« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
nature which they display. For a clever travesty of his style by Isaac Hawkins Browne, beginning,
'Little tube of mighty power,
see Campbell's Specimens, vol. v. p. 361.
P. 190, No. clvii.—This admirable poem, esteemed by Burns as 'one of the most beautiful in the Scots or any other language,' has this in common with another of scarcely inferior merit,
'And ye shall walk in silk attire,'
that they both first appeared as broad-sheets sold in the streets of Edinburgh; and, justly popular as they both from the first have been, no one has ever cared to challenge either of them as his own. This, however, though not claimed by Mickle, nor included by him in an edition of his poems published by himself, was after his death claimed for him, and Allan Cunningham thinks the claim to be fairly made out. It mainly rests on the fact that a copy of the poem with alterations marking the text as in process of formation was found among his papers and in his handwriting. Without inspection of the document, it is impossible to say what value as evidence it possesses. He may have been no more than forming a text from several copies which were before him. Certainly everything else of Mickle's which we know is rather evidence against his authorship of this exquisite domestic lyric than for it. Still I have not felt myself at liberty to disturb the ascription of it to him. On this matter see Notes and Queries, 3rd Series, Oct. 20, 1866.
P. 193, No. clx.-Hamilton of Bangour's poems were published at Edinburgh in 1760, some six years after his death. The immense superiority of this over every other poem in the volume is not easy to account for. This poem has its faults; that it is a modern seeking to write in an ancient manner is sometimes too evident; but it is a tragic story tragically told, the situation boldly conceived, and the treatment marked by strength and passion throughout; above all in the six concluding stanzas. Nothing else in the volume contains a trace of passion or of power, or is of the slightest value whatever. The fact that the poet has here come within the circle of the inspirations of Yarrow cannot of itself be accepted as sufficient to explain a fact which is certainly a curious one. It is plain from more than one citation or allusion that Wordsworth, in his Yarrow Unvisited and Yarrow Visited, had this poem quite as much in his eye as the earlier ballads whose scene is laid on the banks of the same stream.
P. 203, No. clxiv.-I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of quoting Mr. Palgrave's beautiful criticism of this sonnet, in its own kind of a
beauty so peerless :- -The Editor knows no sonnet more remarkable than this which records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petrarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish, Shakespeare's more passion, Milton's stand supreme in stateliness, Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the ancients would have called irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to his loving and ingenuous nature.'
P. 205, No. clxvi. -Gray, who esteemed Tickell 'a poor shortwinded imitator of Addison,' qualifies his contempt so far that he adds, His ballad, however, of Colin and Lucy I always thought the prettiest in the world.' After some hesitation I have not thought it pretty enough for a place in this volume. It is otherwise with this poem. Johnson's censure of poems, whether praise or blame, carries no great weight with it; and when he says of this one, nor is a more sublime or more elegant funeral poem to be found in the whole compass of English literature,' the praise is extravagant. Still it has real merits, and sounds like the genuine utterance of a true regret for one who had been the poet's effectual patron and friend.
P. 208, No. clxvii.-There have been many guesses who the 'Unfortunate Lady' commemorated in these pathetic, yet thoroughly pagan, lines may have been; but the mystery which wraps her story has never been dispersed. With the ten first lines before us, and see also the sixty-first and sixty-second, nothing can be idler than to call into question that she had laid violent hands on her own life.
P. 211, No. clxviii.-Robert Levet lived above twenty years under Johnson's roof, a dependant and humble friend, and when under it he died in 1782, Johnson commemorated his genuine worth in these admirable lines. He is mentioned several times is Boswell's Life.
P. 213, No. clxx.-This is the last original piece which Cowper wrote; and, as Southey has truly observed, all circumstances considered, one of the most affecting that ever was composed.' The incident on which it rests is related in Anson's Voyage round the World, fifth edition, p. 79.
P. 216, No. clxxii.-This noblest elegy has a point of contact with an illustrious event in English history. As the boats were advancing in silence to that night-assault upon the lines of Quebec which should give Canada to the English Crown, Wolfe repeated these lines in a low voice to the other officers in his boat, adding at
the close of the recitation, 'Now, gentlemen, I would rather be the author of that poem than take Quebec.' For himself within a few hours that line was to find its fulfilment,
6 The paths of glory lead but to the grave.'
We owe to Lord Stanhope (History of England from the Peace of Utrecht, c. xxxv.) this interesting anecdote.-1. 45-72: Gray, who had read almost everything, may have here had in his eye a remarkable passage in Philo, De Sobriet. § 9. Having spoken of the many who were inwardly equipped with the highest gifts and faculties, he goes on : τὸ δὲ κάλλος τῶν ἐν ταῖς διανοίαις ἀγαλμάτων οὐκ ἴσχυσαν ἐπιδείξασθαι διὰ πενίαν ἢ ἀδοξίαν, ἢ νόσον σώματος, ἢ τὰς ἄλλας κῆρας, ὅσαι τὸν ἀνθρώπινον περιπολοῦσι βίον. And then he goes on, exactly as Gray does, to point out how these outward hindrances have circumscribed not merely the virtues of some, but the crimes of others: πάλιν τοίνυν κατὰ τὰ ἐναντία μυρίους ἐστὶν ἰδεῖν ἀνάνδρους, ἀκολάστους, ἄφρονας, ἀδίκους, ἀσεβεῖς ἐν ταῖς διανοίαις ὑπάρχοντας, τὸ δὲ κακίας ἑκάστης αἶσχος ἀδυνατοῦντας ἐπιδείκνυσθαι δι ̓ ἀκαιρίαν τῶν εἰς τὸ ἁμαρτάνειν καιρῶν.
P. 221, No. clxxiii.—I have not included hymns in this collection, save only in rare instances when a high poetical treatment of their theme has given them a value quite independent of that which they derive from adequately fulfilling the special objects for which they were composed. It is thus with this noble poem, which, though not eminently adapted for liturgic use, is yet to my mind quite the noblest among Charles Wesley's hymns. It need hardly be said that the key to it, so far as a key can be found from without and not from within, lies in the study of Gen. xxxii. 24-32.-1. 59: The attempt to break down in English the distinction between the perfect and the past participle, and because they are identical in some instances to regard them as identical in all, has happily been defeated, at least for the present; but it has left its mark on much of the poetry of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, and Wesley, who here writes 'strove' for 'striven,' and, 1. 68, 'rose' for 'risen,' only does what Shakespeare and Milton have done before him.
P. 231, No. clxxxi.-This and other of Bowles' sonnets, graceful as no doubt they are, yet derive an interest beyond that which they would naturally possess from the testimony which Coleridge bears to the kindlings of poetic life which he received from them, even as Southey does the same. The admiration which the former felt for them was so high that, being unable to purchase, it was his wont to copy them out and distribute as choice gifts to his friends. One reads at first with something of incredulity such a testimony from the great to the little. And yet no doubt there are moments
in his own poetical development when a great poet may have derived impulses, and the awakening of his genius, from one of a rank inferior to his own. Dante believed he owed much, and probably did owe a good deal, to Virgil; who, high as is his rank, must yet be ranged below the later Florentine, who thus delighted to look up to him as his master.
P. 243, No. cxcv.-Campbell's Lord Ullin's Daughter is a poem of merit, but a comparison of it with this (the motive of the two is! identical) at once reveals the distinction between a poet of first-rate eminence, of imagination all compact,' and one of the second order. Both poems are narrative; but the imagination in one has fused and absorbed the whole action of the story into itself, not telling but leaving it to be gathered, in a way which is not even attempted in the other.
P. 256, No. ccxi.-In Beattie's Life and Letters of Campbell, vol. ii. p. 42, we have the original sketch of this poem. It is very instructive, showing as it does how one chief secret of success in poetry may be the daring to omit. As it is there sketched out, extending to twenty stanzas of six lines each, that is to more than twice its present length, many of these stanzas but of secondary merit, it would have passed as a spirited ballad, and would have presently been forgotten, instead of taking as it has now done its place among the noblest lyrics, the trumpet-notes in the language. But indeed this willingness to sacrifice parts to the interests of the whole is a condition without which no great poem, least of all a great lyric poem, which is absolutely dependent for its effects on rapidity of movement, can be written; and those who would fain see their verses escape that inevitable doom of oblivion which awaits almost all verse will do well to keep ever in remembrance how immeasurably more in poetry the half will sometimes be than the whole.
P. 262, No. ccxvii. 1. 28-36: These fine lines may have given a hint to those still finer in Manzoni's great Ode on the death of Buonaparte, П Cinque Maggio.
'Oh quante volte al tacito
Ei ripensò le mobili
E il campo dei manipoli,
E l'onda dei cavalli,
P. 267, No. ccxviii.-There is a mistake here, into which it is curious that one who had watched so closely as Scott had done the struggle with Republican and Imperial France should have fallen. It was not Marengo (1800) but Austerlitz (1805) which did so much to kill Pitt, and with which is connected the affecting anecdote of his last days here referred to, and thus related by Lord Stanhope : 'On leaving his carriage, as he passed along the passage to his bedroom [at Putney, which he never left], he observed a map of Europe which had been drawn down from the wall; upon which he turned to his niece, and mournfully said, "Roll up that map; it will not be wanted these ten years. (Life of Pitt, vol. iv. p. 369.)
P. 279, No. ccxxiii.-This poem is full of allusions to the tragical issues of Shelley's first rash and ill-considered marriage-issues which must have filled him ever after with very deep self-reproach. Far too slight as the expression of this self-reproach is here-indeed it is hardly here at all--we know from other sources that the retrospect was one which went far to darken his whole after life. This serious fault has not hindered me from quoting these lines, in many respects of an exquisite tenderness and beauty, and possessing that deep interest which autobiography must always possess. One stanza has been omitted.
P. 287, No. ccxxvi.-It is pleasant to think that acquaintance with a poem of merits so transcendent should not be limited to readers of English alone. This with Wordsworth's Ode to the Cuckoo and several other masterpieces of the modern English Muse has been admirably translated by Freiligrath into German.
P. 293, No. ccxxviii.-These lines, written in Greece, and only three months before his death, are the last which Byron wrote, and, in their earlier stanzas at least, about the truest. In many of his smaller poems of passion, and in Childe Harold itself, there is a falsetto note which strikes painfully on the ear of the mind. But it is quite otherwise with these deeply pathetic lines, in which the spoiled child of this world passes judgment on that whole life of self-pleasing which he had laid out for himself, and declares what had been the mournful end of it all.
P. 295, No. ccxxix.-After the battle of Novara, which had virtually decided the conflict for a time, but before peace was signed between Austria and Piedmont, the inhabitants of Brescia rose against their Austrian garrison, March 21, 1849. They were crushed