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We have long wished for a proper poem had effected a startling change opportunity to write an Essay on on our mental constitution. Stupid Epic Poetry—and here is one; while, enough for common occasions we had unluckily, deuce an idea will rise up often been before that perusal, as all in the dark interior of our pericra- our readers will cheerfully allow; but nium. The truth is, we have read since that perusal our stupidity has not Mr Atherstone till we have become only assumed a more settled aspect, almost--you would not believe us, but a far firmer form, and, we verily did we say wholly---as stupid as him- believe, a more determined character. self; and how stupid that is, you per- That which was, in other days, tranhaps partly may know, by reading sient as a cloud, is now permanent either this Article or the Fall of Nine as a hill-top: Our stupidity, like veh. Whether Christopher North or that of the other patient's, is no less Edwin Atherstone is at this hour the chronic than acute; so the world stupider individual, it would be must not wonder, if in a few years, highly presumptuous in us to affirm say half a century, Blackwood's Mapositively; but we may venture to gazine should become, in sheer stuhint that the advantage lies" rather pidity, not far inferior to the last on our side, and that the effect is number of the Monthly Review-a greater than could be explained on phi- periodical which, under its present losophical principles-greater even very skilful management, it is intethan its cause. To speak more precise- resting to see keeping just below ly, our stupidity, viewed as an effect that degree of stupidity, above which of him the cause, leaves the author it was proved-by the death of the of its existence so much in the back- Critical — that nothing mortal can ground, that it becomes difficult to breathe, any more than a frog in an affiliate it
upon Mr Atherstone; and air-exhausted receiver. yet as certainly as that the sun is not Yet though, in our present paroxnow clear at noonday, he is the pa- ysm, unfit to compose an Essay on rent at whose door our stupidity Epic Poetry, how pleasant to think must be laid; and if he have any of old Homer! And what would he bowels, he will treat kindly this his think of us, were he restored to life, Crying Sin.
and especially of Mr Atherstone We feel as if the perusal of this Why, it would not be easy to find out
* The Fall of Nineveh, a Poem. By Edwin Atherstone. The First Six Books London : Printed for Baldwin and Cradock, 1828. Vol. XXVII, NO, CLXII,
that; for as Homer would, of course, sunshine. What we were to Hecube restored to blindness, during Mr ba, we know not; but what Hecuba Atherstone's recitation of his poem, was to us, we do know—Why, she we might erroneously suspect the old was the very image of our grandmoGrecian of being asleep-as, on the ther! As for Andromache, there other hand, we might just as unjust seems to reside a spirit of sadness ly accuse the old gentleman of being in the name! It breathes to us of all awake. Our perplexity would, how- most Wifelike in the Beautiful. We ever, in all probability be ended ere know not why—but we love Mrs long by a portentous snore, enough Gentle for her sake! As for poor to shake to its foundations the Tem- Helen-she was hated only-by herple of Ninus, and effect the Fall of self; in spite of her fatal sin, Troy Nineveh.
loved and pitied her-Hecuba, Pri. For old Homer would be intoler- am, Hector, Andromache and allant of prosing—and in prosing Mr and perhaps the member of the Royal Atherstone excels all the children Family who cared least for her at last of men. He has unluckily acquired was-Paris. As for Achilles, we feared considerable power over a consider him, so brave and beautiful, so swiftable number of words in the English footed, and, as we dreamt, invulnerlanguage, which obsequiously obey able. Had it not been for Hector, we his commands, issued with an air of might have loved the son of Thetis ; authority which smells of the school but round the waving crest of the Bien master. But his mind is as slow as aime, all our hopes and fears kept an expiring top. It does not,“ spin- watch, as if to ward off the weapon ning, sleep,” though it dozes; and you of that dreadful demigod !—Turning wonder, while it continues wambling from Troy to Nineveh, the mind or on, that it does not all at once fall
a man undergoes as violent a revuldown stone-dead. It was quite the sion as if he were torn away by Fate reverse with the mind of old Homer. from a Noctes Ambrosianæ, and set His was indeed a striking specimen of down to a lecture on Phrenology in the Perpetual Motion-and not only the Society's Hall in Clyde Street. swung, but sung and shone like a He experiences within one little hour planet. No man of woman born ever the extremes of human life-the ut. fell asleep over the Iliad. A few lines most imaginable brightness and glory of it has cured the most comatose; the last pitch of opacity and gloom; that prescription has made lethargy and wonders if he iudeed be still an leap up from his chair, and roam the inhabitant of one and the same world! house like a sommambulist. One paper in presence of the Iliad every man of Atherstone's powders, again, can is a hero. Reading old Homer is lull even an evil conscience. Under like marching along with a full band its benign influence we ourselves, of instrumental music. You would with two gouty great toes, walked willingly walk on to death. But the at the rate of five miles an hour into drone of Atherstone absolutely inthe Land of Nod. In a quarter of an spires cowardice. You are transmohour or less, has his patent sopori- grified into Corporal Fear-would fic changed a family naturally fever fain hide yourself among the bag. ish into the Seven Sleepers.
gage-waggons—sigh for the society Very dim, indeed—as of all things of Friends, and on your relinquishelse-is our memory of the Iliad. ment of a military life, resolve to be. But we do remember this, that there come a Wet-Quaker. was one Hector, whom we did dear Whether Sardanapalus kills Arbaces ly-devoutly love; and for whose -We are alluding now to Mr Ather. sake we loved Troy-town almost stone's two chief heroes--or vice verlike Auld Reekie. For and with an sa, is to us a mere matter of moonshine old man called Priam, we remem -of as utter indifference as the issue ber having wept till we were blind; of a battle between any two wasps for the eyes of a boy are as sudden- when about to enter the mouth of a ly filled with tears as tulips are with bottle of sugar of lead, placed for rain, and as suddenly, too, shake out the protection of a royal race of red the shower to the first air of joy that hairy gooseberries. His Queen of comes rustling by with the wakened Nineveh is an absolute scold-and
we almost wish that the town were Albums, and afterwards for seven taken-if only to silence that dread- years more as a journeyman in the ful bell—her tongue. As for concu Annuals ? The young mason begins bines—and such cattle-they may wi' dry stane-dykes, as we say in burn away at their leisure in the Scotland ; thence aspires to a pigsack of Nineveh-a city for whose stye, from which the ascent is easy fate, as it is seen through Mr Ather to a cottage. From cottage he mounts stone's telescope, we feel about as to kirk, from kirk to steeple, and much interest as for the Metropolis from steeple to one of the pillars of of the Moon.
the Parthenon of our Modern Athens. An Epic Poem then, without an Such is the natural steps by which essay upon it, it is allowed on all Mr Atherstone should have approachhands, is always in the writing, and' ed towards “ building up the lofty too often in the reading, a serious rhyme.” But no ; this hum-drum business. In the reading, mortal common-sense precedure did not suit man is apt to fall into the arms of his aspiring genius ; and disdaining Death's brother-Sleep. Fortunate- a preparatory course of anagrams, ly, the end of each Book, of which we sonnets, elegies, and Dramatic Scenes may suppose twelve or twenty-four and Sketches, with plumb-line and affords an excellent opportunity for trowel he has undertaken to conus to restore tired nature. There struct an edifice of enormous dimen. stands a Spittal --such as that of sions—an Epic Poem. The conseGlenshee; and though it would be quence has been, that he has given rise too much to expect there, either for to a structure of a very equivocal, amlove or money, board—the traveller biguous, and singular character-not being expected to carry his provie so like a temple for worship, which sions along with him—yet he gets a it was designed to be, as a barn for good, dry, hard bedonwhich to stretch shearers, or rather a barracks for his wearied limbs and frame, and a soldiers—bulky enough, it is true, few hours repose strengthens him for but with very few windows, and these the next stage. A prudent man, with rather narrow, so that there is but a sound constitution, may thus walk little light in the interior of the buildhis way, with moderate fatigue, ing,--with a roof leaded along the rigthrough the longest and most moun- ging it is equally true, but too flat for tainous Epic, and be as fresh-for the this rainy climate,-and with stacks of journey is, in fact, the best of all chimneys so wide at the mouth, that training-at the end of three weeks, every room, even the sleeping ones, as on the very day he set out on his which is a very bad case, must be undertaking, the odds having been infested with smoke sadly, and the perhaps three to one on time. worst place in the world for pictures.
Mr Atherstone's Epic is, he has It will neither sell nor let. given us to understand, a lengthy one; But Mr Atherstone is a learned and we have gone along it as far as man, and knows more about Nineveh the great road is finished. Mists and than perhaps any other scholar in clouds hang dense over the distance; Europe. The work, he tells us, in and if the future be as the past, it which he found condensed the greatwill be a toilsome pilgrimage. But est portion of information relative to we shall “set a stout heart to a stae Assyrian story, is, that rare work brae;" and after a cold bath in the “ The Universal History." There pool of Oblivion, what a profound and may, he modestly says, be others far dreamless sleep shall we not have the “ more comprehensive and satisfacnight after the completion of what tory, but that he has not had the good will then be considered the greatest fortune to meet with them.” He pedestrian exploit on record! made numerous memoranda of notes,
To speak plainly, what could have which he thought might be illustraput it into the head of this honest tive of the subject, or which might, gentleman to go to Nineveh? Why at the least, offer to the attention of did he not, before tackling to the the reader “
a pleasing diversion.” master-work of an Epic Poem, ex But he has not had time to prepare ercise his 'prentice hand in writing them for the press; and it is fortuassiduously for seven years in Ladies' nate for those who may undertake
his volume that he had not; for they the sporting poetical world deemed will not, we can assure them, be in impossible. It therefore would not a condition, at the end of his or their : be a fair bet—but a bubble. performance, to enter with becoming The preface, however, which Mr spirit into any“ pleasing diversion."
Atherstone has given, is short and No doubt the perusal of a quantity flat, and therefore not much of a perof unmeasured, after so much mea formance for even a third-rate pedessured prose, might have had the trian. The accomplishment of it, effect of bringing into play a different within the four-and-twenty hours, set of muscles of the mind; but would not deserve a place in a comstill, such alternation of labour an
mon newspaper, and any notice of it swers the purpose only when the would be at once rejected by the fatigue is moderate; in cases of ex- intelligent editor of Bell's Life in treme exertion, it is not found to give London. We won in a canter, withthe desired relief. Mr Atherstone
out piping or turning a hair, an hour had prepared, and also intended to within the time. We are kindly and publish with this poem, a Preface, considerately informed in it, “ that which would have occupied perhaps such cities as Nineveh and Babylon seventy or eighty pages ; but that existed”—and that, too, with a grandpreface he has been advised by some eur perhaps never equalled. We humane and merciful friend-some
are glad of this, for we cannot bear friend, indeed, of the species-to omit. to hear of any old and grand cities, Now, men there may be in this active of which we read in history, being work-day world with as good bone denied existence. It forces us to and bottom as ourselves, and through believe they were wholly fabulous the poem, as it now consists of six and fictitious; and it is impossible to long stages, they may possibly, as we feel the same interest about nothing have been, provided the weather be as about something, about mere imagood, and the days long, by means ginary brick and mortar, or stone of what must appear to many a mi- and lime, as about those real materacle, under divine providence, be rials themselves - real, that is to brought at last,--without any worse say, while they existed in that shape, malady than a slow fever, to be as and real indeed while they continue suaged by a few grains of opium. But to exist in dust and ashes. We we who are familiarly acquainted beg leave, therefore, to return our with most, nay, all the best pedestri- best thanks to Mr Atherstone, who, ans in Britain, and have, in all the we believe, is a man of the most matches we ever had with them, scrupulous veracity, for having githrough prose or verse, or through ven us the assurance of his word that heaviest of all ground, a mixed that Babylon and Nineveh did exstyle, never once been beat, can assure ist, and perhaps with a grandeur Mr Atherstone that there is not one on unequalled ;—including, of course, the list who could do such a Preface, the tower of Ninus and the tower of such a Poem, and such Notes, within Belus--two towers for which we have the solar year. The preface itself always had a particular respect, nay, would be a tough job—all up-hill the very highest admiration'; and work. The pedestrian might undoubt- also those hanging gardens, which edly recover second wind in doing the must have been equally beautiful first part of the poem—but in what and magnificent, and, what is more, state would his sinews be in the
a great comfort and luxury to the insixth ? And though game might bring habitants of the metropolis. We had him through, it would be cruelty to forgotten, we are sorry to say, who wish, and madness to expect, that first built Nineveh, but Mr Atherwithin the terms of the match he stone has, in his notes curtailed from could limp the notes. Werepeat it, the the originals which he has not had preface itself, in a month, would be time to prepare for the press, refreshno every-day performance—the poem ' ed our memory by re-informing us without the preface would be first that it was Ninus, who was succeedrate_with it, something quite ex ed by his widow Semiramis, (of traordinary,-- but preface, poem, and whom some curious particulars are notes, would be miraculous, and ip be found in a very rare work
indeed an unique-which it is scarce he may have painted his cheeks and ly possible Mr Atherstone can have attired himself as a woman, but must been, as it has been lying for half a have had within him the energies of century in our possession-penes a man!!" Had he really been the me, Lempriere's Classical Diction-drivelling, disgusting, idiotic sensuary,) who, towards the close of her alist, Mr Atherstone judiciously oblife, surrendered it to their son
o that his character would not Ninyas, or, as we call it in Scot have been unfit for the hero of an epic land, euphoniæ et brevitatis causâ poem only, but even for the monRingan,-as for example in Mr Galt's ster of the most prosing fable.” He celebrated novel, Ringan Gilhaize. therefore, far more wisely than some By Ringan, we are sorry to be in historians, conceives Sardanapalus to formed by Mr Atherstone,--on the have been «
a man of good and evil authority of that rare worķ the Uni- mingled: one that, in other circumversal History, and by Lempriere in stances, and under wiser tuition, his Classical Dictionary, now, as we would have been great and virtuous : said, an unique-was set that ex whose ungovernable fury might have ample of indolence and vicious effe
been a generous enthusiasm, whose minacy, which is said to have been all-devouring sensuality might have imitated by the long train of mo been ardent, devoted love,whose narchs which intervened between unrelenting tyranny over others him and the overthrow of the empire might have been stern self-control, under Sardanapalus.
whose implacable resentment against We are thus brought down, in the rebellion might have been heroic preface and notes, to the time and resistance against oppression. He place when and where Mr Ather- has within him a fire that, wisely stone's Epic poem, Nineveh, opens tended, might have given warmth, -the time being a short time pre- and splendour, and enjoyment; but vious to the overthrow of the As- which, uncontrolled, becomes a consyrian monarchy under Sardanapa- flagration that consumes him.” lus, by the suicide of that king, and This is very antithetical and phithe place Nineveh—not Babylon, losophical—but we cannot think as the hasty and careless reader it so very original as it seems to be might falsely imagine, from its name in the eyes of the bard. It amounts being mentioned along with Nineveh to this and little more, that Sardanain the preface—the words being palus was a spoiled child. But we Babylon and Nineveh.
do not quarrel with the character on Next to the Universal Dictionary, that score—for a vast of meaning lies MrAtherstone's favourite authority in in the two words, spoiled child-nor his notes concerning Nineveh is Mr can there be a fitter subject for Buckingham, who lately, we under either an Epic poem or a Tragedy stand, though we were not there to than a spoiled child. And all thinkhear, lectured with considerable ing people must see that, on a very eclat, first in the Hopetoun, George's little reflection. Who can forget for Street, and afterwards the Waterloo a moment Little Pickle, in the farce of Rooms, Waterloo Buildings, Edin that name? We have another drift. burgh, to respectable audiences of Pray, did Mr Atherstone ever read all sexes, on Oriental affairs in gene a Drama by Byron with that nameral, and in particular on the East not Little Pickle, but Sardanapalus ? India Company's monopoly of tea; “ But for his encouragement, (Mr and next to Mr Buckingham, comes Martin, the celebrated painter,) and that good old-fashioned book the Bi that of one other most esteemed ble. The reader, therefore, comes friend, I should not, probably, after to the perusal of the Epic prepared Byron's appropriation of it, have with full and authentic information ventured upon the subject.” He has regarding its subject-matter--Nine- read Byron's noble, Drama, thenveh and Sardanapalus.
and notwithstanding that prevailing Mr Atherstone labours to prove, in poet's appropriation of it, he has his prose, that Sardanapalus may have ventured on the subject. And can
indulged to excess in sensuality, any mortal man in this wide world but he could not have been the dri- conjecture why? Was he dissatisfied velling, disgusting, idiotic sensualist; with Byron's conceptiou of the cha.