Page images
PDF
EPUB

such a relation what should we infer? not the probability of so decided a revolution of feeling; yet during this period he has a learnt to love,» and when we again encounter him, looks upon nature with a much kindlier

eye.

So much for the character of Harold, surely the only blemish in the enchanting work which bears his name. The genius of our great poet throughout, when absolved from adherence to so churlish a subject,

Springs upward like a pyramid of fire.»

Although the first canto of Childe Harold does not abound in that richness of imagery, those sublime conceptions clothed in words of liquid sweetness, that are found in the succeeding cantos, yet it still contains the elements of the highest order of poetry. The personification of «Red Battle,» in this canto, is highly wrought:

.Lo! where the giant on the mountain stands,
His blood-red tresses deep'ning in the sun,
With death-shot glowing in his fiery hands,
And eye that scorcheth all it glares upon;
Restless it rolls, now fix’d, and now anon
Flashing afar,-and at his iron feet
Destruction cowers to mark what deeds are done;

For on this morn three potent nations meet,
To shed before his shrine the blood he deems most sweet,»

The following too is a fine specimen of Lord Byron's descriptive powers :

« The horrid crags, by toppling convent crown'd,
The cork-trees hoar that clothe the shaggy steep,
The mountain-moss by scorching skies imbrown'd,
The sunken glen, whose sunless shrubs must weep,
The tender azure of the unruffled deep,
The orange tints that gild the greenest bough,
The torrents that from cliff to valley leap,

The vine on high, the willow branch below,
Mix'd in one mighty scene, with varied beauty glow..

And again, in canto the second :

He that has sail'd upon the dark blue sea
Has view'd at times, I ween, a full fair sight;
When the fresh breeze, is fair as breeze may be,
The white sail set, the gallant frigate tight;
Masts, spires, and strand retiring to the right,
The glorious main expanding o'er the bow,
The convoy spread like wild swans in their flight,

The dullest sailor wearing bravely now,
So gaily curl the waves before each dashing prow..

There are many very fine passages in this canto, which, however, I must pass over, to enumerate more at length the pre-eminent beauties of the two last cantos.

The opening stanzas of the third canto are beautifully affecting:-—The feelings of the fond father's heart

[ocr errors]

are there finely and naturally exprest in all its anxious yearnings towards his « fair child;v and the break in the fifth line of the first stanza is highly and sublimely poetical :

« Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!
Ada! sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young

blue

eyes they smiled,
And then we parted, -not as now we part,
But with a hope.-

Awaking with a start,
The waters heave around me; and on high
The winds lift up their voices:1 depart,

Whither I know not; but the hour 's gone by,
When Albion's lessening shores could grieve or glad mine eye.”

Whoever can read these lines unmoved must have a heart as dry as summer's dust. In the abounding beauties of this, the most poetical and most perfect canto of the poem, I would particularly point out stanza xlv, from lxix to Lxxvi, from Lxxxvi to xcvili, and from cxy to the conclusion of the canto, which ends as it begun with his a daughter»--that dear and tenderly haunting theme of the poet and the parent.—With what emotion will she one day peruse the following lines :

My daughter! with thy name this song begun-
My daughter! with thy name thus much shall end-
I see thee not, -1 bear thee not,-but none
Can be so wrapt in thee; thou art the friend

To whom the shadows of far

years

extend: Albeit

my

brow thou never should'st behold,
My voice shall with thy future visions blend,

And reach into thy heart, - when mine is cold,-
A token and a tone, even from thy father's mould.»

« To aid thy mind's developement,—to watch
Thy dawn of little joys,-to sit and see
Almost thy very growth,—to view thee catch
Knowledge of objects,—wonders yet to thee!
To hold thee lightly on a gentle knee,
And print on thy soft cheek a parent's kiss,-
This, it should seem, was not reserved for me;
Yet this was in my nature:

- as it is,
I know not what is there, yet something like to this. »

During the composition of the first cantos of Childe Harold, the author had but a confused idea of the character he wished to delineate, nor did he, perhaps, distinctly comprehend the scope and tendencies of his own genius. Two conceptions, distinct from each other, seem therein to be often blended; one of ideal human beings made up of certain troubled

passions,-and one of himself, ranging the world of nature and man, in wonder and delight, and agitation, in his capacity of a poet. These conceptions, which frequently jostled and interfered with each other, he subsequently unfolded more distinctly in separate poems. His troubled imaginary beings, possessing much of himself, and far more not of himself, he made into

powers and

Giaours, Laras, and Alps', and his conception of himself became expanded into Childe Harold—the Childe Harold of the two last cantos. In these it is a nobler creature who is before us. Theill-sustained misanthropy and disdain of the two first cantos but faintly glimmers through the third, and may be said to disappear wholly from the fourth, which reflects the high and disturbed visions of earthly glory, as a dark-swollen tide images the splendour of the sky, in portentous colouring and broken magnificence.

The beginning of the fourth canto, where the bard laments over the fallen greatness of Venice, is very fine.

In stanzas xxvii, xxviii, and xxix, Byron seems to open his whole heart to the genial impulses of

nature.

The delight with which the Pilgrim contemplates the ancient Greek statues at Florence, and afterwards at Rome, is such as might have been expected from any great poet whose youthful mind had, like his, been imbued with those classical ideas and associations, which afford so many sources of pleasure through every period of life. He gazed upon those master-pieces of art with a more susceptible and, in spite of his disavowal, with a more learned eye, than can be traced in the effusions of any poet who had previously

« PreviousContinue »