« ZurückWeiter »
which the reader desires to devote to the pursuit of the main drift of what calls itself a single poem, simplex et unum, is so incessantly called off to look at this and look at that; when, for example, we would fain follow the thought and feeling of Violet and of Walter, we are with such peremptory and frequent eagerness summoned to observe how like the sky is to x and the stars are to y, that on the whole, though there is a real continuity of purpose, we cannot be surprised that the critic of the London Examiner failed to detect it.
Keats and Shelley, and Coleridge, perhaps, before them, with their extravagant love for Elizabethan phraseology, have led to this mischief. Has not Tennyson followed a little too much in their train ? Coleridge, we suppose, would have maintained it to be an excellence in the “ myriad-minded” dramatist, that he so often diverts us from the natural course of thought, feeling, and narrative, to see how curiously two trifles resemble each other, or that, in a passage of deep pathos, he still finds time to apprise us of a paronomasia. But faults which disfigure Shakspeare are not beauties in a modern volume.
I rot upon the waters when my prow
Should grate the golden isles may be a very Elizabethan, but is certainly rather a vicious expression. Force and condensation are good, but it is possible to combine them with purity of phrase. One of the most successful delineations in the whole poem is contained in the following passage, which introduces scene VII.
[A balcony overlooking the sea.]
It seems a straggler from the files of June,
Which in its wanderings had lost its wits,
A few half-withered flowers; - I love and pity it. It may be the fault of our point of view; but certainly we do not find even here that happy, unimpeded sequence which is the charm of really good writers. Is there not something incongruous in the effect of the immediate juxtaposition of these two images? We have lost, it may be, that impetuosity, that élan, which lifts the young reader over hedge and ditch at flying leaps, across country, — or we should not perhaps entertain any offence, or even surprise, at being transferred per saltum from the one field to the other. But we could almost ask, was the passage, so beautiful, though perhaps a little prolonged, about the June day in November, written consecutively, and in one flow, with the previous, and also beautiful one about ocean and his bride. We dare say it was; but it does not read, somehow, in the same straight line with it,
Tantum series juncturaque pollet. We venture, too, to record a perhaps hypercritical objection to “ the blinding sky” in this particular collocation. Perhaps in the first line of a scene, while the reader has not yet warmed to his duty, simplicity should be especially observed ; - a single image, without any repeated reflection, so to speak, in a second mirror, should suffice. The following, which open scene XI., are better.
“ Summer hath murmured with her leafy lips
of three several years
That rustles sere on Autumn's aged limbs.” Except the two last lines. Our author will not keep his eye steady upon the thing before him; he goes off, and distracts us, and breaks the impression he had begun to succeed in giving, by bidding us look now at something else. Some simpler epithets than shaking, and some plainer language than tarnished gold or aged limbs, would have done the work better. We are quite prepared to believe that these faults and these disagreeables have personally been necessities to the writer, are awkwardnesses of growth, of which the full stature may show no trace. He should be assured, however, that though the rude vigor of the style of his Life-Drama may attract upon the first reading, yet in any case, it is not the sort of writing which people recur to with pleasure and fall back upon with satisfaction. It may be a groundless fancy, yet we do fancy, that there is a whole hemisphere, so to say, of the English language which he has left unvisited. His diction feels to us, as if between Milton and Burns he had not read, and between Shakspeare and Keats had seldom admired. Certainly there is but little inspiration in the compositions of the last century; yet English was really best and most naturally written, when there was, perhaps, least to write about. To obtain a real command of the language, some familiarity with the prose writers, at any rate, of that period, is almost essential; and to write out, as a mere daily task, passages, for example, of Goldsmith, would do a versecomposer of the nineteenth century as much good, we believe, as the study of Beaumont and Fletcher.
If our readers wish to view real timidity, real shrinking from actual things, real fear of living, let them open the little volume of Sidney Walker's Poetical Remains. The school-fellow and college friend of Praed, marked from his earliest youth by his poetic temper and faculty, he passed fifty-one years, mostly in isolation and poverty, shivering upon the brink, trembling and hesitating upon the threshold of life. Fearful to affirm any thing, lest it haply might be false; to do any thing, because so probably it might be sin; to speak, lest he should lie; almost, we might say, to feel, lest it should be a deception,- so he sat, crouching and cowering, in the dismal London back-street lodging, over the embers of a wasting and dying fire, the true image of his own vitality. “I am vext," is his weak complaining cry,
With many thoughts, the kindly spirit of hope
With my own heart, have ta’en from solitude
Come, therefore ! like the Moon,
They go, and I remain. Their steps are free
Those days are past ;
'Tis utter night; over all Nature's works
My weary sense for refuge ; as a child
Except some translations, of which one from the Persæ of Æschylus, describing the morning of Salamis, and three of the three finest fragments of Ennius, may be recommended, there is hardly any thing that is not of this sad personal kind :
Ah, woe is me, that I am forced to wrong
Vagitus et ingens, Infantumque anima flentes in limine primo. Amongst these it is not well to linger long. The flowers of hope and natural joy and simple feeling, the reader will find growing abundantly in the pages of William Allingham, a young Irish poet, whose vein of poetic thought and pure felicitous diction has won him the praise of good judges in England. We have already, we believe, overstepped the limits which can be allowed to the levities of verse; otherwise we would gladly quote from his charming tale of “ The Music Master.” The volume, however, is already not unknown in America. It would have been better, certainly, for more perfect elaboration of several of the minor pieces, and perhaps for the entire omission of a considerable number. The “ Serenade" begins well,
Oh! hearing sleep, and sleeping hear,