Изображения страниц

[ocr errors]

Page No. 149 cxxxi A little masterpiece in a very difficult style : Catullus

himself could hardly have bettered it. In grace, tenderness, simplicity, and humour it is worthy of the Ancients; and even more so, from the completeness

and unity of the picture presented. 154 cxxxvi Perhaps no writer who has given such strong proofs

of the poetic nature has left less satisfactory poetry than Thomson. Yet he touched little which he did not beautify: and this song, with 'Rule Britannia' and a few others, must make us regret that he did not more

seriously apply himself to lyrical writing. 156 CXL 1. 1 Aeolian lyre : the Greeks ascribed the origin of

their Lyrical Poetry to the colonies of Aeolis in Asia

Minor. 157


15 Thracia's hills: supposed a favourite resort of Mars. Feather'd king (l. 19) the Eagle of Jupiter, admirably described by Pindar in a passage here imilated by Gray. Idalia (1. 25) in Cyprus, where Cy

therea (Venus) was especially worshipped. 158 1. 18 Hyperion: the Sun. St. 6-8 allude to the Poets

of the Islands and Mainland of Greece, to those of

Rome and of England. 160


15 Theban Eagle : Pindar. 163 cxli 1. 11 chaste-eyed Queen : Diana. 164 CXLII Attic warbler: the nightingale. 167 cxliv sleekit, sleek : bickering brattle, flittering flight :

laith, loth : pattle, ploughstaff: whyles, at times: a daimen icker, a corn-ear now and then : thrave, shock : lave, rest : foggage, aftergrass : snell, biting : but hald, without dwelling-place : thole, bear : cranreuch, hoarfrost: thy lane, alone : a-gley, off the right

line, awry. 171 cxlvi Perhaps the noblest stanzas in our language. 176 cxlviii stoure, dust-storm : braw, smart. 177 cxlix scaith, hurt: tent, guard : steer, molest.

drumlie, muddy: birk, birch. 181 CLII greet, cry: daurna, dare not. There can hardly

exist a poem more truly tragic in the highest sense than this : nor, except Sappho, has any

Poetess known to the Editor equalled it in excellence. CLIII fou, merry with drink: coost, carried : unco skeigh,

very proud : gart, forced : abeigh, aside : A ilsa Craig,

179 CLI

Page No.

a rock in the Firth of Clyde : grat his een bleert, cried till his eyes were bleared : lowpin, leaping : linn, waterfall : sair, sore : smoor'd, smothered : crouse and

canty, blythe and gay. 182 CLIV Burns justly named this one of the most beautiful

songs in the Scots or any other language.' One verse, interpolated by Beattie, is here omitted :- it contains two good lines, but is quite out of harmony with the original poem. Bigonet, little cap; probably altered

from beguinette: thraw, twist: caller, fresh. 184 CLV airts, quarters : row, roll : shaw, small wood in a

hollow, spinney: knowes, knolls. 185 CLVI jo, sweetheart : brent, smooth : pow, head. 186 clvii leal, faithful : fain, happy. 187 clvii Henry VI founded Eton. 194 CLXI The Editor knows no Sonnet more remarkable than

this, which, with clxii, records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish ; Shakespeare's more passion; Milton's stand supreme in stateliness, Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the ancients would have called Irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to his loving and ingenuous nature. — There is much mannerism, much that is unimportant or of now exhausted interest in his poems: but where he is great, it is with that elementary greatness which rests on the most universal human feelings. Cowper is our highest master in

simple pathos. 197 CLXII fancied green: cherished garden. 198 clxiv Nothing except his surname appears recoverable with

regard to the author of this truly noble poem. It should be noted as exhibiting a rare excellence, climax of simple sublimity.

It is a lesson of high instructiveness to examine the essential qualities which give first-rate poetical rank to lyrics such as ‘To-morrow' or 'Sally in our Alley,' when compared with poems written (if the phrase may be allowed) in keys so different as the subtle sweetness

- the

of Shelley, the grandeur of Gray and Milton, or the delightful Pastoralism of the Elizabethan verse. Intelligent readers will gain hence a clear understanding of the vast imaginative range of Poetry; - through what wide oscillations the mind and the taste of a nation may pass ; – how many are the roads whick Truth and Nature open to Excellence.

Summary of Book Fourth

It proves sufficiently the lavish wealth of our own age in Poetry, that the pieces which, without conscious departure from the standard of Excellence, render this Book by far the longest, were with very few exceptions composed during the first thirty years of the nineteenth century.

Exhaustive reasons can hardly be given for the strangely sudden appearance of individual genius : but none, in the Editor's judgment, can be less adequate than that which assigns the splendid national achievements of our recent poetry to an impulse from the frantic follies and criminal wars that at the time disgraced the least essentially civilized of our foreign neighbours. The first French Revolution was rather, in his opinion, one result, and in itself by no means the most important, of that far wider and greater spirit which through enquiry and doubt, through pain and triumph, sweeps mankind round the circles of its gradual development: and it is to this that we must trace the literature of modern Europe. But, without more detailed discussion on the motive causes of Scott, Wordsworth, Campbell, Keats, and Shelley, we may observe that these Poets, with others, carried to further perfection the later tendencies of the Century preceding, in simplicity of narrative, reverence for human Passion and Character in every sphere, and impassioned love of Nature :that, whilst maintaining on the whole the advances in art made since the Restoration, they renewed the half-forgotten melody and depth of tone which marked the best Elizabethan writers :that, lastly, to what was thus inherited they added a richness in language and a variety in metre, a force and fire in narrative, a tenderness and bloom in feeling, an insight into the finer passages of the Soul and the inner meanings of the landscape, a larger and wiser Humanity, — hitherto hardly attained, and perhaps unattainable even by predecessors of not inferior individual genius. In a word, the Nation which, after the Greeks in their glory, has been the most gifted of all nations for Poetry, expressed

in these men the highest strength and prodigality of its nature. They interpreted the age to itself — hence the many phases of thought and style they present :- to sympathize with each, fervently and impartially, without fear and without fancifulness, is no doubtful step in the higher education of the Soul. For, as with the Affections and the Conscience, Purity in Taste is absolutely proportionate to Strength :- and when once the mind has raised itself to grasp and to delight in Excellence, those who love most will be found to love most wisely. Page No. 200 CLXVI stout Cortez: History requires here Balbóa: (A.T.)

It may be noticed, that to find in Chapman's Homer the 'pure serene' of the original, the reader must bring with him the imagination of the youthful poet; - he must be a Greek himself,' as Shelley finely said

of Keats. 206 clxix The most tender and true of Byron's smaller poems. CLxx This poem, with ccxXXVI, exemplifies the peculiar

skill with which Scott employs proper names :— nor

is there a surer sign of high poetical genius. 227 cxc The Editor in this and in other instances has risked

the addition (or the change) of a Title, that the aim of the verses following may be grasped more clearly and

immediately. 235 cxcviii Nature's Eremite : like a solitary thing in Nature.

- This beautiful Sonnet was the last word of a poet deserving the title 'marvellous boy' in a much higher sense than Chatterton. If the fulfilment may ever safely be prophesied from the promise, England appears to have lost in Keats one whose gifts in Poetry have rarely been surpassed. Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, had their lives been closed at twenty-five, would (so far as we know) have left poems of less excellence and hope than the youth who, from the petty school and the London surgery, passed at once

to a place with them of 'high collateral glory.' 237 CCI

It is impossible not to regret that Moore has written so
little in this sweet and genuinely national style.
A masterly example of Byron's command of strong
thought and close reasoning in verse :-- as the next
is equally characteristic of Shelley's wayward inten-
sity, and cçiv of the dramatic power, the vital identi-


Page No.

fication of the poet with other times and characters,

in which Scott is second only to Shakespeare. 248 ccix Bonnivard, a Genevese, was imprisoned by the Duke

of Savoy in Chillon on the lake of Geneva for his courageous defence of his country against the tyranny with which Piedmont threatened it during the first half of the seventeenth century. - - This noble Sonnet is worthy to stand near Milton's on the Vaudois mas


249 CCX

Switzerland was usurped by the French under Napo

leon in 1800 : Venice in 1797 (ccxi). 252 CCXV This battle was fought Dec. 2, 1800, between the

Austrians under Archduke John and the French under Moreau, in a forest near Munich. Hohen Linden

means High Limetrees. 257 ccxviii Aster the capture of Madrid by Napoleon, Sir J.

Moore retreated before Soult and Ney to Corunna, and was killed whilst covering the embarcation of his troops. His tomb, built by Ney, bears this inscription : John Moore, leader of the English armies, slain in

battle, 1809.' 272 ccxxix The Mermaid was the club-house of Shakespeare,

Ben Jonson, and other choice spirits of that age. 273 ccxxx Maisie : Mary. Scott has given us nothing more

complete and lovely than this little song, which unites simplicity and dramatic power to a wildwood music of the rarest quality. No moral is drawn, far less any conscious analysis of feeling attempted : the pathetic meaning is left to be suggested by the mere presentment of the situation. Inexperienced critics have often named this, which may be called the Homeric manner, superficial, from its apparent simple facility : but first-rate excellence in it (as shown here, in cxcvI, CLVI, and cxxix) is in truth one of the least common triumphs of Poetry. - This style should be compared with what is not less perfect in its way, the searching out of inner feelings, the expression of hidden meanings, the revelation of the heart of Nature and of the Soul within the Soul, - the Analytical method, in short, -- most completely represented by Wordsworth

and by Shelley. 280 ccxxxiv correi: covert on a hillside. Cumber: trouble.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »