« 前へ次へ »
whom they are addressed to heaven. To use the term employed by Mr. Southey in his prefatory remarks, they are bills drawn upon the gods, the payment of which cannot be refused. The wicked in this manner may obtain a degree of power which renders them formidable to the deities themselves.
Thus does the Rajah Kehama, the hero of Southey's poem, threaten to usurp the prerogatives of the gods, and to render them obedient to his sovereign caprice. In the meanwhile, however, he is visited by some of the misfortunes incident to human nature. Arvalan, his only son, is killed by a peasant, to whose daughter he attempted to offer violence. The poem opens with a description of the magnificent funeral of Arvalan. Kehama orders his guards to conduct to his presence Ladurlad, the peasant, and his daughter Kaylial, on whom he has vowed to take revenge. Kaylial, however, clings to the statue of Manataly, the tutelary goddess of the poor, which stands on the banks of the Ganges, where the funeral rites are celebrated. A thousand arms, obedient to the tyrant's voice, endeavour to tear her away ; but the offended deity hurls the image into the water, and with it the suppliant Kaylial, and the satellites who presumed to lay their sacrilegious hands
Khaema then turns to the father, and summoning all his power for one great effort of malice, pronounces on him the curse whence the poem derives its name.
A charm is to preserve him from the effects of wounds and violence, sick.
ness, infirmity, and old age; but he is doomed not to be wet with water, nor fanned with wind; and to pass his days without sleep, with a fire in his heart and in his brain.
Ladurlad wanders horror-struck and solitary along the banks of the river, and he soon observes the image of Manataly floating on the stream, with his daughter still clinging to it. The curse pronounced by Kehama gives him the power cuing Kaylial. The flood separates at his approach and be hears his daughter in safety to the shore. However he soon feels all the misery of the lot to which he is doomed ; and Kaylial is haunted by the spectre of Arvalan. The good genius by whom she is protected falls a victim to the Rajah ; and the latter is, by a last sacrifice, on the point of attaining the climax of his ambition. He raises an axe, to slaughter a wild horse, which would be profaned if touched by a mortal hand, when a man rushes wildly forward, regardless of the arrows and javelins which fall like hail around him, 'and by touching the steed, destroys the virtue of the sacrifice. .This is no other than Ladurlad, who, by the curse, is rendered invulnerable to the further vengeance of Kehama. The prince vents his fury on his own guards, whose massacre is described in strains of energetic poetry.
Ladurlad quits the scene of carnage, and wanders back to the happy home of his youth. His emotions, his recollections, and the impressions excited by every object he beholds have furnished
the subject of one of those scenes in which Southey excels, and the natural colouring of which is to me more charming than all the magical decorations of his ideal world. Ladurlad subsequently enjoys some cessation from his misery on Mount Meru, under the protection of Indra. But his trials, and those of his daughter, return as soon as Arvalan discovers their retreat. The glendoveer Eremia himself solicits the aid of Ladurlad and his daughter. He is a captive in the tomb of Baly, an ancient monarch, whose temple was formerly buried beneath the ocean. The description of this sub-marine city presents a novel and beautiful picture.
“ Their golden summits in the noon-day light,
For domes and pinnacles, and spires were seen
What works of wonder the devouring wave
Bore record of their old magnificence.
In solitude the ancient temples stood,
Now as the weary ages pass along,
Or, visiting their solitary caves,
Accordant to the melancholy waves.” But I cannot follow Ladurlad into the empire of the ocean, or accompany him in the other mi
raculous pilgrimages which he makes in company with his daughter, and the glendoveer whom he has released. Mr. Southey's fertile imagination has painted all in glowing colours, the Padalon, the Pandæmonium of the Hindoos, and Mount Calvary, or their Elysium. Suffice it to say, that the impious Kehama at length meets with his merited punishment, and the patience and piety of the fair Kaylial are rewarded.
I might multiply extracts to an endless length ; for there is not a canto of the poem in which I have not marked with my pencil many passages of striking beauty ; such as the sacrifice of the wives of Arvalan, and particularly the lovely Nealliny, the description of a morning and evening scene in Hindostan, the banian tree and the elephant, the grove in which Kaylial worships the gods, her prayer to Manataly, her declarations of filial piety, her somewhat mystical love for the glendoveer, her first interview with the shade of her mother, &c. But as I shall again recur to - Mr. Southey, I here abandon Kehama to say a few words respecting his last epic poem.
Roderick the Last of the Goths is not the most brilliant or varied of the laureate's compositions, though it was produced in the full maturity of his genius, and has been highly admired by all classes of readers. The gentle affections are not indeed excluded from this poem ; but its interest is derived from emotions of a more energetic nature. Impassioned exaltation distinguishes all the cha
racters, and even their virtues have an air of fanaticism. Had Sir Walter Scott undertaken the task of relating the same events, pourtraying the same characters, describing the poetic land of Spain, the christian and moorish knights, their costumes, manners, and conflicts, how much would the picture have gained in brilliancy of colouring, spirit, and picturesque contrast! How many graceful and natural details would have amused the reader, without diverting his attention from the main circumstances of the story. That troubadour of the gaya ciencia would have mingled with the clang of arms and the cries of fury and revenge ; some of those melting strains which would have delighted the lady and her youthful pages, and have won even a smile from the aged warrior. But the author of Roderick is merely an inspired monk, who records only the regrets of love, and makes his warriors fight only under the banner of the cross. His poetry is energetic, noble, frequently sublime, but always solemn; and in its harmonious rhythm, one might almost recognise a resemblance to the monotonous music of the convent bells. Yet this religious character has its appropriate effect in the poem. Spain is contending with the infidels for the recovery of her faith and her glory. The proud enemy of her triumphs perseveres in his cruelty and oppression. His shouts of victory are threats. The vanquished overwhelmed with disgrace, scarcely venture to utter a complaint. They