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• Thou shalt sing by night,
With a thought that tastes of pain.' After all, we have great doubts as to the longevity of these poems, for they want much of the essence of immortality, Truth; and this is not the fault of Nature, which has showered many liberal gifts on the poet, but of his own perversity. Yet we acknowlege so much beauty and power in these compositions, that we should be very willing to be conyinced of the injustice of the surmise which we have intimated.
Art. X. Poems descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery. By John Clare, a Northamptonshire Peasant. 12mo.
pp. 222. 59. 60. Boards. Taylor and Hessey. 1820. A DEEP and intimate knowlege of the character and capa
bilities of the subject, and a profound sense of its effects on the heart, are the essential ingredients of poetic power; and, compared with these qualities, expression, and propriety of diction, though in themselves extremely important, are of secondary consideration. The mind of the true poet immediately acknowleges this truth, and seldom wanders without the bounds of its own capacity. To attempt the sublimer provinces of song, a mind richly stored with the philosophic treasures of the past and with the wisdom and beauty of antiquity is requisite, as well as a heart that is alive to the sublimity of the highest feelings of our nature; but to achieve a description of the external beauty of the creation requires no knowlege that gazing will not give. Hence the productions of men who have passed their days in the midst of rural scenery, and whose education has not been such as to pre-occupy the mind with other ideas, consist of a succession of rural images, mingled with representations of simple and natural feeling; and the compositions of such men are valuable, because they are artless and unsophisticated: not the effusions of a poet writing pastorals as he wanders through the fields to the north-east of London, or describing a battle after having seen a Review in Hyde Park, They are the delineations of professors in their own line; of men who have painfully and laboriously studied the face of nature in every changing shape, and in every varying season, when beaming with sun-shine or when shadowed with tears.
In this point of view, the little volume before us is singularly curious, on account of the many most aecurate and interesting pictures which it contains. At the same time, the unaffected and even rude style in which the poems are composed is a strong proof that the writer has been more wrapt up in his feelings than in his mode of expressing them; and we are convinced that the victory has been not of the poet over the muse, but of the muse over the poet.
Yet, however extraordinary these poems may be as the productions of a very uneducated man, and estimable as faithful representations of rural life and scenery, it would be injustice to their author to compare them with the writings of those whose superior stores of mind have enabled them to embellish the strong efforts of native genius with the ornaments of learning and refinement. So, likewise, it would be useless to plead in their favour the disadvantages and difficulties with which their author has been obliged to struggle ; because, though it is very honourable to him that he has surmounted them, they can neither add to nor detract from their poetic excellence. If they were, indeed, totally devoid of this quality, Clare might be applauded and rewarded for exertions so singular in his sphere of life, but the sooner his writings were forgotten the better. This, however, is not the case; since, though his pieces are very defective in expression, and frequently in grammar, they manifest the spirit and truth of poetry:
As to the propriety of presenting such efforts to the public, when the writer's matured judgment might have clothed them in a more accurate form, we may perhaps feel a doubt; though the plea of the author's poverty and necessities should not be disregarded.
The pictures of rural life which Clare has drawn are true to nature; so true, that he frequently introduces images which, according to our preconceived notions, can scarcely be called poetical: but notions like these are acquired by studying the works of poets who have generalized the beauties of nature, while Clare paints in detail, and with all the minuteness of one whose every-day occupation has led him to contemplate the objects which he represents. With him there is no aristocracy of beauty, but the stag and the hog, the wecd and the flower, find an equal place in his verse. : The Harvest Morn
ingø is, perhaps, the best instance of this feature in his compositions :
• Cocks wake the early morn with many a crow;
Loud striking village-clock has counted four :
Such plenteous scenes the farmer's yard adorn,
The waggons jostle on with rattling sound;
How drive the sun's warm beams the mist away;
· The Summer Evening' also is remarkable for its very accurate and novel images, some of which are striking and beautiful :
• Round the pond the martins flirt,
Their snowy breasts bedaub'd with dirt,
From the hay-cock's moisten'd heaps;
When Clare attempts the delineation of more refined sentiments, he is by no means so successful : he is then not the master of his subject, and is compelled to become a mere imitator, without possessing a matured and extended taste to assist him in his selection of models. When his topic admits an allusion to natural objects, his compositions of this higher class possess considerable merit; of which the ensuing sonnet is a fair instance:
Making to sounds that hope some village near;
Long lost in winding cavern dark and drear ;
A slave, long banish'd from his country dear,
A soldier, absent many a long, long year,
O'er the steep hanging bank to reach the stream;
We still on point of its disclosure seem :
A faini existence of Anxiety.' In the structure of these sentences, we strongly perceive the want of education under which the author Jabours.
The introduction to the poems contains some account of Clare, and many sensible remarks on his writings. He was born at Helpstone, near Peterborough, in Northamptonshire, July 13. 1793, of parents who are in a state of great poverty. He himself has partaken of their penury, and still continues a day-labourer, for low wages. By extra work, and helping his father early and late at threshing, he earned sufficient to procure for himself the benefit of being taught to read, and then procured a few books, among which he was peculiarly delighted with Thomson's Seasons. Through the assistance of a kind friend, he at length learned writing and arithmetic.
His passion for poetry appeared very early, and flourished in spite of the discouragement of poverty and neglect. By accident, some pieces attracted the notice of a gentleman who
was struck by their singularity; and they have been published in the hope of procuring for their author some of the advantages of education and cultivation to which, in all probability, he would do much credit. The writer of the introduction very sensibly observes, it is hoped that those persons who intend to do him kindness will not do it suddenly or partially, but so as it will yield him permanent benefit.'
In mentioning a peasant-poet, we immediately remember Burns : but Clare must not be ranked with him whose talents would bear a comparison with the noblest intellects of modern times, and whose compositions, though perpetually enriched with illustrations from the beauties of nature, were filled with the deepest and truest sentiment, or lightened up with the most brilliant wit. Clare, moreover, possesses but a small share of the acquirements of Burns, whose mind was well stored with much useful knowlege. — To extend judicious encouragement, however, to a man who has so- laudably displayed the wish for advancement, and the powers and energies which distinguish the writer of these poems, is only an act of justice.
ART. XI. Sermons by Edward Maltby, D.D. Vol. I. 8vo.
pp. 549. 125. Boards. Cadell and Davies. 1819. The learned divine, to whom the public is indebted for this
volume of sermons, tells us in his preface that they were not only written upon different occasions, but delivered before congregations of a different description. They have been addressed to the lower and the higher classes of society; to the enlightened and unenlightened; to the young and to the old. They vary, therefore, not only in their subjects but their style, not only in the matter but in the manner of handling the matter. They may be found sometimes rhetorical, sometimes argumentative, sometimes plain and even homely, sometimes of a more learned description; explaining passages occasionally as they lead to a practical effect; at other times as they clear the sacred text from difficulties attending it.'
We have carefully read all these discourses, which are in number twenty-four; and the impression which they have left on our minds is highly favourable to the author, as an able defender of the truth of Christianity, an eloquent expositor of some of its difficulties, and an carnest teacher of its most important duties. The style is, in general, clear, precise, and energetic, withont any superfluity of words or redundancy of ornament. As compositions, they are far above