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ROBERT POLLOK was born in 1799, at Eaglesham, in Renfrewshire, -where his parents were occupied in agricultural pursuits. He gave early promise of the ability for which he was afterwards dis. tinguished, and his friends determined to educate him for the church. He was accordingly entered at the University of Glasgow, where he applied himself with ardour to the study of theology; but had scarcely commenced the exercise of his professional duties, when his health became so seriously impaired, that a visit to the south of Europe was recommended as the only means of preserving his life. In August, 1827, he quitted Scotland, and proceeded to Southampton, with a view of embarking for Italy. His malady, however, continued to increase, and in the September of that year he died, at Shirley common. His early death is to be lamented; for probably a wider intercourse with mankind would not only have matured his natural talents, but would have produced a healthier state of mind as well as body. “ Retired in voluntary loneliness," he saw only that which is cheerless in Nature, and depressing in Religion :
“To pleasure deaf,
And weariness, and wasted health." Soon after the death of the writer, his poem, " the Course of Time," attracted very general attention. He had previously published two stories in prose, “ Ralph Gemmel,” a tale for youth, and " the Persecuted Family," a narrative of the sufferings of the Presbyterians, during the reign of Charles the Second. He was, how. ever, beyond the influence of criticism, when his book became largely the subject of it. It has been highly lauded, we think too highly; and find it difficult to account for the popularity it has obtained. The poem is in blank verse; and is nearly as long as the “ Paradise Lost.” Its aspect is, therefore, uninviting; yet that it has been extensively read cannot be doubted, -several editions having from time to time appeared. If we may not describe the author as of a sickly mind, we perceive abundant proof that he was of a diseased constitution. He arrays religion in dark robes,
and considers it unnecessary to portray her features as both gentle and beautiful. * Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” The Poet, however, exerts himself to show how rugged he can render the one, and how gloomy he can make the other. His volume, from beginning to end, is an awful picture of wrath and vengeance ; it contains little to cheer, and nothing to gladden ; and would tempt the reader to imagine that man was created only to be tormented.
Such is unhappily too much the mode with Poets who occupy themselves with the treatment of sacred subjects. Instead of striving to direct and control, they labour either to subdue or crush the natural sensations and desires of man. They, therefore, clip the wings of their own fancy: and, if they soar, it is with the pain. ful flutter of a wounded bird. Religious poetry is, for the most part, prejudicial to the cause it professes to advocate. influence the head; but it rarely touches the heart. Men are drawn from low thoughts and vicious habits, far less by fear than persuasion. If Religion be in “ gorgon terrors clad," and "circled with a vengeful band," the effect produced must be unnatural and transitory. The Poets, therefore, who so introduce, never recommend it. Such a course is to be deprecated the more, because the very opposite is so accessible. The best auxiliaries to piety are abundant throughout Nature ; the themes that most readily present themselves to the Poet are those which, by the surest and safest way, lead the heart to virtue,—and they are all graceful, and beautiful, and cheerful. There are, undoubtedly, many glorious exceptions to the rule we have ventured to lay down: but we believe they are not to be found among writers who have exclusively de. voted themselves to the treatment of Religion, in verse. Religion, therefore, is deprived of one of its most powerful and effective advocates. It is made most influential, indeed, by those who are indirectly its supporters—who describe natural objects, and excite love as well as veneration, by leading the mind through Nature up to Nature's God;" the meanest flower that blows” has been made to teach a lesson ; and he best instructs the reason, and directs the heart, who finds
“Good in every thing."
THE COURSE OF TIME.
Hail, holy love! thou word that sums all bliss,
Eternal, ever-growing, happy love! Enduring all, hoping, forgiving all; Instead of law, fulfilling every law: Entirely blest, because thou seek'st no more, Hopest not, nor fear'st; but on the present livest, And hold’st perfection smiling in thy arms.
And now, descending from the bowers of Heaven, Soft airs o'er all the earth, spreading, were heard, And hallelujahs sweet, the harmony Of righteous souls that came to re-possess Their long-neglected bodies; and, anon, Upon the ear fell horribly the sound Of cursing, and the yells of damned despair, Uttered by felon spirits that the trump Had summoned from the burning glooms of hell, To put their bodies on, reserved for wo.
Now, starting up among the living changed, Appeared innumerous the risen dead. Each particle of dust was claimed: the turf, For ages trod beneath the careless foot Of men, rose, organized in human form; The monumental stones were rolled away; The doors of death were opened; and in the dark And loathsome vault, and silent charnel house, Moving, were heard the mouldered bones that sought Their proper place. Instinctive, every soul Flew to its clayey part: from grass-grown mould, The nameless spirit took its ashes up, Reanimate; and, merging from beneath The flattered marble, undistinguished rose The great, nor heeded once the lavish rhyme, And costly pomp of sculptured garnish vain. The Memphian mummy, that from age to age, Descending, bought and sold a thousand times, In hall of curious antiquary stowed, Wrapped in mysterious weeds, the wondrous theme Of many an erring tale, shook off its rags; And the brown son of Egypt stood beside The European, his la t purchaser. In vale remote, the hermit rose, surprised At crowds that rose around him, where he thought His slumbers had been single; and the bard, Who fondly covenanted with his friend, To lay his bones beneath the sighing bough Of some old lonely tree, rising, was pressed By multitudes that claimed their proper dust From the same spot; and he, that richly hearsed, With gloomy garniture of purchased wo, Embalmed, in princely sepulchre was laid, Apart from vulgar men, built nicely round
And round by the proud heir, who blushed to think
The family tomb, to whose devouring mouth Descended sire and son, age
age, In long, unbroken, hereditary line, Poured forth, at once, the ancient father rude, And all his offspring of a thousand years. Refreshed from sweet repose, awoke the man Of charitable life,-awoke and sung : And from his prison house, slowly and sad, As if unsatisfied with holding near Communion with the earth, the miser drew His carcase forth, and knashed his teeth, and howled, Unsolaced by his gold and silver then. From simple stone in lonely wilderness, That hoary lay, o'erletter'd by the hand Of oft-frequenting pilgrim, who had taught The willow-tree to weep, at morn and even, Over the sacred spot,—the martyr saint, To song of seraph harp, triumphant rose, Well pleased that he had suffered to the death. “ The cloud capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,” As sung the bard by Nature's hand anointed, In whose capacious giant numbers rolled The passions of old Time, fell lumbering down. All cities fell, and every work of man, And
gave their portion forth of human dust, Touched by the mortal finger of decay. Tree, herb, and flower, and every fowl of heaven, And fish, and animal—the wild and tamem Forthwith dissolving, crumbled into dust.