Page images
PDF
EPUB

SONG.

would employ the powers it derived from the former

to celebrate the beauty and benevolence of the THE SENTIMENTS BORROWED FROM SHAKESPEARE.

latter. Young Damon of the vale is dead,

Accordingly we find that the most ancient poems Ye lowland hamlets, moan:

treat of agriculture, astronomy, and other objects, A dewy turf lies o'er bis head,

within the rural and natural systems. And at his feet a stone.

What constitutes the difference between the His shroud, which Death's cold damps destroy,

georgic and the pastoral, is love and the colloquial Of snow-white threads was made :

or dramatic form of composition peculiar to the All mourn’d to see so sweet a boy

latter: this form of composition is sometimes disIn earth for ever laid.

pensed with, and love and rural imagery alone are

thought sufficient to distinguish the pastoral. The Pale pansies o'er his corpse were plac'd,

tender passion, however, seems to be essential to Which, pluck'd before their time,

this species of poetry, and is hardly ever excluded Bestrew'd the boy, like him to waste

from those pieces that were intended to come under And wither in their prime.

this denomination : even in those eclogues of the But will he ne'er return, whose tongue

Amabean kind, whose only purport is a trial of Could tune the rural lay?

skill between contending shepherds, love has its Ab, no! his bell of peace is rung,

usual share, and the praises of their respective misHis lips are cold as clay.

tresses are the general subjects of the competitors. They bore him out at twilight hour,

It is to be lamented that scarce any oriental The youth who lov'd so well

compositions of this kind have survived the ravages Ah me! how many a true-love shower

of ignorance, tyranny, and time; we cannot doubt Of kind remembrance fell!

that many such bave been extant, possibly as far

down as that fatal period, never to be mentioned Each maid was woebut Lacy chief,

in the world of letters without horrour, when the Her grief o'er all was tried;

glorious monuments of human ingenuity perished Within his grave she dropp'd in grief,

in the ashes of the Alexandrian library. And o'er her lov'd-one died.

Those ingenious Greeks whom we call the parents of pastoral poetry were, probably, no more than imitators, that derived their harmony from higher and reinoter sources, and kindled their po

etical fires at those then unextinguished lamps OBSERVATIONS

which burned within the tombs of oriental genius.

It is evident that Homer has availed himself of

those magnificent images and descriptions so freORIENTAL ECLOGUES.

quently to be met with in the books of the Old Testament ; and why may not Theocritus, Moschus, and Bion, have found their archetypes in

other eastern writers, whose names have perished The genius of the pastoral, as well as of every other with their works? Yet, though it may not be illirespectable species of poetry, bad its origin in the beral to admit such a supposition, it would certainly East, and from thence was transplanted by the be invidious to conclude, what the malignity of caMuses of Greece; but whether from the continent villers alone could suggest with regard to Homer, of the lesser Asia, or from Egypt, which, about the that they destroyed the sources from which they era of the Grecian pastoral, was the hospitable borrowed, and, as it is fabled of the young of the nurse of letters, it is not easy to determine. From pelican, drained their supporters to death. the subjects, and the manner, of Theocritus, one As the Septuagint-translation of the Old Testawould incline to the latter opinion, while the history ment was performed at the request, and under the of Bion is in favour of the former.

patronage, of Ptolemy Philadelphus, it were not to However, though it should still remain a doubt, be wondered if Theocritus, who was entertained at through what channel the pastoral travelled west- that prince's court, had borrowed some of his pasward, there is not the least shadow of uncertainty toral imagery from the poetical passages of those concerning its oriental origin.

books.- I think it can hardly be doubted that the In those ages, which, guided by sacred chrono Sicilian poet had in his eye certain expressions of logy, from a comparative view of time, we call the the prophet Isaiah, when he wrote the following early ages, it appears from the most authentic lines : historians, that the chiefs of the people employed Ned in MEV Opeoste Barat, Dopeoste d'axar@zı, themselves in rural exercises, and that astronomers and legislators were at the same time shepherds. Παντα εναλλα γεγοιτο, και α πιτυς οχνας ενεικαι,

A δε καλα Ναρκισσος επ' αρκευθοισι κομασαι: Thus Strabo informs us, that the history of the creation was communicated to the Egyptians by a

-και τας κυνας όλαφος έλκοι. Chaldean shepherd.

Let vexing brambles the blue violet bear, From these circumstances it is evident, not only On the rude thorn Narcissus dress his hair that such shepherds were capable of all the dignity | All, all revers'd—The pine with pears be crown'd, and elegance peculiar to poetry, but that whatever And the bold deer shall drag the trembling hound. poetry they attempted would be of the pastoral kind; would take its subjects from those scenes of the cause, indeed, of these phenomena is very difrural simplicity in which they were conversant, and, ferent in the Greek from what it is in the Hebrew as it was the offspring of Harmony and Nature, I poet ; the former employing them on the death,

VOL. Xilh,

ON THE

P

the latter on the birth, of an important person : of the four: but it is by no means the least ra. but the marks of imitation are nevertheless ob-luable. The moral precepts which the intelligent vious.

shepherd delivers to his fellow-swains and the virIt might, however, be expected, that if Theocri- gins, their companions, are such as would infallibly tus had borrowed at all from the sacred writers, promote the happiness of the pastoral life. the celebrated epithalamium of Solomon, so much In impersonating the private virtues, the poet within his own walk of poetry, would not certainly has observed great propriety, and has formed their have escaped his notice. His epithalamium on the genealogy with the most perfect judgment, when he marriage of Helena, moreover, gave him an open represents them as the daughters of Truth and field for imitation; therefore, if he has any obli- | Wisdom. gations to the royal bard, we may expect to find The characteristics of Modesty and Chastity are them there. The very opening of the poem is in extremely happy and peinturesque : the spirit of the Hebrew song:

“ Come thou, whose thoughts as limpid springs Ουτω δη πρωϊζα κατεδραθες, ω φιλε γαμβρα;

are clear, The colour of imitation is still stronger in the fol

To lead the train, sweet Modesty, appear : lowing passage :

With thee be Chastity, of all afraid,

Distrusting all, a wise, suspicious maid; Aως αντελλουσα καλον διεφαι:ε προσωπον,

Cold is her breast, like flowers that drink the dew, Ποτια νυξ άτε, λευκον εαρ χειμενος ανντος,

A silken veil conceals her from the view.”
Ωδε και ά χρυσέα Ελενα διαφαινετ' εν αμιν,
Πιειρη, μεγαλη. ατ' ανέδραμεν ογμος αρουρα,

The two similes borrowed from rural objects are

not only much in character, but perfectly natural Η καπω κυπαρισσος, η αρματι Θεσσαλος ίππος.

and expressive. There is, notwithstanding, this This description of Helen is infinitely above the defect in the former, that it wants a peculiar prostyle and figure of the Sicilian pastoral—“ She is priety; for purity of thought may as well be aplike the rising of the golden morning, when the plied to Chastity as to Modesty; and from this innight departeth, and when t..e winter is over and stance, as well as from a thousand more, we may gone. She resembleth the cypress in the garden, see the necessity of distinguishing, in characteristic the horse in the chariots of Thessaly.”. These poetry, every object by marks and attributes pecufigures plainly declare their origin ; and others, liarly its own. equally imitative, might be pointed out in the same It cannot be objected to this eclogue, that it Idyllium.

wants both those essential criteria of the pastoral, This beautiful and luxuriant marriage pastoral love and the drama ; for though it partakes not of of Solomon is the only perfect form of the oriental the latter, the former still retains an interest in it, eclogue that has survived the ruins of time, a hap- and that too very material, as it professedly consults piness for which it is, probably, more indebted to the virtue and happiness of the lover, while it inits sacred character than to its intrinsic merit. forms what are the qualities Not that it is by any means destitute of poetical excellence: like all the eastern poetry, it is bold,

-that must lead to love. wild, and unconnected in its figures, allusions, and parts, and has all that graceful and magnificent

ECLOGUE II. daring which characterizes its metaphorical and comparative imagery.

All the advantages that any species of poetry In consequence of these peculiarities, so ill can derive from the novelty of the subject and adapted to the frigid genius of the North, Mr. scenery, this eclogue possesses. The route of a Collins could make but little use of it as a prece- camel-driver is a scene that scarce could exist in dent for his oriental eclogues; and even in his the imagination of an European, and of its attendthird eclogue, where the subject is of a similar na

ant distresses he could have no idea.—These are ture, he has chosen rather to follow the mode of very happily and minutely painted by our descripthe Doric and the Latin pastoral:

tive poet. Wbat sublime simplicity of expression! The scenery and subjects then of the following what nervous plainness in the opening of the eclogues alone are oriental; the style and colour- poem! ing are purely European; and, for this reason, the “ In silent hortour o'er the boundless waste author's preface, in which he intimates that he had

The driver Hassan with his camels pass'd." the originals from a merchant who traded to the The magic pencil of the poet brings the whole East, is omitted, as being now altogether superfluous.

scene before us at once, as it were by enchantment, With regard to the merit of these eclogues, it and in this single complet we feel all the effect that may justly be asserted, that in simplicity of de-arises from the terrible wildness of a region unenscription and expression, in delicacy and softness livened by the habitations of men. The verses, of numbers, and in natural and unaffected tender that describe so minutely the camel-driver's little ness, they are not to be equalled by any thing of provisions, have a touching influence on the imagithe pastoral kind in the English language.

nation, and prepare the reader to enter more feel. ingly into his future apprehensions of distress :

“Bethink thee, Hassan, where shall thirst assuage,

When fails this cruse, his unrelenting rage !" ECLOGUE I.

It is difficult to say whether his apostrophe to the Tuis eclogne, which is entitled Selim, or The mute companions of his toils, is more to be adShepherd's Moral, as there is nothing dramatic in mired for the elegance and beauty of the poetical the subject, may be thought the least entertaining imagery, or for the tenderness and humanity of the sentiment. He who can read it without being “ Farewell the youth, whom sighs could not detain, affected, will do his heart no injustice, if he con- Whom Zara's breaking heart implor'd in vain! cludes it to be destitute of sensibility :

Yet, as thou go'st, may every blast arise “ Ye mute companions of my toils, that bear

Weak and unfelt as these rejected sighs !"
In all my griefs a more than equal share! But this, perhaps, is rather an artificial prettiness,
Here, where no springs in murmurs break away, than a real, or natural beauty.
Or moss-crown'd fountains mitigate the day,
In vain ye hope the green delights to know,
Which plains more blest or verdant vales bestow:

ECLOGUE III.
Here rocks alone and tasteless sands are found,
And faint and sickly winds for ever howl around.”

That innocent and native simplicity of manners,

which, in the first eclogue, was allowed to constitute Yet in these beautiful lines there is a slight errour, the happiness of love, is here beautifully described which writers of the greatest genius very frequently in its effects. The sultan of Persia marries a fall into. It will be needless to observe to the ac- Georgian shepherdess, and finds in her embraces curate reader, that in the fifth and sixth verses that genuine felicity which unperverted Nature there is a verbal pleonasm where the poet speaks alone can bestow. The most natural and beautiful of the green delights of verdant vales. There is an parts of this eclogue are those where the fair suloversight of the same kind in the Manners, an Ode; tana refers with so much pleasure to her pastoral where the poet says,

amusements, and those scenes of happy innocence " -Seine's blue nymphs deplore

in which she had passed ber early years; particuIn watchet weeds"

jarly when, upon her first departure, This fault is indeed a common one, but to a reader

“ Oft as she went, she backward turn'd her view, of taste it is nevertheless disgustful; and it is men

And bade that crook and bleating flock adieu." tioned here as the errour of a man of genius and This picture of amiable simplicity reminds one of judgment, that men of genius and judgment may that passage, where Proserpine, when carried off by guard against it.

Pluto, regrets the loss of the flowers she has been Mr. Collins speaks like a true poet, as well in gathering. sentiment as expression, when, with regard to the Collecti flores tunicis cecidere remissis : thirst of wealth, he says,

Tantaque simplicitas puerilibus adfuit annis,
" Why heed we not, while mad we haste along, Hæc quoque virgineum movit jactura dolorem.
The gentle voice of Peace, or Pleasure's song?
Or wherefore think the flowery mountain's side,

ECLOGUE IV.
The fountain's murmurs, and the valley's pride,
Why think we these less pleasing to behold,

The beautiful but unfortunate country, where Than dreary deserts, if they lead to gold?” the scene of this pathetic eclogue is laid, had been But however just these sentiments may appear to recently torn in pieces by the depredations of its those who have not revolted from Nature and sim- described its misfortunes. This ingenious man had

savage neighbours, when Mr. Collins so affectedly plicity, bad the author proclaimed them in Lom- not only a pencil to pourtray, but a heart to feel bard-street, or Cheapside, he would not have been for the miseries of mankind; and it is with the utcomplimented with the understanding of the bello most tenderness and humanity he enters into the man.—A striking proof, that our own particular narrative of Circassia's ruin, while he realizes the ideas of happiness regulate our opinions concerning scene, and brings the present drama before us. Of the sense and wisdom of others!

every It is impossible to take leave of this most beauti- to the tender effect this pastoral was designed to

circumstance that could possibly contribute fal eclogue, without paying the tribute of admira- produce, the poet has availed himself with the uttion so justly due to the following nervous lines:

most art and address. Thus he prepares the heart “ What if the lion in his rage I meet !

to pi'y the distresses of Circassia, by representing it Oft in the dust I view his printed feet:

as the scene of the happiest love. And fearful ! oft, when Day's declining light “ In fair Circassia, where, to love inclin'd, Yields her pale empire to the mourner Night, Each swain was blest, for every maid was kind.” By hunger rous'd, he scours the groaning plain, To give the circumstances of the dialogue a more Gaunt wolves and sullen tigers in his train: Before them Death with shrieks directs their way, and describes the two shepherds in the very act of

affecting solemnity, he makes the time midnight, Fills the wild yell, and leads them to their prey."

fight from the destruction that swept over their This, amongst many other passages to be met with country: in the writings of Collins, shows that his genius was

“ Sad o'er the dews, two brother shepherds fled, perfectly capable of the grand and inagnificent in

Where wildering fear and desperate sorrow led :" description, notwithstanding what a learned writer has advanced to the contrary. Nothing, certainly, There is a beauty and propriety in the epithet could be more greatly conceived, or more ade- wildering, which strikes us more forcibly, the more quately expressed, than the image in the last we consider it. couplet.

The opening of the dialogue is equally happy, That deception, sometimes used in rhetorio and natural, and unaffected; when one of the shepherds, poetry, which presents us with an object or senti-weary and overcome with the fatigue of Aight, ment contrary to what we expected, is here intro-calls upon his companion to review the length of duced to the greatest advantage:

way they had passed. 'I his is, certainly, painting

ON

from nature, and the thoughts, however obvious, or

OBSERVATIONS destitute of refinement, are perfectly in character. But, as the closest pursuit of nature is the surest way to excellence in general, and to sublimity in parti

THE ODES, cular, in poetical description, so we find that this

DESCRIPTIVE AND ALLEGORICAL simple suggestion of the shepherd is not unattended with magnificence. There is grandeur and variety in the landscape he describes:

The genius of Collins was capable of every degree “ And first review that long-extended plain,

of excellence in lyric poetry, and perfectly qualified And yon wide groves, already pass'd with pain!

for that high province of the Muse. Possessed of Yon ragged cliff, whose dangerous path we try'd!

a native ear for all the varieties of harmony and And last this lofty mountain's weary side!"

modulation, susceptible of the finest feelings of

- tenderness and humanity, but above all, carried There is, in imitative harmony, an act of express away by that high enthusiasm, which gives to ing a slow and difficult movement by adding to the imagination its strongest colouring, he was, at usual number of pauses in a verse. This is obseryable in the line that describes the ascent of the lody of his numbers, of influencing the passions by

once, capable of soothing the ear with the meunountain:

the force of his pathos, and of gratifying the fancy And last || this lofty mountain's || weary side 1l. by the luxury of his description. Here we find the number of pauses, or musical bars,

In consequence of these powers, but more parwhich, in a heroic verse, is commonly two, in ticularly in consideration of the last, he chose creased to three.

such subjects for his lyric essays as were most faThe liquid melody, and the numerous sweetness

vourable for the indulgence of description and of expression in the following descriptive lines is al- allegory, where he could exercise his powers in most inimitably beautiful:

moral and personal painting; where he could ex

ert his invention in conferring attributes on images “ Sweet to the sight is Zabran's flowery plain, or objects already known, and described, by a deAnd once by nymphs and shepherds lov'd in vain! terminate number of characteristics; where he No more the virgins shall delight to rove

might give an uncommon eclat to his figures, by By Sargis' banks, or Irwap's shady grove; placing them in happier attitudes, or in more On Tarkie's mountain catch the cooling gale, advantageous lights, and introduce new forms

Or breathe the sweets of Aly's flowery vale.” from the moral and intellectual world into the soNevertheless in this delightful landscape there is an ciety of impersonated beings. obvious fault: there is no distinction between the Such, no doubt, were the privileges which the plain of Zabran, and the vale of Aly: they are poet expected, and such were the advantages he both flowery, and consequently undiversified. This derived from the descriptive and allegorical nature could not proceed from the poet's want of judg- of his themes. ment, but from inattention: it had not occurred to It seems to have been the whole industry of our him that he had employed the epithet flowery twice author (and it is, at the same time, almost all the within so short a compass; an oversight which claim to moral excellence his writings can boast) those who are accustomed to poetical, or, indeed, to promote the influence of the social virtues, by to any other species of composition, know to be painting them in the fairest and happiest lights. very possible.

Melior fieri tuendo, Nothing can be more beautifully conceived, or more pathetically expressed, than the shepherd's would be no improper motto to his poems in apprehensions for his fair country-women, exposed general, but of his lyric poems it seems to be the to the ravages of the invaders.

whole moral tendency and effect. If, therefore,

it should appear to some readers that he has been • In vain Circassia boasts her spicy groves, more industrious to cultivate description than senFor ever fam’d for pure and happy loves : timent; it may be observed, that his descriptions In vain she boasts her firest of the fair,

themselves are sentimental, and answer the whole Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair! end of that species of writing, by embellishing Those eyes in tears their fruitless grief shall send; every feature of virtue, and by conveying, through

Those hairs the Tartaris cruel hand shall rend." the effects of the pencil, the finest moral lessons There is, certainly, some rery powerful charm in to the mind. the liquid melody of sounds. The editor of these Horace speaks of the fidelity of the ear in prepoems could never read or hear the following verse

ference to the uncertainty of the eye; but if the repeated, without a degree of pleasure otherwise mind receives conviction, it is certainly of very entirely unaccountable:

little importance through what medium, or by “ Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair.” sions left on the imagination may, possibly, be

which of the senses, it is conveyed. The impresSuch are the Oriental Eclogues, which we leave thought less durable than the deposits of memory, with the same kind of anxious pleasure, we feel but it may very well admit of a question, whether upon a temporary parting with a beloved friend.

a conclusion of reason, or an impression of imagipation, will soonest make its way to the heart. A moral precept, conveyed in words, is only an account of truth in its effects; a moral picture is truth exemplified; and which is most likely to gain upon the affections, it may not be difficult to determine.

This, however, must be allowed, that those count of which, principally, the following odes works approach the nearest to perfection which were properly termed by their author, allegorical. unite these powers and advantages; which at once With respect to the utility of this figurative influence the imagination and engage the memory; writing, the same arguments that have been adthe former by the force of animated and striking vanced in favour of descriptive poetry, will be of description, the latter by a brief, but harmonious, weight likewise here. It is, indeed, from impercouveyance of precept: thus, while the heart is in- sonation, or, as it is commonly termed, personififluenced through the operation of the passions or cation, that poetical description borrows its chief the fancy, the effect, which might otherwise bave powers and graces. Without the aid of this, moral beea transient, is secured by the co-operating and intellectual painting would be fiat and unanipower of the memory, which treasures up in a mated, and even the scenery of material objects short aphorism the moral scene.

would be dull without the introduction of fictitious This is a good reason, and this, perhaps, is the life. only reason that can be given, why our dramatic These observations will be most effectually illusperformances should generally end with a chain of trated by the sublime and beautiful odes that occouplets. In these the moral of the whole piece is casioned them ; in those it will appear how happily usually conveyed; and that assistance which the this allegorical painting may be executed by the memory borrows from rhyme, as it was probably genuine powers of poetical genius, and they will the original cause of it, gives it usefulness and pro- not fail to prove its force and utility by passing priety even there.

through the imagination to the heart. After these apologies for the descriptive turn of the following odes, something remains to be said on the origin and use of allegory in poetical com

ODE TO PITY. position.

“ By Pella's Bard, a magic name, By this we are not to understand the trope in the By all the griefs his thought could frame, schools, which is defined Aliud verbis, aliud sensu Receive my humble rite: ostendere, and of which Quintilian says, Usus Long, Pity, let the nations view est, ut tristia dicamus melioribus verbis, aut bonæ Thy sky-worn robes of tenderest blue, rei quædam contrariis significemus, &c. It is not And eyes of dewy light!" the verbal, but the sentimental allegory, not alle- The propriety of invoking Pity through the mediagorical expression (which, indeed, might come un- tion of Euripides is obvious. That admirable poet der the term of metaphor) but allegorical imagery, had the keys of all the tender passions, and, therethat is here in question.

fore, could not but stand in the highest esteem When we endeavour to trace this species of with a writer of Mr. Collins's seusibility.—He did, figurative sentiment to its origin, we find it coeral indeed, admire him as much as Milton professedly · with literature itself. It is generally agreed that did, and probably for the same reason; but we do the most ancient productions are poetical, and it is not find that he has copied him so closely as the certain that the most ancient poems abound with last-mentioned poet has sometimes done, and partiallegorical imagery.

cularly in the opening of Samson Agonistes, which If, then, it be allowed that the first literary pro is an evident imitation of the following passage in dactions were poetical, we shall have little or no the Phænissæ. difficulty in discovering the origin of allegory. At the birth of letters, in the transition from

“Ηγου προπαροιθε, θυγατερ, ώς τυφλω ποδι hieroglyphical to literal expression, it is not to be

Οφθαλμος ει συ, ναυαταισιν αστρον ώς, wondered if the custom of expressing ideas by per

Δευρ' εις το λευρον πεδιον ιχνος τιθεισ' εμον, , sonal images, which had so long prevailed, should

Act. iii. sc. 1.

FIpobarve. still retain its influence on the mind, though the The “ eyes of dewy light” is one of the happiest. use of letters had rendered the practical applica- strokes ef imagination, and may be ranked among tion of it superfluous. Those who had been ac- those expressions which customed to express strength by the image of an :-give us back the image of the mind.” elephant, swiftness by that of a panther, and cou

“ Wild Arun too has heard thy strains, rage by that of a lion, would make no scruple of

And Echo, 'midst my native plains, substituting, in letters, the symbols for the ideas

Been sooth'd with Pity's lute." they had been used to represent. Here we plainly see the origin of allegorical ex

“ There first the wren thy myrtles shed pression, that it arose from the ashes of hierogly

On gentlest Otway's infant head.” phies; and if to the same cause we should refer Sussex, in which county the Arun is a small river, that figurative boldness of style and imagery which had the honour of giving birth to Otway as well as distinguish the oriental writings, we shall, perhaps, to Collins: both these poets, unhappily, became conclude more justly than if we should impute it to the objects of that pity by which their writings are the superiour grandeur of eastern genius.

distinguished. There was a similitude in their From the same source with the verbal, we are genius and in their sufferings. There was a resemto derive the sentimental allegory, which is nothing blance in the misfortunes and in the dissipation of more than a continuation of the metaphorical or their lives; and the circumstances of their death symbolical expression of the several agents in an cannot be remembered without pain. action, or the different objects in a scene.

The thought of painting in the temple of Pity The latter most peculiarly comes under the de- the history of human misfortunes, and of drawing nomination of allegorical imagery; and in this the scenes from the tragic Muse, is very happy, species of allegory we include the impersonation of and in every respect worthy the imagination of passions, affections, virtues, and vices, &c, on ac. ' Collins.

« PreviousContinue »