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385

ALLINGHAM'S POEMS. *

It is not often that reviewers have to notice such a first-book as Mr Allingham's. As it is much more agreeable to us to praise than to find fault, we shall at once get rid of what we have to say about the shortcomings of this volume, reserving our applause until all its qualifications have been stated, and liberty remains to us to praise, without the unhappy aid of “but,” and “if,” and “notwithstanding." There are three hundred pages in this volume; and there are not more than thirty of them which, in our opinion, ought to have been printed in their present condition. Mr Allingham, in a preface, which, though short, it would perhaps have been better to have omitted, says—“ It is his hope, should he have the opportunity of making a future essay in literature, to show an ascent above some of those many faults and defects of which he is conscious at the present stage of his progress. One of the chief inducements to this publication is the belief that it will assist him on his way, by giving, as it were, a fresh starting-point, and also some external checks in calculating his position. First publications, especially when they wear the shape of poetry, almost always afford inadequate expression to the power from which they proceed, supposing them to give evidence of the existence of any genuine power; -yet, if all early effusions, in such cases, were to be burnt instead of printed, later ones would undoubtedly be deprived of some elements of nature.” Though, no doubt, Mr Allingham is unconscious that it is so, there is much more of plausible excuse than of sound reason in this. It is commonly in a man's power to correct a fault of which he is conscious; in any case, it shows a deficient estimate of the responsibility of appearing in print, to put forth a volume, like the present, abounding with faults, which required nothing but a few months' labour for their removal. This is a sin which depends for its magnitude upon the powers of the author committing it. In Mr Allingham, it is a very grave error indeed. We would not have had him burn all these his early effusions;" but, for his own sake (more than for the sake of his readers), we regret that many of them were not so devoted. It would have been a worthy and a politic sacrifice upon the altar of his fame. As for the “external check in calculating his position” which is supplied by a publication capable only of giving the writer a much lower position than that which he is perfectly capable of assuming, if he chooses to work conscientiously, we cannot think much of it. And it should always be remembered that a bad or poor work of art is a sin that can never be wiped away by any future repentance. As long as the British Museum and the Advocates' Library are in existence, it will be upon record that Mr Allingham published a second-rate volume of poems, when he might and ought to have done better; and the greater the fame that shall be attained by him, the more conspicuous will his first fault appear. It must be a sad humiliation to a true poet to know that he has written

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• London: Chapman & Hall. 1850.

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and published things to which an envious poetaster may point, and say, “ This is no better than I can do !”

We speak with unusual freedom of Mr Allingham's faults, because they are indeed his fault, and not owing to any natural defect or want of perception whatever. A year's additional labour upon this volume would have sent it forth with a very high degree of perfection. Mr Allingham posses

sesses an ear for music which is inferior to that of no living poet, and few dead ones : yet most of his poems are ruined by lines which violate the commonest feeling for metre. His perception of propriety in language is admirable; and yet we come upon frequent instances of the utmost violence done to the genius of the English tongue: hideous Germanisms, in the shape of hyphen-wrought copulations of essentially independent words; omissions of the article, and invertion of the natural order of nominative and verb, for the sake of the metre; lazy circumlocutions, and lines deformed by dashes, when a little thought would have indicated some different turn of phrase, allowing of the legitimate comma or semicolon. In a word, although possessed of the vividness and warmth of fancy, knowledge and command of language, promptness and depth of thought, and all the rare qualities which are required, in combination, for the production of really finished poetry, Mr Allingham has descended to the production of many hundreds of verses in which none of these attributes of genius are visible.

Having pronounced this strong censure upon the faults of Mr Allingham's effusions, we now gladly proceed to justify by quotations the high praises which have been implied in it.

The volume opens with a poem which, although it too often illustrates the foregoing complaints, cannot but put the reader in a good humour at the outset:

THE PILOT'S PRETTY DAUGHTER.
The harbour banks, all glittering gay,

Laughed in their turn no sad adieu
In parting from a fair spring day

That laughingly withdrew.
Great brilliant clouds, piled round the sea
And hills, had left blue zenith free
For last lark earliest star to greet;
When, for the crowning vernal sweet,
Along my path I chanced to meet

The Pilot's pretty Daughter.
Round her gentle, happy face,

Dimple soft and freshly fair,
Danced, with careless ocean-grace,

Locks of silk-brown hair ;
Shading her cheeks, or waved behind,
As lightly blew the veering wind,
Unbound, unbraided, and unlooped ;
Or when to tie her shoe she stooped,
Below her chin the half-curls drooped,

And veiled the Pilot's Daughter.
Rising, she tossed them gaily back,

With gesture infantine and brief,
To fall around as soft a neck

As wilding rose's leaf.

Her Sunday frock, of lilac shade
(That choicest tint), was neatly made,
And not too long, to hide from view
The stout, but noway clumsy shoe,
And stocking's smoothly fitting blue,

That graced the Pilot's Daughter.
With look half-timid and half-droll,

And then with slightly downcast eyes, And blush that outward softly stole,

Unless it were the skies Whose sunlight shifted on her cheek, She half-turu'd when she heard me speak; But 'twas a brightness all her own, That in her firm, light step was shown, And the clear cadence of her tone

The Pilot's lovely Daughter !

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Were it my lot, there peeped a wish,

To hand a pilot's oar and sail,
Or haul the dripping inoonlight mesh

Spangled with herring-scale ;
By dying stars, how sweet 'twould be,
And dawn-blow freshening the sea,
With weary, cheery pull to shore,
To gain my cottage home once more,
And meet before I reached the door,

My darling Pilot's Daughter !

This element beside my feet,

Looks like a tepid wine of gold;
One touch, one taste, dispels the cheat-

'Tis salt and bitter cold :
A fisher's hut, the scene perforce
Of narrow thoughts and inanners coarse,
Coarse as the curtains that beseem
With net-festoons the smoky beam,
Would no-way lodge my favourite dream,

E'en with my Pilot's Daughter.
To the open riches of the earth,

Endowing men in their own spite,
The “Poor," by privilege of birth,

Stand in the closest right:
But not alone the palm grows dull
With clayey delve and watery pull,
And labour sends a sleepy class
To school, a childish school to mass—
True love will raise not sink. Alas!

How fades my Pilot's Daughter!
Raise her, perhaps ?-But, Ah! I said,

'Twere wiser let such thoughts alone. So may thy beauty, simple maid,

Be mine, yet all thy own : Joined in my free, contented love, With these fair gathering stars above, Before whose stedfast truth, it seems That “Rich" and “Poor" are as the beams And shadows on the river streams, That soon will sing thee into dreams.

So passed the Pilot's Daughter.

In spite of double adjectives, omissions of the article, parentheses, German-hyphen-wrought-copulations, italics, dashes, and imperfect adaptation of

pauses in the sense to the pauses of the metre, this is a lovely

little poem.

Had Mr Allingham's volume been made up of such poems as the following, his laurels would have been secure for ever:

EVENINGA CLOSE VIEW.

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Star-shadows dot our tiny lake,

And, sparkling in between
The dusky fringe the larches make,

Soft stars themselves are seen ;
Our boat and we, not half awake,

Go dreaming down the poud,
Whilst slowly calls the rail, “Crake, crake,"

From meadow-flats beyond.
The happy, circling, bounded view

Embraces us with home;
But up, through heaven's star-budding blue,

Our souls are free to roam ;
Whence for this veil of scented dew

That makes the earth so sweet,
A touch of astral brightness, too,

A peace—that is complete. Could we bring our minds to like the style of thing at all, we should confess ourselves entirely pleased with a piece called “Justice for Ireland.” It seems to us to be inferior to none of Burns's effusions of the same kind:

Justice for Ireland! Brothers all,

Of every creed and station !
Both great and small, a private call

Hath each to serve the nation.
The impulse of my patriot heart

Is to advise her truly
(Advisers have an easy part)-

Be yours to act it duly.
Justice for Ireland! Oh, ye bards,

By whom her woes are bruited;
Her laurel wreath the Muse awards

To strains more deeply rooted.
For tears and rage are transient things,

And whilst on these ye're battened,
The sky looks love, the gay bird sings,

The mountain soars unflattened.
Justice for Ireland ! If ye can,

Oh, host of writers broguish;
Nor paint each fellow-countryman

As blundering or roguish.
Think less of oddities and rags,

And more of human-nature;
And, 'stead of party words and flags,

March under something greater.
Justice for Ireland! Oh, je priests,

Both Protestant and Roman,

Let each observe his fasts and feasts,

But try to anger no man.
Religion's rind is little worth,

The milk is in the kernel ;
All love is of celestial birth,

All hatred, of infernal.

Justice for Ireland! Echoing band

Of empty agitators;
Who scorn each noiseless busy hand,

And canonise the praters.
Well may shrewd foes in secret scoff,

Nor think your mouths of corking;
While so much steam is blowing off,

There's little left for working.

Justice for Ireland! Members, dear,

Be honest not so rarely;
And blush, ye landlords, praise to bear,

For treating tenants fairly.
Justice for Ireland ! Poorer man,

Your evil passions bridle ;
And to assist her, try the plan

Of ne'er by choice being idle.
Justice for Ireland! Brothers all,

Of every creed and station ;
And other counsel if ye call,

For saving of the nation-
This maxim in the meantime prize,

Nor think its plainness humbling-
Let erery one beware of lies,

And laziness, and grumbling.

The profound metrical feeling displayed in the piece called “The Serenade,” makes bad verse inexcusable in Mr Allingham.

Oh, hearing sleep, and sleeping hear,
The while we dare to call thee dear,
So may thy dreams be good, although
The loving power thou canst not know !
As music parts the silence, lo!
Through heaven the stars begin to peep,
To comfort us that darkling pine,
Because those fairer lights of thine
Have set into the sea of sleep,
Yet closed still thine eyelids keep;
And may our voices through the sphere
Of Dreamland all as softly rise
As through these shadowy rural dells,
Where starlight echo, sleeping, dwells,
And touch thy spirit to as soft replies ;
And, shed from gentle guardian skies,
Till watches of the night be worn,
May uudisturbing angel-light
Fall round thy bed,—then joyous morn
Steal on its shadows rosy bright !
Good night! From far-off fields is borne
The drowsy echo's faint-"Good night !"-
Good-night ! Good night!

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