Page images
PDF
EPUB

ocean, agitated by a storm, only a magnified view of the pool shaken by the breath of summer ! A salmon-leap in a Highland glen might be so deseribed as to produce a higher sense of the sublime than even Mr Howison's superb account of the Falls of Niagara, though the perils and endeavours of no other living thing were introduced than those of a single fish struggling to overleap the fall of the torrent. It is the skill with which such perils and endeavours are introduced that constitute the impress of genius in description. Compare, for example, the escape of Keith and Ellen, in REGINALD DALTON, with Mr Howison's Niagara, and you will acknowledge the truth of my doctrine ; the principle of which is, that the sublime has its source in moral feeling, either in apprehension, sympathy, or association. And I pray you to observe, that the Canadian traveller has done his utmost with all his poetical power and the stores of a rich vocabulary,--whereas the novelist has trammelled himself with a colloquial familiarity approaching to meanness; and yet how awful and imposing the effect ! -- how much more so than all the thunderings and earthquake-murmurings of the other's desire to do justice to the magnitude of a great theme.”

[graphic]

« The mist, you will observe, had been clearing away pretty quickly on the right hand, but it was dark enough towards the front, and getting darker and darker ; but we thought nought on't till the boy pulled up. Meinherr, Meinherr ! cried the fellow, I am afraid I hear the water.' He stopt for a moment, and then said, Stay you for a moment where you are, and I'll soon see whether we are right.' With that, off he

again, wichid she at last, Listen,

went, as if the devil was at his tail; and we, what could we do?--we stood like two stocks and poor little Ellen, she looked into my face so wofully, that I wished to God we were both safe in the blackest hole of Bieche. In short, I suppose he had not galloped half a bowshot ere we quite lost sight of the fellow, but for several minutes more we could hear his horse's hoofs on the wet sand. We lost that too and then, sirs, there came another sound, but what it was we could not at first bring ourselves to understand. Ellen stared me in the face again, with a blank look, you may swear; and, *Good God !' said she at last, 'I am certain it's the sea, uncle '- No, no !' said I, 'Listen, listen! I'm sure you are deceived. She looked and listened, and so did I, sirs, keenly enough ; and in a moment there came a strong breath of wind, and away went the mist driving, and we heard the regular heaving and rushing of the waters. 'Ride, ride, my dear uncle, cried Ellen,' or we are lost ;' and off we both went, galloping as hard as we could away from the waves. My horse was rather the stronger one of the pair, but at length he began to pant below me, and just then the mist dropt down again thicker and thicker right and left, and I pulled up in a new terror, lest we should be separated ; but Ellen was alongside in a moment, and, faith, however it was, she had more calmness with her than I could muster. She put out her hand, poor girl, and grasped mine, and there we remained for, I dare say, two or three minutes, our horses, both of them, quite blown, and we knowing no more than the man in the moon where we were, either by the village or our headland. .“ The old gentleman paused for a moment, and then went on in a much lower tone-'I feel it all as if it were now, sirs ; I was like a man bewildered in a dream. I have some dim sort of remembrance of my

beast pawing and plashing with his fore-feet, and looking down and seeing some great slimy eels-never were such loathsome wretches—twisting and twirling on the sand, which, by the way, was more water than sand ere that time. I also recollect a screaming in the air, and then a flapping of wings close to my ear almost, and then a great cloud of the seamews driving over us away into the heart of the mist. Neither of us said any thing, but we just began to ride on again, though, God knows, we knew nothing of whither we were going ; but we still kept hand in hand. We rode a good space, till that way also we found ourselves getting upon the sea ; and so round and round, till we were at last convinced the water had completely hemmed us all about. There were the waves trampling, trampling towards us, whichever way we turned our horses' heads, and the mist was all this while thickening more and more; and if a great cloud of it was dashed away now and then with the wind, why, sirs, the prospect was but the more rueful, for the sea was round us every way. Wide and far we could see nothing but the black water, and the waves leaping up here and there upon the sandbanks.

“Well, sir, the poor dumb horses, they backed of themselves as the waters came gushing towards us. Looking round, snorting, snuffing, and pricking their ears, the poor things seemed to be as sensible as ourselves to the sort of condition we were all in; and while Ellen's hand wrung mine more and more closely, they also, one would have thought, were always shrinking nearer and nearer to each other, just as they had had the same kind of feelings. Ellen, I cannot tell you what her behaviour was. I don't believe there's a bold man in Europe would have behaved so well, sirs. Her cheek was white enough, and her lips were as white as if they had never had a drop of blood in them; but her eye, God bless me! after the first two or three minutes were over, it was as clear as the bonniest blue sky ye ever looked upon. I, for my part, I cannot help saying it, was, after a little while, more grieved, far more, about her than myself. I am an old man, sirs, and what did it signify ? but to see her at blithe seventeen -But, however, why should I make many words about all that? I screamed, and screamed, and better screamed, but she only squeezed my hand, and shook her head, as if it was all of no avail. I had shouted till I was as hoarse as a raven, and was just going to give up all farther thoughts of making any exertion ; for, in truth, I began to feel benumbed and listless all over, my friends when we heard a gun fired. We heard it quite distinctly, though the mist was so thick that we could see nothing. I cried then ; you may suppose how I cried; and Ellen too, though she had never opened her lips before, cried as lustily as she could. Again the gun was fired, and again we answered at the top of our voices; and then, God bless me!-- was there ever such a moment? We heard the dashing of the oars, and a strong breeze lifted the mist like a curtain from before us, and there was a boat-a jolly ten-oar boat, steering right through the waters towards us, perhaps about a couple of hundred yards off. A sailor on the bow hailed and cheered us; but you may imagine how far gone we were when I tell you that I scarcely took notice it was in English the man cried to us.'”

[graphic]

CHAP. XXXI.

GERMAN GENIUS.

Some time after the conversation and illustration recorded in the preceding chapter, Benedict appeared one evening so flat and out of spirits,—whether this was owing to any lack of fees it is needless to guess that the Nymph resolved to rouse him, and accordingly, as soon as the candles were set and the fire trimmed, she took up Lord Francis Leveson Gower's translation of Faust, a drama by Goethe.

6 You have not read this,” said she ; “ I recollect you threw it down with the epithet of Coleridgian ravings when it was first sent home; but I have since carefully, word and line, pored it all through, and I mean, Benedict, with your permission, to deliver my opinion at some length on the subject.

“ In the first place, then, I think the noble translator has done a great service to the literature and to the genius of his country, in presenting us with so clever, and, upon the whole, so tasteful a translation of a work, considered by the Germans and the German scholars as the masterpiece of so celebrated a man as Goethe ; for I presume it will now be admitted, that as this performance is supposed to possess beauties of the highest order in the opinion of the author's countrymen and the admirers of their literature, we may, by its merits, form some notion of the degree of taste which the Ger

« PreviousContinue »