« PreviousContinue »
He bids my eoul for battle thirst—
He bids me dry the last—the first—
The only toare that ever burst—
From i iutalissi's soul !—
Because I may not etain with grief
The death-song of an Indian chief!' "—pp. 70-7
It is needless, after these extracts, to en large upon the beauties of this poem. The consist chiefly in the feeling and tendernos of the whole delineation, and the taste am delicacy with which all the subordinate part are mads to contribute to the general effect Before dismissing it, however, we must say ¡ iitlie of its faults, which are sufficiently ob vious and undeniable. In the first place, the narrative is extremely obscure and imperfect and has greater blanks in it than could be tolerated even in lyric poetry. We hear ab (olutely nothing of Henry, from the day th« -nlian first brings him from the back country till he returns from Europe fifteen years there 3!;er. It is likewise a great oversight in Mr Campbell to separate his lovers, when only tuelve years of age—a period at which it is u'.tt-rly inconceivable that any permanent at tachment could have been formed. The greatest fault, however, of the work, is the occasional constraint and obscurity of the diction, proceeding apparently from too laborious a:, effort at emphasis or condensation. The metal seems in several places to have been eo much overworked, as to have lost not only its ductility, but its lustre; and, while there ar« passages which can scarcely be at all understood after the most careful consideration, to^re are others which have an air so elaborate and artificial, as to destroy all appearance of nature in the sentiment. Our readers may hive remarked something of this sort, in the first extracts with which we have presented them; but there are specimens still more exceptionable. In order to inform us that Albert iid lost hia wife, Mr. Campbell is pleased to eay, that
"Fate had reft his mutual heart;"
and in order to tell ns something else—though what, we are utterly unable to conjecture— be concludes a stanza on the delights of mutual love, with these three lines :—
''Roll on, ye days of raptur'd influence, shine? V.r. blind with ecstasy's celestial fire, [pire.'" Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time ex
The whole twenty-second stanza of the first part is extremely incorrect; and the three concluding lines are almost unintelligible.
"' Bat where wa» I when Waldegrave was no
And thou didst pale thy gentle head extend, In woes, that ev'n the tribe of deserts was thy friend !'"
If Mr. Campbell had duly considered the
irrmary necessity of perspicuity—especially
in compositions which aim only at pleasing—
•*e are persuaded that he would never have
!<?tt these and some other passages in во тегу
ne?tionable a state. There is still a good
d*al for him to do, indeed, in a new edition:
»nd working—as he must work—in the true
spirit and pattern of what is before him, we hope he will yet be induced to make considerable additions to a work, which will please those most who are most worthy to be pleased • and always seem most beautiful to those who give it the greatest share of their attention.
Of the smaller pieces which fill up the volume, we have scarce left ourselves room to say any thing. The greater part of them have been printed before; and there are probably few readers of English poetry who are not already familiar with the Lochiel and the Hohinlinden—the one by far the most spirited and poetical denunciation of coming woe, since the days of Cassandra; the other the only representation of a modern battle, which possesses either interest or sublimity. The song to "the Mariners of England," is also very generally known. It is a splendid instance of the most magnificent diction adapted to a familiar and even trivial metre. Nothing can be finer than the first and the last stanzas.
"Ye mariners of England!
'The meteor flag of England
"The Battle of the Baltic," though we think
t has been printed before, is much less known.
Though written in a strange, and we think an
unfortunate metre, it has great force and
grandeur, both of conception and expression—•
hat sort of force and grandeur which results
rom the simple and concise expression of
-real events and natural emotions, altogether
inassisted by any splendour or amplification
f expression. The characteristic merit, in
eed, both of this piece and of Hohinlinden,
s, that, by the forcible delineation of one or
wo great circumstances, they give a clear
nd most energetic representation of events
s complicated as they are impressive—and
ras impress the mind of the reader with all
le terror and sublimity of the subject, while
ley rescue him from the fatigue and perplex
y of its details. Nothing in our judgment
п be more impressive than the following
ery short and simple description of the British
eet bearing up to close action:
"As they drifted on iheir path,
he description of the battle itself (though it egins with a tremendous line) is in the same )irit of homely sublimity; and worth a thouand stanzas of thunder, shrieks, shouts, tríente, and heroes.
"' Hearts of oak,' our captains cried! when
Spread a death-shade round the ships!
"Again! again! again!
There are two little ballad pieceSj published for the first time, in this collection, which have both very considerable merit, and afford a favourable specimen of Mr. Campbell's powers in this new line of exertion. The longest is the most beautiful ; but we give our readers the shortest, because we can give it entire.
"0 heard ye yon pibrach sound sad in the gale,
"Glenara came first with the mourners and shroud; Her kinsmen they follow'd, but mourn'd not aloud: Their plaids all their bosoms were folded around: They march'd all in silence—they look'd on the ground.
"In silence they reach'd over mountain and moor, To a heath, where the oak-tree grew lonely and
Now here let us place the grey stone of her cairn: 'Why speak ye no word ?'—said Glenara the stern.
1' ' And tell me, I charge you! ye clan of my spouse, Why fold you your mantles, why cloud ye your
So spake the rude chieftain :—no answer is made, But each mantle unfolding, a dagger display'd.
"' I dreamt of my lady, I dreamt of her shroud,' Cried a voice from the kinsmen, all wrathful and
'And empty tjiat shroud, and that coffin did seem; Glenara! Glenara! now read me my dream!'
"0 ! pale grew the cheek of that chieftain, I ween, When the shroud was unclos'd, and no lady was seen;
When a voice from the kinsmen spok« brader n
scorn, 'Twas the youth who had lov'd the fair Ellen с
"' I dreamt of my lady, I dreamt of her erief,
"In dust low the traitor has knelt to the ground.
We close this volume, on the whole, with feelings of regret for its shortness, and of admiration for the genius of its author. There are but two noble sorts of poetry—the patht-;.c and the sublime; and we think he hag given very extraordinary proofs of his talents 1er both. There is something, too, we will тесture to add, in the style of many of his conceptions, which irresistibly impresses ne with the conviction, that he can do much preav: things than he has hitherto accomplished: and leads us to regard him, even yet. a» * poet of still greater promise than performajw. It seems to us; as if the natural force and boldness of his ideas were habitually checked by a certain fastidious timidity, and an ani;ety about the minor graces of correct and chastened composition. Certain it is. at Ira-t that his greatest and most lofty flights ha*been made in those smaller pieces, aboct which, it is natural to think, he must btve felt least solicitude; and that he has succeeded most splendidly where he rauat haw been most free from the fear of failure. W* wish any praises or exhortations of ours h*d the power to give him confidence in his art great talents; and hope earnestly, that be wii now meet with such encouragement, as rr-v set him above all restraints that proceed in. n apprehension; and induce him to gire free scope to that genius, of which we are persuaded that the world has hitherto seen ra:ii<-' the grace than the richness.
Theodric, a Domestic Tale: with other Poems. By Thomas Campbell. 12mo. pp. 150.
If Mr. Campbell's poetry was of a kind that could be forgotten, his long fits of silence would put him fairly in the way of that misfortune. But, in truth, he is safe enough ;— and has even acquired, by virtue of his exemplary laziness, an assurance and pledge of immortality which he could scarcely have obtained without it. A writer who is still tresh in the mind and favour of the public, after twenty years' intermission, may reason¡ibly expect to be remembered when death shall have finally sealed up the fountains of his inspiration; imposed silence on the cavils of envious rivals, and enhanced the value of
those relics to which it excludes the possibility of any future addition. At all event*, he has better proof of the permanent interest the public take in his productions, than :h'-~ ever can hare who are more diligent in Ú,-: multiplication, and keep themselves in t:i;recollection of their great patron by more frequent intimations of their existence. The experiment, too, though not without its hazards, is advantageous in another respect ;—un the re-appearance of such an author, aivr
j those long periods of occultation, is natural^ hailed .as a novelty—and he receives the
I double welcome, of a celebrated stranger, a:.o к remembered friend. There is, accordingly, uo living poet, we believe, whose advertisement excites greater expectation than Mr. Campbell's:—and a new poem from him is waited for with even more eagerness (as it is certainly for a much longer time) than a new novel from the author of Waverley. Like all other human felicitias, however, this high expectation and prepared homage has its drawbacks and its dangers. A popular author, as we have been led to remark on former occasions, has no rival но formidable as his former self—«id no comparison to sustain half so dangerous as that which is always made between the average merit of his new work, and the remembered beauties—for little else is ever remembered—of his old ones.
How this comparison will result in the present instance, we do not presume to predict with confidence—but we doubt whether it will be, at least in the beginning, altogether in favour of the volume before us. The poems of this author, indeed, are generally more admired the more they are studied, and rise in our estimation in proportion as they become familiar. Their novelty, therefore, is always rather an obstruction than a help to their popularity;—and it may well be questioned, whether there be any thing in the novelties now before us that can rival in our afiections the long-remembered beauties of the Pleasures of Hope—of Gertrude—of O'Connor's Child—the Song of Linden—The Mariners of England—and the many other enchanting melodies that are ever present to the minds of all lovers of poetry.
The leading piece in the present volume is an attempt at a very difficult kind of poetry; and one in which the most complete success can hardly ever be so splendid and striking as to make amends for the difficulty. It is entitled "a Domestic Story"—and it is so;— timing opon few incidents—embracing few characters—dealing in no marvels and no ¡errors—displaying no stormy passions. Without complication of plot, in short, or hurry of action—with no atrocities to shudder at, or feats of noble daring to stir the spirits of the ambitious—it passes quietly on, through the «haded paths of private life, conversing with 2entle natures and patient sufferings—and unfolding, with serene pity and sober triumph, the pangs which are fated at times to wring 'he breast of innocence and generosity, and the coo rage and comfort which generosity and innocence can never fail to bestow. The taste and the feeling which led to the selec'Jon of such topics, could not but impress their character on the style in which they are treated. It is distinguished accordingly by a fine and tender finish, both of thought and of diction—by a chastened elegance of words «nd images—a mild dignity and tempered pathos in the sentiments, and a general tone of ennplicity and directness in the conduct of ;he story, which, joined to its great brevity, tends at first perhaps to disguise both the richness and the force of the genius required for its production. But though not calculated to strike at once on the dull palled ear of an
idle and occupied world, it is of all others perhaps the kind of poetry best fitted to win on our softer hours, and to sink deep into va cant bosoms—unlocking all the sources of fond recollection, and leading us gently on through the mazes of deep and engrossing meditation—and thus ministering to a deeper enchantment and more lasting delight than can ever be inspired by the more importunate strains of more ambitious authors.
There are no doubt peculiar and perhaps insuperable difficulties in the management of themes so delicate, and requiring so fine and so restrained a hand—nor are we prepared to say that Mr. Campbell has on this occasion entirely escaped them. There are passages that are somewhat fade :—there are expressions that are trivial:—But the prevailing character is sweetness and beauty; and it prevails over all that is opposed to it. The story, though abundantly simple, as our readers will immediately see, has two distinct compartments — one relating to the Swiss maiden, the other to the English wife. The former, with all its accompaniments, we think nearly perfect. It is full of tenderness, purity, and pity; and finished with the most exquisite elegance, in few and simple touches. The other, which is the least considerable, has more decided blemishes. The diction is in many places too familiar, and the incidents too common—and the cause of distress has the double misfortune of being unpoetical in its nature, and improbable in its result. But the shortest way is to give our readers a slight account of the poem, with such specimens as may enable them to judge fairly of it for themselves.
It opens, poetically, with the description of a fine scene in Switzerland, and of a rustic church-yard; where the friend of the author points out to him the flowery grave of a maiden, whOj though gentle and fair, had died of unrequited love :—and so they proceed, between them, for the matter is left poetically obscure, to her history. Her fancy nad been early captivated by the tales of heroic daring and chivalric pride, with which her country's annals abounded—and she disdained to give her Jove to any one who was not graced with the virtues and glories of those heroic times This exalted mood was unluckily fostered by her brother's youthful ardour in praise of the commander under whom he was serving abroad—by whom he was kindly tended when wounded, and whose picture he brought back with him on his return to his paternal home, to renew, and seemingly to realize, the daydreams of his romantic sister. This picture, and the stories her brother told of the noble Theodric, completed the poor girl's fascination. Her heart was kindled by her fancy; and her love was already fixed on a being she had never seen! In the mean time, Theodric, who had promised a visit to his young protege, passes over to England, and is betrothed to a lady of that country of infinite worth and amiableness. He then repairs to Switzerland, where, after a little time, he discovers the love of Julia, which he gently, but firmly rebukes- returns to England, and is married His wife has uncomfortable relations—quarrel some, selfish, and envious; and her peace is sometimes wounded by their dissensions am unkindness. War breaks out anew, too, in Theodric's country; and as he is meditating a journey to that quarter, he is surprised by a visit from Julia's brother, who informs him. that, after а 1огш struggle with her cherishec love, her health nad at last sunk under it, and that she now prayed only to see him once more before she died! His wife generously urges him to comply with this piteous request. He does so; and arrives, in the midst of wintry tempests, to see this pure victim of too warm an imagination expire, in smiles of speechless gratitude and love. While mourning over her. he is appalled by tidings of the dangerous illness of ins beloved Constance—hurries to England—and finds her dead !—her fate having been precipitated, if not occasioned, by the harsh and violent treatment she had met with from her heartless relations. The piece closes with a very touching letter she had left for her husband—and an account of its soothing effects on his mind.
This, we confes^ is slight enough, in the way of fable and incident: But it is not in those things that the merit of such poems consists ; and what we have given is of course a mere naked outline, or argument rather, intended only to explain and connect our extracts.
For these, we cannot possibly do better than begin with the beginning.
'"Twas sunset, and the Ranz dee Vachee wag sung,
From heights brouzed by the bounding bouquetin;
"' Yes.' said mv comrade, 'young ehe died, and
Gract form'd her, and the soul of gladness play'd
* ' Her lather dwelt where yonder Castle shines
O'er clust'ring trees and terrace-mantling тш»
We pass over the animated picture of Ли brother's campaigns, and of the fame of Th^ dric, and the affectionate gratitude of pare?::.and sister for his care and praises of tbea noble boy. We must make room, bowerer, for this beautiful sketch of his return.
"In time, the stripling, vigorous and heal'd,
Though wrapt in clouds, and frowning as in кот
pp. Ja. 13
At last the generous warrior appears in perюп among those innocent beings, to whom IV lad so long furnished the grand theme oí discourse and meditation.
'The boy was half beside himself— th* иге. All frankness, honour, and Helvetian fire.
)f speedy parting would not hear him speak; And tears bedew d and bnghten'd Julia's cheek.
Thus, loth to wound their hospitable prxi' A month he promis'd with them to abide; As blithe he trod the mountain-sward ai iher. fell his joy make ev'n the young inortf" their breakfast parlour, fan" i '*
TV unlikely thought could scarcely reach his mind, That eyes so young on years like his should beam I'nwoo'd devotion back for pure esteem."
pp. 17, 18.
Symptome still more unequivocal, however, at last make explanations necessary; and he is obliged to disclose to her the secret of hie love and engagement in England. The effects of this disclosure, and all the intermediate events, are described with the earae grace and delicacy. But we pass at once to the close of poor Julia's pure-hearted romance.
"Thai winter's eve how darkly Nature's brow Scovl'd on the scenes it lights eo lovely now! The tempest, raging o'er the realms of ice, Shook fragments from the rifted precipice; And whilst their falling echoed to the wind, The wolfs long howl in dismal discord join'd, While white yon water's foam was rate'd in clouds That whirl'd like spirits wailing in their shrouds: Without wai Nature's elemental din — And Beauty died, and Friendship wept within!
"Sweet Julia, though her fate was finish'd half, Still knew him — smil'd on him with feeble laugh — And bint him, till she drew her latest sigh!
'' Bat lo! while Udolph's bursts of agony, And ace's tremulous waitings, round him rose, What accents pierced him deeper yet than those! 'Twas tidings — by hie English messenger Of Constance — brief and terrible they were," &c.
pp. 35, 36.
These must suffice as specimens of the Swiss part of the poem, which we have already said we consider as on the whole the most perfect. The English portion is undoubtedly liable to the imputation of being occupied with scenes too familiar, and events too trivial, to admit of the higher embellishments of poetry. The occasion of Theodric'e first seeing Constance — in the streets of London on a night of public rejoicing — certainly trespasses on the borders of this wilful stooping of the Muses' flight — though the scene iuelf is described with great force and beauty.
"'Twas a glorious sight! Ar eve stupendous London, clad in light, Ponr'd out triumphant multitudes to gaze; V'tui'h. age, wealth, penury, smiling in the blaze! Ill' illumin'd atmosphere was warm and bland, Vid Beauty's groups ihe fairest of the land, Contpicuous, ая in some wide festive room, lo open chariots pass'd, with pearl and plume. ^findet them he remark'd a lovelier mien," &c.
The description of Constance herself, however, is not liable to this, or to any other ob
To share existence with her, and to gain
All this, we think, is dignified enough for poetry of any description ; but we really cannot extend the same indulgence to the small traeassartes of this noble creature's unworthy relations—t^pir peevish quarrels, and her painful attempts to reconcile them—her husband's grudges at her absence on those errands—their teazing visits to him—and his vexation at their false reports that she was to spend " yet a fortnight " away from him. We object equally to the substance and the diction of the passages to which we now refer. There is something questionable even in the fatal indications by which, on approaching his home, he was first made aware of the calamity which had befallen him—though undoubtedly there is a terrible truth and impressive brevity in the passage.
"Nor hope left utterly his breast, Till reaching home, terrific omen! there The straw-laid street preluded his despair— The servant's look—the table that reveal'd His letter sent to Constance last, still seal'd, Though speech and hearing left him, told too clear That he had now to suffer—not to fear!"—p. 37.
We shall only add the pathetic letter in which this noble spirit sought, from her deathbed, to soothe the beloved husband she was leaving with so much reluctance.
"' Theodric! this is destiny above Our power to baffle! Bear it then, my love! Your soul, I know, as firm is knit to mine As these clasp'd hands in blessing you now join: Shape not imagin'd horrors in my fate— Ev'n now my sufT'rings are not very great; And when your griefs first transporte shall aubT call upon your strength of soul and pride [side, To pay my memory, if 'tis worth the debt Love's glorifying tribute—not forlorn regret: I charge my name with power lo conjure up Reflection'» balmy, not ils bitter cup. My nard'ning angel, at the gates of Heaven, Shall look not more regard than you have given To me: and our life's union has been clad In smiles of bliss as sweet as life e'er had. Shall gloom be from such bright remembrance cast? Shall bitterness outflow from sweetness past Î No! imaged in the sanctuary of your breast, There let me smile, amidst nigh thoughts at rest; And let contentment on your spirit shine, As if its peace were still a part of mine: For if you war not proudly wilh your pain. For you I shall have worse than liv'd in vainBui I conjure your manliness to bear My loss with noble spirit—not despair: I ask you by our love to promise this! And kiss these words, where I have left a kiss— The latest from my living lips for yours?'"
The tone of this tender farewell must remind all our readers of the catastrophe of Gertrude ; and certainly exposes the author to the charge of some poverty of invention in the structure of his pathetic narratives—a charge from which we are not at this moment particularly solicitous to defend him.
The minor poems which occupy the rest of