Obrázky na stránke

bilities of our language in the use of iambics, trochees, anapæsts, dactyls, and spondees. The metres in this composition are so varying, and yet so consonant-so harmonious and so contrasted-they implicate and disentangle again so naturally, so necessarily almost, that I know not to what they can better be compared than to a group of young lions at play-meeting, mingling, separating-pursuing. attacking, repelling-changing attitude, action, motion, every instant-all fire, force, and flexibilityexuberant in spirits, yet wasting none; while the poet, like their sire couched and looking on, may be presumed with his eye to have ruled every turn and crisis of their game. He sings, indeed, the triumph of music-but his poetry triumphs over his subject; and he insinuates as much. It was less "the breathing flute and sounding lyre" of Timotheus, than the living voice, the changing themes, the language of light and power of the bard, "that won the cause." A single section will justify this praise; the measures, it will be observed, change in every couplet; there are scarce two lines alike in accentuation; yet the whole seems as spontaneous as the cries of alarm and consternation excited by the bacchanal orgies described,


"Now strike the golden lyre again:

A louder yet, and yet a louder strain;
Break his bands of sleep asunder,

And rouse him like a rattling peal of thunder,
Hark! hark! the horrid sound

Has raised up his head,

As awaked from the dead,
And amazed he stares around.

Revenge! revenge! Timotheus cries;
See the furies arise:

See the snakes that they rear,

How they hiss in the air,

And the sparkles that flash from their eyes,

Behold a ghastly band,

Each a torch in his hand!

Those are Grecian ghosts, that in battle were slain,

And unburied remain,
Inglorious on the plain :-
Give the vengeance due
To the valiant crew!
Behold how they toss their torches on high,
How they point to the Persian abodes,
And glittering temples of the hostile gods!
-The princes applaud with a furious joy,
And the king seized a flambeau, with zeal to destroy:
Thais led the way,

To light him to his prey,

And like another Helen fired another Troy."

Metrical Romances.

A free and easy species of verse, which may be called the lyrical narrative, has been very fashionable since the first splendid achievements of the great master in this style, Sir Walter Scott; who founded it upon the models of his elder countrymen, rejecting their barbarisms, and blending with their better manner an abundant proportion of modern refinements. This innovation affects various forms in its rhythmical cadences, but its practitioners confine themselves to none altogether: here, skirmishing away in the moss-trooping measures of "The Last Minstrel❞—there, marching in stanzas of a mile, with the stately tread of "Marmion;" and again, like "The Lady of the Lake," gracefully rowing along in octosyllabic time. Fifty romances, at least, have been published in this vein, of which five will not soon be forgotten. From one of these (the least irregular of Sir Walter's Border epics), as an example of tragic power in which he has outgone himself, I extract the "Death of Roderic Dhu," the sternest of all his champions. Roderic, wounded and captive, is imprisoned in a hideous "donjon keep." A minstrel is introduced to him by mistake, who, being locked in with the chieftain Gael, sings, at his request, "The Battle of Beale and Duine." Roderic is thus represented :


"As the tall ship, whose lofty prore
Shall never stem the billows more,
Deserted by her gallant band,
Amid the breakers lies astrand ;-
So on his couch lay Roderic Dhu!
-And oft his fever'd limbs he threw
In toss abrupt; as when her sides
Lie rocking on the advancing tides,
That strike her frame with ceaseless beat,

Yet cannot heave her from her seat;

Oh! how unlike her course at sea!!
Or his free step upon the lea!"

After some discourse with his companions

"The chieftain raised his form on high,
And fever's fire was in his eye;
And ghastly pale and livid streaks
Checker'd his swarthy brow and cheeks."

The minstrel begins his lay; and after having sung long and furiously, the strain abruptly ends :

"The harp escaped the minstrel's hand!—
Oft had he stolen a glance, to spy
How Roderic brook'd his minstrelsy.

At first the chieftain, to his chime,
With lifted hand, kept feeble time;
That motion ceased-yet feeling strong,
Varied his look as changed the song:
At length no more his deafen'd ear
The minstrel's melody can hear;
His face grows sharp; his hands are clench'd,
As if some pang his heart strings wrench'd;
Set are his teeth, his fading eye

Is sternly fixed on vacancy :

Thus, motionless, and moanless, drew
His parting breath, stout Roderic Dhu."

Here is a worthy companion-piece to the "Death of Marmion," so much celebrated. To me the silence, the deafness, the terrible tranquillity of dissolution in the Highland chief are more awful and

impressive than the delirious ecstasy and the expiring shout of the English hero :


"Charge, Chester! charge!-on, Stanley, on!"
Were the last words of Marmion."


[ocr errors][merged small]

Poetry for the Young.

I shall particularize only one species more of this versatile art, little used in former times, but which has been carried to extraordinary perfection in our own. The authors of those small volumes, "Original Poems,"" Rhymes for the Nursery," and "Hymns for Infant Minds," have indeed deserved well of their country, and long will their humble but admirable productions continue to bless its successive generations. Though even in these they showed themselves qualified to indite for persons of larger growth, and entitled to claim high poetic honours, yet the fair and modest writers-for they were of the better sex-condescended to gather flowers at the foot of Parnassus to wreathe the brows of infancy, instead of climbing towards the summit to grasp at laurels for their own. I say they condescended to do this, because it is hard for the pride of intellect to forego any advantage which might set off itself before the public. To most poets it would have been no small annoyance to be confined to the nursery and playground, and sing to please little children, when they might command the attention of men; for children, however they may be delighted with the song, pay no tribute of applause to the minstrel: but when they are charmed with a beautiful idea in a book, feel and express the same simple and unmixed pleasure as when they gaze upon a peacock, or listen! to the cuckoo. It never enters into their unsophis

[ocr errors]

ticated minds to attach merit to the bestowers of such blessings. The sense and the desire of enjoyment are born with them, but gratitude and veneration they must be taught.

Hence, there is little temptation, except the pure impulse to do good, to compose works of any kind for the amusement of those who neither flatter the vanity nor reward the labours of their benefactors. The contributors to the volumes in question willingly sacrificed ambition, and were content to clothe truth in language so clear and pure that it should appear like a robe of light shining from heaven around her, to reveal her beauty and proportions, and thus attract the eye that rolled in darkness, and the feet that wandered in error before. How successfully they have effected their purpose may be shown by three brief stanzas, which also prove what I have been most anxious in these papers to establish, that verse in its diction may be as unadorned and inartificial as prose, yet lose nothing of the elegance and grandeur of poetry. The attribute of Deity called omnipresence is, perhaps, as difficult to express otherwise than by that one emphatic word, as any other object that can be imagined. A thousand illustrations might be more easily given than one distinct idea of it. I may be mistaken, but I do think that the nearest possible approach has been made to it in the last of the following lines. A child speaks ::

"If I could find some cave unknown,
Where human feet have never trod,
Even there I could not be alone,
On every side there would be God."

This is a child's thought in a child's words; and yet the longer it is dwelt upon the more impressive it becomes, till we feel ourselves as much in the presence of Deity as within the ring of the horizon,

« PredošláPokračovať »