Page images

pretending to more virtue or genius than we possess, or allow a spirit of exclusiveness or jealousy to blind us to the merits of others, there are few qualities which are more odious than egotism*. But these offensive peculiarities are not necessarily connected with a fair and proper pride. Without a certain degree of self-confidence and self-esteem, no man can ever become eminently great or good; and it would be difficult to say why any one should be compelled, out of a deference to the mean and envious part of mankind, to assume an unconsciousness of that merit which raises him above them.


How fair and gay the scene appears!
The red sun cheers the rising day;

The dewy mountain, the crystal fountain
Are glittering bright in orient light.

The lark that floats serene on high,
And fills the sky with cheerful notes,
The shepherd's singing, the light bells ringing,

In union sweet the morning greet.

Oh! who could rove at such an hour
By shrub and flower, in mead or grove,
Without revealing responsive feeling,
While Nature's voice bids man rejoice!

* The more decorous manners of the present age have attached a disproportionate opprobrium to this foible, and many therefore abstain with cautious prudence from all displays of what they feel. Nay, some do actually flatter themselves that they abhor all egotism, and never betray it in their writings or discourse. But watch these men narrowly; and in the greater number of cases you will find their thoughts and feelings and mode of expression saturated with the passion of contempt, which is the concentrated vinegar of egotism.-Coleridge.

[ocr errors]


ALAS! what mystic changes mark
Our pilgrimage below!

As fitful as the fire-fly's spark
The gleams of pleasure glow,
And leave the startled spirit dark
Beneath the night of woe!


We learn not why the lustre dies,
Nor why the darkness spreads;
For oft on Penury's wintry skies
The soul its sun-light sheds;
While wreaths that Fortune's votaries prize
Are placed on aching heads.


And e'en fair Virtue's holy spell
Not always here avails!

Full many a noble heart may tell
How oft her magic fails,

When throngs of restless thoughts rebel,
And hideous gloom prevails.


And what we hear, or what we see,
And what we think, or feel;

As dream-like as the clouds may be
That through the twilight steal!-
Oh, God! each mortal mystery,

THOU only canst reveal!



Lo! Morning wakes upon the grey hill's brow,
Raising the veil of mist meek Twilight wore ;-
And hark! from mangoe tope and tamarind bough
The glad birds' matins ring! On Gunga's shore
Yon sable groups with ritual signs adore

The rising Lord of Day. Above the vale
Behold the tall palmyra proudly soar,
And wave his verdant wreath,- -a lustre pale
Gleams on the broad-fringed leaves that rustle in the gale.


"Tis now the Noon-tide hour. No sounds arise
To cheer the sultry calm,-deep silence reigns
Among the drooping groves; the fervid skies.
Glare on the slumbering wave; on yon wide plains
The zephyr dies,-no hope of rest detains

The wanderer there; the sun's meridian might

No fragrant bower, no humid cloud restrains,-
The silver rays, insufferably bright,

Play on the fevered brow, and mock the dazzled sight!


The gentle Evening comes! The gradual breeze,
The milder radiance and the longer shade,

Steal o'er the scene !-Through slowly waving trees
The pale moon smiles,-the minstrels of the glade
Hail night's fair queen; and, as the day-beams fade
Along the crimson west, through twilight gloom
The fire-fly darts; and where, all lowly laid,
The dead repose, the Moslem's hands illume
The consecrated lamp o'er Beauty's hallowed tomb!

[ocr errors]


THE Elegiac Sonnets of Mrs. Charlotte Smith were once very popular compositions. I lately returned to them with a pleasurable feeling, for as I had not read them since my boyhood, when they seemed productions of extraordinary beauty, I was curious to discover the nature of the change that years and more extensive reading had effected in my taste. It is sufficiently remarkable how the same reader will sometimes fluctuate, at intervals, in his literary fancies; but the fickleness of the public mind is still more surprising. How many once popular writers are now despised or forgotten, while some who were formerly neglected are regarded with idolatry! With respect to the particular case of Charlotte Smith, I confess that my individual opinion has corresponded to a considerable extent with the variation of the general judgment; and the verses that seemed very exquisite poetry to my boyish taste, make a very different impression upon me now. Her poems, ran through numerous and large editions on their first appearance, and it is curious to trace, in various contemporary publications, the respect with which they were treated by some of the first critics of her time*. Cowper, who was assuredly no mean judge of poetical excellence, speaks of her "charming Sonnetst." It is true

* The Gentleman's Magazine (of that day) gravely observed, that “it is trifling praise for Mrs. Smith's Sonnets to pronounce them superior to Shakspeare's and Milton's."

[ocr errors]

+ Mathias, the author of the Pursuits of Literature, thus alludes to her in one of the notes to that work:-" Mrs. Charlotte Smith has great poetical powers, and a pathos which commands attention." Sir Egerton Brydges, in the second edition of his Censura Literaria, speaks of her poetry in the following terms:“There is so much unaffected elegance; so much harmony and pathos in it; the images are so soothing and so delightful; and the sentiments so touching, so consonant to the best movements of the heart, that no reader of pure taste can grow weary of perusing them." In an article on Chalmers's English Poets (apparently by Southey) in the Quarterly Review, No. 23, it is observed that 'Charlotte Smith's descriptions, whether in prose or verse, have always the charm of well-selected truth."

that he also thought the frigid Hayley a poet, but at one period his taste would have been called in question if he had esteemed him less. The "Triumphs of Temper" did not try the temper of our ancestors, but was really, for a considerable period, a very popular performance. But Cowper himself was one of those who commenced the grand revolution in our poetical literature which brought such writers as his friends Hayley and Mrs. Smith into comparative contempt, and who first taught us by precept and example that English verse was capable of great improvement, notwithstanding what was long considered the actual perfection of Pope. I do not mean to fall into the too common injustice of those who think it necessary, when they admire the greater freedom and variety of the present systems of versification, to deny all merit to poetry of a different order. I am not exclusive in my taste, and can read alternately such poets as Coleridge and Pope with a disposition to enjoy and appreciate their very opposite and peculiar excellencies both of style and matter. The dreaminess, the profound intensity, and the subtle and mystical harmonies of the one, need not render us insensible to the terseness, the wit and energy, and the less elaborate, though more precise music of the other. The great facility with which Pope's manner was imitated by his followers was one cause of the decline of his popularity; for when it was found that every poetaster had got his tune by heart, the public grew sick of the repetition, and soon thought less respectfully of what at first was a marvel and a luxury. In this re-action of taste, the great poetical idol of his time is now as much depreciated as he was formerly over-rated; and it seems by many critics to be utterly forgotten, that Pope's chief excellence is by no means dependent on the mere sound of his couplets. His works not only teem with wit and wisdom, expressed with wonderful felicity and precision, but display some of those finer and more ethereal qualities that ought long ago to have settled the idle question of, whether he was a true poet or merely a clever writer

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »