Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

way of reference, to warn posterity of the approach of the crisis, when such provision shall be necessary.

From such a land- the seat of strife and woe;
In search of bappier climes, the people go.
But much, and long-(though scarce in hope) they bear;
Ere from their fathers' graves their steps they tear-
Ere from the seat of youth's past joys they fly,
Upon some foreign, friendless shore, to die !
A thousand strong attachments rise around,
To chain their footsteps to that hallow'd ground:
Still dear to sight their childhood-scenes appear;
And in the parting moment-doubly dear!
The barren heath that infant footsteps prest,
May breathe enchantinent round the manly breast:
The stream where boyhood plunged his linibs to lave,
In age's eye seems an unalter'd wave-
The trees—the rocks-hat rise in native air ;
This mystic-nameless sense-appear to share!
The links of friendship-kindred's lieartstring ties-
That bind the spirit to its native skies-
And all those feelings tongue can scarce define,
Home's magic charms around the soul entwine-
These may be felt, but scarcely can be told ;

Nor oft are sever'd till the breast is cold. The tale of Eva is in the Spenserian stanza,—the finest, perhaps, in our language, yet at the same time the most difficult. 'It is no small praise to say that our poet has conquered its difficulties, and given us much of the harmony and grace which are its characteristics. The tale is simple. We will not anticipate any interest which it may possess, by furnishing an outline; and the rather as its merit depends not so much upon the story, as its colouring and illustrations. Like Childe Harold, its actors are only introduced to furnish occasion for the author's reflections and descriptions.

We can only afford room for two or three of the detached thoughts and descriptions with which it abounds. Description of her mother's tomb:

There was at home one sacred, little spot,
Eva most idolized, and oftenest sought:
No day unvisited-no hour forgot-
Where in the garden's deepest shade was wrought
A Mother's monument; to which she brought
The fairest of that garden's flowers, to strew
Around the urn. With pious sorrow fraught,

The tears she shed refresh'd them like the dew,
While many a bitter thought across her bosom few.

[ocr errors]

Those thoughts she loved to cherish, though they sent
A feeling of bereavement through her soul :
She lov'd to rouse that sorrow, though it rent;
And once awaken’d, spurn'd the will's controul:
Though but to see that spot was woe-she stole
To ponder there, as 'twere a place of rest;
Whose sight, instead of wounding, might console!

Lean'd on it as it were a mother's breast-
View'd it as though her eye that mother's form possess'd.

It was possess'd- as if that stone had breathi,
She there felt not alone : that cherish'd form
Floated around the urn that spoke her death,
As if the very marble seeni’d to warm
Beneath her gaze-as though she could transformi
To breathing life that sculptur'd shape of woe!
As if recover'd from the feasiing worn,

The buried started forth again to glow;
Past tenderness, and faith, and loveliness, to show.

And every tree of dark and mournful hue
Hung over it-the cypress cast its shade;
Above it waved the melancholy yew,
As if its foliage there a pall had made;
The drooping willow by its side display'd
Its pendant branches, as in sorrow bung;
Behind its lonely seal, a dark stream stray'd

The deeply rooted trees and shrubs among:

Amidst whose leaves the wind its plaintive murmurs flung.
The power of passion in romantic minds-

Romantic bosoms soonest feel the power
Of love, and feel it at its fiercest height;
While weaker spirits plod their dull, cold hour :
The highest trees are soonest topp'd with light--
Are first to meet the tempest in its flight-
And fall, wrench’d, crusli’d, and levelled by the blast
While the low sbrub, that scarcely meets the sight,

Survives, to flourish when the storm is past;
Above whose bending head its wrath was idly cast.

The widest ocean rolls the vastest waves-
The deepest sea is last to sink to rest --
So when in man the storm of passion raves,
Its wildest throb is in the mightiest breast;
There soonest blazes, and is last represt!
The depth of feeling, and the range of thought-
Th' omnipotence of spirit--is imprest

On all it shows; whether with rapture fraught,
Or in its bursting rage to maniac fury wrought.

The volume contains a Poem on Electricity. “However ynpoetical the theme may sound,” the poet observes," he believes that there is more poetry in science, than most people are aware of.”. We believe him, and are happy in being able to illustrate his remark by the following extract from the same poem, which so forcibly describes the direness of the death by lightning :

And, oh! has fate a death so dread--so dire !
As thus to wither in this fatal fire?
Life closed at once-'midst all its bopes and fears-
Perchance white picturing future blissful years :
Even while fancy paints sone dear delight;
Dash'd down for ever as it springs to sight!
Affections sundered in their fondest dream
A midnight shot across noon's brightest beam-
Cut off unwarn’d, whether the passing thought
Be in a mood of good or evil wrought-
That thought itself untivish'd, as it past
Across the mind that dream'd not of its last :
Hurried at once before the Judge of alla
Unthinking of th’ irrevocable call :
No time allow'd to pour one instant prayer,
To plead beforehand for the guilty there ;
No crime confess’d to smooth the path to peace ;
That joy might waken, or despondence cease:
No moment given to breathe one swift farewell
To all those kindred beings loved so well-
To send one wish--the last- and from the heart
To those from whom 'twas worse than death to part!
The thousand ties that link the soul below,
Annibilated by one instant blow:
Denied whate'er inight sooth the bed of death,
And mingle comfort with the latest breath;
But in the twinkling of au eye to be
Living--a corse--and in eternity.
In days of heathen darkness thus to die
Cousign'd the corse untouchild-untomb’d to lie;
Fenced round as if abhorrent to the sight,
Tempting the vulture from his lofty flight;
Bereft of all tbe honors of the dead;
To them, far more than death, a source of dread,
Deeming that Jupiter his bolt had hurld,
To smite in wrath th' accursed from the world,
Friends left his bones to whiten where they fell;
And fear’d to drop one tear, or sigh farewell.

[merged small][ocr errors]

200

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Pride shall have a Fall; a Comedy, in Five Acts, with Songsi
· Dedicated by permission to the Right Hon. George Canning,

&c. &c. &c. First performed at the Theatre Royal Covent
Garden, March 11th, 1824. Fourth Edition. London:

Hurst, Robinson, and Co. The golden age of the British Drama has long since past away; the period of its existence was short, but its brilliancy compensated for its brevity. The writers who adorned it take their place among the classics of the English language, and, wherever sound taste and good feeling shall prevail, will be studied with delight, and regarded almost with reverence.

The reigns of Elizabeth and of the two first Princes of the House of Stuart were eminently fertile in the production of genius of almost every kind; and, while Bacon was introducing mankind into the magnificent temple of philosophic truth, every division of the garden of poesy was cultivated by men, upon whom Nature had stamped the impress of intellectual power, and for whom Learning had opened all her resources. But, amidst this blaze of mental splendour, the drama is surrounded by such pre-eminent lustre, as almost to cast into the shade every other branch of literature. In an age of intellectual giants, the dramatists challenge the highest place. Next to the political institutions of his country, if there be one thing of which an Englishman should feel proud, it is of its early dramatic literature. In nature, in vigour, in beauty, in originality, no other nation, of modern times at least, can boast of any thing comparable with it. The humour of Jonson, the wit and poetry of Beaumont and Fletcher, the eloquence of Massinger, the pathos of Ford ---and the union of all these, with ten thousand other excellencies, in SHAKSPEARE,

-exhibit a constellation of dramatic genius of unrivalled brilliancy and grandeur. Round these great lights of the drama revolve a host of minor luminaries, each of whom in later times would have been a sun ; but, overpowered by the superior splendour of their; cotemporaries, their works are disregarded, and their names almost, unknown

A cry has been raised by some fastidious critics against the immorality of these writers; nothing was ever more unjust, and the charge evinces a total want of discrimination in those who make it. That in the works of our early dramatists we meet with language which to modern ears is coarse and indelicate, cannot be denied; but such language was not then regarded as criminal, or even indecorous. Innumerable instances of its use might be produced from writers far more grave than

Beaumont or Massinger, and whose morality, and even piety, have never been questioned. It may perhaps fairly admit of doubt, whether, as we have advanced in refinement, we have made a proportionate improvement in virtue ; whether the fact be that there is now less vice than in former days, or that it is only more carefully concealed. At any rate it is most unjust to try men by a standard of propriety which in their day did not exist, and to condemn them for inattention to forms of decorum, of which they never heard. But the injustice of the charge, and the ignorance of those who bring it, are apparent, from the manner in which it is supported. These writers are accused of immorality, but they are convicted of coarseness of language. Now, these are two very different things; a book may be extremely coarse, the moral tendency of which is good; and, on the contrary, a work may be so correct in point of Janguage, as to satisfy the most scrupulous delicacy, while it undermines the foundations of moral obligation, and invests vice with the garb of virtue. Of the former kind are the works of the elder writers of England; of the latter, too many of the productions of France and Germany. It is strange that this shrinking delicacy seems not to regard actions, but only words ; that those who shudder at the coarseness of Othello, can heave the sigh of sentimental sympathy with Mrs. Haller; and it is somewhat remarkable, that the same age which has given us a Shakspeare," has introduced the tales of Marmontel as a school-book for the edification of youth.

Our early dramatists never sought to confound the distinction of right and wrong, and to persuade us that they differ but in name. They never inculcated that our notions of virtue and vice are altogeter conventional, and have no foundation in reason or nature. They never endeavoured to excite a sickly sensibility in favour of guilt, nor to render vice agreeable, by casting over its odious features a veil of flimsy sentiment. No one will arise from the perusal of these works a worse man than he sate down to them, and it must be his? own fault if he be not improved by his study. An eloquent modern writer has pointed out the moral excellence of these authors, in language which we cannot refrain from quoting. "One conspicuous feature in the productions of Jonson, of Fletcher, and many of the most eminent poets of this age, is the fervent strain in which they deliver themselves coneerning purity, moral elevation, and virtue. Fletcher occasionally is: wanton, and Jonson is coarse, this was the vice of their

age. But they were men of sound and erect ithinking, they were entirely strangers to that heart-withering scepticism which I have so often heard reverend grey-beards enforce in a later

“ Family

« ZurückWeiter »