Page images

Gapes round the silent circle's loaded walls.
Bounds with one lashing spring the mighty


And, wildly staring, spurns with sounding foot
The sand, nor blindly rushes on the foe;

Are sought in vain; and o'er each moul.

dering tower,

Dim with the mist of years, grey flits the shade of power." p. 62.

The next stanza developes, we

Here, there, he points his threatening front, imagine, the grand source of all the

to suit

His first attack, wide waving to and fro His angry tail: red rolls his eye's dilated glow." p. 45.

Our next extract shall be part of an ode, addressed to Inez, about this point of the tour, and which may

gloom and bad passions displayed in the volume. Speaking still of Athens, he says,

"Even gods must yield-religions take their

!urn :

'Twas Jove's, 'tis Mahomet's-and other creeds,

assist as a foundation for some of our Will rise with other years-till man shall concluding observations.

"And dost thou ask, what secret woe

I bear, corroding joy and youth; And wilt thou vainly seek to know


pang, e'en thou must fail to soothe? It is not love, it is not hate,

Nor low ambition's honours lost,
That bids me loathe my present state,
And fly from all I prized the most.
It is that weariness that springs

From all I meet, or hear, or see:
To me no pleasure beauty brings;
Thine eyes have scarce a charm for me.
It is that settled ceaseless gloom

The fabled Hebrew wanderer bore;
That will not look beyond the tomb,

But cannot hope for rest before. What exile from himself can flee?

To zones, though more and more remote, Still, still pursues, where'er I be,

The blight of life, the demon thought. Through many a clime 'tis mine to go,

With many a retrospection curst, And all my solace is to know,

Whate'er betides, I've known the worst. What is that worst?-nay, do not ask ; In pity from the search forbear: Smile on, nor venture to unmask Man's heart, and view the hell that's there." p. 53.

The second canto brings us at once to Athens and the following

fine lines.

[blocks in formation]


Vainly his incense soars, his victim bleeds; Poor child of doubt and death, whose hope is built on reeds." Ibid.

In other words, that all religion is gross delusion. If good poetry could apologise for bad divinity, the following soliloquy on a skull might apologise for the last extract.

"Look on its broken arch, its ruined wall, Its chambers desolate, and portals foul: Yes, this was once ambition's airy hall, The dome of thought, the palace of the soul.

Behold through each lack lustre, eyeless hole, The gay recess of wisdom and of wit, And passion's host, that never brooked control:

Can all, saint, sage, or sophist ever writPeople this lonely tower, this tenement refit?"

P. 64.

Then, as a substitute for "feeble" orthodoxy, he recommends to us this, obviously in his own case efficacious, remedy for gloom:

"Pursue what chance or fate proclaimeth best;

Peace waits us on the shores of Acheron.”

The description of the convoy sailing is finely executed, but we pass it over to give the truly beautiful portrait of "Solitude," which follows:

"" To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell, To slowly trace the forest's shady scene, Where things that own not man's dominion dwell,

And mortal foot-path ne'er, or rarely been; To climb the trackless mountain all unseen, With the wild flock, that never needs a


Alone o'er steeps and foaming falls to lean:

This is not solitude; 's but to hold Converse with Nature's charms, and see her

stores unroll'd.

"But midst the crowd, the hum, the shock of


To hear, to see, to feel, and to possess, To roam along, the world's tir'd deuizen,

With none who bless us, none whom we can bless;

Minions of splendour, shrinking from distress! None that with kindred consciousness endued,

If we were not, would seem to smile the less Of all that flatter'd, follow'd, sought and sued:

This is to be alone; this, this is solitude!" p. 74.

In the 32d stanza, he goes out of his way to tell us, what a little modesty would have veiled, that he


"Was not unskilful in the spoiler's art,

And spread its snare licentious far and wide."

Then comes an invocation to Sappho, as truly pagan as Sappho herself could desire.

"Dark Sappho, could not verse immortal save

That breast imbued with such immortal fire; Could she not live, who life eternal gave, If life eternal may await the lyre, That only heaven to which earth's children

may aspire."

After some spirited delineation of Albanian scenery, we arrive at the following stimulating stanzas to the prostate cities of ancient Greece.

"Fair Greece! sad relic of departed worth! Immortal, though no more; though fallen, great!

Who now shall lead thy scattered children forth,

And long accustom'd bondage uncreate? Not such thy sons who whilome did await, The hopeless warriors of a willing doom, In bleak. Thermopylæ's sepulchral strait—

Oh! who that gallant spirit shall resume, Leap from Eurota's banks, and call thee from

the tomb?" p. 101. "Hereditary bondsmen! know ye not, Who would be free, themselves must strike

the blow?"

"When riseth Lacedemon's hardihood,

When Thebes Epaminondas rears again, When Athen's children are with arts endued, When Grecian mothers shall give birth to



[blocks in formation]


There the blithe bee his fragrant fortress builds,

The freeborn wanderer of thy mountain air;

Apollo still thy long, long summer gilds,

Still in his beam Mendeli's marbles glare; Art,glory, freedom fails, but Nature still is fair. "Where'er we tread,'tis haunted, holy ground; No earth of thine is lost in vulgar mould! But one vast realm of wonder spreads around, And all the Muse's tales seem truly to:d, Till the sense aches with gazing to behold

The scenes our earliest dreams have dwelt

upon :

Each hill and dale, each deepening glen and wold,

Defies the power which crush'd thy temples


Age shakes Athena's tower, but spares gray Marathon." p. 105.

The poem soon after concludes, and the author disappears something like Hamlet's melancholy ghost, when, on snuffing the morning air, he reluctantly returns to his shades; for Lord Byron also, as he tells us, is compelled to plunge into all the vices, the corroding flame of which all the waters of the Mediterranean had not been able to quench.

"Then must I plunge again into the crowd,

And follow all that Peace disdains to seek, Where Revel calls, and Laughter, vainly loud,

False to the heart,distorts the hollow cheek."

The Noble Lord, we lament to hear, has obeyed this wretched destiny; and is to be seen, we fear, in almost every temple but that where an altar of refuge is erected for the disconsolate.

Having by these extracts endeavoured to put our readers in posses

3 D

sion of some of the finest parts of this poem, and also of those passages which determine its moral complexion, we shall proceed to offer a few remarks upon its character and pretensions in both points of view.

The poem is in the stanza of Spenser-a stanza of which we think it difficult to say whether the excellencies or defects are the greatest. The paramount advantage is the variety of tone and pause of which it admits. The great disadvantages are, the constraint of such complicated rhymes, and the long suspension of the sense, especially in the latter half of the stanza. The noblest conception and most brilliant diction must be sacrificed, if four words in one place, and three in another, cannot be found rhyming to each other. And as to the suspension of the sense, we are persuaded that no man reads a single stanza without feeling a sort of strain upon the intellect and lungs-a kind of suffocation of mind and body, before he can either discover the lingering meaning, or pronounce the nine lines. To us, we confess that the rhyming couplets of Mr. Scott, sometimes deviating into alternate rhymes, are, on both these accounts, infinitely preferable. One of the ends of poetry is to relax, and the artificial and elaborate stanza of Spenser costs us too much trouble, even in the reading, to accomplish this end. To effect this, the sense should come to us, instead of our going far and wide in quest of the sense. In our conception also, the heroic line of ten syllables, though favourable to the most dignified order of poetry, appears to limp when forced into the service of sonneteers and poems in the metre before us, are, after all, little better than a string of sonnets; of which it is the constituent principle to be rather pretty than grand-rather tender than martial-rather conceited than wise-to keep the sense suspended for eight lines, and to discharge it with a point in the ninth. These observations are by no means designed to apply especially to the

author-the extreme gravity of whose general manner and matter, in a measure covet the dignity of the heroic line. But it is this discordancy of measure and subject, toge ther with the obviously laboured rhymes and the halting of the sense, which in general, we think, have shut out the Spenserian school from popular reading, and have caused a distinguished critic* to say, that the "Faiery Queen will not often be read through;" and that, although it maintains its place upon the shelf, it is seldom found on the table of the modern library.

Whilst, however, Lord Byron participates in this defect of his great original, he is to be congratu lated, as a poet, but alas! in his poetical character alone, on much happy deviation from him. In the first place, he has altogether washed his hands of allegory; a species of fiction open to a thousand objections. In the next place, he is infinitely more brief than his prototype. And in the third place, he philosophizes and moralizes(though not indeed in a very sound strain), as well as paints--provides food for the mind as well as the eye---kindles the feeling as well as gratifies the sense. Thus far, then, we are among the admirers of his Lordship. But it is to be lamented, that what was well conceived is, from the temperament of his mind, ill executed; that his philosophy is, strictly speaking, "only philosophy so called;" that the moral emotions he feels, and is likely to communicate, are of a character rather to offend and pollute the mind, than to sooth or to improve it. This defect, however, we fear, is to be charged, not upon the poet, but upon the man, at least upon his principles. But, whatever be the cause, the consequences are dreadful. Indeed, we do not hesitate to say, that the temperament of his mind is the ruin of his poem. We shall take the liberty, as we have intimated, of touching upon these defects as moral delin quencies, under another head; but

• Hume.



for the present we wish to notice them merely as poetical errors.

The legitimate object, then, of poetry, as we have said, is to instruct by pleasing; and, cæteris paribus, that poem is the best which conveys the noblest lessons in the most attractive form. If, in reply to this, it is urged that the heathen poets, and especially Homer, taught no lesson to his readers; we answer, that he taught all the lessons which, in his own days, were deemed of highest importance to kis country. The first object of philosophers and other teachers, in those days, was to make good soldiers, and therefore to condemn the vices which interfered with successful warfare. Now be it remembered, that the grand topic of the Iliad is the fatal influence of the wrath of kings on the success of armies. Its first words are MHNIN aside. Besides this, the Iliad upholds the national mythology, or the only accredited religion; and by a bold fiction, bordering upon truth, displays in an Elysium and Tartarus, the eternal mansions of the good and bad, the strongest incenLive to virtue and penalty of vice. Indeed, that both this and the Odyssey had a moral object, and that this object was recognized by the ancients, may be inferred from Horace, who says of Homer, in reference to the first poem:

« Qui, quid sit pulchrum, quid turpe, quid utile, quid non, Plenius ac melius Chrysippo aut Crantore


And as to the second:

Rursum-quid virtus, et quid sapientia

Utile proposuit nobis exemplar Ulyssem.”
Epist. i. 2.

Many of the Odes of Horace had a patriotic object---his Epistles and Satires, with those of Juvenal and Persius, were the sermons of the day. Virgil chiefly proposed to himself to exalt in his hero the character of a patriot, and, in his fictitious history, the dignity of his coun

try. If the lessons they taught were of small importance or doubtful value, or if they often forget to "teach" in their ambition to " please," this is. to be charged rather on the age than on the poet. They taught the best lessons they knew; and were satisfied to please only when they had nothing better to do. In modern times, it will not be questioned that the greatest poets have ever endeavoured to enshrine some moral or intellectual object in their verse. Milton calls Spenser "our sage serious Spenser, whom I dare to be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas." In like manner, the Absalom and Achitophel, the Hind and Panther of Dryden, the philosophic strain of Pope, the immortal page of Milton, and the halfinspired numbers of the Task, are all, in their various ways, attempts of poets to improve or reform the world. Every species of poetry, indeed, has received fresh lustre, and even taken a new place in Parnassian dignity, by a larger infusion of moral sentiment into its numbers. The ancient ballad has arisen to new dignity through the moral touches, we wish they had been less rare, of a Scott; and the stanza of Spenser has acquired new interest in the hands of Lord Byron, from the philosophical air which it wears. Numbers without morals are the man without "the moral tone of his Lordship's poem glory." We sincerely wish that the had been less liable to exception.

