Page images

Sun-dial in a Churchyard.
80 passes, silent o'er the dead, thy shade,

Brief Time! and hour by hour, and day by day, -
The pleasing pictures of the present fade,

And like a summer vapour steal away.
And have not they, who here forgotten lie

Say, hoary chronicler of ages past-
Once marked thy shadow with delighted eye,

Nor thought it fled-bow certain and how fast ?
Since thou hast stood, and thus thy vigil kept,

Noting each hour, o'er mouldering stones beneath
The pastor and his flock alike have slept,

And dust to dust' proclaimed the stride of death.
Another race succeeds, and counts the hour,

Careless alike; the hour still seems to smile,
As hope, and youth, and life were in our power;

So smiling, and so perishing the while.
I heard the village-bells, with gladsome sound-

When to these scenes a stranger I drew near-
Proclaim the tidings of the village round,

While memory wept upon the good man's bier.
Even so, when I am dead, shall the same bells

Ring merrily when my brief days are gone;
While still the lapse of time thy shadow tells,

And strangers gaze upon my humble stone!
Enough, if we may wait in calm content

The hour that bears us to the silent sod;
Blameless improve the time that heaven has lent,
And leave the issue to thy will, O God.

· BLANCO WHITE. It is a singular circumstance in literary history, that what many consider the finest sonnet in the English language should be one written by a Spaniard. . The Rev. JOSEPH BLANCO WHITE (17751841) was a native of Seville, son of an Irish Roman Catholic merchant settled in Spain. He was author of Letters from Spain by Don Leucadoin Doblado' (1822), “Internal Evidence against Catho. licism' (1825), and other works both in English and Spanish. A Very interesting memoir of this remarkable man, with portions of his correspondence, &c. was published by J. H. Thom (London, 3

vols. 1845):

[blocks in formation]

Whilst fly and leaf and insect stood revealed, .

That to such countless orbs thou mad'st us blind ?
Why do we, then, shun Death with anxious strife ?
If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life ?

ROBERT SOUTHEY. One of the most voluminous and learned authors of this period was · ROBERT SOUTHEY, LL. D., the poet-laureate. A poet, scholar, antiquary, critic, and historian, Southey wrote more than even Scott, and he is said to have burned more verses between his twentieth and thirtieth year than he published during his whole life. His time was entirely devoted to literature. Every day and hour had its appropriate and select task; his library was his world within which he was content to range, and his books were his most cherished and constant companions. In one of his poems, he says:

My days among the dead are passed;

Around me I behold,
Where'er these casual eyes are cast,

The mighty m nds of old;
My never-failing friends are they,

With whom I converse night and day. It is melancholy to reflect, that for nearly three years preceding his death, Mr. Southey sat among his books in hopeless vacuity of mind, the victim of disease. This distinguished author was a native of Bristol, the son of a respectable linen-draper of the same name, and was born on the 12th of August 1774. He was indebted to a maternal uncle for most of his education. In his fourteenth year he was placed at Westminster School, where he remained between three and four years, but having in conjunction with several of his school associates set on foot a periodical entitled “The Flagellant,' in which a sarcastic article on corporal punishment appeared, the head-master, Dr. Vincent, commenced a prosecution against the publisher, and Southey was compelled to leave the school. This harsh exercise of authority probably had considerable effect in disgusting the young enthusiast with the institutions of his country.

In November 1792 he was entered of Balliol College, Oxford. He had then distinguished himself by poetical productions, and had formed literary plans enough for many years or many lives. In political opinions he was a democrat; in religion, a Unitarian; consequently he could not take orders in the church, or look for any official appointment. He fell in with Coleridge, as already related, and joined in the plan of emigration. His academic career was abruptly closed in 1794. The same year, he published a volume of poems in conjunction with Mr. Robert Lovell, under the names of Moschus and Bion. About the same time he composed his drama of Wat Tyler,' a revolutionary brochure, which was long afterwards published surreptitiously by a knavish bookseller to annoy its author. • In my youth,' he says, 'when my stock of knowledge consisted of such an acquaintance with Greek and Roman history as is acquired.


in the course of a scholastic education—when my heart was full of poetry and romance, and Lucan and Akenside were at my tongue's end-I fell into the political opinions which the French revolution was then scattering throughout Europe; and following these opinions' with ardour wherever they led, I soon perceived that inequalities of rank were a light evil compared to the inequalities of property, and those more fearful distinctions which the want of moral and intellectual culture occasions between man and man. At that time, and with those opinions, or rather feelings (for their root was in the heart, and not in the understanding), I wrote 'Wat Tyler,' as one who was impatient of all the oppressions that are done under the sun. The subject was injudiciously chosen, and it was treated as might be expected by a youth of twenty at such times, who regarded only one side of the question. The poem, indeed, is a miserable production, and was harmless from its very inanity. Full of the same political sentiments and ardour, Southey, in 1793, had composed his Joan of Arc,' an epic poem, displaying fertility of language and boldness of imagination, but at the same time diffuse in style, and in many parts wild and incoherent. In imitation of Dante, the young poet conducted his heroine in a dream to the abodes of departed spirits, and dealt very freely with the murderers of mankind, from Nimrod the mighty hunter, down to the hero conqueror of Agincourt:

A huge and massy pile-
Massy it seemed, and yet with every blast
As to its ruin shook. There, porter fit,
Remorse for ever his sad vigils kept.
Pale, hollow-eyed, emaciate, sleepless wretch,
Inly he groaned, or, starting, wildly shrieked,
Aye as the fabric, tottering from its base,
Threatened its fall--and so, expectant still,
Lived in the dread of danger still delayed.

They entered there a large and lofty dome,
O'er whose black marble sides a dim drear light
Struggled with darkness from the unfrequent lamp.
Enthroned around, the Murderers of Mankind
Monarchs, ti

he great! the glorious! the august! Each bearing on his brow a crown of fireSat stern and silent. Nimrod, he was there, First king, the mighty hunter; and that chief Who did belie his mother's fame, that so He might be called young Ammon. In this court .Cæsar was crowned-accused liberticide; And he who mnrdered Tully, that cold villain Octavius—though the courtly minion's lyre Hath hymned his praise, though Maro sung to him, And when death levelled to original clay The royal carcass, Flattery, fawning low, Fell at his feet and worshipped the new god. Titus was here, the conqueror of the Jews, He, the delight of humankind misnamed; Cæsars and Soldans, emperors and kings, Here were they all, all who for glory fought, Here in the Court of Glory, reaping now The meed they merited.

As gazing round,
The Virgin marked the miserable train,
A deep and hollow voice from one went forth:
"Thou who art come to view our punishment,
Maiden of Orleans ! hither turn thine eyes ;
For I am he whose bloody victories
Thy power hath rendered vain. Lol I am here.
The hero conqueror of Agincourt,

Henry of England !' In the second edition of the poem, published in 1798, the vision of the Maid of Orleans, and everything miraculous, was omitted. When the poem first appeared, its author was on his way to Lisbon, in company with his uncle, Dr. Herbert, chaplain to the factory at Lisbon. Previous to his departure in November 1795, Southey had married Miss Edith Fricker of Bristol, sister of the lady with whom Coleridge united himself; and immediately after the ceremony they parted.‘My mother,' says the poet's son and biographer, 'wore her wedding-ring hung round her neck, and preserved her maiden name until the report of the marriage had spread abroad.' Cottle, the generous Bristol bookseller, had given Southey money to purchase 'the ring. The poet was six months with his uncle in Lisbon, during which time he had applied himself to the study of the Spanish and Portuguese languages, in which he afterwards became a proficient. The death of his brother-in-law and brother-poet, Lovell, occurred during his absence abroad, and Southey on his return set about raising something for his young friend's widow. She afterwards found a home with Southey-one of the many generous and affectionate acts of his busy life. In 1797 he published his · Letters from Spain and Portugal,' and took up his residence in London, in order to commence the study of the law. A college-friend, Mr. C. W. W. Wynn, gave him an annuity of £160, which he continued to receive until 1807, when he relinquished it on obtaining a pension from the crown of £200.

The study of the law was never a congenial pursuit with Southey; he kept his terms at Gray's Inn, but his health failed, and in the spring of 1800 he again visited Portugal. . After a twelvemonth's residence in that fine climate, he returned to England, lived in Bristol a short time, and then made a journey into Cumberland, for the double purpose of seeing the lakes and visiting Coleridge, who was at that time residing at Greta Hall, Keswick—the house in which Southey himself was henceforth to spend the greater portion of his life. A short trial of official life also awaited him. He was offered and accepted the appointment of private secretary to Mr. Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland; the terms, prudently limited to one year, being a salary of about £350, English currency, His official duties were more nominal than real, but Southey soon got tired of the light bondage, and before half of the stipulated period of twelve months was over, he had got, as he said, unsecretaryfied, and entered on that course of professional authorship which

was at once his business and delight. In the autumn of 1803, he was again at Greta Hall, Keswick. While in Portugal, Southey had finished a second epic poem, "Thalaba, the Destroyer, an Arabian fiction of great beauty and magnificence. For the copyright of this work he received a hundred guineas, and it was published in 1801. The sale was not rapid, but three hundred copies being sold by the end of the year, its reception, considering the peculiar style of the poem, was not discouraging. The form of verse adopted by the poet in this work is irregular, without rhyme; and it possesses a peculiar charm and rhythmical harmony, though, like the redundant descriptions in the work, it becomes wearisome in so long a poem. The opening stanzas convey an exquisite picture of a widowed mother wandering over the sands of the East during the silence of night;

Night in the Desert.


How beautiful is night!
A dewy freshness fills the silent air;
No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain,

Breaks the serene of heaven:
In full-orbed glory, yonder moon divine
Rolls through the dark-blue depths.

Beneath her steady ray

The desert-circle spreads,
Like the round ocean, girdled with the sky
How beautiful is night!

Who, at this untimely hour,
Wanders o'er the desert sands?

No station is in view,
Nor palm-grove islanded amid the waste.

The mother and her child,
The widowed mother and the fatherless boy.

They, at this untimely hour,
Wander o'er the desert sands.

• III.
Alas! the setting sun
Saw Zeinab in her bliss,
Hodeirah's wife beloved,

The fruitful mother late,
Whom, when the daughters of Arabia named,

They wished their lot like hers;
She wanders o'er the desert sands

A wretched widow now,
The fruitful mother of so fair a race:

With only one preserved,
She wanders o'er the wilderness.

No tear relieved the burden of her heart;
Stunned with the heavy woe, she felt like one
Half-wakened from a midnight dream of blood.

But sometimes, when the boy

Would wet her hand with tears,
And, looking up to her fixed countenance, in

« PreviousContinue »