Page images


affords, which is taken into consideration, but scale, and measured by the same standard. This the genius which it indicates. Each person is fury of comparison knows no bounds; its abetanxious to form his scale of excellence, and to tors, at the same time that they reserve to themrange great names, living or dead, at certain in- selves the full advantage of dormant merit, make tervals and in different grades, self being the no such allowance to established authors. They hidden centre whither all the comparisons verge.judge them rigidly by their pages, assume that lo former times works of authors were composed their love of fame and emolument would not alwith ideal or ancient models, – the humble crowd low them to let any talent be idle, and will not of readers were content to peruse and admire. hear any arguments advanced for their unerAt present it is otherwise,- every one is con- pected capabilities. scious of having either written, or at least having The simplest and easiest effort of the mind been able to write a book, and consequently all is egotisin,-it is but baring one's own breast, literary decisions affect them personally:- disclosing its curious mechanism, and giving exScribendi nihil a me alienum puto,

aggerated expressions to every-day feeling. Yet

no productions have met with such success ;is the language of the age, and the most insigni- what authors can compete, as to popularity, with ficant calculate on the wonders they might have Montaigne, Byron, Rousseau ? Yet we cannot effected, had chance thrown a peu in their way. but believe that there have been thousands of

- The literary character has, in fact, extended men in the world who could have walked the itself over the whole face of society, with all the same path, and perhaps met with the same sucevils that D’Israeli has enumerated, and ten times cess, if they had had the same confidence. more—it has spread its fibres through all ranks, sionate and reflecting minds are not so rare as sexes, and ages. There no longer exists what

we suppose, but the boldness that sets at nought writers used to call a public-that disinterested

society is.

Nor could want of courage be the tribunal has long since merged in the body it only obstacle: there are, and have been, we used to try. Put your finger on any head in a trust, many who would not exchange the privacy crowd -- it belongs to an author, or the friend of of their mental sanctuary, for the indulgence of one, and your great authors are supposed to pos- spleen, or the feverish dream of popular celebrity. sess a quantity of communicable celebrity: an And if we can give credit for this power to the intimacy with one of them is a sort of principality, many who have lived unknown and shunned and a stray anecdote picked up rather a valuable publicity, how much more must we not be insort of possession. These people are always cry- clined to allow to himn of acknowledged genius, ing out against personality, and personality is and who has manifested it in works of equal the whole business of their lives. They can con- beauty, and of greater merit, inasmuch as they sider nothing as it is by itself; the cry is, * who are removed from self? It has been said by a wrote it ? » what manner of man is he?»

great living author and poet,' that « the choice of « where did he borrow it?" They make pup- a subject removed from self is the test of gepets of literary men by their impatient curiosity; nius. » and when one of themselves is dragged from his These considerations ought, at least, to premalign obscu in banter or whimsical revenge, us from altogether merging a writer's gehe calls upon all the gods to bear witness to the nius in his works, and from using the name of malignity he is made to suffer.

the poem and that of the poet indifferently. It is this spirit which has perverted criticism, For our part, we think that if Thomas Moore and reduced it to a play of words. To favour had the misfortune to be metaphysical, he might this vain eagerness of comparison, all powers and have written such a poem as the Excursion,faculties are resolved at once into genius—that that had he condescended to borrow, and at the vague quality, the supposition of which is at

same time disguise the feelings of the great Lake every one's command ; and characters, sublime in Poets, he might perhaps have written the best one respect, as they are contemptible in another, parts of Childe Harold- and had he the disposition are viewed under this one aspect. The man, the or the whim to be egotistical, he might lay bare a poet, the philosopher, are blended, and the attri

mind of his own as proudly and as passionately bites of each applied to all without distinction. organized as the great lord did, whom some one One person inquires the name of a poet, because describes a to have gutted himself body and soul, he is a reasoner; another, because he is mad; for all the world to walk in and see the show.. another, because he is conceited. Johnson's as

So much for the preliminary cavils which are sertion is taken for granted – that genius is but thrown in the teeth of Moore's admirers. They

great natural power directed towards a particu| lar object: thus all are reduced to the same

· Coleridge.

have been picked up by the small fry of critics, transplantation of an European mind into Asiatic who commenced their career with a furious at- scenes can seldom be favourable to its well-being tack on him, Pope, and Campbell, but have since and progress ; at least none but those of the first thought it becoming to grow out of their early order would be enabled to keep their imaginalikings. And at present they profess to prefer tions from degenerating into inconsistency and the great works which they have never read, and bombast, amid the swarms of novelties which which they will never be able to read, to those start up at every step. Thus it is that, in nearly classic poems, of which they bave been the most all the oriental poems added to our literature, destructive enemies, by bethumbing and quoting we had the same monotonous assemblage of intheir beauties into triteness and common-place. sipid images, drawn from the peculiar phenomena

The merits of Pope and of Moore have suffer- and natural appearances of the country. ed depreciation from the same cause-- the faci- We have always considered Asia as naturally lity of being imitated to a certain degree. And the home of poetry, and the creator of poets. as vulgar admiration seldom penetrates beyond what makes Greece so poetical a country is, that this degree, the conclusion is that nothing can be at every step we stumble over recollections of easier than to write like, and even equal to, ei- departed grandear, and behold the scenes where ther of these poets. In the universal self-com- the human mind has glorified itself for ever, parison, which is above mentioned, as the foun- and played a part the records of which can dation of modern criticism, feeling is assumed to never die. But in Asia, to the same charm of be genius--the passive is considered to imply the viewing the places of former power-of comparactive power. No opinion is more coinmon or ing the present with the past - there is added a more fallacious—it is the « flattering unction » luxuriance of climate, and an unrivalled beauty which has inundated the world with versifiers, of external pature, which, ever according with and which seems to under-rate the merit of com- the poet's soul, positions, in which there is more ingenuity and elegance than passion. Genius is considered to Temper, and do befit him to obey be little more than a capability of excitement

High inspiration. the greater the passion the greater the merit; and the school-boy key on which Mr Moore's

It was reserved for Mr Moore to redeem the love and heroism are usually set, is not considered character of oriental poetry, in a work which by any reader beyond his reach. This is cer- stands distinct, alone, and proudly pre-eminent tainly Moore's great defect; but it is more that above all that had preceded it on the same subof his taste than of any superior faculty.

ject. We shall now proceed to notice the most la

Never, indeed, has the land of the sun shone boured and most splendid of Mr Moore's produc- out so brightly on the children of the north-nor tions- « Lalla Rookh , :

the sweets of Asia been poured forth - nor her Then if, while scenes so grand,

gorgeousness displayed so profusely to the deSo beautiful, shine before thee,

liglated senses of Europe, as in the fine oriental Pride, for thine own dear land,

romance of Lalla Rookh. The beauteous forms, Should haply be stealing o'er thee;

the dazzling splendours, the breathing odours of Oh! let grief come first,

the East, found, at last, a kindred poet in that O'er pride itself victorious,

Green Isle of the West, whose genius has long
To think how man hath curst,
What Heaven hath made so glorious.

been suspected to be derived from a warmer

clime, and here wantons and luxuriates in these Several of our modern poets had already cho- voluptuous regions, as if it felt that it had at sen the luxuriant climate of the East for their ima- length recognized its native element. It is amazing, giuations to revel in, and body forth their shapes indeed, how much at home Mr Moore seeins to be of light; but it is no less observable that they in India, Persia, and Arabia ; and how purely ! haui generally failed, and the cause we believe to and strictly Asiatic all the colouring and imagery be this, that the partial conception and confined of his poem appears. He is thoroughly imbued knowledge which they naturally possessed of a with the character of the scenes to which he transcountry, so opposed in the character of its inha- ports us ; and yet the extent of his knowledge is bitants and the aspect of ils scenery to their own, less wonderful than the dexterity and apparent occasioned them, after the manner of all imper- facility with which he bas turned it to account, fect apprehenders, to seize upon its prominent in the elucidation and embellishment of his poetry. I features and obvious characteristics, without en- There is not a simile, a description, a name, a tering more deeply into its spirit, or catching its trait of history, or allusion of roniance, which retired and less palpable beauties. The sudden belongs to European experience, or does not in

[ocr errors]



dicate entire familiarity with the life, nature, and in its old severe simplicity. What penury of orlearning of the East.

- what neglect of beauties of detail Nor are the barbaric ornaments thinly scat- what masses of plain surface -- what rigid econotered to make up a show. They are showered mical limitation to the useful and the necessary! lavishly over the whole work; and form, perhaps, The cottage of a peasant is scarcely more simple too much the staple of the poetry, and the riches in its structure, and has not fewer parts that are of that which is chiefly distinguished its rich-superfluous. Yet what grandeur-what elegance

We would confine this remark, however, - what grace and completeness in the effect ! to the descriptions of external objects, and the The whole is beautiful - because the beauty is in allusions to literature and history - to what may the whole ; but there is little merit in any of the be termed the matériel of the poetry we are speak- parts except that of fitness and careful finishing. ing of. The characters and sentiments are of a Contrast this with a Dutch, or a Chinese pleadifferent order. They cannot, indeed, be said to sure-house, where every part is meant to be be copies of an European bature; but still less beautiful, and the result is deformity-where like that of any other region. They are, in truth, there is not an inch of the surface that is not poetical imaginations ;- but it is to the poetry of brilliant with colour, and rough with curves and rational, honourable, considerate, and humane angles,- and where the effect of the whole is disEurope that they belong--and not to the child-pleasing to the eye and the taste. We are as far ishness, cruelty, and profligacy of Asia.

as possible from meaning to insinuate that Mr There is something very extraordinary, we Moore's poetry is of this description ; on the conthink, in this work -- and something which indi-trary, we think his ornaments are, for the most cates in the author, not only a great exuberance part, truly and exquisitely beautiful; and the of talent, but a very singular constitution of ge- general design of his pieces extremely elegant and nius. While it is more splendid in imagery-and ingenious: all that we mean to say is, that there for the most part in very good taste-more rich is too much ornament, too many insulated and in sparkling thoughts and original conceptions, independent beauties—and that the notice and and more full indeed of exquisite pictures, both the very admiration they excite, hurt the interest of all sorts of beauties, and all sorts of virtues, of the general design, and withdraw our attention and all sorts of sufferings and crimes, than any too importunately from it. other

poein we kuow of; we rather think we speak Mr Moore, it appears to us, is too lavish of his the sense of all classes of readers, when we add, gems and sweets, and it may truly be said of that the effect of the whole is to mingle a certain him, in his poetical capacity, that he would be feeling of disappointinent with that of admira- richer with half his wealth. His works are not tion,—to excite admiration rather than any warm- only of rich materials and graceful design, but er sentiment of delight - to dazzle more than to they are every where glistening with small beauenchant-and, in the end, more frequently to star- lies and transitory inspirations-sudden flashes tle the fancy, and fatigue the attention, with the of fancy that blaze out and perish; like earthconstant succession of glittering images and higla- born meteors that crackle in the lower sky, and strained emotions, than to maintain a rising in- unseasonably divert our eyes from the great and terest, or win a growing sympathy, by a less pro- lofty bodies which pursue

their harmonious fuse or more systematic display of attractions. courses in a serener region.

The style is, on the whole, rather diffuse, and We have spoken of these as faults of styletoo unvaried in its character. But its greatest but they could scarcely have existed without fault is the uniformity of its brilliancy-the want going deeper; and though they first strike us as of plainness, simplicity, and repose. We have qualities of the composition only, we find, upon heard it observed by some very zealous admirers a little reflection, that the same general character of Mr Moore's genius, that you cannot open this belongs to the fable, the characters, and the senbook without finding a cluster of beauties in every timents-that they all are alike in the excess of page. Now, this is only another way of expressing their means of attraction-and fail to interest, what we think its greatest defect. No work, chiefly by being too interesting. consisting of many pages, should have detached We have felt ii our duty to point out the faults and distinguishable beauties in every one of them. of our author's poetry, particularly in respect to No great work, indeed, should have many beau- Lalla Rookh, but it would be quite unjust to chaties: if it were perfect it would have but one, and racterize that splendid poem by its faults, which that but faintly perceptible, except on a view of are infinitely less conspicuous than its manifold the whole. Look, for example, at what is the beauties. There is not only a rieliness and brilmost finisheil and exquisite production of human liancy of diction and imagery spread over the irt—the design and elevation of a Grecian temple, whole work, that indicate the greatest activity and elegance of fancy in the author; but it is every of the early ages of Islamism, who pretended to where pervaded, still more strikingly, by a have received a later and more authoritative strain of tender and noble feeling, poured out mission than that of the Prophet, and to be deswith such warmth and abundance, as to steal in- tined to overturn all tyrannies and superstitions sensibly on the heart of the reader, and gradually on the earth, and to rescue all souls that believed to overflow it with a tide of sympathetic emotion in him. To shade the celestial radiance of his There are passages indeed, and these neither few brow, he always wore a veil of silver gauze, and nor brief, over which the very genius of poetry was at last attacked by the Caliph, and extermiseems to have breathed his richest enchantment nated with all his adherents

. On this story Mr -- where the melody of the verse and the beauty Moore has engrafted a romantic and not very of the images conspire so harmoniously with the probable tale: yet, even with all its faults, it posforce and tenderness of the emotion, that the sesses a charm almost irresistible, in the volume whole is blended into one deep and bright of sweet sounds and beautiful images, which are stream of sweetness and feeling, along which the heaped together with luxurious profusion in the spirit of the reader is borne passively through general texture of the style, and invest even the Jong reaches of delight. Mr Moore's poetry, faults of the story with the graceful amplitude of indeed, where his happiest vein is opened, realizes their rich and figured veil. more exactly than that of any other writer, « Paradise and the Peri» has none of the faults the splendid account which is given by Comus ' just alluded to. It is full of spirit, elegance, and of the song of

beauty; and, though slight in its structure, breathes His mother Circe, and the sirens three,

throughout a most pure and engaging morality. Amid the flowery-kirtled Naiades,

• The Fire-worshippers appears to us to be Who, as they sung, would take the prison'd soul, indisputably the finest and most powerful poem And lap it in Elysium.

of them all. With all the richness and beauty of And though it is certainly to be regretted that he diction that belong to the best parts of Mokanna, should occasionally have broken the measure with it has a far more interesting story; and is not more frivolous strains, or filled up its intervals liable to the objections that arise against the conwith a sort of brilliant falsetto, it should never trivance and structure of the leading poem. The be forgotten, that his excellencies are as peculiar general tone of the Fire-worshippers is certainly to himself as his faults, and, on the whole, we too much strained, but, in spite of that, it is a may assert, more characteristic of his genius.

work of great genius and beauty; and not only The legend of Lalla Rookh is very sweetly and delights the fancy by its general brilliantcy and gaily told; and is adorned with many tender as spirit

, but moves all the tender and noble feelings well as lively passages --- without reckoning among

with a deep and powerful agitation. the latter the occasional criticisms of the omni

The last piece, entitled « The Light of the scient Fadladeen, the magnificent and most in- Haram,» is the gayest of the whole; and is of a fallible grand chamberlain of the haram--whose very slender fabric as to fable or invention. In sayings and remarks, by the by, do not agree very truth, it has scarcely any story at all; but is well with the character which is assigned him-- made up almost entirely of beautiful songs and being for the most part very smart, snappish, and fascinating descriptions. acute, and by no means solemn, stupid, and pom

On the whole, it may be said of «Lalla Rookh,» pous, as one would have expected. Mr Moore's that its great fault consists in its proluse finery; genius, perhaps, is too inveterately lively, to but it should be observed, that this finery is not make it possible for him even to counterfeit dul- the vulgar ostentation which so often disguises ness. We must now take a slight glance at the poverty or meanness - but, as we have before poetry.

hinted, the extravagance of excessive wealth. Its The first piece, entitled the Veiled Prophet of great charın is in the inexhaustible copiousness of Khorassan, is the longest, and, we think, certainly its imagery—the sweetness and ease of its diction not the best of the series. The story, which is not -- and the beauty of the objects and sentiments in all its parts extremely intelligible, is founded with which it is conceived. on a vision, in d'Herbelot, of a daring impostor quired as the author of Lalla Rookh, etc.

, it is as

Whatever popularity Mr Moore may have ac· Milton, who was much patronized by the illustrious the author of the « Irish Melodies, that he will go House of Egerton, wrote the Mask of Comus upon Johu down to posterity uprivalled and alone in that Egerton, then Earl of Bridgewater, when that nobleman, delightful species of composition. Lord Byron has in 1634, was appointed Lord President of the principality of Wales. le was performed by three of his Lordship" very justly and prophetically observed, that children, before the Earl, at Ludlow Castle.--- See the Worhs

Moore is one of the few writers who will survive of the present Earl of Bridgewater.

the age in which he so deservedly flourishes. He


will live in his ‘Irish Melodies'; they will go down This is not a mere fancy of the uninitiated, to posterity with the music; both will last as long or the barbarous exaggeration of a musical savage as Ireland, or as music and poetry.”

who has lost his senses at hearing Orpheus's hurdyIf, indeed, the anticipation of lasting celebrity gurdy, because he never heard any thing better. be the chief pleasure for the attainment of which one of the greatest composers that ever charmeil poets bestow their labour, certainly no one can the world - the immortal Haydn-on being rehave engaged so much of it as Thomas Moore

quested to add symphonies and accompaniments It is evident that writers who fail to command to the Scotch airs, was so convinced of their duimmediate attention, and who look only to pos- rability, that he replied —« Mi vanto di questo terity for a just estimate of their merits, must lavoro, e per cio mi lusingo di vivere in Scozia feel more or less uncertainty as to the ultimate molti anni dopo la mia morte. » result, even though they should appreciate their It is not without reason, therefore, that Mr own productions as highly as Milton his Paradise Moore indulges in this kind of second-sight, and Lost; while they who succeed in obtaining a large exclaims (on hearing one of his own melodies share of present applause, cannot but experience / re-echoed from a bugle in the mountains of Kilfrequent inisgivings as to its probable duration : larney), prevailing tastes have so entirely changed, and works, the wonder and delight of one generation, Oh, forgive if, while listening to music, whose breath have been so completely forgotten in the next,

Seem'd to circle his name with a charm against death, that extent of reputation ought rather to alarm

He should feel a proud spirit within him proclaim,

Even so shalt thou live in the echoes of faine; than assure an author in respect to his future

Even so, though thy mem'ry should now die away, fame.

'T will be caught up again in some happier day, But Mr Moore, independently of poetical And the hearts and the voices of Erin prolong, powers of the highest order-independently of the

Through the answering future, thy name and thy song! place he at present maintains in the public estimation - has secured to himself a strong hold of In truth, the subtile essences of these tunes present celebrity, as durable as the English tongue.

no object upon which time or violence can act. Almost every European nation has a kind of Pyramids may moulder away, and bronzes be primitive music

, peculiar to itself; consisting of decomposed ; but the breeze of heaven which short and simple tunes or melodies, which at the fanned them in their splendour shall sigh around same time that they please cultivated and scien- them in decay, and by its mournful sound awaken tific ears, are the object of passionate and almost all the recollections of their former glory. Thus, exclusive attainment by the great body of the when generations shall have sunk into the grave, people, constituting, in fact, pretty nearly the and printed volumes been consigned to oblivion, sum of their musical knowledge and enjoyment.

traditionary strains shall prolong our poet's existBeing the first sounds with which the infant ence, and his future fame shall not be less certain

than his present celebrity. is soothed in his nursery, with which he is lulled to repose at night, and excited to animation in

Like the sale that sichs along the day, they make an impression on the imagina

Beds of oriental flowers, tion that can never afterwards be effaced, and Is the grateful breath of song, are consequently handed down from parent to

That once was heard in happier hours;

Fill d with balm the gale sighs on, child, from generation to generation, with as much

Though the flowers have sunk in death; uniformity as the family features and dispositions. So when the Bard of Love is gone, It is evident, therefore, that he who first success

His mem'ry lives in Music's breath! fully invests them with language, becomes thereby himself a component part of these airy existences, Almost every European nation, as we before and commits his bark to a farouring wind, before observed, has its own peculiar set of popular which it shall pass on to the end of the stream of melodies, differing as much from each other in time.

character as the nations themselves ; but there Without such a connexion as this with the na

more marked or more extensively tional music of Scotland, it seems to us, that Allan known than those of the Scotch and Irish. Some Ramsay's literary existence must bave terninated of these may be traced to a very remote its earthly career long since; but, in the divine while of others the origin is scarcely known; and melody of

The Yellow-hair’d Laddie," he has se- this is the case, especially, with the airs of Irecured in passport to future ages, which mightier land. With the exception of those which were poets might envy, and which will be heard and produced by Carolan, who died in 1938, there acknowledged as long as the world has ears to are few of which we can discover the dates or hear.





« PreviousContinue »