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Led back from strife his shattered bands;
And from the charge they drew,
Sweep back to ocean blue.
Dissolves in silent dew.
While many a broken band,
To gain the Scottish land;
Of Flodden's fatal field,
And broken was her shield !
Scott, born in 1771, died in 1832.
CRABBE. CAMPBELL. MOORE.
CRABBE, Campbell, and Moore, were all known as poetical writers previous to the breaking forth of Scott's bright day : Crabbe had published his first poem, The Library, so far back as in 1781, The Village in 1783, and The Newspaper in 1785; Campbell, his Pleasures of Hope in 1799; Moore, his Anacreon in 1800. But Campbell alone had before that epoch attracted any considerable share of the public attention ; and even he, after following up his first long poem with his Hohenlinden, his Battle of the Baltic, his Mariners of England, and a few other short pieces, had laid aside his lyre for some five or six years. Neither Crabbe nor Moore had as yet produced anything that gave promise of the high
station they were to attain in our poetical literature, or had even acquired any general notoriety as writers of verse. No one of the three, however, can be said to have caught any part of his manner from Scott. Campbell's first poem, juvenile as its execution in some respects was, evinced in its glowing impetuosity and imposing splendor of declamation the genius of a true and original poet, and the same general character that distinguishes his poetry in its maturest form, which may be described as a combination of fire and elegance; and his early lyrics, at least in their general effect, are not excelled by anything he subsequently wrote, although the tendency of his style towards greater purity and simplicity was very marked in all his later compositions. It was with a narrative poem
his Pennsylvanian Tale of Gertrude of Wyoming — that Campbell (in 1809) returned to woo the public favor, after Scott had made poetry, and that particular form of it, so popular; and, continuing to obey the direction which had been given to the public taste, he afterwards produced his exquisite O'Connor’s Child and his Theodric; the former the most passionate, the latter the purest, of all his longer poems. Crabbe, in like manner, when he at last, in 1807, broke his silence of twenty years, came forth with a volume, all that was new in which consisted of narrative poetry, and he never afterwards attempted any other style. Narrative, indeed, had formed the happiest and most characteristic portions of Crabbe's former compositions; and he was probably led now to resume his pen mainly by the turn which the taste and fashion of the time had taken in favor of the kind of poetry to which his genius most strongly carried him. His narrative manner, however, it is scarcely necessary to observe, has no resemblance either to that of Scott or to that of Campbell. Crabbe's poetry, indeed, both in its form and in its spirit, is of quite a peculiar' and original character. It might be called the poetry of matter-of-fact, for it is as true ás any prose, and, except the rhyme, has often little about it of the ordinary dress of poetry; but the effect of poetry, nevertheless, is always there in great force, its power both of stirring the affections and presenting vivid pictures to the fancy. Other poets may be said to exalt the truth to a heat naturally foreign to it in the crucible of their imagination ; he, by a subtler chemistry, draws forth from it its latent heat, making even things that look the coldest and deadest sparkle and flash with passion. It is remarkable, however, in how great a degree, with all its originality, the poetical genius
of Crabbe was acted upon and changed by the growth of new tastes and a new spirit in the times through which he lived, — how his poetry took a warmer temperament, a richer color, as the age became more poetical. As he lived, indeed, in two eras, so he wrote in two styles : the first, a sort of imitation, as we have already observed, of the rude vigor of Churchill, though marked from the beginning by a very distinguishing quaintness and raciness of its own, but comparatively cautious and commonplace, and dealing rather with the surface than with the heart of things; the last, with all the old peculiarities retained, and perhaps exaggerated, but greatly more copious, daring, and impetuous, and infinitely improved in penetration and general effectiveness. And his poetical power, nourished by an observant spirit and a thoughtful tenderness of nature, continued to grow in strength to the end of his life ; so that the last poetry he published, his Tales of the Hall, is the finest he ever wrote, the deepest and most passionate in feeling as well as the happiest in execution. In Crabbe's sunniest passages, however, the glow is still that of a melancholy sunshine : compared to what we find in Moore's poetry, it is like the departing flush from the west, contrasted with the radiance of morning poured out plentifully over earth and sky, and making all things laugh in light. Rarely has there been seen so gay, nimble, airy a wonder-worker in verse as Moore ; rarely such a conjuror with words, which he makes to serve rather as wings for his thoughts than as the gross attire or embodiment with which they must be encumbered to render them palpable or visible. His wit is not only the sharpest and brightest to be almost anywhere found, but is produced apparently with more of natural facility, and shapes itself into expression more spontaneously, than that of any
other poet. But there is almost as much humor as wit in Moore's gayety ; nor are his wit and humor together more than a small part of his poetry, which, preserving in all its forms the same matchless brilliancy, finish, and apparent ease and fluency, breathes in its tenderer strains the very soul of sweetness and pathos. Moore, after having risen to the ascendant in his proper region of the poetical firmament, at last followed the rest into the walk of narrative poetry, and produced his Lalla Rookh (1817): it is a poem,
with all its defects, abounding in passages of great beauty and splendor; but his Songs are, after all, probably, the compositions for which he will be best remembered.
No poetry of this time is probably so deeply and universally written upon the popular heart and memory as Campbell's great lyrics; these, therefore, it is needless to give here ; some things that he has written in another style will have a greater chance of being less familiar to the reader. With all his classic taste and careful finish, Campbell's writing, especially in his earlier poetry, is rarely altogether free for any considerable number of lines from something hollow and false in expression, into which he was seduced by the conventional habits of the preceding bad school of versemaking in which he had been partly trained, and from which he emerged, or by the gratification of his ear lulling his other faculties asleep for the moment; even in his Battle of the Baltic, for instance, what can be worse than the two lines
But the might of England flushed
To anticipate the scene? And a similar use of fine words with little or no meaning, or with a meaning which can only be forced out of them by torture, is occasional in all his early compositions. In the Pleasures of Hope, especially, swell of sound without any proportionate quantity of sense, is of such frequent occurrence as to be almost a characteristic of the poem. All his later poetry, however, is of much purer execution ; and some of it is of exquisite delicacy and grace of form. A little incident was never, for example, more perfectly told than in the following verses :
The ordeal's fatal trumpet sounded,
And sad pale Adelgitha came,
And slew the slanderer of her fame.
She wept, delivered from her danger;
But, when he knelt to claim her glove -
For hapless Adelgitha's love.
“For he is in a foreign far land
Whose arm should now have set me free ;
For him that's dead or false to me.'
“ Nay! say not that his faith is tainted !”
He raised his vizor — at the sight
She fell into his arms and fainted;
It was indeed her own true knight.
Equally perfect, in a higher, more earnest style, is the letter to her absent husband, dictated and signed by Constance in her last moments, which closes the tale of Theodric:
“ Theodric, this is destiny above
I shall have worse than lived in vain.
Words that will solace him while life endures :