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Or guide me where the dashing oar
Just breaks the stillness of the vale,
To meet the ocean's distant sail :
To pebbly banks, that Neptune laves,
With measured surges, loud and deep,
And wild the winds of autumn sweep.
There pause at midnight's spectred hour,
And list the long-resounding gale ;
O'er foaming seas and distant sail.
It cannot, we think, be denied, that we have here beautiful ideas expressed in appropriate versification; yet here, as in her prose compositions, the poetess is too much busied with external objects, too anxious to describe the outward accompaniments of melancholy, to write upon the feeling itself; and although the comparison be made at the expence of a favourite authoress, we cannot help contrasting the poetry we have just inserted with a song, by Fletcher, on a similar subject.
Pas. (Sings.) Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights
Wherein you spend your folly!
But only melancholy !
Welcome, folded arms, and fixed eyes,
Fountain heads, and pathless groves,
A midnight bell, a parting groan!
These are the sounds we feed upon;
The Nice Valour.
In these last verses the reader may observe, that the human feeling of the votary of Melancholy, or rather the pale passion itself, is predominant; that our thoughts are of, and with, the pensive wanderer ; and that the “fountain heads and pathless groves,” like the landscape in a portrait, are only secondary parts of the picture. In Mrs Radcliffe's verses, it is different. The acessaries and accompaniments of melancholy are well described, but they call for so much of our attention, that the feeling itself scarce solicits due regard. We are placed among melancholy objects, but if our sadness is reflected from them, it is not the growth of our own minds. Something like this may be observed in Mrs Radcliffe's romances, where our curiosity is too much interested about the evolution of the story, to permit our feelings to be acted upon by the distresses of the hero or heroine. We do not quite acknowledge them as objects of our interest personally, and, convinced that the authoress will extricate them from their embarrassments, we are more concerned about the course of the story, than the feelings or fate of those of whom it is told.
But we must not take farewell of a favourite author with a depreciating sentiment. It may be true, that Mrs Radcliffe rather walks in fairy-land than in the region of realities, and that she has neither displayed the command of the human passions, nor the insight into the human heart, nor the observation of life and manners, which recommend other authors in the same line. But she has taken the lead in a line of composition, appealing to those powerful and general sources of interest, a latent sense of supernatural awe, and curiosity concerning whatever is hidden and mysterious ; and if she has been ever nearly approached in this walk, which we should hesitate to affirm, it is at least certain, that she has never been excelled or even equalled.