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(Extracted from a MS. letter of the BARON VON LAUERWINKEL.)
productions with a severer eye, and to satisfy ourselves that he is by no means a great one.
To tell you the truth, had Mr Moore been a Frenchman or an Italian, nay. I am sorry to say it, had he been born a countryman of my ownhad similar pretensions been preferred in favour of similar productions among any other European people,—I know not that I should have been inclined to weigh them so scrupulously, or perhaps justified in rejecting them so decidedly. It is the belief of the most orthodox divines, that the guilt of a careless Christian is greater than that of an ignorant Heathen, even although the offences of the two men may have been externally and apparently alike.
THE manner in which you express
Of him to whom much is given the more shall be required." I must do justice to your country, even although it should be at the expense of your favourite. The English poet who fails to be held great, chiefly because he chooses not to be pure, falls a splendid sacrifice before the altar to which he has brought an unacceptable offering. Even genius will not save him; and yet the highest genius will do much. We listen with sorrow to the pernicious sophisms, and gloomy despondings, which deform and darken the native majesty of Byron; but hope and trust are mingled with our sorrow, and we cannot suppose it would be less than blasphemy to despair of such a spirit. In Moore the redeeming power is less. He possesses not, whatever his nobler brother may do, the charm which might privilege A
him to pass through the fire and be unsinged.
But the genius of a poet is estimated by every man according to his own private feeling, and it may therefore be as well to lay it for a moment out of the question.-Since the publication of Lalla Rookh, the admirers of Moore have chosen to talk as if his genius were of the first order, and yourself, I observe, are of the same way of thinking. On this point we are not likely to agree. But however wavering may be the standard of some of the late admirers of Mr Moore, I well know that you at least will have no objections to try the MORALITY of any poet by the only standard which is unchanging and unerring. If you find that the elements of his elegant compositions are essentially and hopelessly impure, you will have no hesitation in agreeing with me, that, whatever his original genius may have been, the use to which he has applied it has taken from him all right to the place, or the communion, of the great poets of England. That man must think lightly and erringly, who doubts the eternal union of the highest intellect with the highest virtue. I doubt not that I shall speedily bring you to be of the same mind with myself, respecting the tendency of Mr Moore's performances; and if you do so, you will, in the sequel, have less difficulty in embracing my opinion concerning its inspiration also.
Of the early productions, by which the name of this poet was rendered notorious, I shall say nothing. He himself professes to be ashamed of them, and I doubt not the sincerity of his professions. He is, moreover, sufficiently punished by their existence. The poison which he has once mingled he cannot spill. The muse which he has profaned asserts her privilege even in her degradation. The sculptor or the painter may destroy his work, or, if it has parted from his hands, it may be veiled by its possessor; but the impure poet has roused a demon which he has no spell to lay. The foul spirit has received wings with its evocation, and the unhappy sorcerer is doomed, wherever he may go, to hear their infernal flap, and tread on the vestiges of their blighting. Year after year may pass, and repentance may sit in the place of vice,
**But tears which wash out guilt can't wash out shame;"
and Mr Moore, when he is stretched upon the bed of death, will understand what it was that troubled, with a tenfold pang, the last agonies of Rochester.
It had been well, however, if, when Mr Moore learned to despise himself for gross impurity, he had not stopped half-way in his reformation. It had been well, that instead of lopping off the most prominent branches, he had torn up the roots also, and for ever withered the juices of his tree of evil. Did he imagine that the harlot would purify her nature by the assumption of a veil, or that his ideas would be remembered with impunity, only because his words might be recited without a blush? His muse has abused the passport which hypocrisy or self-ignorance procured her; and they who adopt the sentiments of the bard of the Melodies and Lalla Rookh, although indeed they need not be confounded with the disciples of Little, must remain for ever unworthy and incapable of understanding or enjoying those pure and noble thoughts, which form the brightest ornament of their productions, with whom Mr Moore would fain have himself to be associated. The whole strain of his music is pitched upon too low a key. If he never sinks into absolute pollution, neither dares he for a moment rise to the true sublime of purity. He writes for women chiefly, and woman is at all times his principal topic. How strange that he should never have been able to flatter his audience by dignifying his theme! How strange, that he who seems to understand so well every minor, superficial, transitory charm, should manifest so total a blindness to the only charm which is deep and enduring-to that of which all the rest are but the images and shadows-to that for which no luxury compensates, and no passion can atone. I have heard your fair countrywomen warbling the words of Moore; and from their lips what can appear unclean? But in the retirement of the closet, and deprived of the protection of their purity, the words were "weighed in the balance and found wanting." The sinless creatures that utter them cannot understand their meaning. I do not wish to say that their meaning is any thing positively, expressly, necessarily bad. It is enough for my purpose that it is not positively and necessarily good. The
Epicurean tinge is diffused over the whole. The beautiful garlands which these chaste fingers handle have been gathered in the garden of the Sybarites. They should not twist them into their innocent locks-there is phrenzy in their odours.
One of the chief distinctions between the poets of ancient and those of modern times, consists in the wide difference which may be observed in their modes of representing the character and influence of the female sex; and in no one point perhaps is the superiority so visibly on the side of the moderns. Of those modern poets, nevertheless, who have been contented with the praises of gayety, sprightliness, invention, and spontaneously disavowed every claim to the highest honours of their art, not a few have, from vice or affectation, dared, in scorn of their destiny, to revive in their strains the discarded impurity of their predecessors. It will be understood, that I refer not to casual or superficial impurities merely, but to those which imply a complete and radical pollution of all ideas concerning the nature of the softer sex-a degradation of the abstract conception of their character, and of the purposes for which they have been created. This corruption has entered into the composition of no poetry more deeply and essentially than into that of Moore. He never for a moment contemplates them but with the eye of a sensualist. He has no capacity to understand such a character as Imogen or Una. The smiles of which he loves to warble, are not those of the "Unblenched Majesty" which Milton worshipped. Their nature is sufficiently betrayed by the company in which he places them. Listen to the words which he has pla
In adopting the sentiments of ancient poets concerning women, he has widely erred. It is, however, a sad aggravation of his offence, that, among a set of authors, who are all impure, he has selected, for the models of his special imitation, those in whose productions the common stain is foulest. It is needless to say any thing of Anacreon, or of the perverse ingenuity which Mr Moore exhibited in exaggerating the corruption of that which was already abundantly impure-in taking away from the lewd verses of the Teian that simplicity of language and figure which formed the only offset to the pollution of their ideas. If one may judge either from the text, or from the notes even of Mr Moore's latest publications, the chief of his antique favourites are such men as Aristophanes, Catullus, Ovid, Martial, Petronius, and Lucian. In truth, he is totally unacquainted with the true spirit of ancient poetry, and admires and borrows exactly the worst things about that which he would profess to study with an intelligent delight.
The flattering ideas which Mr Moore has embraced concerning the measure of his own powers, are betrayed by the attempt which he has openly made to compete with the genius of Lord Byron in the choice of some of his scenes and subjects. But, notwithstanding the absurd eulogies of some of your reviewers, Mr Moore's Eastern Poetry has not, I perceive, taken any hold of the English mind; and this should be sufficient to convince that gentleman of his mistake. The radical inferiority of Mr Moore is abundantly visible even in that respect where, with sorrow do I speak it, it might least have been expected to appear. Lord Byron has done wrong in choosing to repre
for even death, that awful moment in whose contemplation nature and religion teach the purest to tremble, is represented by this songster as the scene of calm and contented reminiscencies of sensual delights-exactly as if the mighty change were nothing more than a revolution of corporeal atoms, as if there were no soul to wing an eternal flight from the lips of the departed.
ced in the mouth of a dying poet-sent woman at all times as she exists in those countries where her character is degraded by the prevalence of polygamy. But he has in some measure atoned for this error. He has at least made her as noble as she could be in such a situation. He has poured around her every dignity which she could there be imagined to possess, and ascribed to her every power and influence which she could there enjoy: nay, by the preference with which he has uniformly represented her as receiving those who mingle with their love the chivalry of Christendom, he has at least insinuated what her rights
"When in death I shall calm recline,
Oh carry my heart to my mistress dear: Tell her it lived upon smiles and wine
All the time that it lingered here."
are, and vindicated the conscious nobility of her nature. Mr Moore has brought into the haram no such reliques of the truth. In his lays the Sultana of the East betrays no lurking aspirations after a purer destiny ;
Cœlum non animum mutat qui trans mare currit ;
in Dublin, London, Bermuda, Khorassan, Mr Moore sees nothing in a woman but an amiable plaything or a capricious slave.
I have enlarged upon this poet's manner of representing women, not because in that point alone he falls below the standard by which the great poets of your country must be contented to be tried, but because it is one on which every reflecting man must at once agree with me, while, in regard to many other points, I could not calculate upon quite so speedy an acquiescence. But as it is said in the Scripture, that "he who breaks one of the commandments has offended against them all," so it may very safely be admitted, that the poet who betrays impurity and degradation of conception in respect to one point of moral feeling, can never be truly pure and lofty in regard to any other. In every man's system there is some consistency; and Mr Moore is a man of so much acuteness, that he could not fail soon to perceive and amend one solitary fault. When he discovers not the inky spot, there is proof abundant that darkness is around him.
the gay spirits of a single city are not permanently to dictate the decision of a generous nation; that the pureminded matrons and high-spirited men of Ireland will pause ere they authorise the world to seek the reflection of their character in the gaudy impurities and tinsel Jacobinism of this deluded poet. The truth is, that I am by no means apprehensive of seeing the "Green Isle" debase herself by making common cause with Mr Moore. Before any man can become the poet of a nation, he must do something very different from what has either been accomplished or promised in any of his productions. He. must identify his own spirit with that of his people, by embodying in his verse those habitual and peculiar thoughts which constitute the essence of their nationality. I myself have never been in Ireland; but I strongly suspect that Moore has been silent with respect to every part of her nationality except the name. Let us compare him for a moment with one whose position in many circumstances resembled his, and whose works have certainly obtained that power to which his aspire. Let us compare the poet whose songs have been so effectually embalmed in the heart of Scotland, with him who hopes to possess, in that of Ireland, a mausoleum no less august.
There are few things more worthy of being studied, either in their character or in their effects, than the poems of Robert Burns. This man, born and bred a peasant, was taught, like all other Scotsmen, to read his Bible, and learned by heart, in his infancy, the heroic ballads of his nation. Amidst the solitary occupations of his rural labours, the soul of the ploughman fed itself with high thoughts of patriotism and religion, and with that happy instinct which is the best prerogative of genius, he divined every thing that was necessary for being the poet of his country. The men of his nation, high and low, are educated men; meditative in their spirit, proud in their recollections, steady in their patriotism, and devout in their faith. At the time, however, when he appeared, the completion of their political union with a greater and wealthier kingdom, and the splendid success which had crowned their efforts in adding to the general literature of Britain-but above all, the chilling nature of the merely
Whatever the measure of his power may be, that man is unworthy to be a national poet, whose standard of moral purity and mental elevation falls below that of the people to which he would have his inspirations minister. It is the chief part of Mr Moore's ambition to be received as the national bard of his own island; and I observe, that on a late occasion, a very numerous and respectable body of his countrymen assembled to express, in his presence, their admission of his claims. No one can be less inclined than I am to speak harshly of an elegant, accomplished, and, in his own person, virtuous man; but I must say, that I should be very sorry to think so meanly of Ireland, as to imagine her deserving of no better poetry than Mr Moore can furnish. The land which can look upon the principles of his poetry as worthy of her, cannot herself be worthy of its genius. I trust that