ページの画像
PDF
ePub

learned that are bred in English universities. But we have no longer left room for any considerable extracts; though we should have wished to lay before our readers some part of the picture of the secretaries-the description of the inns-the strolling playersand the clubs. The poor mair's club, which partakes of the nature of a friendly society, is described with that good-hearted indulgence which marks all Mr. Crabbe's writings.

"The printed rules he guards in painted frame, And shows his children where to read his name."

We have now alluded, we believe, to what is best and most striking in this poem; and, though we do not mean to quote any part of what we consider as less successful, we must say, that there are large portions of it which appear to us considerably inferior to most of the author's former productions. The letter on the Election, we look on as a complete failure or at least as containing scarcely any thing of what it ought to have contained.The letters on Law and Physic, too, are tedious; and the general heads of Trades, Amusements, and Hospital Government, by no means amusing. The Parish Clerk, too, we find dull, and without effect; and have already given our opinion of Peter Grimes, Abel Keene, and Benbow. We are struck, also, with several omissions in the picture of a maritime borough. Mr. Crabbe might have made a great deal of a press-gang; and, at all events, should have given us some wounded veteran sailors, and some voyagers with tales of wonder from foreign lands.

The style of this poem is distinguished, like all Mr. Crabbe's other performances, by great force and compression of diction-a sort of sententious brevity, once thought essential to poetical composition, but of which he is now the only living example. But though this is almost an unvarying characteristic of his style, it appears to us that there is great variety, and even some degree of unsteadiness and inconsistency in the tone of his expression and versification. His taste seems scarcely to be sufficiently fixed and settled as to these essential particulars; and, along with a certain quaint, broken, and harsh manner of his own, we think we can trace very frequent imitations of poets of the most opposite character. The following antithetical and half-punning lines of Pope, for instance :"Sleepless himself, to give his readers sleep ;"

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

been the model of our author in the following :—

"That woe could wish, or vanity devise." "Sick without pity, sorrowing without hope." "Gloom to the night, and pressure to the chain"and a great multitude of others.

On the other hand, he appears to us to be frequently misled by Darwin into a sort of mock-heroic magnificence, upon ordinary occasions. The poet of the Garden, for instance, makes his nymphs

"Present the fragrant quintessence of tea." And the poet of the Dock-yards makes his carpenters

"Spread the warm pungence of o'erboiling tar." Mr. Crabbe, indeed, does not scruple, on some occasions, to adopt the mock-heroic in good earnest. When the landlord of the Griffin becomes bankrupt, he says— "The insolvent Griffin struck her wings subline," and introduces a very serious lamentation over the learned poverty of the curate, with this most misplaced piece of buffoonery :"Oh! had he learn'd to make the wig he wears!"

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

to have pointed out for his correction: but we mirable account in maintaining the interest, have no longer room for such minute criticism and enhancing the probability, of an extended -from which, indeed, neither the author nor train of adventures. At present, it is imposthe reader would be likely to derive any great sible not to regret, that so much genius should benefit. We take our leave of Mr. Crabbe, be wasted in making us perfectly acquainted therefore, by expressing our hopes that, since with individuals, of whom we are to know it is proved that he can write fast, he will not nothing but the characters. In such a poem, allow his powers to languish for want of exer- however, Mr. Crabbe must entirely lay aside cise; and that we shall soon see him again the sarcastic and jocose style to which he has repaying the public approbation, by entitling rather too great a propensity; but which we himself to a still larger share of it. An author know, from what he has done in Sir Eustace generally knows his own forte so much better Grey, that he can, when he pleases, entirely than any of his readers, that it is commonly relinquish. That very powerful and original a very foolish kind of presumption to offer performance, indeed, the chief fault of which any advice as to the direction of his efforts; is, to be set too thick with images-to be too but we own we have a very strong desire to strong and undiluted, in short, for the digessee Mr. Crabbe apply his great powers to the tion of common readers makes us regret, construction of some interesting and connected that its author should ever have stopped to be story. He has great talents for narration; and trifling and ingenious - or condescended to that unrivalled gift in the delineation of char- tickle the imaginations of his readers, instead acter, which is now used only for the creation of touching the higher passions of their naof detached portraits, might be turned to ad-ture.

――――

(November, 1812.)

Tales. By the Reverend GEORGE CRABBE. 8vo. pp. 398. London: 1812.

WE are very thankful to Mr. Crabbe for these Tales; as we must always be for any thing that comes from his hands. But they are not exactly the tales which we wanted. We did not, however, wish him to write an Epic-as he seems from his preface to have imagined. We are perfectly satisfied with the length of the pieces he has given us; and delighted with their number and variety. In these respects the volume is exactly as we could have wished it. But we should have liked a little more of the deep and tragical passions; of those passions which exalt and overwhelm the soul-to whose stormy seat the modern muses can so rarely raise their flight and which he has wielded with such terrific force in his Sir Eustace Grey, and the Gipsy Woman. What we wanted, in short, were tales something in the style of those two singular compositions-with less jocularity than prevails in the rest of his writings -rather more incidents-and rather fewer details.

their venial offences, contrasted with a strong sense of their frequent depravity, and too constant a recollection of the sufferings it produces; and, finally, the same honours paid to the delicate affections and ennobling passions of humble life, with the same generous testimony to their frequent existence; mixed up as before, with a reprobation sufficiently rigid, and a ridicule sufficiently severe, of their excesses and affectations.

If we were required to make a comparative estimate of the merits of the present publication, or to point out the shades of difference by which it is distinguished from those that have gone before it, we should say that there are a greater number of instances on which he has combined the natural language and manners of humble life with the energy of true passion, and the beauty of generous affection;-in which he has traced out the course of those rich and lovely veins in the rude and unpolished masses that lie at the bottom of society;-and unfolded, in the mid, dling orders of the people, the workings of those finer feelings, and the stirrings of those loftier emotions which the partiality of other poets had attributed, almost exclusively, to actors on a higher scene.

The pieces before us are not of this description-they are mere supplementary chapters to "The Borough," or "The Parish Register." The same tone-the same subjects-the same style, measure, and versification;-the same finished and minute delineation of things ordinary and common-generally very engaging when employed upon external objects, but often fatiguing when directed merely to insignificant characters and habits;-the same strange mixture too of feelings that tear the heart and darken the imagination, with starts of low humour and patches of ludicrous ima-tended: and we say this, not only on account gery-the same kindly sympathy with the of the moral benefit which we think they humble and innocent pleasures of the poor may derive from them, but because we are dinelegant, and the same indulgence for persuaded that they will derive more pleasure

We hope, too, that this more amiable and consoling view of human nature will have the effect of rendering Mr. Crabbe still more popular than we know that he already is, among that great body of the people, from among whom almost all his subjects are taken, and for whose use his lessons are chiefly in

Vehement

from them than readers of any other description. Those who do not belong to that rank of society with which this powerful writer is chiefly conversant in his poetry, or who have not at least gone much among them, and attended diligently to their characters and occupations, can neither be half aware of the exquisite fidelity of his delineations, nor feel in their full force the better part of the emotions which he has suggested. passion indeed is of all ranks and conditions; and its language and external indications nearly the same in all. Like highly rectified spirit, it blazes and inflames with equal force and brightness, from whatever materials it is extracted. But all the softer and kindlier affections, all the social anxieties that mix with our daily hopes, and endear our homes, and colour our existence, wear a different livery, and are written in a different character in almost every great caste or division of society; and the heart is warmed, and the spirit touched by their delineation, exactly in the proportion in which we are familiar with the types by which they are represented. When Burns, in his better days, walked out in a fine summer morning with Dugald Stewart, and the latter observed to him what a beauty the scattered cottages, with their white walls and curling smoke shining in the silent sun, imparted to the landscape, the present poet answered, that he felt that beauty ten times more strongly than his companion could do; and that it was necessary to be a cottager to know what pure and tranquil pleasures often nestled below those lowly roofs, or to read, in their external appearance, the signs of so many heartfelt and long-remembered enjoyments. In the same way, the humble and patient hopes-the depressing embarrassments the little mortifications-the slender triumphs, and strange temptations which arise in middling life, and are the theme of Mr. Crabbe's finest and most touching representations can only be guessed at by those who glitter in the higher walks of existence; while they must raise many a tumultuous throb and many a fond recollection in the breasts of those to whom they reflect so truly the image of their own estate, and reveal so clearly the secrets of their habitual sensations.

We cannot help thinking, therefore, that though such writings as are now before us must give great pleasure to all persons of taste and sensibility, they will give by far the greatest pleasure to those whose condition is least remote from that of the beings with whom they are occupied. But we think also, that it was wise and meritorious in Mr. Crabbe to occupy himself with such beings. In this country, there probably are not less than three hundred thousand persons who read for amusement or instruction, among the middling classes of society. In the higher

·

By the middling classes, we mean almost all those who are below the sphere of what is called fashionable or public life, and who do not aim at distinction or notoriety beyond the circle of their equals in fortune and situation.

classes, there are not as many as thirty thousand. It is easy to see therefore which a poet should choose to please, for his own glory and emolument, and which he should wish to delight and amend, out of mere philanthropy. The fact too we believe is, that a great part of the larger body are to the full as well educated and as high-minded as the smaller; and, though their taste may not be so correct and fastidious, we are persuaded that their sensibility is greater. The misfortune is, to be sure, that they are extremely apt to affect the taste of their superiors, and to counterfeit even that absurd disdain of which they are themselves the objects; and that poets have generally thought it safest to invest their interesting characters with all the trappings of splendid fortune and high station, chiefly because those who know least about such matters think it unworthy to sympathise in the adventures of those who are without them! For our own parts, however, we are quite positive, not only that persons in middling life would naturally be most touched with the emotions that belong to their own condition, but that those emotions are in themselves the most powerful, and consequently the best fitted for poetical or pathetic representation. Even with regard to the heroic and ambitious passions, as the vista is longer which leads from humble privacy to the natural objects of such passions; so, the career is likely to be more impetuous, and its outset more marked by striking and contrasted emotions:-and as to all the more tender and less turbulent affections, upon which the beauty of the pathetic is altogether dependant, we apprehend it to be quite manifest, that their proper soil and nidus is the privacy and simplicity of humble life;-that their very elements are dissipated by the variety of objects that move for ever in the world of fashion; and their essence tainted by the cares and vanities that are diffused in the atmosphere of that lofty region. But we are wandering into a long dissertation, instead of making our readers acquainted with the book before us. The most satisfactory thing we can do, we believe, is to give them a plain account of its contents, with such quotations and remarks as may occur to us as we proceed.

The volume contains twenty-one tales;the first of which is called "The Dumb Orators." This is not one of the most engaging; and is not judiciously placed at the portal, to tempt hesitating readers to go forward. The second, however, entitled "The Parting Hour," is of a far higher character, and contains some passages of great beauty and pathos. The story is simply that of a youth and a maiden in humble life, who had loved each other from their childhood, but were too poor to marry. The youth goes to the West Indies to push his fortune; but is captured by the Spaniards and carried to Mexico, where, in the course of time, though still sighing for his first love, he marries a Spanish girl, and lives twenty years with her and his children-he is then impressed, and car

ried round the world for twenty years longer; and is at last moved by an irresistible impulse, when old and shattered and lonely, to seek his native town, and the scene of his youthful vows. He comes and finds his Judith like himself in a state of widowhood, but still brooding, like himself, over the memory of their early love. She had waited twelve anxious years without tidings of him, and then married and now when all passion, and fuel for passion, is extinguished within them, the memory of their young attachment endears them to each other, and they still cling together in sad and subdued affection, to the exclusion of all the rest of the world. The history of the growth and maturity of their innocent love is beautifully given: but we pass on to the scene of their parting.

"All things prepar'd, on the expected day
Was seen the vessel anchor'd in the bay.
From her would seamen in the evening come,
To take th' advent'rous Allen from his home;
With his own friends the final day he pass'd,
And every painful hour, except the last.
The grieving Father urg'd the cheerful glass,
To make the moments with less sorrow pass;
Intent the Mother look'd upon her son,
And wish'd th' assent withdrawn, the deed undone ;
The younger Sister, as he took his way,
Hung on his coat, and begg'd for more delay;
But his own Judith call'd him to the shore,
Whom he must meet-for they might meet no
more!-

And there he found her-faithful, mournful, true,
Weeping and waiting for a last adieu !
The ebbing tide had left the sand, and there
Mov'd with slow steps the melancholy pair:
Sweet were the painful moments-but how sweet,
And without pain, when they again should meet!"
p. 29.

The sad and long-delayed return of this ardent adventurer is described in a tone of genuine pathos, and in some places with such truth and force of colouring, as to outdo the efforts of the first dramatic representation.

"But when return'd the Youth ?-the Youth no Return'd exulting to his native shore! [more But forty years were past; and then there came A worn-out man, with wither'd limbs and lame! Yes! old and griev'd, and trembling with decay, Was Allen landing in his native bay: In an autumnal eve he left the beach, In such an eve he chanc'd the port to reach : He was alone; he press'd the very place Of the sad parting, of the last embrace: There stood his parents, there retir'd the Maid, So fond, so tender, and so much afraid; And on that spot, through many a year, his mind Turn'd mournful back, half sinking, half resign'd. No one was present; of its crew bereft, A single boat was in the billows left;

46

Sent from some anchor'd vessel in the bay,
At the returning tide to sail away:
O'er the black stern the moonlight softly play'd,
The loosen'd foresail flapping in the shade
All silent else on shore; but from the town
A drowsy peal of distant bells came down :
From the tall houses, here and there, a light
Serv'd some confus'd remembrance to excite:
'There,' he observ'd, and new emotions felt,
'Was my first home-and yonder Judith dwelt,' &c.
A swarthy matron he beheld, and thought
She might unfold the very truths he sought;
Confus'd and trembling, he the dame address'd:

The Booths! yet live they?' pausing and oppress'd:

Then spake again :-'Is there no ancient man,
David his name ?-assist me, if you can.—
Flemings there were !-and Judith! doth she live?
The woman gaz'd, nor could an answer give;
Yet wond'ring stood, and all were silent by,
Feeling a strange and solemn sympathy."
pp 31, 32.
The meeting of the lovers is briefly told.
"But now a Widow, in a village near,
Chanc'd of the melancholy man to hear:
Old as she was, to Judith's bosom came
He was her much-lov'd Allen! she had stay'd
Some strong emotions at the well-known name;
Ten troubled years, a sad afflicted maid," &c.

"

The once-fond Lovers met: Nor grief nor age. Sickness or pain, their hearts could disengage: Each had immediate confidence; a friend Both now beheld, on whom they might depend: Now is there one to whom I can express My nature's weakness, and my soul's distress.'"'

[ocr errors]

There is something sweet and touching, and in a higher vein of poetry, in the story which he tells to Judith of all his adventures, and of those other ties, of which it still wrings her bosom to hear him speak.-We can afford but one little extract.

14

There, hopeless ever to escape the land, He to a Spanish maiden gave his hand; In cottage shelter'd from the blaze of day, He saw his happy infants round him play; Where summer shadows, made by lofty trees, Wav'd o'er his seat, and sooth'd his reveries; E'en then he thought of England, nor could sigh, But his fond Isabel demanded Why?' Griev'd by the story, she the sigh repaid, And wept in pity for the English Maid." pp. 35, 36.

The close is extremely beautiful, and leaves upon the mind just that impression of sadness which is both salutary and delightful, because it is akin to pity, and mingled with admira tion and esteem.

"Thus silent, musing through the day, he sees
His children sporting by those lofty trees,
Their mother singing in the shady scene,
Where the fresh springs burst o'er the lively green;
So strong his eager fancy, he affrights
The faithful widow by its pow'rful flights;
For what disturbs him he aloud will tell,
And cry-Tis she. my wife! my Isabel!-
Where are my children?'-Judith grieves to hear
How the soul works in sorrows so severe ;-
Watch'd by her care, in sleep, his spirit takes
Its flight, and watchful finds her when he wakes.

"Tis now her office; her attention see! While her friend sleeps beneath that shading tree, Careful, she guards him from the glowing heat, And pensive muses at her Allen's feet. [scenes

"And where is he? Ah! doubtless in those Of his best days, amid the vivid greens, Fresh with unnumber'd rills, where ev'ry gale Breathes the rich fragrance of the neighb'ring vale; Smiles not his wife?-and listens as there comes The night-bird's music from the thick'ning glooms? And as he sits with all these treasures nigh, Gleams not with fairy-light the phosphor fly, When like a sparkling gem it wheels illumin'd by This is the joy that now so plainly speaks In the warm transient flushing of his cheeks; For he is list'ning to the fancied noise Of his own children, eager in their joys!All this he feels; a dream's delusive bliss Gives the expression, and the glow like this. And now his Judith lays her knitting by,

These strong emotions in her friend to spy;
For she can fully of their nature deem
But see! he breaks the long protracted theme,
And wakes and cries- My God! 'twas but
dream!'"'-pp. 39, 40.

The third tale is "The Gentleman Farmer," and is of a coarser texture than that we have just been considering-though full of acute observation, and graphic delineation of ordinary characters. The hero is not a farmer turned gentleman, but a gentleman turned farmer-a conceited, active, talking, domineering sort of person-who plants and eats and drinks with great vigour-keeps a mistress, and speaks with audacious scorn of the tyranny of wives, and the impositions of priests, lawyers, and physicians. Being but a shallow fellow however at bottom, his confidence in his opinions declines gradually as his health decays; and, being seized with some maladies in his stomach, he ends with marrying his mistress, and submitting to be triply governed by three of her confederates; in the respective characters of a quack doctor, a methodist preacher, and a projecting land steward. We cannot afford any extracts from this performance.

"Here Dinah sigh'd as if afraid to speakAnd then repeated-They were frail and weak; His soul she lov'd; and hop'd he had the grace a To fix his thoughts upon a better place.'

11

pp. 72, 73.

The next, which is called "Procrastination," has something of the character of the "Parting Hour;" but more painful, and less refined. It is founded like it on the story of a betrothed youth and maiden, whose marriage is prevented by their poverty; and this youth, too, goes to pursue his fortune at sea; while the damsel awaits his return, with an old female relation at home. He is crossed with many disasters, and is not heard of for many years. In the mean time, the virgin gradually imbibes her aunt's paltry love for wealth and finery; and when she comes, after long sordid expectation, to inherit her hoards, feels that those new tastes have supplanted every warmer emotion in her bosom; and, secretly hoping never more to see her youthful lover, gives herself up to comfortable gossiping and formal ostentatious devotion. At last, when she is set in her fine parlour, with her china and toys, and prayer-books around her, the impatient man bursts into her presence, and reclaims her vows! She answers coldly, that she has now done with the world, and only studies how to prepare to die! and exhorts him to betake himself to the same needful meditations. We shall give the conclusion of the scene in the author's own words. The faithful and indignant lover replies:

"Heav'n's spouse thou art not: nor can I believe
That God accepts her, who will Man deceive:
True I am shatter'd, I have service seen,
And service done, and have in trouble been;
My cheek (it shames me not) has lost its red,
And the brown buff is o'er my features spread;
Perchance my speech is rude; for I
among
Th' untam'd have been, in temper and in tongue;
But speak my fate! For these my sorrows past,
Time lost, youth fled, hope wearied, and at last
This doubt of thee-a childish thing to tell,
But certain truth-my very throat they swell;
They stop the breath, and but for shame could I
Give way to weakness, and with passion cry;
These are unmanly struggles, but I feel
This hour must end them, and perhaps will heal."

Nothing can be more forcible or true to nature, than the description of the effect of this cold-blooded cant on the warm and unsuspecting nature of her disappointed suitor.

66

"She ceased:-With steady glance, as if to see The very root of this hypocrisy, And bronz'd broad hand; then told her his regard, He her small fingers moulded in his hard His best respect were gone, but Love had still Hold in his heart, and govern'd yet the willOr he would curse her!-Saying this, he threw The hand in scorn away, and bade adieu To every ling'ring hope, with every care in view. To some in power his troubles he confess'd, In health declining as in mind distress'd, And shares a parish-gift. At prayers he sees The pious Dinah dropp'd upon her knees; Thence as she walks the street with stately air, When he, with thick set coat of Badge-man's blue, As chance directs, oft meet the parted pair! Moves near her shaded silk of changeful hue; When his thin locks of grey approach her braid (A costly purchase made in beauty's aid); When his frank air, and his unstudied pace, Are seen with her soft manner, air, and grace, And his plain artless look with her sharp meaning How these together could have talk'd of love!" It might some wonder in a stranger move, [face;

pp. 73, 74.

"The Patron," which is next in order, is also very good; and contains specimens of very various excellence The story is that of a young man of humble birth, who shows an early genius for poetry; and having been, with some inconvenience to his parents, provided with a frugal, but regular education, is at last taken notice of by a nobleman in the neighbourhood, who promises to promote him in the church, and invites him to pass an autumn with him at his seat in the country. Here the youth, in spite of the admirable admonitions of his father, is gradually overcome by a taste for elegant enjoyments, and allows himself to fall in love with the enchanting sister of his protector. When the family leave him with indifference to return to town, he feels the first pang of humiliation and disappointment; and afterwards, when he finds that all his noble friend's fine promises end in obtaining for him a poor drudging place in the Customs, he pines and pines till he falls into insanity; and recovers, only to die prematurely in the arms of his disappointed parents. We cannot make room for the history of the Poet's progress-the father's warnings -or the blandishments of the careless syren by whom he was enchanted-though all are excellent. We give however the scene of the breaking up of that enchantment ;-a description which cannot fail to strike, if it had no other merit, from its mere truth and accuracy.

[blocks in formation]
« 前へ次へ »