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We will only add the lines anticipating the Millennium,, with which the poem concludes.
«Hope waits the morning of celestial light;
'If Mr. Montgomery's merits were appreciated by these extracts, there could be no pretence for denying him that place, which a deliberate examination impels us to claim for him, in the first rank of his contemporaries. Some of the passages are not to be matched in the works of any living poet, except Campbell; and will be excelled by very few, we think, even of the writers of the last century. We have not selected them as exact specimens of his performance, but as decisive evidence of his powers. The ability of a writer is to be estimated by his master-piece. An estimate which should represent him as unequal to the production of a work, which he had in fact produced, would be obviously false. The extracts we have made, evince beyond all doubt a very high order of poetical talent; and a fact thus established cannot possibly be >- overthrown by any previous or future failure, by any multitude or enormity of defects. In these extracts, in various passages of the Wanderer of Switzerland, in the Joy of Grief, the Battle of Alexandria, the Ode to the Volunteers, and one or two others, there is a grandeur and originality of conception, a force and beauty of language, a power of expanding the heart with sublime, or melting it with pathetic sentiments, to which few of our best writers can pretend. Wherever these excellences are found, let the faults with which they are associated be what they ma)-, it is impossible to withhold the praise of genius or the appellation of poet.
It must be owned, on the other hand, that there are passages in\this, as in other works of Mr. Montgomery, which could hardly be supposed to flow from the same pen, which are of a quality rarely to be met with in poets of classic celebrity, and which, if the author had written nothing else, would ^onsigir his name to speedy oblivion. While we contend tha$ the most successful of a poet's attempts is the true criterion of his ability,-we must equally admit that the grossest of his faults should also be taken into consideration, as evincing either his carelessness, his indolence, his inordinate fondness and blind partiality for his own productions, or some strange infatuation of judgement and depravity of taste. From some or all of these causes it arises, that the pleasure we derive from Mr. Montgomery's happier efforts has been mingled with considerable dissatisfaction, and that his present, as well as his former publication, is eminently exposed to the malice of criticism. There is scarcely any poet of repute, either living or dead, except Wordsworth, and perhaps Young, whose real merits could with seeming fairness and impartiality be so atrociously depreciated. A reviewer, who has any pride of power or acrimony of temper, any irreligious antipathy or personal hatred to indulge, and who is under no restraint from virtuous principle or the remonstrances of conscience, will find in the works of this very unequal writer the easiest victim his malignity could desire. Nothing more is necessary, than boldly to describe the author in terms of contempt, to stigmatize his peculiar merits with the name of the faults which they most resemble, to exhibit that as his prevailing characteristic which is only his occasional failing, to give colour to the whole misrepresentation by selecting for specimens such passages as are most vicious or least impressive when detached, aod either suppress whatever is excellent, or, if any thing of that description is for decency's sake admitted, to degrade it by low and ludicrous associations. We have thought it right to afford Mr. M. some little protection against these perfidious artifices, by a larger select ion of extracts than our limits will in general allow.
We are now to point out some of those prevailing faults and particular blemishes, which, though they cannot destroy the merit of the foregoing extracts, must greatly diminish, their effect. The general character of an author, in comparison with other authors, will result from the combined impression of all his qualities, as exhibited in all his works. The rank to which he might be intitled by a particular excellence, may be forfeited by a striking defect; his success in one performance may be counteracted by his failure in another. It would, therefore, be his policy to publish nothing that is not qualified to enhance his reputation. In attempting to discharge this part of our duty to the public, we shall flatter ourselves with the hope of rendering some service to the author. ■ " ,
What distinguishes Mr. M. we think, from ordinary pretenders to poetical merit, is exuberance of imagination and warmth of heart. Of these essential qualifications he pos« sesses such a stock, as would enable half a score decent ver* lifters to carry on a thriving trade; To suppose him equally eminent for solidity of judgement and delicacy of taste, would be to describe such a poet as the world, has seldom, perhaps never, beheld. It is very evident, however, that the latter qualifications are absolutely necessary, in a greater or less degree, to direct the former to suitable objects and restrain them within proper bounds, We suspect that the course of discipline, which our author's mind has undergone, was not exactlysuited to supply its defects and curb its excesses.. Neither does he seem aware of the dangers to which he is chiefly, exposed. With a prodigious activity of fancy, a cast of thought alternately chaste and whimsical, but altogether: original and peculiar, and an extraordinary ardour of feeling,, the utmost caution was necessary on the side of extravagance: If we may judge, however, from his writings, he has been more possessed with a dread of tameness and common place; as if unconscious that it was scarcely in his power to trapsgress: in this quarter, and that, if he did, the most respectable precedents might be cited in his vindication. His genius,instead of the spur, required the rein ; and has often been so prodigal of its- strength and so heedless of its course, as to. run the greatest risk of being beaten by far less vigorous and high-mettled competitors. . , - >
One of the faults into which such a writer is most liable to fall, is a confusion of metaphors. The common language of life is nearly simple; that of passion is metaphorical; the. next step, and a warm imagination is but too ready to take it, is crowding one metaphor upon another. An instance of this occurs in the following line, 'His white winged vessels eours'd th' untraveWd deep,' where ships are described both as horses and birds,—unless, indeed, the poet should take shelter under the allegation that these birds are.ostriches. The description of Las Casas, as ' raising his Voice against a sea of blood,' is of a different kind, but not less vicious. The former is the employment of two metaphors at once, the latter of half a metaphor. But the worst deviation from propriety in the whole poem, is that of representing the Charib slave as a miner, and the earth which he digs as being at the dame time his mother;
* Condemn'd in cells of pestilence and gloom
To dig for treasures in his mother's womb.' ■'
Another fault is abrupt and useless personification, as in the
lines, ■* Where peril prowls and shipwreck lurks for prey'—
Hope swells my sails'—' where'er discovert/s empire spread.*
. In the animated passage, also, which depicts the sufferings of a person dying of the yellow fever, there is an ambiguity which seems to arise from a similar source; it is not rendered sufficiently obvious how much is poetical fiction, how much the delusion of the patient's delirious imagination, and how much the simple fact. Another inaccuracy occurs in describing the peaceful indolence and happy uniformity, iu which successive races of Charibs passed away their lives;
'like waves upon the tide
Of stormiest time, they calmly liv'd and died.'
If the poet had been content with the plain statement, that the Charibs for one generation after another lived and died like waves on a calm sea, instead of attempting to strengthen the idea by turning the real sea into an imaginary one—the sea of time, be would have produced a legitimate and most happy simile. There is no impropriety in speaking of the waves upon the sea of time; but, if that idea is introduced, it should not be as a simile, but as a metaphor.
The same ardour which has betrayed Mr. M. into tbes* inaccuracies, and a few others which we need not particularize, has given an undue vehemence to the general tone of the poem,—a vehemence with which we cannot properly sympathize, and which has an effect on the mind analogous to that of too loud and earnest a manner in conversation. It is produced throughout by the strength of expression, the copiousness of thought, the abundance of imagery, and the energy of versification. It is, as the poet finely describes the incessant exportation of slaves from Guinea, ' a tide that knows no fall, no turn, no rest* The mind is interested, but fatigued: with less excitement, there would be more satisfaction. A painter would say there is no repose. .
We would also caution Mr. M. against a fondness for such petty ornaments as antitheses and alliterations, which he has sometimes employed with skill, but which have occasionally attracted him, we think, too far from strict simplicity. But we have already been too prolix. We will only remind the reader, that though Mr. Montgomery's faults are such as a man of exact taste would not commit, many of them arc such as none but a man of genius could commit. Of his excellences we need not repeat our opinion. In this, as in his former productions, there seems to be a principle of ethereal animation, which insures to it a perpetuity, of existence, like the tabled gift of Aurora, without exempting itv from the imperfections of mortality. We earnestly hope he rjaay live to produce a poem, entirely worthy of his genius, ana subservient to that cause for which bis regard is so often • manifested in his writings: a poem, that shall be endowed
Vw,; VI. A a
with the immortality and perform the functions attributed to the Muses; that shall bloom through all ages and among all people with the beauty of perpetual youth, and minister to the enjoyments of man, while it celebrates tha perfections of his Maker. ':'
(To be concluded In the next number.}
Art. II. A most pleasant, fruitful, and-witty Work of the bctt State of a Public Weal, and of the new hie called Utojda; written in Latin by the right worthy and famous Sir Thomas More, Knight; and translated into English by Raphe "Robinson, A. D 1551. .A new Edition; with copious Notes (including the whole of Dr. Warner's), and a Biographical and Literary Introduction. By the Rev. T. F. Dibdin, F. S. A. Author of 'An Introduction to the Knowledge of the best Editions of the Greek and Latin Classics.' 8vo. 2 vols, (a small Impression in one vol. 4to. Price ]/. 11/. 6d.) pp. 640. Price 16/. Miller. 1808.
COME doubt may be entertained whether any good can result, in the way of either advancing knowledge or gratifying taste, from reprinting an antique English translation of the Utopia,—or indeed of any other work, the original of which we possess, in a language which has nothing corresponding to the changes and stages of our own. The reprinting of a valuable antique English original is quite a different thing. Had the Utopia-been in the author's native tongue, and become scarce, a republisher might justly have represented, that even the structure of its language would be an agreeable study, distinctly from its philosophical merits; that it would be curious to observe the form which our language took, several centuries back, in the hands of the most accomplished English writer of that age. The combination of whatever was peculiar in the diction of such a writer as Sir T. More, with the general state of the language in those times, would furnish a subject worthy of much philological discussion, as well as gratify the taste for that vigorous vitality, which is so poignantly felt in the now obsolete turn of phrase in which the superior thinkers communicated their ideas in the ear-s lier periods of our literature. More than this, readers of true taste would receive with pleasure a new edition of a good English translation, several hundred years old, of a valuable work in some other of the modern languages that, like our pwn, have greatly altered their phraseology within that period % for example, the translation of Froissnrt by Lord Ik-rners. In such an instance, the translation is a representative of more than the mere sense of the original; it represents also, in a certain degree, the diction; the antique cast of. the one language bearing, by the very circumstance of its being antique, and therefore venerable, besides any analogies of a merely