Imágenes de páginas

all else around us, as the instruments appear to the mechanical and fleshly and materials of the poetic imagination, eye, and in all their nakedness and but in which every detail and minute bareness, unmodified by any feeling of touch is scrupulously and conscien- the writer, and unexalted by the imatiously faithful ; while this fidelity as gination. to particulars is the mere frost-work Such, we think, is nearly the chaon the rock of universal Truth, the racter of Mr. Crabbe as a describer marbles and mosaics which cover but- of the lower ranks of men. It is in tresses of granite and cramps of iron. this character that we have first spoken Observation supplies the armory, but of him, because it is in this that he is genius calls up the legion of living most remarkable. The three kinds men, to wear the breast-plates and to of writers on this class of subject, are wield the swords. There is a Dutch simply specimens of the three great picture of Christ among the Soldiers, divisions of thinkers on all subjects. in which every hair of the beards, There are some who can neither reaevery thread of the garments, is paint- son, imagine, nor observe, and thereed with a reality which would satisfy fore fancy,--some who collect the barbers and weavers. The whole is minutiæ without a large or philosophic utterly false ; for there is no attempt insight,—some who look at details at expressing the scornful cruelty of merely in subordination to principles. the persecutors, or the holy and godly The first has furnished us with the patience of the sufferers. As the men who describe shadows and fragproductions of Raphael and Correggio ments of humanity, the parents of such differ from this, so the works of poets pastorals as Pope's, and such tragedies differ from those of men who are merely as Dryden's and Addison's. The copyists. The latter are as much less second contains the authors, to the living, as a statue than the Hermione rank of whose works we must refer a of the “ Winter's Tale.” Though the good deal of Defoe, Smollett, and the accidents be the clothing, the princi- American Brown, and almost all of ples are the life.

Crabbe. The third is made up of Between these two classes,—those Dantes, Shakspeares, Miltons, and who indite pastorals in which the cha- Wordsworths, the prime glories of racters are unnatural fancies, and who humanity. are a portion of the great body of au All the subjects of Mr. Crabbe's thors without either intuition or ob- compositions are treated with preciseservation, and those who are possessed ly the same laborious and literal fideof both the one and the other,-there lity as the hovels and workhouses is a third, to which Mr. Crabbe be- where he especially delights to sojourn. longs—the persons, namely, whose His ladies and gentlemen are not bepower is entirely outward, but who ings of his own, imagined in accordare accurate watchers and examiners ance firstly and chiefly to the laws of of all that goes on around them. His nature and of poetry, and only secondmind is not a window which admits ly and subordinately in agreement with light, but a looking-glass which accu the peculiar influences of that part of rately reflects whatever is placed op- society. They are portraits copied in posite to it. He exhibits his person- every hair and wrinkle from the origiages, not in the general illumination nals, and in which, as in all such porof any master ideas, but in the literal traits, the higher and more universal individuality of the particular facts. characteristics are almost entirely He describes them, not by means of omitted. He does not paint the man the creative imagination, which would he has seen and known, but the nose, picture them surrounded indeed by the coat, the manners, and the actions the peculiar circumstances of Eng- of the man, to the omission of those lish society, yet as men still more than powers which make him an agent. As peasants; but he shows them as they a well-natured person, he breaks the

18 ATHENEUM, VOL. 1, 3d series.

very oiled

monotonous selfishness of his heroes The little production of the former, and heroines with occasional touches from which we give an extract, is of kindliness and tenderness; but, remarkably favorable to Mr. Crabbe, having no philosophy higher than that as being one which the greatest of of the world around him, we never see critics (the author of “ The Biograhim delighting to clear from the mind phia Literaria”) has declared would which he is dealing with, its crust and appear to greater advantage in prose. filth, and so to open out the fountains It is named “ The Beggars." Both of another life which are buried and passages are quoted as mere descripsealed beneath.

tions of gipsies. The first is WordsBut that which this writer does at- worth's :tempt to exhibit is completely brought “ Before me as the wanderer stood, before us. He never, indeed, paints No bonnet screen’d her from the heat, in a single word, by using one which Nor claim'd she service from the hood shall be a key-note to our imagination. Depending with a graceful flow;

