Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

the bound of our ambition-like them live, depicted a white urn delicately stitched with die, and be forgotten. The dreamy silence shining silk, and long green threads susof those low damp fields increases our me- pended over it, in mockery of its drooping lancholy, and the pale and mournful aspect branches. But above all, we have seen in of the willow, prematurely hoary, becomes the square ells of garden fronting those tall an emblem of our own fate and condition. thin dwellings about town, where a squeezed It grows not erect and stately like the stern and narrow neighbour jostles up on each elm, or bold and free like the waving ash, side, leaving just room enough for a tin vebut stooping obliquely over the stream, or, randah, but no space to breathe or move, shrinking from its companions with distorted still less to think or feel ;-we have seen, limbs, tells to the morbid and imaginative laden with a summer's dust, the countless beholder, a sad tale of early blight, or the little stunted weeping willows that throw rough dealing of rude and adverse winds. aloft, as if in search of purer air, their slenThe loiterer still lingers, loath to leave a spot der, helpless arms, and would weep, if they where one bitter root may yet remain unap- could, yea, cry aloud, at this merciless malpropriated. He listens while he lingers, and appropriation of their defenceless beauty. thinks he hears the willow whispering its These impressions must therefore necessorrows to the passing gale. The gale sarily be obliterated, and others, less vulgar blows more freshly, and the willow then and profane, be deeply impressed upon the seems to sigh and shiver with the newly mind, before the weeping willow can be esawakened agonies of despair.

tablished in that rank which it deserves to Thus can the distorted eye of melancholy hold amongst objects whose general assolook on every object with a glass of its own ciations are poetical.* colouring, and thus it is possible one of our Turning from the consideration of such most common and unimportant trees, natu- trees as belong to the forest, the field, or the rally growing in the familiar walks of man, grove, to those which are reared and cultiin the small enclosure near his door, the vated for domestic purposes; we find, even green paddock or the luxuriant meadow, here, a world of ideas and associations, may have acquired by the sanction of feel- which, if not highly poetical, are fraught ing, not of reason, its peculiar character as with the satisfaction of home comforts, and an emblem of sorrow and gloom.

the interest of local attachments. In traThe weeping willow, as being more grace- velling through a fertile country, thickly peofully mournful, might very properly have pled, not with the haggard, rude, or careclaimed that attention which has been given less-looking labourers at the loom, but with to the common and plebeian members of its a quiet and peaceful peasantry, whose defamily; but the weeping willow, while it light is in the gardens, the fields, and the has in this country fewer natural associa- flocks which their fathers tended before them, tions, is burdened and robbed of its poetic how beautiful, in the season of their bloscharacter by a great number of such as are som, are the numerous orchards, neatly neither natural nor pleasing. Could we fenced in, and studding the landscape all think of this elegant and picturesque tree over with little islands of rich promise, where only in its most appropriate situation, droop- the brightest tints of the rose, and the fairest ing over the tomb of Napoleon, or could we of the lily, mingle with odorous perfume in have beheld this tomb itself

, without its in- all the luxuriant profusion of nature! Again, finitely multiplied representations in poonah when the harvest is over, and the golden and every other kind of painting, we might fruit

, perfected by a summer's sun, is susthen have enjoyed ideas and sensations con- pended in variegated clusters from every nected with it of the most touching and ex- bough, how delightful is the contemplation quisite nature. But, alas! our first failure in drawing has been upon the dangling

'It is a fact now generally known, that the first weepboughs of the weeping willow; our first son- ing willow_grown in England, was planted in Pope's net has been addressed to this pathetic tree; from Turkey, with a present from his friend, Lady Mary

garden at Twickenham, and is said to have been sent our first flourish in fancy needle-work has Wordley Montague.

[ocr errors]

а

of that rural and picturesque scene!-how resque form presents, that we naturally consweetly the ideas it presents to the mind are nect with this plant the ideas of solemnity blended with our love of nature and natural which are awakened by reflecting on the enjoyments, and our gratitude for the boun- awful lapse of time. The ivy, too, is chiefly ty and goodness of a gracious Providence. seen upon the walls of religious houses,

Descending to the class of inferior trees, or either perfect or ruinous, where its heavy rather plants, our poetical associations in- clusters of matted leaves, with their deep crease in proportion as these are more pic-shadow, afford a shelter and a hiding place turesque, graceful, or parasitical; and con- for the bat and the owl, and, in the ideas of sequently, are more easily woven into the the irrational or the too imaginative, for landscape, either real or imaginary, which other less corporeal beings that flit about in forms the subject of contemplation. Amongst the dusky hours of night. Thus, the ivy acsuch, the common wild heath is by no means quires a character of mystery and gloom, the least important; nor are we, on first con- perhaps, even more poetical than that which sideration, aware for how large a propor-strikes us when we see its glittering sprays tion of our admiration of mountain scenery glancing in the clear light of day, or waving we are indebted to the rich purple hue which in the wind around the gray turrets of the is thrown by this plant over the rugged sides ruin, and suggesting that simile which has of the hills, otherwise too cold and stony in been so frequently the poet's theme, of light their aspect to gratify the eye. With the words and jocund smiles assumed by the idea of the heath we connect the path of the broken-hearted to conceal the withering of lonely traveller, or the silence of untrodden the blighted soul. wilds; the haunt of the timid moor fowl, the It would be useless to proceed farther hum of the wandering bee, or the gush of with this minute examination of objects, to unseen water in the deep ravines of the each of which a volume of relative ideas mountains, working its way amongst the might be appropriated. A few examples rocks, through moss, and fern, and matted are sufficient to prove, that with this class weeds, until at length it sparkles up in the of natural productions, the great majority clear sun-shine, and then goes dancing, and of minds are the same in their associations. leaping, yet ever murmuring, like a pleased Would it might prove something better than but fretful child, on-on towards the bosom a mockery of the loveliness of nature, thus of the silent lake below.

to examine its component parts, and ask But above all other vegetable productions, why each is charming! Far more delightneither trees nor flowers excepted, the ivy is ful would be the task of expatiating upon perhaps the most poetical. And why? not the whole, of roaming at will upon the hills merely because its leaves are “never sere," and through the woods, and embracing at nor because it hangs in fanciful festoons, one view, in one ecstatic thought, the unglittering yet gloomy, playful yet sad; but speakable harmony which reigns through because it does what so few things in nature the creation. The pine, the oak, and the will do-it clings to, and beautifies the ruin elm, may be magnificent in themselves-it shrinks not from the fallen column-it the willow, the heath, and the ivy, may each covers with its close embrace the rugged present a picture to the imagination; but face of desolation, and conceals beneath its what are these considered separately, com

rich and shining mantle the ravages made pared with the ever-varying combination of .. by the hand of time—the wreck which the form and colour, majesty and grace, pretempest has wrought.

sented by the forest, or the woodland, the Besides this highly poetical idea, which sloping banks of the river, or the leafy dell, forces itself upon every feeling mind, the ivy where the round and the massive figures has other associations, deeply interesting in are broken by the spiral stem or the feathery their character. It requires so many years foliage that trembles in the passing galeto bring it to the perfection necessary for where the hues that are most vivid, or most those masses of foliage, and dark recesses delicate, stand forth in clear contrast from the of mysterious gloom, which its most pictu-depths of sombre shade-where every pro

[ocr errors]

jecting rock and rugged cleft is fringed thence a never-failing supply of the purest with a curtain of green tracery, and every poetical enjoyment. glassy stream reflects again, in its stainless mirror, the variety and the magnificence of the surrounding groves? Yet what are words to tell of the perfection of nature, the glories that lie scattered even in our daily THE POETRY OF ANIMALS. path? And what are we, that we should pursue the sordid avocations of life without While flowers, and trees, and plants in pausing to admire ?

general afford an immense fund of interest In order that the harmony of sweet sounds to the contemplative beholder, the animal may be distinctly perceived and accommo- kingdom, yet scarcely touched upon in these dated to the taste, there must be a peculiar pages, is, perhaps, equally fertile in poetical formation of the human ear; nor is it possi- associations. From the reflections of the ble for the poetry of any object, even the melancholy Jacques upon the wounded most beautiful in nature, to be felt or under deer, down to the pretty nursery fable of stood without an answering chord in the “ The Babes in the Wood,” the same natuhuman heart. There are many rational ral desire to associate with our own the beings, worthy and estimable in their way, habits and feelings of the more sensitive and altogether insensible to the unseen or spirit- amiable of the inferior animals is observaual charm which lies in almost every subject ble, as well in the productions of the subliof intellectual contemplation ; who gaze mest, as the simplest poet. upon the ivy-mantled ruin, and behold no

Burns? " Address to a Mouse," proves to thing more than gray walls with a partial us with how much genuine pathos a familiar covering of green, like the man so aptly and ordinary subject may be invested. No described by Wordsworth, when he

says

mind which had never bathed in the fountain

of poetry itself-whose remotest attributes "The primrose by the water's brim,

had not been imbued with this ethereal prinA yellow primrose was to him,

ciple as with a living fire, could have venAnd it was nothing more."

tured upon such a theme. In common hands, But there are others, whether happier in a moral drawn from a mouse, and clothed in this state of being it might not be easy to the language of verse, would have been prove, but certainly more capable of intense little better than a burlesque, or a baby's and refined enjoyment, who, accustomed to song at best; but in these beautiful and live in a world of thought, and to derive touching lines, so perfect is the adaptation their happiness from remote and impalpable of the language to the subject—so evident, essences of things, rather than from things without ostentation, the deep feeling of the themselves, cannot look on nature, nor be- bard himself, that the moral flows in with hold any object with which poetical associa- a natural simplicity which cannot fail to tion holds the most distant connexion, but charm the most fastidious reader. immediately a spark in the train of imagina- The lines in which Cowper describes himtion is kindled, and consciousness, memory, self as a “stricken deer," are also affecting in and anticipation, heap fuel on the living fire, the extreme; but as my object is not to which glows through the expansive soul. quote instances, but to examine why certain

It is, still to speak figuratively, by the things are pre-eminently poetical, we will light of this fire, that they see what is im- proceed to the considerations of a few indiperceptible to other eyes. They can disco- vidual subjects; first premising, that aniver types and emblems in all created things; mals obtain the character of being so in a and having received in their own minds greater degree in proportion as we imagine deep and indelible impressions of beauty them to possess such qualities as are most and harmony, majesty and awe, can recur elevated or refined in ourselves, and in a less to those impressions through the channels degree as we become familiarized with their which external things afford, and draw from bodily functions: because the majority of

[ocr errors]

a

our ideas, in connexion with them, must then acuteness of sensation ; but they are sufferbe of a gross material character, just as we ings still, borne with a meekness that looks so may speak in poetry, of the “wild boar of much like the Christian virtue, resignation, the wilderness," while the tame hog of the that, in contemplating the hard condition of sty is a thing wholly forbidden.

this degraded animal, the heart is softened The elephant is allowed to be the most with feelings of sorrow and compassion, and sagacious of the brute creation; but his

we long to rescue it from the yoke of the sagacity is celebrated chiefly in anecdotes

oppressor. of trick and cunning, which qualities being I have often thought there was something the very reverse of what is elevated or no- peculiarly affecting in the character of the ble in human nature, he possesses, in spite young ass—something almost saddening to of his curious formation and majestic power, the soul, in its sudden starts of short-lived little claim to poetical interest.

frolic. In its appearance there is a strange The dog very properly stands next in the unnatural mixture of infant glee, with a scale of intellect; and so far as faithful at- mournful and almost venerable gravity. Its tachment is a rare and beautiful trait in the long melancholy ears are in perfect contrast character both of man and brute, the dog with its innocent and happy face. It seems may be said to be poetical; but we are too to have heard, what is seldom heard in exfamiliar with this animal to regard him with treme youth, the sad forebodings of its latter the reverence which his good qualities might days; and when it crops the thistle, and seem to demand. We feed him on crusts sports among the briers, it appears to be and garbage; or we see him hungered until with the vain hope of carrying the spirit of he becomes greedy, and neglected until he joy along with it, through the after vicissibecomes servile, and spurned until he threat- tudes of its hard and bitter lot. ens a vengeance which he dares not execute.

The cow is poetical, not from any quality The claims of the horse to the general inherent, or even imagined to be inherent in admiration of mankind are too well under- itself, but from its invariable association stood to need our notice here, especially as with rich pastures and verdant meadows, they have already been examined in a for- and as an almost indispensable ornament to mer chapter. To the horse belong no as- pictures of quiet rural scenery. Time was sociations with ideas of what is gross or when the cow was poetical from her associmean. His most striking attribute is power; ation with rosy maidens tripping over the and the ardour with which he enters into the dewy lawn, and village swains tuning the excitement of the chase, or the battle, gives rustic reed; but since the high magnifier of him a character so nearly approaching to modern investigation has been applied to what is most admired in the human species, pastoral subjects, milkmaids have been prothat the ancients delighted to represent this nounced to be too homely for the poet's noble animal, not as he is, but with distend- theme; village swains have been detected in ed nostrils, indicating a courage almost fustian garments; and both, with their flocks, more than animal, with eyes animated with and their herds, and with pastoral poetry mental as well as physical energy, and with altogether, have been dismissed from the the broad intellectual forehead of a man.

theatre of intellectual entertainment. The ass is certainly less poetical than pic

Nothing, however, that has yet been effectturesque; but, still, it is poetical in its pa- | ed by the various changes to which taste is tient endurance of suffering, in its associa- liable, has destroyed the poetical character tion with the wandering outcasts from society of the deer. Our associations with the deer whose tents are in the wilderness, and whose are far removed from every thing gross or “ lodging is on the cold ground,” in its hum- familiar; we think of it only as a free denible appetites, and in its unrepining submis- zen of the woods, swift in its movements, sion to the most abject degradation. Let us graceful in its elastic step, delicate in all its hope that the patience of the ass arises from perceptions, and tremblingly alive to the its own insensibility, and that its sufferings, dangers which threaten it on every hand. though frequent, are attended with little | We imagine it retiring from the broad clear

light of day, into the seclusion of the moun- appended to them the entire wings of a bird. tain glen; stooping in silence and solitude Whether, from this association, we have to drink of the pure waters in their bubbling learned to consider birds as less material and melodious flow; gazing on through the than other animals, or whether, from the rocky defile, or in amongst the weedy hol- aerial flight of birds, the artist and the poet lows on the banks of the stream, with its have learned to represent angelic beings as clear calm eye, that looks too full of love borne along the fields of air on feathery and tenderness to be betrayed, yet ever wings, it is certain that the capacity of flight watchful, from an instinctive sense of the loses none of its poetical sublimity and grace, multiplied calamities which assail the inno- by being connected in our notions with the cent and helpless ; listening to the slightest only means of which we have any knowsound of earth or air, the rustling of the ledge. spray that springs back from the foot of the Birds, in their partiality for the haunts of fairy songsțer, or the fall of the leaf that man, offer a striking appeal to the sensitive flickers from bough to bough; and then-as and benevolent mind. Why should they the zephyr swells, and the gathering breeze cast themselves into the path of the destroycomes like a voice through the leafy depths er, or expose their frail habitations to the of thre forest-bounding over the mossy turf, grasp of his unsparing hand ? Is it that and away along the sides of the mountain, they feel some "inly touch of love” for their away to join the browsing herd, and give imperious master, or that they seek from them intelligence of an approaching, but his power what his mercy too often denies ? unseen foe. Or, when the chase is ended, or would they ask, in the day of their disand the wounded deer returns to pant away tress, for the sparings of his plenty, and pay its parting breath in the same glen where it him back with the rich melody of their sumgambolled upon the dewy grass, a careless mer songs? Whatever may be the cause, and sportive fawn, he comes back with wea- they flock around him, as if the manly priry foot and bleeding bosom, to slake his vilege of destruction had never been exerburning thirst in the same fountain where so cised upon their defenceless community. often he has bathed his vigorous and elastic Yet, mark how well they know the nature limbs. The woods are still peaceful, the of creation's lord. They tremble at his birds sing on, regardless of his groans, the coming, they flutter in his grasp, they look stream receives the life-blood from his wound, askance upon him from the bough, they rehis brethren of the faithless herd again are gard him with perpetual suspicion, and, browsing on the distant hills, and alone in above all, some of their species will forsake his mortal agony he weeps and dies. their beloved and carefully constructed bab

But of all the animal creation, birds have itations, if he has but profaned them with ever been the poet's favourite theme. In his touch. It can be no want of parental the beauty of their form and plumage, in affection which drives them to this unnatural their soaring flight, in their sensitiveness alternative, for how diligently have they and timidity, and in the lightness and vivid- toiled, with what exquisite ingenuity have ness of their movements, there is something they constructed their children's home, how to our conceptions so intimately connected faithfully have they watched, how patiently with spirituality, that we can readily sym- have they waited for the fulfilment of their pathize with the propensity of the imagina- hopes! Yet, in one fatal moment, the silktive, to imbody, in these gentle and ethereal en cord that strung together their secret beings, the souls of their departed friends; joys is broken. Another spring may renew and of the superstitious, to regard them as their labours and their loves, but they know winged messengers laden with the irrevoca- it not. Their all was centred in that narrow ble decrees of an oracular fate.

point, and to them the hopes and the labours It is a curious fact, that, in our ideal per- of a whole life are lost. The delicacy of personifications of angelic forms, we do not perception which enables them to detect the ceive that they lose any thing of their intel slightest intrusion upon the sacred mysteries lectual or celestial character, by having of their nest, gives them a character of

« PoprzedniaDalej »