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the basis of which Shakespeare has constructed some of his works. The Gentle Herdsman" is reproduced in the "Hermit" of Goldsmith, while we hear such familiar snatches as, "The Nutbrown Maid," "The Wandering Jew," "St. George and the Dragon," and "Fair Rosamond.” Most especially, the old religious or reformation ballads in the life and passion and death of Christ were reproduced, and the people hailed their reappearing. We can but slightly appreciate in these times the charm connected with these earlier poems. Even the statesmen of the day were affected by the enthusiasm. Referring especially to the work of Percy, Wordsworth writes: "I do not think there is an able writer in verse of the present day who would not be proud to acknowledge his obligations to 'The Reliques.'" Of the same volume Scott confesses that it awoke within him an insatiable passion for the old, and at no period in our history have the poets and the people of all classes been so essentially one in their literary likes and dislikes. The era was in every respect a true Renaissance in English Letters, as much so as that of the fifteenth century in general knowledge. It was the Golden Age of impassioned verse, so fully in accord with the temper of the
time that we might gather from a perusal of the poetry the substantial history of the era. The movers in the great revival felt as if they had been ignorant of the lyric resources of English, and that the time had come modestly and, yet, decisively to assert the independence of British Letters and the vital connection - historic and moral
of the earliest and the latest ages of our literature. It is to the genuine poetic passion of this school of poets that Mr. Whipple refers in his able review of American Letters in the last century, as he says: "Most of these eminent men were not only writers but powers; they communicated spiritual life to the soul, touching the profoundest sources of reason and emotion."
With them poetic feeling was, to the last degree, natural and not feigned; it was simple, deep, and fervent. Because it was in them as a part of their very life, it must be uttered to the people. Out of the fullness of their hearts they sang as they sang, and no literature of ancient or modern times can exhibit a more vigorous expression of true poetic passion than that which we see in English Letters from the days of Burns on to the opening of the more recent school of metrical and verbal finish. Robert Burns was himself the central figure of the
Romantic Era, and marked in his verse the highest point which genuine poetic inspiration can reach. He wrote no epic, and, perchance, could have written none. He had not the "vision and faculty divine" in the same sense in which Milton had it, but still he had it. He was a genius in lyric song as Milton was in epic, and in so far as natural poetic instinct and genuine poetic emotion are concerned, has no peer in English verse. could not but be natural.
1. We note the importance of the impassioned clement in poetry. It is safe to say that the lyric element is as essential to the inner character of poetry as meter is essential to its form. Even in the highest examples of creative verse, so necessary is the presence of this element that it makes the dividing line between the two orders of verse an extremely delicate one, and, at times, well-nigh invisible. In fine, if we reduce terms to their last analysis and mean precisely what we say, we must regard poetry as essentially impassioned. The differentia of verse as to its quality is, that it is emotional. Hence, it is not strange that so many critics have defined poetry in terms of the impas
sioned element. Byron speaks of it as the "feeling" of past and future worlds. Milton terms it
sensuous and passionate." Aristotle calls it an imitative art, imitative of the manners and "passions" of men; while John Stuart Mill, viewing it as the influence of feeling over thought, holds that feeling is the prime element in all poetry. In the light of such criticism it is naturally an open question with some as to the comparative importance of the epic and the lyric. It is urged by them that the precedence of the creative has been accepted rather than proved; that as the lyric is the oldest, simplest, and most frequent form of poetic expression, so it is the most characteristic and, in that sense, the highest form; that Milton's "L'Allegro answers more fully to the true ideal of poetry than either of his epics. If it be objected to such a view that the door is thus opened for the indulgence of vapid sentiment and the subjection of intellect to impulse, it is answered that if the emotion be simple, genuine, and profound, there can be no danger in the line of the purely sensational. It is not our purpose to indorse this extreme view as to the rank of lyric verse. As long as the intellectual is superior to the emotional, any form of discourse in which it is prominent must,
for that reason, claim superiority. It is especially important to maintain this position in the present age when the tendency to meaningless verse is so strong. There is another extreme, however, against which we are to guard. It is too often assumed that in lyric poetry feeling and intellect are always in the inverse ratio; that lyric verse is thereby devoid of mental life and has no higher purpose than the expression of shallow emotion for trivial ends. The school of poetry before us is a sufficient answer to this superficial theory. Arising at a time when the thoughts of all men were necessarily turned to living issues and indifference or unnaturalness could not be brooked, there is the utter absence of the conventional and superficial. The poetry of the era is as fresh and tonic as the air of an October morning, and the master bards of the time are examples of all that is healthful and stimulating. The difference between. creative and impassioned verse is not that the one is intellectual and the other emotional, but that, each being under the supremacy of mind, there is a freer play of the emotional in the latter, a more direct expression of heart-life and a somewhat wider departure from established literary law. So long as the lyric portion of our poetry is what it