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(November, 1817.)

Lalla Rookh; an Oriental Romance. By THOMAS MOORE. 4to. pp. 405.: London: 1817.


THERE is a great deal of our recent poetry derived from the East: But this is the finest Orientalism we have had yet. The land of the Sun has never shone out so brightly on the children of the North-nor the sweets of Asia been poured forth, nor her gorgeousness displayed so profusely to the delighted senses of Europe. The beauteous forms, the dazzling splendours, the breathing odours of the East, seem at last to have found a kindred poet in that green isle of the West; whose Genius has long been suspected to be derived from a warmer clime, and now wantons and luxuriates in those voluptuous regions, as if it felt that it had at length regained its native element. It is amazing, indeed, how much at home Mr. Moore seems to be in India, Persia, and Arabia; and how purely and strictly Asiatic all the colouring and imagery of his book appears. He is thoroughly embued with the character of the scenes to which he transports us; and yet the extent of his knowledge is less wonderful than the dexterity and apparent facility with which he has turned it to account, in the elucidation and embellishment of his poetry. There is not, in the volume now before us, a simile or description, a name, a trait of history, or allusion of romance which belongs to European experience; or does not indicate an entire familiarity with the life, the dead nature, and the learning of the East. Nor are these barbaric ornaments thinly scattered to make up a show. They are showered lavishly over all the work; and form, perhaps too much, the staple of the poetry-and the riches of that which is chiefly distinguished for its richness.

stitution of genius. While it is more splendid in imagery-(and for the most part in very good taste)-more rich in sparkling thoughts and original conceptions, and more full indeed of exquisite pictures, both of all sorts of beauties and virtues, and all sorts of sufferings and crimes, than any other poem that has yet come before us; we rather think we speak the sense of most readers, when we add, that the effect of the whole is to mingle a certain feeling of disappointment with that of admiration! to excite admiration rather than any warmer sentiment of delight-to dazzle, more than to enchant-and, in the end, more frequently to startle the fancy, and fatigue the attention, by the constant succession of glittering images and high-strained emotions, than to maintain a rising interest, or win a growing sympathy, by a less profuse or more systematic display of attractions.

We would confine this remark, however, to the descriptions of external objects, and the allusions to literature and history-or to what may be termed the materiel of the poetry before us. The Characters and Sentiments are of a different order. They cannot, indeed, be said to be copies of European nature; but they are still less like that of any other region. They are, in truth, poetical imaginations;but it is to the poetry of rational, honourable, considerate, and humane Europe, that they belong-and not to the childishness, cruelty, and profligacy of Asia. It may seem a harsh and presumptuous sentence, to some of our Cosmopolite readers: But from all we have been able to gather from history or recent observation, we should be inclined to say that there was no sound sense, firmness of purpose, or principled goodness, except among the natives of Europe, and their genuine descendants. There is something very extraordinary, we think, in the work before us-and something which indicates in the author, not only a great exuberance of talent, but a very singular con

The style is, on the whole, rather diffuse, and too unvaried in its character. But its greatest fault, in our eyes, is the uniformity of its brilliancy-the want of plainness, simplicity, and repose. We have heard it observed by some very zealous admirers of Mr. Moore's genius, that you cannot open this book without finding a cluster of beauties in every page. Now, this is only another way of expressing what we think its greatest defect. No work, consisting of many pages, should have detached and distinguishable beauties in every one of them. No great work, indeed, should have many beauties: If it were perfect, it would have but one; and that but faintly perceptible, except on a view of the whole. Look, for example, at what is perhaps the most finished and exquisite production of human art—the design and elevation of a Grecian temple, in its old severe simplicity. What penury of ornament-what rejection of beauties of detail!-what masses of plain surface-what rigid economical limitation to the useful and the necessary! The cottage of a peasant is scarcely more simple in its structure, and has not fewer parts that are superfluous. Yet what grandeur-what elegance-what grace and completeness in the effect! The whole is beautiful-because the beauty is in the whole: But there is little merit in any of the parts, except that of fitness and careful finishing. Contrast this, now, with a Dutch pleasurehouse, or a Chinese-where every part is meant to be separately beautiful-and the result is deformity!-where there is not an inch of the surface that is not brilliant with varied colour, and rough with curves and anglesand where the effect of the whole is monstrous and offensive. We are as far as possible from meaning to insinuate that Mr. Moore's poetry is of this description. On the contrary, we

