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class deliver the same sentiment with a face as oracular as that of a Pythoness, and with a manner as full of importance as it might be expected to be if they had discovered the longitude.
A. But these people are not the peculiar growth of the city.
A. Well; I would have nothing to do with that class. Think only of the advantage which a person like yourself might derive from residing in the centre of civilization. I shall say nothing of what may be enjoyed in town, for to you such a parade must appear impertinent; but reflect upon the circumstances and associations peculiarly urban, that tend to confer vigour and originality on the conceptions of the mind; the vicissitudes you witness; the presence of innumerable productions of art, not to be found in small cities; but, above all, the enthusiasm excited by observing the intense nisus after novelty, which pervades the artists and writers of the metropolis. I am convinced that no where but in the capital can any man lay in sufficient experience to enable him to speak truly and extensively of human nature. The mere reading of a man's own conceptions, the method of study recommended, I think, by Hobbes, is not enough to unveil to a man the nature of his species, unless this reading be undertaken very late in life, and after experience and observation have rendered those conceptions copious and exact.
Besides, living in town is calculated, whatever effect it may have on ordinary minds, to produce in the thoughtful and reflecting a contempt of vulgar desires and fears, of fortune, of adversity and death. I am aware that it is usual to treat this ethical view of the subject as ineffably common-place; and certainly it is easy enough to talk morals; but, between ourselves, the acquiring of a lofty moral habit is a thing so difficult as hardly to be found practicable by one great man in an age. It were easier to be an Alexander, or a Napoleon, than an Epaminondas, a More, or a Milton. Genius is not so rare as virtue; as that virtue, I mean, which subsists upon itself, and is superior to time and place. Every thing, therefore, which tends to nourish such virtue, is to be sedulously sought; sought in the midst of men, in the place where all their great passions are congregated as in a furnace; where they blaze, and burn, and destroy the counterfeits of virtue, but leave the eternal substance itself more bright and glorious for the trial. I am in no disposition to decry riches, to panegyrise the want of them, or to say, with Lord Byron, that death is better than life; but I will boldly affirm that no man can be either great or happy who does not prize them at their true value. It appears also to be rational that a man should be fully aware of the amount of his own importance in the world; and know in how far he depends or is independent of others; and whether it might not be to his advantage to take the keys of happiness and misery into his own hands.
B. Excuse me; but you seem to be wandering from the question. Let us keep to the advantages a town residence holds out to an author. A. I was going to mention one. B. Excuse my interruption, then.
A. Meditative persons are apt, when they dwell among rural objects, to imagine they are indebted for the reflections to which the presence of those objects gives rise, to the felicity of their position, as if thought, like a gold repeater, answered mechanically to the pressure of outward things. Yet they are averse to acknowledge, that similar trains of reflection are also generated by city scenes. This partiality is unphilosophical. Imagine yourself pressing through the throngs that flow between Charing-cross and the Exchange. What a spectacle for a thinking mind! At the risk of being common-place, I will enumerate two or three of its parts: by the side of the hasty bustling citizen, looking with impatience over the shoulders of the impeding crowd, moves along the supercilious, sauntering, effeminate coxcomb; behind this ill-assorted pair, or beside them, is some wretched rogue or beggar aiming at their charity or their pockets; on the other hand, is a wanton woman of pleasure, parading her tarnished beauties, once pure and lovely, for sale: these are pressed forward, or wedged together, by a "sine nomine turba," all hurrying, thronging, darting along, as if they were escaping from a conflagration! Here and there, in the road or on the pavement, is seen a hearse or a pauper's coffin, the former with plumes and mutes, the latter borne along with no pale mourners attending,-by cold-hearted, chattering gouls, moving like ghastly visions among the multitude. Death stalks invisibly in the throng, snuffing the track of his victims, and rapidly winding up the cord with which he holds all bound, and ready to be drawn into his jaws, as soon as he comes up with them!-These are your genuine "aids to reflection." Depend upon it, my friend, no woodland solitudes, no dark forests, no midnight winds howling through yonder leafy sycamores, can ever be so generative of meditation as a ramble in the city. In its vast crowds, you seem to behold all the generations of mankind sweeping by you in phantasmagoric procession; and, hearing the dull bell tolling from the church-tower as they pass, you feel as if some necromancer's spell were draining off the waves of population, as they disappear among the dusky buildings.
B. Excellent! but I have no mind to colour my thoughts and images with the smoky hues of London. I prefer the allegro vein; and had rather my song should pour the melody of the woods, the music of the "bubbling brook," the murmur of the matin bee, upon the fancy of my reader, than the Stygian gloom of vaults and sepulchres. Death's-head declamation is to me the worst kind of poetry. I love the world; I would enjoy it; and, for the sake of my own fame, if true fame could be gained by such arts, I would not torture the bosom of my reader with an unnecessary pang. According to my conception of it, literature is meant to add to human enjoyment, and, most of all, poetry. Let it therefore be true to its criginal destination. For my own part, I consider myself born as much for my species as for myself; and if I cherish my own ideas, and seek to perpetuate them in verse, it is because in my own case I have found them an antidote for care and anxiety. Besides, I have observed that in Oriental Herald, Vol. 9.
general the fancy is much more strongly tinctured with the colours that surround it, than you seem altogether to allow. The very expressions of a man who draws his images fresh from nature, like Wordsworth, whatever other quality they may have, appear to possess a beauty, and, if I may venture to say it, a fragrance that can never die away, as if they had imbibed the perfume of the buds and flowers among which they were born.
A. I am far from being insensible to the beauties of rural nature; still I must consider them less proper to nourish great thoughts, such, I mean, as mould the character to greatness, than the images that strike the mind in cities; more especially, if these latter are engrafted on warm recollections of sylvan scenery impressed upon the memory in youth. It appears to me, therefore, that you very much miscalculate your advantages if you suppose that your poetry will imbibe from woods and mountains a tinge, if I may so express myself, of the hues of nature. Shakspeare and Milton lived chiefly in cities, and yet they appear to have infused all the grandeur, the beauty, the exquisite freshness of nature, into their incomparable lines. Never heed the Southeys and the Wordsworths, with their pastoral cant. The imagination is not shut up between stone walls, because the body may happen to lodge in Fleet-street or the Strand. It recurs, by day and by night, to the old scenes of youth and love, and covers them with the more beauty that the evidence of the bodily eye cannot mar its visions. Think again of poor old Milton, when he planted the flowers of Paradise in our language. No lakes, nor rivers, nor woods, assisted his fancy. He was blind! But why speak of examples; what beautiful scenes on real nature are half so bright or beautiful as the sun-lit meadows, emerald groves, and crystal rivulets, that rise or roll before us in our dreams?
B. I am not convinced. Nor was Milton of your opinion.Throughout life he loved the vernal sun, the shady walk, the musing groves. His letters are full of this preference. And if he has, in spite of blindness, transplanted the flowers of Paradise, as you say, into our language, does it follow that, with the advantage of which he was deprived, he would not have naturalized others still more exquisite? No, you are unhappy in your examples. Both Shakspeare, as far as we know, and Milton, loved nature better than art; and we have almost deified them for it.
Thus our dialogue concluded; and though I strongly differed with him at the time, I afterwards found that his ideas, like the seeds of ripe flowers, had been shaken by the storm of argument into my own mind, there to take root, spring up, and choke my own notions.
THE FOURTEEN GEMS.-A HINDU LEGEND.
ALL that the hoary waters boast,
With smoke, that 'round its volumes curls,
Saraswati, whose daring reins,
1 Chief Mahàb'hàrăta.
2 The Goddess of Invention, Brahma's Sacti. 3 Chief Mahàb'hàrăta.
Concocted juices on them flow,
Once more they churn: they strive, they vie,
O waves of life! their actions roll
To endless realms, beyond the Pole !-
Behold! again, they churn the main!
✦ Chief Mahab'hàrăta. These gems are arranged in different orders by different writers.
5 Chandra, or the Moon, which is masculine in Sanscrit.
6 Vishnu is identified with Surygi, or the Sun.
7 The Goddess of Fortune and Beauty, called also Shri; Vishnu's Sacti.
8 The Goddess of Wine.
Heavenly beings, whose office it is to scatter cèlestial flowers. 10 Indra's eight-headed horse.