Page images
PDF
EPUB

there lay, - I shame to say how few roods distant from the mansion, - half hid by trees, what I judged some romantic lake, such was the spell which bound me to the house, and such my carefulness not to pass its strict and proper precincts, that the idle waters lay unexplored for me ; and not till late in life, curiosity prevailing over elder devotion, I found, to my astonishment, a pretty, brawling brook had been the Lacus Incognitus of my infancy. Variegated views, extensive prospects, and those at no great distance from the house, - I was told of such, — what were they to me, being out of the boundaries of my Eden? So far from a wish to roam, I would have drawn, methought, still closer the fences of my chosen prison, and have been hemmed in by a yet securer cincture of those excluding garden walls. I could have exclaimed with that garden-loving poety

“Bind me, ye woodbines, in your twines;
Curl me about, ye gadding vines ;
And, O, so close your circles lace,
That I may never leave this place';
But, lest your fetters prove too weak,
Ere I your silken bondage break,
Do you, O brambles, chain me too,
And, courteous briers, nail me through."

[ocr errors][merged small]

Walter Savage Landor was born in Warwickshire in 1775. He was educated at Rugby, ad afterwards at Oxford. He inherited a fortune, and was able to gratify his tastes for literature, and to live on the Continent, without following any profession. He had a powerful intellect, equal in many respects, to that of any modern writer; but his impulsive nature and lack of judgment were painfully conspicuous through life. He is said to have been the criginal of Dickens's brusque character, Boythorn, in “Bleak House.” His scholarship was remarkable both for extent and accuracy; so that none of his writings are destitute of interest; bat his poetry simply consists of vigorous and correct verses, without inspiration, ad his fame must rest on his prose. His chief work, the Imaginary Conversations, ranges ever all the fields of thought and of history, and contains far more of wisdom, eloquence, imagination, apt allusion, acute, critical analysis, and splendor of style, than have sufficed for many more famous books. He wrote for scholars, however, and not for the public. His works were published in two large volumes, in London, under the care of John Forster and Professor Hare, while he lived abroad. His last publication, written after the age of eighty, contained some libellous passages, for which he was compelled to pay heavy damages. It would have been better for his reputation if he had left the world some years earlier.

He died at Florence, in 1868. A selection of striking passages from Landor's works, made by Mr. Hillard of Boston, will give a good idea of the author's varied powers.

(From the Imaginary Conversations.); SINCE the time of Chaucer, there have been only two poets who at all resemble him; and these two are widely dissimilar one from

the other — Burns and Keats. The accuracy and truth with which Chaucer has described the manners of common life, with the foreground and background, are also to be found in Burns, who delights in broader strokes of external nature, but equally appropriate. He has parts of genius which Chaucer has not in the same degree - the animated and pathetic. Keats, in his Endymion, is richer in imagery than either; and there are passages in which no poet has arrived at the same excellence on the same ground. Time alone was wanting to complete a poet who already far surpassed all his contemporaries in this country in the poet's most noble attributes. If anything could engage me to visit Rome, to endure the sight of her scarred and awful ruins, telling their stories on the ground, in the midst of bellringers and pantomimes; if I could let charnel-houses and operahouses, consuls and popes, tribunes and cardinals, senatorial orators and preaching friars, clash in my mind, it would be that I might afterwards spend an hour in solitude, where the pyramid of Cestius stands against the wall, and points to the humbler tombs of Keats and Shelley. Nothing so attracts my heart as ruins in deserts, or so repels it as ruins in the circle of fashion. What is so shocking as the hard verity of Death swept by the rustling masquerade of Life! And does not Mortality of herself teach us how little we are, without placing us amid the trivialties of patch-work pomp, where Virgil led gods to found an empire, where Cicero and Cæsar shook the world?

LANDOR.

THERE is as great a difference between Shakespeare and Bacon as between an American forest and a London timber-yard. In the timber-yard, the materials are sawed, and squared, and set across; in the forest, we have the natural form of the tree, all its growth, all its branches, all its leaves, all the mosses that grow about it, all the birds and insects that inhabit it; now deep shadows absorbing the whole wilderness; now, bright bursting glades, with exuberant grass, and flowers, and fruitage ; now, untroubled skies ; now, terrific thunderstorms; everywhere multiformity, everywhere immensity.

SOUTHEY.

Cowper plays in the playground, and not in the churchyard. Nothing of his is out of place or out of season. He possessed a rich vein of ridicule ; but he turned it to good account, opening it on prig parsons, and graver and worse impostors. He was among the first

to put to flight the mischievous little imps of allegory, so cherished and fondled by the Wartons. They are as bad in poetry as mice in a cheese-room. You poets are still rather too fond of the unsubstantial. Some will have nothing else than what they call pure imagination. Now, air-plants ought not to fill the whole conservatory; other plants, I would modestly suggest, are worth cultivating, which send their roots pretty deep into the ground. I hate both poetry and wine without body. Look at Shakespeare, Bacon, and Milton; were these your pure imagination-men? The least of them, whichever it was, carried a jewel of poetry about him worth all his tribe that came after. Did the two of them who wrote in verse build upon nothing ? Did their predecessors? And, pray, whose daughter was the Muse they invoked? Why, Memory's. They stood among substantial men, and sang upon recorded actions. The plain of Scamander, the promontory of Sigæum, the palaces of Tros and Dardanus, the citadel in which the Fates sang mournfully under the image of Minerva, seem fitter places for the Muses to alight on, than artificial rock-work or than fairy-rings. But your great favorite, I hear, is Spenser, who shines in allegory, and who, like an aerolithe, is dull and heavy when he descends to the ground.

Porson.

I AM persuaded of the truth in what I have spoken, and yet — ah, Quinctus ! there is a tear that Philosophy cannot dry, and a pang that will rise as we approach the gods.

Two things tend beyond all others, after philosophy, to inhibit and check our ruder passions as they grow and swell in us, and to keep our gentler in their proper play; and these two things are, seasonable sorrow and inoffensive pleasure, each moderately indulged. Nay, there is also a pleasure, humble, it is true, but graceful and insinuating, which follows close upon our very sorrows, reconciles us to them gradually, and sometimes renders us, at last, undesirous altogether of abandoning them. If ever you have remembered the anniversary of some day whereon a dear friend was lost to you, tell me whether that anniversary was not purer and even calmer than the day before. The sorrow, if there should be any left, is soon absorbed, and full satisfaction takes place of it, while you perform a pious office to Friendship, required and appointed by the ordinances of Nature. When my Tulliola was torn away from me, a thousand plans were in readiness for immortalizing her memory, and raising a monument up to the magnitude of my grief. The grief itself has done it; the tears I

then shed over her assuaged it in me, and did everything that could be done for her, or hoped, or wished. I called upon Tulliola: Rome and the whole world heard me. Her glory was a part of mine, and mine of hers, and when Eternity had received her at my hands, I wept no longer. The ten erness wherewith I mentioned, and now mention her, though it suspends my voice, brings what consoles and comforts me; it is the milk and honey left at the sepulchre, and equally sweet, I hope, to the departed.

The gods, who have given us our affections, permit us rarely the uses and the signs of them. Immoderate grief, like everything else immoderate, is useless and pernicious; but if we did not tolerate and endure it; if we did not prepare for it, meet it, commune with it; if we did not even cherish it in its season, - much of what is best in our faculties, much of our tenderness, much of our generosity, much of our patriotism, much, also, of our genius, would be stifled and extinguished.

When I hear any one call upon another to be manly and restrain his tears, if they flow from the social and the kind affections, I doubt the humanity and distrust the wisdom of the counsellor. Were he humane, he would be more inclined to pity and to sympathize than to lecture and reprove; and were he wise, he would consider that tears are given us by nature as a remedy to affliction, although, like other remedies, they should come to our relief in private. Philosophy, we may be told, would prevent the tears, by turning away the sources of them, and by raising up a rampart against pain and sorrow. I am of opinion that Philosophy, quite pure, and totally abstracted from our appetites and passions, instead of serving us the better, would do us little or no good at all. We may receive so much light as not to see, and so much philosophy as to be worse than foolish.

CICERO

THOMAS CAMPBELL.

Thomas Campbell was born in Glasgow in 1777, and was educated at the university of his native city. His poetical talents were manifested in his coilege exercises, and his first poem, The Pleasures of Hope, was written in his twenty-first year. He sold the manuscript for sixty pounds; but the success of the poem was so great that the publishers paid him fifty pounds for each of the many editions, besides allowing him to issue a handsome subscription copy, by which he gained a large sum. He visited Germany in 1809, and saw the taking of Ratisbon by the French. Many observers have witnessed artillery firing and cavalry charges, but only one has painted them in a scene like Hohenlinden. This well-known poem, however, as well as the equally famous Lochiel, was written at the seat of Lord

Minto in Scotland; and both were revised by a chance visitor, Walter Scott. Scot: greatly admired both poems, but Campbell said he did not think very highly of Hohenlinden: "some of the verses were only drum and trumpet lines.In these productions as well as in his grand naval odes, and in his passionate allusions to the fall of Poland, Campbell shows his ardent and generous nature no less than his poetic fire. His poems are not very numerous, and from various circumstances it is pretty certain that he wrote slowly, if not with difficulty. They are also quite unequal in merit; Theodoric, and The Pilgrim of Glencoe, are notably inferior. His shorter pieces will survive ; the more ambitious efforts will have a safe asylum and respectful mention in the cyclopædias. During a long literary like he had a plenty of lucrative employment; other resources were not wanting, such as a pension from the king of two hundred pounds, and a couple of substantial legacies; but tothing short of the purse of Fortunatus could have kept such a generous and improvident | man from occasional want. Indeed, his pecuniary troubles increased with his resources, as in the case of many an author since. But he was honest ; if he borrowed, he paid; and his pension and his legacies were religiously shared with his parents and family.

Besides his poems he published Specimens of the British Poets in seven volumes, and a Life of Mrs. Siddons. He was for some time editor of Colburn's New Monthly. He first suggested the establishment of the University of London, and labored for it zealously. Of all his honors he was most proud of being chosen Rector of the University of Glasgow by the free suffrages of the students; he filled the place with great ability for several years. He was happly married, but he survived his wife, and left only an imbecile heir to his name. died at Boulogne in 1844. His remains were interred in Westminster Abbey.

He

THE BATTLE OF THE BALTIC.

IV.

II.

From its adamantine lips Of Nelson and the North,

Spread a death-shade round the ships, Sing the glorious day's renown,

Like the hurricane eclipse
When to battle fierce came forth

Of the sun.
All the might of Denmark's crown,
And her arms along the deep proudly shone ; Again ! again ! again !
By each gun the lighted brand,

And the havoc did not slack,
In a bold, determined hand,

Till a feeble cheer the Dane And the Prince of all the land

To our cheering sent us back :
Led them on.

Their shots along the deep slowly boom ;
Then ceased - and all is wail,

As they strike the shattered sail,
Like leviathans afloat,

Or, in conflagration pale,
Lay their bulwarks on the brine ;

Light the gloom.
While the sign of battle flew
On the lofty British line:
It was ten of April morn by the chime:

Out spoke the victor then,
As they drifted on their path,

As he hailed them o'er the wave: There was silence deep as death,

Ye are brothers ! ye are men! And the boldest held his breath

And we conquer but to save ;
For a time.

So peace instead of death let us bring :
But yield, proud foe, thy fleet,

With the crews, at England's feet,
But the might of England flushed

And make submission meet
To anticipate the scene;

To our king."
And her van the fleeter rushed
O'er the deadly space between.

VI.
"Hearts of oak !” our captains cried; when Then Denmark blessed our chief,

That he gave her wounds repose ;

V.

III.

each gun

« PreviousContinue »