Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

386

ENGLISH BARDS, Our task complete, like Hamet's shall be free, Tho’spurned by others, yet beloved by me : Then let us soar to-day, no common theme, No eastern vision, no distemper'd dream Inspires-our path, though full of thorns, is plain; Smooth be the verse, and easy be the strain.

When vice triumphant holds her sov'reign sway, And men through life her willing slaves obey; When folly, frequent harbinger of crime, Unfolds her motley store to suit the time;

30
When knaves and fools combined, o'er all prevail,
When justice halts, and right begins to fail,
E'en then the boldest start from public sneers,
Afraid of shame, unknown to other fears,
More darkly sin, by satire kept in awe,
And shrink from ridicule, though not from law.

Such is the force of wit! but not belong
To me the arrows of satiric song;
The royal vices of our age demand
A keener weapon, and a mightier hand.

40
Still there are follies, e'en for me to chase,
And yield, at least, amusement in the race:
Laugh when I laugh, I seek no other fame,
The cry

is
up,

and scribblers are my game : Speed Pegasus !-ye strains of great and small, Ode! Epic! Elegy!-have at

you

all! I, too, can scrawl, and once upon a

time
I poured along the town a flood of rhyme,
A school-boy freak, unworthy praise or blame;
I printed—older children do the same,

50 'Tis pleasant, sure, to see one's name in print: A book 's a book, altho' there's nothing in't. Not that a title's sounding charm can save Or scrawl or scribbler from an equal grave;

* Cid Hamet Benengeli promises repose to his pen in the last chapter of Don Quixote. Oh! that our voluminous gentry would follow the example of Cid Hamet Benengeli!

This LAMB must own, since his patrician name
Failed to preserve the spurious farce from shame.
No matter, GEORGE continues still to write,
Tho' now the name is veiled from public sight.

1
Moved by the great example, I pursue
The self-same road, but make my own review': 60
Not seek great JEFFREY's, yet like him will be in
Self-constituted judge of poesy.

A man must serve his time to ev'ry trade
Save censure, critics all are ready-made.
Take hackneyed jokes from Miller, got by rote,
With just enough of learning to misquote;
A mind well skilled to find or forge a fault,
A turn for punning-call it À ttic salt;
To JEFFREY

go,

be silent and discreet, His pay is just ten sterling pounds per sheet: 70 Fear not to lie, 'twill seem a lucky hit, Shrink not from blasphemy, 'twill pass for wit; Care not for feeling--pass your proper jest, And stand a critic, hated yet caressed.

And shall we own such judgment? no-as soon Seek roses in December-ice in June; Hope constancy in wind, or corn in chaff, Believe a woman, or an epitaph, Or

any other thing that's false, before You trust in critics, who themselves are sore;

80 Or yield one single thought to be misled By Jeffrey's heart, or LAMB's Bæotian head.'' To these young tyrants,ọ by themselves mis

placed, Combined usurpers on the throne of taste;

This ingenuous youth is mentioned more particularly, with his production, in another place. # In the Edinburgh Review.

Messrs. Jeffrey and Lamb are the alpha and omega, the first and last of the Edinburgh Review: the others are mentioned hereafter. $ 'Stulta est Clementia, cum tot ubique

occurras perituræ chartæ.-Juvenal, Sat. i.

1

To these when authors bend in humble awe, 1.8T And hail their voice as truth, their word as law; While these are censors, 'twould be sin to spare ; While such are critics, why should I forbear?

bon But yet so near all modern worthies run, 'Tis doubtful whom to seek, or whom to shun; 90 Nor know we when to spare, or where to strike, Our bards and censors are so much alike.

• Then should you ask me, why I venture o'er 1 The path that POPE and GIF ORD trod before? If not yet sickened, you can still proceed; TI Go on; my rhyme will tell you as you read, Time was, ere yet in these degen’rate days

T Ignoble themes obtained mistaken praise, When sense and wit, with poesy, allied, No fabled graces, flourished side by side, 100 From their same fount their inspiration drew, And, reared by taste, bloomed fairer as they grew. Then, in this happy isle, a Pope's pure strain Sought the rapt soul to charm, nor sought in vain; A polished nation's praise aspired to claim, And raised the people’s, as the poet's fame. Like him, great DRYDEN poured the tide of song, In stream less smooth, indeed, yet doubly strong. 1 Then CONGREVE's scenes could cheer,or OTWAY'S

melt,
For nature, then, an English audience felt- 110
But why these names, or greater still, retrace,
When all to feebler bards resign their place?
Yet to such times our lingering looks are cast,
When taste and reason with those times are past.
Now look around, and turn each triling page,
Survey the precious works that please the age;

* IMITATION,
• Cur tamen hoc libeat potius decurrere campo
Per quem magnus equos Auruncæ fexit alumnus;
Si vacat, et placidi rationem admittitis, edam.'

Juvenal, Sat. i.

[ocr errors]

2N

.

[ocr errors]

This truth at least, let Satire's self allowy sediul No dearth of bards can be complained of now, 2014 The loaded press beneath her Jabour groans, for the And printers' devils shake their weary bones120 While Souther's epics cram the creeking shelves, And LITTLE's lyrics shine in hot-pressed twelves.

Thus saith the preacher;* "nought beneath the

sun

Is new,' yet still from change to change we run :
What varied wonders tempt us as they pass! j'S
The cow-pox, tractors, galvanism, and gas.
In turns appear to make the vulgar stare
Till the swoln bubble bursts and all is air!
Nor less new schools of poetry arise,
Where dull pretenders grapple for the prize : 130
O'er taste awhile these pseudo-bards prevail;
Each country book-club bows the knee to Baal,
And, hurling lawful genius from the throne,
Erects a shrine and idol of its own;
Some leaden calf-but whom it matters not, la
From soaring SOUTHEY down to grovelling STOTT.

Behold! in various throngs the scribbling crew,
For notice eager, pass in long review:
Each spurs his jaded Pegasus apace,
And rhyme and blank maintain an equal race; 140

* Ecclesiastes, chap. i. + Stott, better known in the Morning Post by the name of Hafiz. This person is at present the most profound explorer of the Bathos. I remember, when the reigning family left Portu, gal, a special ode of Master Stott's, beginning thus :

(Stott loquitur quoad Hibernia.)
• Princely offspring of Braganza,

17 Erin greets thee with a stanza,' &c. &c. Also a sonnet to rats, well worthy of the subject; and a most thundering ode, commencing as follows:

Oh! for a lay! loud as the surge

That lashes Lapland's sounding shore.' Lord have mercy on us! the Lay of the Last Minstrel was nothing to this. 1JEC, 1.1

1n 199

Sonnets on sonnets crowd, and ode on ode;
And tales of terror jostle on the road;
Immeasurable measures move along,
For simpering folly loves a varied song,
To strange mysterious dulness still the friend,
Admires the strain she cannot comprehend.
Thus lays of minstrels* -may they be the last !- ,
On half-strung harps whine mournful to the blast,
While mountain spirits prate to river sprites,
That dames may listen to the sound at nights; 150
And goblin brats of Gilpin Horner's brood
Decoy young border-nobles through the wood,
And skip at every step, Lord knows how high,
And frighten foolish babes, the Lord knows why;.

[ocr errors]

* See the 'Lay of the Last Minstrel,' passim. Never was any plan so incongruous and absurd as the ground-work of this production. The entrance of Thunder and Lightniug prologuising to Bayes' tragedy, unfortunately takes away the merit of ori, ginality from the dialogue between Messieurs the Spirits of Flood and Fell, in the first canto. Then we have the amiable William of Deloraine, a stark moss-trooper,' videlicet, a happy compound of poacher, sheep stealer, and highwayman. The propriety of his magical lady's injunction not to read, can only be equalled by his candid acknowledgment of his independence of the trammels of spelling, although, to use his own elegant phrase, "twas his neck-verse at hairibee,' i.e. the gallows.

The biography of Gilpin Horner, and the marvellous pedestrian page, who travelled twice as fast as his master's horse, without the aid of seven-leagued boots, are chef d'æuvres in the improvement of taste. For incident we have the invincible, but by no means sparing, box on the ear, bestowed on the page, and the entrance of a knight and charger into the castle, under the very natural disguise of a wain of hay. Marmion, the hero of the latter romance, is exactly what William of Deloraine would have been, had he been able to read and write. The poem was manufactured for Messrs. Constable, Murray, and Miller, worshipful booksellers, in consideration of the receipt of a sum of money; and truly, considering the inspiration, it is a very creditable production. If Mr. Scott will write for hire, let bim do his best for luis paymasters, but not disgrace his genius, which is undoubtedly great, by a repetition of black letter ballad imitations.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »