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Ossian appeared; and the truth of sentimentalism seemed historically established. For here was poetry of the loftiest tone, composed in the unlearned Dark Ages, and answering the highest expectations concerning poetry inspired by Nature only. (Was not a distinguished Professor of Rhetoric saying, “Ossian's poetry, more perhaps than that of any other writer, deserves to be styled the poetry of the heart”?) And here was the record of a nature-people whose conduct stood revealed as flawless. "Fingal," Macpherson himself accommodatingly pointed out, "exercised every manly virtue in Caledonia while Heliogabalus disgraced human nature in Rome.” More than fifty years afterwards Byron compared Homer's Hector, greatly to his disadvantage, with Ossian's Fingal: the latter's conduct was, in his admirer's words, “uniformly illustrious and great, without one mean or inhuman action to tarnish the splendor of his fame.” The benevolent magnanimity of the heroes, the sweet sensibility of the heroines, their harmony with Nature's moods (traits which Macpherson had supplied from his own imagination), were the very traits that won the enthusiasm of the public. The poem in its turn stimulated the sentimentalism which had produced it; and henceforth the new school contended on even terms with the old.

One of the effects of the progress of sentimentalism was the decline of satire. Peculiarly the weapon of the classical school, it had fallen into unskillful hands: Churchill, though keen and bold, lacked the grace of Pope and the power of Johnson. Goldsmith might have proved a worthier successor; but though his genius for style was large, his capacity for sustained indignation was limited. Even his Retaliation is humorous in spirit rather than satiric. He was a being of conflicting impulses; and in his case at least, the style is not precisely the man. His temperament was emotional and affectionate; by nature he was a sentimentalist. But his inclinations were restrained, partly by the personal influence of Dr. Johnson, partly by his own admiration for the artistic traditions of the classicists. He despised looseness of style, considered blank verse unfinished, and cultivated what seemed to him the more polished elegance of

cence.

the heroic couplet. The vacillation of his views appears in the difference between the sentiments of The Traveller and those of The Deserted Village. The former is a survey of the nations of Europe, the object being to discover a people wholly admirable. Merit is found in Italians, Swiss, French, Dutch, and English,—but never perfection; even the free and happy Swiss are disgusting in the vulgar sensuality of their pleasures; happiness is nowhere. One is not surprised to learn that Dr. Johnson contributed at least a few lines to a poem with so orthodox a message.

In The Deserted Village, on the other hand, Goldsmith employed the classical graces to point a moral which from the classical point of view was false. His sympathetic feelings had now been captivated by the notion of rural inno

The traits of character which he attributed to the village inhabitants,-notably to the immortal preacher who, entertaining the vagrants,

Quite forgot their vices in their woe, are those exalted in the literature of sentimentalism, as, for example, in his contemporary, Langhorne's Country Justice. The Deserted Village was in point of fact an imaginative idyll,—the supreme idyll of English poetry; but Goldsmith insisted that it was a realistic record of actual conditions. Yet he could never have observed such an English village, either in its depopulated and decayed state (as Macaulay has remarked), or in its rosy prosperity and unsullied virtue; his economic history and theory were misleading. Like Macpherson, but through self-delusion rather than intent, he was engaged in an effort to deceive by giving sentimental doctrines a basis of apparent actuality. But the world has forgotten or forgiven his pious fraud in its gratitude for the loveliness of his art.

IV.

THE TRIUMPH OF SENTIMENTALISM

(1776-1800)

Goldsmith's application of sentimental ideas to contemporary affairs foreshadowed what was to be one of the marked tendencies of the movement in the last quarter of the century. Thus in 1777 Thomas Day interpreted the American Revolution as a conflict between the pitiless tyranny of a corrupt civilization and the appealing virtues of a people who had found in sequestered forests and prairies the abiding place of Freedom and the only remaining opportunity “to save the ruins of the human name.” At the same time the justification of sentimentalism on historical grounds was strengthened by the young antiquarian and poet, Thomas Chatterton. Like Macpherson, he answers to Pope's description of archaizing authors,

Ancients in words, mere moderns in their sense. He fabricated, in what he thought to be Middle English, a body of songs and interludes, which he attributed to a monk named Thomas Rowleie, and which showed that, in the supposedly unsophisticated simplicity of medieval times, charity to Man and love for Nature had flourished as beautifully as lyric utterance. Even more lamentable than Chatterton's early death is the fact that his fanciful and musical genius was shrouded in so grotesque a style.

In 1781 appeared a new poet of real distinction, George Crabbe, now the hope of the conservatives. Edmund Burke, who early in his great career had assailed the radicals in his ironic Vindication of Natural Society, and who to the end of his life contended against them in the arena of politics, on reading some of Crabbe's manuscripts, rescued this cultured and ingenuous man from obscurity and distress; and Dr. Johnson presently aided him in his literary labors. In The Library Crabbe expressed the reverence of a scholarly soul for the garnered wisdom of the past, and satirized some of the popular writings of the day, including sentimental fiction. He would not have denied the world those consolations which flow from the literature that mirrors our hopes and dreams; but his honest spirit revolted when such literature professed to be true to life. His acquaintance with actual conditions in humble circles, and with hardships, was as personal as Goldsmith's; but he was not the kind of poet who soothes the miseries of mankind by ignoring them. In The Village he arose with all the vigor and intensity of insulted common sense to refute the dreamers who offered a rose-colored picture of country life as a genuine portrayal of truth and nature. So evident was his mastery of his subject, his clearness of perception, and his earnestness of feeling, that he attracted immediate attention; and he might well have led a new advance under the ancient standards. But silence fell upon Crabbe for many years; and this proved to be the last occasion in the poetical history of the century that a powerful voice was raised in behalf of the old cause.

The poet who became the favorite of moderate sentimentalists, in what were called “genteel” circles, was William Cowper. He presented little or nothing that could affright the gentle emotions, and much that pleasurably stimulated them. He enriched the poetry of the domestic affections, and had a vein of sadness which occasionally, as in To Mary, deepened into the most touching pathos. In The Task, a discursive familiar essay in smooth-flowing blank verse, he dwelt fondly upon those satisfactions which his life of uneventful retirement offered; intimated that truth and wisdom were less surely found by poring upon books than by meditating among beloved rural scenes; and, turning his sad gaze toward the distant world of action, deplored that mankind strained “the natural bond of brotherhood” by tolerating cruel imprisonments, slavery, and warfare. Such humanitarian views, when they seek the aid of religious ethics, ought normally to find support in that sentimentalized Christianity which professes the entire goodness of the human heart; but the discordant element in Cowper's mind was his inclination towards Calvinism, which goes to the opposite extreme by insisting on total depravity. Personally he believed that he had committed the unpardonable sin (against the Holy Spirit),-a dreadful thought which underlies his tragic poem, The Castaway; and probably unwholesome, though well-intentioned, was the influence upon him of his spiritual adviser, John Newton, whose gloomy theology may be seen in the hymn, The Vision of Life in Death. Cowper's sense of the reality of evil not only distracted his mind to madness, but also prevented him from carrying his sentimental principles to their logical goal. What the hour demanded were poets who, discountenancing any mistrust of the natural emotions, should give them free rein. They were found at last in Burns and in Blake.

The sentimentalists had long yearned for the advent of the ideal poet. Macpherson had presented him,-but as of an era far remote; latterly Beattie, in The Minstrel, had set forth his growth under the inspiration of Nature, --but in a purely imaginary tale. Suddenly Burns appeared: and the ideal seemed incarnated in the living present. The Scottish bard was introduced to the world by his first admirers as "a heaven-taught ploughman, of humble unlettered station," whose "simple strains, artless and unadorned, seem to flow without effort from the native feelings of the heart”; and as "a signal instance of true and uncultivated genius.”

The real Burns, though indeed a genius of song, was far better read than the expectant world wished to believe, particularly in those whom he called his “bosom favorites," the sentimentalists Mackenzie and Sterne; and his sense of rhythm and melody had been trained by his emulation of earlier Scotch lyricists, whose lilting cadences flow towards him as highland rills to the gathering torrent. Sung to the notes of his native tunes, and infused with the local color of Scotch life, the sentimental themes assumed the freshness of novelty. Giving a new ardor to revolutionary tendencies, Burns revolted against the orthodoxy of the “Auld Lichts,” depicting its representatives as ludicrously hypocritical. He protested against distinctions founded on birth or rank, as in A Man's a Man for A' That; and, on the other hand, he idealized the homely feelings and manners of the “virtuous populace” in his immortal Cotter's Saturday Night. He scorned academic learning, and

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