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character began, about his seventeenth
rear, to gain upon him; and, abandoning the antique vein, wherein he had, as it were, a native gift ready fashioned from the first, and ail but independent of culture, he began to court his more general faculties of thought and observation, and to give himself more willingly up to that species of literature in which, equally with other able young men, he could only hope to attain ease and perfection by the ordinary pro
cesses of assiduity and culture. Had helived, we believe there was an amount of general vigour and acquisition in him that would have secured him eminence even in this field, and have made him one of the conspicuous writers of the eighteenth century; but dying as he did so early, the only bequest of real value he has left to the world is that more specific and unaccountable deposit of his genius, the Rowley antiques.
WEEDs, WILD FLOWERS, AND was TE PAPER.
“Oh I could we do with this world of ours,
If books were plants, oh! how easy the reading them,
Fableth never, and never deceiveth,
Never pretends, or affectedly dreameth,
Would it were so with the books on our table,
Whose eyes scan the present, the past, and can suit your
In the waters of Avon.
These, with some dozen more,
A song is a song, t
ough there's no music in it,
As a bird is a bird, whether sparrow or linnet;
And so, dear reader, with a heavy heart we proceedtothat often neglected, but somewhat necessary, preliminary to the practice of our “ungentle craft.” Let not the rythmical induction to our article be objected to. Few critics are found so generous as to give such an advantage to their victims as we have done in those lines. From the judicial bench, arrayed in all the awful paraphernalia of a literary Rhadamanthus, we descend and take our place by the side of those shivering spectres who stand tremblingly awaiting their doom before our august tribunal. We adopt their crime, become abetters in their treason, repeat their plea.—Abandoning the safe commonplaces and prosaic formulas prescribed by the General Orders in the High Court of Criticism, we have introduced a phraseology, a form of pleading which we fear will leave us open to many serious demurrers. Well, we cannot help it; it is an act of common justice, however opposed to common law and to common sense. “Oh I that mine enemy would write a book,” says Job, in the midst of his undeserved trials and calamities. “Oh! that my reviewer would write a poem,” must have been the revenge
* The Dialogues of Plato may be considered distinct scenes in the great and beautiful philosophical drama of his entire works.
† Beaumont and Fletcher.
as well as that revolting catalogue which Shelley describes with more power than correct taste in “ The Sensitive Plant:”—
Between the time of the wind and the snow,
many a speck, Like the water snake's belly and the toad's
* And thistles, and nettles, and darnels rank, And the dock, and henbane, and hemlock
dank, Stretch'd out its long and hollow shank, And stifled the air till the dead wind
“ And plants at whose names the verse feels
loath, Filled the place with a monstrous under
growth, Prickly, and pulpous, and blistering, and
blue, Livid and starred with a lurid dew.
" And agarics and fungi, with mildew and
mould, Started like mist from the wet ground
cold; Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead, With a spirit of growth had been ani
“These mental lullabies of pain," he says, speaking of his own elegiacs
"May bind a book, may line a box,
May serve to curl a maiden's locks." There is comfort for you, oh! unread rhymers, and be content. We do not profess to give our specimens in the order of our classification; that, and the proper place and destiny of each, we leave to the intelligence and mercy of the reader.
To begin our lecture, we beg to present to the reader a little volume* from the press of the English disciple of Aldus.
The first poem in the collection, “The Diamond Rock," possesses, we fear, but little of the brilliancy of the one material or the durability of the other. It is a ballad, written, evidently, with a notion that it would take its place beside, if it did not supersede,“ The Ancient Mariner,” or * The Old Woman of Berkeley;" but with an unconscious comicality, which Coleridge never aimed at, and which Southey, with all his forced efforts at juvenile jocularity, never reached. In fact, reader, we have laughed more over this little volume of downright serious versification, than over the most brilliant sallies of the greatest wits. Had Philip the Second beheld us, as we burst into thunderous cachinnations, he would have attributed our hilarity either to insanity or Cervantes. Had La Foret (Moliere's domestic critic and housekeeper) been present, she would be satisfied that nothing but the Malade Imaginaire of her hen-pecked and illustrious master could have produced such merriment. It has been our fate, like Swift,
" To laugh and shake in Rabelais' easy chair," and like " the million” with Lorrequer and Sam Weller, in their several uneasy positions; but nothing can express how we laughed, except the lines which Shelley puts into the idealised mouth of Mother Earth, in the last act of the “ Prometheus Unbound :"
A gbastly description, that reminds one of Milton's terrific enumeration of diseases in the “ Paradise Lost." « Wild flowers" is a name altogether expressive of natural and unforced perfection ; none of our poets will object to figure in this interesting class, if they share in the certain immortality which Nature and Wordsworth promise their namesakes. “ Pansies, lilies, kingcups, daisies,
Let them live upon their praises ;
“ Waste paper," indeed, seems the severest cut of all; but even this has its uses and its triumphs. Has not Tennyson, in the seventy-fifth elegy of his “In Memoriam," immortalised some of them? rather prosaically, it must be confessed, but perhaps designedly so, the better to harmonise with the ideas.
"Ha! ha! the caverns of my hollow mountains, My cloven fire crags, sound-exulting fountains, Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter!"
A true hero is unknown to his valet de chambre; a true genius to himself : Neither event, however desirable, happened for three days, for owing, we suppose, to the inconsiderate loss of the captain's glass, the “ Diamond Peak,” which was described as a very conspicuous object in the first stanza, could not be discovered: then, though
“ The Diamond Rock, and other Poems." By Henry H. Breen. London: William Pickering.
"Some pull'd long, and some row'd strong," It was all the same, for they all pull'd wrong,
if we may be allowed to complete the couplet by a line of our own.
At length being at sea (in every sense of the word) for some time, quite unexpectedly
“The Diamond Rock, without shiver or
and the most solemn and lugubrious perpetrator of platitudes is unconscious of the inexhaustible fund of comicality within him; and if not funny himself, how successfully he can be the cause of fun in others.
Toreturn to “ The Diamond Rock,'
c. This poem," says the author, “is founded on one of the most singular exploits in the naval history of Britain. I allude to the defence of the • Diamond Rock,' by Captain Maurice and his gal. lant comrades, on the 31st May, and Ist and 2nd June, 1805, an exploit alike re. markable for the extraordinary force employed in the attack, and the intrepidity with which the posts was defend. ed by the British. It was, moreover, the sole achievement of the memorable expedition under Admiral Villeneuve, by whom the proceedings were witnessed from the contiguous shore of Mar. tinique."
The poem commences abruptly with the following extraordinary gymnastic feat of the French captain : " 'Twas a morn in May, when across the bay
The captain his spy-glass he threw ;
Why the captain should have thrown away his glass at all, and how he could have thrown it so far as across the wide bay of Port Royal, we are equally at a loss to imagine. It must, we suppose, have been the excess of military ardour which so fired him, that he was enabled to do, in that moment of excitement, what, on ordinary occasions, would have been impossible and injudicious. After throwing away his glass in this very extraordinary manner, he informs his men of what he was about. “ Up! up! my lads! your anchors weigh,
We steer for the Diamond Rock; A bolt, a bar, a shell, a spar
We'll take her by twelve of the clock. “ A voice in the ship then spoke aloud,
* Beware of the spectre, beware-'"
Now we think, in the annals of military or naval strategy, there never was an ultimatum that could rival in directness, perspicuity, and terseness, that contained in the two lines we have italicised. They express, without any possibility of misconception, the entire object of the expedition, the determi. nation of the besiegers, the danger of resistance, and the penalty of defeat. Cæsar bad but to come, see, and conquer. Cromwell was famous for the pithy and uncomfortable brevity with which he dictated terms to his enemies. Napoleon was somewhat more rhetori. cal, but equally forcible. The famous ultimatum of the Volunteers, “or else"--was highly suggestive, though slightly vague. But the language of the French captain, or commodore (for as we shall presently find it was the latter), surpasses them all.
Neither are the English behind the French in the directness of their reply;
A storm was evidently rising, for “The captain scowl'd, the wind it howl'd,"
and worse than all,
“ The commodore 'gan to swear. " The commodore--Oh, he did lustily swear,
A thundering oath swore he ;
Or the devil be may take me!"
in fact many of our readers will give them the preference. With the honest bluntness of bold Britons they simply rely upon their right of possession, which they are determined to retain.
“By Ocean's Powers the gem is ours,
And ours it still shall be."
There is a weakness in the phrase “ Ocean's Powers,” which would never have been used if it were an Irish regiment that was on the rock. How energetically then would the reply have been given, and that with a very slight change of expression
“No! by the Powers! the gem is ours,
And ours it still shall be."
But whatever doubt there may be as to the directness of the language used, there can be none about the action that followed. Had James II.'s gunner acted with the same promptness beside “the Boyne's ill-fated river," how different the destiny of these kingdoms.
crouched down beside an enormous egg, and tying himself to the claw of the gigantic bird (the Roc), to which it belonged, was carried away to the valley of Diamonds. Strange now if we have, most unexpectedly, stumbled on the exact spot to which the dear old friend and companion of our childhood was borne. The reasoning, to our mind, is conclusive. “The Diamond Rock” is either a mere fanciful appellation, to which any other similar cluster would have an equal claim, or it was given designedly from some sufficient cause hitherto unexplained or forgotten. We have it on the respectable authority of Sinbad, that he was carried by a bird called a Roc into a valley of Diamonds. We have it on the equally respectable authority of Mr. Breen, that on the island called by the French Roche, or Roc du Diamant, the vultures are so exceedingly strong as to be able to carry the corses of the slain « off to their lair." Is it not conclusive, notwithstanding some ornithological confusion on either side, that this was the identical spot where the singular story related by Sinbad occurred, and that it preserves the memory of the bird and of the valley in the very name it bears? At any rate, the coincidence is very striking, and we beg to offer the discovery to Mr. Lane, who, no doubt, will follow up the idea in the notes to his next edition of the Thousand and one Nights.
To return to the poem ; after three or four days of desperate fighting, the combatants, both French and English, disappeared with almost the entire completeness of the Kilkenny cats, leaving nothing but the tale of their heroism behind them. On both sides, to use the strong image of the poet
“They dropp'd away, like blasted hay,
Before the tempest's scourge.”
Three sailors, and our first acquaintance, the captain, were
“ The only remnant left."
" Truth is stranger than fiction." Here we have a fact stated that far surpasses the wonders of Sinbad's narratives, if indeed it be not an important testimony to their veracity. Our readers will recollect (at least such of them as are young in years and heart), that in the second voyage of that indefatigable traveller, he, being left behind by his companions on a desert island,
These at length emerge from a cleft in the rock, where they had concealed themselves; and, climbing to the walls of the fort, remove the rifled Union Jack, and in its place they “ hoist the tricolor ;” and then, as quickly as possible, endeavoured to reach the