Read MORNING MONOLOGUE of Recreations of Christopher North‚ Volume I, free online book, by John Wilson, on

“Knowledge is Power.” So is Talent so is Genius so is Virtue. Which is the greatest? It might seem hard to tell; but united they go forth conquering and to conquer. Nor is that union rare. Kindred in nature, they love to dwell together in the same “palace of the soul.” Remember Milton. But too often they are disunited; and then, though still Powers, they are but feeble, and their defeats are frequent as their triumphs. What! is it so even with Virtue? It is, and it is not. Virtue may reign without the support of Talent and Genius; but her counsellor is Conscience, and what is Conscience but Reason rich by birthright in knowledge directly derived from the heaven of heavens beyond all the stars?

And may Genius and Talent indeed be, conceive, and execute, without the support of Virtue? You will find that question answered in the following lines by Charles Grant, which deserve the name of philosophical poetry:

“Talents, ’tis true, quick, various, bright, has God
To Virtue oft denied, on Vice bestow’d;
Just as fond Nature lovelier colours brings
To deck the insect’s than the eagle’s wings.
But then of man the high-born nobler part,
The ethereal energies that touch the heart,
Creative Fancy, labouring Thought intense,
Imagination’s wild magnificence,
And all the dread sublimities of Song
These, Virtue! these, to thee alone belong.”

Such is the natural constitution of humanity; and in the happiest state of social life, all its noblest Faculties would bear legitimate sway, each in its own province, within the spirit’s ample domains. There, Genius would be honoured; and Poetry another name for religion. But to such a state there can, under the most favouring skies, be no more than an approximation; and the time never was when Virtue suffered no persecution, Honour no shame, Genius no neglect, nor fetters were not imposed by tyrannous power on the feet of the free. The age of Homer, the age of Solon, the age of Pericles, the age of Numa, the age of Augustus, the age of Alfred, the age of Leo, the age of Elizabeth, the age of Anne, the age of Scott, Wordsworth, and Byron, have they not been all bright and great ages? Yet had they been faithfully chronicled, over the misery and madness of how many despairing spirits fraught with heavenly fire, might we not have been called to pour forth our unavailing indignations and griefs!

Under despotic governments, again, such as have sunk deep their roots into Oriental soils, and beneath Oriental skies prosperously expanded their long-enduring umbrage, where might is right, and submission virtue, noble-minded men for sake of that peace which is ever dearest to the human heart, and if it descend not a glad and gracious gift from Heaven, will yet not ungratefully be accepted when breathed somewhat sadly from the quieted bosom of earth by tyranny saved from trouble have submitted, almost without mourning, to sing “many a lovely lay,” that perished like the flowers around them, in praise of the Power at whose footstool they “stooped their anointed heads as low as death.” Even then has Genius been honoured, because though it ceased to be august, still it was beautiful; it seemed to change fetters of iron into bands of roses, and to halo with a glory the brows of slaves. The wine-cup mantled in its light; and Love forgot in the bower Poetry built for bliss, that the bride might be torn from the bridegroom’s bosom on her bridal night by a tyrant’s lust. Even there Genius was happy, and diffused happiness; at its bidding was heard pipe, tabor, and dulcimer; and to its lips “warbling melody” life floated by, in the midst of all oppression, a not undelightful dream!

But how has it been with us in our Green Island of the West? Some people are afraid of revolutions. Heaven pity them! we have had a hundred since the Roman bridged our rivers, and led his highways over our mountains. And what the worse have we been of being thus revolved? We are no radicals; but we dearly love a revolution like that of the stars. No two nights are the heavens the same all the luminaries are revolving to the music of their own spheres. Look, we beseech you, on that new-risen star. He is elected by universal suffrage a glorious representative of a million lesser lights; and on dissolution of that Parliament how silent but how eloquent! he is sure of his return. Why, we should dearly love the late revolution we have seen below it is no longer called Reform were it to fling up to free light from fettered darkness a few fine bold original spirits, who might give the whole world a new character, and a more majestic aspect to crouching life. But we look abroad and see strutting to and fro the sons of little men blown up with vanity, in a land where tradition not yet old tells of a race of giants. We are ashamed of ourselves to think we feared the throes of the times, seeing not portentous but pitiable births. Brush these away; and let us think of the great dead let us look on the great living and, strong in memory and hope, be confident in the cause of Freedom. “Great men have been among us better none;” and can it be said that now there is “a want of books and men,” or that those we have are mere dwarfs and duodecimos? Is there no energy, no spirit of adventure and enterprise, no passion in the character of our country? Has not wide over earth

“England sent her men, of men the chief,
To plant the Tree of Life, to plant fair Freedom’s Tree?”

Has not she, the Heart of Europe and the Queen, kindled America into life, and raised up in the New World a power to balance the Old, star steadying star in their unconflicting courses? You can scarce see her shores for ships; her inland groves are crested with towers and temples; and mists brooding at intervals over her far-extended plains, tell of towns and cities, their hum unheard by the gazer from her glorious hills. Of such a land it would need a gifted eye to look into all that is passing within the mighty heart; but it needs no gifted eye, no gifted ear, to see and hear there the glare and the groaning of great anguish, as of lurid breakers tumbling in and out of the caves of the sea. But is it or is it not a land where all the faculties of the soul are free as they ever were since the Fall? Grant that there are tremendous abuses in all departments of public and private life; that rulers and legislators have often been as deaf to the “still small voice” as to the cry of the million; that they whom they have ruled, and for whom they have legislated often so unwisely or wickedly, have been as often untrue to themselves, and in self-imposed idolatry

“Have bow’d their knees
To despicable gods.”

Yet base, blind, and deaf (and better dumb) must be he who would deny, that here Genius has had, and now has, her noblest triumphs; that Poetry has here kindled purer fires on loftier altars than ever sent up their incense to Grecian skies; that Philosophy has sounded depths in which her torch was not extinguished, but, though bright, could pierce not the “heart of the mystery” into which it sent some strong illuminations; that Virtue here has had chosen champions victorious in their martyrdom; and Religion her ministers and her servants not unworthy of her whose title is from heaven.

Causes there have been, are, and ever will be, why often, even here, the very highest faculties “rot in cold obstruction.” But in all the ordinary affairs of life, have not the best the best chance to win the day? Who, in general, achieve competence, wealth, splendour, magnificence, in their condition as citizens? The feeble, the ignorant, and the base, or the strong, the instructed, and the bold? Would you, at the offstart, back mediocrity with alien influence, against high talent with none but its own the native “might that slumbers in a peasant’s arm,” or, nobler far, that which neither sleeps nor slumbers in a peasant’s heart? There is something abhorrent from every sentiment in man’s breast to see, as we too often do, imbecility advanced to high places by the mere accident of high birth. But how our hearts warm within us to behold the base born, if in Britain we may use the word, by virtue of their own irresistible energies, taking precedence, rightful and gladly-granted, of the blood of kings! Yet we have heard it whispered, insinuated, surmised, spoken, vociferated, howled, and roared in a voice of small-beer-souring thunder, that Church and State, Army and Navy, are all officered by the influence of the Back-stairs that few or none but blockheads, by means of brass only, mount from the Bar which they have disturbed to that Bench which they disgrace; and that mankind intrust the cure of all diseases their flesh is heir to, to the exclusive care of every here and there a handful of old women.

Whether overstocked or not, ’twould be hard to say, but all professions are full from that of Peer to that of Beggar. To live is the most many of us can do. Why then complain? Men should not complain when it is their duty as men to work. Silence need not be sullen but better sullenness than all this outrageous outcry, as if words the winds scatter, were to drop into the soil and grow up grain. Processions! is this a time for full-grown men in holiday shows to play the part of children? If they desire advancement, let them, like their betters, turn to and work. All men worth mentioning in this country belong to the working classes. What seated Thurlow, and Wedderburne, and Scott, and Erskine, and Copley, and Brougham on the woolsack? Work. What made Wellington? For seven years war all over Spain, and finally at Waterloo work bloody and glorious work.

Yet still the patriot cry is of sinécures. Let the few sluggards that possess but cannot enjoy them, doze away on them till sinécures and sinecurists drop into the dust. Shall such creatures disturb the equanimity of the magnanimous working-classes of England? True to themselves in life’s great relations, they need not grudge, for a little while longer, the paupers a few paltry pence out of their earnings; for they know a sure and silent deathblow has been struck against that order of things by the sense of the land, and that all who receive wages must henceforth give work. All along that has been the rule these are the exceptions; or say, that has been the law these are its revolutions. Let there be high rewards, and none grudge them in honour and gold for high work. And men of high talents never extinct will reach up their hands and seize them, amidst the acclamations of a people who have ever taken pride in a great ambition. If the competition is to be in future more open than ever, to know it is so will rejoice the souls of all who are not slaves. But clear the course! Let not the crowd rush in for by doing so, they will bring down the racers, and be themselves trampled to death.

Now we say that the race is if not always ninety-nine times in a hundred to the swift, and the battle to the strong. We may have been fortunate in our naval and military friends; but we cannot charge our memory with a single consummate ass holding a distinguished rank in either service. That such consummate asses are in both, we have been credibly informed, and believe it; and we have sometimes almost imagined that we heard their bray at no great distance, and the flapping of their ears. Poor creatures enough do rise by seniority or purchase, or if anybody know how else, we do not; and such will be the case to the end of the chapter of human accidents. But merit not only makes the man, but the officer on shore and at sea. They are as noble and discontented a set of fellows all, as ever boarded or stormed; and they will continue so, not till some change in the Admiralty, or at the Horse-guards, for Sir James Graham does his duty, and so does Lord Hill; but till a change in humanity, for ’tis no more than Adam did, and we attribute whatever may be amiss or awry, chiefly to the Fall. Let the Radicals set poor human nature on her legs again, and what would become of them? In the French service there is no rising at all, it seems, but by merit; but there is also much running away; not in a disgraceful style, for our natural enemies and artificial friends are a brave race, but in mere indignation and disgust to see troops so shamefully ill-officered as ours, which it would be a disgrace to look in the face on the field, either in column or line. Therefore they never stand a charge, but are off in legions of honour, eagles and all, before troops that have been so uniformly flogged from time immemorial, as to have no other name but raw lobsters, led on by officers all shivering or benumbed under the “cold shade of aristocracy,” like Picton and Pack.

We once thought of going ourselves to the English Bar, but were dissuaded from doing so by some judicious friends, who assured us we should only be throwing away our great talents and unexampled eloquence; for that success depended solely on interest, and we had none we knew of, either in high places or in low, and had then never seen an attorney. We wept for the fate of many dear friends in wigs, and made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On our return from Palestine and other foreign parts, behold them all bending under briefs, bound by retaining fees, or, like game-hawks, wheeling in airy circuits over the rural provinces, and pouncing down on their prey, away to their eyries with talonfuls, which they devoured at their luxurious leisure, untroubled by any callow young! They now compose the Bench.

Ere we set off for Salem, we had thoughts of entering the Church, and of becoming Bishops. But it was necessary, we were told, first to be tutor to a lord. That, in our pride, we could not stomach; but if ours had not been the sin by which Satan fell, where now had been the excellent Howley? All our habits in youth led us to associate much with intending divines. A few of them are still curates; but ’twere vain to try to count the vicars, rectors, canons, deans, archdeacons, and bishops, with whom, when we were all undergraduates together at Oxford, we used to do nothing but read Greek all day, and Latin all night. Yet you hear nothing but abuse of such a Church! and are told to look at the Dissenters. We do look at them, and an uglier set we never saw; not one in a hundred, in his grimness, a gentleman. Not a single scholar have they got to show; and now that Hall is mute, not one orator. Their divinity is of the dust and their discourses dry bones. Down with the old Universities up with new. The old are not yet down, but the new are up; and how dazzling the contrast, even to the purblind! You may hew down trees, but not towers; and Granta and Rhedicyna will show their temples to the sun, ages after such structures shall have become hospitals. They enlighten the land. Beloved are they by all the gentlemen of England. Even the plucked think of them with tears of filial reverence, and having renewed their plumage, clap their wings, and crow defiance to all their foes. A man, you say, can get there no education to fit him for life. Bah! Tell that to the marines. Now and then one meets a man eminent in a liberal profession, who has not been at any place that could easily be called a College. But the great streams of talent in England keep perpetually flowing from the gates of her glorious Universities and he who would deny it in any mixed company of leading men in London, would only have to open his eyes in the hush that rebuked his folly, to see that he was a Cockney, clever enough, perhaps, in his own small way, and the author of some sonnets, but even to his own feelings painfully out of place among men who had not studied at the Surrey.

We cannot say that we have any fears, this fine clear September morning, for the Church of England in England. In Ireland, deserted and betrayed, it has received a dilapidating shock. Fain would seven millions of “the finest people on the earth,” and likewise the most infatuated, who are so proud of the verdure of their isle that they love to make “the green one red,” see the entire edifice overthrown, not one stone left upon another, and its very name smothered in a smoky cloud of ascending dust. They have told us so in yells, over which has still been heard “the wolf’s long howl,” the savage cry of the O’Connell. And Ministers who pretend to be Protestants, and in reform have not yet declared against the Reformation, have tamely yielded, recreants from the truth, to brawlers who would pull down her holiest altars, and given up “pure religion, breathing household laws,” a sacrifice to superstition. But there is a power enshrined in England which no Government dare seek to desecrate in the hearts of the good and wise, grateful to an establishment that has guarded Christianity from corruption, and is venerated by all the most enlightened spirits who conscientiously worship without its pale, and know that in the peaceful shadow of its strength repose their own humbler and untroubled altars.

We have been taking a cheerful a hopeful view of our surrounding world, as it is enclosed within these our seas, whose ideal murmur seemed a while to breathe in unison with our Monologue. We have been believing that in this our native land, the road of merit is the road to success say happiness. And is not the law the same in the world of Literature and the Fine Arts? Give a great genius anything like fair play, and he will gain glory nay, bread. True, he may be before his age, and may have to create his worshippers. But how few such! And is it a disgrace to an age to produce a genius whose grandeur it cannot all at once comprehend? The works of genius are surely not often incomprehensible to the highest contemporary minds, and if they win their admiration, pity not the poor Poet. But pray syllable the living Poet’s name who has had reason to complain of having fallen on evil days, or who is with “darkness and with danger compassed round.” From humblest birthplaces in the obscurest nooks frequently have we seen

“The fulgent head
Star-bright appear;”

from unsuspected rest among the water-lilies of the mountain mere, the snow-white swan in full plumage soar into the sky. Hush! no nonsense about Wordsworth. “Far-off his coming shone;” and what if for a while men knew not whether ’twas some mirage-glimmer, or the dawning of a new “orb of song!”

We have heard rather too much even from that great poet about the deafness and blindness of the present time. No Time but the future, he avers, has ears or eyes for divine music and light. Was Homer in his own day obscure, or Shakespeare? But Heaven forbid we should force the bard into an argument; we allow him to sit undisturbed by us in the bower nature delighted to build for him, with small help from his own hands, at the dim end of that alley green, among lake-murmur and mountain-shadow, for ever haunted by ennobling visions. But we love and respect Present Time partly, we confess, because he has shown some little kindly feeling for ourselves, whereas we fear Future Time may forget us among many others of his worthy father’s friends, and the name of Christopher North

“Die on his ears a faint unheeded sound.”

But Present Time has not been unjust to William Wordsworth. Some small temporalities were so; imps running about the feet of Present Time, and sometimes making him stumble: but on raising his eyes from the ground, he saw something shining like an Apparition on the mountain-top, and he hailed, and with a friendly voice, the advent of another true Poet of nature and of man.

We must know how to read that prophet, before we preach from any text in his book of revelations.

“We poets in our youth begin in gladness,
But thereof comes in the end despondency and madness.”

Why spoke he thus? Because a deep darkness had fallen upon him all alone in a mountain-cave, and he quaked before the mystery of man’s troubled life.

“He thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
The sleepless soul that perish’d in his pride;
Of him who walk’d in glory and in joy,
Following his plough upon the mountain-side!”

and if they died miserably, “How may I perish!” But they wanted wisdom. Therefore the marvellous boy drank one bowl drugged with sudden, and the glorious ploughman many bowls drugged with lingering death. If we must weep over the woes of Genius, let us know for whom we may rightly shed our tears. With one drop of ink you may write the names of all

“The mighty Poets in their misery dead.”

Wordsworth wrote those lines, as we said, in the inspiration of a profound but not permanent melancholy; and they must not be profaned by being used as a quotation in defence of accusations against human society, which, in some lips, become accusations against Providence. The mighty Poets have been not only wiser but happier than they knew; and what glory from heaven and earth was poured over their inward life, up to the very moment it darkened away into the gloom of the grave!

Many a sad and serious hour have we read d’Israeli, and many a lesson may all lovers of literature learn from his well-instructed books. But from the unhappy stories therein so feelingly and eloquently narrated, has many “a famous ape” drawn conclusions the very reverse of those which he himself leaves to be drawn by all minds possessed of any philosophy. Melancholy the moral of these moving tales; but we must look for it, not into the society that surrounds us, though on it too we must keep a watchful, and, in spite of all its sins, a not irreverent eye, but into our own hearts. There lies the source of evil which some evil power perhaps without us stirs up till it wells over in misery. Then fiercely turns the wretch first against “the world and the world’s law,” both sometimes iniquitous, and last of all against the rebellious spirit in his own breast, but for whose own innate corruption his moral being would have been victorious against all outward assaults, violent or insidious, “and to the end persisting safe arrived.”

Many men of genius have died without their fame, and for their fate we may surely mourn without calumniating our kind. It was their lot to die. Such was the will of God. Many such have come and gone, ere they knew themselves what they were; their brothers and sisters and friends knew it not; knew it not their fathers and their mothers; nor the village maidens on whose bosoms they laid their dying heads. Many, conscious of the divine flame, and visited by mysterious stirrings that would not let them rest, have like vernal wildflowers withered, or been cut down like young trees in the season of leaf and blossom. Of this our mortal life what are these but beautiful evanishings! Such was our young Scottish Poet, Michael Bruce a fine scholar, who taught a little wayside school, and died, a mere lad, of consumption. Loch Leven Castle, where Mary Stuart was imprisoned, looks not more melancholy among the dim waters for her than for its own Poet’s sake! The linnet, in its joy among the yellow broom, sings not more sweetly than did he in his sadness, sitting beside his unopened grave, “one song that will not die,” though the dirge but draw now and then a tear from some simple heart.

“Now spring returns but not to me returns
The vernal joy my better years have known;
Dim in my breast life’s dying taper burns,
And all the joys of life with health are flown.”

To young Genius to die is often a great gain. The green leaf was almost hidden in blossoms, and the tree put forth beautiful promise. Cold winds blew, and clouds intercepted the sunshine; but it felt the dews of heaven, and kept flourishing fair even in the moonlight, deriving sweet sustenance from the stars. But would all those blossoms have been fruit? Many would have formed, but more perhaps dropt in unperceived decay, and the tree which “all eyes that looked on loved,” might not have been the pride of the garden. Death could not permit the chance of such disappointment, stepped kindly in, and left the spring-dream “sweet but mournful to the soul,” among its half-fancied memories. Such was the fate, perhaps, of Henry Kirke White. His fine moral and intellectual being was not left to pine away neglected; and if, in gratitude and ambition, twin-births in that noble heart, he laid down his life for sake of the lore he loved, let us lament the dead with no passionate ejaculations over injustice by none committed, console ourselves with the thought, in noways unkind to his merits, that he died in a mild bright spring that might have been succeeded by no very glorious summer; and that, fading away as he did among the tears of the good and great, his memory has been embalmed, not only in his own gentle inspirations, but in the immortal eulogy of Southey. But, alas! many thus endowed by nature “have waged with fortune an unequal war;” and pining away in poverty and disappointment, have died broken-hearted and been buried some in unhonoured, some even in unwept graves! And how many have had a far more dismal lot, because their life was not so innocent! The children of misfortune, but of error too of frailty, vice, and sin. Once gone astray, with much to tempt them on, and no voice, no hand, to draw them back, theirs has been at first a flowery descent to death, but soon sorely beset with thorns, lacerating the friendless wretches, till, with shame and remorse their sole attendants, they have tottered into uncoffined holes and found peace.

With sorrows and sufferings like these, it would be hardly fair to blame society at large for having little or no sympathy; for they are, in the most affecting cases, borne in silence, and are unknown even to the generous and humane in their own neighbourhood, who might have done something or much to afford encouragement or relief. Nor has Charity always neglected those who so well deserved her open hand, and in their virtuous poverty might, without abatement of honourable pride in themselves, have accepted silent succour to silent distress. Pity that her blessings should be so often intercepted by worthless applicants, on their way, it may be said, to the magnanimous who have not applied at all, but spoken to her heart in a silent language, which was not meant even to express the penury it betrayed. But we shall never believe that dew twice blessed seldom descends, in such a land as ours, on the noble young head that else had sunk like a chance flower in some dank shade, left to wither among weeds. We almost venture to say, that much of such unpitied, because often unsuspected suffering, cannot cease to be without a change in the moral government of the world.

Nor has Genius a right to claim from Conscience what is due but to Virtue. None who love humanity can wish to speak harshly of its mere frailties or errors but none who revere morality can allow privilege to its sins. All who sin suffer, with or without genius; and we are nowhere taught in the New Testament, that remorse in its agony, and penitence in its sorrow, visit men’s imaginations only; but whatever way they enter, their rueful dwelling is in the heart. Poets shed no bitterer tears than ordinary men; and Fonblanque finely showed us, in one of his late little essays, clear as wells and deep as tarns, that so far from there being anything in the constitution of genius naturally kindred either to vice or misery, it is framed of light and love and happiness, and that its sins and sufferings come not from the spirit but from the flesh. Yet is its flesh as firm as, and perhaps somewhat finer than, that of the common clay; but still it is clay for all men are dust.

But what if they who, on the ground of genius, claim exemption from our blame, and inclusion within our sympathies, even when seen suffering from their own sins, have no genius at all, but are mere ordinary men, and but for the fumes of some physical excitement, which they mistake for the airs of inspiration, are absolutely stupider than people generally go, and even without any tolerable abilities for alphabetical education? Many such run versifying about, and will not try to settle down into any easy sedentary trade, till, getting thirsty through perpetual perspiration, they take to drinking, come to you with subscription-papers for poetry, with a cock in their eye that tells of low tippling-houses, and, accepting your half-crown, slander you when melting it in the purling purlieus of their own donkey-browsed Parnassus.

Can this age be fairly charged we speak of England and Scotland with a shameful indifference or worse a cruel scorn or worse still a barbarous persecution of young persons of humble birth, in whom there may appear a promise of talent, or of genius? Many are the scholars in whom their early benefactors have had reason to be proud of themselves, while they have been happy to send their sons to be instructed in the noblest lore, by men whose boyhood they had rescued from the darkness of despair, and clothed it with the warmth and light of hope. And were we to speak of endowments in schools and colleges, in which so many fine scholars have been brought up from among the humbler classes, who but for them had been bred to some mean handicraft, we should show better reason still for believing that moral and intellectual worth is not overlooked, or left to pine neglected in obscure places, as it is too much the fashion with a certain set of discontented declaimers to give out; but that in no other country has such provision been made for the meritorious children of the enlightened poor as in England. But we fear that the talent and the genius which, according to them, have been so often left or sent to beggary, to the great reproach even of our national character, have not been of a kind which a thoughtful humanity would in its benefactions have recognised; for it looks not with very hopeful eyes on mere irregular sallies of fancy, least of all when spurning prudence and propriety, and symptomatic of a mental constitution easily excited, but averse to labour, and insensible to the delight labour brings with it, when the faculties are all devoted in steadfastness of purpose to the acquisition of knowledge and the attainment of truth.

’Tis not easy to know, seeing it is so difficult to define it, whether this or that youth who thinks he has genius, has it or not: the only proof he may have given of it is perhaps a few copies of verses, which breathe the animal gladness of young life, and are tinged with tints of the beautiful, which joy itself, more imaginative than it ever again will be, steals from the sunset; but sound sense, and judgment, and taste which is sense and judgment of all finest feelings and thoughts, and the love of light dawning on the intellect, and ability to gather into knowledge facts near and from afar, till the mind sees systems, and in them understands the phenomena which, when looked at singly, perplexed the pleasure of the sight these, and aptitudes and capacities and powers such as these, are indeed of promise, and more than promise; they are already performance, and justify in minds thus gifted, and in those who watch their workings, hopes of a wiser and happier future when the boy shall be a man.

Perhaps too much honour, rather than too little, has been shown by this age to mediocre poetry and other works of fiction. A few gleams of genius have given some writers of little worth a considerable reputation; and great waxed the pride of poetasters. But true poetry burst in beauty over the land, and we became intolerant of “false glitter.” Fresh sprang its flowers from the “daedal earth,” or seemed, they were so surpassingly beautiful, as if spring had indeed descended from heaven, “veiled in a shower of shadowing roses,” and no longer could we suffer young gentlemen and ladies, treading among the profusion, to gather the glorious scatterings, and weaving them into fantastic or even tasteful garlands, to present them to us, as if they had been raised from the seed of their own genius, and entitled therefore “to bear their name in the wild woods.” This flower-gathering, pretty pastime though it be, and altogether innocent, fell into disrepute; and then all such florists began to complain of being neglected, or despised, or persecuted, and their friends to lament over their fate, the fate of all genius, “in amorous ditties all a summer’s day.”

Besides the living poets of highest rank, are there not many whose claims to join the sacred band have been allowed, because their lips, too, have sometimes been touched with a fire from heaven? Second-rate indeed! Ay, well for those who are third, fourth, or fifth rate knowing where sit Homer, Shakespeare, and Milton. Round about Parnassus run many parallel roads, with forests of “cedar and branching palm” between, overshadowing the sunshine on each magnificent level with a sense of something more sublime still nearer the forked summit; and each band, so that they be not ambitious overmuch, in their own region may wander or repose in grateful bliss. Thousands look up with envy from “the low-lying fields of the beautiful land” immediately without the line that goes wavingly asweep round the base of the holy mountain, separating it from the common earth. What clamour and what din from the excluded crowd! Many are heard there to whom nature has been kind, but they have not yet learned “to know themselves,” or they would retire, but not afar off, and in silence adore. And so they do ere long, and are happy in the sight of “the beauty still more beauteous” revealed to their fine perceptions, though to them was not given the faculty that by combining in spiritual passion creates. But what has thither brought the self-deceived, who will not be convinced of their delusion, even were Homer or Milton’s very self to frown on them with eyes no longer dim, but angry in their brightness like lowering stars?

But we must beware perhaps too late of growing unintelligible, and ask you, in plainer terms, if you do not think that by far the greatest number of all those who raise an outcry against the injustice of the world to men of genius, are persons of the meanest abilities, who have all their lives been foolishly fighting with their stars? Their demons have not whispered to them “have a taste,” but “you have genius,” and the world gives the demons the lie. Thence anger, spite, rancour, and envy eat their hearts, and they “rail against the Lord’s anointed.” They set up idols of clay, and fall down and worship them or idols of brass, more worthless than clay; or they perversely, and in hatred, not in love, pretend reverence for the Fair and Good, because, forsooth, placed by man’s ingratitude too far in the shade, whereas man’s pity has, in deep compassion, removed the objects of their love, because of their imperfections not blameless, back in among that veiling shade, that their beauty might still be visible while their deformities were hidden in “a dim religious light.”

Let none of the sons or daughters of genius hearken to such outcry but with contempt and at all times with suspicion, when they find themselves the objects of such lamentations. The world is not at least does not wish to be an unkind, ungenerous, and unjust world. Many who think themselves neglected, are far more thought of than they suppose; just as many who imagine the world ringing with their name, are in the world’s ears nearly anonymous. Only one edition or two of your poems have sold but is it not pretty well that five hundred or a thousand copies have been read, or glanced over, or looked at, or skimmed, or skipped, or fondled, or petted, or tossed aside “between malice and true love,” by ten times that number of your fellow-creatures, not one of whom ever saw your face; while many millions of men, nearly your equals, and not a few millions your superiors far, have contentedly dropt into the grave, at the close of a long life, without having once “invoked the Muse,” and who would have laughed in your face had you talked to them, even in their greatest glee, about their genius?

There is a glen in the Highlands (dearly beloved Southrons, call on us, on your way through Edinburgh, and we shall delight to instruct you how to walk our mountains) called Glencro very unlike Glenco. A good road winds up the steep ascent, and at the summit there is a stone seat on which you read “Rest and be thankful.” You do so and are not a little proud if pedestrians of your achievement. Looking up, you see cliffs high above your head (not the Cobbler), and in the clear sky, as far above them, a balanced bird. You envy him his seemingly motionless wings, and wonder at his air-supporters. Down he darts, or aside he shoots, or right up he soars, and you wish you were an Eagle. You have reached Rest-and-be-thankful, yet rest you will not, and thankful you will not be, and you scorn the mean inscription, which many a worthier wayfarer has blessed, while sitting on that stone he has said, “give us this day our daily bread,” eat his crust, and then walked away contented down to Cairndow. Just so has it been with you sitting at your appointed place pretty high up on the road to the summit of the Biforked Hill. You look up and see Byron there “sitting where you may not soar,” and wish you were a great Poet. But you are no more a great Poet than an Eagle eight feet from wing-tip to wing-tip and will not rest-and-be-thankful that you are a man and a Christian. Nay, you are more, an author of no mean repute; and your prose is allowed to be excellent, better far than the best paragraph in this our Morning Monologue. But you are sick of walking, and nothing will satisfy you but to fly. Be contented, as we are, with feet, and weep not for wings; and let us take comfort together from a cheering quotation from the philosophic Gray

“For they that creep and they that fly,
Just end where they began!”