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MODERN ENGLISH POETS.*
MR. AND Mrs. BROWNING are psycholo- | but also by reason of its force and point. gical curiosities. Independently of the sin- We merely give one specimen to prove our gular fact of two of the greatest poetical assertion : minds of the day being “ united in the holy
“Behold with throe on throe, bonds of matrimony,” there are many pecu- How wasted, by this woe, liar traits connected with their history which I wrestle down the myriad years of Time! render them possibly the most interesting
Behold how fa-t around me married couple on record. Both shrouded The New King of the happy ones sublime
Has flung the chaiu he forged, has shamed and as it were from the world, and dedicated to
bound me! the service of Apollo almost from their very Woe, woe, to-day's woe, and the coming morrow's
, cradle, they, like young Hannibal, have I cover with one groan. And where is found me given themselves up to that worship which,
A limit to these sorrows! though requiring a native genius, is yet more clearly all things that should be; nothing done
And yet what word do I say! I have foreknows generally determined by some particular Comes sudden to my soul; and I must bear accident. In order to render their idiosyn- What is ordained with patience, being aware crasy the more intelligible, we shall briefly Necessity doth front the universe allude to their personal history, and as a
With an invincible gesture.” matter of course commence with the lady. Miss Elizabeth Barrett Barrett is the for which we must, with Mr. Willis's per
The two last lines are certainly of an order daughter of a gentleman of moderate for- mission, invent a word, and call Browningtune, and was born in London in 1812. Being of fragile health and slender frame, wrote, so singular a position were ever put,
esque; for we question if, till Miss Barrett she was unable to partake of those amuse- like a straight waistcoat, upon the universe. ments to which young ladies of her class in life are predisposed. While her friends
We will quote only one more verse of this sought the ball and the concert-room, the really marvellous translation : youthful poetess retired to her chamber, and
“I know that Zeus is stern; studied Greek, Latin, and other Lady Jane
I know he metes his justice by his will;
And yet I also know his soul shall learn Grey accomplishments. As early as her
More softness when once broken by this ill! tenth year,
she had written some verses of That, curbing his unconquerable wrath, singular merit, even at that age displaying He shall rush on in fear, to meet with me, that peculiar style of thought and expres
Who rush to meet with him in agony, sion which have made her the most origi
To issues of harmonious covenant." nal poetess in the English language. Her We have in this the germ of much of Mrs. first attempts at verse were given to the Browning's poetry; for, without harping too Athenæum without any signature, or indeed much upon one string—for her lyre is fully even initial, and excited great curiosity from strung-we may yet observe that very much their remarkable phraseology. We question of her music is set in one key, which at if any poet of so youthful an age ever so times gives a monotony to her verse which completely exhibited the complete Minerva- | really belongs more to its sound than its ism as the youthful Elizabeth. A few years sense. In the latter point of view, she is afterwards appeared her translation of Es- undoubtedly the most peculiar of all the chylus's “Prometheus Vinctus,” which may female poets of England. But her mannerchallenge comparison with any translation ism is in word, not thought. There is also of the day: indeed it may be pronounced a provoking fact about her, which lends her unique, not only on account of its fidelity, the less excuse for the tortuous style of her
* Sordello, Bells and Pomegranates, &c. By Robert Browning.
Casa Guidi's Windows. By Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
expression, viz., that she can, if she pleases, tics. After a short time the happy couple clothe her meaning in the very simplest started for Florence, where they have resided Saxon.
ever since. Their sentiments are thoroughly To this translation succeeded a volume Italian and republican, and the fondest wish of entitled “The Seraphim and other Poems,” both their hearts is “to live and die in sunny which, although not exhibiting the lofty Italy.” To those who are conversant with flights she has since reached, was yet ample Browning's poems, this will be readily beto convince the world that a spirit of won- lieved; but we confess this Italianism surderful intellect was speaking.
