Page:Olney Hymns - 1840.djvu/35

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XXXI

not soon pass away, by having, as he honestly says, "done his best;" and he had reason to be satisfied, that, by "the mediocrity of talent" with which "it pleased the Lord to favour him," he was admirably qualified for usefulness to the weak and the poor of Christ's flock, without disgusting persons of superior discernment.— For, not in the smallest degree to exaggerate his merits, it may be said, that "persons of superior discernment, "who are, at the same time, spiritually-minded, are those by whom his labours will be most highly esteemed, and the value of some of them even put into competition with the more poetic effusions of his friend, to whom he himself so willingly concedes the palm, in his preface to the finished work, at a time when that friend was never likely to claim or enjoy his superior honours.

Though Newton's pieces in this collection may be regarded as fair models, according to his own view of the nature of such compositions, yet it must be confessed, by his warmest admirers, that the pulpit idioms, the bald phraseology, and the conversational cadence of his lines, frequently lower the tone of his poetry so much, that what would be pleasing and impressive in prose becomes languid and wearisome in verse. Indeed, when verse (not otherwise pretending to be poetical) is not much better than prose, by the charm of numbers alone it is much worse. Its artificial structure is then a decided disadvantage, and no reader can even if he would, (though many try to persuade themselves that they do,) like a sentence better for the clanking of a chain of syllables. "The day that makes a man a slave takes half his worth away," says the old poet; and language enslaved in metre loses half its power, unless the loss of natural freedom be abundantly compensated by the grace of accent, and the melody of rhythm.