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whom it seems determined to intrust the destinies of Ireland been men capable of instruction, we would have said, put Banim's works into their hands. His family in particular, and in no small degree, every admirer of genius, have cause to mourn “ the dimming of our shining star.” If the Ghost-hunter is, indeed, to prove, as our fears prompt us, the last of Mr. Banim's efforts, his last strain has been an Io Paean; he has “ died in the midst of his glory;" he has set like a Tropical sun at once, and with undiminished brightness.]
THE POETICAL WORKS OF LEIGH HUNT. *
Mr. Hunt has been before the public as a poet, for at least three lus. tres. The handsome volume on our table is, therefore, rather to be regarded as an editio princeps of a favourite author, than a work inviting critical remark. Since the period that these poems were published, much has passed over the head of their author, and yet more of change taken place in that world of letters and of opinion in which he has been an impulsive and a suffering spirit. His book is now something more than a re-publication. It is, with all the attendant circumstances, a happy augury of yet greater prospective change, and a sign of the times. There is, in our apprehension, no personal cause either to slur over, or dismiss from view, Mr. Hunt's share in the common perils and persecutions of the martyrs of freedom of opinion, and of the advancement of society ; but as he has not recurred to them, neither shall we. They infused no bitterness into his own mind, and have consequently left no trace of their existence, save greater expansion, mellowness, and amiability of character. In the social conflict he has realized the part of the sun in the fable. The boisterous bluster and snellness of the hyperborean wind, have been fairly overcome by a more prevailing, though gentler influence. To revert, therefore, to circumstances which Mr. Hunt has magnanimously dismissed from his mind, would be worse than officious. ness. It is sufficient that his triumph as a man and a poet is distinctly recognisable in the circumstances connected with this publication; and that he has left his friends nothing to regret, save that he had been more considerate and dutiful to himself. After the most systematic and malignant efforts to disgrace him, and to keep him down in every capacity, he has honourably emerged, by the unaided agencies and quiet working of the truth, which he encountered so much to foster and spread among his countrymen, .
The intellectual and sentient idiosyncrasy of Leigh Hunt, is the true key-note to his literary and poetical productions; but this is a subject of subtle speculation and nice analysis, for which the time is not yet arrived, though the materials are ready. Never did writer more confidingly lay himself, under all his whims, caprices, and impulses, more nakedly open, or more transparently veiled, before the world ; or after his own fashion, more completely embody the moralist's description of the poet,
“In wit a man-simplicity a child."
* Moxon, London.
This wearing the heart upon the sleeve for daws to peck at;"—this overflowing excess of the buoyant animal spirits of a joyous temperament, of candour, which, among cold conventionalities, becomes imprudence, and an almost childlike trustfulness in the sympathies, kindliness and generosity of all mankind, Tory and critic-kind included, has temporarily done him hurt; though the same causes will set him right again, and make him but the more a favourite with posterity. And already is the young feeling of the world anticipating, in his instance, and in many others, the judgment of posterity. His early faults are discovered to have been those of a youthful and sanguine mind, and a position in political and literary society during a period of fluctuation and change, which might have driven the best balanced judgment from its true basis. His greatest error of any kind was believing a lord, who was also a man of genius, a better and more generous being than lords are usually found to turn out when put to trial. He has, according to late appearances, learned wisdom in the furnace, without paying the lesson by the customary case-hardening, or fire-change-blighting the freshness of a nature originally cordial, genial, and full of the finest sympathies, which most other men would have done. After all he has suffered, he still seems surprised to find the world so very sober and wo-begone and so little participant of his good spirits; and he not unreasonably considers that it is only studying appearances, or still canting a little, though in a new way, and is not really in the serious and sorrowful mood it affects. From the man we pass to the book; though of close kin, they are not exactly one.
