Obrazy na stronie

the case with Mr. Tennyson's poetry. It fails from want of force. He cannot realize graphically. If not still more impalpable, it should be called poetry in a state of fluidity, and might have been written by a denizen of Jupiter. Or if one was accustomed to write in one's sleep, you might reasonably expect to find something of the same kind on your pillow in the morning as the result of dreaming. Harvest Home' and the Bridal are the two best pieces in the book. We give a specimen of the former

The harvest days are come again,
The vales are surging with the grain ;
The merry work goes on amain;
The mighty youth and supple child
Go forth; the yellow sheaves are piled,
The toil is mirth-the mirth is wild;
Old head and


forehead peers
O’er the warm sea, or disappears,
Drowned amid the waving ears.
Draw the clear October out,
Another and another bout,
Then back to labour with a shout.
The banded sheaves stand orderly
Against the purple autumn sky,
Like armies of Prosperity.
Laughter flies from door to door,
To see fat Plenty, with his store,
Led a captive by the poor ;
Fettered in a golden chain,
Rolling in a burly wain,
Over valley, mount, and plain;
With a great sheaf for a crown,
Onward he reels, a happy clown,

Right through the middle of the town.We must make room for four very beautiful stanzas, selected from the Song of an Old Man'

But take me back where lie inurn'd

The ashes of imperial joys,

Discrowned hopes with quenched eyes,
Great passions with their torches burn'd.
Some spirit out of darkness brings,

And sets upon their ancient thrones

The scatter'd monumental bones
Of thoughts that were as mighty kings.

Some voice thrills in mine ear like breath

Of virgin song, and fair young Love

Is seen his golden plumes to move
Over the dim gray land of death.
My heart is like a temple dim,

Down whose long aisle the moonlight floats.
And sad celestial


notes Hover like wings of cherubim.—p. 9. There is a touching and solemn beauty in these lines; and had the author always written as well, he would have made a name to himself as poet. As it is, we think that out of the Tennyson family, most of whom are poetic, only one has the slightest chance of going far down to posterity. Minds of the moonlight order will insist on it that Frederick is a poet. So be it; we will not quarrel ; only he is not one of ours.

William Allingham is a singer of pleasant songs; albeit on his first appearance he raised hopes which he has disappointed. He has for some time been recognised as one of the truest among our rising young poets by sundry intelligent critics. This little volume of 'Day and Night Songs' does not contain much in the way of fulfilment, as the fruit of three years' silence. Nevertheless, his song is genial and welcome. Be has little passion, small poetic force, and no sublimity. But there is a tender grace and à dreamy sweetness about some of his lyrics, which give them a soft and mystical charm. They might have been written by a delicate maiden, and murmured in her dream of coming love. Venus of the Needle,' The Fairies,' The Witch-Bride, The Wayside Well,' and 'Lovely Mary Donnelly,' are among our first favourites; the last-mentioned is peculiarly characteristic in its genuine naïveté and affectionate blarney. We select the piece called · A Dream,' which we have read at times, till so weird has been our feeling, that we could say with Job, the hair of our flesh was lifted.

I heard the dogs howl in the moonlight night,
And I went to the window to see the sight;
All the dead that ever I knew
Going one by one and two by two.
On they pass'd and on they pass’d;
Townsfellows all from first to last;
Born in the moonlight of the lane,
And quench'd in the heavy shadow again.
Schoolmates, marching as when we play'd
At soldiers once, but now more staid ;
Those were the strangest sight to me
Who were drown'd, I knew, in the awful sea.

Stright and handsome folk; bent and weak, too;
And some that I loved, and gasp'd to speak to ;
Some but a day in their churchyard bed;
And some that I had not known were dead.
A long, long crowd-where each seem'd lonely.
And yet of them all there was one, one only,
That raised a head, or look'd my way;
And she seem'd to linger, but might not stay.
How long since I saw that fair pale face !
Ah, mother dear, might I only place
My head on thy breast, a moment to rest,
While thy hand on my tearful cheek were prest!
On, on, a moving bridge they made
Across the moon-stream from shade to shade:
Young and old, women and men;
Many long-forgot, but remember'd then.
And first there came a bitter laughter;
And a sound of tears a moment after ;
And then a music so lofty and gay,
That every morning, day by day,
I strive to recal it if I

may. We live in an age of parody and punning. Burlesque is one of the great characteristics of our time. It is fashionable to be a punster and a parodist, just as in the time of the Encyclopædists it was the fashion to sneer, or as, after Byron, we had the misanthropic phase, and it was the mode to be miserable. All around us burlesque dangles its wretched effigies. The noblest creations of Shakspeare are metamorphosed into things of scorn, just to pander to the lowest taste and excite a laugh. The old noblenesses, and grand types of Strength, and Beauty, and Poetry, of Greece and Rome, are transformed into gents and swells, slow and fast men. Such being the prevailing epidemic, it is not astonishing that a fresh outburst of poetry, characterized by the wild luxuriance and lush-extravagance of youth, should burlesque beautifully.' It has done so, and proven a tolerably successful farce in 'Fermilian.' Read it once, and you feel it to be clever; read it again, and the after-thoughts are saddening, like those of the reveller's next morning. You are annoyed at gratifying your sense of wit for a moment with so poor a jest. Beside, there is little wit in either swearing or stealing. How the very signification of the word 'wit' has dwindled to

How different a thing it was to those glorious fellows who met at the Mermaid.' With them a wit was a man of brilliant parts. With us he is a parodist or punster. With them wit meant quick and subtile understanding, sudden luminous bursts of bappy thought, naive touches of characterization, inverted pathos; with us it means 'Macbeth, a burlesque,' a Comic History of Rome,' and 'Fermilian.' This is very mournful to one who has any faith, and solemn earnestness, and worship of beauty. 'Ferniilian’ may be useful in checking certain extravagancies of some recent writers, but we think it will prove far more effective in crushing further attempts of its own kind. In such wise we accept it; even as the Spartans made a slave drunk, that the exhibition of his idiocy might disgust their children. It could not have been a more melancholy warning even if it had been done by a cynical enemy of the burlesque mania. In trying to make others ridiculous Mr. T. Percy Jones has made an ass of himself.


We do not think that Professor Aytoun in the least understands his own position in relation to the young poets and such writers of our time as Ruskin and Carlyle. As a critic, he is somewhat like Gifford in relation to Keats. He has the same plentiful lack of sympathy and want of comprehension, but he substitutes a playful mood for the old critic's savagery. The old style of criticism might excite sympathy for the victim, the new one may elicit laughter at his expense. But he will be just as unsuccessful. He may as well try to stop the next year's flowers from blowing as to put down the writers whom he unfairly classes together and calls the spasmodic school.' His endeavours to keep back the tide of opinion from washing out his Edinburgh landmark is just as futile as were the efforts of worthy Mrs. Partington to keep out the rushing tide of the Atlantic from her back-door with a mop. Doubtless this young poetry has many faults; but, for the love of beauty, don't destroy its blossoming flowers, and do wait till they come to fruit before you cut down the tree. Don't knock off its luxuriant leaves and rainbows of bloom because it wears richer colours than your own sapless branches. Yours may have borne fruit in the past, and these will in the future.

The consideration of these characteristics of the literature of our time, and this tendency to make sport, to caricature, and to appear ironical, naturally leads us to remark on another characteristic of the time and its poetry—the absence of lofty religious earnestness. The lips of our bards are seldom touched with live coals from the holy altar. They have little of that faculty which gives such height, depth, and solidity to the human mind, and makes the Anglo-Saxon race the noblest and greatest that ever lived on this earth. For only a highly venerative and sternly earnest people could ever have brought forth a Shakspeare, a Milton, or a Bunyan.

The French nation has produced no such men or poetry as we have, and never can while it is so flippant and sparklingly shallow. The age we live in is not deeply religious, and its poetry is the natural outcome of its self-consciousness, its speculative tendencies, its uncertainties, its doubts, and halting utterance. The greatest works ever accomplished have been inspired by religious faith, and wrought out in religious earnestness. Our poets are apt to lie and watch the lazy or troubled stream of their life with introverted eye, brood over their own pulse, and eat their own heart. Self-consciousness is their bane. They are self-conscious in the presence of their muse. Now if a man be selfconscious in the presence of his mistress, he is a coxcomb. If he be self-conscious in the presence of danger, he is inevitably a coward. Inspiration only begins where self-consciousness ceases. They did not work in such a self-conscious, self-contemplative mood, who have compassed immortal achievements, and moulded the world to their will, and who in the old days lived their martyrdoms, performed their deathless deeds, and built up their great and enduring works. They seem to have gone about their work, or walked their way, sublimely unconscious of 'genius' and greatness' as 'noble boys at play.'

Ah, this consciousness—these pursuing, haunting thoughts about self, they are as fatal as the worms in the body of Herod ! The great thing is to get out of self. We are never so great as when carried out of self

. Hence the peerless value of the doctrine taught by Christ—the self-sacrifice and self-abnegation which he inculcated! Any external influence which takes us out of self for worthy ends is acceptable. But, above all-above love, patriotism, and affection—is the influence of religion, of worship, of adoration, in carrying us away from these petty cankering thoughts about self. Reverence is the crown of the human development—the loftiest and noblest phase. And only when it comes to complete and hallow the intellect shall we see the crowning race of human kind, of which we have had glorious glimpses in the lives of the illustrious few. At present it would seem that we are passing through the intellectual phase. We are merely intellectual, or unintellectually religious. The twain are not yet wedded. The religious mind cares little or nothing for poetry, and art and the poetic mind is not religious. Of course there are individual exceptions; we merely indicate general characteristics. As a natural consequence, there is a great dearth of religious poetry, and we gladly welcome any singer who comes to us poetically and religiously endowed. "Mr. Burns is essentially a religious poet—not one who merely sets texts of Scripture in rhyme and versifies the Bible. His book of Poems ought to be hailed as manna to the religious world, so barren as it is in genuine poetry. There is a most ethereal

« PoprzedniaDalej »