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тегу deeply, the common sensibilities of our nature. YVe need scarcely make an exception for the lofty Lyric, which is so far from being generally attractive, that it is not even intelligible, except to a studious few—or for those solemn and devotional strains which derive their interest from a still higher principle: But in all narrative poetry—in all long pieces made up of descriptions and adventures, it seems hitherto to have been an indispensable condition of their success, that most of the persons and events should bear a considerable resemblance to those which we meet with in ordinary life; and, though more animated and important than to be of daily occurrence, should not be immeasurably exalted above the common standard of human fortune and character.
It should be almost enough to settle the question, that such is the fact—and that no narrative poetry has ever excited a great interest, where the persons were too much purified from the vulgar infirmities of our nature, or the incidents too thoroughly purged of all that is ordinary or familiar. But the slightest reflection upon the feelings with which we read such poetry, must satisfy us as to the reason of our disappointment. It may be told in two words. YVritin'gs of this kind revolt by their improbability; and fatigue, bv offering no points upon which our sympathies can readily attach.—Two things are necessary to give a fictitious narrative a deep and commanding interest; ßrst, that we should believe that such things might have happened; and fecorully, that they might have happened to ourselves, or to such persons as ourselves. But, in reading the ambitious and overwrought poetry of which we have been speaking, we feel perpetually, that there could have been no such people, and no such occurrences as we are there called upon to feel for; and that it is impossible for us, at all events, to have much concern about beings whose principles of action are so remote from our own, and who are placed in situations to which we have never known any parallel. It is no doubt true, that all stories that interest us must represent passions of a higher pitch, and events of a more extraordinary nature than occur in common life; and that it is in consequence of rising thus sensibly above its level, that they become objects of inlerest and attention. But, in order that this very elevation may be felt, and produce its effect, the story must itself, in other places, give us the known and ordinary level, and, by a thousand adaptations and traits of universal nature, make us feel, that the characters which become every now and then the objects of our intense sympathy and admiralion, in great emergencies, and under the influence of rare but conceivable excitements, are, after all. our fellow creatures—made of the same flesh and blood wilh ourselves, and acting, and acted upon, by Ihe common principles of our nature. Without th's, indeed, the effect of their sufferings and exploits would be entirely lost upon us ; as we should 1x5 without any scale by which to estimate the raagnitu ie of the temptations they had to re
sist, or the energies they had exerted. To make us aware of the altitude of a mountain, it is absolutely necessary to show us the plan from which it ascends. If we are allowed i& see nothing but the table land at the top. the effect will be no greater than if we had remained on the humble level of the shore— except that it will be more lonely, bleak, and inhospitable. And thus it is. that by eiaggerating the heroic qualities of héroe», thf-y become as uninteresting as if they had о such qualities—that by striking out the* weaknesses and vulgar infirmities теЬкь identify them with ordinary mortals, they гм only cease to interest ordinary mortals, but--i <•:; to excite their admiration or surprise ; and цpear merely as strange inconceivable heiress. in whom superhuman energy and rerinemr;: are no more to be wondered at, than the рояег of flying in an eagle, or of fasting in a si¡aie Trie wise ancient who observed, that Ьеи:: a man himself he could not but take an int- :• est in every thing that related to man—mii'ht have confirmed his character for wisdom, by adding, that for the same reason he could ¡at? no interest in any thing else. There is witing, after all, that we ever truly care lor. bu: the feelings of creatures like ourselves :—¿i o we are obliged to lend them to the flower; and the brooks of the vailey, and the stars »i¿ airs of heaven, before we can take any ilrlti-: in them. With sentient beings the ca«- .more obviously the same. By «hatero names we may call them, or with whativ-r fantastic attributes we may please to нлей them, still we comprehend, and concern ourselves about them, only in во far as they r*semble ourselves. All the deities ol tb-' classic mythology—and all the devil« a:.: angels of later poets, are nothing but humar, creatures—or at least only interest us ю 1er: as they are so. Let any one try to imaiw what kind of story he could make of ihr аиventures of a set of beings who differed iwrc our own species in any of its general attribute —who were incapable, for instance, of the debasing feelings of fear, pain, or anriety— and he will find, that instead of become more imposing and attractive by pellins гк: of those infirmities, they become utterly irsignificant, and indeed in a great dean*1 inconceivable. Or, to come a little closer v the matter before us, and not to go beyond the bounds of common experience—Supfow a tale, founded on refined notions of delicate love and punctilious integrity, to be told to л race of obscene, brutal and plundering eavapw —or, even within the limits of the same conntry, if a poem, turning upon the jealousies oí court intrigue, the pride of rank, and the cabals of sovereigns and statesmen, were put ink the hands of village maidens or clownish labourers, is it not obvious that the remoleré» of the manners, characters and feelinp from their own, would first surprise, and inen revolt them—and that the moral, ialellectiul and adventitious Superiority of the pertonage' concerned, would, instead of enhancing lh< interest, entirely destroy it, and reryepeedilv extinguish all sympathy wi'h their passion»,
and all cariosity about their fate ?—Now, what gentlemen and ladies are to a ferocious savage, or politicians and princesses to an ordinary rustic, the exaggerated persons of such poetry as we are now considering, are to the ordinary rädere of poetry. They do not believe in the possibility of their existence, or of their adventures. They do not comprehend the principles of their conduct; and have no thorough sympathy with the feelings that are scribed to them.
We have carried this speculation, we believe, a little too far—and, with reference to the volume before us, it would be more correct perhaps to say, that it had suggested these observations, than that they are strictly applicable to it. For though its faults are ceruunlyof the kind we have been endeavouring to describe, it would be quite unjust to characterise it by its faults—which are beyond all doubt less conspicuous than its beauties. There is not only a richness and brilliancy of diction and imagery spread over the whole varí, that indicate the greatest activity and elegance of fancy in the author; but it is everywhere pervaded, still more strikingly, by a strain of tender and noble feeling, poured ont with such warmth and abundance, as to «teal insensibly on the heart of the reader. inj gradually to overflow it with a tide of sympathetic emotion. There are passages indeed, and these neither few nor brief, over which the very Genius of Poetry seems to have breathed his richest enchantment— »here the melody of the verse and the beauty of the images conspire so harmoniously with the force and tenderness of the emotion, that the whole is blended into one deep and bright Breara of sweetness and feeling, along which ill? spirit of the reader is borne passively »way, through long reaches of delight. Mr. Moore's poetry, indeed, where his happiest 'em ¡6 opened, realises more exactly than that of any other writer, the splendid account •* tich is given by Comus of the song of
"Hi« mother Circe, and the Sirens ihree,
And though it ¡f certainly to be regretted that he should so often have broken the mearare with more frivolous strains, or filled up its intervals with a sort of brilliant falsetto, it should never be forgotten, that his excellences are at least as peculiar to himself as his faults, and, on the whole, perhaps more characteristic olla» genius.
The volume before us contains four separate and distinct poems—connected, however, and held together "like orient pearls at ran<l°m strung," by the slender thread of a slight рт<е story, on which they are all suspended, *nd to the simple catastrophe of which they in same measure contribute. This airy and elegant legend is to the following effect. Lalla Rookh, ihe daughter of the great Auttrazebe, ig betrothed to the young king of Bueharia; and sets forth, with a splendid 'лш of Indian and Bücharian attendante, to 57
meet her enamoured bridegroom in the delightful valley of Cashmere. The progresa of this gorgeous cavalcade, and the beauty of the country which it traverses, are exhibited with great richness of colouring and picturesque effect; though in this, as well as in the other parts of the prose narrative, a certain tone of levity, and even derision, is frequently assumed—not very much in keeping, we think, with the tender and tragic strain of poetry of which it is the accompaniment— certain breakings out, in short, of that mocking European wit, which has made itself merry with Asiatic solemnity, ever since the time of the facetious Count Hamilton—but seems a little out of place in a miscellany, the prevailing character of which is of so opposite a temper. To amuse the languor, or divert the impatience of the royal bride, in the noon-tide and night-halts of her luxurious progress, a young Cashmerian poet had been sent by the gallantry of the bridegroom; and recites, on those occasions, the several poems that form the bulk of the volume now before us. Such is the witchery of his voice and look, and such the sympathetic effect of the tender tales which he recounts, that the poor princess, as was naturally to be expected, falls desperately in love with him before the end of me journey; and bv the time she enters the lovely vale of Cashmere, and sees the glittering palaces and towers prepared for her reception, she feels that she would joyfully forego all this pomp and splendour, and fly to the desert with her adored Feramorz. The youthful bard, however, has now disappeared from her side; and she is supported, with fainting heart and downcast eyes, into the hated presence of her tyrant! when the voice of Feramorz himself bids her be of good cheer—and, looking up, she sees her beloved poet in the Prince himself! who had assumed this gallant disguise, and won her young affections, without deriving any aid from his rank or her engagements.
The whole story is very sweetly and gaily told; and is adorned with many tender as well as lively passages—without reckoning among the latter the occasional criticisms of the omniscient Fadladeen. the magnificent and most infallible grand chamberlain of the Haram — whose sayings and remarks, we cannot help observing, do not agree very well with the character which is assigned him— being for the most part very smart, sententious, and acute, and by no means solemn, stupid, and pompous, as was to have been expected. Mr. Moore's genius, however, we suppose, is too inveterately lively, to make it possible for him even to counterfeit dulnesg. We come at last, however, to the poetry.
The first piece, which is entitled "The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan," is the longest, we think, and certainly not the best, of the series. It has all the faults which we have, somewhat too sweepingly, imputed to thn volume at large; and it was chiefly, indued, with a reference to it, that we made those introductory remarks, which the author will probably think too much in the spirit of the 2н2
Mge Chamberlain. The story; which is not in all its parts extremely intelligible, is founded on a notice, in D'Herbelot, of a daring in-.postor of the early ages of Islamism, who pretended to have received a later and more authoritative mission than that of the prophet, and to be destined to overturn all tyrannies and superstitions on the earth, and to rescue all souls that believed in him. To shade the celestial radiance of his brow, he always wore a veil of silver gau/e, and was at last attacked by the Caliph, and exterminated, with all his adherents. On this story, Mr. Moore has engrafted a romantic and not very probable tale of two young lovers, Azim and Zelica; the former of whom having been supposed to perish in battle, the grief of the latter unsettles her understanding; and her distempered imagination is easily inflamed by the mystic promises of the Veiled Prophet, which at length prevail on her to join the troop of lovely priestesses who earn a blissful immortality in another world, by sharing his embraces upon earth. By what artful illusions the poor distracted maid was thus betrayed to her min, is not very satisfactorily explained; only \ve are informed that she and the Veiled Apostle descended into a charnel-house, and took a mutual oath, and drank blood together, in pledge of their eternal union. At length Azim, who had not been slain, but made captive in battle, and had wandered in Greece till he had imbibed the love of liberty that inspired her famous heroes of old—hears of the proud promises of emancipation which Mokanna (for that was the prophet's name) had held out to all nations, and comes to be enrolled among the champions of freedom and virtue. On the day of his presentment, he is introduced into A scene of voluptuous splendour, where all the seducive influences of art and nature are in vain exerted to divert his thoughts from the love of Zelica and of liberty. He breaks proudly away from these soft enchantments, and finds a mournful female figure before him. in whom ne almost immediately recognises his longlost and ever-loved Zelica. The first moment of their meeting is ecstasy on both sides; but the unhappy girl soon calls to mind the unutterable condition to which she is reduced— and, in agony, reveals to him the sad story of her derangement, and of the base advantages that had been taken of it. Azim at first throws her from him in abhorrence, but soon turns, in relenting pity, and offers at last to rescue her from this seat of pollution. She listens with eager joy to his proposal, and is about to fly with him in the instant, when the dread voice of Mokanna thunders in her ear heroath of eternal fidelity. That terrible eound brings back her frenzy. She throws her lover wildly from her. and vanishes at once, amidst the dazzling lights of that unholy palace. Azim then joins the approaching army of the Caliph, and leads on his forces against the impious usurper. Mokanna performs prodigies of valour—but is always borne back by the superior force and enthusiasm of Azim: and after a long course of horrors and
illusions, he poisons the remnant of hi» ad herents, and himself plunges into a bath, oí such corrosive quality, as instantly to extinguish life, and dissolve all the elements of the mortal frame. Zelica then covers hers»-!: with his fatal veil, and totters out to the ramparts, where, being mistaken for Mokar.r.i. she rushes upon the spear of her Azim. ¿ъ: receives his forgiveness in death! while t-. survives, to pass the rest of his life in commua] prayer and supplication for her erring ?p'.r' and dies at last upon her grave, in the ftl assurance of rejoining her in purity and b!.*It is needless to enlarge on the partic^r faults of this story, after me general ob^rritions we hazarded at the outset. The ch»facter of Mokanna, as well as his power a-: influence, is a mere distortion and extravagance: But the great blemish is the corr„;tion of Zelica; and the insanity so gratuitously alleged by the poet in excuse oi -.' Nothing less, indeed, could in any way >•:count for such a catastrophe: and\ after i'. it is painful and offensive to the imasmatu•••The bridal oath, pledged with blood ьгг.о: j the festering bodies of the dead, is one o! itoverstrained theatrical horrors of the Опт.:---, school; and a great deal of the theor-:-and argumentation which is intended to pa.', • ate or conceal those defects, is obscure i-.: incomprehensible. Rich as it is, in short.: fancy and expression, and powerful in sor,-1 of the scenes of passion, we should have Ьл•: great doubts of the success of this vohra». a it had all been of the same texture with the poem of which we are now speaking. \ • '• even there, there is a charm, almost irre»:-r • ble, in the volume of sweet sounds and Nra-. tiful images, which are heaped together «vi luxurious profusion in the general texturethe style, and invest even the absurdities ••• the story with the graceful amplitude of :ir.T rich and figured veil. What, for instance, cas be sweeter than this account of Azim'? гтг.т» into this earthly paradise of temptations'
"Meanwhile, through vast illuminated hullf.
"Mere too he traces the kind vis/rings
While, on the other, lailic'd liglitly in
pp. 53 — 56.
The warrior youth looks round at first with disdain upon those seductions, with which he fupjioses the sage crophet wishes to try the firmness of his votaries.
"While thus he thinks, still nearer on the breeze
i-'nme those delicious, dream-like harmonies,
Each note of which but adds new, downy links
To the soft chain in which his spirit sinks.
He turas him tow'rd the sound; and, far away
'Ihrough a long vista, sparkling with the play
Of countless lamps — like the rich track which Day
Leave* on the waters, when he sinks from us;
So long the path, its light so tremulous ;—
He sees a group of female forms advance,
Some chain'd together in the mazy dance
By letters, forg'd in the green sunny bowers,
As ihey were captives to the King of Flowers," &c.
"Awhile they dance before him; then divide, Broking, like rosy clouds at even-tide Around "the rich pavilion of the sun — 'I ill silently dispersing, one by one, Through many a path that from the chamber leads T" cárdena, terraces, and moonlight meads, Their distant laughter comes upon the wind, And but one trembling nymph remains behind, Btck'ning them back in vain, — for they are gone, And ihe is left in all that light, alone! No veil to curtain o'er her beauteous brow, In its young bashfulness more beauteous now; Bot »light, golden chain-work round her hair •'•'•Jch as the maids of Yezd and Shiraz wear, While her left hand, as shrinkingly ehe stood, Held a small lute of gold and sandal wood, Which, once or twice, she touch'd with hurried Then took her trembling fingers off again, [strain, Bui »'hen at length a timid glance she stole ^- Azim, the sweet gravity of soul Mi~ !aw through all his features, calm'd her fear; And, like a haff-tam'd antelope, more near, Though shrinking »ill, she came ;— then sat her [pon a musnud's edge, and bolder grown, [down • ' '•!>•• pat liei ¡r mode of Ispahan
'"irh'd я preluding strain, and thus began :—"
The following picture of the grand armawiit of the Caliph shows the same luxuri•ro* of diction and imagination, directed to different objects:—
'.',.^ nt"r »re ihe gilded lents that crowd the way, ,1,:i!" тс ill was wa~ie and «lent yesterday f City of War which, in a tew short hours, sprung up liiTf, as if the magic powers
"Ne'er did the march of Mahadi display Such pomp before ;—not ev'n when on his way To Mecca's Temple, when both land and sea Were spoil'd to feed the Pilgrim's luxury; When round him, mid the burning sands, he saw Fruits of the North in icy freshness thaw, And cool'd his thirsty lip, beneath the glow Of Mecca's sun, with urns of Persian snow :— Nor e'er did armament more grand than that Pour from the kingdoms of the Caliphat. First, in the van, the People of the Rock, On their light mountain steeds, of royal stock; Then, Chieftains of Damascus, proud to see The flashing of their swords' rich marquetry," &c.
We can afford room now only for the conclusion—the last words of the dying Zelica; which remind us of those of Campbell's Gertrude—and the catastrophe of Azim, which is imaged in that of Southey's Roderick.
"' But live, my Azim ;—oh! to call thee mine
Thus once again !—my Azim—^iream divine!
Live, if thou ever lov'dst me, if to meet
Thy Zelica hereafter would be sweet,
Oh live to pray for her !—to bend the knee
Morning and night before that Deity,
To whom pure lips and hearts without n stain,
As thine are, Azim, never breath'd in vain—
And pray that He may pardon her—may take
Compassion on her soul for thy dear sake,
And, nought rememb'ring but her love to thee,
Make her all thine, all His, eternally!
Go to those happy fields where first we twin'd
Our youthful hearts together—every wind
That meets thee there, fresh from the well-known
Will bring the sweetness of those innocent hours
Time fleeted! Years on years had pass'd awsy,
Of death hung dark'ning over him, there play'd
And there, upon the banks of that lov'd tide,
The next piece, which is entitled "Paradise and the Peri," has none of the faults of the preceding. It is full of spirit, elegance, and beauty ; and, though slight enough in its structure, breathes throughout a most pure and engaging morality. It is, in truth, little more than a moral apologue, expanded and adorned by the exuberant fancy of the poet who recites it. The Peris are a sort of half-fallen female angels, who dwell in air, and live on perfumes; and, though banished for a time from Paradise, go about in this lower world doing good. One of these—But it is as short, and much more agreeable, to give the author's own introduction.
"One morn a Peri at the gate
Of Life within, like music flowing;
Through the half-open parlai flowing!
The Ansel of the Gate sees her weeping, and—
"' Nymph of a fair, but erring line!'
The Peri yet may be forgiven
The gift that is mögt dear to Heaven!
Full of hope and gratitude, she goes eagerly hi search of this precious ¡rift. Her first quest is on the plainsof India—the luxuriant beauty of which is put in fine contrast with the havoc and carnage which the march of a bloody conqueror had then spread over them. The Peri comes to witness the heroic death of a youthful patriot, who disdains to survive the overthrow of his country's independence.— She catches the last drop which flows from hie breaking heart, and bears that to heaven's gate, ae the acceptable propitiation that was required. For
"' Oh! if there be, on this earthly sphere,
A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear, -ч
'TU the last libation Liberty draws From the heart that bleeds and break« in- her cause !' "—p. 140.
The angel accepts the tribute with respect: But the crystal bar of the portal does not move! and she is told that something holier eren than this, will be required as the price of her admission. She now flies to the source of the Nile, and makes a delightful but pensive survey of the splendid regions which it waters; till she finds the inhabitants of the lovely gardens of Rosetta dying by thousands of the plague—the selfish deserting their friends and benefactors, and the generous, when struck with the fatal malady, seeking some solitude where they may die without bringing death upon others. Among the latter is a noble youth, who consoles himself, in the hour of his agony, with the thought, that hie beloved and betrothed bride is safe from this mortal visitation. In the stillness of his midnight retreat, however, he hears a light rtep approaching.
""Ti« »he !—far off, through moonlight dim.
He knew his own betrothed bride. She, who would rather Hie with him,
Than lire to gain the world beside !— Her arm» are round her lover now!
His livid cheek to hen ehe preste«,
In the cold lake her looserid tresses,
"' Oh! let me only breathe the air,
The blessed air, that's breath'd b) (hit And, whether on its wings it bear
Healing or death, 'tis sweet to me! There—drink my tears, while yet they fa'l
Would that my bosom's blood were ЬаЫ. And, well thou know'st, I'd shed it all
To give thy brow one minute'« calm. Nay, turn not from me that dear face—
Am I not thine—thy own lov'd bride—
In life or death, ¡a by thy side!
Her luver is no longer living!
Long kiss—which she expires in giving."
The gentle Peri bids them sleep in peac?: and bears again to the gates of пеатеп :he farewell sign of pure, self-sacrificing fere. The worth of the gift is again admitted by ¿' pitying angel; but the crystal bar stiii r*mains immovable; and she is sent once row to seek a still holier offering. In passing un-' the romantic vales of Syria, she sees a !ov>\v child at play among dews and flowers, uni opposite to him a stem wayfaring man, rest .' from some unhallowed toil, with the stamp ci all evil passions and evil deeds on his face
"But hark! the vesper-call to prayer.
As slow the orb of daylight sets,
From Syria's thousand minarets!
Kneels, with his forehead to the south
From purity's own cherub mouth,
"And how felt Ae, the wretched Man
And hope and feeling, which had slfpt
This tear of repentance is the accepöbif gift for the Peri's redemption. The galef of heaven fly open, and she rushes inlo the f>) of immortality.
"The Fire Worshippers" is the next intbf aeries, and appears to us to be indwpni>b'.v the finest and most powerful. With all l richneae and beauty of diction ibat belong ю