Page images
PDF
EPUB

of adventures tending to illustrate and develop, the wayward character of the Childe.

Lara is obviously the sequel of the Corsair, and maintains, in general, the same tone of deep interest, and lofty feeling; though the disappearance of Medora from the scene deprives it of much of the enchanting sweetness by which its terrors were there redeemed. It is somewhat incongruous that the high-minded and generous Conrad who had preferred death and torture to life and liberty, if purchased by nightly murder, should, under his new name of Lara, be degraded into a vile and cowardly assassin!

The Siege of Corinth, though written, perhaps, with too visible an effect, and not very well harmonised in all its parts, is still a fine composition. What can be finer than the night-piece at page 344, vol. 6, of this edition? In Parisina there is no tumult nor stir. It is all sadness, and pity, and terrors. The Prisoner of Chillon is a very sweet and touching production. The poem entitled Darkness is a grand and gloomy sketchexecuted, undoubtedly, with great and fearful forcebut with something of German exaggeration, and a fantastical selection of incidents. The Dream is written with great beauty and genius, but extremely painful

and abounding with mysteries into which we can have no desire to penetrate.

Beppo is in itself absolutely a thing of nothingwithout story, characters, sentiments, or intelligible object; a mere piece of lively and loquacious prattling, upon all kinds of frivolous subjects, a sort of gay desultory babbling about Italy and England, Turks, balls, literature, and fish-sauces. But still there is something very engaging in the uniform gaiety, politeness, and good humour of the author—and something still more striking and admirable in the matchless facility with which he has cast into regular, and even difficult versification, the unmingled, unconstrained, and unselected language of the most light, familiar, and ordinary conversation. Its great charm consists in the simplicity and naturalness of the language—the free but guarded use of all polite idioms, even of all phrases of temporary currency that have the stamp of good company upon them,—with the exclusion of all scholastic or ambitious eloquence, all profound views, and all deep emotions.

The most original and most extraordinary of Lord Byron's productions is beyond all comparison the poem of Don Juan. Its combination of description, humour, pathos, and keen and pervading satire is highly feli

citious. « Neither Childe Harold, nor any of the most beautiful of Byron's earlier tales,» says Sir Walter Scott, « contain more exquisite morsels of poetry then are to be found scattered through the cantos of Don Juan, amidst verses which the author appears to have thrown off with an effort as spontaneous as that of a tree resigning its leaves to the wind.» It is, however, to be deplored that in this poem the author too often lacerates and trifles with our feelings, and frequently displays a misplaced facetiousness on the most tender or serious subjects; and, what is still more to be regretted (for we are among the number of those who do regret when genius stoops to avail itself of resources it should disdain to use), there is an alloying dress of voluptuousness running through the otherwise rich vein of his poetry. The following extract from the first canto is extremely fine :

No more—no more-Oh! never inore ou me

The freshness of the heart can fall like dew, Which out of all the lovely things we see, Extracts emotions beautiful and

new, Hived in our bosoms like the bag o' the bee:

Think'st thou the honey with those objects grew? Alas! 't was not in them, but in thy power To double even the sweetness of a flower.

No imoremno more--Oh! never more, iny heart,
Canst thou be

my
sole world, my

universe! Once all in all, but now a thing apart,

Thou canst not be my blessing or my curse :

The illusion 's gone for ever, and thou art

Insensible, I trust, but none the worse,
And in thy stead I've got a deal of judgment,
Though Heaven knows how it ever found a lodgment.

[ocr errors]

The third canto is perhaps the most perfect in regard to the poetry, and the least exceptionable in other respects. The second stanza in this canto is beautiful, and, we believe, original. The hymn, or heroic song (pp. 184 to 188, vol. 2), is one of the

very

finest things, of its kind, of modern poetry. It is full of vigour of thought and of expression : a fine classical feeling pervades the whole, and the conclusion is perfectly magnificent.

The Vision of Judginent is a parody upon a poem of that name, by Southey. It is in every respect unworthy of Byron; the poetry, if it can be so called, is sad stuff, to proceed from such a pen; and the style and spirit in which it is written is much upon a par with the poetry

.

I now proceed to offer a few remarks on the dramatic pieces of Lord Byron.

Irrelevant and ill managed as many parts are of the grand drama of Manfred, there is in the character of Manfred himself more of the self-might of Byron than

in all his other productions. He has therein brought, with a wonderful power, metaphysical conceptions into forms,—and I know of no poem in which the aspect of external nature is, throughout, lighted up with an expression at once so beautiful, solemn, and majestic. It is the poem, next to Childe Harold, we should give to a foreigner to read, that he might appreciate the beauties of Byron. Shakspeare has given to these abstractions of human life and being, which are truth in the intellect, forms as full, clear, and glowing, as the idealized forms of visible nature. The very words of Ariel picture to us his beautiful being. In Manfred we see glorious but immature manifestations of similar

power. The poet there creates with delight thoughts, and feelings, and fancies, into visible forms, that he may cling and cleave to them, and clasp them in his passion. The beautiful Witch of the Alps seems exhaled from the luminous spray of the cataract—as if the poet's eyes, unsated with the beauty of inanimate nature, gave spectral apparitions of loveliness to feed the pure passion of the poet's soul.

[ocr errors]

The tragedy of Marino Faliero has undoubtedly beauties both dramatic and poetical. But, judging of it by the standard which Byron had himself established, we cannot but regard it as a failure both as a poem and a play. This may be partly accounted for from the inherent difficulty of uniting these two sorts of excel

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »