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writes; but there is the serious danger that a fatal facility in the production of verse may lead to a long and unrequited courtship of the Muse, and withhold a man from pursuits that are more profitable and better adapted to his capacity. Nothing is more unfortunate or more to be lamented than such a misdirection of intellect and labour. How many individuals are there who, though contemptible as poets, might have risen to distinction in almost any other walk of life! The world is too apt to judge decidedly of a man's general powers by his failure in some particular department of human knowledge, without a due consideration of his capacity for other studies. Thus a man who has written bad poetry is thought unfit for every thing, and has sunk his reputation for ever.

He cannot hope to be regarded as an able man, until people forget that he has committed the sin of rhyme ; and this oblivion he is generally the last to desire or to anticipate. Men who are in reality greatly his inferiors, but who have been more fortunate in hitting upon a congenial and profitable pursuit in life, seem privileged to speak of him with a mixture of pity and contempt. The style in which the most vulgar persons speak of all authors who are not in the very highest rank is justly rebuked in a little collection of “Essays from the French of the Abbot Trublet," a book that well rewards perusal. In the course of some remarks on criticism, this French Essayist thus alludes to the despisers of the lesser literati.

“ The middling sort of writers are common enough in the world of authors; but men capable of making middling writers are very scarce among men in general ; even among those who think they have pretensions to genius and learning.

“A writer of this sort is a person of but moderate genius, compared with men of the first rank ; but is often a considerable one, compared with the greatest part of those that take upon them to judge him with so much pride and severity. Methinks, I could say to this insolent race of men ; ah! gentlemen, let me beseech you, do but think of the mischief you do yourselves, by this imperious manner of criticism : these contemptuous airs: this magisterial tone in which you deliver yourselves ! The persons you set so low are infinitely your superiors.”

Sir Egerton commends his own sonnets for their severe simplicity of style, and flatters himself that in this respect he has rightly followed the example of Milton. Milton's style is in keeping with his thoughts. An ornate and effeminate phraseology would have been almost as unsuited to the energy and grandeur of that mighty poet as to the Holy Scriptures, the sublimity of which would be greatly injured by the introduction of flowery epithets and elaborate metaphors from the store-house of modern poetry. It is doubtful whether the plain language of Milton's sonnets would ever be tolerated in the productions of a feebler writer. The simplicity of Milton's style is grand, because it is associated with gigantic power. Poets should choose a subject and a style adapted to their genius.

If Moore were to throw away his gems and flowers, and attempt the severer manner of Milton, perhaps his verses would be as worthless as they are now delightful. The nakedness of Milton's Muse is the nakedness of a classical statue.

The sonnets of Sir Egerton Brydges (with one exception) are cold and unpoetical. The thoughts are as prosaic as the style. His sonnet entitled “ Echo and Silence” is so immeasurably superior to all the rest, that it is a proof how much reliance is placed upon his honor that people take his word for it when he claims it as his own. It was for some time attributed to Henry Brooke (author of Gustavus Vasa) until in 1825, Sir Egerton inserted in it his Recollections of Foreign Travel. Southey has said that he knows not any poem in any language more beautifully imaginative. If, as Dr. Johnson said of Gray, in reference to his Elegy, the author had often written thus, it would have been vain to blame and useless to praise him.


In eddying course when leaves began to fly,
And Autumn in her lap the store to strew,
As mid wild scenes I chanced the Muse to woo
Through glens untrod and woods that frowned on high,

Two sleeping nymphs with wonder mute I spy ;
And, lo, she's gone !-In robe of dark green hue,
'Twas Echo from her sister Silence few,
For quick the hunter's horn resounded to the sky !
In shade affrighted Silence melts away.
Not so her sister.-Hark! for onward still
With far-heard step she takes her listening way,
Bounding from rock to rock, and hill to hill.
Ah, mark the merry maid in mockful play
With thousand mimic tones the laughing forest fill !

The classical and accomplished Archdeacon Wrangham has honored this sonnet with a Latin translation. The following reflections on his birth-day, may be given as a fair specimen of Sir Egerton's general style ; and I select this sonnet, because it is immediately followed in his auto-biography by the writer's remark, that he had studiously attempted to imitate the simplicity of Milton, and had adopted the same stern system of the rejection of flowery language.

SONNET.-30th November.
This thy last day, dark month, to me is dear,
For this first saw mine infant


unbound ;
Now two-and-twenty years have hastened round,
Yet from the bud no ripened fruits appear!
My drooping spirits at the thought to cheer,
By my fond friends the jovial bowl is crowned,
While sad I sit, my eyes upon the ground,
And scarce refrain to drop the silent tear !
Yet, O beloved Muse ! if in me glow
Ambition for false fame, the thirst abate ;
Teach me for fields and flocks mankind to know,
And ope my eyes to all that's truly great ;
To view the world unmasked on me bestow,
And knaves and fools to scorn, howe'er adorned by state !

The sonnet previously quoted (Echo and Silence) is entitled to all the praise it has obtained. It is truly poetical. But as the author never approached its excellence on any other occasion, his readers are compelled to conclude that it was suggested by one of those sudden flashes of inspiration which once or twice in the course of a man's whole life may enable him, if I may use a common expression, to surpass himself. If the poem had been a longer one, this hypothesis would be quite unfair, because casual felicities of this nature will not give life and animation to a sustained effort, nor even to a succession of shorter pieces. Sir Egerton has been writing sonnets nearly all his life, but the Muse, with this one exception, has always frowned upon his best endeavours.

Turning, however, from the verse of this writer to his prose, we are presented with numerous evidences of great natural talent and of very elegant and extensive acquirements. I repeat my opinion, that if he had concentrated his powers upon some worthy undertaking, he would have been far better known and more highly esteemed as a literary man than he now is, though he has been labouring in the fields of literature, capriciously and irregularly, for so long a period.

Sir Egerton Brydges is now in his seventy-fifth year, and it is pleasing to find a literary man at his time of life writing with such unabated vigour, animation, and enthusiasm. If he has the garrulity of age, he has not its feebleness. He has not yet reached, and I hope he never will reach, the last of the Seven Ages*.

* Since the first edition of this book Sir Egerton Brydges has paid the debt of nature.



THE years

of vanished life
The gun's loud voice hath told-
The breast that dared the battle-strife

Is motionless and cold !

The muffled drum's dull moan,

Sad requiem of the brave,
Awoke the deep responsive groan

Above that warrior's grave.

He lies on his dark bed,

With cold unconscious brow;
For sleep's eternal spell is spread

Around his pillow now.

Behold the crimson sky,

And mark yon setting sun;
For, like that orb, once bright on high,

Was he whose race is run !

A few short moments' flight

Hath wildly changed his doom ;
The worm shall be his mate to-night-

His home, the cheerless tomb !

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