ページの画像
PDF
ePub

the verses gain thereby in harmony what they lose in austere energy.

The argument is the condition of the world, when the vices of the sons of Cain are beginning to exhaust the patience of the Almighty. The giants had already invaded the vicinity of Eden, where Enoch yet maintained the worship of the true God in the midst of the posterity of Seth. In the camp of the victors is Javan, a young orphan, who has deserted his former brothers, the just, in order to pursue the phantom of a perfectly terrestrial glory. While he grew up beneath the care of his mother, he had resisted the vague impulses of his ambition.

His home was precious for his mother's sake. But when he had deposited in the tomb the last remains of that tender mother, the counsels of Enoch were insufficient to restrain his wandering propensity. He had become the pupil of Jabal, and the private minstrel of the giant king ; but favour and fortune still left a void in his heart. At the sight of the spot of his birth, and that where his mother's bones reposed, he is moved by the recollections of his childhood, and of the first love which Zillah, formerly his young companion, had inspired him.

These reminiscences constituted a double talisman for the preservation of his virtue in the society of the wicked. They at length restore him to himself; and Javan solemnly vows to live and die among his own kindred. He quits the enemy's army alone, and reaches the embowered scene of

his parting with Zillah. There he finds the young beauty herself asleep beneath the shade of a laurel grove, and who in her dreams is still murmuring the name of Javan, and farewell. Javan withdraws a little from the spot, and plays on the flute, an instrument the invention of which the poet attributes to him.

“At once obedient to the lip and hand,” &c.

Zillah awakes, and still imagines that the image of him she beheld in her dreams is standing before her. Javan then appears, but without daring to make himself known, and Zillah, feigning not to recognize him, retires, after indicating to him the dwelling of Enoch.

Enoch embraces his old pupil, and tells him in the midst of his satisfaction at beholding him, that he has wept many nights for him, and for live-long days expected anxiously this his joyful return.

Javan apprizes him of the approach of the king of the giants, and urges him to fly with his people; but Enoch has received a celestial admonition, which supports his hopes, and he signifies his resolution to confront the presence of the guilty. That very day is the anniversary of the death of Adam, celebrated by a sacrifice at his tomb.

Montgomery (mysticising a little in this place) has made the sepulchre of the first man, like those Moravian cemeteries, which are adorned with arbutuses and Aowers, and to which the designation of the garden of the dead may be appropriately

applied. Enoch gives an account of the last moments of Adam; and it is this narrative of the patriarch which unites the poem of Montgomery with that of Milton. After a long alternation of fear and hope, which awaken in the heart of the dying father of men the memory of his fall, and a confidence in the mercy of God, Adam expires in the midst of a storm.

After the sacrifice, Javan discovers himself to Zillah, and obtains her pardon; but she at the same time reminds him of the danger which menaces them, and which forbids their thinking of terrestrial love. In fine, the happy valley is invaded, and the family of the just are carried captive to the camp of the giants. Their leader is one of those personifications of the evil principle so common with poets and novelists, and which Mr. Montgomery has not been able to revive in an original form. Since then Southey has produced his Kehama and the Erotic, T. Moore has sketched his Mokanna (the veiled prophet), after the same common model, though varied by the introduction of eccentric attributes. Montgomery's King of the Giants has the misfortune, in consequence of the affinities of the subject, to recall the image of Milton's Satan, whose gloomy majesty eclipses all subaltern imitations. In one passage alone, the leader of the sons of Cain rises to the level of the audacious spirit of the rebel angel, when leaving his companions to intoxicate themselves with the praises of their exploits, and alone forgetful of all his terrestrial victories,

he dreams of reconquering Paradise, of which the Almighty had disinherited the race of Adam. The flames of the fiery swords borne in the hands of the celestial army, commissioned to defend the gate of Eden, only serve to irritate his ambition. The bosom of the giant beats with the vast design he has conceived ; and he burns with impatience to scale those frowning heights, and carry by storm those battlements of fire.

The poet has given as a counsellor to this terrible monarch, a species of magician leagued with the fallen angels. He is the Mathan of the poem, as opposed to Enoch, who is the Joad : and in the prophecies of Enoch, Mr. Montgomery has availed himself of the text of Isaiah, which Racine* has translated into divine versification. Like the French poet, he would have found his account in adopting the lyrical rhythm, which is admirably well adapted to prophetic enthusiasm, and in which he has elsewhere proved that he excels.

The patriarchs are doomed to be sacrificed to the false gods. Javan is about to be the first in ascending the fatal pyre, when Zillah associates herself with him, in order to share his death. She unites in her person the characters of Olinda and

Montgomery has also introduced into his poem the following verse from Athalie citing it in a note.

“Le crains Dieu, cher Abner, et nai point d'autro crainte.”

They feared their God, and knew no other fear.” A circumstance which I the more readily notice, because the English depreciators of Racine, such as Hazlitt, affect to consider this verse as very flat when compared with that of Sylla:

Jai gouverné sants peur, et l'abdique sans crainte.”

Sophronia. Enoch then advances, and confounds the foes of God by holy denunciations. The entire wrath of the Giant King and his magician directs itself against him ; but the chosen servant of God disappears. The captives behold him ascending triumphantly to heaven. Javan receives his last look, and his prophetic garment. The spirit of the translated patriarch descends on him. “ Where is the God of Enoch?” he exclaims. “ Prisoners follow me; ye men of sin fall back;" and he traverses the ranks of the astonished giants with Zillah and all the family of Seth, On the following day the rebel army attack the heights of Eden, and are repulsed by hail, thunder, and the fiery swords of the cheru. bim. The king perishes by the hands of his followers, and peace reigns in the happy valley till the day of the universal deluge.

The poem of Montgomery is replete with rich details. It is redolent with that poetical perfume which the inspiration of the holy scriptures exhales; but it possesses, as I have already said, more grace and harmony than force and originality. The same character appertains to his Wanderer of Switzerland, although in the latter work, which preceded the other, the poet is inflamed with a patriotic indignation, and seeks support in the more rapid movement of the lyrical rhythm. But here the rhythm is a defect, because it is applied to the dramatic form of dialogue, which in English is better adapted for blank verse. The Wanderer of Switzerland is an old man, whom the

« 前へ次へ »