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task; it is chiefly anonymous, and confined to short disquisitions in periodical journals. As no system is digested, and no principles recurred to, little preparation or knowledge is deemed necessary. The lawyer steals an evening from his brief, the merchant from his accounts; the fine gentleman sacrifices a rout or an opera. We intend to speak disrespectfully of no one, but it is manifestly very unlikely that such men should be fitted to fulfil the task they assume according to the description above given of it-but even if they were, it would not answer the purpose with which they undertake ' it, so to fulfil it. They are in general men of brilliant talents; and

they become critics to display those talents in the manner most attractive to the circle in which they move. This is not to be done. by minute and even verbal examination, by analysis, or by recurrence to standards and fixed principles; such criticism would have very little chance of being read with delight discipularum inter cathedras, or of being carried home, and noted down from the

persıtlante' conversation of our literary parties. The criticism, therefore, of the present day, as might be expected, dwells chiefly on topics more attractive in themselves, and which those who profess the art are more qualified to treat in an attractive manner. Thus we have highly wrought, and not very slort descriptions of poetry in general, ingenious theories respecting poetic power, genius and association, parallels drawn, and contrasts exhibited between the sister arts; rapturous declamations on fancy, the picturesque, natural beauty, and harmony; general comparisons between the fables of different poems, and the characteristic qualities of different poets, with an artful selection either of the best or worst passages of the work under consideration. It is not surprising that these critiques should be commonly very entertaining, for they are commonly the production of ingenious men writing upon elegant and interesting subjects, subjects too, be it always remembered, upon which it only requires talent to write brilliant and plausible essays. They have too another charm, in the exact quantity of metaphysical knowledge which they presuppose or require in the reader. Of all the gratifications of intellectual vanity and indolence with which the literature and philosophy of the present day abound, there is none so soothing and delicious to minds elegantly informed but not soundly disciplined, as to play upon the surface of metaphysics.

But entertaining as such critiques certainly are, it is manifest that they contribute very slightly to the true ends of criticism; they do not regulate or improve the taste either of the public or the poet. The public, flattered and entertained as it is for a time, is not deceived in the main; it is too plain for the dullest not to see that those who fill the chair of criticism teach none of its princi

ples,

ples, and lay down no rules by which poetry in general is to be judged ; the consequence is that they are read and admired, but neither consulted nor remembered. This is not the worst however; for criticism might act indirectly with more force even than by immediate application to the public: if those who write poetry were taught to do so with a proper knowledge of the principles of their art, and with a due observance of them, the taste of those who read it could not long be very uncultivated. But how should the

genus irritabile respect the opinions of the modern critic? They see in him in general an ambitious rival, one who approaches them most injudiciously on their own ground, who is not intent upon laying before the world a fair examination of their faults and beauties, but solicitous only that the critique should be at least as shining and poetical as the poem itself.

It would be imprudent probably, and certainly would be invidious for us to insist at greater length upon this irrelevancy of matter, and false brilliance of manner in niodern criticism ; but we must briefly notice two errors flowing from them which, as we think, characterise modern poems and poets. As criticism becomes lowly rated, all rules become equally neglected; the only thing sought after is the exhibition of talent; point out to a poet a tame passage in this page, and he answers with a beautiful one in the next; in short no one aims at producing a good and perfect poem, the monumentum ære perennius, which former bards delighted to consume a life in building up; but to give proof by brilliant flashes that he might if he pleased have written such a poem.

The other error is a natural one, but it lies at the root of all poetical criticism-it is this, that the poet learns to believe no one but himself or a brother poet competent to judge of his productions; it is, according to his argument, a question of feeling and power, and he who neither feels so acutely, nor wields such mental energies as his own, can be no proper censor of the propriety of their joint result. Now we hate the cant of criticism as much as any wit or poet of any age or nation, and we certainly shall hardly be accused of a desire to shelter its abuses, or excuse the follies of individual critics; but of criticism itself rightly employed, we will say that the poet who denies its jurisdiction has never thoroughly considered, and does not rightly understand, the real nature of the poetic character.

We now proceed to a task, perhaps too long delayed—an examination of the poem before us. Mr. Milman's choice of a subject would have been in many respects a happy one, if all our impressions from history did not run counter to the truth of its catastrophe. He celebrates the defeat and expulsion of the Saxon invaders from this country with the re-establishment of the British monarchy. His

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hero is a Briton chief, the Lord of Gloucester, or the Bright City, and the interest of the poem requires that we should place our affections on the British side. This we are well enough disposed to do; for it is a very curious fact, (an instance perhaps of the force of names and words,) that even to this day, a motley race as we are of Saxons, Angles, Danes and Normans, any thing but Britons, we indentify ourselves entirely with these last in reading our early history, and regard the former as invaders and conquerors with whom we have no connection. So far the subject of Samor is well chosen; but unfortunately we have been familiar from our earliest years with Saxon victories and British defeats; and though we find upon examination that the struggle was long and severe, we know that the issue approached nearly to the extermination of the Britons. It is impossible therefore not to feel something unsatisfactory and imperfect in the close of the story ;-those with whom we sympathize are victorious and exult in the return of peace and freedom--we stand by them in their triumph, like superior beings, and know that their joys are delusive, and their calamities respited only for a moment. The

poem opens at Troynovant, on the return of the Saxons under Hengist and Horsa from a successful expedition against the Picts. The degenerate King Vortigern receives them with a prodigal welcome, and conducts the chiefs to a banquet in the palace. This is described with perhaps somewhat too much of oriental magnificence; but the Saxon warriors and British courtiers, the band of effeminate and parasite court bards, and the white-haired Aneurin shedding indignant tears at the prostitution of his art, and degradation of his country, are spiritedly contrasted. At the close of a war-song Rowena enters the hall—she is a very important personage in the poem, and Mr. Milman has lavished on her in this and many other places all the richness of his fancy and language.

• Sudden came floating through the hall an air
So strangely sweet, the o’erwrought sense scarce felt
It's rich excess of pleasure ; softer sounds
Melt never on the enchanted midnight cool,
By haunted spring, where elfin dancers trace
Green circlets on the moon-light dews, nor lull
Becalmed mariner from rocks, where basks
At summer noon the sea-maid, he bis oar
Breathless suspends, and motionless his bark
Sleeps on the sleeping waters. Now the notes
So gently died away, the silence seemed
Melodious; merry now and light and blithe
They danced on air; anon ca me tripping forth
In frolic grace a maiden troop, their locks

Flower

Flower-wreath’d, their snowy robes from clasped zone
Fell careless drooping, quick their glittering feet
Glanced o'er the pavement. Then the pomp of sound
Swell’d up and mounted; as the stately swan,
Her milk-white neck embower'd in arching spray,
Queens it along the waters, entered in
The ļofty hall a shape so fair, it lulld
The music into silence, yet itself
Pour'd out, prolonging the soft extacy,
The trembling and the touching of sweet sound.
Her grace of motion and of look, the smooth
And swimming majesty of step and tread,
The symmetry of form and feature, set
The soul afloat, even like delicious airs
Of flute or harp; as though she trod from earth
And round her wore an emanating cloud
Of harmony, the lady mov'd. Too proud
For less than absolute command, too soft
For aught bat gentle amorous thought; her hair
Cluster'd, as from an orb of gold cast out
A dazzling and o'er-pow'ring radiance, save
Here and there on her snowy neck reposed
In a sooth'd brilliance some thin wandering tress.
The azure flashing of her eye was fring’d
With virgin meekness, and her tread, that seem'd
Earth to disdain, as softly fell on it,
As the light dew-shower on a tuft of flowers.
The soul within seem'd feasting on high thoughts,
That to the outward form and feature gave
A loveliness of scorn, scorn that to feel

Was bliss, was sweet indulgence.'-pp. 6—8.
It must not be supposed that we give our unqualified applause
to this passage; we object to the diction in many parts of it; (but
this is an old quarrel between Mr. Milman and ourselves, upon
which we will say a few words hereafter ;) we think moreover that
there is some little inconsistency in the conception of the character.
But its principal fault as a composition is an injudicious mix-
ture of the beauty which is merely external, with that which is to
be inferred from the effects it produces, or the qualities it is said
to express. It is very possible to give the liveliest idea of beauty
without the definite drawing of a single feature, or the mention of
any merely corporeal attribute, such as shape, or colour; it is
equally possible to invert the mode of description: but it is very
seldom that the two can be well mixed, at least in the present in-
stance they are jumbled together in most unaccommodating masses.

As every one knows, the weak and passionate Vortigern is subdued by this beautiful apparition, who, after pledging his health,

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instantly retires as she came. The King impatiently inquires who and whence she is, and learns from Hengist that she is his daughter. Upon

this a conversation ensues between them apart, and ends with the proclamation of Hengist. King of Kent by the infatuated monarch. The Saxons receive it with a clamorous shout of joy, and drain their goblets to the new King—but this introduces to us the hero of the poem in a noble manner. Nothing can be more happy in conception or execution—the language and metre have a solemn and placid dignity, without effort, involution, or glitter—the ideas are correspondent, and the precise effect is produced, which was intended, of impressing us from the tirst moment with a lofty idea of Samor.

• As mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
Half-stood, half-floated on his ancle plumes
Outsivelling, while the bright face on his shield
Look'd into stone the raging fray; so rose,
But with no magic arms, wearing alone
Th' appalling and control of his firm look,
The solemn indignation of his brow,
The Briton Samor: at his rising, awe
Went forth, and all the riotous hall was mute;
But like unruffled summer waters flow'd

His speech, and courtly reverence smooth'd its tone.'-p.11. The speech which follows is not unworthy of the introduction, neither vaunting nor (which is Mr. Milman's usual fault) too long; but simple, dignified and firm ; denying the king's right to give any part of the island, which was his only to govern, and disclaiıning any allegiance to the new chief. At the close he leaves the hall, attended by the nobler part of the British courtiers. Vortigern makes light of the threatened opposition; he exclaims contemptuously,

• Whom the flax binds not, must the iron gyve.' As he leaves the banquet, Samor encounters him; his open and animated remonstrances joined with the most earnest supplications rouse in the King the dormant virtues of the warrior and patriot, and in the enthusiasm of the moment he determines on renouncing the dishonourable alliance with the Saxon. The resolution has hardly passed his lips, when the fatal beauty arrives in her bridal car, and the poet tells us the issue in a single line,

• Alone she came-alone she went not on.' The second book opens with another of the thousand and one imitations of the Council of Kings in the Iliad, and we are sorry, principally on that account, that Mr. Milman should have thought it necessary to the conduct of the story. There is nothing that so

disturb

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