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LESSON LXXXVIII.

Spring.-DENNIE. “Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing, it is for the eyes to be

hold the sun."-Ecclesiastes, xi. 7. The sensitive Gray, in a frank letter to his friend West, assures him that, when the sun grows warm enough to tempt him from the fire-side, he will, like all other things, be the better for his influence; for the sun is an old friend, and an excellent nurse. This is an opinion, which will be easily entertained by every one, who has been cramped by the icy hand of Winter, and who feels the gay and renovating influence of Spring. In those mournful months, when vegetables and animals are alike coërced by cold, man is tributary to the howling storm and the sullen sky; and is, in the pathetic phrase of Johnson, a "slave to gloom." But when the earth is disencumbered of her load of

snows, and warmth is felt, and twittering swallows are heard, he is again joc'und and free. Nature renews her charter to her sons, and rejoicing mortals, in the striking language of the poet, “revisit light, and feel its sovereign, vital lamp.” Hence is enjoyed, in the highest luxury,

"Day, and the sweet approach of even, and morn,
And sight of vernal bloom, and summer's rose,

And flocks, and herds, and human face divine.” It is nearly impossible for me to convey to my readers an idea of the " vernal delight,” felt, at this period, by the Lay Preacher, far declined in the vale of years. My spectral figure, pinched by the rude gripe of January, becomes as thin as that “dagger of lath,” employed by the vaunting Falstaff; and my mind, affected by the universal desolation of Winter, is nearly as vacant of joy and bright ideas, as the forest is of leaves, and the grove is of song.

Fortunately for my happiness, this is only periodical spleen. Though, in the bitter months, surveying my extenuated body, I exclaim, with the melancholy prophet, “My leanness, my leanness, wo unto me!” and though, adverting to the state of my mind, I behold it, “all in a robe of darkest grain ;" yet, when April and May reign in sweet vicissitude, I give, like Horace, care to the winds; and perceive the whole system excited, by the potent stimulus of sunshine.

An āncient bard, of the happiest descriptive powers, and who noted objects, not only with the eye of a poet, but with

66

at the

the accuracy of a philosopher, says, in a short poem, devoted to the praises of mirth, that

"Young and old come forth to play,

On a sunshine holiday.” In merry Spring-time, not only birds, but melancholic, old fellows, like myself, sing. The sun is the poet's, the invalid's, and the hypochon'driac's friend. Under clement skies, and genial sunshine, not only the body is corroborated, but the mind is vivified, and the heart becomes

open as day.” I

may be considered fanciful in the assertion, but I am positive that many, who, in November, December, January, February, and March, read nothing but Mandeville, Rochefoucault,* and Hobbes, and cherish malignant thoughts, expense

of

poor human nature, abjure their evil books and sour theories, when a softer season succeeds. I have, myself, in Winter, felt hostile to those, whom I could smile upon in May, and clasp to my bosom in June. Our moral qualities, as well as natural objects, are affected by physical laws; and I can easily conceive that benevolence, no less than the sun flower; flourishes and expands under the luminary of day.

With unaffected earnestness, I hope that none of my readers will look upon the agreeable visitation of the sun, at this beauteous season, as the impertinent call of a crabbed monitor, or an impor'tunate dun. I hope that none will churlishly tell him “ how they hate his beams.” I am credi. bly informed that several of my city friends, many fine ladies, and the worshipful society of loungers, consider the early call of the above red-faced personage, as downright intrusion. It must be confessed that he is fond of prying into chambers and closets, but, not like a rude searcher, or libertine gallant', for injurious or licentious purposes. His designs are beneficent, and he is one of the warmest friends in the world.

Notwithstanding his looks are sometimes a little suspicious, and he presents himself with the fiery eye and flushed cheek of a jolly toper, yet this is only a new proof of the fallacy of physiognomy,f for he is the most regular being in the universe. He keeps admirable hours, and is steady, diligent and punctual to a proverb. Conscious of his shining merit, and dazzled by his regal glory, I must rigidly inhibit all from attempting to exclude his person.

I caution + Pron. fizh-e-og'-no-mě.

*Prom. Rösh-foo-.

sluggards to abstain from the use of shutters, curtains, and all other villarious modes of insulting my ardent friend. My little garden, my only support, and myself, are equally the object of his care, and were it not for the constant loan of his great lamp, I could not always see to write

THE LAY PREACHER.

LESSON LXXXIX.

Extract from A Critical Dissertation on the Poems of

Ossian.' - BLAIR. Besides human personages, divine or supernatural agents are often introduced into epic poetry; forming what is called the machinery of it; which most critics hold to be an essential part. The marvellous, it must be admitted, has always a great charm for the bulk of readers.

It gratifies the imagination, and affords room for striking and sublime description.

No wonder, therefore, that all poets should have a strong propensity towards it.

But I must observe, that nothing is more difficult, than to adjust properly the marvellous with the probable. If a poet sacrifice* probability, and fill his work with extravagant supernatural scenes, he spreads over it an appearance of romance' and childish fiction ; he transports his readers from this world, into a fantastic, visionary region ; and loses that weight and dignity which should reign in epic poetry. No work, from which probability is altogether banished, can make a lasting or deep impression. Human actions and manners, are always the most interesting objects which can be presented to a human mind.

All machinery, therefore, is faulty which withdraws these too much from view; or obscures them under a cloud of incredible fictions. Besides being temperately employed, machinery ought always to have some foundation in popular belief. A poet is by no means at liberty to invent what system of the marvellous he pleases : He must avail himself either of the religious faith, or the superstitious credulity, of the country wherein he lives; so as to give an air of probability to events which are most contrary to the common course of nature.

In these respects, Ossian appears to me to have been remarkably happy. He has indeed followed the

same

* Pron, sac'-re-fize.

course with Homer. For it is perfectly absurd to imagine, as some critics have done, that Homer's mythology was invented by him, in consequence of profound reflections on the benefit it would yield to poetry. Homer was no such refining genius. He found the traditionary stories on which he built his Iliad, mingled with popular légends, concerning the intervention of the gods; and he adopted these, because they amused the fancy.

Ossian, in like manner, found the tales of his country full of ghosts and spirits : It is likely he believed them himself; and he introduced them, because they gave

his
poems

that solemn and marvellous cast, which suited his genius. This was the only machinery he could employ with propriety; because it was the only intervention of supernatural beings, which agreed with the common belief of the country. It was happy ; because it did not interfere, in the least, with the proper display of human characters and actions ; because it had less of the incredible, than most other kinds of poetical machinery; and because it served to diversify the scene, and to heighten the subject by an awful grandeur, which is the great design of machinery

As Ossian's mythology is peculiar to himself, and makes a considerable figure in his other poems, as well as in Fingal, it may be proper to make some observations on it, independent of its subserviency to epic composition. It turns for the most part on the appearances of departed spirits.

These, consonantly to the notions of every rude age, are represented not as purely immaterial, but as thin airy forms, which can be visible or invisible at pleasure; their voice is feeble; their arm is weak; but they are endowed with knowledge more than human. In a separate state, they retain the same dispositions which animated them in this life. They ride on the wind; they bend their airy bows; and pursue deer formed of clouds. The ghosts of departed bards continue to sing. The ghosts of departed heroes frequent the fields of their former fame. They rest together in their caves, and talk of mortal men. are of other worlds. They come sometimes to the ear of rest, and raise their feeble voice.”

All this presents to us much the same set of ideas, concerning spirits, as we find in the eleventh book of the Od'yssey, where Ulysses visits the regions of the dead : And in the twenty-third book of the Iliad, the ghost of Patroclus, after appearing to Achilles, vanishes precisely like

Their songs

one of Ossian's, emitting a shrill, feeble cry, and melting away like smoke.

But though Homer's and Ossian's ideas concerning ghosts were of the same nature, we cannot but observe that Ossian's ghosts are drawn with much stronger and livelier colors than those of Homer. Ossian describes ghosts with all the particularity of one who had seen and conversed with them, and whose imagination was full of the impression they had left upon it. Crugal's ghost, in particular, in the beginning of the second book of Fingal, may vie with any appearance of this kind, described by any epic or tragic poet whatever.

Most poets would have contented themselves with telling us, that he resembled, in every particular, the living Crugal; that his form and dress were the same, only his face more pale and sad; and that he bore the mark of the wound by which he fell. But Ossian sets before our eyes a spirit from the invisible world, distinguished by all those features, which a strong astonished imagination would give to a ghost. “ A dark red stream of fire comes down from the hill. Crugal sat upon the beam ; he that lately fell by the hand of Swaran, striving in the battle of heroes. His face is like the beam of the setting moon. His robes are of the clouds of the hill. His eyes are like two decaying flames. Dark is the wound of his breast. The stars dim. twinkled through his form ; and his voice was like the sound of a distant stream.”

The circumstance of the stors being beheld, “ dim-twinkling through his form," is wonderfully picturesque; and conveys the most lively impression of his thin and shadowy substance. The attitude in which he is afterwards placed, and the speech put into his mouth, are full of that solemn and awful sublimity, which suits the subject. “Dim, and in tears, he stood and stretched his pale hand over the hero. Faintly he raised his feeble voice, like the gale of the reedy Lego. My ghost, 0 Connal! is on my native hills; but my corse is on the sands of Ullin. Thou shalt never talk with Crugal, or find his love steps in the heath. I am light as the blast of Cromla; and I move like the shadow of mist. Connal, son of Colgar! I see the dark cloud of death. It hovers over the plains of Lenna. The sons of green Erin shall fall.

Remove from the field of ghosts. Like the darkened moon he retired in the midst of the whistling blast.”

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