« PreviousContinue »
trembling, and weeping, and crying, and confessing his guilt, and imploring forgiveness. And having forsaken all other things, he cut off his hair, and followed the blessed Augustine all the days of his life, as the author of his salvation. And being thus made perfect in all purity of mind and body, he closed his last day, and entered the joys of eternal felicity, to live without end."
“ Well, after all that has been lectured by criticism,” said Egeria one evening, about an hour after tea, laying down Mr Sotheby's poem of Saul, “ it certainly is not in the thought and conception, but in the expression and the execution, that the excellence of poetry consists. This work, both in point of thought and conception, possesses many beautiful passages; but in general their expression and execution seldom exceed mediocrity. For example, I do not know a finer idea in any poem than Mr Sotheby's theory, if we may use the expression, of Saul's frenzy. He supposes the unhappy king to be haunted by a spectre, which successively assumes his own form and character, as in the days of his pastoral innocence, and tortures him with the afflicting contrast of those blameless times, before he had known the cares of royalty or felt the pangs of remorse. But, though elegantly versified, it lacks of the energy and simplicity of natural feeling. The first form in which
the demon appears, is that of a beautiful youth in shepherd's weeds, who addresses the entranced monarch in these polished strains :"
“ Up from thy couch of wo, and join my path ; And I will wreath thy favourite crook with flowers. Lo! this thy crook, which from the flinty cleft Sprung wild, where many a gurgling streamlet fell. Pleasant the spot wherein the sapling grew; And pleasant was the hour, when o’er the rill Thy fancy shaped its pliant growth; 'twas spring! Sweet came its fragrance from the vale beneath, Strew'd with fresh blossoms, shed from almond bowers. Still blooms the almond bower: the fragrance still Floats on the gale: still gush the crystal rills, And Cedron rolls its current musical. . Why droop'st thou here disconsolate and sad ? Look up! the glad hills cast the snow aside; The rain is past, the fresh flow’rs paint the field : Each little bird calls to his answering mate; The roes bound o’er the mountains. Haste away! Up from thy couch, and join my gladsome path, Where shepherds carol on the sunshine lawn !”
'I come, I come, fair angel,' Saul exclaims. Give me my shepherd's weeds-my pipe-my crook ; Aid me to cast these cumbrous trappings off. Yet stay ;-but swift at once the vision gone Mocks him, evanishing. Groans then, and sighs, And bitterness of anguish, such as felt Of him, who on Helvetia’s heights, a boy, Sung to the Alpine lark; and saw, beneath, Prone cataracts, and silver lakes, and vales Romantic; and now paces his night-watch, Hoar veteran, on the tented field. Not him, Fresh slaughter fuming on the plain,-not him The groan of death, familiar to his ear,
Disquiet: but if, haply heard, the breeze
« Mr Sotheby's description of the approach of Saul and his guards to the camp of the twelve tribes is magnificent."
“ Hark! hark! the clash and clang Of shaken cymbals cadencing the pace Of martial movement regular: the swell Sonorous of the brazen trump of war; Shrill twang of harps, sooth'd by melodious chime Of beat on silver bars; and sweet, in pause Of harsher instrument, continuous flow Of breath, through flutes, in symphony with song, Choirs, whose match'd voices fill’d the air afar With jubilee, and chant of triumph hymn: And ever and anon irregular burst Of loudest acclamation, to each host Saul's stately advance proclaim'd. Before him, youths In robes succinct for swiftness : oft they struck Their staves against the ground, and warn’d the throng Backward to distant homage. Next, his strength Of chariots roll’d with each an armed band; Earth groan'd afar beneath their iron wheels :. Part arm'd with scythe for battle, part adorn'd
For triumph. Nor there wanting a led train
Bright glow'd the sun, and bright the burnish'd mail
A robe, imperial mantle, thickly starr'd
“ The song of the virgins is also written with spirit and elegance.”
“ Daughters of Israel! praise the Lord of Hosts !
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain
Sing a new song. I saw them in their rage, I saw the gleam of spears, the flash of swords, That rang against our gates. The warder's watch Ceased not. Tower answer'd tower: a warning voice Was heard without; the cry of wo within ! The shriek of virgins, and the wail of her, The mother, in her anguish, who fore-wept, Wept at the breast her babe, as now no more.
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands; David his ten thousands slain.
Sing a new song. Spake not th’ insulting foe? I will pursue, o’ertake, divide the spoil. My hand shall dash their infants on the stones: The ploughshare of my vengeance shall draw out The furrow, where the tower and fortress rose. Before my chariot Israel's chiefs shall clank Their chains. Each side, their virgin daughters groan; Erewhile to weave my conquest on their looms.
Shout ye! and ye! make answer, Saul hath slain His thousands ; David his ten thousands slain.