Page images

sibility of the public, have been forced in upon his resources, wrought or stung to higher efforts, to longer and more exalted vigils, would have consulted his permanent reputation. Lord Byron tells us in the letter reviewed in our last number, that, excepting Campbell and Rogers, all the living poets have written too much. Scott first proved this, and so much to his own conviction, that he has wholly ceased; and though we happen to be of the number who have read all his larger poetical works with delight, and have found on them all the impress of a poetical genius of the first order, yet the public was growing a-weary of so protracted a series of productions, which in the main were merely pleasing and lively, better, to be sure, of their kind than any body but their own author could write, but proved by the simple rapidity of their succession, to be beneath his own powers. Moreover, as the public interest began to flag in Scott, Byron urged it with so much intensity and assiduity, that it was the sooner exhausted, alike toward the one and the other; and though the adventurous cast of Byron's character and writings, have fixed the public interest longer upon him, than it appears to have dwelt on Scott, yet we presume the noble bard had felt the public pulse, and took warning, when on publishing one of the latest of his larger poems, he said that it was the last which for many years he should submit to the public.* Though it would have cost us the third and fourth cantos of Childe Harold, and Manfred, we are sorry he did not keep his word. This fatal popularity of his works, like the 'fatal facility,' as his lordship calls it, of the eight syllable verse, has betrayed both him and his poetical colleagues into the composition of more poetry, than they could finish in a style worthy of themselves.

Without pursuing this topic, we cannot but observe that we see no consideration of duty or patriotism, which calls on us to exert the little credit we may have with the public, in encouraging the multitude of indifferent poetical essays which are made among us. It is almost the only species of literature which practice and pains do not make perfect. It is the first duty of the critic to foster the science and literature of his

* In the dedication of the Corsair to Mr Moore in June 1814 his lordship says, 'I dedicate to you the last production with which I shall trespass on public patience, and your indulgence for some years; and I own that I feel anxious to avail myself of this latest and only opportunity of adorning my pages with a name,' &c.

country, and we can boldly appeal to our pages themselves for the proof, that we have been ready to go as far as conscience would let us, in encouraging every thing American. Where we could not commend positively, or augur favourably, we have been silent; and with all the indifferent and wretched trash, which is issuing from the American, as from every other free press, and out of which it would cost us no effort to enliven our heavy pages, and furnish many a gay interlude to our sober speculations; we cannot recal three instances, in which we have indulged in what most of our readers would think our bounden duty to them, that of saving them the trouble and cost of finding out the worthlessness of the productions in question. Farther than this, however, we shall not be carried on the lenient extreme. Apart from every consideration of duty, no kindness can be more treacherous than the encouragement given to ordinary verses called poetry. They lead to nothing good. Their author is but flattered the more deeply into his delusion, to be awakened at last more bitterly therefrom; while the credit of the public literature is suffering in the accumulation of these productions. The reasons which exist for encouraging moderate merit in other departments, really do not exist here; for moderate merit in poetry will not grow into excellence; and, as we have already said, the

poetry that is not excellent is not worth any thing. The only result, on the most favourable supposition of this ill-judged kindness, is the production of such compositions as Barlow's Columbiad, a heavy epic, laboriously wrought out of an over-flattered occasional poem ; a work which, as a poem, contains nothing o. which an American can be proud, and which can have no effect but that of misleading the taste of the young at home, and the judgments which critics abroad entertain of our literature.

We fear it will be a characteristic of these remarks, which have swelled in length and formality beyond our original purpose, that, like most prefaces, they have little connexion with what is to follow them. The poems before us of Mr Percival appear to us to contain decided indications of genuine poetical talent. We have not the pleasure of knowing any thing of the author, beyond the showing of these his works, nor are we informed whether his vocation will continue to lead him along the flowery paths of the muses. Sure we are, however, that the little volume which he has presented us, contains the marks of an inspiration more lofty and genuine than any similar col

lection of fugitive pieces, which has come to our notice from a native bard. We hope with this sincere tribute, we shall be excused for adding that the volume contains a great deal too much. It is not in human nature that so many small effusions from one hand, and produced within so short a compass of years, should all possess that felicity, which is the great charm of fugitive pieces. Every person gifted with a moderate share of invention, knows that it is easier to produce a performance of considerable compass and arrangement, than an equal amount in short pieces, of all of which the merit should be equally great. In a long piece our indulgence is extended to the feeble or colder portions if the production in the main, be good, but a copy of verses, which is ordinary, appears even to the greater disadvantage, for standing in better company, Moreover, we cannot conceive it worth while, for an author of Mr Percival's poetical powers to devote so much time to the accumulation of these small pieces. He must, we doubt not, possess, with the genius, the ambition of the true poet; and with this ambition, why should he not take up a theme of extended interest, and aim at a permanent poetical fame. It is true this collection contains one entire tragedy, written, it appears, at the age of nineteen and twenty years, but the least valuable part of the volume. It is hinted in the preface that it was written for an occasion, and it has all the appearances of being written musâ invitâ. The plot is without interest or probability, a cold imitation of the Revenge; and the language is tame and prosaic, and far beneath the glow of Mr Percival's other pieces. And though to be able to write any tragedy in blank verse be highly creditable to a young man of nineteen, yet he should remember that tragedy is not only, in the words of Milton, as it was anciently composed, “the gravest, moralest, and most profitable of all other poems, but also by far the most difficult of execution.

Of the smaller pieces which this volume contains, many have already attained uncommon popularity in the newspapers. In reading the whole series, the reader will find in them a great uniformity, and the constant recurrence of a technical poetical imagery, which is far from adding to their beauty, though a fault naturally enough incident to a large collection of little pieces, written without reference to each other. The following will afford a good specimen of our author's patriotic

manner :

Ode on the emancipation of South America.
•Star of the southern pole-
That from the Atlantic deep
Rose, and on Andes' steep
Shone with a beacon-light,
And woke from moral night
The Spaniard's haughty soul !
They started from their sleep, and tore
The chains that bound them to their tyrant's throne:
Uncheered, unaided, they alone
Their banner reared on Plata's shore,

And in the dawning light of Liberty
Swore they would live and die united, firm, and free.

Where rising o'er the silver tide,
That rolls its host of waters wide,
Resistless as a sea,
Fair shine their city's happy walls:
Convened within the sacred halls
Of infant Liberty,
They banded round their flag, and gave
Redemption to the fettered slave;
And o'er those plains like ocean spread,
And o’er their mountains' icy head,
And o’er their full majestic river,
And through their halls, their fanes, their towers,
They lit a flame, shall burn for ever;
Nor tyranny with all her powers,

Though battled in her holy lengue, shall dare
The statue they have reared from its high column tear.

Sister in freedom! o’er the main
We send our hearts to thee;
Oh! ne'er may kings and priests again
Stain with their steps thy flowery plain,
Nor vex the brave and free.
When carth beside was wrapped in night,
Here Freedom lit her quenchless light,
And hence its rays shall always beain,
And Europe yet shall hear the voice,
And wake from her inglorious dream,
And in her new-found strength rejoice.
In one fraternal band, let all
The nations, who would spurn

the chains That tyrants forge, would burst their thrall, New Series, No. 9.


And wash away their servile stains,
And, proud of independent worth,
In honest dignity go forth;
Let all, who will not bow the knee,
Nor humbly kiss the trampling heel,
Who swear to perish or be free,
Unite, and draw their flashing steel,

And, proud and daring in their second birth,
Purge from its crowns and thrones the renovated earth.'
In the class of the amatory poems the following has seemed
to us among the prettiest :

Star of my heart! thy light has gone,
A cloud has hid it from my view,
A night has come that has no dawn,
A storm I cannot struggle through ;
For like a boatman on the deep,
Without a compass, or an oar,

Where wild winds howl and tempests sweep;
My life must still drift on, and find no port, no shore.

Well-I have toiled to reach a haven,
Where joy at length in peace might dwell,
And many a mountain billow braven,
Still drawn by thy bewitching spell:
It led me on through all that life
Had dark and cold and hard for me,

For still I hoped to end this strife,
And that my last bright days might sweetly flow with thee.

Thou smiledst a beacon on that shore,
Where fancy builds her airy bowers,
And gems her grots with sparkling ore,
And weaves her shady arch of flowers;
And I did hope thy light would shine,
And charm with beam more warm and bright,

And still I hoped its rays were mine-
A sullen cloud came o'er, and all was wrapped in night:

But though my course is lone and wild,
Through booming waves, and wreck, and sorrow,
I would be firm as when day smiled :
Beyond the grave, there shines a morrow.
Awhile chilled, harassed, dashed, and tost,
Through raging seas I plough my way
To some dark, undiscovered coast,
Where hope holds out no flag and mercy lights no ray.'

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »