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The North British Review, Vol. 41 (Classic Reprint)

The North British Review, Vol. 41 (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from The North British Review, Vol. 41

The great stirring of men's minds, with which the last century-closed, and the present set in, expressed itself in no way more conspicuously than in its prodigality of poetic genius. What gave the impulse to the broader, profounder, more living spirit, which then entered into all regions of thought, who shall determine? To recount the common literary commonplaces on this subject, to refer that great movement of mind to the French Revolution, or to the causes of that Revolution, is easy; but such vague talk does not really increase our knowledge. Perhaps it may be for the present enough to say, that the portentous political outbreak in France was itself but one manifestation of the new and changed spirit, which throughout Europe had penetrated all departments of human thought and action. Whatever the causes, the fact is plain, that with the opening of this century there was in all civilized lands a turning up of the subsoil of human nature, a laying bare of the intenser seats of action, thought, and emotion, such as the world had seldom, if ever before, known. The new spirit reached all forms of literature, and changed them; in this country it told more immediately on poetry than on any other kind of literature, and recast it into manifold and more original forms. The breadth and volume of that poetic outburst can only be fully estimated by looking back to the narrow and artificial channels in which English poetry since the days of Milton had flowed. In the hands of Dryden and Pope, that which was a natural, free-wandering river became a straight-cut, uniform canal.

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