Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

political rather than of poetical incapacity to the servile duties it was said to impose.

“ Yea in this now, while Malice frets her hour,

Is foretaste given me of that ineed divine;
Here undisturbed in this sequestered bower,

The friendship of the good and wise is mine;
And that green wreath which decks the Bard when dead,
That laureate garland crowns my living head.
That wreath which in Eliza's golden days

My master dear, divinest Spenser wore,
That which rewarded Drayton's learned lays,

Which thoughtful Ben and gentle Daniel bore,-
Grin Envy through thy ragged mask of scorn!

In honour it was given, with honour it is worn!" In this enumeration Mr. Southey carefully omits those later Laureates, whose only wreath was that which royalty gave; who brought the office into deserved contempt, from which its present possessor promises to rescue it, though he may not perhaps be able to raise it to the rank it held in the time of his master dear, divinest Spencer.”

We know not, as we observed on a former occasion (Vol. Ill. p. 476) by what title Mr Southey claims the honour of calling himself the pupil of Spencer. Lydgate Gower and Hoccleve, if we mistake not, speak of “ their maister Chaucer," but they had the opportunity of personal converse, of drinking from the “ well of English undefiled,” and yet one of them has the modesty to say that he had “ leered full lite or nought."* Mr. Southey however repeatedly asserts his right to call Spencer his master, without any such diffidence; and if he means merely that he is a humble follower of that great poet in the office he holds, we have only to complain that he does not express himself more distinctly.

The “ Lay of the Laureate,” like the second part of the “ Pilgrimage to Waterloo," claims the rank of an allegorical poem; and notwithstanding their author's vaunted admiration for his “ master dear,” if we are not much mistaken, they are the only pieces of that description that have proceeded from the pen of Mr. Southey. We might presume, therefore, it is only very lately that Spencer has become his master dear;" yet in another part of the Proem he is careful to tell us,

“ But then my Master dear arose to mind,

He on whose song while yet I was a boy, My spirit fed, attracted to its kind, And still insatiate of the growing joy ;

* Vide Speght's Life of Chaucer, 1598.

He on whose tomb these eyes were wont to dwell,
With inward yearnings which I may not tell;
“ He whose green bays shall bloom for ever young,

And whose dear name whenever I repeat,
Reverence and love are trembling on my tongue ;

Sweet Spenser,--sweetest Bard; yet not more sweet
Than

pure was he, and not more pure than wise, High Priest of all the Muses' mysteries." If this be a genuine and not, in some degree at least, a factitious admiration (which we can hardly suppose with a man of Mr. Southey's taste), it is singular that he should so late have postponed his imitations- for such we apprehend it is his intention that they should be esteemed-especially when he informs us, that even in his childhood on Spencer's song “his spirit fed, attracted to its kind.For our own part, excepting that they make pretensions' to an allegorical form, we should scarcely have known that any resemblance was intended. Properly speaking, we doubt if this Carmen Nuptiale be an allegory, for though characters of the kind are introduced, it does not at all satisfy the definition of Plutarch,“ where one thing is related and another understood,” or the other distinctions pointed out by Hughes in his clever Essay on poetry of that species. It is not however very important to settle this point, and we will proceed to give some specimens of the body of this production. While musing upon his “ master dear,” the poet supposes himself to fall asleep, and he immediately begins to dream that he is in the street amidst the bustle attendant upon the royal marriage : he obtains entrance, it does not exactly appear how, into the Hall of Victory of Carlton House; what he there saw he thus describes :

“ Amid that Hall of Victory side by side,

Conspicuous o'er the splendid company,
There sate a royal Bridegroom and his Bride;

In her fair cheek, and in her bright blue eye,
Her flaxen locks and her benignant mien,
The marks of Brunswick’s Royal Line were seen.
“ Of princely lineage and of princely heart,

The Bridegroom seem'd, a man approved in fight,
Who in the great deliverance bore his part,

And had pursued the recreant Tyrant's flight
When driven from injured Germany he fled,
Bearing the curse of God and man upon his head.

“Guerdant before his feet a Lion lay,

The Saxon Lion, terrible of yore,
Who in his withered limbs and lean decay,

The marks of long and cruel bondage bore,
But broken now beside him lay the chain,
Which galled and fretted late his neck and mane.
“ A Lion too was couched before the Bride ;

That noble beast had never felt the chain;
Strong were bis sinewy limbs and smooth bis bide,

And o'er his shoulders broad the affluent mane
Dishevelled hung; beneath his feet were laid
Torn flags of France whereon his bed he made.
“ Full different were those Lions twain in plight,

Yet were they of one brood ; and side by side
Of old, the Gallic Tyger in his might

They many a time had met, and quelled his pride,
And made the treacherous spoiler from their ire

Cowering and crippled to his den retire." Their throne represented as supported by Honour and Faith; and while the poet is employed in gazing at the wond'rous sight, suddenly the air " is filled with solemn music breathing round," and Britannia (whose attributes are minutely described with little variation from the representation of her upon the reverse of a halfpenny) enters and addresses the royal bride as follows:

· Daughter of Brunswick's fated line, she said,

Wbile joyful realms their gratulations pay,
And ask for blessings on thy bridal bed,

We too descend upon this happy day,
Receive with willing ear what we impart,
And treasure up our counsels in thy heart !
Long may it be ere thou art called to bear

The weight of empire in a day of woe!
Be it thy favoured lot meantime to share

The joys which from domestic virtue flow,
And
may

the lessons whieb are now imprest
In years of leisure, sink into thy breast.
“ Look to thy sire, and in his steady way,

As in his father's he, learn thou to tread;
That thus, when comes the inevitable day,

No other change be felt than of the head
Which wears the crown; thy name will then be blest
Like theirs, when thvú too shalt be called to rest.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ Love peace and cherish peace; but use it so

That war may find thee ready at all hours ;
And ever when thou strikest, let the blow

Be swift and sure: then put forth all the powers
Which God hath given thee to redress thy wrong,
And, powerful as thou art, the strife will not be long.
Let not the sacred Trident from thy hand

Depart, nor lay the falchion from thy side !
Queen of the Seas, and mighty on the land,

Thy power shall then be dreaded far and wide :
And, trusting still in God and in the Right,

Thou mayest again defy the world's collected might.”
She moves off majestically, and is followed by Expe.
rience, who presents

- a goodly volume, which he laid

Between that princely couple on the throne.” And next to him approaches “ the Angel of the English Church,” accompanied by “ Edward the spotless Tudor," Cranmer, Latimer, and a crowd of “partakers in beatitude” and martyrdom, among whom why Ridley, the firm unshaken Ridley, is not distinguished we know not, unless Mr. Southey's laureate loyalty was shocked by the sermon of that bishop against Queen Mary, and in favour of Lady Jane Grey. "The Angel makes rather a long speech against Popery, " that Harlot old," whose seductions and machinations Mr. Southey at the present moment seems rather unreasonably to dread, and thus winds up the oration, speaking of the established church :

• Built on a rock, the fabric may repel

Their utmost rage, if all within be sound:
But if within the gates Indifference dwell,

Woe to her then! there needs no outward wound !
Through her whole frame benumbed, a lethal sleep,
Like the cold poison of the asp will creep
“ In thee, as in a cresset set on high,

The light of piety should shine far seen,
A guiding beacon fixed for every eye:

Thus from the influence of an honoured Queen,
As from its spring, should public good proceed,
The

peace of Heaven will be thy proper meed.
“So should return that happy state of yore

When piety and joy went hand in hand;
The love which to bis flock the shepherd bore,

The old observances which cheered the land,

[ocr errors]

his "

The household prayers which, honouring God's high name,

Kept the lamp trimmed and fed the sacred flame." The Angel of the Church and the saintly train vanish, and their place is occupied by “ another minister of bliss, one of that angelic company

“Who, guardians of the rising human race,

Alway in Heaven behold the Father's face.” The object of this mission is to exhort the Princess to use her influence in promoting the great object of the education of the lower classes. Although none but common-place topics are introduced into this harangue, yet the purpose is good, and the language by no means infelicitous. Mr. Southey has always been very laudably zealous in his exertions on this subject, and our readers will recollect, that in

Pilgrimage to Waterloo,” he travelled no little distance out of his course for the sake of introducing it. The eight subsequent stanzas are spoken by the Angel to the Princess Charlotte :

“I plead for babes and sucklings, he began,

Those who are now, and who are yet to be:
I plead for all the surest hopes of man,

The vital welfare of humanity:
Oh! let not bestial ignorance maintain
Longer within the land her brutalizing reign.
O Lady! if some new-born babe should bless,

In answer to a nation's prayers, thy love,
When thou, beholding it in tenderness,

The deepest, holiest joy of earth shalt prove,
In that the likeness of all infants see,
And call to mind that hour what now thou hearest from me.
“ Then seeing infant man, that Lord of Earth,

Most weak and helpless of all breathing things,
Remember that as Nature makes at birth

No different law for Peasants or for Kings,
And at the end no difference may befall,
The short parenthesis of life is all.
“ But in that space, how wide may be their doom

Of honour or dishonour, good or ill!
From Nature's band like plastic clay they come,

To take from circumstance their woe or weal;
And as the form and pressure may be given,
They wither upon earth, or ripen there for Heaven.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »