Page images

Then turned and knelt beside it in the place,
And said a prayer, and from his lips there crept
Some gentle words of pleasure, and he wept.

In reverent silence the spectators wait,
Then bring him at his call both wine and meat ;
And when he had refreshed his noble heart,
He bade his host be blest, and rose up to depart.

The man amazed, all mildness now, and tears,
Fell at the Sultan's feet, with many prayers,
And begged him to vouchsafe to tell his slave
The reason, first, of that command he gave
About the light ; then, when he saw the face,
Why he knelt down ; and lastly, how it was
That fare so poor as his detained him in the place.

The Sultan said, with much humanity,
“ Since first I saw thee come, and heard thy cry,
I could not rid me of a dread, that one
By whom such daring villanies were done
Must be some lord of mine, perhaps a lawless son.
Whoe'er he was, I knew my task, but feared
A father's heart, in case the worst appeared ;
For this I had the light put out; but when
I saw the face, and found a stranger slain,
I knelt, and thanked the sovereign arbiter,
Whose work I had performed through pain and fear;
And then I rose, and was refreshed with food,
The first time since thou cam’st, and marr dst my


Other short pieces in the same style are nearly as good such as those entitled The Jaffar and The Inevitable. Then there are the admirable modernizations of Chaucer — of whom and of Spenser, whom he has also imitated with wonderful cleverness, no one of all his contemporaries probably had so true and deep a feeling as Hunt. But, passing over likewise his two greatest works, The Story of Rimini and The Legend of Florence (published in 1840), we will give one other short effusion, which attests, we think, as powerfully as anything he ever produced, the master's triumphant hand, in a style which he has made his own, and in which, with however many imitators, he has no rival : –

THE FANCY CONCERT. They talked of their concerts, their singers, and scores, And pitied the fever that kept me in doors; And I smiled in my thought, and said, “O ye sweet fancies, And animal spirits, that still in your

dances Come bringing me visions to comfort my care, Now fetch me a concert, — imparadise air.”

Then a wind, like a storm out of Eden, came pouring
Fierce into my room, and made tremble the flooring,
And filled, with a sudden impetuous trample
Of heaven, its corners; and swelled it to ample
Dimensions to breathe in, and space for all power;
Which falling as suddenly, lo! the sweet flower
Of an exquisite fairy-voice opened its blessing ;
And ever and aye, to its constant addressing,
There came, falling in with it, each in the last,
Flageolets one by one, and flutes blowing more fast,
And hautboys and clarinets, acrid of reed,
And the violin, smoothlier sustaining the speed
As the rich tempest gathered, and buz-ringing moons
Of tambours, and huge basses, and giant bassoons ;
And the golden trombonë, that darteth its tongue
Like a bee of the gods ; nor was absent the gong,
Like a sudden fate-bringing oracular sound
Of earth’s iron genius, burst up from the ground,
A terrible slave come to wait on his masters
The gods, with exultings that clanged like disasters ;
And then spoke the organs, the very gods they,
Like thunders that roll on a wind-blowing day;
And, taking the rule of the roar in their hands,
Lo! the Genii of Mụsic came out of all lands;
And one of them said, “Will my lord tell his slave
What concert 'twould please his Firesideship to have ?”

Then I said, in a tone of immense will and pleasure,
“ Let orchestras rise to some exquisite measure ;
And let there be lights and be odours; and let
The lovers of music serenely be set ;
And then, with their singers in lily-white stoles,
And themselves clad in rose-colour, fetch me the souls
Of all the composers accounted divinest,
And, with their own hands, let them play me their finest.”

Then, lo! was performed my immense will and pleasure,
And orchestras rose to an exquisite measure ;
And lights were about me and odours; and set
Were the lovers of music, all wondrously met ;
And then, with their singers in lily-white stoles,
And themselves clad in rose-colour, in came the souls
Of all the composers accounted divinest,
And, with their own hands, did they play me their finest.

Oh! truly was Italy heard then, and Germany,
Melody's heart, and the rich brain of harmony ;
Pure Paisiello, whose airs are as new

Though we know them by heart, as May-blossoms and dew;
And nature's twin son, Pergolesi ; and Bach,
Old father of fugues, with his endless fine talk ;
And Gluck, who saw gods; and the learned sweet feeling
Of Haydn ; and Winter, whose sorrows are healing;
And gentlest Corelli, whose bowing seems made
For a hand with a jewel ; and Handel, arrayed
In Olympian thunders, vast lord of the spheres,
Yet pious himself, with his blindness in tears,
À lover withal, and a conqueror, whose marches
Bring demi-gods under victorious arches
Then Arne, sweet and tricksome ; and masterly Purcell,
Lay-clerical soul ; and Mozart universal,
But chiefly with exquisite gallantries found,
With a grove in the distance of holier sound;
Nor forgot was thy dulcitude, loving Sacchini ;
Nor love, young and dying, in shape of Bellini ;
Nor Weber, nor Himmel, nor Mirth's sweetest name,
Cimarosa ; much less the great organ-voiced fame
Of Marcello, that hushed the Venetian sea;
And strange was the shout, when it wept, hearing thee,
Thou soul full of grace as of grief, my heart-cloven,
My poor, my most rich, my all-feeling Beethoven.
O'er all, like a passion, great Pasta was heard,
As high as her heart, that truth-uttering bird ;
And Banti was there; and Grassini, that goddess !
Dark, deep-toned, large, lovely, with 'glorious boddice ;
And Mara ; and Malibran, stung to the tips
Of her fingers with pleasure ; and rich Fodor's lips
And, manly in face as in tone, Angrisani ;
And Naldi, thy whim; and thy grace, Tramezzani ;
And was it a voice? — or what was it ? — say —

That, like a fallen angel beginning to pray,
Was the soul of all tears and celestial despair !
Paganini it was, 'twixt his dark-flowing hair.

So now we had instrument, now we had song —
Now chorus, a thousand-voiced one-hearted throng ;


pampered resumption, and now
But who shall describe what was played us, or how ?
'Twas wonder, 'twas transport, humility, pride ;
'Twas the heart of the mistress that sat by one's side ;
'Twas the graces invisible, moulding the air
Into all that is shapely, and lovely, and fair,
And running our fancies their tenderest rounds
Of endearments and luxuries, turned into sounds;
'Twas argument even, the logic of tones ;
'Twas memory, 'twas wishes, 'twas laughters, 'twas moans ;
'Twas pity and love, in pure impulse obeyed ;
'Twas the breath of the stuff of which passion is made.

And these are the concerts I have at my will;
Then dismiss them, and patiently think of your bill.”
(Aside) Yet Lablache, after all, makes me long to go, still.

Leigh Hunt died, at the age of seventy-five, in 1859, — the last survivor, although the earliest born, of the four poets, with the other three of whom he had been so intimately associated, and the living memory of whom he thus carried far into another time, indeed across an entire succeeding generation. To the last, even in outward form, he forcibly recalled Shelley's fine picture of him in his Elegy on Keats, written nearly forty years before :

6 What softer voice is hushed over the dead?

Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown?
What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed,

In mockery of monumental stone,
The heavy heart heaving without a moan ?

If it be he, who, gentlest of the wise,
Taught, soothed, loved, honoured the departed one ;

Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.”

1 Hunt - Byron - Shelley - Keats, born in that order (in 1784, 1788, 1793, and 1796), died in exactly the reverse, and also at ages running in a series contrary throughout to that of their births ; - Keats, at 25, in 1821, - Shelley, at 29, in 1822, – Byron, at 36, in 1824, -- Hunt, at 75, in 1859.



THE names that have been mentioned are the chief of those belonging, wholly or principally, to the earlier part of the present century, or to that remarkable literary era which may be regarded as having expired with the reign of the last of the Georges. Many others, however, also brighten this age of our poetical literature, which cannot be here enlarged upon, and some of which, indeed, have been already noticed : — Samuel Rogers, whose first publication, as has been recorded in a preceding page, appeared so long ago as the year 1786, and who died, at the

age of ninety-two, only in 1855, after having produced his Pleasures of Memory in 1792, his Human Life in 1819, and his Italy in 1822, all characterized by a spirit of pensive tenderness, as well as by high finish; the Reverend W. Lisle Bowles, who, born in 1762, lived till 1850, and whose Fourteen Sonnets, his first publication, which appeared in 1793, were regarded alike by Coleridge, by Wordsworth, and by Southey, as having not only materially contributed to mould their own poetry, but heralded or even kindled the dawn of a new poetic day ; Charles Lamb (b. 1775, d. 1835), whose earliest verses were published in 1797, at Bristol, along with those of their common friend Charles Lloyd, in the second edition of Coleridge's Poems (of which the first edition had appeared at London in the preceding year); the Rev. William Sotheby, whose translation of Wieland's Oberon, which appeared in 1798, was followed by a long succession of other works, both in rhyme and in blank verse, including translations of Virgil's Georgics and of the two great Homeric epics, and all distinguished by the combination of a flowing ease with a scholarly correctness, coming down to his death, at the age of seventy-seven, in 1833; Henry Kirke White, who, after putting forth some blossoms of fancy of considerable promise, was cut off, in his twenty-first year, in 1806; James Montgomery (b. 1771, d. 1854), whose Wanderer of Switzerland (1806), West Indies (1810), World before the Flood (1813), Greenland (1819), and Pelican Island (1827), with many minor pieces, always satisfying us by their quiet thoughtfulness and simple grace, made him with a large class of readers the most acceptable poetical writer of his time ; Bernard Barton, the Quaker poet, whose first volume

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »