« ZurückWeiter »
As unknown isle asleep in unknown seas.
Starts the completed moon. Here, in this determination, he writes his poem, - attains in this spirit the object which had formerly been his ambition. And here, in the last scene, we find him happy, or peaceful at least, with Violet.
“Violet. I always pictured you in such a place
Walter. Have you read my book?
It is enough.
For many weeks,
The singing crown of Fame."
you were far
6. Walter ! dost thou believe
In the light
last I gained a deep and silent isle,
Thou noble soul,
if thou art nearer God than I !
So be it, O young Poet; Poet, perhaps it is early to affirm; but so be it, at any rate, O young man. While you go forth in that “armor of pure intent," the hearts of some readers, be assured, will go with you.
Empedocles on Etna and other Poems, with its earlier companion volume, The Strayed Reveller and other Poems, are, it would seem, the productions (as is, or was, the English phrase) of a scholar and a gentleman; a man who has received a refined education, seen refined" society," and been more, we dare say, in the world, which is called the world, than in all likelihood has a Glasgow mechanic. More refined, therefore, and more highly educated sensibilities, - too delicate, are they, for common service ?— a calmer judgment also, a more poised and steady intellect, the siccum lumen of the soul; a finer and rarer aim perhaps, and certainly a keener sense of difficulty, in life; - these are the characteristics of him whom we are to call “A.” Empedocles, the sublime Sicilian philosopher, the fragments of whose moral and philosophic poems testify to his genius and character, - Empedocles, in the Poem before us, weary of misdirected effort, weary of imperfect thought, impatient of a life which appears to him a miserable failure, and incapable, as he conceives, of doing any thing that shall be true to that proper interior self,
“Being one with which we are one with the whole world," wandering forth, with no determined purpose, into the mountain solitudes, followed for a while by Pausanias, the eager and laborious physician, and at a distance by Callicles, the boymusician, flings himself at last, upon a sudden impulse and apparent inspiration of the intellect, into the boiling crater of Etna; rejoins there the elements. “ Slave of sense,” he was saying, pondering near the verge,
“ Slave of sense
But I have not grown easy in these bonds,
And therefore, Oye Elements, I know —
Is it but for a moment?
[He plunges into the crater.] The music of the boy Callicles, to which he chants his happy mythic stories, somewhat frigidly perhaps, relieves, as it sounds in the distance, the gloomy catastrophe.
Tristram and Iseult (these names form the title of the next and only other considerable poem) are, in the old romantic cycle of North-France and Germany, the hero and the heroine of a mournful tale. Tristram of Lyonness, the famed companion of King Arthur, received in youth a commission to bring from across the sea the Princess Iseult of Ireland, the destined bride of the King of Cornwall. The mother of the beautiful princess gave her, as a parting gift, a cup of a magic wine, which she and her royal husband should drink together on their marriage-day in their palace at Tyntagil; so they should love each other perfectly and forever. But on the voyage it befell
The calm sea shines, loose bang the vessel's sails,
• Ah, would I were'(saith Iseult)
• Ah, would I were in those green fields at play,
And pledge me in it first for courtesy.'
On the dreamy seas it so befell, that Iseult and Tristram drank together of the golden cup. Tristram, therefore, and Iseult should love each other perfectly and for ever. Yet nothing the less for this must Iseult be wedded to the King of Cornwall; and Tristram, vainly lingering, fly and go forth upon
But it so chanced that, after long and weary years of passion vainly contended with, years of travel and hard fighting, Tristram, lying wounded in Brittany, was tended by another, a youthful, innocent Iseult, in whose face he seemed to see the look of that Iseult of the past, that was, and yet could not be, his. Weary, and in his sad despondency, Tristram wedded Iseult of Brittany, whose heart, in his stately deep distress, he had moved to a sweet and tender affection. The modern poem opens with the wedded knight come home again, after other long years, and other wars, in which he had fought at King Arthur's side with the Roman emperor, and subdued the heathen Saxons on the Rhine, lying once more sick and sad at heart, upon what ere long he feels shall be his deathbed. Ere he die, he would see, once yet again, her with whom in his youth he drank of that fatal cup.
Tristram. Is she not come ? the messenger was sure.
The Page. The lanterns of the fishing-boats at sea.
And so through the whole Part I. of our poem, lies the sick and weary knight upon his bed, reviewing sadly, while sadly near him stands his timid and loving younger Iseult, reviewing, half sleeping, half awake, those old times, that hapless voyage, and all that thence ensued; and still in all his thought recurring to the proud Cornish Queen, who, it seems, will let him die unsolaced. He speaks again, now broad awake.
Is my page here? Come turn me to the fire.