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ing itself from other feelings, like religious enthusiasm, it becomes wild, and not unfrequently makes him whom it inspires a scourge and burden to himself and the world. We may see the effect of thus dislodging poetry from the ground on which it ought to stand, and making it a passion instead of a pleasure, in certain late and living poets. They keep within themselves, in a hermit seclusion, where they have no judgment but their own, to correct the errors of their taste. Thus Wordsworth believes himself breathing out the very soul of poetry, when the world looks upon him as a giant engaged in an infant's play. Thus Byron thought himself expressing his daring independence of common prejudice, when he was repeating the most common dialect of vulgar sensuality; and his less known companion, Shelly, a man of fine natural powers, imagined that he asserted the sovereignty of genius, by defying religion and God. Unlike these, Mrs Barbauld was rational in poetry as well as religion. Her poetical genius, as well as her religious feeling, delighted in the relations of life. It gave a tender, but not unnatural coloring to all her thoughts. Sometimes, at long intervals, it shone out to the world; but its principal effect was on herself. It threw its cheering radiance on the beginning of her way, and its farewell beams were cast on the dark mountains at her journey's end.
We doubt whether many poets would be contented with this praise of being rational. It may be thought to exclude the idea of possessing excellence of the first order. But we do not allow this. Her poetry, if not sublime, was often very elevated in its character. She never forced her talent. Her genius and inclination were never at variance. Her taste led her to the selection of subjects, which did not afford room for much display of grandeur, but she gave evidence enough that she possessed the power of being great. This is the case with her poem, 'Remorse,' which is executed throughout with the bold and free hand of a master; but we think there is something more nearly approaching to sublimity in her pathetic references to the unfortunate king. In general, she had no great respect for this portion of the human race, and deprived herself of many poetical subjects by her contempt for the banditti of conquerors, and such as the world calls great. She would not join in the curses, not loud but deep, of suffering humanity; nor would she add laurels to dieir glory. But her sovereign became an object of increased respect, when he was miserable and fallen. We give several of her lines on the death of the Princess Charlotte.
'Yet one there is
Who midst this general burst of grief, remains
To untaught infancy. Yet, O forbear!
Nor deem him hard of heart; for awful, struck
By Heaven's severest visitation, sad,
Like a scathed oak amidst the forest trees,
Lonely he stands ;—leaves bud, and shoot, and fall;
He holds no sympathy with living nature,
Or time's incessant change. Then in this hour,
While pensive thought is busy with the woes
And restless change of poor humanity,
Think then, O think of him, and breathe one prayer,
From the full tide of sorrow spare one tear
For him who does not weep!' Vol. 1. p. 197-8.
A splendid poetical figure, which will give a good idea of the grandeur of her imagination, may be found in her eloquent 'Address to the Opposers of the Repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts.' She is speaking of the effect of oppression to hasten its own destruction, and thus describes the gigantic movements of reform.
'The minds of men are in movement from the Borysthenes to the Atlantic. Agitated with new and strong emotions, they swell and heave beneath oppression, as the seas within the polar circle, when at the approach of spring, they grow impatient to burst their icy chains; when what but an instant before seemed so firm—spread for many a dreary league like a floor of solid marble, at once with a tremendous noise gives way, long fissures spread in every direction, and the air resounds with the clash of floating fragments, which every hour are broken from the mass.' The genius of Philosophy is walking abroad, and with the touch of Ithuriel's spear is trying the establishments of the earth. The various forms of Prejudice, Superstition, and Servility start up in their true shapes, which had long imposed upon the world under^the revered semblances of Honour, Faith, and Loyalty. Whatever is loose must be shaken, whatever is corrupted must be lopt away; whatever is not built on the broad basis of public utility must be thrown to the ground. Obscure murmurs gather, and swell into a tempest; the spirit of Inquiry, like a severe and searching wind, penetrates every part of the great body politic; and whatever is unsound, whatever is infirm, shrinks at the visitation. Liberty, here with the lifted crosier in her hand, and the crucifix conspicuous on her breast; there, led by Philosophy, and crowned with the civic wreath, animates men to assert their long-forgotten rights.' Vol. 2. p. 253-4.
If thereMs not poetry in this, we know not what deserves the name. Imagination of this kind, however, is not the distinguishing feature of her poetry. Powerful as this faculty was in her, it seems to have been controlled by a still more vigorous understanding, which sometimes led her to reasoning instead of fancy. The reality, which in her comprehensive view attached itself to circumstances, and near or distant results that every one could not see, was enough for her; and we consequently find that in describing the duties and dangers of her country, she labored with a feeling which no imagination could heighten. When she beheld the strong contrast of her excellence and corruption, her virtues and vices, her glory and shame, and saw the result which might soon follow, she wept as a daughter of England should have done, for herself and for her children.
We will give an instance of the graceful lightness with which she would draw a moral from any subject; it is in the closing lines of' the Baby-house,' addressed to a child.
'But think not, Agatha, you own
Mrs Barbauld's Works. 309Through eras of uncounted time ;—
Its use if asked, 't is only said,
A Baby-house to lodge the dead.
Nor less beneath more genial skies
The domes of pomp and folly rise,
Whose sun through diamond windows streams,
While gems and gold reflect his beams;
Where tapestry clothes the storied wall,
And fountains spout and waters fall;
The peasant faints beneath his load,
Nor tastes the grain his hands have sowed,
While scarce a nation's wealth avails
To raise thy Baby-house, Versailles.
And Baby-houses oft appear
On British ground, of prince or peer;
Awhile their stately heads they raise,
The admiring traveller stops to gaze;
He looks again—where are they now?
Gone to the hammer or the plough:
Then trees, the pride of ages, fall,
And naked stands the pictured wall;
And treasured coins from distant lands
Must feel the touch of sordid hands;
And gems, of classic stores the boast,
Fall to the cry of—Who bids most?
Then do not, Agatha, repine,
That cheaper Baby-house is thine.' Vol. 1. p. 201-2.
From this it appears that, as we have already remarked, she could please without putting forth her strength; and such was her contented indifference to fame, that she only sought to gratify her friends with airy descriptions, new and unexpected relations, playful strokes of satire and lively portraits of character.
In the lighter efforts of which we are speaking, the reader will not wish that she had done more. She is eminently successful and happy in all. She always writes with perfect freedom, subject however, though without constraint, to the severest and purest taste. Her hymns are an example of this. It was bold to venture on ground where so few have ever triumphed, and so many have fallen; where the monuments of failure are so numerous, that those who enter it seem paralysed at the thought of their own adventurousness. But her hymns are admirable. It would be an insult to any reader to quote the fine one beginning, 'Come, said Jesus' sacred voice.' Here as well as in others, she has maintained the exact tone of inspiration, plaintive, tender, and commanding. Perhaps we are wrong in placing this and her 'Address to the Deity' under the head of her lighter efforts. Of that noble performance we may say, that we have read it again and again with increasing admiration and delight. It is the pouring forth of a fervent and exalted soul, kindled, but not mastered, by the greatness of its own conceptions, in language warm and glowing enough to have fallen from the seraph's burning tongue.
One circumstance, which shows that her poetry was not meant for display, is, that she discovers in the mass of it but little familiarity with nature. It forms no striking trait in her writings, as it certainly did in her character; and yet, who that has read, and who has not? her Hymns in Prose for Children, will doubt her quick and ready perception of every natural beauty? We take this opportunity of expressing our gratitude for that invaluable present to the young, to which we doubt not thousands look back as the source of much happiness and devotion. Never was this Angel of the Young more honorably engaged than in this labor, by which the whole field of nature was for the first time opened to the infant's eye, and combined with the eloquence of the simple story and the music of the plaintive hymn, to give early, delightful, and lasting religious impressions to the youthful heart. Her regarding poetry as she did, gives the reason of our finding so little of the pathetic in her writings. Not that they are destitute of it; but more might have been expected from her, if verse were the channel in which her feelings had been used to flow. There is much feeling in the lines in which she laments the lost companion of many years, and something affecting in the idea of his being thus released from the agony of shedding tears for her. The many allusions to her desolate condition, when left a ruin in the world, whence most that she loved had departed, are very impressive, particularly the comparison of herself to a schoolboy, left by his happy companions, who have all returned to their homes, while he wanders listlessly about the vacant halls and scenes of his former pleasure. At first it seems unsuited to the subject; but after all there is no better image to express the solitude of old age, and the forced and heartless pleasures with which the last years of existence are whiled away. Most of her poetry is like the piece we just