think his ornaments are, for the most part, truly and exquisitely beautiful; and the general design of his pieces very elegant and ingenious: All that we mean to say is, that there is too much ornament-too many insulated and independent beauties-and that the notice, and the very admiration they excite, hurt the interest of the general design; and not only withdraw our attention too importunately from it, but at last weary it out with their perpetual recurrence.

ceive of their proceedings, or to sympathise freely with their fortunes. The disasters to which they are exposed, and the designs in which they are engaged, are of the same ambitious and exaggerated character; and all are involved in so much pomp, and splendour, and luxury, and the description of their extreme grandeur and elegance forms so considerable a part of the whole work, that the less sublime portion of the species can with difficulty presume to judge of them, or to enter into the concernments of such very exquisite persons. The incidents, in like manner,

It seems to be a law of our intellectual constitution, that the powers of taste cannot be permanently gratified, except by some sustain-are so prodigiously moving, so excessively ed or continuous emotion; and that a series, improbable, and so terribly critical, that we even of the most agreeable excitements, soon have the same difficulty of raising our senticeases, if broken and disconnected, to give any ments to the proper pitch for them;-and, pleasure. No conversation fatigues so soon as finding it impossible to sympathise as we that which is made up of points and epigrams; ought to do with such portentous occurrences, and the accomplished rhetorician, who are sometimes tempted to withhold our sympathy altogether, and to seek for its objects. among more familiar adventures. Scenes of voluptuous splendour and ecstasy alternate suddenly with agonising separations, atrocious crimes, and tremendous sufferings;-battles, incredibly fierce and sanguinary, follow close on entertainments incredibly sumptuous and elegant ;-terrific tempests are succeeded by delicious calms at sea: and the land scenes are divided between horrible chasms and precipices, and vales and gardens rich in eternal blooms, and glittering with palaces and temples-while the interest of the story is maintained by instruments and agents of no less potency than insanity, blasphemy, poisonings, religious hatred, national antipathy, demoniacal misanthropy, and devoted love.

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could not ope His mouth, but out there flew a trope," must have been a most intolerable companion. There are some things, too, that seem so plainly intended for ornaments and seasonings only, that they are only agreeable, when sprinkled in moderation over a plainer medium. No one would like to make an entire meal on sauce piquante; or to appear in a dress crusted over with diamonds; or to pass a day in a steam of rich distilled perfumes. It is the same with the glittering ornaments of poetry—with splendid metaphors and ingenious allusions, and all the figures of speech and of thought that constitute its outward pomp and glory. Now, Mr. Moore, it appears to us, is decidedly too lavish of his gems and sweets;-he labours under a plethora of wit and imagination-impairs his credit by the palpable exuberance of his possessions, and would be richer with half his wealth. His works are not only of costly material and graceful design, but they are everywhere glistening with small beauties and transitory inspirations-sudden flashes of fancy, that blaze out and perish; like earth-born meteors that crackle in the lower sky, and unseasonably divert our eyes from the great and lofty bodies which pursue their harmonious courses in a serener region.

We have spoken of these as faults of style: But they could scarcely have existed in the style, without going deeper; and though they first strike us as qualities of the composition only, we find, upon a little reflection, that the same general character belongs to the fable, the characters, and the sentiments,-that they all sin alike in the excess of their means of attraction, and fail to interest, chiefly by being too interesting.

In order to avoid the debasement of ordinary or familiar life, the author has soared to a region beyond the comprehension of most of his readers. All his personages are so very beautiful, and brave, and agonising- -so totally wrapt up in the exaltation of their vehement emotions, and withal so lofty in rank, and so sumptuous and magnificent in all that relates to their external condition, that the herd of ordinary mortals can scarcely venture to con

We are aware that, in objecting to a work like this, that it is made up of such materials, we may seem to be objecting that it is made of the elements of poetry,—since it is no doubt true, that it is by the use of such materials that poetry is substantially distinguished from prose, and that it is to them it is indebted for all that is peculiar in the delight and the interest it inspires: and it may seem a little unreasonable to complain of a poet, that he treats us with the essence of poetry. We have already hinted, however, that it is not advisable to live entirely on essences; and our objection goes not only to the excessive strength of the emotions that are sought to be raised, but to the violence of their transitions, and the want of continuity in the train of feeling that is produced. It may not be amiss, however, to add a word or two more of explanation.

In the first place, then, if we consider how the fact stands, we shall find that all the great poets, and, in an especial manner, all the poets who chain down the attention of their readers, and maintain a growing interest through a long series of narrations, have been remarkable for the occasional familiarity, and even homeliness, of many of their incidents, characters and sentiments. This is the distinguishing feature in Homer, Chaucer, Ariosto, Shakespeare, Dryden, Scott-and will be found to occur, we believe, in all poetry that has been long and extensively popular; or that is capable of pleasing very strongly, or stirring

and character.

very deeply, the common sensibilities of our | sist, or the energies they had exerted. To nature. We need scarcely make an excep- make us aware of the altitude of a mountain, tion for the lofty Lyric, which is so far from it is absolutely necessary to show us the plain being generally attractive, that it is not even from which it ascends. If we are allowed to intelligible, except to a studious few-or for see nothing but the table land at the top, the those solemn and devotional strains which de-effect will be no greater than if we had rerive their interest from a still higher princi-mained on the humble level of the shoreple: But in all narrative poetry-in all long except that it will be more lonely, bleak, and pieces made up of descriptions and adven- inhospitable. And thus it is, that by extures, it seems hitherto to have been an indis- aggerating the heroic qualities of heroes, they pensable condition of their success, that most become as uninteresting as if they had no of the persons and events should bear a con- such qualities-that by striking out those siderable resemblance to those which we meet weaknesses and vulgar infirmities which with in ordinary life; and, though more ani- identify them with ordinary mortals, they not mated and important than to be of daily oc- only cease to interest ordinary mortals, but even currence, should not be immeasurably exalted to excite their admiration or surprise; and apabove the common standard of human fortune pear merely as strange inconceivable beings, in whom superhuman energy and refinement It should be almost enough to settle the are no more to be wondered at, than the power question, that such is the fact and that no of flying in an eagle, or of fasting in a snake. narrative poetry has ever excited a great in- The wise ancient who observed, that being terest, where the persons were too much puri- a man himself, he could not but take an interfied from the vulgar infirmities of our nature, est in every thing that related to man-might or the incidents too thoroughly purged of all have confirmed his character for wisdom, by that is ordinary or familiar. But the slightest adding, that for the same reason he could take reflection upon the feelings with which we no interest in any thing else. There is nothread such poetry, must satisfy us as to the ing, after all, that we ever truly care for, but reason of our disappointment. It may be told the feelings of creatures like ourselves:-and in two words. Writings of this kind revolt by we are obliged to lend them to the flowers their improbability; and fatigue, by offering and the brooks of the valley, and the stars and no points upon which our sympathies can airs of heaven, before we can take any delight readily attach.-Two things are necessary to in them. With sentient beings the case is give a fictitious narrative a deep and com- more obviously the same. By whatever manding interest; first, that we should believe names we may call them, or with whatever that such things might have happened; and fantastic attributes we may please to invest secondly, that they might have happened to them, still we comprehend, and concern ourourselves, or to such persons as ourselves. selves about them, only in so far as they reBut, in reading the ambitious and overwrought semble ourselves. All the deities of the poetry of which we have been speaking, we classic mythology-and all the devils and feel perpetually, that there could have been angels of later poets, are nothing but human no such people, and no such occurrences as creatures-or at least only interest us so long we are there called upon to feel for; and that as they are so. Let any one try to imagine it is impossible for us, at all events, to have what kind of story he could make of the admuch concern about beings whose principles ventures of a set of beings who differed from of action are so remote from our own, and who our own species in any of its general attributes are placed in situations to which we have never-who were incapable, for instance, of the known any parallel. It is no doubt true, that debasing feelings of fear, pain, or anxietyall stories that interest us must represent pas- and he will find, that instead of becoming sions of a higher pitch, and events of a more more imposing and attractive by getting rid extraordinary nature than occur in common of those infirmities, they become utterly inlife; and that it is in consequence of rising significant, and indeed in a great degree inthus sensibly above its level, that they become conceivable. Or, to come a little closer to objects of interest and attention. But, in order the matter before us, and not to go beyond that this very elevation may be felt, and pro- the bounds of common experience-Suppose duce its effect, the story must itself, in other a tale, founded on refined notions of delicate places, give us the known and ordinary level, love and punctilious integrity, to be told to a and, by a thousand adaptations and traits of race of obscene, brutal and plundering savages universal nature, make us feel, that the char-—or, even within the limits of the same counacters which become every now and then the try, if a poem, turning upon the jealousies of objects of our intense sympathy and admira- court intrigue, the pride of rank, and the cabals tion, in great emergencies, and under the in- of sovereigns and statesmen, were put into fluence of rare but conceivable excitements, the hands of village maidens or clownish laare, after all, our fellow creatures-made of bourers, is it not obvious that the remoteness the same flesh and blood with ourselves, and of the manners, characters and feelings from acting, and acted upon, by the common prin- their own, would first surprise, and then reciples of our nature. Without this, indeed, volt them-and that the moral, intellectual the effect of their sufferings and exploits and adventitious Superiority of the personages would be entirely lost upon us; as we should concerned, would, instead of enhancing the be without any scale by which to estimate the interest, entirely destroy it, and very speedily magnitude of the temptations they had to re- extinguish all sympathy with their passions,

gentlemen and ladies are to a ferocious savage, or politicians and princesses to an ordinary rustic, the exaggerated persons of such poetry as we are now considering, are to the ordinary readers of poetry. They do not believe in the possibility of their existence, or of their adventures. They do not comprehend the principles of their conduct; and have no thorough sympathy with the feelings that are ascribed to them.

and all curiosity about their fate?-Now, what meet her enamoured bridegroom in the delightful valley of Cashmere. The progress of this gorgeous cavalcade, and the beauty of the country which it traverses, are exhibited with great richness of colouring and picturesque effect; though in this, as well as in the other parts of the prose narrative, a certain tone of levity, and even derision, is frequently assumed-not very much in keeping, we think, with the tender and tragic strain of poetry of which it is the accompaniment— certain breakings out, in short, of that mocking European wit, which has made itself merry with Asiatic solemnity, ever since the time of the facetious Count Hamilton-but seems a little out of place in a miscellany, the prevailing character of which is of so opposite a temper. To amuse the languor, or divert the impatience of the royal bride, in the noon-tide and night-halts of her luxurious progress, a young Cashmerian poet had been sent by the gallantry of the bridegroom; and recites, on those occasions, the several poems that form the bulk of the volume now before us. Such is the witchery of his voice and look, and such the sympathetic effect of the tender tales which he recounts, that the poor princess, as was naturally to be expected, falls desperately in love with him before the end of the journey; and by the time she enters the lovely vale of Cashmere, and sees the glittering palaces and towers prepared for her reception, she feels that she would joyfully forego all this pomp and splendour, and fly to the desert with her adored Feramorz. The youthful bard, however, has now disappeared from her side; and she is supported, with fainting heart and downcast eyes, into the hated presence of her tyrant! when the voice of Feramorz himself bids her be of good cheer-and, looking up, she sees her beloved poet in the Prince himself! who had assumed this gallant disguise, and won her young affections, without deriving any aid from his rank or her engagements.

We have carried this speculation, we believe, a little too far-and, with reference to the volume before us, it would be more correct perhaps to say, that it had suggested these observations, than that they are strictly applicable to it. For though its faults are certainly of the kind we have been endeavouring to describe, it would be quite unjust to characterise it by its faults-which are beyond all doubt less conspicuous than its beauties. There is not only a richness and brilliancy of diction and imagery spread over the whole work, that indicate the greatest activity and elegance of fancy in the author; but it is everywhere pervaded, still more strikingly, by a strain of tender and noble feeling, poured out with such warmth and abundance, as to steal insensibly on the heart of the reader, and gradually to overflow it with a tide of sympathetic emotion. There are passages indeed, and these neither few nor brief, over which the very Genius of Poetry seems to have breathed his richest enchantmentwhere the melody of the verse and the beauty of the images conspire so harmoniously with the force and tenderness of the emotion, that the whole is blended into one deep and bright stream of sweetness and feeling, along which the spirit of the reader is borne passively away, through long reaches of delight. Mr. Moore's poetry, indeed, where his happiest vein is opened, realises more exactly than that of any other writer, the splendid account which is given by Comus of the song of


'His mother Circe, and the Sirens three,
Amid the flowery-kirtled Naiades,
Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd soul,
And lap it in Elysium!"

And though it is certainly to be regretted that he should so often have broken the measure with more frivolous strains, or filled up its intervals with a sort of brilliant falsetto, it should never be forgotten, that his excellences are at least as peculiar to himself as his faults, and, on the whole, perhaps more characteristic of his genius.

The volume before us contains four separate and distinct poems-connected, however, and held together "like orient pearls at random strung," by the slender thread of a slight prose story, on which they are all suspended, and to the simple catastrophe of which they in some measure contribute. This airy and elegant legend is to the following effect. Lalla Rookh, the daughter of the great Aurengzebe, is betrothed to the young king of Bucharia; and sets forth, with a splendid train of Indian and Bucharian attendants, to

The whole story is very sweetly and gaily told; and is adorned with many tender as well as lively passages-without reckoning among the latter the occasional criticisms of the omniscient Fadladeen, the magnificent and most infallible grand chamberlain of the Haram -W whose sayings and remarks, we cannot help observing, do not agree very well with the character which is assigned himbeing for the most part very smart, sententious, and acute, and by no means solemn, stupid, and pompous, as was to have been expected. Mr. Moore's genius, however, we suppose, is too inveterately lively, to make it possible for him even to counterfeit dulness. We come at last, however, to the poetry.

The first piece, which is entitled "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan," is the longest, we think, and certainly not the best, of the series. It has all the faults which we have, somewhat too sweepingly, imputed to the volume at large; and it was chiefly, indeed, with a reference to it, that we made those introductory remarks, which the author will probably think too much in the spirit of the

sage Chamberlain. The story, which is not in all its parts extremely intelligible, is founded on a notice, in D'Herbelot, of a daring impostor of the early ages of Islamism, who pretended to have received a later and more authoritative mission than that of the prophet, and to be destined to overturn all tyrannies and superstitions on the earth, and to rescue all souls that believed in him. To shade the celestial radiance of his brow, he always wore a veil of silver gauze, and was at last attacked by the Caliph, and exterminated, with all his adherents. On this story, Mr. Moore has engrafted a romantic and not very probable tale of two young lovers, Azim and Żelica; the former of whom having been supposed to perish in battle, the grief of the latter unsettles her understanding; and her distempered imagination is easily inflamed by the mystic promises of the Veiled Prophet, which at length prevail on her to join the troop of lovely priestesses who earn a blissful immortality in another world, by sharing his embraces upon earth. By what artful illusions the poor distracted maid was thus betrayed to her ruin, is not very satisfactorily explained; only we are informed that she and the Veiled Apostle descended into a charnel-house, and took a mutual oath, and drank blood together, in pledge of their eter-ate or conceal those defects, is obscure and nal union. At length Azim, who had not incomprehensible. Rich as it is, in short, in been slain, but made captive in battle, and fancy and expression, and powerful in some had wandered in Greece till he had imbibed of the scenes of passion, we should have had the love of liberty that inspired her famous great doubts of the success of this volume, if heroes of old-hears of the proud promises it had all been of the same texture with the of emancipation which Mokanna (for that poem of which we are now speaking. Yet, was the prophet's name) had held out to all even there, there is a charm, almost irresisti nations, and comes to be enrolled among the ble, in the volume of sweet sounds and beauchampions of freedom and virtue. On the tiful images, which are heaped together with day of his presentment, he is introduced into luxurious profusion in the general texture of a scene of voluptuous splendour, where all the the style, and invest even the absurdities of seducive influences of art and nature are in vain the story with the graceful amplitude of their exerted to divert his thoughts from the love rich and figured veil. What, for instance, can of Zelica and of liberty. He breaks proudly be sweeter than this account of Azim's entry away from these soft enchantments, and finds into this earthly paradise of temptations? a mournful female figure before him, in whom he almost immediately recognises his longlost and ever-loved Zelica. The first moment of their meeting is ecstasy on both sides; but the unhappy girl soon calls to mind the unutterable condition to which she is reduced-What means this maze of light and loneliness! and, in agony, reveals to him the sad story of Here, the way leads, o'er tesselated floors her derangement, and of the base advantages Where, rang'd in cassolets and silver urns, Or mats of Cairo, through long corridors, that had been taken of it. Azim at first Sweet wood of aloe or of sandal burns; throws her from him in abhorrence, but soon And here, at once, the glittering saloon turns, in relenting pity, and offers at last to Bursts on his sight, boundless and bright as noon! rescue her from this seat of pollution. She Where, in the midst, reflecting back the rays listens with eager joy to his proposal, and is In broken rainbows, a fresh fountain plays about to fly with him in the instant, when All rich with Arabesques of gold and flowers: High as th' enamell'd cupola; which towers the dread voice of Mokanna thunders in her And the mosaic floor beneath shines through ear her oath of eternal fidelity. That terrible The sprinkling of that fountain's silvery dew, sound brings back her frenzy. She throws Like the wet, glist'ning shells, of ev'ry dye; her lover wildly from her, and vanishes at That on the margin of the Red Sea lie. once, amidst the dazzling lights of that unholy palace. Azim then joins the approaching army of the Caliph, and leads on his forces against the impious usurper. Mokanna performs prodigies of valour-but is always borne back by the superior force and enthusiasm of Azim: and after a long course of horrors and


Silent and bright, where nothing but the falls
'Meanwhile, through vast illuminated halls,
Of fragrant waters, gushing with cool sound
From many a jasper fount, is heard around,
Young Azím roams bewilder'd; nor can guess

illusions, he poisons the remnant of his adherents, and himself plunges into a bath, of such corrosive quality, as instantly to extinguish life, and dissolve all the elements of the mortal frame. Zelica then covers herself with his fatal veil, and totters out to the ramparts, where, being mistaken for Mokanna, she rushes upon the spear of her Azim, and receives his forgiveness in death! while he survives, to pass the rest of his life in continual prayer and supplication for her erring spirit; and dies at last upon her grave, in the full assurance of rejoining her in purity and bliss. It is needless to enlarge on the particular faults of this story, after the general observations we hazarded at the outset. The char acter of Mokanna, as well as his power and influence, is a mere distortion and extrava gance: But the great blemish is the corrup tion of Zelica; and the insanity so gratui tously alleged by the poet in excuse of it. Nothing less, indeed, could in any way ac count for such a catastrophe; and, after all, it is painful and offensive to the imagination. The bridal oath, pledged with blood among the festering bodies of the dead, is one of the overstrained theatrical horrors of the German school; and a great deal of the theorising and argumentation which is intended to palli

"Here too he traces the kind visitings Of woman's love, in those fair, living things of land and wave, whose fate-in bondage thrown For their weak loveliness-is like her own! on one side gleaming with a sudden grace Through water, brilliant as the crystal vase In which it undulates, small fishes shine, Like golden ingots from a fairy mine!

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