His Lordship, we believe, is acquainted with ancient authors. Let him turn to Quinctilian, and he will find a whole chapter to prove that a great writer must be a good man. Let him go to Longinus, and he will read that a man who would write sublimely, "must spare no labour to educate his soul to grandeur, and impregnate it with great and generous ideas"--that "the faculties of the soul will then grow stupid, their spirit will be lost, and good sense and genius lie in ruins, when the care and study of man is engaged about the mortal, the worthless part

of himself, and he has ceased to cul-
tivate virtue, and polish his nobler
part, his soul." Or, if poetical autho-
rity alone will satisfy a poet, let
him learn from one of the finest of
our modern poems:

"But of our souls the high-born loftier part,
Th' ethereal energies that touch the heart,
Conceptions ardent,laboring thought intense,
Creative fancy's wild magnificence,
And all the dread sublimities of song:
These, Virtue, these to thee alone belong:
Chill'd, by the breath of vice, their radiance


And brightest burns when lighted at the skies;

Like vestal flames to purest bosoms given, And kindled only by a ray from heaven*.” That the object of poetry, however, is not simply to instruct, but to "instruct by pleasing," is too obvious to need a proof. However the original object of measure and rhythm may have been to graft truth on the memory, and associate it with music; they are perpetuated by the universal conviction that they delight the ear. Like the armour which adorns the modern hall, they were contrived for use, but are continued for ornament.

us into a Thersites or a Caliban; or
lodge us, as fellow-grumblers, in the
stye of Diogenes, or any of his two or
four-footed snarling or moody posteri-
ty. Now his Lordship, we trust, is ac-
cessible upon much higher grounds;
but he will perceive that mere regard
for his poetical reputation ought
to induce him to change his man-
ner. If, as Longinus instructs us, a
man must feel sublimely to write sub-
limely, a poet must find pleasure in
the objects of nature before him, if
he hope to give pleasure to others.
Let him remember, that not merely
his conceptions, but his mind and
character, are to be imparted to us
in his verse. He will, in a measure,
"stamp an image of himself!" The
fire with which we are to glow must
issue from him. Till this change
take place in him, then, he can
be no great poet. It is Heraclitus
who mourns in his pages, or Zeno
who scolds, or Zoilus who lashes;
but we look in vain for the poet, for
the living fountain of our innocent
pleasures, for the artificer of our li
terary delight, for the hand which,
as by enchantment, snatches us from
the little cares of life, whirls us into
the boundless regions of imagina-
tion," exhausting" one "world,"
and imagining others, to supply pic-
tures which may refresh and charm
the mind. Lord Byron shews us
man and nature, like the phantas-
magoria, in shade; whereas, in po-
etry at least, we desire to see them
illuminated by all the friendly rays
which a benevolent imagination can

Assuming this, then, to be a just definition of poetry, we repeat our assertion, that, in the work before us, the temperament of mind in the poet creates the grand defect of the poetry. If poetry should instruct, then he is a defective poet whose lessons rather revolt than improve the mind. If poetry should please, then he is a bad poet who offends the eye by calling up the most hiWe have hitherto confined ourdeous images---who shews the world through a discoloured medium-selves to an examination of the inwho warms the heart by no gene- fluence of the principles and temper rous feelings---who uniformly turns of this work upon its literary preto us the worst side of men and tensions; but his Lordship will forthings---who goes on his way grum- give us if we now put off the mere bling, and labours hard to make his critic for a moment, and address readers as peevish and wretched as him in that graver character which himself. The tendency of the strain we assume to ourselves in the title of of homer is to transform us for the our work. In truth, we are deeply moment into heroes of Cowper, into saints; of Milton, into angels; but Lord Byron would almost degrade *Grant's Restoration of Learning in the East.

* We cannot resist the temptation of saying, that in this highest department of the

poet's art, we know no living poet who will bear a comparison with Mr, Southey.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »