« PreviousContinue »
ing exercises, which, when attended with success, yield a degree of satisfaction analogous to that of the chemist when he has adroitly performed some new and agreeable experiment. But, independent of the pleasure arising from such studies, there are many things in the works of the classics to which some of the finest passages of the moderns may be traced, and the detection of such plagiarisms naturally induces a decided preference for the originals. It cannot, for example, be doubted, that Milton,
that celestial thief,'—stole several of the grandest ideas, in the sixth book of the Paradise Lost, from the Theogany of Hesiod. Look but at Mr Elton's translation of the Battle of the Titans, and you must instantly convict him."
" All on that day roused infinite the war,
Of hollow tramplings, and strong battle-strokes,
Nor longer then did Jove
Rolld the hot vapour on its fiery surge ; -The liquid heat, air's pure expanse divine Suffused: the radiance keen of quivering flame That shot from writhen lightnings, each dim orb, Strong though they were, intolerable smote, And scorch'd their blasted vision. Through the void Of Erebus, the preternatural glare Spread, mingling fire with darkness. But to see With human eye, and hear with ear of man, Had been, as if midway the spacious heaven, Hurtling with earth, shock'dme'en as nether earth Crash'd from the centre, and the wreck of heaven
Fell ruining from high. So vast the din,
SOUTHEY'S RODERICK. “ No writer of the present day,” observed Egeria, turning over the leaves of Southey's • RODERICK, THE LAST OF THE Goths,' as it lay in her lap, “has written more of what I would call respectable poetry, than the Poet Laureate. He has, I acknowledge, produced several passages of great beauty and magnificence, but none which can justly be called truly sublime or pathetic. He ranks high in the estimation of the world, and deservedly so, as a man of genius; and, perhaps, in point of industry, he is not inferior, neither in constancy of application, nor in productive power, to the greatest of his contemporaries. But the whole of his lays and lucubrations bear an impress of art and authorship which will ever keep them out of the first class. He has ease undoubtedly, and wonderful facility, but he has little of that natural vivacity which enchants the attention. One never forgets, in reading the works of this clever and ingenious person, that one has a book in one's hand, nor that it is the production of Mr Southey ; yet in his works there is no great degree of mannerism, and really very little egotism, although I believe few authors of our time have been more charged with the latter fault.
« This Poem is decidedly his best, but those who delight in the wild and wonderful will prefer Thai laba. 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 calld 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.