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somewhat relieved by a reply so full of conceit, and repugnant to true taste, as the following:
• Death, father, death is comfortless and cold!
Mourn round her.'--p.77. Does not Mr. Milman see that these are general speculations about death, by one a little melancholy at the most, but not expecting in the least to die? What were the morn, the birds, or the summer gale to a tender girl, who had just had the sentence of a violent and instantaneous death announced to her by her own father?
These lines are followed by others of great beauty: she is borne to a deep and black valley nearly at the well-head of the stream by which she had been sitting; in the recesses around are dimly seen the countenances of dark and cruel men in armour; she hears that her father bimself is to be the priest, and to plunge her into the abyss. Her inarticulate prayers for mercy, her tears, her white arms clinging round her father's neck, while in her desperate agony she forgets what an unnatural stranger he is to her; his struggles, his brief delay, and proud resolution; all these are indeed perfectly and painfully drawn. Severe criticism might perhaps object, that there was something almost too pretty in the following lines, but we think that even their prettiness accords well with such a mere fairy-like creation of the fancy as Lilian herself is.
• A sound is in the silent night abroad,
And look'd up lovely to the gazing moon.'—p. 80. : We pass rapidly to the conclusion of the episode; Vortimer comes too late to the spot from which Lilian had been taken, and, in the course of the night, her body floats down the stream and he
drags it to the shore. His feelings are well described while he sits with the body in his arms, haunted by the miserable presentiment that it is the body of Lilian; and the dread with which he shrinks from the near approach of light after so devoutly desiring it, praying to be relieved from doubt while it was dark, and shuddering at the certainty when the morning was breaking, is very natural.
From Vortimer and Lilian the poet returns to the Saxon fleet, and rapidly traces the voyage down the eastern coast to the Isle of Thanet. On the opposite shores of Kent were encamped the Britons under Samor, pining already for the soft luxuries of peace, and sustained only by the example and spirit of their leader. The first measure of the wily Hengist is an offer to retire from the island on permission to sell Kent for a sum of money, which offer, in spite of a noble and indignant harangue from Samor, the Britons accept, and agree to ratify the compact at a solemn festival. This was that deadly feast at Stonehenge, and Mr. Milman prepares our minds for it by a very spirited imitation of the closing lines of the first book of the Georgics, with which every scholar is familiar. We lament that our limits forbid our transferring it entire to these pages.
The festival on the plains of Sarum is ushered in with becoming splendour, and cheerfulness of poetry, which contrasts very well with the tremendous bodings that closed the last book.
. The laughing skies
Soft slumber in the war-steed's drooping mane.'-p. 107. With the same brilliancy Mr. Milman paints the long procession, the gorgeous feast, and the eminent among the nobility and warriors of both nations who graced it; he brings to votice, we think, with great happiness, the thoughtless exultation of a
whole people, the entire forgetfulness of past ills, and past causes of hatred, the greedy welcome given to the returning peace. The giddy curiosity too of the females and children form no uninteresting feature in this busy picture. So far all the colours are glowing and gay: they become more sombre as the poet paints the fall of evening, the spectators returning from the feast in long lines, and small parties recounting the pleasures of the day; the picture still darkens as we see women watching late for their lords return, children worn out with waiting and composed to rest, maidens inwardly chiding the delay of their lovers; night falls, and one long and lonely blast of a single horn is heard from the plain; the weary women start at the signal of the return, forms are seen in the gloom entering the gates, they preserve a dismal silence; each wife is looking for her husband, each maid for her lover, but they see none but Saxons-Saxons still; and at last their bloody knives uplifted reveal the whole dreadful secret. Here the poet judiciously breaks off—the plunder, the murder, the rape that ensued would have been a common-place consummation to such a picture - he has done more wisely; for all the gorgeousness of the feast, the richness of music, the sumptuousness of babiliments, the splendour of the mid-day sun, the bands of bright and manly forms assembled; for all the glowing pride of the day, and all the tender thoughts of the evening, he exhibits to us in the heavy darkness of midnight,
• On the wide plain one lonely man. Wan light,
Bears token of rude strife.'--p. 110. Samor was that sole survivor-stunned and bewildered for the moment by the harrowing scene which he bad so miraculously passed unhurt. Within the mysterious ring of Stonehenge he lies down and collects his thoughts; breathing his soul in prayer he solemnly devotes himself to the cause of his country, and the waging of interminable war against the Saxons. His heart then turns to bis wife and family, and he hurries homeward—here too the hand of fate was heavy on him; he sees the White Horse banner floating on the walls of the Bright City-bis palace plundered, bis wife and children all gone; and from a dying daughter he learns the whole dismal tragedy. Mr. Milman, as usual, has sunk much below himself in the unreasonable speech of this expiring child; but he rises
to his proper level in the complete desolation, the undaunted bearing, the tender heart, the pious resignation of his hero. Samor buries his daughter on the margin of the Severn,
clos'd that mournful office, nearing fast
He sprang, and pass'd to Severn's western shore.'-p. 130. With this extract, which sets the hero forward upon his glorious task, we close our analysis of the poem. To pursue it at the length, which we have hitherto allowed ourselves, would be to trespass far beyond the limits of a single article, and we feel at the same time, that the substantial purposes of criticism cannot be answered by running over it in a more superficial manner. The progress, however, which we have already made will serve to give the reader an adequate conception of the whole poem, though we are bound to state, in justice both to the public and Mr. Milman, that the opening books are much the least interesting of all, as far as relates to the characters and the story. The detailed remarks too, which we have made with friendly, but entire freedom, while they will establish, we would hope, some general principles of criticism, will sufficiently apprise our readers of the judgment which we are disposed to pass on the poem. After so much censure it would be idle to pronounce sentence of unqualified approbation; but we thank Mr. Milman sincerely for much pleasure. There is scarcely a page of the book, which does not testify that he is a poet of no ordinary, powers. Every one of them exhibits some beautiful expression, some pathetic turn, some original thought, or some striking image. This is Mr. Milman's praise, and we bestow it on him gladly; but after all, if his ambition be what it ought to be, this will be but unsatisfactory; for all these things do not suffice to make a good poem. Samor is not a good poem, and we are less confident now, than on a former occasion, that its author ever will produce one, because he is now much older, and we fear, more hardened in unre pented error. His faults are numerous and important; the parts of the poem
: are not enough blended together, but each book seems more like an independent episode than a necessary link in a continuous narration: the action is too much frittered away in preparation, the inediæ res too long delayed; probability in time, place and event 100 litile regarded;. 100 much is borrowed from the stores of others; we trace from ancients and moderns single phrases, whole lines, long passages, entire incidents, the most important characters. But all these faults, heavy as they are, we forbear lo insist on, for they are all swallowed up by one leviathan, which demands the whole of the little space now left us.
When Mr. Milman was last before us, we were not slow to bestow upon him the praise which he did indeed so amply merit, but we then remarked on the faults of his style. Poets perhaps feel a pride in rejecting the admonitions of critics; and Mr. Milman bas exceeded himself on the present occasion in the exuberant defects of his own níanner. We desire not to be considered as exaggerating our expressions beyond our sober conviction, or merely traning a pointed period, when we say that in this respect Samor exhibits all that is affected in language, strange even to solecism in usage, involved in construction, and meretricious in ornament. We have really sometimes been al a loss how to extricate the commopest idea from the labyrinth of words in which it is lost. Mr. Milman may be, we are sure that he is, gifted with unusual powers, but this fault is a weight, that might over-burthen and keep down the pinions of an eagle : while the clothing of his thoughts is such as it now is, he never can aspire to the fame of a true poet. Fasbion may give his writings a short-lived currency now, and the curious critic dwell on his scattered beauties hereafter, but he never will, we are morally sure, pass in ora hominum, and become, like the real poet, more read and more loved in each succeeding age. These are predictions which he may disbelieve, or disregard, content with that reputation for talent which he has already secured ; but the laws of criticism are not conventional; if they were, talent might trample on them; they are the laws of nature, and we only the expounders of them. The laws, therefore, are unerring, and we, in our department, take the best mode of avoiding error by constant reference to the great high-priests, who have most successfully and zealously ministered at her altar. Mr. Milman may safely perbaps deny our jurisdiction; let him then appeal to Homer, to Virgil, and to Milton, by whom we are willing to be corrected. He will find in then as much richness and variety, as much ornament as in Samor; but he will find in them (what will be sought in vain in Samor) a grand simplicity pervading and harmonizing the whole, an agreenient of the language with the thought, a freedom from strain and labour ; every thing flowing as of course and incident to