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LESSON CXI.

Influence of perverted Talents.—PROFESSOR FRISBIE.

of the age.

THOSE compositions in poetry and prose which constitute the literature of a nation, the essay, the drama, the novel, it cannot be doubted, have a most extensive and powerful operation upon the moral feelings and character

The very business of the authors of such works is, directly or indirectly, with the heart. Even descriptions of natural scenery owe much of their beauty and interest to the moral associations they awaken.

In like manner, fine turns of expression or thought often operate more by suggestion than enumeration. But when feelings and passions are directly described, or embodied in the hero, and called forth by the incidents of a story, it is then that the magic of fiction and poetry is complete, that they enter in and dwell in the secret chambers of the soul, moulding it at will.

In these moments of deep excitement, must not a bias be given to the character, and much be done to elevate and refine, or degråde and pollute, those sympathies and sentiments, which are the sources of much of our virtue and happiness, or our guilt and misery! The danger is, that, in such cases, we do not discriminate the distinct action of associated causes. Even in what is presented to the senses, we are aware of the power of habitual combination. An object naturally disagreeable becomes beautiful, because we have often seen the sun shine or the dew sparkle upon it, or it has been grouped in a scene of peculiar interest. Thus the powers of fancy and of taste blend associations in the mind, which disguise the original nature of moral qualities.

A liberal generosity, a disinterested self-devotion, a powerful energy or deep sensibility of soul, a contempt of danger and death, are often so connected in story with

the most profligate principles and manners, that the latter are excused and even sanctioned by the former. The impression which so powerfully seizes all the sympathies, is one; and the ardent youth becomes almost ambitious of a character he ought to abhor. So, too, sentiments from which, in their plain form, delicacy would revolt, are insinuated with the charms of poetical imagery and expression; and even the coarseness of Fielding is probably less pernicious than the seducing refinement of writers like Moore, whose voluptuous sensibility steals upon the heart, and corrupts its purity, as the moon-beams, in some climates, are believed to poison the substances on which they fall.

But in no productions of modern genius is the reciprocal influence of morals and literature more distinctly seen than in those of the author of Childe Harold. His character produced the poems, and it cannot be doubted that his poems are adapted to produce such a character. His heroes speak a language supplied not more by imagination than consciousness. They are not those machines, that, by a contrivance of the artist, send forth a music of their own ; but instruments, through which he breathes his very soul, in tones of agonized sensibility, that cannot but give a sympathetic impulse to those who hear.

The desolate misanthropy of his mind rises and throws its dark shade over his poetry, like one of his ruined castles; we feel it to be sublime, but we forget that it is a sublimity it cannot have, till it is abandoned by every thing that is kind, and peaceful, and happy, and its halls are ready to become the haunts of outlaws and assassins. Nor are his more tender and affectionate passages those to which we can yield ourselves without a feeling of uneasiness. It is not that we can, here and there, select a proposition false or pernicious, but that he leaves an impression unfavorable to a healthful state of thought and feeling, peculiarly dangerous to the finest minds and most susceptible hearts. They are the scene of a summer evening, where all is tender, and beautiful, and grand; but the damps of disease descend with the dews of heaven, and the pestilent vapors of night are breathed in with the fragrance and balm, and the delicate and fair are the surest victims of its exposure.

LESSON CXII.

Verses on receiving his Mother's Picture.-CowPER.

O THAT those lips had language! Life has passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine—thy own sweet smile I see,
The same, that oft in childhood solaced me :
Voice only fails, else how distinct they say,
“Grieve not my child, chase all thy fears away!"
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalize,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.

Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
O welcome guest, though unexpected here !
Who bidd'st me honor, with an artless song,
Affectionate, a mother lost so long.
I will obey, not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own:
And, while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief,
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream that thou art she.

My mother! when I learned that thou wast dead,
Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch, even then, life's journey just begun?

Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unfelt, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss-
Ah, that maternal smile! it answers-Yes.
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu !
But was it such ?-It was.—Where thou art gone,
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more.
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of thy quick return.
What ardently I wished, I long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived ;
By expectation every day beguiled,
Dupe of to-morrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learned, at last, submission to my lot,
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.

Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more,
Children not thine have trod my nursery floor;
And where the gardener Robin, day by day,
Drew me to school along the public way,
Delighted with my bauble-coach, and wrapped
In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet-capped,
'Tis now become a history little known,
That once we called the pastoral house our own.
Short-lived possession! but the record fair,
That memory keeps of all thy kindness there,
Still outlives many a storm, that has effaced
A thousand other themes less deeply traced.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made,
That thou might'st know me safe and warmly laid ;
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home,
The biscuit or confectionary plum ;

The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestowed
By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glowed ;-
All this, and, more endearing still than all,
Thy constant flow of love that knew no fall,
Ne'er roughened by those cataracts and breaks,
That humor interposed too often makes ;-
All this, still legible in memory's page,
And still to be so to my latest age,
Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay
Such honors to thee as my numbers may ;-
Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere,
Not scorned in heaven, though little noticed here.

Could Time, his flight reversed, restore the hours,
When, playing with thy vesture's tissued flowers,
The violet, the pink, and jessamine,
I pricked them into paper with a pin
(And thou wast happier than myself the while,
Wouldst softly speak, and stroke my head, and smile),-
Could those few pleasant days again appear,
Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here?
I would not trust my heart—the dear delight
Seems so to be desired, perhaps I might.-
But no—what here we call our life is such,
So little to be loved, and thou so much,
That I should ill requite thee to constrain
Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.

Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast (The storms all weathered, and the ocean crossed) Shoots into port at some well-havened isle, Where spices breathe, and brighter seasons smile, There sits quiescent on the floods, that show Her beauteous form reflected clear below, While airs impregnated with incense play Around her, fanning light her streamers gay ;So thou-with sails how swift !-hast reached the shore, “Where tempests never beat nor billows roar,

* Garth.

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