Изображения страниц

So loud, 'twas heard a dozen miles complete,

Making old Echo pipe and hum again; So sweet, that all the birds in air that fly Charmed into new delight came sailing through the sky.

[blocks in formation]

Nor was its influence less on human ear:

First from their gilded chairs upstart at once, The royal James and Maggie, seated near,

Enthusiastic both and mad to dance:

Her hand he snatched and looked a merry leer,
Then capered high in wild extravagance,
And on the grassy summit of the knoll,

Wagged each monarchial leg in galliard strange and droll.

As when a sunbeam from the waving face
Of well-filled water-pail reflected bright
Varies upon the chamber walls its place,

And quivering tries to cheat and foil the sight;
So quick did Maggie with a nimble grace,

Skip pattering to and fro, alert and light,

And with her noble colleague in the reel

Haughtily tossed her arms, and shook her glancing heel.

The Lords and Ladies next, who sat or stood
Near to the Piper and the King around,
Smitten with that contagious dancing mood
'Gan hand in hand in high lavolt to bound,
And jigged it on as featly as they could,

Circling in sheeny rows the rising ground,
Each sworded Lord a Lady's soft palm griping,
And to his mettle roused at such unwonted piping.

Then did the infectious hopping mania seize

The circles of the crowd that stood more near,
Till round and round, far spreading by degrees,
It maddened all the Loan to kick and rear:
Men, women, children, lit and ramp and squeeze,
Such fascination takes the general ear,

Even babes that at their mothers' bosoms hung
Their little willing limbs fantastically flung.

And hoar-haired men and wives, whose marrow age Hath from their hollow bones sucked out and drunk, Canary in unconscionable rage,

Nor feel their sinews withered now and shrunk; Pell-mell, in random couples they engage,

And boisterously wag feet, arms, and trunk, As if they strove, in capering so brisk,

To heave their aged knees up to the solar disk.

And cripples from beneath their shoulders fling
Their despicable crutches far away,

Then, yoked with those of stouter limbs, upspring
In hobbling merriment, uncouthly gay;

And some on one leg stand y-gambolling;

For why? the other short and frail had they; Some, both whose legs distorted were and weak, Dance on their poor knee-pans in mad preposterous freak

So on they trip, King, Maggie, Knight and Earl,
Green-coated courtier, satin-snooded dame,
Old men and maidens, man, wife, boy, and girl,
The stiff, the supple, bandy-legged, and lame,—
All suckt and wrapt into the dance's whirl,

Inevitably witched within the same;

Whilst Rab far-seen, o'erlooks the huddling Loan,
Rejoices in his pipes and squeals serenely on.


[THOMAS MOORE was born at No. 12, Aungier Street, Dublin, on May 28, 1779. He began to print verses at the age of thirteen, and became popular in early youth as a precocious genius. He came to London in 1799, and was received into fashionable society. In 1803 he was made Admiralty Registrar at Bermuda, a post he soon resigned to a deputy and returned to England after travelling in Canada and the United States. In 1819 he was involved in financial ruin by the embezzlements of his Bermuda agent, and left England in company with Lord John Russell. He came back to England in 1822. After a very quiet life, the end of which was saddened by the deaths of his five children, he died at Sloperton on Feb. 25, 1852. His chief poetical works are-Odes of Anacreon, 1800; Little's Poems, 1801; Odes and Epistles, 1805; Irish Melodies, 1807 to 1834; Lalla Rookh, 1817; The Fudge Family in Paris, 1818; Rhymes on the Road, 1819; The Loves of the Angels, 1823.]

When Moore wrote his Life of Byron in 1830 and casually spoke of Mr. Shelley as a finer poet than himself, the world admired his generous modesty, but smiled at the exaggerated instance of it. Yet, even then, close observers like Leigh Hunt noticed that the dazzling reputation of the Irish lyrist was on the wane, and that his supremacy as a singer was by no means likely to remain long unchallenged. A few years earlier Christopher North had said, in his autocratical manner, ' of all the song-writers that ever warbled, the best is Thomas Moore.' A few years later, as Keats and Tennyson came before the world with a richer and more artistic growth of verse, the author of The Loves of the Angels passed more and more into the background, until at last in our own day critics have dared to deny him all merit, and even to treat him as a kind of lyrical Pariah, an outcast at whom every one is welcome to cast a stone.

As usual in the case of such vicissitudes of taste, the truth seems to lie midway between the extremes, and as in 1830 it would have

been salutary to point out how limited in interest, poor in execu-
tion, and tawdry in ornament much of Moore's work was, it is now
quite as necessary to recall to the minds of readers of poetry the
great claims that he possesses to our respect and allegiance. When
Moore began to publish,-and it must be remembered that his
earliest printed verses show much of his peculiar individuality,—
the genius of Burns alone reminded the public of that day of the
existence of a singing element in literature. Neither Crabbe nor
Rogers, the two poets then most prominently before the world,
knew what it was to write a song, and it was into an atmosphere
of refined and frigid reflection that Tom Moore brought the fervour
of his Irish heart and the liquid numbers of his Irish tongue. He
heralded a new age of poetic song, for although the Lyrical Ballads
two years before had, in a far truer sense, announced a fresh epoch,
yet their voice had been heard only by one or two.
The easy
muse of Moore conquered the town; he popularised the use of
bright and varied measures, sparkling rhymes, and all the be-
witching panoply of artistic form in which Shelley, the true song-
writer, was to array himself. In a larger sense than he himself
was conscious of, he was a pioneer in letters. He boasted, with
no more gaiety than truth, that he originated modern Irish

'Dear Harp of my Country! in darkness I found thee,
The cold chain of silence had hung o'er thee long,
When proudly, my own Island Harp, I unbound thee,

And gave all thy chords to light, freedom and song.'

He might have applied these words to the harp of England also, for if he was not destined to strike from it the noblest music, he it was at least who took it down from the wall, and tuned it for the service of greater poets than himself.

It is still possible to read Lalla Rookh with pleasure, and even with a sort of indulgent enthusiasm. Rococo prettiness could hardly reach a higher point of accomplishment, and the shamoriental is perhaps not more hopelessly antiquated than our own sham-mediæval will be sixty years hence. The brilliance of Moore's voluptuous scenes has faded; he gilded them too much with the gold of Mrs. Tighe's Psyche, a preparation that was expressly made to tarnish. But underneath the smooth and faded surface lie much tenderness and pathos in the story of the Peri, much genuine patriotism in the fate of the Fire-Worshippers, much tropical sweetness in the adventures of the 'Light of the Haram.' These

narratives possess more worth, for instance, than all but the very best of Byron's tales, and would be read with more pleasure than those, were they not overburdened by sensuous richness of style. This quality, which Moore considered his chief claim to immortality, was in point of fact a great snare to him. His idealism, so far from allowing the presence of coarse and passionate touches, expunges them with incessant care, so that throughout the gush and glow of his descriptive scenes the eye and ear alike are conscious of no salient point, no break or discord by which the beauty of the whole can be tested. The reader sympathises with the French gentleman who said that he admired the pastorals of M. de Florian very much, but that he considered a wolf would improve them. In the Loves of the Angels this honeyed elegance degenerates into a tiresome mannerism; in Lalla Rookh it is still tempered by the vigour of the narrative, the freshness of the scenes, and the skill of the artist. The latter poem, indeed, is constructed with consummate cleverness; the prose story, in which the poetical episodes are enshrined, is both interesting and amusing, so that the whole work leaves on the mind of the reader a greater sense of completeness than any other of Modre's books. In versification it displays him at his best and at his worst, it shows his mellifluous charm, his ardent flow of verse, and his weak, uncertain wing.

In one only of his writings Moore attained a positive perfection of style. Those homely and sentimental lyrics which have endeared themselves to thousands of hearts under the name of the Irish Melodies form a part and parcel of our literature the extinction of which would leave a sad blank behind it. When they were first produced, in slender instalments spread over a period of more than twenty-five years, they seemed universally brilliant and ascinating to the ears on whom their fresh tunes and dulcet numbers fell in a most amiable union. Here for once, it seemed, music and sweet poetry agreed in complete harmony, the one not brighter or more dainty than the other. Exposed to the wear and tear of sixty years, all the jewels in the casket do not now, any longer, look equally brilliant. Some have wholly faded, others have become weak or crude in colouring, while a few, perhaps one eighth of the whole, are as glowing and exquisite as ever, and shine like real stones in a heap of false jewellery. It is upon these fifteen or sixteen songs, amatory, patriotic and jocose, that Moore's fame mainly rests, but though the support has become slender. it is lifted beyond all further fear of disintegration. The Irish

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »