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barbarous expedients of Mrs. Radcliffe- -a knowledge of the weather, promptitude of movement, and an exemplary acquaintance with trapdoors and secret passages!
The work which has prompted these observations has all the merits and defects incidental to a late production of an original writer. It is full of accurate descriptions and well-defined and strikingly-arranged characters, but betrays throughout a consciousness of the peculiar talents which have called it into being. Its plot, though not very satisfactory, has more interest than that of many of its author's romances. We will not attempt to give any analysis of its incidents, which would only fatigue the multitude who have read it, and diminish the curiosity of the few who have still to read it. It is not certainly calculated to satisfy the expectations which its title and motto have excited. When we saw prefixed to it the lines "Nothing in him but doth suffer a seachange," we thought that its author was about to subdue to his dominion the world of waters-to give a new life to all the appearances of sea and sky-to lull us into delicious dreams on summer seas-to agitate us by hurricanes and shipwrecks-to make us familiar with all the wild superstitions which chill the blood of the long-expectant mariner to send into the heart the very feeling of sea-dreariness-to give us sea weed and coral for our playthings, and the monsters of the deep for companions. But there is nothing of all this: throughout the three volumes we are never once out of sight of shore. Nor do we find any of those wild darings, those desperate exploits of the freebooters of the ocean, which we anticipated from its name. The pirate Cleveland is a flinching sentimental person, who does only one thing for which he deserves to be hanged,-when he draws a knife and stabs an unarmed man who is struggling fairly with him-which is not a very heroic crime. All the preparation made for some extraordinary disclosure respecting him ends in nothing. We are led to expect some glowing passion nurtured in the spicy groves of tropical islands-some strange intermingling of bravery, luxury, and crime; but he is merely commonplace, faint-hearted, and repenting.
The love of Minna, the lofty sentimentalist, towards the anomalous Cleveland, is elaborately defended by the author on the principle of contraries. This theory does not shine in the argument, and is falsified by the result of the story. Cleveland's spirit does not "shine through him" so as to justify the damsel's passion; nor does the discovery of the particulars of his trade seem sufficient to account for her refusal to share his distresses. She loves him as a pirate; but she has some fine notions of pirates as sea kings, and cannot endure to find them only tolerable, but erring mortals. If the theory were true-if it were natural for the most delicate maidens to be fascinated by outlaws, it would be natural for them to cleave to these objects of their love more strongly in danger, not to forsake them at their utmost need. The pictures of Minna, and her livelier sister Brenda, are drawn with a skill which enables us in our mind's eye to see their diversified loveliness; in the earlier part of his career our author would have been contented if we felt it. There are one or two scenes between the sisters of exquisite tenderness, most delicately and beautifully touched, where the alienations which love produces between those who have had but one heart from their childhood, are pourtrayed with the finest feeling and truth.
Magnus Troil, their father, the jovial, stout-hearted Udaller, is excellent in his way; a perfect pillar of the olden time. The lover of Brenda, Mordaunt Mertoun, is a fine spirited lad, in the opening of the romance; gay, buoyant, full of life and joy; but he subsides into a mere machine towards its close. Triptolemus Yellowley, the classical and speculative farmer, is a mere patchwork part, like some of the characters made up of all oddities and inconsistencies, in the plays of Morton and Reynolds, a sort of lifeless curiosity not worth inspecting. Claud Halcro, the rhymer, who lives upon one glimpse of the "glorious John Dryden," with his prattle about Russell-street, Covent-garden, is as much out of place amidst pirates and savages as the figure of a courtier in full dress on the wings of cherubim. But the great attempt and failure of the whole is the part of Norna of the Fitful head, who is evidently intended for a sublimated Meg Merrilies. She is unques
tionably, in some respects, better furnished with appliances and means; instead of being a wandering gipsy queen, without father, mother, or descent, she is confessedly allied to a noble family; instead of trusting wholly to her enchantments, or to her loftier human energies, she has a large income, which she spends in procuring the appearance of wonders; and, instead of roaming alone over hill and valley, she has a hideous dwarf to do her bidding. But her life has no magic in the web of it." She has not one old affection sustaining an exhausted heart--no terrific energies-no deep, lone commune with nature, by which she has learned its mysteries. Her maternal instinct is a cheat, her prophetic power a delusion; she awakes to the melancholy consciousness that her whole life has been a lie, and becomes soberly sad at last. This is for an author to turn the tables on those whose blood he has made curdle, and whose hair he has made stand on end at these worn-out superstitions with a vengeance!
