Изображения страниц

is admirably portrayed; in the present time, I We do not positively assert that he was born in one case out of a hundred, it may be the for a poet; but, considering that his first honnatural, spontaneous, noble growth of the ors were won in the livery of the Muses, we soul ; while, in ninety-nine cases out of the think it very probable that, had he devoted hundred, it is the fruit of calculation or poli- his life to poetry, his ear might bave so imcy; in other words, in rare instances it de- proved, and his perception of the beautiful in serves the name - in the vast majority of sound 80 sharpened, that he might finally matches there is only its counterfeit. It is have succeeded in linking the beautiful in observable that every important love-match in sound to the beautiful in sight, and so prothe book goes awry, except that of Pisistratus ducing the highest embodiment of beauty — a and Blanche ; and, although it may be said poem. But, after twenty years of prose, to that this is but in accordance with the old return to the jealous Muses !

We fear they adage, yet we must remark the circumstance, will never recognize thee for a true singer, that love here does not, after a troubled course, but pluck thee for a syren. settle finally into a quiet woodland cove, as is We think “King Arthur” is deficient in the approved plan ; it leaps over a ledge, and three respects : in melody, in blended poetic disappears in darkness. This is, perhaps, wholeness, and in belief, or the power of inmore accidental than intentional on the part spiring such. The melody is often trancingly of the novelist, but it is, nevertheless, true : sweet, but is somewhat monotonous, and ocin our present mechanical life, be it an im- casionally stiff; the parts do not blend into provement or be it not, the place of emotion each other, almost invisibly, yet without any is, save in rare conjunctions of circumstance, loss of clearness, as they ought, and as they supplied by calculation.

do, for instance, in Milton; and, last and In " The Caxtons," we have, we venture to fatal fault, the reader does not for a moment think, the final development of Sir Edward's believe, or think that the author believes — powers - the final product of his mind; we Imagination does not fling her gold-dust in have that calmness which marks the greatest the eyes of Reason, so as to change for a mostrength, that serenity which marks the truest ment their cold, scrutinizing light. In illuswisdom, that unostentatious, peaceful dignity tration and proof of this last assertion, read which marks perfection of style. We confer the following stanzas : it is impossible, in upon it very high praise, when we say that doing so, not to think that the author is here Bulwer has shown himself possessed of laughing in his sleeve at the whole affair ; the true humor, of sympathy, we shall not say subject is the departure of Arthur: with the low, but with the humble, the homely, we might almost say the ridiculous; he In street and mart still plies the busy craft ; has proved that he can convey to his pages

Still beauty trims for stealthy steps the bower ; those little occurrences which none but the By lips as gny the Hirlas horn is quaft ; keenest eye can see, and with which only the as when in Arthur men adored the sun ;

To the dark bourne still flies as fast the hour, warmest heart can sympathize, which, as it And life's large rainbow took its hues from One! were naïvely, wrinkle the face of life with smiles. The opening passage of " The Cax- Yet ne'er hy prince more loved a crown was worn, tons,” commencing with " It's a boy,” is a And hadst thou ventured but to hint the doubt sample of delicate and genuine humor, of a That loyal subjects ever ceased to mourn, far higher sort than finds place in his other And that, without him, earth was joy without, works, and far above the region of fun. Thou soon hadst joined in certain warm dominious

So much for Sir Edward as a novelist, in The horned friends of pestilent opinions. which character, certainly, he has won his

This is admirable, if the seat given is to greenest laurels; our glance at him in his other capacities must be very brief, for he has hop, at a moment's notice, from the sublime entered the lists in every form of contest, and to the ridiculous ; if a rather poor and stale

joke is, in the circumstances, utterly inconcompeted for every crown. Sir Edward is willing to stake his fame on

sistent with epic grandeur, the stanzas are King Arthur;" we are happy it is out of utterly inadmissible. his power to do so. He will never be con

But we might say much, too, very much, sidered a great poet. And he may be some

in praise of the poem. It contains number: what astonished when we assure him, that less splendid lines ; certain of its portraits, as the very fact which he adduces as a presump

that of the Vandal king, are drawn with tive proof that his great poem must be good, amazing truth and point, and a very great seems to us to be the great cause of its de command of imagery is shown. fects. For twenty years he devoted himself

The following picture of Arthur and Ægle to prose composition, and then took up his we think extremely beautiful: harp to sing us an epic song. We suspect Lo! the sweet valley in the flush of eve ! that twenty years of prose extinguished his Lo! side by side, where through the rose arcade power of melody; that his voice lost tune. Steals the love-star, the hero and the maid !

Silent they gaze into each other's eyes, ling, swift-flowing; in melody free and firm,

Stirring the inmost soul's unquiet sleep; in diction flashing, in spirit kindly and true; So pierce soft starbeams blending wave and skies, we suppose there are very few similar pieces

Some holy fountain trembling to its deep! of higher merit in the language. This porBright to each eye each human heart is bare,

trait of Lord John Russell justifies, and more And scarce a thought to start an angel there!

than justifies, all we have said :Before them, at the distance, o'er the blue Next, cool and all unconscious of reproach,

Of the sweet waves which girt the rosy isle, Comes the calm “ Johnny who upset the coach."
Flitted light shapes the inwoven alleys through ; How formed to lead, if not too proud to please -

Remotely mellowed, musical the while, His face would fire you, but his manners freeze.
Floated the hum of voices, and the sweet Like or dislike, he does not care a jot ;
Lutes chimed with timbrels to dim glancing feet. He wants your vote, but your affection not.

Yet human hearts need sun as well as oats -
The calm swan rested on the breathless glass
Of dreamy waters, and the snow-white steer

So cold a climate plays the deuce with votes.

And while his doctrines ripen day by day, Near the opposing margin, motionless,

His frost-nipped party pines itself away; Stool, knee-deep, gazing wistful on its clear And life-like shadow, shimmering deep and fur, From the starved wretch its own loved child we

steal, Where on the lucid darkness fell the star.

And“ Free-trade” chirrups on the lap of Peel !

But see our statesman when the steam is on, And when, at last, from Ægle's lips, the voice And languid Johnny glows to glorious John!

Came soft as murmured hymns at closing day, When Hampden's thought, by Falkland's muses The sweet sound seemed the sweet air to rejoice - drest,

To give the sole charm wanting — to convey Lights the pale cheek, and swells the generous The crowning music to the musical ;

breast; As with the soul of love infusing all !

When the pent heat expands the quickening soul, We cannot, we regret extremely, give the And foremost in the race the wheels of genius roll. whole scene : the following is in a different, In a different tone is this, but very fine : though kindred, style ; it illustrates well Bulwer's command of the stores of beauty con- That wistful eye, that changing lip, that tone, tained in the Greek mythology :

Whose accents drooped or gladdened, from her

own, Spring on the Polar seas! not violent-crowned Haunted the woman's heart, which ever heaves

By dewy Hours, nor to cerulean halls Its echo back to every sound that grieves.
Melodious hymned, yet Light itself around Light as the gossamer its tissue spins
Her stately path sheds starry coronals. 0'er freshest

dews when summer morn bėgins,
Sublime she comes, as when, from Dis set free, Will Fancy weave its airy web above
Came, through the flash of Jove, Persephone. The dews of Pity, in the dawn of Love !
She comes — that grand Aurora of the North !
By steeds of fire her glorious chariot horne,

We may take this as the illustration of a From Boreal courts, the meteors flaming forth,

remark which applies to Sir Edward's style Ope heaven on heaven, before the mighty Morn, in every form of composition ; he indulges, And round the rebel giants of the Night, inore than any writer we know, in the perOn earth's last confines bursts the storm of Light. sonification of the feelings and passions, their Wonder and awe ! lo, where against the Sun

representation, without being directly decked

out in the attributes of the living, as actual A second Sun* his lurid front uprears ! As if the first-born lost Hyperion,

acting entities. Love, in her smile, shedding Rose from the hell-rocks on his writhings piled, Hope, waving her banner of woven smiles and Hurled down of old from his Uranian spheres, dewy freshness and sunny warmth : Hate,

frowning with the frown of his birth-place : And glared defiance on his Titan child.

sunbeams : Despair, scowling with relentless Now life, the polar life, returns once more ; malignity on his victims --- all these, and mul

The reindeer roots his mosses from the snows; titudes more, figure in Sir Edward's pages.
The whirring sea-gulls shriek along the shore ;
Through oozing rills the cygnet gleaming goes; adornment is more pleasing.

When executed with poetic truth, no form of
And, where the ice some happier verdure frees,
Laugh into light frank-eyed anemones.

Of Bulwer as a translator and dramatist we

speak not: in the first capacity he has, if we So much for “ King Arthur ;" its beauties mistake not, won universal applause : in the almost make us exclaim, " The power of lan- second, he combines his qualities as novelist guage could no farther go ;" its faults are per- and poetical composer, making a most happy haps all embraced in these words, “ it lacks compound. the unconscious fervor of poetry.".

As a public teacher, Sir Edward has said a “The New Timon” is keen, clear, spark- great deal that one may believe and follow,

The apparition of two or more suns in the Polar and a great deal more that one should know. frmament is well known.

With a keen, bright blade he cuts into fashion

worship, wealth-worship, religious formalism, Jably the greatest novelist of the day: it is “respectable” baseness, and most of the emotionally true; sympathizing with all that shams and anomalies that lurk about our so- is free and noble. In style it is servid and lucial fabric. He does not cast his eye over the minous : on the whole, it is a fine book. time with the revealing lightning that some The general characteristic which, more than times dwells in that of Carlyle ; he does not another, distinguishes the subject of our sketch penetrate in many cases into the very root of is vast diffusion accompanied with extraordiour social evils; but he smites often with nary power; diffusion of energy, width of great effect, and in the proper quarter. The sympathy, variety of intellectual faculty. first of our following extracts contains a mel. This diffusion, this width, and this variety ancholy fact; the second is a clever, and have perhaps been equalled in extent, but doubtless a true portrait; the third we be- they have very rarely been equalled both in Beech our readers to take home and sleep over range and in strength; where they have, as

– they may get a glimpse of truth ere the in the case of Southey, the fact has been the morning : ** As the first impression the for- marking one in the character. Neither emoeigner receives on entering England is that of tionally nor intellectually, is Sir Edward's the evidence of wealth, so the first thing that mind determined, with overwhelming force, in strikes the moral inquirer into our social sys- any one direction ; round no one subject has tem is the respect in which wealth is held; centred his love ; to no one subject have bis in some countries pleasure is the idea ; in intellectual powers, with exclusive and conothers glory, and the prouder desires of the centrated force, been directed. The result world ; but with us money is the mightiest has been that, in neither case, he has attained of all deities." “ Mr. Bluff is the last the highest degree of excellence; as a thinker, character I shall describe in this chapter. He his generation will never accept him for is the sensible, practical man. He despises guide, or expect from him the deepest wisdom; all speculations but those in which he has a as a poet he has failed. The novel may be share. He is very intolerant to other people's regarded as that debatable ground, between hobby-horses; he hates both poets and phi- the realms of the philosophic thinker and the losophers. He has a great love of facts; if poet, where those who are not irresistibly fixed you could speak to him out of the multiplica- | by nature, either in the one sphere or in the tion table, he would think you a great orator. other, may find fitting developinent and exerIle does not observe how the facts are applied cise for their powers : in the departinent of to the theory ; he only wants the facts them- the novel, accordingly, Sir Edward has won selves. If you were to say to him thus, very bigh honors. In opinion, striking gener• When abuses arise to a certain pitch, they ally the golden mean, he is remarkably safe. must be remedied,' he would think you a shal- in composition, he honestly avoids the fanlow fellow — a theorist; but if you were to tastic, and does not appear to be haunted with say to him, “One thousand pauper children the dread of commonplace, which leads 90 are born in London; in 1823 wheat was forty- many at present astray ; if he cannot win our pine shillings; hop-grounds let from ten to applause by lofty excellence, he scorns to do twelve shillings an acre, and you must, there- it by stage tricks : he floats, arrayed in fuirest fore, confess that, when abuses rise to a cer- colors, between the region of the poet and the tuin pitch, they must be remedied,” Mr. Bluff proser; he has not the belief, the music, the would nod his wise head, and say of you to heaven-kindled enthusiasm of Milton ; he has his next neighbor, “That's the man for my not the coldness and penetration of Butler or money; you see what a quantity of facts he Foster ; his poetry often degenerates intɔ puts into his speech.' Facts, like stones, prose, his prose sometimes rises into a region are nothing in themselves, their value con- of power and beauty which may be called posists in the manner they are put together, and etic. the purpose to which they are applied. Ac Sir Edward Lytton Bulwer Lytton is the cordingly, Mr. Bluff is always taken in. son of General Búlwer, of Haydon Hall, NorLooking only at a fact, he does not see an folk. At college he was distinguished as a inch beyond it, and you might draw him into poetical prizer; an infallible indication of any imprudence, if you were constantly tell- linguistic fluency, but almost never of poetic ing him two and two made four.' Mr.


He published 6. Pelham" about the Bluff is wonderfully English. It is by 'prac- year 1827; and the order in which we have tical men' that we have ever been seduced given his chief novels indicates chronologically into the wildest speculations ; and the most the stages of his mind. Ile obtained his preposterous of living theorists always begins baronetcy from the whig government. his harangues with • Now, my friends, let us look to the facts.'"

Our space is well-nigh exhausted ; we can The firm foot is that which finds firm footing. not speak of “ Athens." It shows the power The weak falters although it be standing upon of hard-working retained by him who is prob-l a rock.

From Chambers' Journal. the course of this article, to present our readTHE LIFE AND POETRY OF EDGAR POE.ers with an outline of his strange, sad history,

and a few selections from such of his poems Among the results of that spirit of enterprise as are most remarkable. which has brought us into intimate connec Three volumes of poems, tales, essays, and tion with the other nations of the earth, a criticisms, recently collected and published in more extended knowledge of literature is cer- America, contain the contributions of Edgar tainly not the least interesting. The triumphs Allan Poe to the periodical literature of his of science and human energy, which have country, and form the sole basis upon which done so much to change our ideas of distance, his reputation as a writer rests. "Very reand to give us ample opportunities of becoming cently, his poems alone have been republished acquainted with the remote portions of the in England, with a brief prefatory essay, in world, have had an effect in widening the which his merits as a prose-writer are scarcely circle of readers to such a degree, that authors even referred to, while the moral of his life is may now be said to write, not for those of obriously mistaken. From a biography pretheir own 'country merely, but for a world- fixed to the New York edition, we are enabled wide public. This is especially the case in to form an estimate of his personal character, regard to those who, though separated from such as his works do not afford ; and we doubt us by the mighty ocean, use the same language, if the records of human wretchedness and and give expression to ideas very similar to frailty can yield anything more painful than our own. The extent to which our knowledge the facts upon which that estimate is founded. of American literature has increased within Mental philosophy will scarcely enable us to the last few years, is one of the most striking account for the consistency of a fine sense of illustrations that could be adduced of the the beautiful, both in physics and in morals, manner in which free communication between with an extreme practical demoralization ; but nation and nation contributes to the general that it did exist in the case before us, as in diffusion of enlightenment, and the cultivation many others, there is no room to doubt; for of an elevated taste. As may easily be sup- never, we believe, was genius allied to vice in posed, our transatlantic cousins have hitherto its grosser forms more apparent than in the profited most by these benefits. Their litera- career of Edgar Poe. Unhappily, circumture and art are little else as yet than reflec- stances of the most unfavorable kind surtions of our own ; but we have, nevertheless, rounded him at his very birth, for both his obtained some return for what they have parents died while he was a mere child, leavderived from us, in the works of the more ing him little else than the dangerous recent American authors — works which are inheritance of strong passions and a restless now beginning to exhibit greater originality, disposition. His lot, in a worldly point of and indicate the formation of what will in view, was by no means a hard one, however, course of time be worthy of being considered for at his father's death he was adopted by a a national literature. The poets and novelists gentleman of ample means and a kindly heart, are leading the van in this intellectual prog- who strove with true paternal solicitude to ress ; for it is obvious that the specimens of guide and control the wayward boy. His American poetry with which we are now efforts were unavailing; for no sooner had more or less familiar, evince a far higher Poe returned from England, where he had order of genius, and more remarkable charac- been taken by his foster-father for the purpose teristics of originality, than anything of the of obtaining the advantages of a liberal educakind which the poets of the New World for- tion, than he entered upon the course of reckmerly produced.' They are distinguished by lessness and dissipation which ended only a greater degree of freshness, by a more deli- with his life. Expelled from an American cate sense of the beautiful, and a higher tone university, he returned home to repay his of feeling; and although a great poem, in the guardian's kindness with insults and ingratitrue sense of the term, has not yet reached tude of the worst description, and subsequently us from the other side of the Atlantic, not a set forth on a Quixotic journey to join the few remarkable ones may now be pointed to Greeks in their struggle for independence. in the works of such men as Longfellow, Greece he never reached, however, but was Bryant, Lowell, Whittier, and Poe. While picked up a wandering beggar in Russia, and the first two of these are now nearly as sent back only to be cashiered from a military familiar to the lovers of poetry among us as establishment into which he had been admitthey are in their own country, the others, ted by influence of no ordinary kind. equally worthy of notice, are by no means so We next hear of him as a private soldier, well known as they deserve to be. Poe, as a then as the successful competitor for a prize writer of more than ordinary power, and as offered by an enterprising publisher for a tale one who has evinced far more originality than and poem, and again as a miserable and halfany of his contemporaries, is especially worthy famished writer for obscure periodicals. Poe's of attention; and we therefore propose, in genius was not such as to remain long in ob

scurity, and accordingly his writings speedily it would seem as if this tenderness and solicibrought him into notice, and procured_him tude had brought back Poe to a sense of lucrative and honorable employment. For a shame. He again turned earnestly to his pen ; time he seemed to have overcome his evil pro- and in 1848, produced Eureka, a work to the pensities, and to have resolved upon a new composition of which he brought his capacities course of life. He married a young, beautiful, obviously in their most complete development. and gentle wife -" The Beautiful Annabel It is a prose poem on the cosmogony of the Lee” of his touching and exquisite lyric. He universe, a work of rare power, and the effect surrounded his home with all those refine- of which in America was beyond anything that ments which a highly-cultivated taste could had been experienced for years. It greatly suggest and a moderate income allow. In his increased the number of Poe's admirers, among humble yet poetical home, he appeared to whoin was a lady spoken of by his biographer, those who knew him best to have begun that as “one of the most brilliant women in New career of high endeavor for which his genius England.” Whether from sufficient cause or was so well fitted, and to have entered upon a not, the name of this lady and that of the course which would soon lead to fame and admired but wretched poet were frequently fortune. A few months, however, and all associated, and it was hoped that their exthis was at an end. His employers were pected union might have a beneficial influence compelled, reluctantly it is believed, to free upon his character. This, howerer, did not themselves from a connection with one whose take place — Poe, in a fit of almost incomprepower they appreciated, but whose irregulari- hensible brutality, having obtruded himself, ties and apparent insanity were continually designedly it was thought, upon a circle of the source not only of annoyance, but of great her friends, and in her own presence, in a pecuniary risk; for Poe's antipathies, always state of wild inebriety. Another, and the violent, were rendered tenfold more so by in- last, temporary reformation followed this occurtemperance, and he seldom scrupled as to the rence. lle once more gave evidence of a means of giving expression to them. After determination of amendment — spoke with continued periods of dissipation, intervals of unaffected horror of his past life, and became sobriety and great labor occurred. There were jealous of seduction into his former courses. times of remorse, and often of brilliant achieve- Temptation assailed him, however, at an unment. Let no one deem such language mis- guarded moment, while on his way to accept applied in the case of one who was as yet only of an honorable invitation from a literary a writer of fugitive papers for ordinary period institute, and he fell never again to rise. icals. The periodicalism of America has After days of dissipation and madness, he fostered all its best writers; and there, not died in the public hospital of Baltimore, in less than with us, do we find the highest October, 1849, at the early age of thirty-eight. evidences of intellectual strength in what is The moral of this melancholy history lies designed to last only for a few days. The upon the surface. Dark sometimes, dreadnature of many of Poe's contributions was, fully dark as is the page on which are written however, enduring; they bore the impress of the records of genius, we know of nothing genius; and, twenty years hence, the best of more sad and painful than this, for never, we them will probably be much more familiar to believe, was the poetic gift allied with so English readers than they are now. These much that was essentially depraved. It is were thrown off with amazing rapidity, con- more than doubtful whether the daring recksidering their character, at a time when, after lessness, the wild license with which men like his settlement in New York, all who admired Poe sported with the responsibilities of life, them, and were interested in their author, have not done far more for Satan, than in deemed that he had entered upon a new and their highest and purest works they have purer course of life.

done for man. And yet the poetry of this This hopeful period, however, was soon at poor inebriate is free from aught of that vian end. In two years after, his wife, whom ciousness which marked his life ; for the most he seems to have really loved, died in abject part, it is a mournful wail of one whose penury, and he had once more plunged into natural endowments were never called into the wildest excesses. Desperately depraved, play without uttering unconsciously deep and reckless, and mad, he still, at intervals, aston- touching sorrow over the wreck of the spirit ished his countrymen with some new proof of of which they formed a part. It is the sad, his genius. The literary circles of New York dirge-like music of those moments which were were always open to him in his sober hours ; pauses in a lawless life — a strain in which and even in his worst days he lacked not the the agony of remorse seems to thrill with all Belf-sacrificing devotedness of woman. The its intensity, or to grasp at strange, quaint mother of his dead wife clung to him, hoping fancies, and force them to interpret things it against hope, caring for him, screening him, dare not distinctly utter. And thus much and, awid all his self-abandonment, watching that Poe has written, is autobiographical in a over and seeking help for him. Occasionally stricter sense than poetry of a strongly sub

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »