Page images
PDF
EPUB

was

who leaves the estate,-not to her canting brother, but to his daughter by the second marriage, a lady one degree more cunning and assiduous than her father. Forthwith the honest attorney ci-dessus nommé, who

particeps criminis" of the clandestine marriage, determines to turn bis knowledge of that transaction to account, by forcing the father of the rich legatee to give her and her estate to his own son. His power to effect this purpose is increased by an error in the wording of the will, which, giving the property to his friend's eldest daughter, of course, if her claim were made public, would assign it to the little Catholic perdue. The negotiation to keep this secret, very happily commenced, is abruptly broken off by the supposed heiress choosing for herself and running off with a third party. The attorney, thus foiled, embarks in a new speculation to produce the “true Simon Pure," and marry his son to her. Upon the point as he imagines of carrying this design into successful execution, he is again thwarted by the old Methodist father, who, seeing no other means of avoiding the snare, and touched moreover in his conscience, brings to light a forgotten entail which nullifies the will, and settles the property on Reginald, who, as in duty bound, marries his cousin, and the curtain falls.

Such are the very flimsy materials out of which the author of Reginald Dalton has contrived to spin three very closely printed volumes, by dint of descriptions and details à la Walter Scott, (if W. Scott be the "great unknown")-descriptions and details, which, though of the most ordinary and trifling incidents and situations, are still, by force of writing, endowed with considerable interest to the reader. It is this circumstance, indeed, which alone renders the work worth five lines of criticism. It is this faculty of engaging an balf-alive sort of attention, and pinning the mind down to details which tend to enfeeble the intellectual powers of the reader, which aim at affording amusement without rousing thought or interesting the nobler passions, and which familiarize the imagination with selfish and narrow notions and motives,--that we would deprecate as debasing literature and degrading the national tone of feeling. Whatever openings the story affords for energy and dignity of character in the better personages of the tale, are utterly lost by the author. Reginald and his father are both more amiable than otherwise, but both are nearly ruined; the one by his thoughtless extravagance, and the other by want of paternal vigilance, or rather of common prudence. Both are weak,—and accident alone prevents them from being miserable. There is, indeed, an attempt at the portraiture of an old lady of sense and goodness, but nothing is made of the character, either in the story or as a character. The moral interest which might spring out of the religious peculiarities of the personages, is left wholly aside, and no use whatever is made of the circumstance.

The most interesting and amusing part of the book is occupied with a very vivid description of a night brawl in Oxford, which, though a mere parody of the prentices' row in the Fortunes of Nigel, is executed with considerable force.

M.

THE RELEASE OF TASSO.

THERB came a Bard to Rome: he brought a lyre,
Of sounds to peal through Rome's triumphal sky,
To mourn a hero on his funeral pyre,
Or greet a conqueror with its war-notes high ;
For on each chord had fall’n the gift of fire,
The living breath of Power and Victory!
-Yet he, its lord, the sovereign city's guest,
Sigh'd but to flee away, and be at rest.
He brought a spirit, whose ethereal birth
Was of the loftiest, and whose haunts had been
Amidst the marvels and the pomps of earth,
Wild fairy-bowers, and groves of deathless green,
And fields, where mail-clad bosoms prove their worth,
When flashing swords light up the stormy scene.
-He brought a weary heart, a wasted frame,
The Child of Visions from a dungeon came.
On the blue waters, as in joy they sweep,
With starlight floating o'er their swells and falls,
On the blue waters of the Adrian deep,
His numbers had been sung: and in the halls,
Where, through rich foliage if a sunbeain peep,
It seems Heaven's wakening to the sculptured walls,
Had princes listen’d to those lofty strains,
While the high soul they burst from, pined in chains.
And in the summer-gardens, where the spray,
Of founts, far-glancing from their marble bed,
Rains on the flowering myrtles in its play,
And the sweet limes, and glossy leaves that spread
Round the deep-golden citrons ; o'er his lay
Dark eyes, dark, soft, Italian

eyes

had shed Warm tears, fast-glittering in that sun, whose light Was a forbidden glory to his sight. Oh! if it be that wizard sign and spell And talisman had power of old to bind, In the dark chambers of some cavern-cell, Or knotted oak, the Spirits of the Wind, Things of the lightning-pinion, wont to dwell High o'er the reach of eagles, and to find Joy in the rush of storms ;-even such a doom Was that high Minstrel's in his dungeon-gloom. But he was free at last!-the glorious land Of the white Alps and pine-crown'd Apennines, Along whose shore the sapphire seas expand, And the wastes teem with myrtle, and the shrines Of long-forgotten gods from Nature's hand Receive bright offerings still ; with all its vines, And rocks, and ruins, clear before him lay-The seal was taken from the founts of day. The winds came o'er his cheek; the soft winds, blending All summer-sounds and odours in their sigh ; The orange-groves waved round; the hills were sending Their bright streams down; the free birds darling by,

And the blue festal Heavens above him bending,
As if to fold a world where none could die !
And who was he that look'd upon these things ?
- If but of earth, yet one whose thoughts were wings
To bear him o'er creation! and whose mind
Was as an air-harp, wakening to the sway
Of sunny Nature's breathings unconfined,
With all the mystic harmonies that lay
Far in the slumber of its chords enshrined,
Till the light breeze went thrilling on its way.
- There was no sound that wander'd through the sky,
But told him secrets in its melody.
Was the deep forest lonely unto him
With all its whispering leaves ?-Each dell and glade
Teem'd with such forms as on the moss-clad brim
Of fountains in their sparry grottoes play’d,
Seen by the Greek of yore through twilight dim,
Or misty noontide in the laurel-shade.

- There is no solitude on earth so deep
As that where man decrees that man should weep!
But oh! the life in Nature's green domains,
The breathing sense of joy! where flowers are springing
By starry thousands, on the slopes and plains,
And the grey rocks!-and all the arch'd woods ringing,
And the young branches trembling to the strains
Of wild-born creatures, through the sunshine winging
Their fearless flight !-and sylvan echoes round,
Mingling all tones to one Eolian sound!
And the glad voice, the laughing voice of streams,
And the low cadence of the silvery sea,
And reed-notes from the mountains, and the beams
Of the warm sun-all these are for the Free !
And they were his once more, the Bard, whose dreams
Their spirit still had haunted !-Could it be
That he had borne the chain ?-Oh! who shall dare
To how much man's heart unicrush'd

bear?
So deep a root hath hope !—But woe for this,
Our frail mortality! that aught so bright,
So almost burden'd with excess of bliss,
As the rich hour which back to summer's light
Calls the worn captive, with the gentle kiss
Of winds, and gush of waters, and the sight
Of the green earth, must so be bought with years
Of the heart's fever, parching up its tears !
And feeding a slow fire on all its powers,
Until the boon for which we gasp in vain,
If hardly won at length, too late made ours,
When the soul's wing is broken, comes like rain
Withheld till evening, on the stately flowers
Which wither'd in the noontide, ne'er again
To lift their heads in glory !So doth Earth
Breathe on her gifts, and melt away their worth!
The sailor dies in sight of that green shore,
Whose fields, in slumbering beauty, seem’d to lie

njay

say

On the deep's foam, amidst its hollow roar
Call’d up to sunlight by his fantasy !
And, when the shining desert-mists that wore
The lake's bright semblance, have been all pass’d by,

The pilgrim sinks beside the fountain-wave,
Which flashes from its rock, too late to save.
Or if we live, if that, too dearly bought
And made too precious by long hopes and fears,
Remains our own; love, darken’d and o'erwrought
By memory of privation, love, which wears
And casts o'er life a troubled hue of thought,
Becomes the shadow of our closing years,
Making it almost misery to possess
Aught, watch'd with such unquiet tenderness.
Such unto him, the Bard, the worn and wild,
And sick with hope deferr'd, from whom the sky,
With all its clouds in burning glory piled,
Had been shut out by long captivity,
Such, freedom was to Tasso !--As a child
Is to the mother, whose foreboding eye
In its too radiant glance, from day to day
Reads that which calls the brightest first away.
And he became a wanderer-in whose breast
Wild fear, which, e'en when every sense doth sleep,
Clings to the burning heart, a wakeful guest,
Sat brooding as a spirit, raised to keep
Its gloomy vigil of intense unrest
O'er treasures, burdening life, and buried deep
In cavern-tomb, and sought, through shades and stealth,
By some pale mortal, trembling at his wealth !
But wce for those who trample o'er a mind-
A deathless thing !—They know not what they do,
Or what they deal with !-Man perchance may bind
The flower his step hath bruised; or light anew
The torch he quenches; or to music wind
Again the lyre-string from his touch that flew !
But, for the soul !-Oh! tremble, and beware
To lay rude hands upon God's mysteries there !
For blindness wraps that world !-our touch may turn
Some balance, fearfully and darkly hung,
Or put out some bright spark, whose ray should burn
To point the way a thousand rocks among !
Or break some subtle chain, which none discern,
Though binding down the terrible, the strong,
Th’o'ersweeping passions! which to loose on life,
Is to set free the elements for strife!
Who then to power and glory shall restore
That which our evil rashness hath undone ?
Who unto mystic harmony once more
Attune those viewless chords ?-There is but One!
He that through dust the stream of life can pour,
The Mighty and the Merciful alone !
-Yet oft his paths have midnight for their shade-
He leaves to man the ruin man hath made !

F. H. LIVING FRENCH POETS.-NO. JI.

De Lamartine. The higher order of poetry in France was considered as almost extinct for some time before the fall of Napoleon. The impulse which the Revolution gave to genius is sufficiently attested by its prose productions, its specimens of eloquence, and the progress of painting. But that species of boisterous excitement which inspires the orator and the artist with subjects fitting to such times, and strengthens the faculties in their immediate display, seems the very reverse of that which is most favourable to the poet. His art is pre-eminently one that demands repose. His talent lives on recollections, and grows in retrospect. The images which Ait before him escape as soon as observed. They are impalpable, though powerful, and can rarely be described when first conceived. Their presence is as unreal as the shadows of a dream, but the impressions they make sink as deeply in his mind; and it is in leisure and retirement that he embodies forth the notions, the vividness of which is not injured by time. The interval between inspiration and composition is therefore much greater than is commonly supposed; and we think that extempore productions are in most cases but the utterance of ideas long before received. It must be obvious that we do not refuse belief in those improvisatore effusions which are frequent and sometimes good. We do not deny the hurried production of verses possessing considerable merit, nor undervalue the various pièces de circonstance for stage or closet; but we speak of the higher order of poetry; and glance at, rather than examine, one great cause of its decline in France. Another obviously presents itself, in the slavery that succeeded to the fury of the Revolution. The storms of that event, which rocked the cradle of Despotism, were chilling to the bright but delicate flower of poetry. It opens gladly to the breath of Freedom, but is shrunk and withered by the noxious blast of Tyranny. Every one of the productions under the reign of the Emperor was forced and unseemly. They had, perhaps, the florid bloom of poetry, but it was unhealthy; and what they gained in colouring they lost in perfume.

It is, therefore, but little astonishing that from the days of Delille and Parny until the Restoration, no poet of any eminence appeared in France. But no sooner did that event take place, and political convulsions subside into something like the calm of comparative freedom, than literature resumed its influence; and however political sentiments might vary, there seemed a common accord in relation to poetry. The general feeling was, that it had arisen from its long sleep; that it had returned, as it were, from its term of exile; and that, however little other emigrants had profited by their banishment, it at least had gained new vigour from repose, and came back regenerated and revived. The inspirations of the Muse were deeply and generally felt, and she scattered her favours neither like a niggard nor a partisan. Amongst men of every political opinion she found votaries; and she denied her smiles to no party in the state. Royalists, Republicans, and Constitutionalists produced alike their poets, of various degrees of merit and in different walks of the art; but none took his station on a prouder eminence than Alphonse de Lamartine.

A volume of poetry, the leading qualities of which were religion

« PreviousContinue »