The work abounds in descriptions of great excellence; but, for the most part, they are little animated with breathing life. There is, indeed, one picture of a whale-fishing, which is an exception to this remark; and reminds us of the most vivid and mighty delineations of our author. We can only make room for its close.
Magnus Troil, who had only jested with the factor, and had reserved the launching the first spear against the whale to some much more skilful hand, had just time to exclaim, Mind yourselves, lads, or we are all swamped,' when the monster, roused at once from inactivity by the blow of the factor's missile, blew, with a noise resembling the explosion of a steam-engine, a huge shower of water into the air, and at the same time began to lash the waves with its tail in every direction. The boat in which Magnus presided received the shower of brine which the animal spouted into the air; and the adventurous Triptolemus, who had a full share of the immersion, was so much astonished and terrified by the consequences of his own valorous deed, that he tumbled backwards amongst the feet of the people, who, too busy to attend to him, were actively engaged in getting the boat into shoal water, out of the whale's reach. Here he lay for some minutes, trampled on by the feet of the boatmen, until they lay on their oars to bale, when the Udaller ordered them to pull to shore, and land this spare hand, who had commenced the fishing so inauspiciously.
"While this was doing, the other boats had also pulled off to safer distance, and now, from these as well as from the shore, the unfortunate native of the deep was overwhelmed by all kinds of missiles-harpoons and spears flew against him on all sides-guns were fired, and each various means of annoy
ance plied which could excite him to exhaust his strength in useless rage. When the animal found that he was locked in by shallows on all sides, and became sensible, at the same time, of the strain of the cable on his body, the convulsive efforts which he made to escape, accompanied with sounds resembling deep and loud groans, would have moved the compassion of all but a practised whale-fisher. The repeated showers which he spouted into the air began now to be mingled with blood, and the waves which surrounded him assumed the same crimson appearance. Meantime the attempts of the assailants were redoubled; but Mordaunt Mertoun and Cleveland, in particular, exerted themselves to the uttermost, contending who should display most courage in approaching the monster, so tremendous in its agonies, and should inflict the most deep and deadly wound upon its huge bulk.
"The contest seemed at last pretty well over: for although the animal continued from time to time to make frantic exertions for liberty, yet its strength appeared so much exhausted, that, even with assistance of the tide, which had now risen considerably, it was thought it could scarce extricate itself.
Magnus gave the signal to venture upon the whale more nearly, calling out at the same time, Close in, lads, she is not half so mad now-Now, Mr. Factor, look for a winter's oil for the two lamps at Harfra-Pull close in, lads.'
"Ere his orders could be obeyed, the other two boats had anticipated his purpose; and Mordaunt Mertoun, eager to distinguish himself above Cleveland, had, with the whole strength he possessed, plunged a half-pike into the body of the animal. But the leviathan, like a nation whose resources appear totally exhausted by previous losses and calamities, collected his whole remaining force for an effort, which proved at once desperate and successful. The wound last received, had probably reached through his external defences of blubber, and attained some very sensitive part of the system, for he roared aloud, as he sent to the sky a mingled sheet of brine and blood, and snapping the strong cable like a twig, overset Mertoun's boat with a blow of his tail, shot himself by a mighty effort, over the bar, upon which the tide had now risen considerably, and made out to sea, carrying with him a whole grove of the implements which had been planted in his body, and leaving behind him, on the waters, a dark red trace of his course."
After all, "The Pirate" contains much matter, for which we are thankful. It is good enough to please us if not to reflect honour on its author. Let him then write on he will never equal his first works; but these have rendered it impossible that he should ever be written down--even by his own pen.
LOOK where she sits in languid loveliness!
Her feet up-gather'd, and her turban'd brow
And music is around her, and the glow
Like the fair blossom of some woodland nook,
The wind-flower delicate and full of grace.
LECTURES ON POETRY.
BY T. CAMPBELL.
THE subject of Greek poetry may be treated either by describing its most interesting authors in chronological succession, or by grouping them without regard to time according to their respective classes of composition. There would be several disadvantages in minutely pursuing the latter method. It would call the attention suddenly backwards and forwards to periods of literature far divided from each other; it would require the same names, that have shone in different departments of literature, to be often repeated; and it would demand an accuracy in subdividing the classes of poetry, which, if attainable, would be formal and fatiguing. In reality, such accuracy is far from being perfectly attainable. For though there are certain great walks in Greek literature, the separate tracks and bearings of which can never be confounded; yet the subordinate branchings of those walks have their crossings and contiguities often so much obscured by antiquity, as to be (if we may use the expression) undistinguishable beneath the moss of time. There is one dry duty, indeed, which it is not easy to avoid in attempting to give any satisfactory view of Greek poetry, whatever method may be pursued-namely, that of speaking of many writers whose works have either nearly, or wholly perished, but whose names and characters still survive in the pages of ancient criticism. Even in adopting the method of considering the eminent poets in chronological succession, it will be necessary sometimes to advert to those remote and shadowy reputations. But if one were entirely to pursue the opposite method, and to attempt dividing and subdividing the whole national poetry by its kinds and varieties, it would in that case be necessary to shew how every department of it was filled up, and therefore to enter still more minutely and frequently, than upon the other system, into the conjectural character of authors, of whom there are few or no remains. I have preferred therefore the plan of considering the principal poets of Greece individually, and in chronological succession, to that of taking an abstracted and classified view of Greek poetical art.
At the same time there is a certain advantage in classification, which one is unwilling altogether to forego. In travelling for pleasure over the scenes of a fine kingdom, it would be absurd to investigate the boundaries of all its petty divisions; yet it might assist our recollection of its finest scenery to note the outline and comparative aspect of its provinces. I shall therefore offer a short sketch of the classes into which Greek poetry may be generally divided, before I proceed on the simple plan of detail which I have adopted. In this prefatory and bird's-eye view of the subject, I shall avoid, as far as I can, all unnecessary dryness or minuteness. But still let method be ever so useful, it is dry-in immediate application; and I am far from feeling myself independent of the reader's patience in this synopsis.
Epic Poetry. The works of Homer bound our prospect in the ancient history of Greek literature, and may be compared to a mighty eminence, the farther side of which cannot be seen. It is impossible to estimate by what steps, and in how long or short a period, the epic muse had ascended to that summit of excellence. All that appears is, that her subsequent progress was descent. And in a relative sense we
may call the excellence of Homer perfection, not, perhaps, according to abstracted ideas of poetry, for under these might be included a symmetry of design more strict than his, and that Virgilian picturesqueness of expression to which nothing can be added, and from which nothing can be taken away. But still it is doubtful whether the genius of the Iliad be practically compatible with those minuter graces; and therefore the poem is perfect in its kind without them, considering the impulse and instruction which it affords to the imagination. Nor does it matter much for our enjoyment of the Iliad what we may think about the history of its composition. Was it improved by the Diascevasts or compilers? They could have only polished its outward form, and could not have infused its internal spirit. Was it the work of many? it must have been that of a consentaneous many—of an age deeply fraught with the power of giving a sweeping interest to poetry, since its separate songs were capable of being adjusted into so harmonious a whole. If it was the work of a school, we must surely suppose some great master of that school. If other hands took up the harp of Homer, they had at least learnt his tune; and if his mantle descended, appears to have retained its warmth of inspiration.
After and excepting the Iliad and Odyssey, we have no great Greek epic poetry. No relic of the Alexandrian school approaches to the Homeric spirit, and the intermediate epos is of doubtful character. Hesiod's name, whatever he actually wrote, may be collectively taken to designate a mixture of poetry, which had a strong influence, perhaps on the whole unfavourable, on the literature of his country. He was the earliest didactic and sententious poet of Greece, and gave an example of familiar parable even before Æsop*. Whilst he stooped to deliver the humblest instruction in song, he also touched as an epic poet on the wildest subjects of human credulity-on the origin of the universe, and on those combats of heaven with the malevolent invisible powers which have found a place, more or less, in all poetical religious creeds, from the giants of the Hebrew Hell† down to Milton's Pandæmonium. The misfortune of Hesiod's works is, that the execution is not equal to the subjects. The supernatural and the natural are melted down into one by the fire of Homer's imagination; but they have no such deceptive blending in Hesiod's representation. His prodigies excite astonishment without sympathy, and altogether he stands at the head of a new epic school of cosmogony and matter-offact mythology. Homer is the king of poetry, whilst Hesiod is only its king at arms-the epic herald of the genealogy of gods and goddesses, of heroes and heroines.
Still Hesiod has his bright spots, and was a favourite with antiquity. A tripod which he was said to have obtained in a poetical contest with Homer, was shewn on Mount Helicon, in the second century after the Christian era, to the traveller Pausanias. That there was ever a personal competition in song between Homer and Hesiod is certainly not very credible. But some modern theorists have alleged the tradition to testify a rivalship to have subsisted between the Ascræan and Ionian schools of poetry, and some memorable victory to have been obtained by the former over the latter. I cannot see how the tradition proves any such thing. There was always a rivalship undoubtedly In the fable of the Hawk and the Nightingale, in his "Works and Days." + Proverbs xxi. 16. Messrs. Böttiger and F. Schlegel.