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class. The Valley of the Morlas' is perhaps the best piece in the volume, but its merit is of a kind to which comment and extract must fail to do justice, residing as it mainly does in the sustained loftiness and individuality of moral tone, which more or less distinguish all the verses of V' from the ordinary poetry of the day.
Mr. Gerald Massey's lyrics have already gone through several editions, and some of them deserve their popularity. The most fastidious tastes will be the most charmed with such verses as those called That merry, merry May,' and the following stanzas, entitled Unbeloved':
There is a real glow about all that Mr. Massey writes, though this glow, especially in the love poems, is often somewhat hectic. The political and patriotic' pieces in this volume are of little value, as indeed their author in his preface allows. His excuse for retaining them, now that he knows better, appears to us unsatisfactory. They express, he assures us, a state of feeling and opinion out of which he has himself grown, but in which thousands among the poorer classes still remain. Merely to represent this state, which he admits to have been a false one, without representing its falsehood, is to inflame and propagate,
instead of curing or alleviating, it in others. We would recommend Mr. Massey, in printing a future edition, to omit most of these poems, and to tone down some of the amatory pieces.
Upon the whole, we cannot conclude this rapid survey of the latest poetical growth of English literature without arriving at a low estimate of its character and its tendencies. The harvest is great, but the labourers are weak, though not few. We utterly dissent, indeed, from the hasty and superficial opinion that there is anything in the spirit of these times which renders men insensible to the charms of the highest poetry, or disqualifies them from producing works more worthy of the language and the country in which they are born. The liberal patronage, the intelligent curiosity, the lenient and even enthusiastic criticism, which the humblest of these writers has met with, suffice to show that the English public were never more eager to hail the productions of literary genius. But the prevailing taste of the latest school of poetry in England is neither a healthy nor a vigorous one. It is infected with something of that mannerism which has produced the Pre-Raphaelite school of painters. In the absence of the higher qualities of art, such as enlarged creative powers of fiction, the charm of narrative, and the broad light and shade of character and thought, these poets linger with tedious predilection over the mosses on a wall or chace the shadows of the plain. There is not enough of human interest in their hearts. Their work is fanciful and unreal: their meaning too frequently obscure, and their diction elaborate without being harmonious
We have no doubt that these are passing imperfections, and the increased attention given to such poetry as we have leads us to hope that we shall emerge ere long from the regions of silence and obscurity into those of light and song. In spite of the fashion of the day, which may serve to raise this or that writer into a semblance of popularity, we must venture to record our opinion that the high places of English poetry are at this time unfilled, and that the man whose genius shall next enable him to embody in some living and original form the spirit and the feeling of our times has not yet revealed himself to us by his works.
ART. III. 1. Sinai and Palestine in connexion with their History. By ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, M. A. With Maps and Plans. 8vo. London: 1856.
2. Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah. By RICHARD F. BURTON, Lieutenant, Bombay Army. 3 vols. 8vo. London: 1855-6.
HERE is not a region in the world whose physical condition is in more striking contrast with its historical importance than the little peninsula of Sinai. The traveller who enters it from the side of Egypt, where every step has been through evidences
past greatness such as no other country can show, will find it hard to acquiesce in a startling observation quoted from Chevalier Bunsen by Mr. Stanley, that, with all its colossal remains, 'Egypt has, properly speaking, no history;' and still more difficult to realise, amid the desolation of Sinai, what M. Bunsen subjoins, that History was born in that night when Moses 'led forth his people from the Goshen;' or at least that its birthplace can have been this silent and deathlike waste, with scarce a single monument to connect it with the ancient world, and with hardly a sign of life to identify it with the world of to-day.
Nevertheless, such, rightly considered, is the relation of the two countries. Egypt, to an unreflecting observer, appears a land teeming with historical interest. More than two thousand years ago, her temples, her palaces, her tombs, the mysterious characters with which they are inscribed, supplied a theme of wonder to the Father of History; they are fraught with the same ever-fresh character for the scientific antiquarian of the present year. Sinai, on the other hand, seems as meagre in past interest as it is destitute of present attraction; without one ruin to arrest the traveller's eye, without an object (except the immemorial puzzle of the Sinaitic Inscriptions), to invite the research of the antiquarian; without a single record beyond that awful and undying one written by Nature herself in the very desolation which, verifying with startling minuteness every detail of the Sacred narrative, constitutes the sole historical inheritance of this strange region. And yet, although M. Bunsen has overstated the case in denying to Egypt all claim to a history, it must be confessed that her history is merely the background of that great picture whose main and prominent action is placed among the rifted rocks and arid sands of Sinai. Considering history in its best and highest sense, not as a mere catalogue of names and events,
but as a record of spiritual and intellectual advancement or decline, the temples and tombs of Egypt, striking as they are to the eye, can hardly be said to possess any independent historical significance. They represent, and perhaps record, the material events which they were designed to to commemorate; but, in the thoughtful words of Mr. Stanley, they tell of no before and after, no unrolling of a great drama, no beginning, middle, or end of a moral progress, or even of a mournful decline.' In the Desert, on the contrary, every object, however unattractive to the eye of sense, - the desolate waste, the fire-stricken mountains, the stunted vegetation, the silence, the gloom, the utter desolation of life, all have their language for the historian of the human race; all speak
"Of those immortal Truths which dwell
'The moment the green fields of Egypt recede from our view, 'still more when we reach the Red Sea, the further and further we advance into the Desert and the mountains, we feel that "everything henceforward is continuous, that there is a sustained and protracted interest, increasing more and more till it reaches its highest point in Palestine, in Jerusalem, on Calvary, and ' in Olivet.'
The historical relations of the Peninsula, therefore, may be said to resemble its geographical position. As the ground which it occupies is central to those three countries which have influenced most strikingly the spiritual destinies of the EastEgypt, Palestine, and Arabia, so its history is connected with them all. To Egypt, to Palestine, and to Arabia, each in turn, it has been, as it were, a Holy Land. Even before the days of the Exodus, it possessed a religious interest for Egypt, which is still attested by the Sinaitic Inscriptions, and which was probably the ground of Moses's petition to Pharaoh for leave to go out three days' journey into the desert and sacrifice 'unto the Lord.' For the Jews of Palestine it was sacred as the scene of all that is grandest and most awful in their religious history. For the Moslem Arabs it is consecrated, as well by the frequent allusions of the Koran, as by the traditional visit of Mahomet to the convent of St. Catherine, where the footmark of his mule or dromedary is still pointed out; and to this Moslem belief of its special sanctity the monks of Sinaí have long been indebted for the immunity from insult and outrage which they alone, of all the denizens of the Desert, have enjoyed.
It is not the least singular among the many strange revolu
tions of the East, that a region which was of old the nursingland of these great religious influences, and which is still, for the Christian and the Moslem world, the centre of so many sacred associations, should now, in the mysterious ways of Providence, have itself, as regards religion, become an utter blank! Travellers have long been struck by the godless manner of life of the Bedouins of the Peninsula, and by the total absence of religious practices among them. To those indeed who have reverently examined the analogies with the Jewish and Christian systems discernible through all the corruptions of Mahometanism, this very characteristic of the modern Bedouins has proved a source of painful, but curious interest. The wandering and altarless homes of this wild people are, as it were, a neutral ground between the lands of the Bible and of the Koran, the traditional customs of which still serve to explain how Jew and Mahometan, members of the same race, while most widely parted in doctrine, may yet maintain the closest union in many important points of the moral and social system.
But without entering upon an inquiry far too vast for such limits as ours, it is clear that there are so many points of contact between Palestine and Arabia that they may well be considered in connexion with each other; and, as a partial illustration of these kindred associations, we have selected, as the subject of a joint notice, the works of Mr. Stanley and Lieutenant Burton, the two latest pilgrims, the first to the Holy Land of the Christian, the second to that of the Moslem,—pilgrims of a very different order of mind, indeed, and of very dissimilar feelings and habits of thought, but nevertheless presenting, each according to his own lights, the newest and most authentic information on their respective subjects.
Mr. Stanley's tour of Sinai and Palestine was made in the winter and spring of 1852-3; but his work has very little of the character of a personal narrative. When occasion arises, he enters fully into the details of his own examination of the various localities which he describes; but, in general, his book is rather the work of a thoughtful and accomplished scholar, condensing into a careful summary the results of the observation and the learning of others, than a detailed account of what he himself has seen. It is partly a description of the present condition of the well-known scenes of the sacred narrative in Arabia, Palestine, and Syria, partly an essay on their historical associations, compiled, or at least meditated, upon the spot, by a man already familiar with all that had been written on those
VOL. CIV. NO. CCXII.