Mr. Hunt's reputation as a poet, must, we suppose, after all, rest upon the Story of Rimini, and a few of his shorter pieces. This is a fair and sure foundation, though less broad than that which he has laid as one of the most delightful of the genuinely English light prose writers. The new piece, the Gentle Armour, is highly characteristic of the author's preferences and tone of mind, but it is not one of his best poems. For reasons which do not satisfy us—which we indeed denounce as fastidious scruples, many, or nearly all his smaller pieces, some of them exquisite, are excluded from this edition. This even in taste and judgment strikes us as needless severity, or a capital mistake. To some of his translations, notwithstanding their classic air and high polish, the plain folks of the wide world would certainly have preferred the old, familiar work-a-day-world verses. But there was room for all. Why then exclude the wild flowers and stray blossoms from the parterre ? If they want the nicer cultivation and fashion of art, are the dew and the fragrance nothing ? The book has a preface, which is among its most valuable portions. It is full of fine thoughts and engaging and ingenuous displays of personal character, and of a tone of feel. ing in accordance with the highest poetry. The writer's graceful humility in the presence, and under the power of the loftiest poeti. cal genius, delightfully conveys the impression-" I also am of Arcadia.” Many of the critical observations shew a delicate discrimination and instinctive perception of the laws of poetry, considered as one of the fine arts : though we could not have expected, and can barely forgive, that one so imbued with its essence, and obedient to its impulses, should “ justly reckon one Pope before a hundred Crawshaws." This preface will be read with interest, and should be diligently read, if for no other reason than because it is written for the social purpose of cultivating the reader's intimacy and friendship ; and also, because the writer, on the
same kindly principle, reads other men's prefaces. So amenable has Mr. Hunt shewn himself to verbal, and, to evidently captious verbal criticism, that he has, in this edition, either changed or expunged every word charged with affectation, though he denies the quality or the existence of affectation in the instances adduced. He has here, again, as in the omitted pieces, carried his doubts, or good.nature to an injurious length; sometimes substituting for picturesque, and felicitously appro. priate words, tame and cold ones. Mr. Bulwer, the other day, though somewhat at the expense of his own serenity, administered to a chief of the purists a gentle retributive appliance which, though it should not slacken the attention of writers to their style, may help to raise the more modest and distrustful above the despondency engendered by a presumptuous tone. The omission of passages fancied obnoxious from person. alities, is so amiable in motive, that we cannot quarrel with this ; though the stout maxim,
“ What is writ, is writ." remains in as much force as ever. It is one we admire for manliness, and are rarely called upon to censure for injustice. The oblivious an. tidote has been applied mainly to the Feast of the Poets : Mr. Gifford alone is gibbeted and in chains as before. One thing should be noticed for the benefit of all whom it may concern. Time, Mr. Hunt sincerely avows, has taught him more correct notions of the true nature and consequences of satire, than when he, in the heyday of youth, rather innocently, fancied it nothing more than “something pleasant in a book.” He speaks of his youthful and repented errors in terms of candour and warning, regretting to have undesignedly provoked inveterate enmities in this way, especially, he magnanimously adds, “as I had a nobler field of warfare to suffer in."
As Mr. Ilunt's poems have had their joyful resurrection in the midst of a new generation, it will be right to gratify our younger readers with a few specimens of his finest composition. His Story of Rimini is founded upon that episode in Dante's Inferno which alludes to the fate of the two unfortunate lovers, Paulo and Francesca. Instead, however, of describing them in the regions of despair, and rashly intruding upon the sacred precincts of Dante, the poet restores the beautiful Shades to earth, and to the power and distraction of its conflicting affections, Fran. cesca is the victim of a political union. Her preference is given to Paulo, the handsome and amiable younger brother, while she is betrayed into a marriage with Giovanni the elder, an ill-tempered tyrant. To complete the illusion and entanglement, Paulo marries her as the proxy of the Prince his brother. In the freshness and truth of his descriptions, Mr. Hunt emulates the elder poets, and excels them in that high finish which gracefully veils its own pains-taking. And the poem is nearly a continuous description, intermingled with incidental strokes of passion and tenderness, which in a few words convey a world of sentiment and of suggestions to reflection. Ilis old gardens, and fountains, and bowers, and out-door pictures, transport us to the birth-time of English poetry; though his polish and elaborate finish, and richness in the fancy of his ornament, often make his Muse resemble a delicate and high-bred beauty masquerading in the garb of a lovely country girl, and betrayed by her conventional graces and the elegance of her movements. The poem opens with a piece of delicious and sparkling description, full without confusion, and affluent in beautiful imagery, every word calling up a fresh picture.
The sun is up, and 'tis a morn of May,
'Tis nature full of spirits, waked, and springing,
Already in the street the stir grows loud
Mr. Hunt half apologizes for retaining the exquisite description of the ancient garden, in which, amidst all sweet and lovely things, Francesca alternately chided, and cherished the insidious passion that was stealing upon her peace. The omission would have been gratuitous offence, for assuredly every subsequent editor would have restored the passage. Let the reader judge: we lay aside the minuter beauties, and come to the romantic and picturesque features of this Elysian scene.
“ And ’midst the flowers, turfed round beneath a shade
Felt on your face an air, watery and sweet,
But 'twixt the wood and flowery walks half way,
Tinged as it entered, with the vine leaves thin!” In this delicious retreat, Francesca is one summer's afternoon, reading in “ the bright romance" of Sir Launcelot of the Lake, about the love of Queen Geneura for that knight, when Paulo follows her. The poet is indebted to another source than his own invention, for the beautiful incident which hurries on the catastrophe, but the delicacy of sentiment, and grace of narration are all his own; and his also is the creation of the shadowy forebodings, and varying moods of mind which prepare us for the event :
“ Ready she sate with one hand to turn o'er