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time, во full of poetical feeling, and Greek elegance and simplicity, as this address to Autumn :—
"Season of mists and mellow fruiifiilness—
"Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store 1
"Where are the songs of Spring Î Ay, where are
Think not of them! Thou hast thy music too;
One of the sweetest of the smaller poems a that entitled "The Eve of St. Agnes:" though we can now afford but a scanty extract. The superstition is, that if a maiden goes to bed on that night without supper, and never looks up after saying her prayers till she falls asleep, she will see her destined husband by her bed-side the moment she opens her eyes. The fair Madeline, who was in love with the gentle Porphyro, but thwarted by an imperious guardian, resolves to try this spell :—and Porphyro, who has a suspicion of her p'urpose, naturally determines to do what he can to help it to a happy issue; and accordingly prevails on her ancient nurse to admit him to her virgin bower; «here he watches reverently, till she sinks in slumber;—and then, arranging a most elegant dessert by her couch, and gently rous.ng her with a tender and favourite air. finally reveals himself, and persuades her to steal from the castle under hie protection. The opening stanza is a fair specimen of the sweetness and force of the composition.
"St. Agnes Eve! Ah, bitter cold it was!
But the glory and charm of the poem is in tue description of the fair maiden's antique
chamber, and of all that passes in that **?* and angel-guarded sanctuary: every part of which is touched with colours at once ricli and delicate—and the whole chastened ami harmonised, in the midst of its gorgeous distinctness, by a pervading grace and parity, that indicate not less clearly the exaltât.«} than the refinement of the author's fancy. We cannot resist adding a good part of tlu description.
"Out went the taper as she hurried in!
"A casement high and treple-arch'd there wis.
"Full on this casement shown the wintery mcoi.
"Anon his heart revives! Her vespers dooe.
"Soon, trembling, in her soft and chilly nest,
"Stolen to this paradise, and so entranc'd,
"Then, by the bed-side, where the sinking mwc
"And still she slept—an azure-lidded sleep!
"Those délicates he heap'd with glowing had.
It is difficult to break off in such a course of citation: But we must stop here; and «hall close our extracts with the following lively lines :—
"О sweet Fancy! let her loose!
Thou shall hear
Distant harvest carols clear;
Pearled with the self-came shower;
There is a fragment of a projected Epic, entitled "Hyperion," on. the expulsion of Saturn and the Titanian deities by Jupiter and his younger adherents, of which we cannot advise the completion: For, though there are passages of some force and grandeur, it is sufficiently obvious, from the specimen before us, that the subject is too far removed from all the sources of human interest, to be successfully treated by any modern author. Mr. Keats has unquestionably a very beautiful imagination, a perfect ear for harmony, and a great familiarity with the finest diction of English poetry; but he must learn not to misuse or misapply these advantages ; and neither to waste the good gifts of nature and study on intractable themes, nor to luxuriate too recklessly on such as are more suitable.
These are тегу sweet verses. They do not. indeed, stir the spirit like the strong lines 1 f Byron, nor make our hearts dance within u*, like the inspiring strains of Scott; but 'hey come over us with a bewitching softness that, in certain moods, is still more delightful—and soothe the troubled spirits with a refreshing sense of truth, purity, and elerance. They are pensive rather than pass:i>nate; and more full of wisdom and tenderness than of high flights of fancy, or over•vhelminpr bursts of emotion—while they are moulded into grace, at least as much by the etfecl of the Moral beauties they disclose, as bv the taste and judgment with which they are constructed.
The theme is Human Life !—not only "the wbject of all verse "—but the great centre and source of all interest in the works of human beings—to which both verse and prose invariably bring us back, when they succeed in rivetting our attention, or rousing our emotion?—and which turns every thing into poetry to which its sensibilities can be ascribed, or by which its vicissitudes can be suggested! ^et it is not by any means to that which, in ordinary language, is termed the poetry or the romance of human life, that the present work is directed. The life which it endeav"wito get before us, is not life diversified
with strange adventures, embodied in extraordinary characters, or agitated with turbulent passions—not the life of warlike paladins, or desperate lovers, or sublime ruffians—or piping shepherds or sentimental savages, or bloody bigots or preaching pedlars—or conquerors, poets, or any other species of madmen—but the ordinary, practical, and amiable life of social, intelligent, and affectionate men in the upper ranks of society—such, in short, as multitudes may be seen living every day in this country—for the picture is entirely Englieh — and though not perhaps in the choice of every one, yet open to the judgment, and familiar to the sympathies, of all. It contains, of course, no story, and no individual characters. It is properly and peculiarly contemplative—and consists in a series of reflections on our mysterious nature and condition upon earth, and on the marvellous, though unnoticed changes which the ordinary course of our existence is continually bringing about in our being. Its marking peculianty in this respect is, that it is free from the least alloy of acrimony or harsh judgment, and deals not at all indeed in any species of satirical or sarcastic remark. The poet looks here on man, and teaches us to look on him, not merely with love, but with reverence; and, mingling a sort of considerate pity for the shortness of his busy little career, and the disappointments and weaknesses by which it is beset, with a genuine admiration of the great capacities he unfolds, and the high destiny to which he seems to be reserved, works out a very beautiful and engaging picture, both of the affections by which Life is endeared, the trials to which it is exposed, and the pure and peaceful enjoyments with which it may often be filled.
This, after all, we believe, is the tone of true wisdom and true virtue—and that to which all good natures draw nearer, as they approach the close of life, and come to act less, and to know and to meditate more, on the varying and crowded scene of human existence.—When the inordinate hopes of early youth, which provoke their own disappointment, have been sobered down by longer experience and more extended views—when the keen contentions, and eager rivalries, which employed our riper age. have expired or been abandoned—when we have seen, year after year, the objects of our fiercest hostility, and of our fondest affections, lie down together in the hallowed peace of the grave—when ordinary pleasures and amusements begin to be insipia, and tne gay derision which seasoned them to appear flat and importunate—when we reflect how often we have mourned and been comforted—what opposite opinions we have successively maintained and abandoned—to what inconsistent habits we have gradually been formed—and how frequently the objects of our pride have proved the sources of our shame! we are naturally led to recur to the careless days of our childhood, and from that distant starting place, to retrace the whole of our career, and that of our contemporaries, with feelings of far greater humility and indulgence than those by which it had been actually accompanied :—to think all vain but affection and honour—the simplest and cheapest pleasures the truest and most precious— and generosity of sentiment the only mental superiority which ought either to be wished for or admired.
We are aware that we have said "something too much of this ;" and that our readers would probably have been more edified, as well as more delighted, by Mr. Rogers' text, than with our preachment upon it. But we were anxious to convey to them our sense of the spirit in which this poem is written;—and conceive, indeed, that what we have now said falls more strictly within the line of our critical duty, than our general remarks can always be said to do;—because the true character and poetical effect of the work seems, in this instance, to depend much more on its moral expression, than on any of its merely literary qualities.
The author, perhaps, may not think it any compliment to be thus told, that his verses are likely to be greater favourites with the old than with the young;—and yet it is no email compliment, we think, to say. that they are likely to'be more favourites with his readers every year they live :—And it is at all event» true, whether it be a compliment
or not, that ae readers of all ages, if they aie any way worth pleasing, have little glimpses and occasional visitations of those truths which longer experience only renders more familiar, во no works ever sink so deep into amiall? minds, or recur so often to their remembrance, as those which embody simple, and solemn, and reconciling truths, in emphatic and elegant language—and anticipate, a» it were, and bring out with effect, those saintary lessons which it seems to be the frrea: end of our life to inculcate. The pictures of violent passion and terrible emotion — the breathing characters, the splendid imagery and bewitching fancy of Shakesprare himself, are less frequently recalled, thar. those great moral aphorisms in which be bat so often
Told us the fashion of our own estate
and, in spite of all that may be said by grave persons, of the frivolousness of poetry, and of its admirers, we are persuaded that the mort memorable, and the most generally admired of all its productions, are those which a» chiefly recommended by their deep practical wisdom; and their coincidence with those salutary imitations with which nature henelf seems to furnish us from the passing scene* of our existence.
The literary character of the work is akin to its moral character; and the diction is ai soft, elegant, and simple, as the sentimo::* are generous and true. The whole piece, indeed, is throughout in admirable keeping. and ils beauties, though of a delicate, rather than an obtrusive character, set off each other to an attentive observer, by the skill with which they are harmonised, and the sweetness with which they slide into each other. The outline, perhaps, is often rather timidly drawn, and there is an occasional want of force and brilliancy in the colouring; which we are rather inclined to ascribe to the refined and somewhat fastidious taste of the art!?:. than to any defect of skill or of power. We have none of the broad and blazing tints of Scott—nor the startling contrasts of Bttod— nor the anxious and endlessly repeated touch of Southey — but something which come? much nearer to the soft and tender manner of Campbell; with still more reserve and caution, perhaps, and more frequent sacrifice» of strong and popular effect, to an abhorrence of glaring beauties, and a disdain of тв^аг resources.
The work opens with a sort of epitome of its subject—and presents us with a brief abstract of man's (or at least Gentleman|e) Шеas marked by the four great eras of—hi» birth —his coming of age—his marriage—and Ы* death. This comprehensive picture, with its four compartments, is comprised in less thai: thirty lines.—We give the two latter setfw only.
"And soon again shall music swell rhe breew: Soon, issuing forth, shall glitter through the tnrt» Vestures of Nuptial white; and hymns b« »unj. And violeta scatier'd round; ami old and т ting,
In every cottage-porch wilh garland« green,
"And once, alas! nor in a distant hour,
"And euch is Human Life! So gliding on, Ii glimmere like a meteor, and is gone !"—pp. 8—10.
After some general and very striking reflections upon the perpetual but unperceived gradations by which this mysterious being is carried through all the stages of its fleeting existence, the picture is resumed and expanded with more touching and discriminating details. Infancy, for example, is thus finely delineated :—
"The hour arrives, the moment wish'd and
The child is born, by many a pang endetr'd.
"Her by her smile how soon the stranger knows;
pp. 19, 20.
This ie pursued in the same strain of tendemees and beauty through all its most interesting bearings ;—and then we pass to the bolder kindlings and loftier aspirations of Yooth.
"Then is the Age of Admiration—then Hods walks the earth, or beings more than men! Ib '. then come thronging many a wild desire, Arid high imaginings and thoughts of lire! Then Irom within a voice exclaims ' Aspire!' Phantom«, that upward point, before him pass, Afin the Cave athwart the Wizard's glass," Sic.
tt'e cut short this tablature, however, as well as the spirited sketches of impetuous courage and devoted love that belong to the tame period, to come to the joys and duties of matnrer life; which, we think, are described with still more touching and characteristic beautiee. The Youth passes into this more tranquil and responsible state, of course, by Marriage J and we have great satisfaction in lecurring, with our uxorious poet, to his representation of that engaging ceremony, upon which his thoughts seem to dwell wilh so much fondness and complacency.
"Then are they blest indeed! and swift the hours lui her young Sisters wreathe her hair in flowers, Kindling her beauiy—while, unseen, the least Twitches her robe, then runs behind the rest,
Known by her laugh that will not be suppreas'd.
pp. 32, 33.
Beautiful as this is, \ve think it much inferior to what follows; when Parental affection comes to complete the picture of Connubial bliss.
"And laughing eyes and laughing voices till
Their halls with gladness, She, when all are still,
Comes and undraws the curtain as they lie
In sleep, how beautiful! He, when the sky
Gleams, and the wood sends up its harmony,
When, gathering round his bed, they climb to shara
His kisses, and with gentle violence there
Break in upon a dream not half so fair,
Up to the hill top leads their little feet;
Or by the forest-lodge; perchance to meet
The stag-herd on its march, perchance to hear
The otter rustling in the sedgy mere;
Or to the echo near the Abbot's tree,
That gave him back his words of pleasantry—
When the House stood, no merrier man than he!
And, as they wander with a keen delight.
If but a leveret catch their quicker sight
Down a green alley, or a squirrel then
Climb the gnarled oak, and look and climb again,
If but a moth flit by, an acorn fall,
He turns their thoughts to Him who made them all."
"But Manie born to suffer. On the door Sickness has set her mark; and now no more Laughter within we hear, or wood-notes wild As of a mother singing to her child. All now in anguish from that room retire. Where a young cheek glows with consuming fire, And innocence breathes contagion !—all but one, But she who gave it birth !—From her alone The medicine-cup is taken. Through the night, And through the day. that with its dreary light Comes unregarded, she sits silent by, Watching the changes with her anxious eye: While they without, listening below, above, (Whu but in sorrow know how much they love f) From every little noise catch hope and fear, Exchanging still, still as they turn to hear, Whispers and sighs, and smiles all tenderness! That would in vain the starling tear repress."
pp. 38, 39.
The scene, however, is not always purely domestic—though all its lasting enjoymente are of that origin, and look back to that consummation. His country requires the arm of a free man! and home and all its joys must be left, for the patriot battle. The sanguinary and tumultuous part is slightly touched; But the return is exquisite; nor do we know, any where, any verses more touching and full of heartfelt beauty, than some of those we arn about to extract.
"He goes, and Night comes as it never came!
"Such golden deeds lead on to golden days,
Scatters her loose notes on the sultry air,
Other cares and trials and triumphs await him. He fights the good fight of freedom in the senate, as he had done before in the field— and with greater peril. The heavy hand of power weighs upon him, and he is arraigned of crimes against the State.
"Like Harnpden struggling in his country's cause,
Went Sidney, Rüssel, Raleigh. Cranmer, More!
* Traitor's Gate, in the Tower.
t We know of nothing at once so pathetic and so sublime, as the few simple sentences here alluded to, in the account of Lord Russel's trial.
Lord Rastel. May I have somebody write to help my memory?
Mr. Attorney General. Yes, a Servant.
/x>rd Chief Juftire. Any of your Servants shall assist you in writing any thing you please for you.
Lord Rüssel. My Wife is here, my Lord, to do it Î
When we recollect who Ruesel and his wife
were, and what a destiny was then impending, this one trait makes the heart swell, almost to bursting.
Again with honour to his hearth resior'd,
(The humblest servant calling by his name),
What follows is sacred to Mill higher remembrances.
"And now once more where most he lov'd to bt
The scene of closing Age is not less beautiful and attractive—nor less true and exemplary.
"'Tie the sixth hour.
The village-clock strikes from the distant tower.
"And such, his labour done, the calm He knowi. Whose footsteps we have follow'd. Round his
An atmosphere that brightens to the lam;
"At night, when all, assembling round the fire.