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along the valley, the demon of the night trembled on his hill of storms,' &c. The temperature of a shriek is a recent discovery; and though Dr. Drake is much dissatisfied with Mr. McPherson's style, he seldom loses an opportunity of adopting his expressions.
A pleasing piece of criticism on Sonnet-writing, and four Sonnets, conclude this number. We insert the second Sonnet. To the Memory of a Friend.
What scenes of sorrow wake the soul to pain,
Sure, Grief shall smile, and Friendship breathe her vows,
And Love once more shall clasp the form he gave.'
No 5. On Inscriptive Writing.
The rules for this species of composition, and beautiful examples of their effect, together with the scenery adapted to heighten the impression, are considered by Dr. Drake in this agreeable essay.
No. 6. On Gothic Superstition.
In order to obviate the pre-disposition of modern critics to censure the introduction of supernatural Beings in works of imagination, the author remarks that genius has ever had a predilection for such imagery, and may venture, I think, to predict, that, if at any time these romantic legends be laid aside, our national poetry will degenerate into mere morality, criticism, and satire; and that the sublime, the terrible, and the fanciful in poetry, will no longer exist.' In this observation, we think, there is some truth, with some exaggeration, In works addressed chiefly to the imagination, the rare introduction of supernatural agency, for an object manifestly beyond the sphere of human operation, is doubtless admissible: but, the more frequent is the poet's recourse to such auxiliaries, the less will be their effect; and he should never forget that, in such acrial excursions, he treads on the very confines of the burlesque. Dr. Drake informs us that the vulgar Gothic is an epithet adopted to distinguish it from the regular mythology of the Edda; and this he considers as affording the most convenient
machinery, being confined by no adherence to any regular system, but depending merely on the possible visitation of immaterial agents. It appears to turn chiefly on the power of incantations, the appearance of spectres, and the gambols of fairies. We are at a loss to discern the propriety of terming the popular belief in these fables, Gothic superstition.' The first two claim a higher origin than the Edda, and may undoubtedly be traced to a real transaction; that of the witch of Endor, and the apparition of Samuel. Fairies, who (as Mr. Addison observes) are capable of becoming very entertaining persons when properly managed, are the unquestionable productions of Persian romance, and were probably imported into Europe by our first crusaders. In all this we perceive no connection with the Goths. Our author resolves what he term: Gothic superstition into the terrible and the sportive; and, attracted by the exquisite beauty which (he thinks) would result from an opposition of such imagery, he has availed himself of both in the following numbers; viz.
No. 7, 8, and 9. Henry Fitzowen, a Gothic Tale.
The principal fiend-like character of this tale bears too great a resemblance to the lord of Conway-castle. Will not Horace's maxim, not to trouble the gods on trivial occasions, equally apply to phantoms? Spectres will lose their claim to reverence if they become too common, and here they are marshalled in legions. Were it worth while to prescribe rules for this grotesque species of composition, we should require an air of antiquity in the style; brevity, general simplicity, but occasional quaintness, should constitute its characteristics. Dr. Drake's obsolete fictions comport but ill with the elegance of his periods.
No. 10 and 11. On the Fleece of Dyer.
Our readers will not be surprised that Dr. Johnson and Dr. Drake should entertain very different opinions of poetical merit: they may, however, think it strange that it is the grave moralist who censures an admirable poem, because it relates to an useful, though humble, occupation. Whether this censure was dictated by an unreasonable antipathy to blank verse, as is here asserted, we cannot determine: but Dr. Drake completely rescues Dyer's rural poem from the unmerited contempt of the critic.
No. 12 and 13. On the dark Ages of Christian Europe, as contrasted with the Caliphats of Bagdad and Cordova.
The first of these essays conveys a gloomy but faithful picture of the gross ignorance and illiberal superstition which enveloped Europe in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries: the
second, an animated description of the luxurious courts of Bagdad and Cordova, at the same period. The contrast is undoubtedly impressive: but we have elsewhere remarked that the specific attainments of the Arabians in literature, and in the fine arts, are incapable of illustration by a comparison with those of their contemporaries in Europe. To estimate their progress towards perfection, excellence, must be opposed to excellence, not excellence to deformity. Let the classical productions of Bagdad, at the time mentioned, be compared with those of Greece, of Rome, or of Florence, during their flourishing periods; and relinquish the disproportioned comparison with our brave but barbarous ancestors.
No. 14. On Pastoral Poetry; Edwin and Orlando, a Pastoral. The productions of modern Europe have found an able advocate in this author; who contends that the very superior merit claimed by the poets of antiquity is often imaginary; and that the contempt profefied for the moderns is often unjust. In pastoral poetry, he conceives, our supposed inferiority proceeds from neglecting our best writers, Drayton, Collins, and Gesner; while we assume Pope, Gay, and Phillips, as the standard of excellence in that style, though greatly inferior to the former. Here we do not concur with our author. The object of the pastoral (as of every other) poet is to communicate delight; and if the poems of the latter be more successful in attaining it than those of Drayton, we deem it of little importance that the latter are more strictly pastoral.
Dr. Drake justly considers simplicity of diction and sentiment, or proper choice of rural imagery, and of such incidents and circumstances as may even now occur in the country, together with interlocutors equally removed from vulgarity and considerable refinement, as all that can be requisite for the composition of the pastoral. Edwin and Orlando is a poem designed to exemplify this idea; it has much merit, but not the merit of simplicity of diction. We quote its commencement:
From scenes of wild variety, from where
Quick glancing winds the stream the pine-hung vale
Shall moan, and oft the pensive pilgrim haunt
No. 15. On Objects of Terror; Montmorenci, a Fragment. In works of imagination, terror is excited either by the agency of super-human beings, or depends on natural causes. and events for its production. Of the latter description, the subjects are seldom susceptible of being rendered pleasing by all the art of the writer, or the artist. The perpetration of shocking crimes can excite no sensation but horror; and we do not applaud the taste of Sir Joshua Reynolds, when he selected the disgusting story of Ugolino for the exercise of his uncommon powers.-The fragment of Montmorenci is a specimen of that style in which our author awards the palm to Dante, Collins, and Mrs. Radcliffe.
No. 16, 17, 18, and 19. Observations on the Calvary of Cumberland.
In these four essays, Mr. Cumberland's epic poem is criticised in a vein of animated and judicious observation; the numerous beauties are pointed out with taste and discrimination; and although, from the nature of the subject and the identity of most of the personages, it every where invites a comparison with Milton, that comparison will not be found extremely detrimental to the modern poet, if we except originality of conception.
No. 20. The Abbey of Clunedale.
Murder unpremeditated, at the instigation of jealousy, which proves ultimately fatal to both its innocent objects, furnishes the basis of this melancholy story; in which (as in all the others) the author evinces strong powers of description.
No. 21. On Social Affection: a Description of Loch-leven ; Michael Bruce.
After having demonstrated that the attainment of happiness depends on the exercise of the social virtues, the author speedily relinquishes this exhilarating topic, to contemplate the mouldering walls of the priory and castle of Loch-leven, which served as a prison to the beautiful and unfortunate Queen of Scots. They are situated on two small islands in the midst of the lake. On the banks lived Michael Bruce, who was cut off by a consumption when he had just attained the age of manhood. His descriptive verses breathe the solemn sadness inspired by these venerable ruins, and his own hapless fate
heightens their impression. It is a pleasing occupation of criticism to remark the same ideas occurring to poets of distant nations and of other times, and to observe the expression va ried by different habits of thinking.
"Perhaps in some lone, dreary, desert tower
That time has spar'd, forth from the window looks,
While from above the Owl, musician dire!
Screams hideous, harsh, and grating to the ear." BRUCE.
The sublime Ferdousi, the Homer of Persia, says, "The spider hath hung with tapestry the palace of the Caesars, the owl keepeth centinel in the watch-tower of Afrasiab."
No. 22. On the Evening and Night Scenery of the Poets, as mingled or contrasted with pathetic Emotions.
The pensive train of thought, says the author, which we usually associate with the decline of a fine day, or with the tranquil lustre of a moon-light night, brings with it a fascinating charm but, when with these are mingled or contrasted the passions of the human breast, an interest of a stronger kind is. excited, and the picture becomes complete. Of various examples selected by our author, the most impressive is derived from Schiller's tragedy of "the Robbers," after the skirmish with the Bohemian dragoons. The figure of Moor, agitated by remorse, yet characterised by a wild and terrible grandeur, surrounded by a set of banditti as savage as the beasts of the desert, and who are stationed on a rugged cliff contemplating the beauty of the setting sun, and the landscape tinted by its beams; the Danube rolling at their feet, and their horses grazing on its verdant banks! The pencil of Salvator Rosa could alone do justice to the conception of the poet.'
No. 23. On Lyric Poetry; the Storm, an Ode.
Dr. Warton has remarked that the moderns have practised no species of poetry with so little success, and with such indisputable inferiority to the antients, as the ode; and he imputes their want of success, chiefly, to the harshness and intractability of the language in which they composed. To refute this opinion is the design of the present essay; and we think that it must be conceded to the author, that the moderns have cultivated this Parnassian field with considerable success, though their inferiority to the antients be still indisputable.--It strikes us that the manner in which Dr. Drake has conducted his parallel is by no means the most candid. Lyric poetry, says he, may be arranged under the following classes; the sublime, the pathetic, the descriptive, and the amatory; and then he proceeds to con