Page images

though strikingly introduced, ought perhaps to be censured, as a violation of propriety, in a poem into which no other supernatural event is admitted, although this grand circumstance is founded on popular tradition.

In the sixth canto the poet has put forth all his strength, and in one instance only has it failed him. In the sublimely imagined and skilfully executed interview between De Wilton and Clara, by moon-light, on the rocks of Tantallon, when they encounter and recognize each other, the minstrel, who could paint Constance equally affecting in her silence and in her speech before her remorseless judges, ignobly shrinks from the delicate and exquisitely difficult duty of describing the emotions and language of these lovers thus romantically restored to each other, Can the following fat lines be allowed by any reader, as an apology for his indolent evasion of the finest opportunity that occurs in the whole poem of touching the tenderest strings of the heart ?

• She raised her eyes in mournful mood -
Wilton himself before her stood !
It might have seemed his passing ghost;
For every youthful grace was lost,
And joy unwonted, and surprise,
Gave their strange

wildness to his eyes.-
Expect not, noble dames and lords,
That I can tell such scene in words :
What skilful limner e'er would chuse
To paint the rainbow's varying hues,
Unless to mortal it were given

To dip his brush in dyes of heaven?' p. 323. The appearance of the battle of Flodden, overlooked from an eminence by Clara, under the guard of Eustace and Blount, Lord Marmion's squires, is depicted with vigour and animation. But the death of Lord Marmion, as it ought to be, is the climax of the poem and of the author's art.

We shall quote vo passages from this mournful and terrible scene ;-the death of an uvrepenting sinner is almost too dreadful to be contemplated even in romance! But we must mention with unqualified disapprobation the wretched conceit of giving the inscription on the well in black letter. The inscription itself is impertinently introduced; did Clara stop to read it? How could the author, in the fervour of composition, in the very soul of the most pathetic scene of his poem, think of such a puerility ? and having thought of it, why did he not spurn it as a golden apple thrown in his way, to make him stumble in the last moment, at the last step, of a victorious race? But the trick itself is absurd, and unworthy even of antiquarian frivolity; the minstrel is continually reminding us that we are in his presence, hearing his lay :-how docs he contrive to sing these lines in Old Enge lish ?

Lord Marmion, mortally wounded in the battle, is brought by his squires (who had precipitated themselves into the midst of it, when they saw his standard in danger) and laid down on the bill where Clara stood : in his fiery zeal for the honour of his country, he compels them by his irresistible command to return to the fight, and leave hiin to perish alone.

• They parted, and alone he lay ;
Clare drew her from the sight away,
Till pain wrung forth a lowly moan,
And half he murmured," Is there none,
Of all


halls haye nurst,
Page, squire, or groom, one cup to bring
Of blessed water, from the spring,

To slake my dying thirst !"-
®, woman ! in our hours of

Uncertain, coy, and hard to please,
And variable as the shade
By the light quivering aspen made ;
When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou !
Scarce were the piteous accents said,
When, with the Baron's casque, the maid

To the nigh streamlet ran :
Forgot were hatred, wrongs, and fears;
The plaintive voice alone she hears,

Sees but the dying man.
She stooped her by the runnel's side,

But in abhorrence backward drew,
For, oozing from the mountain's side,
Where raged the war, a dark red tide

Was curdling in the streamlet blue.
Where shall she turn !- behold her mark

A little fountain-cell,
Where water, clear as diamond-spark,

In a stone bason fell.
Above, some half-worn letters say,
Drink. weary, pilgrim. Drink, and. pray.
for, the kind. soul of Sybil. Orey.
duho. built. this. cross, and. forti.
She filled the helm, and back she hied,
And with surprise and joy espied

A Monk supporting Marmion's head :
A pious man, whom duty brought
To dubious verge of battle fought,

To shrieve the dying, bless the dead.!. pp. 361-369, We are sprry to omit a fine passage which intervenes betwixt these and the following lines,

[ocr errors]

The war,

that for a space

With fruitless labour, Clara bound,
And strove to staunch, the gushing wound :
The Monk, with unavailing cares,
Exhausted all the Church's prayers ;
Ever, he said, that, close and near,
A lady's voice was in his ear,
And that the priest he could not hear,

For that she eyer sung,
# In the lost battle, borne down by the flying,
Where mingles war's rattle with groans of the dying !"

So the notes rung ;
“ Avoid thee, Fiend !_with cruel hand,
Shake not the dying sinner's sand !
O look, my son, upon yon sign
Of the Redeemer's grace divine ;

O think on faith and bliss !
By many a death-bed I have been,
And many a sinner's parting seen,
But never aught like this.”.

did fail,
Now trebly thundering swelled the gale,

And-STANLEY! was the cry ;
A light on Marmion's visage spread,

And fired his glazing eye :
With dying hand, above his head
He shook the fragment of his blade,

And shouted « Victory !
“ Charge, Chester, charge ! On, Stanley, on !"-

Were the last words of Marmion. pp. 365, 366. We have not room for another quotation, and scarcely for another remark. In the plan and the characters, as well as in the fashion of the verse, Marmiondeparts from the most approved precedents: there is nothing resembling poetical justice in the story. The hero, a monster of wickedness, not only escapes the punishment due to his crimes from the hands of those whom he had injured, but dies gloriously in the field of battle, in defence of his invaded country! De Wilton (except in the disguise of the Palmer, wherein he provokes an interest which is afterwards disappointed) is a tame common place gentleman, who does nothing worthy of the high rank that he holds in the poem, or of the lovely lot assigned to him

He takes no step to rescue Clara from the power of Marmion, nor to avenge his own wrongs publicly on the bead of the wretch, who had openly vanquished him in single combat and secretly branded him as a traitor. Their midnight rencountre, in the third canto, is too ambiguous and too extravagant to satisfy the reader. Constance we apprehend will be the favourite heroine ;- perhaps it is only her cruel fate that makes her such, for Clara ler rival is charmingly

[ocr errors]

at last.

pourtrayed, and engages our sympathy whenever she appears. But to tell the plain truth, though the author himself might perhaps be very much surprised to hear us say $0,-old AngusBell-the-Cat," is prominently the noblest character in the poem. His conduct at the ball, his appearance in the chapel when he knights De Wilton, and his parting quarrel with Marmion, all display him to the highest advantage, and reflect lustre on the talents of the poet.

But we must conclude, almost abruptly, by referring to our review of Mr. Scott's “ Ballads and Lyrical Pieces,” (Vol. III. pp. 375, 379) for a more detailed estimate of his style and poetical endowments. In this work the versification is in general more stately, and less rambling and rugged, than in the “ Lay of the last Minstrel,but we have observed that the stanzas often close with very feeble couplets. The rhymes must not be too rigidly scrutinized; the epithet “fairseems to be a favourite with the author in all his poems; and in this volume, we should not be far from the truth if we were to affirm, at a round

guess, that it occurs a hundred times as a rhyme. Of the notes, we can only add that they will be found as numerous in proportion, and as entertaining in matter, as those in Mr. Scott's former publications.

Art. V. A Reply to a Critical and Monthly Reviewer, in which is insert

ed Euier's Demonstration of the Binomial Theorem. By Abram Robertson, D D. F. R. S. Savilian Professor of Geometry. Sro. pp. 40.

Oxford, Cooke, Parker, &c.; Payne & Co. Wingrave, 1808. Art. VI. Remarks on a Critique in the Monthly Review for April, 1803.

By the Rev. John Hellins, B. D. F. R. S. and Vicar of Potter's Pury,

in Northamptonshire. 8vo. pp. 8. Same Booksellers. 1808. IF a conscientious regard to scriptural truth, to the real inte

rests of literature, and to strict impartiality, had been evinced in the literary journals which time and ability had rendered most popular among English readers, the conductors of the Eclectic Review would never have undertaken a task in their estimation so delicate and so awfully responsible, as that in which they are engaged. It was, however, too evident that the principal of these publications were commonly employed to diffuse opinions and sentiments directly at variance with pure Christianity, to impugn its peculiar and most important doctrines, or expose them to ridicule as old wives' fables ;">that the interests of literature and science were often sacrificed, when a fair award of praise to an individual

uthor might clash with the speculations of some opulent bookseller ;--and that critical justice was frequently violated under the influence of spleen, disappointment, envy, the esprit de corps, or some unworthy personal motive. In endeavouring to diminish the evils resulting from this prostitution of talent in critical works, we have hitherto confined ourselves principally to the refutation of errors on religious topics, or the recommendation of those literary and scientific performances, the merit of which, on their respective subjects, was not perverted to the promulgation of irreligion, or disgraced by sneers on piety. We have seldom adverted to the conduct of contem porary journalists in particular instances; and should be happy to feel justified on all occasions in abstaining from any such reference. But reluctant as we are to undertake a task necessarily invidious in its aspect, injurious to the peace of the fraternity, and the motive to which may be so plausibly misrepresented by the disingenuous, yet we should consider ourselves unpardonably wanting in regard for individual character, and in duty to the literary world, if we tacitly acquiesced in deliberate and palpable injustice, and refused an opportunity to the injured of appealing to the candour and the protection of the public.

The injustice of critics is in no case so prejudicial to its oba ject, as when the productions on which it is exercised are connected with the abstract sciences. Dr. Robertson truly observes,

• The judges of such productions are comparatively very few, and they are very thinly scattered ; and therefore authors of this class are much at the mercy of a reviewer, if he is determined to lower or stifle their reputation. His misrepresentations are boldly imposed on general readers as fair criticism, and his falsehoods, cautiously expressed, are advanced with an air of integrity. The detraction is read by the many, and spread far and wide: the power of detecting its want of truth is limited to the few, and cannot be propagated with any degree of precision, but by writing.”.

The grievances of mathematical writers seem especially to claim redress, not only on the reasons we have just quoted, but because they will be found to have experienced systematic opposition, in a country where, from peculiar circumstances, they merit every encouragement. This opposition, it seems highly probable, has originated with the same individual in our two senior Reviews, the Monthly and the Critical. The authors attacked in succession, and some of them repeatedly, during the last ten years, are Hutton, Vince, Wood, Robertson, Hellins, Gregory, and Bonnycastle : their publications have been misrepresented, their talents depreciated, and their characters assailed with continual imputations of plagiarism. When these individuals, among living mathematical authors, have been vilified, there will evidently remain in England not many more either to praise or to censure; and the commendation which has in two or three cases been bestowed, as with

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »