« 前へ次へ »
the most convenient for the flat-footed wayfarers, or enduring result from such audacious precipi. who form the vast majority in this life-pilgrim- tation ? There is no easy descent” to the age of ours. Yet, although commodious, the way Egerian cave, where Truth, the life of all excelis bare and dusty ; and while it leads straight lence, sits retired from common pursuit : to Ge. enough towards the object that most are pur nius itself there are difficulties in the way, which suing, it must be confessed that it affords few our modern Numas would remove by the mere wide or inviting prospects. But they who fre act of volition. We cannot too often repeat that quent it have other desires than to linger culling the true service of Knowledge, the teacher, and flowers, or dreaming in dark valleys, or watching Imagination, the creative spirit, demands an es. the cataracts which burst, like lightning and pecial dedication ; and although all who reve. cloud mingled, from the brow of the live rock : rently approach their shrines, though but to offer what is it to them if such are nowhere to be a passing homage, shall perceive some glimpses seen along their path? Of old, there were many of their majesty, yet are their oracles fitly reways leading the traveller amidst scenes like served for those who serve within the temple, these: they are now wellnigh lost or forgotten. prepared by watching, sacrifice, and initiation. They were steep and devious, and therefore ill Therefore it is, that we marvel at the idle fashion suited for the uses of the feeble or the busy; of this day, which, treating Literature like a and they are, in consequence, become mere by- mechanical craft—nay, as something less recon. ways, so lonely and overgrown, that few but the dite, (for even in this, some apprenticeship had resolute or eccentric will care even to inquire been necessary,)-has delivered over the service whither they lead.
of its presiding genius to the charge of rude, Such, nevertheless, are the paths which the secular, and presumptuous hands. And there. chosen of genius and wisdom must of necessity | fore, also, it is matter of consolation to us to look prefer. These cannot travel with the crowd : back, from amidst the chaos of modern authorship, they have no common language, their aims are to the few survivors of a better day, who may be different, their modes of action utterly dissi.. deemed worthy representatives of that once pemilar. However catholic their efforts, how culiar priesthood, the professed Men of Letters. expansive soever may be their sympathies, still Amidst these, Southey incontestably occupies their being, in its individual relations, is re the most eminent position. His history, the purtiring, exclusive, arbitrary. They can lead, suits of his long and diligent career, his habits, but will not follow ; in the exertions of others and character, all belong to the records of the they do not readily share; you might as well ex class thus denominated. His excellencies and pect Pegasus to plough with a yoke of oxen. his faults equally partake of its distinguishing Their motions are rapid and commanding, and features. Although in his writings we have met impatient of a lingering advance : their effects with much to lament or reprove, there is someare beyond the imitation of any combined multi-thing so attractive in his thorough devotedness tude of small strivings. You may multiply mi. to his profession, such evident gusto in his lapor forces till you have power sufficient to build bours,—s
,—so ripe and varied is his reading, so unafa pyramid, or to drag it from its base; but were fected his attachment to the worthies of neglected all multiplied a thousandfold, they would not times, so cordial his delight in old fancies and avail to launch in air the mass which a single ef Old Books, that we are anxious to ascribe much fort of Enceladus has hurled upwards. It is a of what offends us to the warmth of an over-zea. main fallacy of our day to estimate the produc-lous temper, to the propensity of a recluse to tions of Mind, as the surveyor measures a field, exaggerate and identify self with his opinions, by mere superficial extent, taking little account and to a native and almost feminine proneness of the matter beneath. Herein lies the blunder to conceive sudden and violent prejudices, rather perpetually committed by certain noisy and half than to any settled purpose of rancour, uncharieducated talkers, who are evermore vaunting the tableness, or misrepresentation, with which he has intellectual pre-eminence of the present over for been not altogether unreasonably taxed. mer times. These are able to perceive how far These deductions, moreover, apply to our au. we surpass our predecessors in the quantity of thor, more especially in his characters of biograproductions reaching a certain and highly re pher, essayist, or historian, which do not fall spectable standard ; but they have yet to learn, within the scope of the present review. And that, in a few brief oracles, such as formerly re we are glad that we are thus led from an aspect vealed the mysteries of beauty and truth, there in which many questionable features appear, to lives not only a higher intrinsic worth, but also one rarely disfigured by the expression of angry a more excellent and practical efficacy, than shall and polemical feelings. Of Southey, considered be found in an Alexandrian library of merito as a general writer, truth would exact a descriprious common places, and profitable abstracts of tion, that may, without unfairness, be withheld worldly wisdom.
in speaking of Southey the poet. To us this is It moves us sometimes to mirth, sometimes to matter of rejoicing. It is an odious task to deanger, to witness the Temple of Letters, as it is pict the stains and blemishes of genius, and to now, stormed by all classes,—most of which have exhibit, with what strict justice soever, the no other preparation or especial calling than a offences which evince how much lamentable weak. certain pruritus digitorum, that tempts them to ness or perversion may co-exist with qualities lay hands on the altar. How.can anything fair commanding our affection and applause,
The historian or critic of poetry will find an it have more properly descended than on Southey, other motive for dwelling with curiosity upon He has been no careless or desultory follower Southey's productions, besides those supplied by of poetry; but has courted it with an applicatheir volume and eminence. An especial atten- tion, a religious care, and, we may add, an eletion is due to the Poet Laureate of all Britain-vation of design, abundantly attested by the the possessor of the only public distinction which character and extent of his labours. It is evi. national or royal munificence can afford to the dent that he deems worthily of his noble art, and followers of the Muses. In itself, the distinction has striven to improve to the uttermost the gift is, indeed, of little moment, if estimated by the allotted to him, and to erect no perishable monuamount of the emolument bestowed, or of dig- ment to his name. For these things, in the nity inherited from predecessors such as Skelton, first place, let us award him all honourable acCibber, and Pye. Yet where greatness measures knowledgment. We shall next proceed to reout its favours to desert with so sparing a hand, view his claim to that more precious recompense, the dole, however pitiful, becomes a notice to attain which the poet must not only purpose able object. We grow curious to learn the worthily, but inherit, from on high, power to semerits of one who has reaped all that public cond the purpose—a recompense, of which the gratitude could produce, although that all was herald is present renown, and the consummation but a little.
immortal honour. A word, in passing, as to the meaning of this To describe within the compass of a few pages, appointment. In no quarter, surely, can it now an author, whose numerous works present an be regarded as any national acquittance of the almost perplexing abundance of materials for debt owing to a great national poet, or as the observation, is no easy task. In a sketch like purchase-money of genius. For such a purpose, the present, we can only dwell upon his most not only is the reward too insignificant, (sup- striking features. A variety of traits which it posing the worth of poetry estimable in money,) would be interesting as well as profitable to nobut its character is also inconsistent with the tice, must of necessity be passed over without implied intention. The parsley garland which comment. In reviewing the impressions proadorned the Olympic victors; the laurel with duced by his several poems, numerous and varied which, in a latter age, the poet was crowned in as they are, those which bear the most decided the Roman capitol, were recompenses beyond character, and the stamp of peculiar attributes, price, as symbols to which the consent of a pre- distinguish themselves amidst the recollections sent and applauding nation gave a significant that crowd upon the mind. These alone do we and inestimable value. For a prize sanctioned profess to describe. thus, and thus ennobled, the petty title, the We can imagine, that, had he been born in yearly stipend, the annual sack, afford no sub other times, the Poet might have become a crustitute. Nor can the appointment be regarded sader, an alchemist, or a Doctor Seraphicus, acas an eleemosynary dole bestowed on the gifted, cording as he was subjected to the influences of whom contemporary neglect has rendered indi different eras. In the character of his mind, gent of support; for, as an emanation of Royal the qualities of the enthusiast and the philosobounty thus directed, it is too miserably scanty. pher are blended in singular combination. It is And in no instance can we allow that any such at once prone to calm speculation and undoubt. gift, how liberal soever, can pretend to constitute ing zeal. With a tendency to question, is bound the payment of genius, or can rightly become an up the necessity for reverence. His imagination object of its ambition. It can but have two is ambitious, yet destitute of tenacity or ardour. objects worthy of its care :—the self-conscious. Its favourite sphere is the past; the present, ness of high desert, and the unbought admiration beheld as in a dream, faintly, has little power to of an entire people. To our apprehension, there-occupy its attention. It is capacious, solemn, fore, no courtly distinction can either afford an and far-reaching. Even in distant times, it would adequate testimony, or appoint a fit reward to seem to shun the approach of positive reality, the highest attributes of the poet. Yet we can and rather loves to fashion for itself from the perceive in the gift a certain fitness, if it be fragments of ancient palaces, and the ruins of applied, not as a seal to the title of genius, or as long-deserted altars, an edifice strange and yet a repayment for its productions, but as an evi- august, where it establishes an idol-worship of dence of the respect due to assiduous poetical its own. Its flight is lofty, and its movements labours, as a tribute to the merit of the pursuit slow and majestic ; but it is prone to lose itself itself, exclusive of any application to higher amongst visions, which, however gorgeous, are claims, the value whereof must be tried by a lifeless and cold, as the vapours on which they more august tribunal, and rewarded with a more are pillowed. Even in the regions of antique eminent recompense.
Thus considered, there tradition, his fancy appears impatient of confineappears to be some propriety and grace in the ment within its shifting boundaries ;" and seeks distinction attaching to the title of Poet Lau its remotest verge, to wander there more freely reate, as well as a principle, which it will be amidst the shapes which he evokes from the neither difficult nor invidious to apply, in select tombs of a forsaken mythology. It seems as ing the individual most deserving of the honour. though he would fain seek some yet undiscovered
Now, thus interpreting the distinction, we space, and betake himself utterly to the labymust assert, that on few poets of our time could rinths of the unreal ; his step is never more cop,
fident than when it crosses the threshold of the mind can repose without disturbance. Or, if our Immense, and beholds the shapeless and gigantic poet be in a more cheerful mood, he will guide forms that there meet his advance. From such the reader, as if to the fireside of distant excursions, the return to periods, ob- antique hall, and there will narrate his legend scured, by reason of age, to common eyes, is to or tale of wonder, in the genuine accents of the him as the ascent to broad daylight is to eyes old ballad. At such moments, his strong vernafamiliar with the dimness of the vault. On cular English, the alternate wonder and mirth leaving the domain of visions, his latest To-day which he well knows how to excite, the cordial opens on the camps and cloisters of the middle manner of his strain, always manly in its ut. ages ; and herein may be said to commence his terance, and, at times touching, impart to his practical existence. With the tone of this metrical ballads, a charm which may be best experiod his mind seems to be imbued, like glass tolled, by describing it as akin to the living with the stain that colours it. Thus the pro- spirit of old popular song. ductions of his soberer mood may not unaptly Such varied powers, sedulously as they have be compared to those imposing cathedrals which been exercised, might seem to entitle Southey to seem an enduring symbol of the times wherein the most commanding place amongst the later they arose, in which the spectator may conceive | English poets. It will be seen that we do, inhimself placed at the moment of some great deed, assign to him a very eminent situation ; festival. This comparison is suggested almost but some of the properties which we have atirresistibly by the display of picturesque, yet tempted to indicate above, are seriously detriformal pomp, of quaint decoration, learned and mental to the excellence of his productions. In traditional allusions,—of a tone half monkish, the pursuit of free scope for his imagination, he half poetic, covering true belief with the trap- abandons all known regions, and neglects even pings of grotesque fable,—of imagery profuse, yet that coherence and probability, which we feel to sculptural in its character,—and of beauty, calm be indispensable to the most arbitrary creations and colourless as the image on a tomb, or the of mere fancy. We are lost amidst genii, and statue of a shrined saint. We seem to be demi-gods, and magicians, alternately omnipobrought at once into the presence of devout tent and powerless, with whom his personages, ceremonial, following in the train of a command as unreal as they, are involved in communion or ing hierarchy ; amidst which the eye discovers hostile conflict. Of gorgeous description, and from afar tombs wreathed with garlands ever. ever-changing scenes and accidents, we find an lasting, warlike forms making the pavement abundance ; but these are not enough to constiecho to the clang of their mailed tread, shave tute a great poem. There must be an harmo. lings telling their beads apart, pilgrims deposit- nious whole, a presiding spirit, which shall aring votive gifts, and virgins, meek and passion-range the confused materials in appropriate conless, kneeling before the shrine of the Virgin.nexion. This is not the case in Southey's most And greatly is the impression confirmed by the ambitious efforts. We follow him, breathless and slow majesty of the poet's numbers : in their amazed, from one scene of miracle or grandeur sonorous and long-drawn cadences we seem to to another, discovering much to strike and to hear the organ's note, filling the arched aisles delight, but destitute of all clew to the immense around with a volume of stately music. The labyrinth, and wholly unable to sympathize or effect is exceedingly solemn and imposing ; yet identify ourselves, with the utterly incomprehena certain chill and dimness brood over the pa sible destinies of his personages. The poet, who, geant ; the eye is strained and the ear wearied in search of the sublime, or of a wider sphere with the effort of gazing and listening afar off ; of creation, allows his imagination to wander and the spectator wishes himself back to the beyond all traces of life, must pay for the enmore warm and familiar scenes of life. He has larged scope thus acquired, by the impossibility been shown a magnificent spectacle, which it of carrying his readers with him. It is not the were impossible to contemplate unmoved ; but strongest imagination which most requires this an involuntary languor of spirit reminds him extreme license : the demand is, at times, evithat its splendour is but a show, and that its dence of a certain indolence or lack of power, forms are lifeless as those which move across which, shrinking from the command of less flexi. the glass of the magician.
ble materials, seeks exercise amidst images so When thus fatigued, it is delightful, although vague as to offer no resistance to the will. The somewhat rare, to be led by our former guide buoyancy of a vivid imagination will often carry to home scenes, and shown the personages of the Poet into the clouds, which he peoples with humble life, with which he can at times converse the creations of an inexhaustible fancy; and thi. in a manner exceedingly serene and unaffected. ther it is delightful to follow him: but even Yet even here, his contemplative air does not there, if his power be consummate, he discovers forsake him ; although, in his choice of narrow command over the shadowy elements, he imsubjects, and in his simple utterance, you can presses them with his purpose, and clothes them discover no traces of his wonted ambition. He with a positive existence; so that, amidst the paints such subjects in fresco; the colouring is compass of the unreal, we are conscious of the pure, yet not vivid ; the aspect of his pictures presence of Beauty and Life, and return to earth sooths without exciting, and begets a vein of enraptured and refreshed. But with conceptions gentle or pensive reflection, upon which the utterly arbitrary and incolierent, sympathy is
matter of accident alone; and it is as rare that two Our remarks have hitherto been addressed to individuals of equally quick imagination should the general tendency and character of Southey's pursue the same shadow, as that two sleepers imagination. This, indeed, in an author who should dream alike. The mind is averse to wander has attempted the highest modes of poetry, bein a perpetual maze at the mere will of another, comes the paramount object of inquiry. The very even when the progress brings it into contact with daring of his enterprise entitles him to be reunexpected beauties; and the toil of pursuing an garded in a point of view, from whence the proobject as uncertain as an ignis fatuus soon be perties which are sufficient to exalt more humble comes wearisome. Thus, although “Kehama" and aspirants become of merely secondary importance. “ Thalaba” are full of individual passages second But they must not be altogether passed over : to few in splendour and elegance, and frequently a few observations may precede the selections present conceptions of a sublimity, the effect of we are about to subjoin. In delineation of his which is only impaired by their remoteness, the personages, Southey chiefly works in outline. general effect of these poems is fatiguing, and They are vehicles for the utterance of excellent less grateful than that of many compositions, thoughts, the performers of great sacrifices or their inferiors in every circumstance of power. eminent deeds, and preserve throughout a pro
Yet it is in these poems, after all, that we priety which cannot be questioned. But they must seek for the development of Southey's bear no mark of resolute individuality. Removed highest qualities. When his flight descends to a from the scene and disconnected from the actions more even course, and he is compelled to limit his described, we know them no longer. Southey's freedom of creation by the laws of strict reality, genius is not dramatic. His representation of his invention becomes less copious, and his pen human feelings is in general rather the ideal moves more heavily. In place of gigantic fic suggested in a rich and reflective mind by con. tions, and a wild phantasmagoria of shifting jecture employed upon a given contingency, than splendours, we are presented with a regular and the vivid result of the intuition of absolute lofty argument, wrought out with dignified knowledge, or the searching trial of experience. state, earnestly conducted, and supported by His favourite conceptions are evidently those of noble thoughts, acts and personages of heroic di. heroism, firm faith, and high resolve in man,-of mensions, and descriptions impressive and ap pure affection, gentleness, and filial devotion in propriate. But the fable lingers :' amidst the woman; and pale as are the forms wherein these incidents there are few which command an ex fair and worthy imaginations are clothed, their treme attention, and certain diffuseness presence renders it impossible to lay down any. pervades the composition; wherein, if practised of his poems without a feeling of reverence and skill in writing, mellow numbers, and sustained love. Of natural beauty he is a close observer eloquence always preserve the identity of the and ardent admirer, and a painter second to author, we sometimes fancy that we lose sight of few. In his sketches of imaginary scenes, howthe poet. “Roderick” and “Joan of Arc" are fine ever luxuriant, we discover a living reality, of poems. Although their general character seems which the features of their inhabitants are desto want relief, they are instinct with a dignified titute. He is alike powerful and graphic in yet gentle enthusiasm, and tone of pure gener describing the arid glare of the desert, the voous feeling, which place them very high in our luptuous groves of India, or the green English estimation. But in searching for the characters fields and ledges fragrant with May-bloom. In of Southey's chief eminence as a poet, we turn the magic gardens of his ideal world, he assembles to “ Kehama,” or “ Thalaba the Destroyer.” the elements of beauty with a profuseness almost
It would be idle to attempt an analysis of these overpowering - are well nigh stified with works, or to hope that such specimens as we can fragrance; and we know of no author who has afford will do more than exhibit certain charac more fondly or beautifully dwelt upon the maniteristics of Southey's manner. Throughout his fold splendours of night, the beloved of contempoems, the vastness of the fable in some, in plative minds. His conceptions of magic granothers the prolixity in narrative and description, deur, of supernatural temples, palaces, and fires, renders it impossible to present a view of more are strong, vast, and at times appalling. Το than their accessary features, by extracts. To portray some of his tremendous scenes in the afford any means of weighing their merits, as Indian Padalon, or the caverns of Domdaniel, substantive wholes, would require a careful ex would require a mind, like Martin's, of kindred amination of each, extended over ten times the sublimity and daring. Vor are his purely fanspace we can dedicate to the subject. The ciful creations less remarkable. They are full of passages we produce must be considered as mere grace, and sweetness, and instinct with a kind of fragments :--those of a descriptive character we chaste delicacy which we have never met with have chiefly selected, inasmuch as these suffer in an equal degree in any other author, amidst less than others by separation from the context. the play of so luxuriant an imagination. If they invite to a closer examination of the It is fortunate that it is no longer necessary, works from whence they are taken, their proper in order to decide upon the merits of a poem, to object will have been fulfilled. It would be un ascertain, in the first place, to which, amongst just to adduce them as materials sufficing to the certain classified modes of composition, it beformation of any positive judgment of the au longs. For it would be very puzzling to know thor.
what name should begiven to" Thalaba,” the form
of which is almost lyric, and the matter mytho
And following him in hope, heroic; or to Kehama, where the epic moods are
Saw, joyful, from afar, mingled with alternate ode-passages, and the
The tiger stoop and drink, subject defies all attempt at classification. The
Southey abounds in night scenes; all different, discovery has at last been made, that, in order
all beautiful. He should have been an astroloto deserve eminence, it is not absolutely need.
ger, so profound is his communion with all the ful that a work should be referrible to one of the
houses of Heaven, As he walks forth into the established divisions ; that these were made from twilight, a sweetness and a solemnity steal over the models, and not the models for them ; and,
him; and as the sky deepens, and all around finally, that that is a good poem,—although nei
grows hushed, while the moon climbs towards her ther strictly epic, didactic, nor lyric,—wherein a
zenith, it is in such strains as these that he lifts truth or a high emotion is clothed in beauty,
up his voice :-Is it description ? No—it is raand brought home to the heart of the reader.
ther a hymn :From the innumerable scenes of ideal loveli. How calmly, gliding through the dark blue sky, ness scattered through Southey's poems, the fol
The midnight moon ascends ! Her placid beams,
Through thinly-scattered leaves, and boughs grotesque, lowing picture, in which we can almost hear the
Mottle with mazy shades the orchard slope; low murmur, and inhale the delicious coolness
Here, o'er the chestnut's fretted foliage, grey of the water's lapping against the floating lilies, And massy, motionless they spread ; here shine may be chosen as an exquisite specimen of his Upon the crags, deepening with blacker night
Their chasms; and there the glittering argentry power in conceiving and portraying :
Ripples and glances on the confluent streams. Fed by perpetual springs, a small lagoon,
A lovelier, purer light than that of day Pellucid, deep, and still, in silence joined
Rests on the hills; and, oh, how awfully,
The summits of Auseva rise serene !
The watchman on the battlements partakes
The stillness of the solemn hour; he feels Of sudden light, around the lotus-stem
The silence of the earth ; the endless sound It rippled ; and the sacred flowers that crown
Of flowing water sooths him; and the stars, The lakelet with their roseate beauty, ride,
Which in that brightest moonlight wellnigh quenched, In gentlest waving rocked, from side to side;
Scarce visible, as in the utmost depth
Of yonder sapphire infinite, are seen,
Towards eternity, the attempered mind. We have said with what strength of imagery Musing on worlds beyond the grave, he stands, the Poet can bring before us, after we have wan
And to the Virgin Mother, silently
Breathes forth her hymn of praise. dered through his bowers of Paradise, the breathless solemnity of the Desért. Yet even in the But the poet who can thus feel, and depict the burning waste, his eye can discover green spots,
sweet influences of night, and solitude, and repose, where a certain simple happiness attends the few appears another being, when once his imagination pleasures of wanderers ignorant of more. There
betakes itself to the wonders of an unseen emis beauty in the wilderness, and Love.
pyrean, the abode of old heathen gods, immense, At length to the cords of a tent,
shadowy, and terrible ; or to the burning abodes That were stretched by an island of palms,
of giant demons, where pain and wrath sit tugIn the desolate sea of the sands,
ging at their chains, threatening to break loose The weary traveller came.
and consume the upper world. This vision of Under a shapely palm, Herself as shapely, a damsel stood :
the entrance to Padalon, the Indian Hades, al.. She held her ready robe,
though not so terrible in its stern awfulness as And looked towards a boy,
that which appalled the great Florentine, with Who, from the tree above,
its six desolate words, is nevertheless very imWith one hand clinging to its trunk,
pressive. We seem to breathe a stifling atmosCast with the other down the clustered dates.
phere, and the sulphurous light wavers fearfully But not always such is the fate of thewanderer, before our eyes whom the demon Thirst pursues, as with a fiery
Far other light than that of day there shone scourge, across the waste. How terrible is that
Upon the travellers, entering Fadalon. power, which thus hath tamed the wildest and
They, too, in darkuess entering on their way, most beautiful of all cruel things, and made its
But far before the car presence, else shunned and feared, a vision of A glow, as of a fiery furnace light,
Filled all before them. 'Twas a light that made hope to the sinking wayfarer!
Darkness itself appear
A thing of comfort; and the sight, dismayed,
Shrank inward from the molten atmosphere.
Their way was through the adamantine rock
Which girt the world of wo: on either side
Its massive walls arose, and overhead
Arched the long passage; onward as they ride,
With stronger glare the light around them spread. His dry tongue lolling low;
And, lo! the regions dreadAnd the short panting of his fevered breath,
The world of wo before them opening wide.
Here we have passed the boundary,—and, lo! the
glories of the nether world,how terrific in their