Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

neither “ soft shades," nor a retirement from “ the murmur of the hoarse schools” were essentially necessary to his inspiration. In this space of time his vigorous and ardent genius broke out in frequent flashes, and evidently disclosed the future author of Comus and of Paradise Lost. We have already noticed, on the testimony of Aubrey which may

be received as to the fact in question, that Milton was a poet when he was only ten years old; and his translation of the 136th psalm, which we still possess, sufficiently evinces his progress in poetic expression at the early age of fifteen. When we read in this sma!l work of “ the golden-tressed sun," of the moon shining among spangled sisters of the night;" of the Almighty smiting the first-born of Egypt with “ his thunder-clasping hand,” we are forced to acknowledge the buddings of the rising poet, the first shootings of the infant oak which in later times was to overshadow the forest.

At the age to which we have now followed him, or from the commencement of his academic career, his genius rushed rapidly to its maturity; and, like the Neptune of his favourite Homer, he may be considered as having made only three majestic

66 her

strides to the summit on which he stands and beholds no superior. If we plant his first step at the beautiful little poem on the death of his sister's child, his second may be regarded as fixed on his sublime though unequal ode “ On the Morning of Christ's Nativity,” and his third as reaching to his Comus. These compositions seem to be separated by nearly equal intervals as well with respect to the time as with reference to the power of their production. The last of these poems, with its bright companions, the Lycidas L’Allegro and Il Penseroso, does not belong to the period under our notice, and shall be attended to in its place: but it will be proper not to pass the two former without remark, as they tend to exhibit to us the march of a mighty genius, in progress to supreme triumph.

In the first of them, “ On the death of a fair Infant,”ı written when our author was only seventeen, we find the boy-poet moving with grace

and harmony under the shackles of rhyme, and managing a stanza of seven lines with facility and effect. If he occasionally indulges in those conceits which blemished all the poetry of that age, his thoughts are more frequently just, and he is sometimes

Our author's niece, a daughter of his sister, Mrs. Philips.

tender and sometimes sublime. The personification of Winter, in his “ ice-y pearled car," is conceived and expressed in the spirit of genuine poetry; and the 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, and 10th stanzas entertain us with a crowd of beauties, unneighboured by a thought, a line, or almost an expression, which we can be desirous of changing.--I shall cite the fifth stanza for its peculiar merit; and the sixth, as it seems to have suggested to Dryden one of those sublime ideas with which he opens his noble ode on the death of Mrs. Anne Killegrew.

V.
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead;

Or that thy corse corrupts in Earth's dark womb;
Or that thy beauties lie in wormy bed,

Hid from the world in a low-delved tomb.

Could Heaven for pity thee so strictly doom?
Oh no! for something in thy face did shine
Above mortality that show'd thou wast divine.

VI.
Resolve me then, O soul most surely blest!

(If so it be that thou these plaints dost hear) Tell me, bright Spirit, where'er thou hoverest,

Whether above that high first moving sphere,

Or in the Elysian fields (if such there were)? Ob say me true, if thou wert mortal wight? And why from us so quickly thou didst take thy flight?ok

*I subjoin the passage in Dryden's Ode to wbich I have referred, Whether adopted to some neighbouring star,

Thou roll'st above us in thy wand'ring race: Or, in procession fix'd and regular,

The seventh stanza is the most objectionable of the poem: in the first and the second, the thought which, at the first glance, might seem to require defence, is certainly correct: in the first indeed it is beautifully poetic. When the poet asks whether the object of his lamentation were

that just MAID, who once before Forsook the hated earth, &c.

and when lie

says,
And thou, the mother of so sweet a child,
Her false imagined loss cease to lament, &c.

it is rather strange that both Tickell and Fenton should call this fair infant the NEPIIE W of our author.

In the ode “On the Morning of Christ's Nativity," written after an interval of four years, we trace the flight of a more powerful fancy, and distinguish beauties of a superior order mingled with defects perhaps of a greater magnitude. It discloses indeed in most of its parts the vicious taste of the age; but even where it is most erroneous it discloses also the power of the poet. The fourth

Moved with the heavens' majestic pace:
Or call'd to more superior bliss,
Thou tread'st with Seraphim the dread abyss, &s.

stanza of the hymn is the offspring, at once, of correct judgment and of strong imagination; and its merit is not lessened by the intrusion of a thought or a word which the nicest critic would wish to be expelled.

.

No war or battle's sound

Was heard the world around:
The idle spear and shield were high uphung.

The hooked chariot stood,

Unstain'd with hostile blood:
The trumpet spake not to the armed throng;

And kings sate still with awful eye,
As if they surely knew their sovrain Lord was nigh.

The following stanza is not quite so unexceptionable and pure; but its errors are venial, and it closes beautifully

*Who now hath quite forgot to rave,
While birds of calm sit brooding on the charmed wave,

The thirteen succeeding stanzas are disfigured by numerous conceits: but from the nineteenth,

The oracles are dumb, &c.

to the conclusion of the ode, we are struck with the most forcible exhibition of the highest poetry. In the course of these nine stanzas we may perhaps be inclined to object to a few accidendal words; but we cannot withhold our wonder from that vigour of concep

Ocean.
G

« AnteriorContinuar »