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“ This Poem is decidedly his best, but those who delight in the wild and wonderful will prefer Thalaba. It has more of talent than of genius; more of reflection than perception ; juster notions both of adventure and of situation than any other of his epics; but still, like them all, it fails to reach the heart, and though it pleases, never elevates the mind.
The defect is undoubtedly owing to some lack both of power and of taste. Mr Southey cogitates himself into a state of poetical excitement, but he seems to be rarely touched with the fine phrenzy of the poet. He conceives his works according to certain predetermined principles, and is seldom inspired with the creative energy that calls forth those startling and glorious emanations, which at once make life felt and beauty visible. He has capacity and means to build a pyramid, but the little entaglio of Grey's Elegy is more valuable than all this great tumulus to the memory of the last of the Goths ;-still the volume contains many splendid and beautiful passages, which, when first seen, afford a very high degree of pleasure. It is only when we read them a second and a third time that we find out how much of their beauty is more owing to the mechanical structure of the language, than to the feeling or the elegance of the fancy embodied in them. The following description of the return of Roderick to Leyria is perhaps one of the finest passages in the book; but although full of imagery and of circumstances, the slightest of which, effectively managed, would have melted the very heart, I doubt if its merits, great as they are, have ever received the tribute of a tear.”
“ 'Twas even-song time, but not a bell was heard; Instead thereof, on her polluted towers, Bidding the Moors to their unhallow'd prayer, The crier stood, and with his sonorous voice Fill’d the delicious vale where Lena winds Through groves and pastoral meads. The sound, the sight Of turban, girdle, robe, and scimitar, And tawny skins, awoke contending thoughts Of anger, shame, and anguish in the Goth; The unaccustom’d face of human-kind Confused him now, and through the streets he went With hagged mien, and countenance like one Crazed or bewilder'd. All who met him turn'd, And wonder'd as he past. One stopt him short, Put alms into his hand, and then desired, In broken Gothic speech, the moon-struck man To bless him. With a look of vacancy Roderick received the alms; his wandering eye Fell on the money, and the fallen King, Seeing his own royal impress on the piece, Broke out into a quick convulsive voice, That seem'd like laughter first, but ended soon In hollow groans supprest: the Mussulman Shrunk at the ghastly sound, and magnified The name of Allah as he hasten'd on. A Christian woman spinning at her door Beheld him, and with sudden pity touch'd, She laid her spindle by, and running in Took bread, and following after call’d him back, And placing in his passive hands the loaf, She said, Christ Jesus for his Mother's sake Have mercy on thee! With a look that seem'd Like idiotcy he heard her, and stood still, Staring awhile ; then bursting into tears Wept like a child, and thus relieved his heart, Full even to bursting else with swelling thoughts.
So through the streets, and through the northern gate,
“ A midnight march in Spain is also very beautifully described.”.
" The favouring moon arose, To guide them on their flight through upland paths Remote from frequentage, and dales retired, Forest and mountain glen. Before their feet The fire-flies, swarming in the woodland shade, Sprung up like sparks, and twinkled round their way; The timorous blackbird, starting at their step, Fled from the thicket, with shrill note of fear; And far below them in the peopled dell, When all the soothing sounds of eve had ceased, The distant watch-dog's voice at times was heard, Answering the nearer wolf. All through the night Among the hills they travell’d silently; Till when the stars were setting, at what hour The breath of Heaven is coldest, they beheld Within a lonely grove the expected fire, Where Roderick and his comrade anxiously Look’d for the appointed meeting. Bright rose the flame replenish’d; it illumed
The cork-tree's furrowed rind, its rifts and swells
“ There is also much sweetness and pleasing poetry in the description of the investiture of the young Alphonso with the honours of knighthood.”
“ Rejoicing in their task,
The chance of life or death, the heroic boy
“ I will just read to you another passage, which, though of a different kind, is not less beautiful.”
“Methinks if ye would know
“ Thus having said, the pious sufferer sate,