Изображения страниц

befor: :is idea to exalt and announce the earth rolling on, wrapt in the har.

I it. He introduces to us

mony of the fraternal stars.

It was not life that he felt, like the masters of ". The breathing roses of the wood, Fair silver-buskin'd nymphs.; " .

the Renaissance, but grandeur, like

Æschylus, and the Hebrew seers,* and tells how

manly and lyric spirits like his own, who ". The gray-hooded Even nourished like him in religious emoLike a sad votarist in palmer's weed,

tions and continuous enthusiasm, like Ros, from the hindmost wheels of Phæb is' wain ;” 1

him displayed sacerdotal pomp and

majesty. To express such a sentiment, and speaks of

images and poetry addressed only to “ All the sea-girt isles, the eyes, were not enough; sounds also Tha, like to rich and various gems, inlay were requisite, and that more intro The unadorned bosom of the deep ;”

spective poetry which, purged from and

corporeal shows, could reach the soul. " That undisturbed song of pure concent,

Milton was a musician; his hymns Aye sung before the sapphire-colour'd throne, rolled with the slowness of a measured To Him that sits thereon,

song and the gravity of a declamation; With saintly shout, and solemn jubilee ; Where the bright Seraphim, in burning row, his art in these incomparable verses,

and he seems himself to be describing Their loud-uplifted angel-trumpets blow." 8"

which are evolved like the solemn har He gathered into full nosegays the mony of an anthem : Aowers scattered through the other

“But else, in deep of night, when drowsiness poets :

Hath lock'd up mortal sense, then listen I “ Ye valleys low, where the mild whispers use To the celestial sirens' harmony, Of shades, and wanton winds, and gushing That sit upon the nine infolded spheres, brooks,

And sing to those that hold the vital shears, On whose fresh lap the swart-star sparely

And turn the adamantine spindle round, looks;

On which the fate of Gods and men is Throw hither all your quaint enameli'd eyes,

wound That on the green turf suck the honied Such sweet compulsion doth in musick lie, showers,

To lull the daughters of Necessity, And purple all the ground with vernal And keep unsteady Nature to her law, flowers,

And the low world in measured motion draw Bring the rathe primrose that forsaken dies, After the heavenly tune, which none can The tufted crow-toe, and pale jessamine,

hear The white pink, and the pansy freak'd with

Of human mould, with gross unpurged ear.” jet, The glowing violet,

With his style, his subjects differed · The musk-rose, and the well-attired wood- he compacted and ennobled the poet's bine,

domain as well as his language, and With cowslips wan that hang the pensive consecrated his thoughts as well as his head,

words. He who knows the true liaInd every flower that sad embroidery wears: Bid amaranthus all his beauty shed, ture of poetry soon finds, as Milton And daffadillies fill their cups with tears, said a little later, what despicable crea Tstrew the laureat herse where Lycid tures "libidinous and ignorant poetas. lies.” 1

ters are, and to what religious, glori. When still quite young, on his quitting ous, splendid use poetry can be put in Cambridge, he inclined to the magnif- things divine and human. scent and grand; he wanted a great abilities, wheresoever they be found lowing verse, an ample and sounding are the inspired gift of God, rarely be strophe, vast periods of fourteen and stowed, but yet to some (though most four-and-twenty lines. He did not abuse) in every nation; and are ut face objects on a level, as a mortal, power, beside the office of a pulpit, cu but from on high, like those archangels | imbreed and cherish in a great peop.c of Goethe, T who embrace at a glance the whole ocean lashing its coasts and * See the prophecy against Archbishop Laud

[ocr errors]

in Lycidas, l. 130: * Arcadis, l. 32. Comus, l. 188-190. 1 lbid. l. 21-23.

“ But that two-handed engine at the door $ Ode at a Solemn Music, 1.6-17

Stands ready to smite once, and smite de

more." Il Lycidas, l. 136-151, Hin.mel.

Arcades, l. 61-73.

“ These virtue. • The Reason of Church Government, book * Il Penscroso, l 31-40. 4. Mitford, · 147. L'Allegro, h 41-68. Ibid. l. 196-160.

the seeds of virtue and public civility,

“ Come, pensive Nun, devout and pare,

Sober, stedfast, and demure, to allay the perturbations of the mind,

All in a robe of darkest grain, and set the affections in right tune ; to Flowing with majestick train, celebrate in glorious and lofty hymns And sable stole of Cypress lawn the throne and equipage of God's al.

Over thy decent shoulders drawn.

Come, but keep thy wonted state, mightiness, and what he works, and

With even step, and musing gait; what he suffers to be wrought with And looks commercing with the skies, high providence in his church; to sing Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes. the victorious agonies of martyrs and with her he wanders amidst grave saints, the deeds and triumphs of just thoughts and grave sights, which recall end pious nations, doing valiantly I a man to his condition, and preparo through faith against the enemies of him for his duties, now amongst the Christ.” * In fact, from the first, at St. Paul's whose "high-embowed roof” retains

lofty colonnades of primeval trees, School and at Cambridge, he had writ- the silence and the twilight under their ten paraphrases of the Psalms, then shade; now in composed odes on the Nativity, Circumcision, and the Passion Presently ap

“ The studious cloysters pale, •

With antick pillars massy proof, peared sad poems on the Death of a

And storied windows richly dight, Fair Infant, An Epitaph on the Mar. Casting a dim religious light ;” t chioness of Winchester, then grave and noble verses On Time, At a solemn now again in the retirement of the Musick, a sonnet On his being arrived study, where the cricket chirps, where to the Age of Twenty-three, his late the lamp of labor shines, where the spring which no bud or

mind, alone with the noble minds

blossom shew'th.' At last we have him in the

the past, may

“ Unsphere country with his father, and the hopes,

The spirit of Plato, to unfold dreams, first enchantments of youth, What worlds or what vast regions hold rise from his heart like the morning The immortal mind, that hath forsook

Her mansion in this fleshly nook." I breath of a summer's day. But what a distance between these calm and He was filled with this lofty philoso bright contemplations and the warm phy. Whatever the language he used, you th, the voluptuous Adonis of Shak- English, Italian, or Latin, whatever

He walked, used his eyes, the kind of verse, sonnets, hymns, list :ned; there his joys ended; they stanzas, tragedy or epic, he always reare but the poetic joys of the soul : turned to it. He praised everywhere • To hear the lark begin his flight,

chaste love, piety, generosity, heroic

And singing, startle the dull night,

It was not from scruple, but it
From his watch-tower in the skies, was innate in him; his chief need and
Till the dappled dawn doth rise ; : .. faculty led him to noble conceptions.
While the plowman, near at hand,
Whistles o'er the furrow'd land,

He took a delight in admiring, as Shak.
And the milk-maid singeth blithe, speare in creating, as Swift in destroy.
And the mower whets his sithe, ing, as Byron in combating, as Spenser
And every shepherd tells his tale

in dreaming Everon ornamental Under the hawthorn in the dale." +

poems, which were only employed to To see the village dances and gayety ; exhibit costumes and introduce fairy: to i sok upon the “high triumphs "and tales in Masques, like those of Bed the “ busy hum of men” in the "tow- Jonson, he impressed his own charac: er'd cities ;” above all, to abandon ter. They were amusements for the himself to melody, to the divine roll of castle ; he made out of theni lectures sweet verse, and the charming dreams on magnanimity and constancy: one of which they spread before us in a golden them, Crus, well worked out, with a light ;--this is all; and presently, as if complete originality and extraordinary he had gone too far, to counterbalance elevation of style, is perhaps his mas. this eulogy of visible joys, he summons terpiece, and 'is simply the eulogy of Me ancholy •

* Ibid. l. 88ga.

spe are !


seats.” *

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Here at the beginning we are in the And thou, unblemish'd form of Chastity, heavens. A spirit, descended in the I see ye visibly, and now believe puidst of wild woods, repeats this ode :

That He, the Supreme good, t whom al

things ill • Before the starry threshold of Jove's court

Are but as slavish officers of

vengeance, My mansion is, where those immortal shapes

Would send a glistering guardian, if need Of bright aerial spirits live insphered

were, In regions mild of calm and serene air,

To keep my life and tonour unassail'd. Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot,

Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud Which men call earth; and, with low

Turn forth her• silver lining on the night? thoughted care

I did not err; there does a sable cloud Confined, and pester'd in this pinfold here,

Turn forth her silver lining on the night, Strive to keep up a frail and feverish being,

And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.' Unmindful of the crown that Virtue gives, After this mortal change, to her true ser

She calls her brothers in “ a soft and vants,

solemn-breathing sound,” which “ rose Amongst the enthron'd Gods on sainted like a steam of rich distill'd perfumes,

and stole upon the air," t across the Such characters cannot speak : they “violet-embroider'd vale,” to the dissing. The drama is an antique opera, solute god whom she enchants. He Composed like the Prometheus, of sol- comes disguised as a gentle shep ein hymns. The spectator is trans- herd,” and says : ported' beyond the real world. He Can any mortal mixture of earth's mould does not listen to men but to senti

Breathe such divine, enchanting ravish. ments. He hears a concert, as in ment? Shakspeare ; the Comus continues the Sure something holy lodges in that breast,

nd with raptures moves vocal air Midsummer Night's Dream, as a choir

To testify his hidden residence. of deep men's voices continues the How sweetly did they float upon the wings glowing and sad symphony of the in- Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night, struments :


every fall smoothing the raven down

Of darkness, till it smiled! I have oft “ Through the perplex'd paths of this drear heard wood,

My mother Circe with the syrens three, The nodding horror of whose shady brows Amidst the flowery-kirtled Naiades, Threats the forlorn and wandering passeu- Culling their potent herbs and baleful drugs ; ger,"1

Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd strays a noble lady, separated from


And lap it in Elysium : Scylla wept, her two brothers, troubled by the

And chid her barking waves into attention. “sound of riot and ill-managed merri- But such a sacred and home-felt delight, ment which she hears from afar. Such sober certainty of waking bliss, The son of Circe the enchantress, sen

I never heard till now." I sual Comus enters with a charming They were heavenly songs which rod in one hand, his glass in the other, Comus heard ; Milton describes, and amid the clamor of men and women, at the same time imitates them; he with torches in their hands, headed makes us understand the saying of his like sundry sorts of wild beasts ;” it is master Plato, that virtuous melodies the hour when

teach virtue. The sounds and seas, with all their finny Circe's son has by deceit carried off

drove, Now to the moon in wavering morrice “nerves all chained up,” in a sumptu.

the noble lady, and seats her, with And, on the tawny sands and shelves ous palace before a table spread with

Trip the pert faeries and the dapper elves.”'1 all dainties. She accuses him, resists l'he lady is terrified and sinks on her insults him, and the style assumes ap knees : and in the misty forms which air of heroical indignation, to scorn loat above in the pale light, perceives the offer of the tempter. the mysterious and heavenly guardians

“ When lust, who watch over her life and bonor :

By unchaste looks, loose gestures, and for

talk, O, welcome, pure-eyed Faith ; white-handed But most by lewd and lavish act of sin, Hope,

Lets in defilement to the inward parts;
Thou Lovering angel, girt with golden wings; The soul grows clotted by contagion,
Comeus, l. 1-11.

| Ibid. l. 37-39.
Ibid. l. 213-225.

# Ibid. l. 555-557 til 113-118.

1 Ibid l. 244-264.


[ocr errors]

move ;

[ocr errors]

Waxing well of his deep wound


upon him

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Imbodies and imbrutes, till she quite lose And drenches with Elysian dew
The divine property of her first being.

(List, mortals, if your ears be true)
Such are those thick and gloomy shadows Beds of hyacinth and roses,

Where young Adonis oft reposes,
Oft seen in charnel vaults and sepulchres
Lingering, and sitting by a new-made grave, In slumber soft ; and on the ground
As loth to leave the body that it loved."* Sadly sits the Assyrian queen :

But far above in spangled sheen
A cold shuddering dew dips all o'er?

Celestial Cupid, her famed son, advanced Comus; he presents a cup of wine ; at Holds his dear Psyche sweet entranced the same instant the brothers, led by After her wandering labours long, the attendant Spirit,

Till free consent the gods among

Make her his eternal bride, with swords drawn. He fees, carry- And from her fair unspotted side ing off his magic wand. To free the Two blissful twins are to be born, enchanted lady, they summon Sabrina,

Youth and Joy; so Jove hath sworn. The benevolent naiad, who sits

But now my task is smoothly done,

I can fly, or I can run & Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,


to the green earth’s end, In twisted braids of lilies knitting

the bow'd welkin slow doth bend ; The loose train of thy (her) amber-dropping

And from thence can soar as soon hair." +

To the corners of the moon.

Mortals, that would follow me, The “goddess of the silver lake” rises Love Virtue, she alone is free:

She can teach ye how to climb lightly from her “coral-paven bed,"

Higher than the sphery chime; and her chariot “ of turkis blue and Or, if Virtue feeble were, emerald-green,” sets her down

Heaven itself would stoop to her." ** “ By the rushy-fringed bank,

Ought I to have pointed out the Where grows the willow, and the osier

awkwardnesses, strangenesses, dank." I

gerated expressions, the inheritance of Sprinkled by this cool and chaste the Renaissance, a philosophical quarhand, the lady leaves the “venom'd rel, the work of a reasoner and a Pla. seat which held her spell-bound; the tonist?' I did not perceive these faults. brothers, with their sister, reign peace- All was effaced before the spectacle of fully in their father's palace; and the the bright Renaissance, transformed Spirit, who has conducted all, pro- by austere philosophy, and of sublimity nounces this ode, in which poetry leads worshipped upon an altar of flowers. up to philosophy; the voluptuous light That, I think, was his last profane of an Oriental legend beams on the poem. Already, in the one which folElysium of the good, and all the splen- lowed, Lycidas, celebrating in the style dors of nature assemble to render vir- of Virgil the death of a beloved friend, t tue more seductive.

he suffers Puritan wrath and prepos. " To the ocean now I fly,

sessions to shine through, inveighs And those happy climes that lie

against the bad teaching and tyranny Where day never shuts his eye

of the bishops, and speaks of “that Up in the broad fields of the sky:

two-handed engine at the door, ready There I suck the liquid air All amidst the gardens fair

to smite (but) once, and smite no Of Hesperus, and his daughters three more.” On his return from Italy, con That sing about the golden tree:

troversy and action carried him away; Along the crisped shades and bowers Kevels the spruce and jocund spring;

prose begins, poetry is arrested. From The Graces, and the rosy-bosom'd Hours, time to time a patriotic or religious Thither all their bounties bring;

sonnet breaks the long silence; now to There eternal Summer dwells, And west winds, with musky wing,

praise the chief Puritans, Cromwell About the cedar'n alleys fling

Vane, Fairfax; now to celebrate the Nard and cassia's balmy smells.

death of a pious lady, or the life of a Iris there with humid bow

“ virtuous young lady ; once to pray Waters the odorous banks, that blow Flowers of more mingled hew

God" to avenge his slaughter'd saints, Than her purfled scarf can shew;

the unhappy Protestants of Piedmont,

“whose bones lie scatter'd on the A) * Comus, l. 463-473. It is the elder brother pine mountains cold;.” again, on his who utters these lines when speaking of his sisver.-TR. 1 Ibid. l. 861-863.

* Ibid. l. 976-1023. Ibid. . 890

Edward King died in 2007.

The poci

the grave,

second wife, dead a year after their discussion has ended by subduing the marriage, his weli beloved “saint lyric flight; accumulated learning by “ brought to me, like Alcestis, from choking the original genits.

came, vested all in no more sings sublime verse, he ro white, pure as her mind; loyal lates or harangues, in grave verse. He friendships, sorrows bowed to or sub- no longer invents a personal style ; he due 1, aspirations generous or stoical, imitates antique tragedy or epic. In which reverses did but purify. Old Samson Agonistes he hits upon a cold age came; cut off from power, action, and lofty tragedy, in Paradise Regained ven hope, he returned to the grand on a cold and noble epic; he composes dreams of his youth. As of old, he an imperfect and sublime poem in Parwent out of this lower world in search adise Lost. of the sublime ; for the actual is petty, Would to Heaven he could have writ. and the familiar seems dull. He se- ten it as he tried, in the shape of a jects his new characters on the verge of drama, or better, as the Prothemeus of sacred antiquity, as he selected his old Æschylus, as a lyric opera! A pecuones on the verge of fabulous antiquity, liar kind of subject demands a pecu. because distance adds to their stature ; liar kind of style ; if you resist, you and habit, ceasing to measure, ceases destroy your work, too happy if, in also to depreciate them. Just now we the deformed medley, chance produces had creatures of fancy : Joy, daughter and preserves a few beautiful frag: of Zephyr and Aurora; Melancholy, ments. To bring the supernatural daughter of Vesta and Saturn; Co- upon the scene, you must not continue mus, son of Circe, ivy-crowned, god in your every-day mood; if you do, you of echoing woods and turbulent ex. look as if you did not believe in it. cess. Now we have Samson, the despis. Vision rereals it, and the style of er of giants, the elect of Israel's God, vision must express it. When Spenthe destroyer of idolaters, Satan and ser writes, he dreams. We listen to nis peers, Christ and his angels; they the happy concerts of his aerial music, come and rise before our eyes like and the varying train of his fancisuperhuman statues; and their far re- ful apparitions unfolds like a vapor moval, rendering vain our curious before our accommodating and dazzled hands, preserves our admiration and gaze. When Dante writes, he is rapt; their majesty. We rise further and and his cries of anguish, his transports, higher, to the origin of things, amongst the incoherent succession of his infereternal beings, to the commencement nal or mystical phantomo, carry us with of thought and life, to the battles of him into the invisible world which he God, in this unknown world where describes. Ecstasy alone renders vis. sentiments and existences, raised above ible and credible the objects of ecstasy, the ken of man, elude his judgment If you tell us of the exploits of the and criticism to command his venera- Deity as you tell us of Cromwell's, in a tion and awe; the sustained song of grave and lofty tone, we do not see solemn verse unfolds the actions of God; and as He constitutes the whole these shadowy figures; and then we of your poem, we do not see any thing; + xperience the same emotion as in a We conclude that you have accepted cathedral, while the music of the organ a tradition, that you adorn it with the rolls along, among the arches, and fictions of your mind, that you are a amidst the brilliant light of the tapers preacher, not a prophet, a decorator, clouds of incense hide from our view not a poet. We find that you sing of the colossal columns.

God as the vulgar pray to Him, after a But if the heart remains unchanged, formula learnt, not from spontaneous the genius has become transformed. emotion. Change your style, or, ratte Manliness has supplanted youth. The if you can, change your emotion. Try richness has decreased, the severity and discover in yourself the ancient has increased. Seventeen years of fervor of psalmists and apostles, to re fighting and misfortune have steeped create the divine legend, to experience his soul in religious ideas. Mythology the sublime agitations by which the inhas yielded to theology; the habit of 'spired and disturbed mind perceiver

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »