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" I ask'd the Sea ; - the Sea in fury boil'd,
And answer'd with his voice of storms, « 'Twas Man;
s 'Twas Man; and such strange pangs my bosom rent,
ART. VII. The Poetical Remains of the late Dr. John Leyden ;
with Memoirs of his Life, by the Reverend James Morton. 8vo. Pp: 520.
12s. Boards. Longman and Co. 1819. A VERY interesting and well-deserved record of the virtues
and attainments of the lamented Leyden is here offered to the public. The memoirs of his life afford the amplest proof of his indefatigable search after knowlege, and of the manly and independent character of his mind: while the poetical portion of the volume merits attention from all lovers of the muse, many compositions being here published which display a very striking union of taste and genius. The poem intitled “ Scenes of Infancy” is well known to most readers of poetry, and has already received its meed of praise in our
If, in parts, it may bear too close a resemblance to the more popular and enchanting effusions of a Goldsmith and a Rogers, it has still a large share of originality, and most pleasingly exemplifies that fond and universal attachment which men of good feeling entertain towards the place of their nativity, and of their early education.
Many other pieces in this volume indicate the same delightful tone of sentiment; and some of them, we think, display it in a very powerful and pathetic manner. For example, in the • Ode on leaving Velore; written in 1804.'
Farewell, ye cliffs and ruin'd fanes !
Ye mountains tall, and woodlands green !
To mark where ancient men have been.
Yet not for this I muse unseen,
Here first, my pensive soul to cheat,
Fancy pourtray'd in visions sweet
* See M. R. vol. xlv. p.62. See also vol. lxxxv. p. 126. for his Account of Discoveries in Africa. • + The course of a torrent near Velore, dry in the hot season.'
• Still as I gaze, these summits dun
A softer, livelier hue display,
Once charm'd in youth's exulting day,
Where harmless fell the solar ray
And murmuring slow the rocks between,
New lustre lights the faded eye;
Which shrunk beneath the burning-sky.
And now, with powers reviv'd anew,
I bid Velura's towers adieu !
Adieu, her rocks and mountains rude!' The anticipations of his own early doom, which were evidently felt by the author, and which fail not to deepen the tender melancholy of his poems, add a great interest to many of them ; — while, on other occasions, the buoyant ardor of his spirits communicate a noble glow to his expressions. In such moments as these last, Leyden must have been inspired with the glorious lines on the battle of Assaye, and with those on the death of the gallant Moore. We shall not lessen the attractions of the publication by extracting these higher efforts of the harp of Caledonia, which few even of its modern sons have strung to loftier numbers than the accomplished and high-souled poet before us. His freedom, too, (in a great measure,) from the colloquialities and provincialisms in which some of his countrymen have indulged, places him nearly at their head as a writer of poetry; while, if we examine his varied attainments as a man of science and a linguist, we shall be disposed impartially to rate the name of Leyden very highly in the annals of Scotish intellect.
We return to that species of extracts with which we commenced.
From the indignant · Ode to an Indian Gold Coin, written in Chéricál, Malabar,' we transcribe the following appropriate passage: · By Chérical's dark wandering streams,
Where cane-tufts shadow all the wild,
Of Teviot lov'd while still a child,
Of castle rocks stupendous pil'd
Where loves of youth and friendship smil'd,
• Fade, day-dreams sweet, from memory fade!
The perish'd bliss of youth's first prime,
Revives no more in after-time.
Far from my sacred natal clime,
The daring thoughts that soar'd sublime Are sunk in ocean's southern wave.' Spring, an Ode, written while recovering from Sickness, is in course filled with those usual common-places of cheerful or tender reflection, which such a subject excites in the breast of every poet; yet still there is something in this writer's manner that lends a new charm to exhausted images. The verses, however, bear a striking resemblance, in tone and cadence, to some beautiful lines which are published in one of the works of the Rev. Robert Bland : we mean those intitled “ To my Friends, during Illness.” – The subjoined are truly patriotic feelings.
• But you, dear scenes ! that far away
Expand beyond these mountains blue,
And robes the fields in richer hue,
I mid your woodlands wild should hear;
To sigh their murmurs in mine ear.
The haunts of youth again explore?
On days that shall return no more?
Which I so long have lov’d to view,
Unfolds, I bid a fond adieu !' Again, in the • Ode to the Scenes of Infancy,' with which we shall close our selections of this description.
When .first around mine infant head
To soften or to soothe the soul;
And Teviot's crystal waters roll.
Where Aowers of fairer lustre blow,
The groves of soft celestial dye
Expanding green on Teviot's side;
Resembled Teviot's limpid tide.
At distance fading dark and blue,
I turn'd, my distant home to view.
Where every joy is mix'd with pain ;
I guide my wandering steps again.
native stream I rove; When the gray sea of fading light Ebbs gradual down the western height,
I softly trace my native grove.' Pleased as we are with much of the foregoing, we cannot be blind to its general redundancy, nor to its particular blemishes. For instance ;
Folly's fluttering breed,' used instead of brood,' to rhyme with 6.bleed,' as, in another poem, "hearse,' rhyming to fierce,' (which, by the way, it does not,) is put for a tombstone !
As a proof of unmusical versification, we may refer to the line,
• In thin streaks o'er the eastern sky.' On the subject of resemblance between Leyden and other contemporary poets, we are most struck, as we might have expected, with the similarity of his style in the shorter and balladish effusions here published) to that of his friend and compatriot, Walter Scott.
For example, the song of the heroine in Rokeby: - we quote from memory: “ The sound of Rokeby's woods I hear ;
They mingle with my song
I must not hear it long.
In the same tone sings Leyden :
Malaya's woods and mountains ring
With voices strange but sad to hear;
The dirge of the departed year!' &c. &c. What reader, who is well acquainted with the compositions of both writers, will fail to trace a friendly likeness (plagiarism is out of the question) in the following passages ? - where, although Walter Scott certainly soars above his countryman, much of his peculiar energy is displayed in Leyden:
« Woe to Moneira's sullen rills!
Woe to Glenfinla's dreary glen!
Mantled with thickets dark and dun,
Leyden. “How matchless was thy broad claymore !
How deadly thine unerring bow !" Walter Scott.
Leyden. There are readers, we know well, whose apprehensions of such similarities will be different from our own : but we have often made reflections on the curious, and perhaps unconscious, influence which one contemporary writer has over another. We have traced it, especially, in the writings of Lord Byron; and we think that the foregoing examples prove the possibility of “one” (Caledonian) “ plumb catching colour from another,” even across the ocean.
The details of Leyden's early life, of his academical progress, and of his preparations for the pastoral office, we shall leave to his biographer, with the exception of one extract from the latter part of the account of these his youthful studies:
Upon his return to College *, at the end of the vacation, he began to attend the course of Lectures on Divinity and Church History, given by Professors Hunter and Hardie. Every student must attend these lectures four years before he can be a candidate for the ministerial office in the Scottish church. In that period he must also write a certain number of discourses upon subjects proposed by the professors, to be read publicly in the class. At that
* At Edinburgh, in the year 1793. Rev. Jan. 1820.