Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

records a curious anecdote of Dryden's noble Ode on Alexander's Feast, which he says was composed at a sitting, and which accounts for that irresistible charm of vigour and brilliance, that pervades the whole of it.

Let not idleness and imbecility take advantage of these remarks. Faculties of an ordinary cast must not presume to shew their nakedness. It is only for heads and hearts highly endowed to pour forth their stores without premeditation. Others must be left to the humbler kind of merit, that is attainable by study and toil. From the sacred paths of poetry, from all that is to hurry away the mind into scenes of imaginary splendour, they would do well to abstain. The frigid labour of forcing words into rhythm, of seeking for figures in which to invest trite thoughts, will never succeed in producing the effects of genuine soetry. The infatuated operator may have the luck of procuring the praise of the mechanical critic, who judges by rules; but the public will sleep over his work, and then quit it for more rational prose, which has all its merit without any of its defects.

What a contrast are the effusions of Walter Scott ! He seizes the lyre, and scatters about his wild strains at every careless touch. His notes

.“ sweet music breathe
Above, about, or underneath
Seot by some spirit to mortal's good,
Or th' unseen genius of the wood."*

[blocks in formation]

His six epistles are addressed to 1. William Stewart Rose, Esq. 2. The Rev. John Marriot. 3. William Erskine, Esq. 4. James Skene, Esq. 5. George Ellis, Esq. 6. Richard Heber, Esq. The first opens thus :

" Ashesteel, Ettricke Forest.

“ November's sky is chill and drear,
November's leaf is red and sear:
Late, gazing down the steepy linn,
That hems our little garden in,
Low in its dark and narrow glen
You scarce the rivulet might ken,
So thick the tangled greenwood grew,
So feeble trill'd the streamlet through:
Now murmuring hoarse and frequent seen
Through bush and brier, no longer green,
An angry brook, it sweeps the glade,
Brawls over brook and wild cascade,
And, foaming brown with doubled speed,
Hurries its waters to the Tweed.

No longer Autumn's glowing red
Upon our forest hills is shed;
No more beneath the evening beam,
Fair Tweed reflects their purple gleam;
Away hath pass'd the heather-bell,
That bloom'd so rich on Need-path fell.
Sallow his brows, and russet bare,
Are now the sister heights of Yair.
The sheep, before the pinching heaven,
To shelter'd dale and down, are driven,
Where yet some faded herbage pines,
And yet a watery sunbeam shines :

In meek despondency they eye
The withered sward and wintry sky,
And far beneath their summer hill
Stray sadly by Glenkinnon's rill:
The shepherd shifts his mantle's fold,
And wraps him closer from the cold;
His dogs no merry circles wheel,
But, shivering, follow at his heel;
A cowering glance they often cast,
As deeper moans the gathering blast.”

I cannot refrain from giving one more specimen, taken from the Third Epistle.

« Thus while I

ape

the measure wild
Of tales that charm’d me yet a child,
Rude though they be, still with the chime
Return the thoughts of early time;
And feelings rous'd in life's first day
Glow in the line, and prompt the lay,
Then rise those crags, that mountain tower,
Which charm'd my fancy's wakening hour:
Though no broad river swept along
To claim perchance heroic song;
Though sigh'd no groves in summer gale,
To prompt of love a softer tale;
Though scarce a puny streamlet's speed
Claimed homage from a shepherd's reed;
Yet was poetic impulse given,
green

hill and clear blue heaven.
It was a barren scene and wild,
Where naked cliffs were rudely pil'd;
But ever and anon between
Lay velvet tufts of loveliest green ;

By the

1

Aud well the lonely infant knew
Recesses where the wall-flower grew,
And honey-suckle lov'd to crawl
Up the low crag and ruin'd wall.
I deem'd such nooks the sweetest shade,
The sun in all his round survey'd ;
And still I thought that shattered tower
The mightiest work of human power;
And marvell’d, as the aged hind
With some strange tale bewitch'd my

mind
Of Forayers, who, with headlong force,
Down from that strength had spurr'd their horse,
Their southern rapine to renew,
Far in the distant Cheviots blue,
And, home returning, fill'd the hall
With revel, wassell-route, and brawl.
Methought that still with cramp and clang
The gate-way's broken arches rang;
Methought grim features, seam'd with scars,
Glar'd through the window's rusty bars.
And ever by the winter hearth,
Old tales I heard of woe or mirth,
Of lover's sleights, 'of ladies' charms,
Of witch's spells, of warriors arms;
Of patriot battles, won of old
By Wallace wight and Bruce the bold;
Of later fields of feud and sleight,
When pouring from their Highland height,
The Scottish clans, in beadlong sway,
Had swept the scarlet ranks away.
While stretch'd at length upon the floor,
Again I fought each combat o'er,
Pebbles and shells, in order laid,
The mimic ranks of war display'd;

And onward still the Scottish lion bore,
And still the scatter'd Southron filed before."

March 17, 1803.

ART. DCCXXVII.

No. XXVIII. Genius incompatible with a narrow

taste. “ Many people have been employed in finding out ob

scure and refined beauties in what appear to ordinary observation bis

very
defects,"

Miss BAILLIE.

That mighty gift of the Deity, which enables mankind to cast a glance over the whole surface of creation, and even to penetrate occasionally with some success into its internal movements, is sadly limited in its faculties by the exclusive contemplation of individual excellence, even though the most wonderful and super-eminent in the annals of human existence.

I have therefore always thought, that the sort of idolatry, which for nearly half a century we have been called on to pay even to Shakspeare himself, has been carried a little too far to be consistent with a due expansion of our intellects. A sound candour must admit that the words bigotry and idolatry are indeed literally applicable to this confined occupation of our taste and pleasures. Lord Grey, on Tuesday last,* applied the terms besotted bigotry to another occasion; and, whether applicablet or not,

* March 15, in the House of Lords, on the Reversion Bill.

+ I do not mean to insinuate that th:e application was just. On that I give no opinion. I allude to his positions as general truths, well expressed.

« AnteriorContinuar »