Page images

In those we discern the dawn of a new poetic era, and trace back to the close of the century the appearance of poets now familiar to the age, such as Rogers, Bowles, Crabbe, Campbell, Coleridge, Southey, and Wordsworth. But, foremost among these poets of the new era, appear the names of two remarkably different men~the gentle, yet vigorous Christian poet, Cowper; and the nervous, manly, inspired peasant, Robert Burns. The influence of Cowper was more direct and prompt, and the high moral tone of his verse, while lashing with just severity the vices of the age, commended it to the favour of many who might have been slow to comprehend its merits as true poetry. The writings of Burns offered to cultivated readers in the peasant dialect of the Scottish Lowlands—were received at first chiefly with the unappreciating wonder with which any novel prodigy is hailed, while the favour extended to them partook fully as much of the condescension of patronage, as of the just admiration which was his due. It was not possible, however, that poetry so mauly in its tone, and deriving all its force and beauty so directly from nature, could long remain unproductive. It speedily found both admirers and imitators, and its estimation has gone on increasing to our own day.

Cowper and Bums may thus be regarded as the originators of the modern school of poetry. They were, however, like all great poets, the voices and representatives of their age. A new era had commenced, in which the licentiousness of the Restoration era, and the formality of that to which it gave place, were equally discarded, and thus we see in these, as in all true poets

" The consecrated heralds, Through whom the voices of their time speak out."

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »