21 OCTOBER 1843, Page 15


THE _Democratic Review has a notice of a volume of poems by Mr. WILLIAM ELLERT CHAIINING ; the specimens of which show the author to possess the fine feelings that are associated with his name, but a remarkable deficiency in the poetic art. " Much of it," says the reviewer, " seems to be the poetry of love and senti- ment, fruits of a fine, light, gentle, happy intercourse with his friends ; the poet obviously and consciously idealizing his portraits, because his interest is not in that which they are in this world, but in what they are to his genius." Then was the poet, so-called, less a friend, less a sympathizer in humanity as it is, less susceptible to the influences of the universe, less of a real poet. This idealism is a crying disease of the day. Extremes meet ; to the coarse clown or the hardened man of the world the half of all existences are frustrated by his own callousness : to the idealizer they are frus- trated by falsification ; he is too fine to take them as they are—he must have counterfeits of his own making to his own pattern ; and he remains in possession of the counterfeits alone, the realities cast aside. He excludes the warm, fleshly friend from his communion, and only admits him as the bodily representative of some shadow in the idealizer's mind—as an actor who plays a walking gentleman in the ideal comedy of the " poet's thoughts." The poet marries not the living mistress, but a phantom, to which the real wife be- comes a foil. When Ides and Phcebus Apollo contended before Zeus for Marpessa, she chose the mortal, because as she grew old the immortal would despise her : she had an eye to the ideal- izing of the poet's tutelary god. This spurious process of re- finement seems to lie in a confusion of ideas : because an idea can be formed of a being possessing only certain qualities which constitute parts, assumed to be the best, of existing charac- ters, therefore living men are bound, for the gratification of the idealizers, to waive the other parts of their characters, and limit their entity to the description of the ideal being, under pain of being pronounced a baser race. The "poets" of this numerous faction will not accept the creation as it is prepared, but must strive to go apart into a world of their own ; as if they could at pleasure step outside the universe ! And these existences that they spurn, whence do they come ? Can your most skilful idealizer make more wonderful, or more beautiful ? The foppery assumes many shapes and names—poetry, philosophy, religion. The highest poets, however, are content to worship nature as it is, proud to be allowed to copy her faithfully ; and if they eke out their own limited resources by a resort to fancy and imagination, still they take the pattern of nature. SHAKSPERE'S men and women are not idealisms. The highest philosophers have been practical men, and most practical in their highest philosophy, most exalted in their worship of nature. And it is written of little children—simplest humanity—that " of such is the kingdom of heaven." When the imperfect philosopher played the lover, and forgot the beauty in the contemplation of one defect which en- grossed and dismayed him, she exclaimed, " Lascia le donne, e atudia la matematica"; and the idealizer could not again propi- tiate her outraged pride. The courtezan was a just judge : such sentence should be pronounced in all such cases ; and your ideal- izers, your poets whose interest is not in their friends " as they are in this world," should be exiled to their own abstractions, in- stead of being suffered to fill society with false shames and mis- givings. We do not yet understand so much of the real world, its study is not yet so exhausted and so barren, that we need to in- vent newer, or madly presume to devise a better creation.