Of a blue mantle, to her feet He describes only for our memory. Only she wore a cap, pure as unsullied snow. His Muse is the parent, not the off

“ Her skin was of Egyptian brown, spring, of Mnemosyne. But what he Haughty as if her eye had seen attempts he does thoroughly; we see

Its own light to a distance thrown,

She tower'd-fit person for a queen in his pages the



To head those Amazonian files, the windows, the very patches on the Or ruling Bandit's wife among the Grecian counterpane. When he talks of dust

isles. upon a floor, or stains upon a table “ Her suit no faltering scruples check'd ; cloth, we might use the words of the Forth did she pour, in current free,

Tales that could challenge no respect, Persian, and exclaim, “ What dirt But from a blind credulity; have we eaten!Every riband in And yet a boon I gave her, for the creature the cap of a hand-maid, every button

Was beautiful to see—a weed of glorious fea

ture ! on the coat of a beggar, we know them all with the precision of military And soon before me did espy

“ I left her, and pursued my way; martinets. And he describes, in the A pair of little boys at play, same way, landscapes, houses, thoughts, Chasing a crimson butterfly;

The elder follow'd with his hat in hand, feelings. Those who have seen or

Wreathed round with yellow flowers, the gayfelt what he talks of, start at seeing est of the land. their recollections reproduced in all

“ The other wore a rimless crown, the vivacity of the original sensations. With leaves of laurel stuck about ; But he is utterly untranslateable. The And, while both follow'd up and down, imagination is the great interpreter; In their fraternal features I could trace

Each whooping with a merry shout, and, supposing the same degree of Unquestionable lines of that wild suppliant's intelligence, Calderon is as delightful

face. to an Englishman as to a Spaniard-- “Yet they so blithe of heart, seemed fit Shakspeare as wonderful to a German For finest tasks of earth or air : as to us. But the effect of Mr. Crabbe's Wings let them have, and they might flit

Precursors of Aurora's car, writings does not depend upon the Scattering fresh flowers, though happier far, I degree to which our nobler faculties are developed, but to the accident of To hunt their futtering game o'er rock and

level green.” our having observed the very same objects as himself, and experienced Here is a portion of Mr. Crabbe's the same annoyances from the same description of similar personages :casual and transitory causes.

“ On ragged rug, just borrow'd from the bed, As an illustration of the different And by the hand of coarse indulgence sed, methods in which Mr. Crabbe, and a

In dirty patchwork negligently dressid,

Reclined the wife, an infant at her breast; really great poet, treat the same sub- In her wild face some touch of grace remaind, ject, we will extract some stanzas of Of vigor palsied and of beauty stain'd; Wordsworth’s, and a portion of the Were wrathful turn'd, and seemn'd her wants

Her blood-shot eyes on her unheeding mate poem called “ The Lover's Journey." to state,




Cursing his tardy aid-her mother there

never halting, and never over-burthenWith gipsy-state engross'd the only chair ; Solemn and dull her look; with such she stands,

and, above everything, what we And reads the inilk-maid's fortune in her hands, do not hesitate to call the perfection Tracing the lines of life ; assumed through of the language. There is not a

years, Each feature now the steady falsehood wears ;

thought which could be more conciseWith hard and savage eye she views the food, ly expressed without the diminution And grudging pinches their intruding brood : Last in the group, the worn-out grandsire sits for the sake of the metre, not a de

of its beauty ; not a word patched in Neglected, lost, and living but by fits ; Useless, despised, his worthless labors done, scriptive epithet which does not serve And half protected by the vicious son, to suggest tenfold more than it exWho balf supports him ; he with heavy glance Views the young ruffians who around him presses, dance;

Let us turn from this to our original And, by the sadness in his face, appears subject. We do not wish to dwell To trace the progress of their future years : Through what strange course of misery, vice, upon the different turn of mind indideceit,

cated in the manner of the two poets Must wildly wander each unpractised cheat ! when they look at similar objects, at What shame and grief, what punishment and the gladness and sympathy on the one

pain, Sport of fierce passions, must each child sus hand and the cynicism on the other ;

but let us observe the latter lines as a Ere they, like him, approach their latter end,

mere work of art. The construction Without a hope, a comfort, or a friend !”

of the first four lines is obviously In the first place, how clear and faulty. We know not whether it be brilliant is the picture of the gipsy the wife who “ is just borrowed from woman in the first of Wordsworth's the bed,”—or the rug which is “ by stanzas. There is no more indisposi- the hand of coarse indulgence fed.” tion to blink the use of common words The next verses simply express, as it for common things than in Mr. Crabbe; might be expressed in prose, the phybut he produces an infinitely greater siognomy of the gipsy, and on these, effect with the same cheap materials. at least, no pretensions to poetry can In the second stanza how much there be raised. What can be more awkis of genuine imagination; and how ward, or less agreeable to the strict little does this great poet require in accuracy professed by the opponents order to raise our minds aloft, and of “ irregular unclassical poetry,” transport them to the most distant than the use of the word state at the domains of poetic beauty ; and see, end of the couplet again, in the third, that powerful and

“ Her blood-shot eyes on her unheeding mate original phrase, flung forth bright and

Were wrathful turn'd, and seem'd her wants perfect from the creative mind, in to state." which the beautiful vagrant is called the description is strong, plain, and “ a weed of glorious feature !” In

good, such as we expect in a good the next strophe how bright and vivid book of essay, travel, or novel ; till we a picture is shown to us of the boys, find another instance of obscure and with their flower-wreathed hats, chas- faulty construction in the phrase, ing the crimson butterfly ; a sunny


“ Assumed through years, masterly representation, which is ad

Each feature now the steady falsehood wears." mirably kept up in the following stanza; and, in the last of the portions we It would really seem that the “ feahave quoted, with what godlike power tures” had been “ assumed through does the author carry us away with years," instead of the falsehood. In these gipsy boys on the wings of the the following couplet to what does morning! These are particular beau “their” refer; and, with similar careties, a few gems though of no common lessness, towards the close of the paslustre; but there is a more continuous sage, it would seem that “punishment and eren a rarer merit, in the smooth and pain” are the “ sport of fierce and majestic course of the versification, passions,” rather than the children.

The description on the whole contains not appeared under false pretences,emphatic and even eloquent phrases; a situation which, besides its liability but there is not one touch of imagina- to detection, almost always gives a tion from the beginning to the end, certain awkwardness of demeanor. which, by the pleasurable exercise of Mr. Crabbe's unmetrical writing is our faculties, might in some degree not particularly happy; but it is much take off the pain necessarily felt in better (looking merely at the style) reading such an account. In the next than his verse. And there are not paragraph, it is the purpose of the many more agreeable or more useful author to show how happiness over- books of a similar nature than might flows from the heart on all around it, be made by turning his tangled rhyme and in how glad and gay a light the into easy prose. His strong plain most wretched objects will be seen by sense, shrewd humor, acute observathe cheerful. But, instead of repre- tion, and faithful portraitures, would senting Orlando, the hero of the story, be instructive and delightful, and give as connecting what he sees with joyous us, what we have not, a standard book associations, and free from every re on the manners and characters of the membrance of guilt or sorrow, he great masses of English society. makes him reflect, that, though the The moral evils resulting from his gipsies are highly criminal and de- works are, in our view, not light, serving of punishment, yet he is not though he himself is obviously a becalled upon to inflict it; and accord- nevolent and thinking man; for the ingly he gives them money.

virtues which he describes, and to We have said that there are no which he solicits our admiration, are poetical beauties in this passage of won from the shadowy limbs of comMr. Crabbe's writings, and have shown promise and opinion. He is evidently that there are several errors of compo- no believer in the possibility of much sition. Yet we believe it to be as greater goodness than that of the avefaultless as any portion of similar rage respectability around us; and length, and equal talent, in all his there is no sin which he treats with works. It is powerful writing, though more bitter reprobation than dissent not poetry; and we only wish that it, from the doetrines of the Church of and the rest of his productions, had England.



The bishop of Mentz was a wealthy prince, In they rush'd—the maid and the sire, Wealthy and proud was he;

And the child that could barely runHe had all that was worth a wish on earth- Then he closed the barn, and set it on But he had not charitie !


And burnt them every one!
He would stretch out his empty hands to bless
Or lift them both to pray;

And loud he laugh'd at each terrible shriek, But alack ! to lighten man's distress

And cried to his archer train, They moved no other way.

"The merry mice !--how shrill they squeak!

They are fond of the bishop's grain !" A famine came! but his heart was still As hard as his pride was high :

But mark, what an awful judgment soon And the starving poor but throng'd his door On the cruel bishop fell; To curse him and to die.

With so many mice his palace swarmed,

That in it he could not dwell. At length from the crowd rose a clamor so loud,

They gnaw'd the arras above and beneath, That a cruel plot laid he ;

They ate each savoury dish up; He opend one of his granaries wide, And shortly their sacrilegious teeth And bade them enter free.

Began to nibble the bishop!

He flew to his castle of Ehrenfels,

By the side of the Rhine so fair;
But they found the road to his new abode,

And came in legions there.
He built him, in haste, a tower tall

In the tide, for his better assurance ;
But they swam the river, and scald the

And worried him past endurance.

One morning his skeleton there was seen,

By a load of flesh the lighter;
They had picked his boues uncommonly

And eaten his very mitre !
Such was the end of the bishop of Mentz,

And oft at the midnight hour
He comes in the shape of a fog so dense,

And sits on his old “ Mouse-Tower."

CONVERSATIONS ON GEOLOGY.* The form of conversations on the remark founded upon taste and love of more interesting parts of philosophy the picturesque, rather than on the which has recently become so popular, deeper and dryer subjects which her is only the revival of the classical mo- brother is represented as bringing fordels of Xenophon, Plato, and Cicero, ward-For example : adapted to modern study and cast into Edward.-A romantic science, the style of modern composition. As mother ! That is certainly a very a method of exciting interest, and af- unusual expression. fording room for apt illustrations, it is " Mrs. R. That is of little conimmeasurably beyond the clumsy, dry, sequence, if it be correct; and I and lifeless plan too frequently follow- think I can show it to be so, even ined of question and answer, inasmuch dependently of the fanciful systems as it carries with it the thread of a which I have just hinted at. Do narrative which the question-and-an- you not say, Christina, that botany swer system is perpetually snapping a beautiful science ? asunder. Besides, the speakers in a Christina.-Yes ; I think it is, conversation may be characterised by indeed; for it invites us to fields peculiarities of sentiments and style in the beautiful months of spring and of thinking, so as to render a book summer, and makes us admire the something like a genuine picture of a beauty of the budding trees, the fireside dialogue. This was carefully springing grass, and the opening blosattended to by the ancients; and, soms : it enhances the pleasure of making allowance for the difference of every walk, and sometimes, I have style and manners, the author of the fancied, makes the sunshine itself look work before us appears to have kept brighter when it falls upon a flowerthis constantly in view. The speakers garden. are a mother, and her son and daugh • Mrs. R.-And have I not heard ter. The boy is represented as inqui- you, Edward, calling astronomy subsitive after facts, and much more rea lime ? dy to start objections to any proposed Edward. It deserves, indeed, to opinion or theory, that is, he is less be called so, I think; for it raises our credulous than we should suppose any thoughts above the earth and its little boy to be; yet, as his mode of ob scene of change and bustle, and leads jecting is the very life of the book, the mind to contemplate the starry we are willing to let this hypercriti- universe and the intinity of space, cism go for nothing. The girl does which God has peopled with suns and not take quite so much share in the worlds. dialogue as we could wish ; but, when Mrs. R.Then, if you call Boshe does, it is usually to make some tany beautiful, and Astronomy sub

* Conversations on Geology; comprising a Familiar Explanation of the Huttonian and Wernerian Systems; the Mosaic Geology as explained by Mr. Granville Penn ; the late Discoveries of Professor Buckland, Humboldt, Dr. Macculloch, and others. 1 vol. 12mo. (with Engravings.) Pp. 371. London, 1828.

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