« ZurückWeiter »
could he sound it, those mournful Muses would scarcely be able as of old, to respond and “ sing in turn with their beautiful voices."
To such moods, and in such states of feeling, this LifeDrama will be an acceptable poem. Under the guise of a different story, a story unskilful enough in its construction, we have seemed continually to recognize the ingenuous, yet passionate, youthful spirit, struggling after something like right and purity amidst the unnumbered difficulties, contradictions, and corruptions of the heated and crowded, busy, vicious, and inhuman town. Eager for action, incapable of action without some support, yet knowing not on what arm to dare to lean; not untainted; hard-pressed; in some sort, at times, overcome, - still we seem to see the young combatant, half combatant, half martyr, resolute to fight it out, and not to quit this for some easier field of battle, one way or other to make something of it.
The story, such as we have it, is inartificial enough. Walter, a boy of poetic temperament and endowment, has, it appears, in the society of a poet friend now deceased, grown up with the ambition of achieving something great in the highest form of human speech. Unable to find or make a way, he is diverted from his lofty purposes by a romantic love-adventure, obscurely told, with a “ Lady” who finds him asleep, Endymion-like, under a tree. The fervor and force of youth wastes itself here in vain; a quick disappointment, - for the lady is betrothed to another, - sends him back enfeebled, exhausted, and embittered, to essay once again his task. Disappointed affections, and baffled ambition, contending henceforward in unequal strife with the temptations of scepticism, indifference, apathetic submission, base indul. gence, and the like;— the sickened, and defeated, yet only too strong, too powerful man, turning desperately off, and recklessly at last plunging in mid-unbelief into joys to which only belief and moral purpose can give reality; - out of horrorstricken guilt, the new birth of clearer and surer, though humbler, conviction, trust, resolution ;-these happy changes met, perhaps a little prematurely and almost more than halfway, by success in the aims of a purified ambition, and
crowned too, at last, by the blessings of a regenerate affection,- such is the argument of the latter half of the poem; and there is something of a current and tide, so to say, of poetic intention in it, which carries on the reader, (after the first few scenes,) perforce, in spite of criticism and himself, through faulty imagery, turgid periods, occasional bad versification and even grammar, to the close. Certainly, there is something of a real flesh-and-blood heart and soul in the case, or this could not be so.
Of the first four or five scenes, perhaps the less said the better. There are frequent fine lines, occasional beautiful passages; but the tenor of the narrative is impeded and obstructed to the last degree, not only by accumulations of imagery, but by episode, and episode within episode, of the most embarrassing form. It is really discouraging to turn page upon page, while Walter is quoting the poems of his lost friend, and wooing the unknown lady of the wood with a story of another lady and an Indian page. We could almost recommend the reader to begin with the close of scene IV., where the hero's first love-disappointment is decided, and the lady quits her young poet.
“I must go,
[She still lingers.
As in a little wind, thou 'lt know 'tis I.” The ensuing scene, between Walter and a Peasant, is also obscurely and indecisively given ; and before Part VI., it would
have been well, we think, to place some mark of the lapse of time. The second division of the poem here commences. We are reintroduced to the hero in a room in London, reading a poetical manuscript. Edward, a friend, enters and interrupts. We quote from a speech of Walter's.
“ Thou mock’st at much;
What wouldst thou do?
Walter. But since my younger and my hotter days,
What hope is that?
Two scenes of conversation are given between Walter and this friend, Edward, cold, clear-sighted, a little cynical, but patient, calm, resigned, and moral. He, as it happens, is going on the morrow to Bedfordshire, to visit
“Old Mr. Wilmott, nothing in himself,
Dull flats, scream-startled, as the exulting train
Yet wealthier in one child than all of these." Thither Walter accompanies him. We subjoin part of a dialogue between him and the “one child," in whom, more than in all his land, old Mr. Wilmott was blest. Walter had been describing his own story under the name of another person.
“Violet. Did you know well that youth of whom you spake?
Walter. Know him! Oh yes; I knew him as myself, — Two passions dwelt at once within his soul,
The dead was Love, the living, Poetry.
Violet. Alas! if Love rose never from the dead.
Walter. Between him and the lady of his love There stood a wrinkled worldling.
And when she died,
Violet. What found he there?
Walter. Laugh till your sides ache! oh, he went, poor fool,
Violet. You cannot laugh yourself, sir, nor can I.
Like a pure thought within a sinful soul.
Dearer is Earth to God for her sweet sake. The issue and catastrophe of a new love-adventure here, in this unhappy and distempered period of baffled and disappointed ambition, and power struggling vainly for a vent, may be conjectured from the commencement of a scene, which perhaps might be more distinctly marked as the opening of the third part.
[A bridge in a City. Midnight. Walter alone.
Repeated in the lives of all his sons.
Good men have said,
They swarm and feed upon me. Three years appear to have gone by, when Walter, like a stag sore-hunted, returns to the home of his childhood.
“ 'Twas here I spent my youth, as far removed
From the great heavings, hopes and fears of man,