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1. Records of Women: with other Poems. By Felicia Hemans. 2d Edition. 12ma
pp. 323. Edinburgh: 1828.
2. The Forest Sanctuary: with other Poems. By Felicia Hemans. 2d Edition, with
Additions. 12mo. pp. 325. Edinburgh: 1829.
Women, we fear, cannot do every thing;! nor even every thing they attempt. But what they can do, they do, for the most part, excellently—and much more frequently with an absolute and perfect success, than the aspirants of our rougher and more ambitious sex. They cannot, we think, represent naturally the fierce and sullen passions of men—nor their coarser vices—nor even scenes of actual business or contention—nor the mixed motives, and strong and faulty characters, by which arfairs of moment are usually conducted on ihe great theatre of the world. For much üf this they are disqualified by the delicacy nf their training and habits, and the still more disabling delicacy which pervades their conceptions and feelings; and from much they are excluded by their necessary inexperience ot the realities they might wish to describe— by their substantial and incurable ignorance of business—of the way in which serious aiairs are actually managed—and the true nature of the agents and impulses that give movement and direction to the stronger curMits of ordinary life. Perhaps they are also incapable of long moral or political investigations, where many complex and indeterminate elements are to be taken into account, and a variety of opposite probabilities to be weighed before coming to a conclusion. They are generally too impatient to get at the ultimate roulis, to go well through with such discussions; and either stop short at some imperfect view of the truth, or turn aside to repose in the shade of some plausible error. This, however, we are persuaded, arises entirely from their being seldom set on such tedious tasks. Their proper and natural business is :he practical regulation of private life, in all r.> bearmss, affections, and concerns; and the questions with which they have to deal in ¡nu! most important department, though often of the utmost difficulty and nicety, involve, for the most part, but few elements; and may î^tierallv be better described as delicate than intricate :—requiring for their solution rather a quick tact and fine perception, than a patient or laborious examination. For the same reason, they rarely succeed in long works, even on subjects the best suited to their ge"ius: their natural training rendering them equally averse to long doubt and long labour.
For all other intellectual efforts, however, »¡ther of the understanding or the fancy, and f-'luirinsr. a thorough knowledge either of marrs strength or his weakness, we apprehend them to be. in all respects, as well qualiu?d as their brethren of the stronger sex: 60
While, in their perceptions of grace, propriety, ridicule—their power of detecting artifice, hypocrisy, and affectation—the force and promptitude of their sympathy, and their capacity of noble and devoted attachment, and of the efforts and sacrifices it may require, they are, beyond all doubt, our Superiors.
Their business being, as we have said, with actual or social life, and the colours it receives from the conduct and dispositions of individuals, they unconsciously acquire, at a very early age, the finest perception of character and manners, and are almost as soon instinctively schooled in the deep and more dangerous learning of feeling and emotion; while the very minuteness with which they make and meditate on these interesting observations, and the finer shades and variations of sentiment which are thus treasured and recorded, trains their whole faculties to a nicety and precision of operation, which often discloses itself to advantage in their application to studies of a different character. When women, accordingly, have turned their minds —as they have done but too seldom—to the exposition or arrangement of any branch of knowledge, they have commonly exhibited, we think, a more beautiful accuracy, and a more uniform and complete justness of thinkin?, than their less discriminating brethren. There is a finish and completeness, in short, about every thing they put out of their hands, which indicates not only an inherent taste for elegance and neatness, but a habit of nice observation, and singular exactness of judgment.
It has been so little the fashion, at any time, to encourage women to write for publication, that it is more difficult than it should be, to prove these truths by examples. Yet there are enough, within the reach of a very careless and superficial glance over the open field of literature, to enable us to explain; at least, and illustrate, if not entirely to verify, our assertions. No Man, we will venture to say, could have written the Letters of Madame de Se vigne, or the Novels of Miss Austin, or the Hymns and Early Lessons of Mrs. Barbauld, or the Conversations of Mrs. Marcet. Those performances, too, are not only essentially and intensely feminine; but they are, in our judgment, decidedly more perfect than any masculine productions with which they can be brought into comparison. They accomplish more completely all the ends at which they aim: and are worked out with a gracefulness and felicity of execution which excludes all idea of failure, and entirely влил2pî
fies the expectations they may have raised. We might easily have added to these instances. There are many parts of Miss Edgeworth’s earlier stories, and of Miss Mitford's sketches and descriptions, and not a little of Mrs. Opie's, that exhibit the same fine and penetrating spirit of observation, the same softness and delicacy of hand, and unerring truth of delineation, to which we have alluded as characterising the purer specimens of female art. The same distinguishing traits of woman's spirit are visible through the grief and piety of Lady Russel, and the gaiety, the spite, and the venturesomeness of Lady Mary Wortley. We have not as yet much female poetry; but there is a truly feminine tenderness, purity, and elegance, in the Psyche of Mrs. Tighe, and in some of the smaller pieces of Lady Craven. On some of the works of Madame de Staël—her Corinne especially— there is a still deeper stamp of the genius of her sex. Her pictures of its boundless devotedness—its depth and capacity of suffering —its high aspirations—its painful irritability, and inextinguishable thirst for emotion, are powerful specimens of that morbid anatomy of the heart, which no hand but that of a woman's was fine enough to have laid open, or skilful enough to have recommended to our sympathy and love. There is the same exquisite and inimitable delicacy, if not the same power, in many of the happier passages of Madame de Souza and Madame Cottin—to say nothing of the more lively and yet melancholy records of Madame de Staël, during her long penance in the court of the Duchesse de Maine. But we are preluding too largely; and must come at once to the point, to which the very heading of this article has already admonished the most careless of our readers that we are tending. We think the poetry of Mrs. Hemans a fine exemplification of Female Poetry—and we think it has much of the perfection which we have ventured to ascribe to the happier productions of female genius. It may not be the best imaginable poetry, and may not indicate the very highest or most commanding genius; but it embraces a great deal of that which gives the very best poetry its chief power of pleasing; and would strike us, perhaps, as more impassioned and exalted, if it were not regulated and harmonised by the most beautiful taste. It is singularly sweet, elegant, and tender—touching, perhaps, and contemplative, rather than vehement and overpowering; and not only finished throughout with an exquisite delicacy, and even severity of execution, but informed with a purity and loftiness of feeling, and a certain sober and humble tone of indulgence and piety, which must satisfy all judgments, and allay the apprehensions of those who are most afraid of the passionate exaggerations of poetry. The diction is always beautiful, harmonious, and free —and the themes, though of great variety, uniformly treated with a grace, originality and judgment, which mark the same master old. These themes she has occasionally borrowed, with the peculiar imagery
that belongs to them, from the legends of different nations, and the most opposite states of society; and has contrived to retain much of what is interesting and peculiar in each of them, without adopting, along with it, any of the revolting or extravagant excesses which may characterise the taste or manners of the people or the age from which it has been derived. She has transfused into her German or Scandinavian legends the imaginative and daring tone of the originals, without the mystical exaggerations of the one, or the painful fierceness and coarseness of the other—she has preserved the clearness and elegance of the French, without their coldness or affectation —and the tenderness and simplicity of the early Italians, without their diffuseness or langour. Though occasionally expatiating, somewhat fondly and at large, among the sweets of her own planting, there is, on the whole, a great condensation and brevity in most of her pieces, and, almost without exception, a most judicious and vigorous conclusion. The great merit, however, of her poetry, is undoubtedly in its tenderness and its beautiful imagery. The first requires no explanation; but we must be allowed to add a word as to the peculiar charm and character of the latter. It has always been our opinion, that the very essence of poetry—apart from the pathos, the wit, or the ja. description which may be embodied in it, but may exist equally in prose—consists in the fine perception and vivid expression of that subtle and mysterious Analogy which exists between the physical and the moral world—which makes outward things and qualities the natural types and emblems of inward gifts and emotions, or leads us to ascribe life and sentiment to everything that interests us in the aspects of external nature. The feeling of this analogy, obscure and inexplicable as the theory of it may be, is so deep and universal in our nature, that it has stamped itself on the ordinary language of men of every kindred and speech: and that to such an extent, that one half of the epithets by which we familiarly designate moral and physical qualities, are in reality so many metaphors, borrowed reciprocally, upon this analogy, from those opposite forms of existence. The very familiarity, however, of the expression, in these instances, takes away its poetical effect—and indeed, in substance, its metaphorical character. The original sense of the word is entirely forgotten in the derivative one to which it has succeeded; and it requires some etymological recollection to convince us that it was originally nothing else than a typical or analogical illustration. Thus we talk of a sparkling wit, and a furious blast —a weighty argument, and a gentle stream —without being at all aware that we are speaking in the language of poetry, and transferring qualities from one extremity of the sphere of being to another. In these cases, accordingly, the metaphor, by ceasing to be felt, in reality ceases to exist, and the analogy being no longer intimated, of course can produce no effect. But whenever it is intimated, it (¡ops prodnce an effect; and that effect we think is poetry.
It hag substantially two functions, and operates in two directions. In the first place, when material qualities are ascribed to mind, it *trkes vividly out. and brings at once before us, the conception of an inward feeling or emotion, which it might otherwise have been difficult to convey, by the presentment of some bodily form or quality, which is instantly felt to be its true representative, and enables us to fix and comprehend it with a force ar,iI clearness not otherwise attainable; and, in the second place, it vivifies dead and inanimate matter with the attributes of living and sentient mind, and fills the whole visible univers*; around us with objects of interest and sympathy, by tinting them with the hues of life, and associating them with our own passions and affections. This magical operation the poet too performs, for the most part, in one of two ways'—either by the direct agency of similies and metaphor?, more or less condensed or developed, or by the mere graceful presentment of such visible objects 0,4 the scene of his passionate dialogues or adventures, as partake of the character of the emotion he wishes to excite, and thus form bn appropriate accompaniment or preparation for its direct indulgence or display. The former of those methods has perhaps been most frequently employed, and certainly has most attracted attention. But the latter, though less obtrusive, and perhaps less frequently resorted to of set purpose, is, we are inclined to think, the most natural and efficacious of the two; and it is often adopted, we believe unconsciously, by poets of the highest order;—the predominant emotion of their minds overflowing spontaneously on all the objects which present themselves to their fancy, and calling out from them, and colouring with their own hues, those that are naturally emblematic of its character, and in acriance with its general expression. It would be easy to show how habitually this is done. by Shakespeare and Milton especially, and b»w much many of their finest passages are indebted, both for force and richness of effect, •'> this general and diffusive harmony of the «terral character of their scenes with the Posions of their living agents—this harmonis•? and appropriate glow with which they tiiiill« the whole surrounding atmosphere, vid brins all that strikes the sense into unison ffim all that touches the heart.
°°1 it is more to our present purpose to МУ; 'hat we think the fair writer before us is eminently a mistress of this poetical secret: wd, in truth, it was solely for the purpose of Castrating this great charm and excellence ra her imagery, that we have ventured upon "i" little dissertation. Almost all her poems re rich with fine descriptions, and studded over with images of visible beauty. But these are ne?er idle ornaments: all her pomps have meaning ; and her flowers and her gems are "ringed, as they are said to be among Eastern '«ors. so as to speak the language of truth ад(1 of passion. This is peculiarly remark
able in some little pieces, which seem at first sight to be purely descriptive—but are soon found to tell upon the heart, with a deep moral and pathetic impression. But it is in truth nearly as conspicuous in the greater part of her productions; where we scarcely meet with any striking sentiment that is not ushered in by some such symphony of external nature—and scarcely a lovely picture that does not serve as an appropriate foreground to some deep or lofty emotion. We may illustrate this proposition, we think, by opening either of these little volumes at random, and taking what they first present to us.—The following exquisite lines, for example, on a Palm-tree in an English garden:
"It wav'd not thro' an Eastern sky,
"But far the exil'd Palm-tree grew
"There come an eve of festal hours—
"But one, a lone one, 'midst the throng.
"And slowly, sadly mov'd his plumes,
"To him, to him its rustling spoke!
"His mother's cabin home, that lay
"Oh! scorn him not !—The strength, whereby
The following, which the author has named; "Graves of a Household," has rather less ot external scenery, but serves, like the others, to show how well the graphic and pathetic may be made to set off each other:
"They grew in beauty, side by side.
• The tame Tond mother bent it night
O'er each fair sleeping brow;
Where are those dreamers now f "One, midst the forests of the West,
By a dark siream is laid,—
Far in the cedar shade.
He lies where pearls lie deep:
O'er his low bed may weep.
Above the noble slain:
On a blood-red field of Spain.
Its leaves, by soft winds fann'd;
The last of that bright band!
Beneath the fame green tree!
Around one parent knee!
And cheer'd with song the hearth,—
We have taken these pieces chiefly on account of their shortness: But it would not be fair to Mrs. Hemans not to present our readers with one longer specimen—and to give a portion of her graceful narrative along with ner pathetic descriptions. This story of "The Lady of the Castle," is told, we think, with great force and sweetness :—
"Thou scest her pictur'd with her shining hair,
Something too much there sits of native scorn,
"Her lord, in very weariness of life, Girt on his sword for scenes ol distant strife; He reck'd no more of Glory :—Grief and shame Crush'd out his fiery nature, and his name Died silently. A shadow o'er his halls Crept year by year; the minstrel pass'd their walls; The warder's horn hung mute : — Meantime the
On whose first flow'ring thought« no parent smil'd,
In a j<ii~-f ongmed spirit! Manhood rears
In one so fair—for she indeed was fair—
Hers were more shadowy, full of tbciught sed
And with lone lashes o'er a while-rose cheek,
"One sunny morn.
With alms before her castle gale she stood. 'Midst peasant-groups; when, breathless and o'erworn,
And shrouded in long robes of widowhood, A stranger through them broke :—The orphan muí With her sweet voice, and proffer'd hand of aid, Turn'd to give welcome: But a wild sad look Met hers; a gaze that all her spirit shook; And that pale woman, suddenly subdued By some strong passion in its gushing mood. Knelt at her feet, and bath'd them wilh such ten As rain the hoarded agonies ot years [prm'J
From the heart's urn; and with her white ',rti The ground they irode; then, burying in her та« Her brow's deep flush, sobb'd out — 'Oh! tut
defil'd! I am thy Mother—spurn me not, my child!'
"Isaure had pray'd for that lost mother; «fpt O'er her stain'd memory, while the happy slept In the hush'd midnight; stood with mournfulgut Before yon picture's smile of other days, But never breath'd in human ear the name Which weigh'd her being to the earth with thune. What marvel if the anguish, the surprise, The dark remembrances, the alter'd gui«. Awhile o'erpower'd her 1—from the weeper'i touch She shrank !—'Twas but a moment—yeuoo nuá For that all-bumbled one; its mortal stroke Came down like lightning, and her full ЬеапЬгли At once in silence. Heavily and prone She sank, while, o'er her castle's threehold-íicr-i. Those long fair tresses—they still biîghtlr wore Their early pride, though bound with petrli rx>
Bursting their fillet, in sad beauty roll'd.
"Her child bent o'er her—call'd' her—'Tra
Dead lay the wanderer at her own proud pf! The joy of courts, the star of knight and bard.— How didst thou fall, O bright-hair'd Ermengarit
The following sketch of "Joan of Are à Rheims," is in a loftier and more ambitions vein; but sustained with eqnal grace. aid ¿? touching in its solemn tenderness. We re: afford to extract but a part of it :—
"Within, the light.
Through the rich gloom of piciur'd winfo«»
flowing, Tinged with soft awfulness a stately fight.
The chivalry of France, their proud heads bu« ~l In martial vassalage !—while 'midst the nng, And shadow'd by ancestral tombs, a king Received his birthright's crown. For thL«. the hycr.
Swell'd out like rushing waters, and the Лт With the sweet censer's misly breath grew Am,
As through long aisles it floated, o'er th' inty Of arms and «weeping stoles. But »bo. «Jow And unapproach'd, beside the altar stone. Г|п*> With the white banner, forth like sunshine игеашAnd the gold helm, through clouds of Ira^ro1«
§ learning, radiant stood ?—The helm was raí» o. And the fair face reveal'd, that upward rti'd.
Intensely worshipping ;—a still, clcir lief. Youthful but brightly solemn '—Woman'scheek And brow were there, in deep devotion meek, Yet glorified with inspiration'! trace!
"A triumphant strain,
^ proud rich stream of warlike melodies,
Gush'd through the portals of the antique fane, \nd forth she came."
"The shouts that fill'd
The hollow heaven tempestuously, were still'd
Who spoke 1 lAie those whose childhood with her childhood
Under one roof?—' Joanne !'—that murmur broke Wiih sounds of weeping forth!—She turn'd—
Betide her, mark'd from all the thousands there,
IK-r free thoughts flow'd.—She saw the pomp no
In early spring-time by the bird, which dwelt \Viirr? o'er her lather's roof the beech-leaves hung,
Was in her heart; a music hcnrd and felt. Winning her back to nature !—She unbound Tlie helm of many battles from her head, And, with her bright locks bow'd to sweep the
Lifting Ъег voice up, wept for joy, and said,— 'В1ем me, my father, bless me! and with thee, Ti> the Btill cabin and the beechen-lree, Let me return !'"
There are several strains of a more paeeion>te character; especially in the two poetical epistle» from Lady Arabella Stuart and Properm Ro«si. We shall venture to give a few lines from the former. The Lady Arabella ^a» of royal descent; and having excited the fears of our pusillanimous James by a secret union with the Lord Seymour, was detained in »cruel captivity, by that heartless monarch, till the close of her life—during which she is rapposed to have indited this letter to her lover from her prison house :—
"My frifnd, my friend! where art thou f Day by
Gliding, like pome dark mournful stream, away,
My silent youth flows from me! Spring, the while.
Comes, and rains beauty on the kindling boughs
R'"ui<l hat. and hamlei: Summer, with her »mile,
I Vila the green forest ;--young hearts breathe
Brothers, long parted, meet; fair children rise Round the glad board: Hope laughs from loving eyes.
"\t агя from dingle and fresh glade, ye flowers!
By fome kind hand to cheer my dungeon sent; O'er тон the oak shed down the summer showers,
And the lark's nest was where your bright cups
Quivering to breeze and rain-drop, like the sheen ''j '»¡light star». *On you Heaven's eye hath been, Itiroagh the leaves pouring its dark sultry blue b'o vour glowing hearts; the bee to you |TM'h rnurmur'd. and the rill.—My soul grows fain! "''h pustnnate yearning, as its quick dreams paint '«it n«unn by dell and stream,—the green, the
'te foil of all sweet sound,—the abut from me '.
"There went a swift bird singing past my cell— О Love and Freedom ! ye are lovely things!
With you the peasant on the hills may dwell, And by the streams ; But I—the blood of kings.
A proud unmingling river, through my veins
Flows in lone brightness,—and its gifts are chains!
—Kings !—I had silent visions of deep bliss,
Leaving their thrones far distant ! ana for this
I am cast under their triumphal car,
An insect to be crush'd!
"Thou hast forsaken me! I feel, I know!
The following, though it has no very distinct object or moral, breathes, we think, the very spirit of poetry, in its bright and vague picturings, and is well entitled to the name it bears—" An Hour of Romance :"—
"There were thick leaves above me and around,
And low sweet sighs, likn those of childhood's Amidst their dimness, and a fitful sound [sleep,
As of soft showers on water! Dark and deep
Came pouring thro' the woven beech-boughf And steep'd the magic page wherein I read [down,
Of royal chivalry and old renown;
Swept past me with a tone of summer hours,
A drowsy bugle, walling thoughts of flowers.
Where sat the lone wood-pigeon:
But ere long,
All sense of these things faded, as the spell Breathing from that high gorgeous tale grew strong
On my chain'd soul!—'Twas not the leaves I A Syrian wind the Lion-banner stirr'd, [beard— Thro' its proud, floating folds! — 'twas not the
Singing in secret thro' its grassy glen ;— [brook,
A wild shrill trumpet of (he Saracen Peal'd from the desert's lonely heart, and shook The burning air !—Like clouds when winds are O'er glitt'ring sands flew steeds of Araby; [high. And tents rose up, and sudden lance and spear Flash'd where a fountain's diamond wave Iny clear, Shadow'd by graceful palm-trees! Then the shout Of merry England's joy swell'd freely out, Sent thro' nn Eastern heaven, whose glorious hue Made shields dark mirrors lo its depth of blue! And harps were there ;—I heard their sounding
As the waste echo'd to the mirth of kings.—
There is great sweetness in the following portion of a little poem on a " Girl's School :"-
"Oh ! joyous creatures! that will sink to rest, Lightly, when those pure orisons are done, As birds with slumber's honey-dew opprest, 'Midst the dim folded leaves, at set of sun—