Page images
[blocks in formation]

It was generally felt, we think, that Were any retrograde movement in "Samor Lord of the Bright City," did the author's fame to be the conse not quite fulfil the rich promise of Mr quence of the present poem, no apoMilman's first poem, " Fazio ;" and, if logy, most assuredly, could be sought we mistake not, it was scarcely less or found for him in the general selecgenerally suspected that the chief cause tion of his theme. In fixing, on the of the failure lay in the choice of the contrary, for the subject of poetical subject. The scene, indeed, was placed embellishment, on the dark and prein Britain, but we, modern English, destined overthrow of that sacred city, could not flatter ourselves that it was where alone, for long centuries, the placed among our forefathers and in Most High had deigned to glorify. an spite of many exquisite beauties, both earthly temple with the visible myof conception and of language, there stery of his peculiar presence--where was nothing in the poem itself to atone alone the light of revealed truth had, for the want of that national interest during ages of heathen blackness, been which, with one exception too illus- concentrated and enshrined--where, trious to require being pointed out, in the fulness of time, the Son of the has formed the deepest and most last- Most High himself had appeared in ing charm of every successful produc- the form and likeness of man, to crown tion of the epic muse. The imitation a life of miracles with a death above of a certain great living master, be all things miraculous-the chosen seat sides, was perhaps too apparent both of one dispensation, and the chosen in the structure of the fable and in cradle of another,-Mr Milman unthe developement of the characters, as questionably, has been fortunate well as in the diction of some of the enough to take possession of one of the finest passages in the piece; and, on noblest and most inspiring subjects the whole, although Samor would that ever lay within the reach of any have been more than sufficient to at- Christian poet. The Fall of Jerusalem tract great notice, had it come forth as was the last terrible scene in the histhe first production of a young author, tory of a long favoured race, every inits effect certainly was not to increase cident of whose good and evil fortune the reputation of one that had several formed a necessary link in a mysteriyears before exhibited his full posses- ous chain of supernatural annunciasion, not only of a singularly rich and tion and supernatural completion. splendid imagination, but of scientific Even in the books of Moses, written skill and acquaintance with the tech- at the very beginning of the national nical principles of his art, still more existence, and many centuries before extraordinary in a person of his age. the fulness of the national glory of

The Fall of Jerusalem, a dramatic poem : by the Rev. H. H. Milman, Vicar of St Mary's, Reading, and late Fellow of Brazenose College, Oxford. London ; John Murray, 1820. Vol. VII.



the Israelites, this, the awful catas- not affect the imagination as peculiartrophe of their national drama, had ly adapted for dramatic representation. been distinctly foretold. Prophet fol- The passions and the situations are too lowed prophet to awaken and encou- general and too much diffused over rage the devotion, or to rebuke the multitudes to be truly dramatic; for coldness and chastise the backslidings in that species of composition, the of the chosen people, and each in his principal element of success has always turn pointed with a mournful but a been found in the happy delineation steady finger to the same final over- of a fine play of thought and sentiment whelming calamity. At length the in individual characters. Now, in the long series of prophets terminated in piece before us, there is no essential the Son of God, and he, more clearly irain of incidents regularly engendered and decidedly than any that had gone out of the affections and relations of inbefore him, announced to the devoted dividuals, and consequently there is not nation the now near and impending much of consecutive personal interest consummation of their destiny. Of extending through the whole course the many that heard and scorned his of the drama. The passions of the inprediction, not a few lived to witness dividual characters are vigorously exwith their own eyes, and to share in pressed, and their sufferings are delitheir own persons, the terrors of its ful- neated with an appalling and comfilment; while far different was the manding mastery of imagination, but fate of those that had embraced the all these are but so many detached picglad tidings brought by the Prince of tures, for they lead to nothing, and Peace, and obeyed the distinct warn- the catastrophe comes on without any

“ flee ye to the mountains ;" for dependence upon them. And these the page of history testifies, that not circumstances, although they had not. one Christian Jew was a partaker in occurred to the poet when he was laythe last miseries of the beleaguered ing the plan of his work, have eviand captured city of his fathers. A dently, we think, exerted a great inmore visiblema more sublime example fluence over him in the execution of it, of the completion of prophecy has-for-although the Fall of Jerusalem never been exhibited to the world, be in form a dramatic piece the readnor shall any such ever be exhibited, er, who pauses after perusing it to conuntil (as the poet before us has very sider by what passages he has been skilfully and powerfully suggested most pleased, will, we rather suppose, throughout the whole tenor of his have little hesitation in deciding, that performance) that last great day shall these, with scarcely one exception, are arrive, wherein it shall be manifested all specimens, not of proper tragic diato the eyes of men and angels, that the logue, but of magnificent epic descripdownfal of Jerusalem was but the tion or of high lyrical inspiration, type and symbol of the closing cata. either pathetic or sublime. strophe of all earthly things.

We shall have enough to say hereGrand and magnificent, however, as after on the beauties of this poem, but Mr Milman's subject must be admit, since we have begun with mentioning ted to be, it still remains a matter of its defects, it may be as well to say some doubt with us, whether he judge here, once for all, that-granting the ed well when he resolved to treat it in Fall of Jerusalem to have been an ada dramatic form of composition. That mirable subject not only for poetical a subject may be sublime and impos- embellishment, but even for dramatic ing, and in itself highly poetical, and embellishment-Mr Milman would yet not well adapted for the drama, still have done wrong in making, as has already been shown abundantly in he has done, the chief substance of the history of literary enterprise ; and his drama to consist of a delineation of we are not prepared to say that Mr the contending elements of the later Milman has not followed many illus- Jewish fanaticism. It is not possible trious predecessors, in mistaking that that we should give the fulness of our for a tragic which by nature was more sympathy to beings stained with all huproperly fitted to be an epic or a man vices, of whose character theonly Iyrical theme. In spite of all the tolerable trait lies in their firm adhergenius of Æschylus the incidents ence to an outworn and supplanted properly arising out of the situation system of religious belief. The three of Thebes as a besieged city, do principal male characters introduced

by Mr Milman excite no deep intea to quote, the language appears to be rest-they neither fix the attention chosen with exquisite skill, and is ofpor keep hold of it. The disputes ben ten put together with a fine gloss ; tween Simon the Pharisee and John but, as we have said already, it is in the Sadducee are in general coldly con- passages purely descriptive that such ducted, although there is one passage praise is most frequently due to Mr in which the denier of the doctrine of Milman. We shall begin with this resurrection expresses, with a masterly beautiful speech, energy, his mode of thinking in regard

Tit. It must be to the pleasures of life. But, indeed, And yet it moves me, Romans ! it confounds what we have said concerning the dra- The counsels of my firm philosophy, matic imperfection of Mr Milman's That Ruin's merciless ploughshare must composition, must be understood with

pass o'er, many exceptions in favour of particu- As on our olive-crowned hill we stand,

And barren salt be sown on yon proud city. lar passages. Throughout there are

Where Kedron at our feet its scanty waters scattered many fine touches expressive Distils from stone to stone with gentle of the obstinate and infatuated hopes motion, of the Jews, that they were soon to be As through a valley sacred to sweet peace, delivered from all their miseries by some How boldly doth it front us! how majestidirect interposition of heavenly aid. cally! Their hatred-their scorn of the Ro- Like a luxurious vineyard, the hill side man power is depicted so as to produce is hung with marble fabrics, line o'er line,

Terrace o'er terrace, nearer still, and nearer a very striking effect. The last re

To the blue heavens. Here bright and mains of long cherished faith and confidence are seen fermenting and made with cool and verdant gardens interspers’d;

sumptuous palaces, dening a people whom God has aban- Here towers of war that frown in massy doned. Their faith, not being answer- strength. ed by any divine protection, produces While over all hangs the rich purple eve, only a wild delirium of zeal, which As conscious of its being her last farewell destroys the balance of all natural of light and glory to that fated city. feelings, and hurries the stubborn mise And, as our clouds of battle dust and smoke believers into every species of dark and in undisturb'd and lone serenity

Are melted into air, behold the Temple, bloody atrocity. Had these circum- Finding itself a solemn sanctuary stances been made to come before us

In the profound of heaven! It stands bemore distinctly in the portraiture of fore us individual minds, and had the action A mount of snow fretted with golden pinof the fable been made to hinge more

nacles ! closely upon what goes on by means The very sun, as though he worshipp'd of its persons, there can be little doubt

there, that Mr Milman might have produced and down the long and branching porticoes,

Lingers upon the gilded cedar roofs ; a far more perfect poem than he has On every flowery-sculptured capital, done. But we are criticising too much Glitters the homage of his parting beams. where there is so much room to ad- By Hercules ! the sight might almost win mire. Our apology must be found in The offended majesty of Rome to mercy. our respect for the genius of our young

Tib. Aler. Wondrous indeed it is, great poet, and our anxiety to see him as

Son of Cæsar, free from faults as he is already rich But it shall be more wond'rous, when the in beauties.

triumph The tragedy opens on the evening

Of Titus marches through those brazen preceding the last night of the siege Which seem as though they would invite

gates, Titus and his Roman officers survey the world the beleaguered city from the Mount To worship in the precincts of her Temple, of Olives, as it lies before them gleam- As he in laurell'd pomp is borne along ing in the rich golden light of that To that new palace of his pride. fatal sunset. The splendour of this

Tit. Tiberius! antique capital set forth in one of It cannot be the speeches with prodigious luxury of Commands, and Titus, the great heir of

Tib. What cannot be, which Rome diction,-though, after all, the poet's

Rome? enthusiasm scarcely carries him be

Tit. I tell thec, Alexander, it must fall ! yond the sorrowful historic majesty of Yon lofty city, and yon gorgeous Temple, the lamentation of Josephus. In that, Are consecrate to Ruin. Earth is weary and in some other passages we are about Of the wild factions of this jealous people,


ask not,

And they must feel our wrath, the wrath of haveproduced a still stronger effect if he Rome,

had merely shewn a determined enthuEven so that the rapt stranger shall admire siasm of vengeance

of such a nature as Where that proud city stood, which was Je. rusalem.

to appear unusual and remarkable to Dia. Thy brethren of the Porch, impe. those about him, but not to himself. He rial Titus,

that is made the instrument of a preOf late esteem'd thee at the height of those ternatural and extraneous impulsion, That with consummate wisdom

have tamed such as that which hastened the footdown

step of Titus to the ruins of the temThe fierce and turbulent passions which dis- ple, should not be represented as per

tract The vulgar soul: they deemed that, like ceiving, in the midst of these inpoured

energies, that he is feeling any thing Olympus, Thou, on thy cold and lofty eminence,

more than the circumstances in which Severely didst maintain thy sacred quiet

he is visibly placed are calculated to proAbove the clouds and tumult of low earth

duce. Jove sails on, unquestioning, upBut now we see thee stooping to the thral on the tide of Fate it becomes not Tidom

tus tospeculate too much on the impulses Of every fierce affection, now entranced of his own minor progress. The idea In deepest admiration, and anon Wrath hath the absolute empire o'er thy swathed and shrouded in the stern un

of Destiny is nothing unless it be kept soul, Methinks we must unschool our royal pupil, approachable darkness of relentless And cast him back to the common herd of gloom.-It sways, grasps, and hurries

on the whole existence of its instruTit. 'Tis true, Diagoras ; yet wherefore ments-it does not divide the soul

it does not leave one part of the imFor vainly have I question'd mine own rea- pelled spirit to theorize on the moveson :

ments of the rest. The whole man But thus it is I know not whence or how, is bound in his heavenly fettersmand There is a stern command upon my soul. I feel the inexorable fate within

his whole powers should have been reThat tells me, carnage is a duty here,

presented as swallowed up in one blind And that the appointed desolation chides

overwhelming energy of human will, the tardy vengeance of our war. Diagoras, strung high to more than earthly enIf that I err, impeach my tenets. Destiny thusiasm. Is over all, and hard Necessity

While the Roman draws, closer and Holds o'er the shifting course of human closer, his “ imprisoning wall” withthings

out-the Jews within are divided by Her paramount dominion. Like a flood The irresistible stream of fate flows on,

a thousand bigotries of contending And urges in its vast and sweeping motion

sects and parties, and the want of corKings, Consuls, Cæsars, with their mightiest diality among their leaders, is made armies,

the instrument to prevent them from Each to his fix'd inevitable end.

executing any combined movement, Yea, even eternal Rome, and Father Jove, or taking up any one rational scheme Sternly submissive, sail that onward tide. of defence. "In this last night of the And now am I upon its rushing bosom,

siege, the elements of their disunion I feel its silent billows swell beneath me,

are represented as more jarring than Bearing me and the conquering arms of

ever. The bitterness of defeat exasRome 'Gainst yon devoted city.

perates them not more against the

common enemy than internally against There is something exquisitely just themselves. În spite of the proud as well as poetical in the idea which hopes which still awaken from time to this passage unfolds of Titus, as time in their bosoms, the heaped up being vehemently impelled towards tide of their calamity begins to slacken the destruction of the city by an their confidence in the misinterpreted inward feeling for which he cannot prophecies whereon they had hitherto account. This idea is the happiest relied. A spirit of incipient Infidelity that could have been selected for meet- mingles itself visibly in the workings ing us at the opening of the piece of their maddened souls. The high but, perhaps, it might have been still priest complains that his ephod and better if Titus had not reasoned upon mitre command no respect among the the impulse which he feels, or appear- furious disputants whose business it is ed to consider it as any thing that re- to defend the temple of the Lord. quired to be accounted for. It would Rage, hunger, despair, stir every bosom into a storm; and when, at may be likely, above all others of her length, Heaven begins to pour forth tribe, to be the favoured mother of prodigy on prodigy, and omen on the mysterious infant. The bridal is omen, all full of thickening darkness held forthwith, in the house of the

-we feel that the waywardness of old Pharisee, and the last cup of wine Man has already been preparing all is shed in its festive celebration. things for the doom of the Almighty; Youths and maidens sing the nuptial and that the catastrophe, sudden and song, full of all the old pride of their awful as it is, can scarcely surprize people, and the bridegroom is ushered even those that are involved in its tem- into “ the chamber of his rest,” with pestuous visitation. The last prodigy a tumult of joy that contrasts fearfully is that recited by the High Priest him with the general gloom all around the self-the audible, not visible desertion city and the habitation. While the of the temple by the tutelary angels of song is yet prolonged, the final assault the place and when it is told, we per- of Titus takes place at that moment ceive that all is completed.

the angels desert the holy of holies, Upon a sudden

and the whole of the city is wrapt in The pavement seemed to swell beneath my an instant in the darkness of its last feet,

agony. Could our limits permit us, And the veil shiver'd, and the pillars rock'd. we might quote many passages of the And there, within the very Holy of Holies, highest splendour from this part of There, from behind the winged Cherubim, the

poem, but we prefer the episode of Where the Ark stood, noise, hurried and the younger sister Miriam, and her

tumultuous, Was heard, as when a king with all his host lover, Javan. Doth quit his palace. And anon, a voice,

Javan is a Christian, and previous Or voices, half in grief, half anger, yet

to the siege, had retreated with those Nor human grief nor anger, even it seem'd of his faith to the safety of the mounAs though the hoarse and rolling thunder tainous region beyond Jerusalem. spake

But Miriam, although she has eme With the articulate voice of man, it said, braced the creed of her lover, refuses “ LET US DEPART !”

to quit her father in the hour of his Amidst all the terrible spectacles distress, and undergoes, in the strength exhibited in the beleaguered city, a de- of filial devotion, her share of all the lightful relief is ever and anon afford- calamities of the siege. Javan, howed by the underplot of Miriam and ever, meets her every night at the Javan—the conception and execution fountain of Siloe, to which she deof which will form, we suspect, the scends from the city wall by an old most lasting charm of the poem. The overgrown path-way in the rock, Pharisee leader, Simon, has two known only to herself and her sister. daughters, both young and beautiful. Here they interchange the renewal of the elder, Salone, of a high and en- their vows, but Miriam resists every thusiastic temper, loves, with all the importunity of her lover to flee from oriental warmth of imagination and the ruin-stricken city. He brings to passion, Amariah, a young Jewish hero, her a nightly offering of fruits, which in whom, along with her father, the she receives, for the secret solace of last hopes of the perishing nation are her father after his fatigues in the centred. She sits every day upon daily battle—while, wasted and worn the ramparts of the city, her black out, she herself awaits in firm but locks thrown back from her front, and gentle submissiveness, that hour of devouring with her eyes the blaze of doom from whose terrors she has no the perpetual contest, where the path hope to escape.-We must quote the of her impetuous lover is marked by first introduction of these lovers. tenfold desolation. In the last night The Fountain of Siloe-Night. of the siege, Abiram, a false prophet,

JAVAX Alone. commands, in the name of the Most High, that the nuptials of this pair be Sweet fountain, once again I visit thee ! immediately celebrated, and the man- And thou art flowing on, and freshening still date is listened to with applause by all The green moss, and the flowers that bend the assembled leaders, who still enter. Modestly with a soft unboastful murmur tain a shadow of hope that the Messiah Rejoicing at the blessings that thou bearest. is about to make his appearance, and Pure, stainless, thou art Howing on; the stars kindle at the suggestion,

that the daugh- Make thee their mirror, and the moonlight ter of Simon and the bride of Amariah beams

« PreviousContinue »