« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
* Alas for love, for woman's breast,
If woe like this must be!
With his proud quick-flashing eye,
And his mien of kingly state,
In the Roncesvalles' Strait ?'
'In the gloomy Roncesvalles' Strait
I saw, and marked him well ;
But it is not youth which turns
From the field of spears again ;
Till it rests among the slain.'
'Thou canst not say that he lies low,
The lovely and the brave?
Dark, dark perchance the day
Hath been with valour's fate ;
From the Roncesvalles' Strait.'
“There is dust upon his joyous brow,
And o'er his graceful head,
I have seen the stripling die,
And the strong man meet his fate,
In the Roncesvalles' Strait.'
Calm on the bosom of thy God,
Fair spirit, rest thee now! E’en while with ours thy footsteps trod
His seal was on thy brow.
Dust, to its narrow house beneath !
Soul, to its place on high ! They that have seen thy look in death
No more may fear to die.
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled ;
Shone round him o'er the dead ;
As born to rule the storm! A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though child-like form!
Without his Father's word;
His voice no longer heard.
If yet my task is done!'
Unconscious of his son.
'Speak, father!' once again he cried,
'If I may yet be gone!' And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rollid on. Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair ; And look'd from that lone post of death
In still, yet brave, despair ;
And shouted but once more aloud,
“My father! must I stay?' While o'er him fast through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.
They caught the flag on high,
Like banners in the sky.
There came a burst of thunder-sound
The boy-0! where was he? -Ask of the winds that far around
With fragments strewed the sea, With mast, and helm, and pennon fair,
That well had borne their part ; But the noblest thing which perish'd there
Was that young faithful heart!
[Born at Southgate, Middlesex, October 19, 1784; was educated at Christ's Hospital ; contributed to various periodicals; was an editor of The Examiner, 1803; was imprisoned for libel on the Prince Regent, 1811 ; visited Byron and Shelley in Italy, 1822; received a pension from the Crown, 18+7; died August 28. 1859. Besides many works in prose, he published 71. ven lin, 1801; 7'he Feast of the Poeti, 1814; The Descent of Liberty, A Mak, 1815; The Sicry of Rimini, 1816; Foliage, 1818; Poetical Works, 1832 ; Caplain Sword and Cap:nin Pen, 1835; A Legend of Florence, 1842; The Palfrey, 1842 ; Stories in Verse, 1855. For the bibliography of Leigh Hunt see List of the Writings of William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, chronologically arranged with notes, &c., by Alexander Ireland,' 1868.]
Leigh Hunt's distinction as a poet is to be inspired by pleasure which never steals from his senses the freshness of boyhood, and never darkens his heart with the shadow of unsatisfied desire. Hazlitt spoke of 'the vinous quality of his mind,' which, with his natural gaiety and sprightliness of manner and his high animal spirits, 'produce an immediate fascination and intoxication in those who come in contact with him. This vinous quality is in all Leigh Hunt's verse, but it is not that of the heady liquor Hazlitt describes; it is a bright, light wine,
• Tasting of Flora, and the country.green,
For his chief poem, The Story of Rimini, he chose a passionate and piteous theme ; but it was, as he says, to steady his felicity when, released from imprisonment, he visited the English south coast with his wife and their first beloved child.
A clear bright happiness in duty Leigh Hunt found ; his industry was that of a bird building its nest. He had dared in a troubled time to libel the girth of the first gentleman in Europe, to call Adonis corpulent ; and when sentence of two years' imprisonment was pronounced, there was some sinking at his heart. But by and by his room in the prison infirmary began to blossom into an Arcadian bower-T papered the wall with a trellis of roses; I had the ceiling covered with clouds and sky; the barred windows I screened with Venetian blinds; and when my book-cases were set up with their b::sts, and flowers and a pianoforte made their appearance, perhaps there was not a handsomer room on that side the water.' It must have come out of a fairy tale, said Charles Lamb. On one bookshelf lay a solid ‘lump of sunshine the Parnaso Italiano in fifty-six duodecimo volumcs. All Mount Hybla and the Vale of Enna were in his cell.
The Parnaso Italiano accompanied him later to Italy. His earlier masters had been Spenser, the youthful Milton, and, in chief, Dryden. He speaks of his first manner,' and of his growth in inward perception of poetical requirement; as he advanced in years he became fastidious, rejecting altogether many charming pieces of earlier date. But in truth, although sallies of vivid phraseology were less frequent as his animal spirits lost the licence of boyhood, his style was from first to last in essentials one and the same. The wine was the same, but it had grown mellower. His poetry was not the poetry of thought and passion, which we have in Shakespeare ; nor-to use Leigh Hunt's own words—that of 'scholarship and a rapt ambition, which we have in Milton. He could have passed his whole life writing eternal new stories in verse, part grave, part gay, of no great length, but just sufficient,' he says, 'to vent the pleasure with which I am stung on meeting with some touching adventure, and which haunts me till I can speak of it somehow.'
Strolling in the meadows near northern London, a Spenser or a volume of the Parnaso under his arm, Leigh Hunt-a Cockney poet, as were Milton, Chaucer, and Spenser-gathered honey for his hive. When seated at his desk a blissful still excitement possessed him ; his cheek flushed, his breath came irregularly, yet all seemed to be calmed and harmonised by some sweet necessity. In such a vivid composure the fine phrase, the subtle image emerged, to be welcomed and caressed :
*A ghastly castle, that eternally
Holds its blind visage out to the lone sea' -after such words the poet's breast might drink a deep inspiration.