Page images
PDF
EPUB

Thy current's calmness ; oft from out it leaps
The finny darter with the glittering scales,
Who dwells and revels in thy glassy deeps ;

While, chance, some scatter'd water-lily sails
Down where the shallower wave still tells its bubbling tales.'-

P. 36.

By mountain and cataract, through this land of existing beauty and heroic memory, the pilgrim at length reaches Rome:—Rome, first empress of the bodies, then of the souls, of all the civilized world, now owing its political and, perhaps, even its religious existence to the half contemptuous pity of those nations whom she formerly held in thraldom-Rome is the very ground on which we should have loved to cope with Childe Harold

in those sullen fits,

For then he's full of matter.' Nor have we been disappointed in our wishes and expectations ; for the voice of Marius could not sound more deep and solemn among the ruined arches of Carthage than the strains of the Pilgrim amid the broken shrines and fallen statues of her subduer. We can but touch partially upon these awful themes. The Palatine is thus described :

CVII.
Cypress and ivy, weed and wallflower grown
Matted and mass'd together, hillocks heap'd
On what were chambers, arch crush'd, column strown
In fragments, chok'd up vaults, and frescos steep'd
In subterranean damps, where the owl peep'd,
Deeming it midnight :-Temples, baths, or halls ?
Pronounce who can; for all that Learning reap'd

From her research hath been, that these are wallsBehold the Imperial Mount! 'tis thus the mighty falls.- p. 56. And thus the Egerian grottos, with a classical allusion to the complaint of Juvenal, that art in adorning them had destroyed their simplicity, are described in the state of decay by which that simplicity has been restored.

CXVI.
The mosses of thy fountain still are sprinkled
With thine Elysian water-drops ; the face
Of thy cave-guarded spring, with years unwrinkled,
Reflects the meek-eyed genius of the place,
Whose green, wild margin now no more erase
Art's works; nor must the delicate waters sleep,
Prisoned in marble, bubbling from the base

Of the cleft statue, with a gentle leap
The rill runs o'er, and round, fern, flowers, and ivy, creep'-

[ocr errors]

p. 61.

VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.

The

6

The Coliseum is described in the midnight gloom of a cloudless Italian sky; its vast area recalls the bloody games of the Romans, and the poet has vied with the memorable sculptor who produced the dying Gladiator,--superior in this, that equalling the artist in his faculty of impressing on the fancy the agonies, he can extend his power into incorporeal realms, and body forth not only the convulsed features and stiffened limbs, but the mental feelings and throes of the expiring swordsman.

CXL.
I see before me the Gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand-his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low-
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now

The arena swims around him-he is gone,
Ere ceased the inhuman shout which haild the wretch who won.

CXLI.
• He heard it, but he heeded not-his eyes
Were with his heart, and that was far away;
He reck'd not of the life he lost nor prize,
But where his rude hut by the Danube lay
There were his young barbarians all at play,
There was their Dacian mother-he, their sire,
Butcher'd to make a Roman holiday--

All this rush'd with his blood-shall he expire And unavenged ?--Arise ! ye Goths, and glut your ire!—p. 73. The Pantheon, the Mole of Hadrian, St. Peter's, whose vastness expands and renders colossal the mind of the gazer, the Vatican, with its treasures of ancient art, are all placed before us with the same picturesque, and rendered real by the same earnest and energetic force of Lord Byron's poetry, in which the numbers seem so little the work of art or study, that they rather appear the natural and unconstrained language in which the thoughts present themselves. The deep-toned melancholy of the poet's mind at length rests on a theme where it must long find a response in every British bosom-on the event which cut down the hope of our nation, sparing neither bush nor blossom, when we most expected to have seen it fulfilled. Liberal as we have been in quotation we cannot resist the opportunity of meeting Lord Byron on a public ground, in which his exquisite strains are an echo to our own thoughts, and where we can join without any of those mental protests which we are too often compelled to make against the correctness of his principles, even when admitting the power of his language and the beauty of his poetry.

CLXVII.

CLXVII.
• Hark! forth from the abyss a voice proceeds,
A long low distant murmur of dread sound,
Such as arises when a nation bleeds
With some deep and immedicable wound;
Through storm and darkness yawns the rending ground,
The gulf is thick with phantoms, but the chief
Seems royal still, though with her head discrown'd,

And pale, but lovely, with maternal grief
She clasps a babe, to whom her breast yields no relief.

CLXVIII.
• Scion of chiefs and monarchs, where art thou ?

Fond hope of many nations, art thou dead?
Could not the grave forget thee, and lay low
Some less majestic, less beloved head ?
In the sad midnight, while thy heart still bled,
The mother of a moment, o'er thy boy,
Death hush'd that pang for ever: with thee fled

The present happiness and promised joy
Which fill'd the imperial isles so full it seem'd to cloy.

CLXIX.
Peasants bring forth in safety.-Can it be,
Oh thou that wert so happy, so adored !
Those who weep not for kings shall weep for thee,
And Freedom's heart, grown heavy, cease to hoard
Her many griefs for One; for she had pour'd
Her orisons for nee, and o’er thy head
Beheld her Iris.- Thou, too, lonely lord,
And desolate consort—vainly wert thou wed!
The husband of a year! the father of the dead !

CLXX.
• Of sackcloth was thy wedding garment made;
Thy bridal's fruit is ashes : in the dust
The fair-haired daughter of the isles is laid,
The love of millions ! How we did entrust
Futurity to her! and, though it must
Darken above our bones, yet fondly deem'd
Our children should obey her child, and bless'd
Her and her hoped-for seed, whose promise seem'd
Like stars to shepherd's eyes :-—'twas but a meteor beam'd.'-

p. 86–88. From the copious specimens which we have given, the reader will be enabled to judge how well the last part of this great poem has sustained Lord Byron's high reputation. Yet we think it possible to trace a marked difference, though none in the tone of thought and expression, betwixt this canto and the first three. There is less of passion, more of deep thought and sentiment, at once collected and general. The stream which in its earlier course bounds

[ocr errors]

Over

[ocr errors]

over cataracts and rages through narrow and rocky defiles, deepens,
expands, and becomes less turbid as it rolls on, losing the aspect of
terror and gaining that of sublimity. Eight years have passed be-
tween the appearance of the first volume and the present which con-
cludes the work, a lapse of tinie which, joined with other circum-
stances, may have contributed somewhat to moderate the tone of
Childe Harold's quarrel with the world, and, if not to reconcile him
to his lot, to give him, at least, the firmness which endures it without
loud complaint.—To return, however, to the proposition with
which we opened our criticism, certain it is, that whether as Harold
or as Lord Byron no author has ever fixed upon himself personally
so intense a share of the public attention. His descriptions of pre-
sent and existing scenes however striking and beautiful, his recur-
rence to past actions however important and however powerfully
described, become interesting chiefly from the tincture which they
receive from the mind of the author. The grot of Egeria, the ruins
of the Palatine, are but a theme for his musings, always deep and
powerful though sometimes gloomy even to sullenness. This cast
of solemnity may not perhaps be justly attributed to the native dis-
position of the author, which is reported to be as lively as, judging
from this single poem at least, we might pronounce it to be grave.
But our ideas of happiness are chiefly caught by reflection from
the minds of others, and hence it may be observed that those enjoy
the most uniform train of good spirits who are thinking much of
others and little of themselves. The contemplation of our minds,
however salutary for the purposes of self-examination and humili-
ation, must always be a solemn task, since the best will find enough
for remorse, the wisest for regret, the most fortunate for sorrow.
And to this influence more than to any natural disposition to melau-
choly, to the pain which necessarily follows this anatomizing of his
own thoughts and feelings which is so decidedly and peculiarly the
characteristic of the Pilgrimage, we are disposed in a great measure
to ascribe that sombre tint which pervades the poem. The poetry
which treats of the actions and sentiments of others

may
be

grave or gay according to the light in which the author chuses to view his subject, but he who shall mine long and deeply for materials in his own bosom will encounter abysses at the depth of which he must necessarily tremble. This moral truth appears to us to afford, in a great measure, a key to the peculiar tone of Lord Byron. How then, will the reader ask, is our proposition to be reconciled to that which preceded it? If the necessary result of an inquiry into our own thoughts be the conviction that all is vanity and vexation of spirit, why should we object to a style of writing, whatever its consequences may be, which involves in it truths as certain as they are melancholy? If the study of our owu enjoyments leads us to doubt

the

the reality of all except the indisputable pleasures of sense, and inclines us therefore towards the Epicurean system,-it is nature, it may be said, and not the poet which urges us upon the fatal conclusion. But this is not so. Nature, when she created man a social being, gave him the capacity of drawing that happiness from his relations with the rest of his race, which he is doomed to seek in vain in his own bosom. These relations cannot be the source of happiness to us if we despise or hate the kind with whom it is their office to unite us more closely. If the earth be a den of fools and knaves, from whom the man of genius differs by the more mercurial and exalted character of his intellect, it is natural that he should look down with pitiless scorn on creatures so inferior. But if, as we believe, each man, in his own degree, possesses a portion of the ethereal flame, however smothered by unfavourable circumstances, it is or should be enough to secure the most mean from the scorn of genius as well as from the oppression of power, and such being the case, the relations which we hold with society through all their gradations are channels through which the better affections of the loftiest may, without degradation, extend themselves to the lowest. Farther, it is not only our social connections which are assigned us in order to qualify that contempt of mankind, which too deeply indulged tends only to intense selfishness; we have other and higher motives for enduring the lot of humanity-sorrow, and pain, and trouble—with patience of our own griefs and commiseration for those of others. The wisest and the best of all ages have agreed that our present life is a state of trial not of enjoyment, and that we now suffer sorrow that we may hereafter be partakers of happiness. If this be true, and it has seldom been long, or at least ultimately, doubted by those who have turned their attention to so serious an investigation, other and worthier motives of action and endurance must necessarily occur to the mind than philosophy can teach or human pride supply. It is not our intention to do more than merely indicate so ample a topic for consideration. But we cannot forbear to add, that the vanishing of Lord Byron's Pilgrim strongly reminded us of the close of another work, the delight of our childhood. Childe Harold, a prominent character in the first volume of the Pilgrimage, fades gradually from the scene like the spectre associate who performed the first stages of his journey with a knight-errant, bearing all the appearance of a living man, but who lessened to the sight by degrees, and became at length totally invisible when they approached the cavern where his mortal remains were deposited.

CLXIV.
• But where is he, the Pilgrim of my song,
The being who upheld it through the past !
P3

Methinks

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »