gifted children of song, who can stoop from the lofty heights of intellectual glory, to utter this confession of the insufficiency of human reason, the littleness of human power.—
“Stoop, stoop, proud man! the gate of heaven is low,
God and His attributes are undoubtedly the poet's noblest themes, and to celebrate the greatness and glory of His works, the wonders of His power, and the riches of His grace, have the highest efforts of human genius in all ages been directed. From the time when Moses sung his song of triumph as the waters closed over Pharoah and his host, when the Prophets uttered their rapt predictions, and the inspired Psalmist sent forth those strains of supplication and thanksgiving which are still sounding daily in our ears, and stirring our hearts to devotion, down to the period when Milton wrote his great epic
“Of man's first disobedience and the fruit
has the lyre been consecrated to the service of religion—has religious poetry been the most beautiful and touching, as well as the most lofty and sublime of all poetry. As Dr. Caunter well observes, “The noblest epics which have elicited the poetic genius of different countries, have been based upon subjects either immediately connected with, or remotely allied to, religion. The authors of the Mahabarat and the Ramayana, two Hindoo epics of high celebrity and extraordinary magnitude, extending each to several hundred thousand lines, of the Iliad and the Odyssey, of the Inferno, of the Jerusalem Delivered, of the Paradise Lost and Regained, have, either directly or consequentially, all made the Deity and His illimitable perfections, the subjects of their immortal song.”
And so it is; every true poet is essentially a religious poet; his religion may not be Christianity, his views of the divine nature and attributes may be distorted, and he may be altogether ignorant of