« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
then, we ask you, do you think of the Poetry you have been listening to from our lips-is it worthy or not of Byron and of the Sea?
Why, this silence is mortifying and looks as if mountains, clouds, sky, sun, and nature were unaware of our very existence. We begin now to believe that there is no material world. 'Tis all my eye. Notwithstanding, WE ARE and shall therefore continue to take his lordship into our own hands, and trouble him with a few remarks. He prayed to be the " Spirit of each spot"-who knows but that his prayer has been granted, and that he may not be now at our elbow.
Let us clear our voice. Hem! hem! hem!-The one, great, leading, pervading, prevalent idea of the Address is-is it not that of man's impotence on the ocean contrasted with his power on the earth? On the earth his will triumphs and he is a king-on the ocean it is nought-and he is a slave.
Good. 'Tis a one-sided view of the question but justifiable in an Address. And as the simpler the subject is, the easier too-and if powerfully handled, the grander-we demand the perfection of words. A great poet in a great mood undertakes a great theme, and in the light and gloom, the calm and storm of a great idea to show it to the world that her heart may quake. He must speak like a man when he is likest an angel.
"Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue ocean, roll!"
dark-blue ocean it may not be easy to picture to oneself-but he who can, will have glorious conceptions of the power of man on the amplitude of the sea. The poet's meaning now becomes less obscure-and he says well," man marks the earth with ruin," but not well "his control stops with the shore." That is prosaic-and does not tell. How could he mark the sea with ruin? There is nothing there to ruin-and there can be no contrast.
is spirited and sonorous-and that is well-but it is nothing more-and the initial line should have been a nobler burst. "Deep and dark-blue" are epithets that can neither be much praised nor blamed-to our mind they had been better away-for the images they suggest, if not in dissonance, are not in consonance with the thoughts that follow them-and seem not to suggest them-but to stand by themselves as idle images or rather forms, of speech.
"Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain."
In vain? That is-without injuring thee? But they were not seeking to do so-nor can imagination conceive how they could-and if that be not the poet's meaning, what is it? Ten thousand fleets sweeping over the deep
"Upon the watery plain the wrecks are all thy deed."
Call you that poetry? With the ocean personified before his own eyes, by his own soul, he yet speaks of his deeds "on the watery plain!" To a poet inspired that had been impossible-but "the vision and the faculty divine” were not with him-and he was merely inditing verses.
"Nor doth remain A shadow of man's ravage save his own," is hard to scan, and full of confusion. To extricate any meaning from the words you must alter them, but 'tis hardly worth the pains. You frowntell us then what you understand by "a shadow of man's ravage save his own?" He sinks into thy depths," "Like a drop of rain
to please you, we shall say is good— though we hardly think so-for wrecks on wrecks are shown to our imagination, and thousands of creatures perish
"man" here means men-if not, how unimpassioned the tale of his doom-but" a drop of rain"—one single drop-was never yet seen by itself sinking into the depths of the sea-and further, be assured by us O Neophyte! with Byron in thy breast, that "with bubbling groan" ought not to be there, for a drop of rain melts silently in a moment, and since it is said that "like a drop of rain he sinks," erase the words from your copy, and for rhyme have reason. "Without a grave, unknell'd, uncoffin'd, and unknown."
What! do we find fault with that line? Yes-erase it. The poet is not singing a lament for sailors drowned at sea. He is singing the sea's wrath to man. The sea bids the ship go down-and down she goes-he wastes no thought on the crew-nor on their
wives and sweethearts. What can it
But to cut the matter short-or to take the bull by the horns-the line as it stands, viewing it as an expression of human sympathy and sorrow in the poet's heart forgetting the sea in the sailors, is an ambitious failure. 'Tis a cold accumulation of melancholy circumstances which were all inevitable - of which the opposites were impossible-debarred by nature and fate. There is no pathos in it "not a bit." It is absurd-it is ludicrous-yes-it makes us laugh though, rather than laugh at misery, human or brute, we would choose to pass all our life in the Cave of Trophonius. "Without a grave"-who was to dig it? Show us sexton, spade, sod. As on dry land no man ever yet was drowned-so at sea no man ever yet was buried but in the water-that is first-till the sea perhaps stamps him into the sand. Notwithstanding all that, all men speak of the sailor's grave -though, were they to ask themselves what they meant, they would probably answer-fish. "Uncoffined"why the carpenter had other work during all this stormy homebound voyage than to get up coffins for the crew. The last thing he did was to cut away her masts. But she was water-logged, and would not right blew up without powder which by that time was mire-and then was sucked into the jaws of the Old Onelike Jonah into the whale's belly. Uncoffined, indeed! Why the whole four hundred men were in blue jackets-most of them sober enough in all conscience-but not a few drunk as blazes-some capering about stark mad-and one delirious Jacky Tar dancing a hornpipe on the quarterdeck, maugre the remonstrances of the Chaplain. "Unknelled"-who was to toll the bell? Davy Jonesand he did toll it-the ship's bell-a very Paganini ringing a full peal on its single self-and with most miraculous organ multiplying triple-bobs, and bob-majors-in mockery of the funeral-as if it were a marriageand strange must it have been to the ears of the more tenacious of life and timber among the sinking crew to hear below all that booming, and above it the
well-known music from the steeples in both towns-both Devonport and Plymouth-welcoming the old Frigate safe back again to the quiet Tamar. To return
"His steps are not upon thy paths-thy fields
Are not a spoil for him." Why, you said all that and more not two minutes ago. third time, we do not doubt you might Had you tried it a have still farther diluted it. But what means "his steps are not upon thy paths?" We fear it must be taken literally, and, in that case, it is poor for "his steps are upon thy paths,' while "ten thousand fleets sweep Figuratively it is not true scornful rising of the sea against the over thee." The half-angry, half"vile strength man wields for earth's destruction" may pass for good-very fine to those who love falsettoes. But the stanza, as it grows inhuman, ceases to be English, and as it grows impious, ceases to be grammatical; alive or dead, whom we have ever and we ask forgiveness of all Cockneys, calumniated, on the score of their sins
having been outsinned till they appear to be "frailties that lean to virtue's side," by
"Thou dashest him to earth-there let him LAY!!"
about the Armaments, which you are Then follow some strong lines at liberty to admire as much as you please, especially
"And monarchs tremble in their capi tals ;"
but pray take notice that they but set in a somewhat different point of view about the sea's disposing of "the vile what was said in the preceding stanza strength he wields for earth's destruction."
"These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yest of waves,"
Rome, and Carthage reads grandly at
first sight-and grand let it be; but pray do you distinctly understand the meaning of
"Thy waters wasted them while they were free?"
To our ear the words have no meaning at all-nor have these so much as the writer thought—
"Thou glorious mirror, where th' Al-
We fear the transition is violent from
"Lo! the poor Indian, whose untutor'd
are far finer and more philosophical
Sees God in clouds, and hears him in the wind,"
even from thy slime The monsters of the deep are made"
"Their decay Has dried up realms to deserts."
"Those empires have decayed"that is all that is really said-and 'tis enough. "Not so thou!" on which the whole hangs, is unsubstantial--and therefore the whole sinks into nothing. Earth's empires have fallen, and the Poet laments or rejoices over their fall. But there were no empires on the sea to fall-nothing but winds and
waves. Where, then, the contrast? Nowhere. As well might he have turned to Zahara-and, because the Great Desert remains unchanged, have glorified it above Babylon.
"Time writes no wrinkles on thy azure brow"
The concluding stanza seems to be a general favourite, and is often quoted-nor is it uninteresting as charac
is a conceit, and a most impertinent teristic of the poet's youth. But it comes worse than awkwardly upon the heels of its predecessor, and is but
an assertion, in the sense it has here'
"Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou poorly written; nor could we ever
see the grandeur of " and laid my hand
is false-for here are shells.
Let us be reverent, for now the poct could fail to see the absurdity of "as speaks of God. I do here," his Lordship being at the moment on shipboard, whereas in his "joy of youthful sports" we presume he was swimming-occasionally on his back-and, we are willing to believe, "borne like thy bubbles onward" fairly out of his depth, and without bladders.
Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fa-
spared, as all they denote had been
"Verbal criticism," quotha! What! do you at this time of day dare to tell us that great poets need care nothing about their language, that in its inspiration genius vents its ecstasies in impassioned words which it is impious to criticize, and which it is at once our duty and our delight to accept as they fall from the lips of an oracle. Bah!
bust into Westminster Abbey! Alas,
Fame, which is a Religious Temple, an image of the Scoffer. We heard one with a loud voice cry-where there was none to answer him-" This world knows nothing of what Byron thought about the next-the friends with whom he walked here knew not if he be
lieved in a hereafter-the great poet, perhaps, had not made up his mind on the subject,-it matters not-up with him beside Milton."
We think on a sublime passage in Pollok's Course of Time.
"Take one example, to our purpose quite.
And reputation, and luxurious life,
And gazing higher, purposed in his heart
With years; and drank from old and fabulous wells;
He touched his harp, and nations heard, entranced.
And soared untrodden heights, and seemed at home,
He seemed an old acquaintance, free to jest
His evening song beneath his feet, conversed.
Suns, moons, and stars, and clouds, his sisters were ;
All that was hated, and all that was dear:
Dark, sullen, proud, gazing contemptuously
"As some fierce comet of tremendous size,
Of Fame's dread mountain sat; not soiled and worn,
But as some bird of heavenly plumage fair,
"The nations gazed, and wondered much, and praised. Critics before him fell in humble plight, Confounded fell, and made debasing signs
To catch his eye; and stretched and swelled themselves
"Great man! the nations gazed, and wondered much, And praised; and many called his evil good. Wits wrote in favour of his wickedness; And kings to do him honour took delight. Thus, full of titles, flattery, honour, fame, Beyond desire, beyond ambition, full, He died-he died of what? of wretchedness; Drank every cup of joy, heard every trump
Of fame, drank early, deeply drank, drank draughts That common millions might have quenched; then died Of thirst, because there was no more to drink.
His goddess, Nature, wooed, embraced, enjoyed,
And all his sympathies in being died.
As some ill-guided bark, well-built and tall,
And moulder in the winds and rains of heaven ;