prised us in his wife's, as she is more of an After this she collected her translations intellectual Englishwoman than any we have and poems in two volumes, prefixing thereto read-her conversation even more so than her " Drama of Exile," in which she turned her writings. Since their marriage they Adam and Eve into a pair of the most ex- have had two children, one of whom died traordinary mystics ever created. There is ere it had reached its second year. Her this one fatal defect in this otherwise grand lament is perhaps one of the most singular song, that beings constituted as Mrs. Brown- dirges ever written by a woman's hand, ing makes our first parents never could more especially a mother's. As it is too have fallen from the Paradise of the Bible. long to quote entire, we must content ourNotwithstanding this want of dramatic vrai- selves with a few verses :semblance, there is no drama ever written by a woman that can stand a minute's com
“Of English blood, of Tuscan birth,
What country shall we give her! parison with it. It is in the ideal, what
Instead of any on the earth, Joanna Baillie's tragic plays are in the The civic heavens receive her." romantic. These volumes contain, among We think our readers will allow that heamany other new'poems, "A Vision of Poets," which is composed in the triplet. Here she ven never had such an adjective before
" the civic heavens !" runs riot, and indulges in almost every freak of accentuation. Her last production is the " And here among the English tombs, volume at the head of this article, and dis
In Tuscan grounds we lay her; plays more maturity and power, with less of
While the blue Tuscan sky endomes
Our English words of prayer. the elements of popularity, than any of her other productions.
"A little child I how long she lived We shall now turn to the prominent fact By months, not years, is reckoned: of her life, her marriage, in November, 1846,
Born in one July, she survived
Alone to see a second. with Robert Browning, author of “Sordello," "Bells and Pomegranates," &c. Their courtship was singular-indeed almost as unintelligible as some of their verses.
“So, Lily, from those July hours,
No wonder we should call her ; Mr. Browning sent to Miss Barrett one of
She looked such kinship to the flowershis plays, which the fair recipient acknow
Was but a little taller. ledged in a Greek letter. This brought a reply from the dramatist in the same lan- “A Tuscan lily-only white, guage, and, as the poet says,
As Dante, in abhorrence
Of red corruption, wished aright “When Greek meets Greek, then comes the tug of
The lilies of his Florence." love,"
The next verse contains one of those tender a lengthy correspondence in the language of felicities of thought and expression, which is Homer followed, till it led to an interview, worthy of the daughter of Shakspeare :which ended in marriage. Miss Barrett had
“We could not wish her whiter-her been so long secluded from the world, in
Who perfumed with pure
blossom consequence of her delicate state of health,
The house-a lovely thing to wear that her union was considered, when first Upon a mother's bosom. announced by their friends, as a mere rumor,
“This July creature thought perhaps partaking very much of the hoax; but the tan
Our speech not worth assuming; gible witnesses of wedding cards and cake
She sate upon her parents' laps, carried conviction to the minds of the skep- And mimicked the gnat’s humming.
“Said Father Mother'- then left off, The flowing ends of the earth from Fez, Canton,
Delhi and Stockholm, Athens and Madrid,
Her golden cincture. Isles, peninsulas,
, far inland countries hid takes in her versification, we quote a single By jasper sands, and hills of clırysopras
All trailing in their splendors through the door verse :
Of the new Crystal Palace. Every nation " But God gives patience, Love learns strength, To every other nation, strange of yore, And Faith remembers promise,
Shall face to face give civic salutation,
And hold up in a proud right band before
That Congress the best work which she could
fashion, Even in this short specimen our readers can By her best means. "These corals will you please discern the singularly shaping power of Mrs. To match against your oaksi They grow as fast Browning's imagination. Not a thought or This diamond stared upon me as I passed image is rendered as another woman would;
(As a live god's eye from a marble frieze) and we really question if ever before those Along a dash of diamonds. Is it classed? feelings were so presented to a female mind. I wove these stuffs so subtly that the gold
But we will give our poetess in another Swims to the surface of the silk, like cream, aspect, for the edification of our lady readers. And curdles to fair patterns. Ye behold,
These dedicated muslins rather seem It purports to be translated from the Portu- Than be. You shrink !—nay, touch them and be guese, but the fair translator's own nature bold, is unmistakably revealed :
Though such veiled Chakli's face in Hafiz' dream.
These carpets ! you walk slow on them, like kings, “First time he kissed me, he but only kissed Inaudible, like spirits; while your foot The fingers of this hand wherewith I writo, Dips deep in velvet roses and such things. And ever since it grew more clear and white. E'en Apollonius might commend this flute; Slow to world-greetings, quick with its 'Oh list ! The music, winding through the stops, upspringe, When the angels speak. A ring of amethyst To make the player very rich. Compute. I could not wear here plainer to my sight Here's goblet glass, to take in with your wine Than that first kiss. The second passed in height The very sun its grapes were ripened under; The first, and sought the forehead; and half missed', Drink light and juice together, and each fire. Half falling on the hair. O beyond meed! This model of a steam-ship moves your wonder ! That was the chrysm of love, which love's own You should behold it crushing down the brine, crown,
Like a blind Jove, who feels his way with thunder. With sanctifying sweetness did precede. Here's sculpture. Ah, we live too—why not throw The third upon my lips was folded down Our life into our marbles Art has place In perfect purple state! since when, indeed, For other artists after Angelo. I have been proud, and said, 'My love, my own!" I tried to paint out here a natural face;
For Nature includes Raphael, as we know, Since Bowles made Madeira tremble, when Not Raphael Nature. Will it help my case ? the first kiss echoed through its forests, we Methinks you will not match this steel of ours, question if a more singular-phrased account Nor you this porcelain. One might think the clay
Retained in it the larvæ of the flowers, of a kiss has been given to the world.
They bud go round the cup the old spring way, We can trace, since her marriage with the Nor you these Carren words where birds in bowers author of “Sordello," a decided imitation With twisting snakes and climbing Cupids play.” of her husband's style; or perhaps we ought the readers of “Sordello” and “Paracelsus" to say, their poetical nature has assimilated. cannot fail being struck at the similarity This is of course natural; for if it be true that between this extract and those wonderful the faces of persons who dwell together be
poems. come more and more alike every day, the more
In her verses entitled “A Sabbath Mornductile composition of the mind is apparent. ing at Sea,” our fair Sappho says: In her “Casa Guidi Windows,” this is remarkably visible, and we shall quote an
“ The ship went on with solemn face;
To meet the darkness of the deep, instance so true to the point, that we feel
The solemn ship went onward. inclined to believe Robert Browning, and I bowed down weary in the place; not his wife, was the author. The verses For parting tears and present sleep are upon the World's Fair:
Had weighed mine eyelids downward." “ Just now the world is busy; it has grown
This is one of her attempts to engraft the A Fair-going world. Imperial England draws style of Coleridge upon her own; but she
misses that etherealizing, and yet supernat- | cannot fail to amuse the Grecian ghosts of ural
power, which gave to his adjectives their those who fell at Troy. She thus compower. And in another poem she calls in mences : the aid of the Herbert school :
Nine years old! the first of
any “ O beart ! O Love! I fear
Seem the happiest years that come;
Yet when I was nine, I said
No such word. I thought, instead,
That the Greeks had used as many
In besieging Ilium!"
There is little real Greek in the following.
Trojans had window-panes :
If the rain fell, there was sorrow;
Little head leant on the pane, Surely our fair friend has allowed the jin- Little finger drawing dowu it gle of the bells to drown the folly of the
The long, trailing drops upon it ;
And the Rain, rain, come to-morrow,' thoughts!
Said for charm against the rain."
We will not undertake to assert that little deed, one might almost think she had taken Hectors did not say, up his harp by mistake :
Rain, rain, go away; " Things nameless, which in passing so,
Come again another day;"
but we have a strong recollection we have We say, 'Who passes ? they are dumb; We cannot see them go or come;
heard the little Yankees indulge in the Their touches fall soft, cold, as snow
words. It turns out then to be a quotation, Upon a blind man's face !"
and not an original remark. For the sake
of our infantile national literature, we are We will give another instance of the sound rendering her indifferent to the sense. readers of Shakspeare will see how danger
But the next verse is perfectly ludicrous : ous it is for even a woman of Mrs. Brown- * Eyes of gentianella's azure, ing's genius to imitate him:
Staring, winking at the skies;
Nose of gilliflowers and box; “ Grief sat upon a rock and sighed one day,
Scented grasses put for locks, (Sighing is all her rest :)
Which a little breeze at pleasure
Set a waving round his eyes.
“ Brazen helm of daffodillies, Such sighing uttered she.”
With a glitter toward the light;
Purple violets for the mouth, From these concetti, let us turn to the fol- Breathing perfumes west and south ; lowing:
And a sword of fashing lilies “ How do I love thee! Let me count the ways:
Holden ready for the fight. I do love thee to the depth and breadth and “ And a breastplate made of daisies, height
Closely fitting leaf by leaf : My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
Periwinkles interlaced, For the ends of being and ideal grace.
Drawn fur belt about the waist; I love thee to the level of every day's
While the brown bees, humming praises, Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
Shot their arrows round the chief.”
The conclusion is very Barrettish:
“ That no dreamer, no neglector In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith ;
Of the present works upsped, I loved thee with a love I seemed to lose
I may wake up and be doing, With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Life's heroic deeds pursuing, Smiles, tears, of all my life ! and if God choose,
Though my past is dead as Hector, I shall but love thee better after death!”
And though Hector is twice dead." We may mention, as a proof of Mrs. There are many things, however, in Mrs. Browning's love of the abstract, her verses Browning's life, to explain her recondite upon Hector in the garden. Some of them habit of feeling, and its expression. Her
The sorry for it.
fragility of constitution, which rendered her | perhaps it would be nearer the exact fact to almost hermeticaliy sealed to the world, we say, half Italian, half Judaical. Of a small have already alluded to. There is another person, very active and slender, his whole fact in her life which demands a notice. She manner is full of a marked courtesy, which had the harrowing trial of beholding a be- conveys the idea of insincerity, although loved brother drowned in her very sight, nothing can be farther from his real nature. while bathing at Torbay, in Devonshire. It That he is most admirably mated, no doubt is another proof of her mental singularity, can exist, for we have never met one who that whilst she has recorded the death of her had less sensuality than the author of first-born child in fantastic verses, she has "Sordello.” never even alluded to the other affliction In politics he is sternly but quietly repubin the most distant manner.
lican, seldom entering into political discusMrs. Browning is an ardent admirer of sions: indeed, we have heard him repeatedly Mazzini and rational liberty, and has sung | declare that he considered it infra dig. for a in her last poem the hopes and fears of a poet to argue-on subjects of government lover of true Italian freedom. We may more especially—with the masses ; and he remark, en passant, as a proof of "the carried this pride to such an extent as to silence of fame," that in a conversation with seem rather to concur with the mass than to Miss Catherine Hayes, the celebrated vocal- combat the popular opinion. We remember ist, the other day, she told us that although very well, one evening at a friend's house, she had been in Florence last year for some that he refused to come to the rescue of one time, she was unaware of these two great of his own favorite opinions; and when repoets residing in that birth-place of Dante. proached by his friend afterwards for his
In person Mrs. Browning is petite, fragile apparent want of sincerity, he rebuked the and slender; her hair and eyes dark, her other for condescending to argue with a ringlets long, her features intellectual and mixed company, which he declared was delicately chiselled; her manners pleasant really “throwing pearls before swine." and unaffected, forming a strange contrast There is, however, much in the personal to the half pedantic tone of her muse; her history of Robert Browning, to account voice so soft and low as to be almost in- for this apparent pride and shyness. His audible across the room. She is of all family are of the middle class of gentry, his the English writers of any fame the least father being engaged in commercial purpersonally known, her acquaintance being suits. His mother is half a Creole he entirely confined to her own family and thus has some fiery blood in his veins. His a small circle of friends. Her disposition parents being partially independent, and is most amiable, and her piety unquestion detecting in their son, even as early as his able. Her marriage with Browning was, as fourth year, singular traces of poetical geShakspeare truly says, “a marriage of true nius, resolved to give him a careful educaminds." We shall now devote a few words tian, and, in a word, to devote him to the to her husband.
God of Song. After acquiring the rudiments Browning has enjoyed for some two or of education in Camberwell, he was sent to three years an American fame, his poems the London University, where he rapidly having been reprinted here. That he will rose to the head of his class. ever be popular is doubtful, as it requires a As an instance of his singular precocity, study to master his symbols. In the words we have seen translations he made from of Heraud, Browning is a poet who, tired Horace and Propertius even so early as in his with the old symbols of poetry, cast them eighth year. What is still more remarkable, aside and invented new. To instance a case: they exbibit the same peculiarities which he would not write “red as a rose;" that, he distinguish his more mature productions. would say, is commonplace—every poetling His chief productions are “Pauline," (his has said that. No; Browning would select earliest,) published in 1833 ; " Paracelsus," the name of something which nobody had (1836;) "Sordello," (1841.) His best ever heard of. What renders this the more works are a series of dramas, entitled “Bells curious, is the fact of his conversation being and Pomegranates," comprising under this eminently intelligible. There is, however, fantastical name some of the most remarkasomething very foreign, indeed half Jewish, ble productions of the age. He is about about the expression of his countenance; or forty years of age.