difficult and uncongenial, the hidden fire burned more intensely for repression, and now and then flashed out portentously. The following lines, though the second is lame, and the cold critic might perhaps find fifty faults in them, are strikingly sublime. There is a veil of obscurity upon them, like that which hides the secrets of the eternal world:


“ Once more, and yet once more,

I give unto my harp a dark-woven lay :
- I heard the waters roar,
I heard the flood of ages pass away.”

“ O thou stern spirit, that dost dwell

In thine eternal cell,
Noting, grey chronicler ! the silent years,
I saw thee rise, - I saw thy scroll complete ;
Thou spakest, and at thy feet
The universe gave way!”

It was well that the author left this sketch unfinished;
another line might have let it down from “ the highest
heaven of invention," in which it had been conceived,
and into which the mind of the reader is rapt in the
endeavour to decipher the hierogly hic hint. Henry
died at the age of twenty-one years. In some rough
blank verses, composed long before his decease, he
thus anticipated an early grave:
“ Ay, I have planned full many a sanguine scheme
Of earthly happiness ;

And it is hard
To feel the hand of Death arrest one's steps,
Throw a chill blight on all one's budding hopes,
And hurl one's soul untimely to the shades,
Lost in the gaping gulf of blank oblivion.

- Fifty years hence, and who will think of Henry?
Oh, none ! another busy brood of beings
Will shoot


in the interim, and none
Will hold him in remembrance.

“ I shall sink,
As sinks a stranger in the crowded streets
Of busy London ; some short bustle's caused,
A few enquiries, and the crowd close in,
And all 's forgotten."

This may be very meagre poetry, but the sentiments, in connection with the author's subsequent history, are exceedingly affecting. The very remarkable simile at the conclusion, familiar as it seems, I believe to be perfectly original; and the moral may be extended beyond its personal application here. What is the date of fame itself, and the circumstances accompanying it, more than the death of a stranger in the public streets of a great city, occasioning a momentary interruption in a perpetual crowd ? a few enquiries and exclamations, then all goes on again as it hath done for centuries past, on that very spot, and may go to the world's end !

The crown of Kirke White's labours in verse was a solitary book of “ The Christiad," a sacred poem on the sufferings and death of our Saviour. In reference to this, his kind-hearted biographer observes,

“I cannot refrain from saying, that the two last stanzas (of this fragment) greatly affected me, when I discovered them written on the leaf of a different book, and apparently long after the first canto; and greatly shall I be mistaken if they do not affect the reader also. They are these :

+ Thus far have I pursued my solemn theme,

With self-rewarding toil ; – thus far have sung
Of godlike deeds, far loftier than beseem

The lyre which I, in earlier days, have strung:
And now my spirits faint ; and I have hung

The shell that solaced me in saddest hour
On the dark cypress ! and the strains which rung

With Jesus' praise, their harpings now are o’er,
Or, when the breeze comes by, moan, and are heard

no more.

• And must the harp of Judah sleep again?

Shall I no more re-animate the lay?
Oh! Thou, who visitest the sons of men !

Thou, who dost listen when the humble pray! • One little space prolong my mortal day ;,

One little lapse suspend thy last decree;
I am a youthful traveller in the way;

And this slight boon would consecrate to Thee,
Ere I with death shake hands, and smile that I am


These were probably the last stanzas the dying poet ever penned, for it pleased God to grant him a higher boon than that for which he prayed : — he asked for life, and he received immortality.

Robert Burns,

“ The Ayrshire Ploughman,” as he was first called - or Burns, as he shall for ages be known by a monosyllable, that will need neither prefix nor adjunct to designate to whom “ of that ilk” it belongs,Burns was so truly a born-poet (if ever there were one), that whatever tended to develope his powers must be

peculiarly interesting and instructive, to all who love to trace in the minstrel" the “progress of genius ;" while, in this place, I trust that it will, in some measure, elucidate the main principles which I have endeavoured to establish in these papers respecting poetry and poets. Religion, patriotism, and love were, in succession or in combination, the inspirers of the poetry of Robert Burns: when he wrote on other themes, he too frequently desecrated the talents which their sublimer impulses had awakened, trained, and perfected. In broad humour, too, and keen satire, he excelled. It is true, that in both of these he went grievously astray; yet, amidst the rudest extravagances of either, that intensity of feeling, which belonged to the higher sentiments above mentioned, often broke out in sallies of noble thought and splendid imagination ; which showed that his spirit had not lost “all its original brightness," when it seemed most 6 fallen.”

The letter which he addressed to Dr. Moore, soon after his appearance as

an author, in which he gives an account of his early life, proves that religion made a powerful impression on his mind, in the very dawn of infancy; of course, it must have influenced, in a high degree, the growth and character of his genius. Several of the most beautiful and affecting stanzas in “ The Cotter's Saturday Night,” in which the bard is known to have described the felicities of his father's fireside, touch upon the principal subjects of Holy Writ with such truth and pathos, as to leave no doubt that “the Day-spring from on high,” which shines through the Psalms and the Prophecies, had

lighted up his young imagination; while the simplicity of evangelical narrative and the fervency of apostolic teaching had captivated his soul, and engaged the finest sensibilities of a heart not yet corrupted by commerce with a profligate world. To the cherished remembrance of early devotional enjoyments, and to a happy talent for imitating the language of the sacred penmen, the best productions of Burns are indebted for much of their energy of expression and elevation of ideas-- their purity, tenderness, and force.

But the wild minstrelsy of his native land, unrestrained and irregular, and infinitely variable, -confined, indeed, within a narrow circle, but that circle a magic one; and limited to a single key, but that key having a minor third of passing sweetness,

contributed likewise to rouse his fancy, exercise his feelings, and enrich his memory with images and sentiments at once noble and natural ; while its melodies, that flowed around him, were mingled in his ear and associated in his thoughts, with all the harmonies of nature heard amidst forests and mountains, – the music of birds, and winds, and waters, which they resembled in unmeasured fluency and spontaneous modulation. Then, too, the tales of tradition, which he listened to from the lips of an ancient beldame, made him the inhabitant of an imaginary world, wherein all that

“ Fable yet had feigned or fear conceived" was realised to him ; for he was a thoughtful and solitary boy, and, in solitude and thought, he peopled

« 前へ次へ »