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stifle the voice of vengeance until the signal for insurrection shall be given. At length hatred and resentment burst forth, and a deadly war ensues.
On his return from Spain and Portugal, Southey admirably represented the character and opinions of a Spaniard, but a Spaniard of the nineteenth century, in his amusing letters of Don Manuel Espriella. He afterwards studied what he terms the monkish spirit, to qualify himself to attack catholicism with her own arms in the Quarterly Review. He was at the same time deeply imbued with the fanaticism of the secretaries of Joanna Southcote and Wesley, of whom he became the biographer. All this serves to explain the natural way
in which he maintains the character of the enthusiastic monk in Don Roderick. His profound knowledge of Spanish literature, and particularly of the chronicles, also proved a powerful aid to him. Roderick is a Spanish, and above all a catholic poem ; the protestant poet has no existence but on the title page. The principal idea of the work is romantic, but original, A remnant of grandeur, and glory, elevate the character of the fallen king. His penitence in the desart, his mysterious return among his subjects, the trials of his new mission, the immense sacrifice his devotedness costs him, the powerful influence of his presence, and the last exploit of his enthusiasm and valour, all serve to invest him with the attributes of super-human heroism. The characters of Julian and his daughter are not less happily
conceived, and their various interviews with the king are very impressive. Adosinda, the Judith of the poem, is pourtrayed with infinite ability, and among the secondary characters, what a high degree of interest is excited by the good Severian, whom Homer might have envied for his Odyssey, and the mother of Roderick, who is so worthy to share all his sacrifices, and whose pious tears gain a celestial crown for her dethroned son.
I have done for the present with the author of Joan of Arc, Thalaba, Madoc, Roderick, &c. I eagerly look forward to the moment when I shall meet him on the banks of the Derwent-Water.
TO MADAME EMILIE DE M-L.
There are some English poets of the present day who are essentially religious, and who I think may be considered as belonging to the lake school, as for example, Kirke White and Montgomery. I have already observed that the methodists and other dissenting sects have their poets. Even the quakers have their bard in the person of Bernard Barton.
The writings of Montgomery and Kirke White owe their continued success to the pious members of the English church, who would have scrupled at giving Byron and Moore a place in their library. Kirke White is the Andre Chenier of England; not because the unfortunate poet was carried away by a political storm ; but he died a victim to his zeal for study at the age of one and twenty, with the same regret as A. Chenier, of not having been able to give full wing to his talents. This young poet, replete with fire and tenderness, had received, with the revelation of the secret favours with which the muse had endowed him, the presentiment of his approaching end. From the age of thirteen, Kirke White had measured the brevity of his days, and commenced the song of the Swan. It was to the grave he addressed his tenderest dreams of poetical renown. The flower which he sung and cherished with peculiar predilection was the rosemary, a plant which in England is placed in the coffins, and he invoked it to exhale its fugitive perfume in the solitude of his tomb. Imbued with these melancholy ideas, he saw nothing but God in the future, and translated psalms, as if for the purpose of exercising himself in joining his voice to that of the concert of angels; or he described his first sorrows, his first affections, his first games, while he associated these reflections to those of the caresses of his mother, or his little tribulations as a schoolboy. From the earliest age the life of this world had only an ephemeral interest in his eyes;
he saw nothing but God and eternity. One is astonished to find so much elevation and elegance, so much philosophy and tender piety in the poems of so young a man. His poem entitled Childhood, composed at the age of thirteen, exhibits more than one graceful painting of which Goldsmith might have been jealous. The portrait of his old school-mistress is a counterpart to that of the schoolmaster in the Deserted Village.
So much imagination and susceptibility could not even suffer extinction in the office of a solici. tor, where the young poet was for some time articled, before he could obtain means of going to college at Oxford. The studies of the university exhausted his strength, and he died with the regret of not having completed his poem of the Christiad.
Milton created sacred poetry in England. He is at all events the only model of all those who, notwithstanding the decree of Boileau, *
u De la foi du Chretien les mysteres terribles
have chosen christian subjects for the epic poem. The author of Paul and Virginia is the only one capable of vying with the fourth canto of Paradise Lost. The two poems of Milton have produced in Germany the Messiah of Klopstock, and the
As the question here concerns epic poetry, Boileau might have been required to specify the sense of the epithet which he attaches to the word ornamens.
pastoral in six cantos called the Death of Abel, which I could not read at college without weeping; but which, perhaps, would now produce on me the same impression as it did on Lord Byron, in whose eyes the German Abel was always a tiresome and insignificant personage. Montgomery combines in himself the qualities of Milton, of Klopstock, and Gesner. His poem of the World before the Flood is a continuation of the Paradise Lost; but it is like the arkite dove attempting to vie with the eagle ; the branch of olive better becomes her grasp than the thunderbolt. If the poet sometimes attempts to depict the proud giants of the posterity of Cain, he is more at home in picturing the loves of Javan and of Zillah : but it is not for the purpose of lavishing that meretricious vesture on the young daughter of Seth, with which the voluptuous Thomas Moore adorns his heroines. Montgomery's poem exhibits as much sensibility as that of Gesner, united with a poetry of a more epic description, even in the pastoral scenes. Sometimes a regret is felt that an eloquent paraphrase, but tinctured with a little too much amplification, should take the place of that energetic and daring conciseness which the same situation, or the same conception, would have inspired to the English Homer. One may infer from this circumstance what little discri. mination there was in Johnson's opinion, when he said that Milton wrote in blank verse, because he did not know how to rhyme. The World before the Flood is in heroic couplet : it is true