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In all ages there has existed an anti-poetical party. This faction consists of those frigid intellects incapable of that glowing expansion so necessary to feel the charms of an art, which only addresses itself to the imagination; or of writers who, having proved unsuccessful in their court to the muses, revenge themselves by reviling them; and also of those religious minds who consider the ardent effusions of poetry as dangerous to the morals and peace of society.

Plato, amongst the ancients, is the model of those moderns who profess themselves to be ANTI-POETICAL.

This writer, in his ideal republic, characterises a man who occupies himself with composing verses as a very dangerous member of society, from the inflammatory tendency of his writings. It is by arguing from its abuse, that he decries this enchanting talent. At the same time it is to be recollected, that no head was more finely organised for the visions of the muse than Plato’s: he was a true poet, and had addicted himself in his prime of life to the cultivation of the art, but perceiving that he could not surpass his inimitable original, Homer, he employed this insidious manner of depreciating his works. In the Phaedon he describes the feelings of a genuine Poet. To become such, he says, it will never be sufficient to be guided by the rules of art, unless we also feel the ecstasies of that furor, almost divine, which in this kind of composition is the most palpable and least ambiguous character of a true inspiration. Cold minds, ever tranquil and ever in possession of themselves, are incapable of producing exalted poetry; their verses must always be feeble, diffusive, and leave no impression; the verses of those who are endowed with a strong and lively imagination, and who, like Homer’s personification of Discord, have their heads incessantly in the skies, and their feet on the earth, will agitate you, burn in your heart, and drag you along with them; breaking like an impetuous torrent, and swelling your breast with that enthusiasm with which they are themselves possessed.

Such is the character of a poet in a poetical age!–The tuneful race have many corporate bodies of mechanics; Pontypool manufacturers, inlayers, burnishers, gilders, and filers!

Men of taste are sometimes disgusted in turning over the works of the anti-poetical, by meeting with gross railleries and false judgments concerning poetry and poets. Locke has expressed a marked contempt of poets; but we see what ideas he formed of poetry by his warm panegyric of one of Blackmore’s epics! and besides he was himself a most unhappy poet! Selden, a scholar of profound erudition, has given us his opinion concerning poets. “It is ridiculous for a lord to print verses; he may make them to please himself. If a man in a private chamber twirls his band-strings, or plays with a rush to please himself, it is well enough; but if he should go into Fleet-street, and sit upon a stall and twirl a band-string, or play with a rush, then all the boys in the street would laugh at him.”–As if “the sublime and the beautiful” can endure a comparison with the twirling of a band-string or playing with a rush!–A poet, related to an illustrious family, and who did not write unpoetically, entertained a far different notion concerning poets. So persuaded was he that to be a true poet required an elevated mind, that it was a maxim with him that no writer could be an excellent poet who was not descended from a noble family. This opinion is as absurd as that of Selden:–but when one party will not grant enough, the other always assumes too much. The great Pascal, whose extraordinary genius was discovered in the sciences, knew little of the nature of poetical beauty. He said “Poetry has no settled object.” This was the decision of a geometrician, not of a poet. “Why should he speak of what he did not understand?” asked the lively Voltaire. Poetry is not an object which comes under the cognizance of philosophy or wit.