Obrazy na stronie
PDF

The earliest and still the most considerable portion of MR BRowNING's poetry is cast in a dramatic form. Two of his tragedies, Strafford (1837) and The Blot on the Scutcheon (1843), have been brought on the stage with partial success. The first work of Mr Browning—produced in his twenty-third year—was a philosophical poem, Paracelsus. A succession of small volumes, quaintly and inscrutably called Bells and Pomegranates, have since proceeded from his pen; one of which, Pipi Passes, has been the most popular of his poems. The other works of the poet are—Sordello, Colombe's Birth-day, The Soul's Tragedy, Luria, The Return of the Druses, King Victor and King Charles, Dramatic Sketches, Romances, and Lyrics, Christmas Eve and Easter Day, &c. These have been collected and republished in two volumes. In 1855 Mr Browning issued two more volumes, Men and Women, consisting chiefly of poems suggested by scenes, studies, and pictures in Italy. A fertile and various author, with high and generous aims, Mr Browning has proved his poetic power alike in thought, description, passion, and character, but the effect of even his happiest performances is marred by obscurity, by eccentricities of style and expression, or by the incongruous mixture of familiar phrases and Hudibrastic rhymes with grave thoughts and metaphysical speculation. Of Mr Browning's many descriptions of the ‘sunny south, the following is a favourable specimen, and Miss Mitford states that it was admired by Mr Ruskin for its exceeding truthfulness:

[Picture of the Grape Harvest.]

But to-day not a boat reached Salerno,
So back to a man
Came our friends, with whose help in the vineyards
Grape-harvest began:
In the vat half-way up in our house-side
Like blood the juice spins,
While your brother all bare-legged is dancing
Till breathless he grins
Dead-beaten, in effort on effort
To keep the grapes under,
For still when he seems all but master
In pours the fresh plunder
From girls who keep coming and going
With basket on shoulder,
And eyes shut against the rain's driving,
Your girls that are older—
For under the hedges of aloe,
And where, on its bed
Of the orchard's black mould, the love-apple
Lies pulpy and red,
All the young ones are kneeling and filling
Their laps with the snails
Tempted out by the first rainy weather—
Your best of regales
As to-night will be proved to my sorrow,
When supping in state,
We shall feast our grape-gleaners—two dozen,
Three over one plate—
Macaroni, so tempting to swallow,
In slippery strings,
And gourds fried in great purple slices,
That colour of kings.
Meantime, see the grape-bunch they've brought
you—
The rain-water slips
O'er the heavy blue bloom on each globe
Which the wasp to your lips
Still follows with fretful persistence.
Nay, taste while awake,
This half of a curd-white smooth cheese-ball,
...that peels, flake by flake,

Like an onion's, each smoother and whiter;
Next sip this weak wine
From the thin green glass flask, with its stopper,
A leaf of the vine;
And end with the prickly pear's red flesh,
That leaves through its juice
The stony black seeds on your pearl teeth.

Mr Browning's reasoning or moralising vein is seen in this extract :

[From Old Pictures in Florence.]

Is it true, we are now, and shall be hereafter,
And what—is depending on life's one minute?
Hails heavenly cheer or infernal laughter
Our first step out of the gulf or in it?
And man, this step within his endeavour,
His face have no more play and action
Than joy which is crystallised for ever,
Or grief, an eternal petrifaction :

On which I conclude, that the early painters,
To cries of ‘Greek art, and what more wish you?”
Replied: “Become now self-acquainters,
And paint man, man—whatever the issue !
Make the hopes shine through the flesh they fray,
New fears aggrandise the rags and tatters.
So bring the invisible full into play,
Let the visible go to the dogs—what matters?”

Give these, I say, full honour and glory
For daring so much, before they well did it.
The first of the new, in our race's story,
Beats the last of the old, ’tis no idle quiddit.
The worthies began a revolution
Which if on the earth we intend to acknowledge,
Honour them now-ends my allocution-
Nor confer our degree when the folks leave college.

There's a fancy some lean to, and others hate-
That, when this life is ended, begins
New work for the soul in another state,
Where it strives and gets weary, loses and wins—
Where the strong and the weak, this world's congeries,
Repeat in large what they practised in small,
Through life after life in unlimited series;
Only the scale's to be changed, that's all.

Yet I hardly know. When a soul has seen By the means of evil that good is best,

And through earth and its noise, what is heaven's |

Serene-
When its faith in the same has stood the test-

Why, the child grown man, you burn the rod,
The uses of labour are surely done.

There remaineth a rest for the people of God,
And I have had troubles enough for one.

MR HoRNE (born in London in 1803) is the author of several dramatic pieces–Cosmo de Medici, The Death of Marlowe, Gregory the Seventh, &c.; also of an epic poem, Orion, 1843; and of numerous essays and criticisms on art, the drama, and general literature. Two volumes of these were published in 1844, under the title of A New Spirit of the Age, containing biographical and critical sketches of living authors. The poem of Orion, though not strictly an epic, and deficient in action, is imbued with classic and poetic feeling, and is more carefully finished than either Festus or Paracelsus. A volume of Ballad Romances, by Mr Horne (1846), also possesses no ordinary merit. We may note that Orion was published at the price of one farthing, ‘a price placed upon it as a sarcasm upon the low estimation into which epic

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

Shortly afterwards he became connected with the Morning Chronicle daily journal, and con

poems.

tinued in this laborious service for nine years. In 1840, he published The Hope of the World, a poem in verse, of the style of Pope and Goldsmith. In 1842, appeared The Salamandrine, a poetical romance founded on the Rosicrucian system, which supplied Pope with the inimitable aërial personages of his Rape of the Lock. The Salamandrine is the most finished of Dr Mackay's works, and has passed through several editions. From 1844 to 1847, our author conducted a Scottish newspaper, The Glasgow Argus, and while resident in the north, he received the honorary distinction of LL.D. from the university of Glasgow. Returning to London, he resumed his connection with the metropolitan press, and was for several years editor of the Illustrated London News, in the columns of which many of his poetical pieces first appeared. His collected works, in addition to those already enumerated, consist of Legends of the Isles, 1845; Voices from the Crowd, 1846; Voices from the Mountains, 1847; Town Lyrics, 1848; Egeria, or the Spirit of Nature, 1850; The Lump of Gold, &c., 1856; Songs for Music, 1857; Under Green Leaves, 1858. Two prose works also proceeded from the fertile pen of Dr Mackay-The

Thames and its Tributaries, two volumes, 1840; and Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, two volumes, 1852. In 1852, Dr £ made a tour in America, and delivered a course of lectures on poetry, which he has repeated in this country. His transatlantic impressions he has embodied in two volumes of lively description, bearing the title of Life and Liberty in America. The poet, we may add, is a native of Perth, born in 1812, while his father, an officer in the army, was on recruiting service. He was in infancy removed to London, and five years of his youth were spent in Belgium.

[Apologue from “Egeria.'] In ancient time, two acorns, in their cups, Shaken by winds and ripeness from the tree, Dropped side by side into the ferns and grass: ‘Where have I fallen—to what base region come?’ Exclaimed the one. ‘The joyous breeze no more Rocks me to slumber on the sheltering bough; The sunlight streams no longer on my face; I look no more from altitudes serene Upon the world reposing far below; Its plains, its hills, its rivers and its woods. To me the nightingale sings hymns no more; But I am made companion of the worm, And rot on the chill earth. Around me grow Nothing but useless weeds, and grass, and fern, Unfit to hold companionship with me. Ah, me! most wretched ! rain, and frost, and dew, And all the pangs and penalties of earth, Corrupt me where I lie-degenerate.’ And thus the acorn made its daily moan. The other raised no murmur of complaint, And looked with no contempt upon the grass, Nor called the branching fern a worthless weed, Nor scorned the woodland flowers that round it blew. All silently and piously it lay Upon the kindly bosom of the earth. It blessed the warmth with which the noonday sun Made fruitful all the ground; it loved the dews, The moonlight and the snow, the frost and rain, And all the change of seasons as they passed. It sank into the bosom of the soil: The bursting life, enclosed within its husk, Broke through its fetters; it extended roots, And twined them freely in the grateful ground; It sprouted up, and looked upon the light; The sunshine fed it; the embracing air Endowed it with vitality and strength; The rains of heaven supplied it nourishment, And so from month to month, and year to year It grew in beauty and in usefulness, Until its large circumference enclosed Shelter for flocks and herds; until its boughs Afforded homes for happy multitudes, The dormouse, and the chaffinch, and the jay, And countless myriads of minuter life; Until its bole, too vast for the embrace Of human arms, stood in the forest depths, The model and the glory of the wood: Its sister-acorn perished in its pride.

Street Companions. [From Town Lyrics.]

Whene'er through Gray's Inn porch I stray,
I meet a spirit by the way;
He wanders with me all alone,
And talks with me in under-tone.

The crowd is busy seeking gold,
It cannot see what I behold;
I and the spirit pass along

Unknown, unnoticed, in the throng.

[graphic]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

Virginia, and the prophecy of Capys. The style is homely, abrupt, and energetic, carrying us along like the exciting narratives of Scott, and presenting brief but striking pictures of local scenery and manners. The incidents and characters, so powerfully delineated, were hallowed in the imagination by their antiquity and heroism. “The whole life and meaning of the early heroes of Rome, says the enthusiastic Professor Wilson, “are represented in the few isolated events and characters which have come down; and what a source of picturesque exaggeration to these events and characters there is in the total want of all connected history! They have thus acquired a pregnancy of meaning which renders them the richest subjects of poetic contemplation; and to evolve the sentiment they embody in any form we choose, is a proper exercise of the fancy. For the same reason, is not the history which is freest of the interpreting reflection that characterises most modern histories, and presents most strictly the naked incident, always that which affords the best, and, as literature shews, the most frequent subjects of imagination? The Roman character is highly poetical—bold, brave, and independent—devoid of art or subtlety—full of faith and hope-devoted to the cause of duty, as comprised in the two great points of reverence for the gods and love of country. Shakspeare saw its fitness for the drama; and these Lays of Ancient Rome are, in their way and degree, a further illustration of the truth. Mr Macaulay might have taken, and, we trust, will yet take, wider ground; but what he has done, he has done nobly, and like “an antique Roman.”” Previous to this, during his collegiate career, the poet-historian had shewn his fitness to deal with picturesque incidents and characters in history. His noble ballads, Ivry, a Song of the Huguenots, and The Armada, a Fragment, are unsurpassed in spirit and grandeur even by the battle-pieces of Scott. A few facts and dates in the life of this eminent person may be here introduced. The ancestors of Lord Macaulay were long settled in the island of Lewis, Ross-shire. His grandfather, the Rev. John Macaulay, was successively minister of South Uist, of Lismore, of Inverary, and of Cardross in Dumbartonshire. In Inverary, he met with Johnson and Boswell on their return from the Hebrides in the autumn of 1773. He died at Cardross in 1789. Two years previous to his death, a daughter of Mr Macaulay was married to Thomas Babington, Esq., of Rothley Temple, Leicestershire—many years the representative of Leicester in parliament—and thus an English connection was formed from which, at a subsequent period, Lord Macaulay derived the scene of his birth, his Christian name, and many of his early associations. Zachary Macaulay, son of the Scottish minister, was sent when a boy to the West Indies. He was disgusted with the state of slavery in Jamaica, and afterwards, on his return to Great Britain, became an active associate of Clarkson and Wilberforce in procuring the abolition of that infamous traffic. He married Selina, daughter of Mr Thomas Mills, a bookseller in Bristol, and had, with other children, a son, Thomas Babington, born at Rothley Temple on the 25th of October 1800. In 1818 Mr T. B. Macaulay was entered of Trinity College, Cambridge; in 1821 he was elected to a Craven scholarship, took his degree as B.A. in 1822, became fellow of his college in 1824, and M.A. in 1825. He had by this time distinguished himself by his classic attainments, and by contributions to the Etonian and Knight's Quarterly Magazine, and

* Wilson's Works, vol. vii. p. 896.

in August 1825 appeared his celebrated article on Milton in the Edinburgh Review. This essay, though afterwards condemned by its author as ‘containing scarcely a paragraph such as his matured judgment approved, and as “overloaded with gaudy and ungraceful ornament, arrested public attention in no ordinary degree, and was hailed, as it proved to be, the precursor of a series of brilliant contributions to our critical literature. Having studied at Lincoln's Inn, Mr Macaulay was called to the bar in 1826. In 1830 he commenced his parliamentary

career, first as member for the borough of Calne, and afterwards, from December 1832 until 1834, as member for Leeds. He resigned his seat in order to proceed to India as legal adviser to the Supreme Council of Calcutta. In Calcutta, he was placed at the head of the commission for the reform of East India legislation. This appointment led to the study of Indian history and affairs, and enabled Mr Macaulay to write his striking and popular essays on Lord Clive (1840) and Warren Hastings (1841). In 1839 he had been triumphantly and almost without expense returned to parliament by the citizens of Edinburgh, and he held his seat until 1847. In the administration of Lord Melbourne, he filled the office of secretary at war, and in that of Lord John Russell, paymaster of the forces. His personal independence of character is said to have rendered him somewhat unaccommodating to certain of his constituents; his support of the Maynooth grant was resented by others; and his general political principles, so decidedly liberal, and so strongly and eloquently expressed, were opposed to the sentiments of the Conservative citizens of Edinburgh. Thus a combination of parties was formed against him, and it proved successful. He was rejected by the constituency; but at a subsequent period, in 1852, Mr Macaulay was re-elected for Edinburgh without solicitation or canvass. The citizens thus redeemed the error which had lowered them in the eyes of all Europe. Mr Macaulay's health, however, had begun to fail; he was #able

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

to address public assemblies without pain and inconvenience, and he withdrew from parliament in January 1856. In September 1857 he was elevated to the peerage as Baron Macaulay of Rothley Temple, in the county of Leicester. The prose works of Lord Macaulay will be afterwards noticed. From his ballads we subjoin a few specimens. But the ballads must be read continuously, to be properly appreciated; for their merit does not lie in particular passages, but in the rapid and progressive interest of the story, and the Roman spirit and bravery which animate the whole. The following are parts of the first Lay:

[The Desolation of the Cities whose Warriors have marched against Rome.]

Tall are the oaks whose acorns
Drop in dark Auser's rill;
Fat are the stags that champ the boughs
Of the Ciminian hill;
Beyond all streams, Clitumnus
Is to the herdsman dear;
Best of all pools the fowler loves,
The great Wolsinian mere.

But now no stroke of woodman
Is heard by Auser's rill;
No hunter tracks the stag's green path
Up the Ciminian hill;
Unwatched along Clitumnus
Grazes the milk-white steer;
Unharmed the water-fowl may dip
In the Wolsinian mere.

The harvests of Arretium,
This year old men shall reap;
This year young boys in Umbro
Shall plunge the struggling sheep;
And in the vats of Luna,
This year the must shall foam
Round the white feet of laughing girls,
Whose sires have marched to Rome.

[Horatius offers to defend the Bridge.]

Then out spake brave Horatius,
The captain of the gate:
‘To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers,
And the temples of his gods,

“And for the tender mother
Who dandled him to rest,
And for the wife who nurses
His baby at her breast,
And for the holy maidens
Who feed the eternal flame,
To save them from false Sextus
That wrought the deed of shame?

‘Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul,
With all the speed ye may;
I, with two more to help me,
Will hold the foe in play.
In yon straight path a thousand
May well be stopped by three.
Now, who will stand on either hand, --
And keep the bridge with me?’ * - / --

Then out spake Spurius Lartius;
A Ramnian proud was he:

‘Lo, I will stand at thy right hand,

0 And keep the bridge with thee.’

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »