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The Prophetic Poet.

The Prophetic Poet.

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Published by glennpease


Dan. xii. 3.



Dan. xii. 3.


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Published by: glennpease on Sep 26, 2013
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THE PROPHETIC POET.BY WILLIAM STEEL DICKSO, d.d.Dan. xii. 3.THEY THAT BE WISE SHALL SHIE AS THE BRIGHTESS OFTHE FIRMAMET.Among the later announcements from Europe, Ihave noted this one : The Poet Wordsworth isdead. The fact is noticed, that is all. o com-ment on his character ; no statement of his age ;no other allusion to his history than is conveyed inthat one word, the Poet. There was a time whenthat word had a sanctity and grandeur. In thesimplicity of earlier ages it indicated a relationto higher spheres of the soul than those of the earth.The poet was thought to derive his power from acelestial source ; it was gift of the Muse who lovedhim ; nor did he sing but in obedience to the energywhich wrought in him. The Hebrew bards, witha simpler conception of the invisible powers,uttered their songs and their prophecies — so wecall them — with a seeming consciousness that theywere not their own, but words of the One Myste-rious Being ; and when the Jewish Christian cameto quote the language of Grecian poetry, he referred220 THE PROPHETIC POET.it to prophet of theirs, showing that to his mindthe radical idea of prophet and of poet is one. Of modern poets there are to whom this feeling hasnot been wholly unknown. Milton, beyond mostothers, deeming the genuine poet himself a truepoem, gathering, arranging, embodying, quickenuig
the highest and noblest elements, and confessing theinspiration which, he says, must be devoutly invokedfor the worthy fulfilment of his grand idea. Butusually within these last centuries poetry has beendegraded from inspiration to art, and so has let itself become invention and fiction rather than rhythmicutterance of Divinest Truth. ay, it has been made,as the Socrates of Plato said of Rhetoric, a sort of culinary thing ; nor even that in the best way. otthe solid nutri ment of the soul has it professed to bringfrom its kitchen, but the delicacies and ornamentsof the feast To give pleasure, not to impart life,has been its declared end. And why not, when ithad ceased to live originally, spontaneously? — when it had become imitative and secondary, in-voking the Muses as those did who meant theirprayer, and letting God go save where the act de-manded that he should come in as complement tothe design ?Again, the prophet-bard is not mere singer ; he iswise man, the wise man of his age. It must be so.His inspiration — a real fact, not a fictitious embel-lishment — is from the Infinite Wisdom. The holylight shines into him, purges away the mists, dis-pels the shadows, and reveals the eternal laws.The vision excites those melodious thoughts whichTHE PROPHETIC POET. 221naturally go forth into words and forms of har-mony. The element of prophetic wisdom dwells,open or hidden, in every soul ; the true poet, theprophet of wisdom, is he within whom the elementis opened to clear consciousness, united with organsapt to give it form and expression. So his wordsbecome oracles. They pass into proverbs; andmen, unaware of their origin, and unconscious of 
the musical philosophy, repeat them and acknowl-edge them laws of life. I have heard of someperson remarking, ludicrously enough, that Shake-speare had collected a great many common sayings ;and, I suspect, most persons, if they were to readthe old Grecian poets, would be struck with theobservation how litUe they contain which experi-ence and education have not made already familiar.Theirs it was, not to invent anything strange andnew, but to weave into their strains so much asthey perceived of the wisdom which lies before usand sleeps within us all the time.ay, the true poet used to be no visionaryrecluse. Moses was the deliverer and lawgiver of a nation. David was a monarch, now fugitive,now triumphant. The great Hebrew prophetsstood before kings and nobles, and spake to citiesand nations, heralds of the heavenly power, speak-ers of the eternal word, representatives of the lawwhich all should obey; penetrating to the con-science through their exposures of sin, moving thehearts of the proud by their discoveries of the aw-ful mystery, cheering the poor, the sad, the oppressedby their promises of redemption, and depicting a19»322 THE PROPHETIC POET.celestial order on earth which has not yet ceased toshine as fire by the night through which man isstill wandering in the wide, deep waste. If no-where else the prophet-bard has wrought impres-sions so deep, it is not that his office is other, butthat it has been less perfectly fulfilled ; that, indimmer light or feebler power, he has failed soclearly to discern, so strongly to utter, the Divine

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