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paid his court to the muse. He argues and reviews, has meddled with politics and controversy, and even in earliest life interested himself in unpoetical considerations of church and state. Perhaps the great cause of mediocrity in our poets of the eighteenth century was, that they did not live poetical lives, that they did not nourish those peculiar veins of thought which suit their calling. It was but by fits and starts that they recurred to their epigrams and couplets, and never thought of exercising the “ vision and the faculty divine,” except in the very act of composition. Now Mr. Southey, we should suspect, has lived a poetical life no further than living a regular and a virtuous one; this is a great way to the object, but not all. His soul has not been exclusively in his poetry, which uncondensed and diffuse, marks that little was brought to it, save the casual thoughts of immediate inspiration. His poetry has no body, no substratum from which it springs, as that of Wordsworth so manifestly has. Hence Southey wants that homogeneousness, remarked as the peculiar characteristic of his friend, which unites all his thoughts and composition, however fugitive and various, by one common bond, and sheds an interest and beauty even upon his puerilities. This great characteristic of Lakeism, Southey wants altogether; although he seems not to be aware of any difference or deficiency of the kind, by his imprudently publishing several minor poems, similar in simplicity to those of his friends, but without any of their redeeming qualities to support them. He has shown in this and at all times too much confidence perhaps, and seems to think his milk-and-water hours quite good enough for the public. But his vanity is at the same time so ingenuous and put forward with such perfect bonne foi, that it passes more for strength than for weakness of character.
To enter into the spirit of Wordsworth and Southey; the former must be studied in his minor poems, the latter in his larger works. With the exception of some exquisite ballads, and one or two other poems, the light effusions of Southey are scarce readable in our opinion; whilst, on the contrary, the Lyrical Ballads rank with us higher than the Excursion. It is but the accidents of the Lake school that Southey possesses ; he seems neither to value nor indeed to understand their more subtle principles. He cannot look upon inanimate nature with their glorious and all hallowing thoughts. He is religious, simply religious; but his devotion is single, concentred, and not any thing like the fine poetical adoration of Wordsworth and Coleridge. His mode of contemplating man too has nothing in common with the Lakers,-except when he unsuccessfully imitates them in his minor pieces. Animals he regards more in their vein, and the following beautiful passage from “ Thalaba” strongly marks how far he adopts their peculiar modes of feeling. He is theirs at first, but as soon as he comes to paint inanimate nature
the subject most obnoxious to Lakeism-he proceeds with equal spirit, but unmarked by any peculiarity.
There peacefully slept Thalaba
The Dogs awoke him at the dawn,
They knelt and wept again ;
Nor tree, nor bush, nor herb!
They stopt, and knelt, and wept;
Was as a friend to him by day,
Lay nestling in his breast.
It swell'd not with the blackbird's thrill,
T'he solitary man
But if no overflowing joy
They sooth'd the soften'd soul."
The ease with which Mr. Southey has always written has been of great detriment to his fame; but it evinces nevertheless the even and lofty flow of his genius, disdaining to depend on what are called happy moments, or hours of excitement. He displays “the calm air of strength,” as Campbell says of Milton, “beginning a mighty, performance without the appearance of an effort." This is the chief quality worthy of notice in the Joan of Arc; the poem is stately and sonorous, not much above mediocrity, but in the youthful confidence it breathes may with ease be read the promise of future success, since fulfilled. What is most interesting in it is the contrast between the minds of the two young poets the deep and turbid thoughts of Coleridge mingling with the purer but shallower strain of his friend. Amongst all their experiments upon poetic melody, we wonder that they did not attempt something like poetic harmony. On the same theme, and on opposite pages, they might have treated us to a tenor and bass. VOL. III. PART I,
Indeed we almost have them in the second canto of the Joan of
“ For all that meets the bodily sense I deem
Things from their shadows."
If a poet, as some one observes, should be all eye, Southey must be eminently one. He seems incapable of being interested or attached by invisible speculations. Intimate with the authors of Christabel and The Excursion_“ with Lucan and Akenside in youth at his tongue's end,” as he informs us, he was scarce imbued with one metaphysical feeling; and though affected by the moral and political tenets of these latter poets, even they laid but a weak and temporary hold upon him. But in “ Thalaba” he found himself at once at home-in the realms of all imagery and no thought, where fancy rioted undisturbed by reason or abstraction.
Southey was certainly born a century or so too late. He should have been cotemporary with Ariosto or with Spenser, and should have been granted to the world in its days of pure and unsatiated taste, when its eagerness for novelty and marvel was awake, ere fancy had become exhausted or insipid. But we have now little sympathy with shadowy worlds or beings—we are downright matter-of-fact creatures, even in our romance, and refuse to bestow our interest on scenes or persons, whose sufferings or pleasures are other than our own. The fancies of poetic readers of old were obsequious and active—they thought nothing of a flight beyond the moon to any sphere or heaven—their wings were always ready. But times are changed; we no longer love to“ tempt the fields of air”
--we will not go out of our way to an ideal world for any poet; so the poet must bring his ideal world to us. He must fashion it to our fazy sympathies —his heroic spirits must be as one of ourselves, of Aesh and blood, and human feelings-his powers of evil must copy the villain of the day-no witch nor gorgon will we tolerate. Plain wax candles must illumine his saloon-we have no longer faith in the light of the carbuncle ; and the whole tribe of genii and oriental invisibles must learn the language of western sentimentalism, ere we will listen or read. Like the Medecin malgré lui, we have altered the position of the heart—" Nous avons changé tout cela ?
The good old taste that we regret Mr. Southey has endeavoured
to revive. As far as he fails, the want is not in him, but in us. If we cannot embody his fancies, and follow him to his world of spirits, it is that we are bound to earth and sunk in egotism. Southey is a Spenser dropt upon the nineteenth century-with all the bright-eyed fancy, the pure imagination, and infantine simplicity of the elder bard. Still however he did not tread the beaten path of chivalry and old romance, but brought novelty of scene, and machinery, and creed, to support the antiquated purity of his style. The “ Thalaba” was a splendid conception, à noble graft upon our literature. The rising generation, who have sprung up since, and who look upon it with a retrospective glance, seldom do it justice; they should consider the state of our poetry before and at its appearance, and then form an idea not only of what an important addition it made to our stock, but also the avenue which it opened to imitation. There have been few direct imitations of it, to be sure, if we except Lalla Rookh; but to an indirect use of the conception, we owe undoubtedly most of the popular productions of the present day.
The “ Thalaba” is not our prime favourite among Southey's poems; it scarce excites even that feeble interest that is allowed to stories of pure fancy. The evil spirits are not sufficiently developed either in their characters or actions; we are told too little about them to feel any degree of hatred towards them, or predilection for the destroyer. The beauty of the poem lies in its episodes and gorgeous pictures, but the general impressions left after reading the whole is rather unpleasant: we seem to have escaped from under the grasp of a night-mare. The darker Arabian superstitions are at the best indeed a most unfit subject for poetry, unless when, as in Vathek, they strongly resemble, and can illusively be identified with, parts of our own creed. “Kehama” forms a beautiful contrast with 56 Thalaba. Superior in the terrific even to that work, the beautiful so much abounds and is so vivid throughout, as to form the predominant feature of the poem. This reconciles us to the fantastic machinery with which it is conducted ; and so aptly is the tale fitted to the scene and fable, that the
poem soon assumes the consistency and veri-similitude of life. For a supernatural story that makes no use of ghosts or vulgar terrors, it possesses surprising interest ; we fear not only for Ladurlad and his daughter, but at last become alarmed for the fate of heaven and the gods themselves. During the perusal of this delicious poem, we have smiled more than once at catching ourselves borne along in blind enthusiasm, even to the point of seriously moralizing on the evil effects of such a radical, as Kehama, being let loose in heaven.
We must here take leave of the reader rather abruptly, as the rest of the essay, in speaking of the Vision of Judgment, and Southey's later works, necessarily contained allusions to the immortal poet whom we have just lost, and whose memory, deeply and sadly as it is impressed upon all our breasts at this moment, we would not disturb by the unfeeling breath of criticism. But as we have for this reason cancelled our remarks on Southey's other poems, passing over even the “ Roderick” in silence, allow us to conclude with a passage from that cold and formal, but truly grand and splendid cpic
" Ne'er in his happiest hours had Roderick
With such commanding majesty dispensed
the wind was audible
THE WILD VALLEY.
Oh for the poetical or the prosaic pen of Walter Scott! I hardly know which to prefer: perhaps the latter. For I have in my mind's
one of those rude scenes, in which he would rove with delight. Scotland is his grand country, and Edinburgh his “ romantic town;" and his genius has thrown around them the splendour of its creations, not unfounded on the interesting annals of their eventful history. But we, southrons, must seek among our green
woods and beautiful vales for themes of description, or fancy's dwelling-places : and why should we not decorate our own homes, and our own names, like him, with a poem or a tale ? · Gentle reader, I must lead you into a lonely part of that most aboriginal county « in the west,” ycleped Cornwall: the pleasant land of warm hearts and melodious voices. Yes, I aver, I have rarely met with kinder hearts, or more harmonious speech : for, wherever I wandered, I was sure to receive a welcome, and that