Imágenes de páginas

session of talents, and of being capable of better things than those to which he seemed to be destined, gives to some of his productions the appearance of discontent and of having overrated his pretensions. He was, like many youthful poets, too fond of complaining of fortune, of supposing himself neglected, and of comparing his humble lot with those situations for which he believed himself qualified; but these were the lucubrations of his earliest years, before he found friends to foster his talents. So far, indeed, was he from having reason to be querulous on the ground of the indifference of others to his merits, that his life affords one of the most striking examples in the history of genius, that talents when united to moral worth, will be rewarded by honours and fame; that birth is no impediment to advancement; and that even a person of the humblest origin may, by his own exertions, become, in the great arena of learning, an object of envy to those of the highest rank. It is due to him, whose good sense was so remarkable, to point out the time in his career to which the passages in question refer, and to add that his correspondence, after he entered the University, expressed nothing but satisfaction with his lot, and a desire to justify the kindness and expectations of his patrons. Still Kirke White was unhappy, and since no. cause existed in worldly circumstances to render him so, it must be ascribed to a morbid temperament, induced perhaps by the uncertainty of his

youthful prospects, and by ill health. This uncertainty, and the fear of ridicule if he expressed his feelings, rendered him reserved, and taught him to confine his sentiments to his own thoughts : he himself says,

“ When all was new, and life was in its spring,
I lived an unloved solitary thing;
E'en then I learnt to bury deep from day

The piercing cares that wore my youth away ;" and in a letter to Mr. Maddock, in September, 1804, he thus spoke of himself:

“ Perhaps it may be that I am not formed for friendship, that I expect more than can ever be found. Time will tutor me; I am a singular being under a common outside: I am a profound dissembler of my inward feelings, and necessity has taught me the art. I am long before I can unbosom to a friend, yet, I think, I am sincere in my friendship: you must not attribute this to any suspiciousness of nature, but must consider that I lived seventeen years my own confidante, my own friend, full of projects and strange thoughts, and confiding them to no one. I am habitually reserved, and habitually cautious in letting it be seen that I hide any thing."

None knew better than himself that the aspirations and feelings of which genius is the parent are inconsistent with felicity :

“Oh! hear the plaint by thy sad favourite made,

His melancholy moan.
He tells of scorn, he tells of broken vows,

Of sleepless nights, of anguish-ridden days,
Pangs that his sensibility uprouse

To curse his being and his thirst for praise.
Thou gavest to him with treble force to feel

The sting of keen neglect, the rich man's scorn ;
And what o'er all does in his soul preside

Predominant, and tempers him to steel,

His high indignant pride.” Nor was he unconscious that the toils necessary to secure literary distinction, when endured by a shattered frame, are in the highest degree severe. How much truth and feeling are there in the lines which he wrote after spending a whole night in study, a moment when religious impressions force themselves with irresistible weight on the exhausted mind!

“ Oh! when reflecting on these truths sublime,
How insignificant do all the joys,
The gaudes, and honours of the world appear!
How vain ambition !—Why has my wakeful lamp
Outwatch'd the slow-paced night ?- Why on the page,
The schoolman's labourd page, have I employ'd
The hours, devoted by the world to rest,
And needful to recruit exhausted nature ?
Say, can the voice of narrow Fame repay
The loss of health ? or can the hope of glory
Lend a new throb unto my languid heart,
Cool, even now, my feverish aching brow,
Relume the fires of this deep-sunken eye,
Or paint new colours on this pallid cheek ?”

- What a picture of mental suffering does the following passage present, and how impressive does it become when the fate of the original is remembered : “ These feverish dews that on my temples hang,

This quivering lip, these eyes of dying flame;
These, the dread signs of many a secret pang-.

· These are the meed of him who pants for fame !" Like so many other ardent students, the night was his favourite time for reading; and, dangerous as the habit is to health, who will not agree in his description of the pleasures which attend it ?

“ The night's my own, they cannot steal my night!
When evening lights her folding star on high,
I live and breathe ; and, in the sacred hours
Of quiet and repose, my spirit flies,
Free as the morning, o'er the realms of space,
And mounts the skies, and imps her wing for heaven.”

Kirke White's poetry is peculiarly adapted for popularity, since it chiefly describes feelings, passions, and associations, which all have felt, and with which all can sympathise. His productions emanated direct from his own heart, and appeal irresistibly to that of his reader. It is by no means rich in metaphor, nor does it evince unusual powers of imagination, but it is pathetic, plaintive, and in the highest degree pleasing. His meaning is always clear, and the force' and original vigour of his expressions are among his merits. In estimating his poetical powers, how

ever, it is necessary to recollect that nearly all his poems were written before he was nineteen ; and that they are, in truth, but the germs of future excellence, and ought not to be criticised as if they were the fruits of an intellect on which time and education had bestowed their advantages.

It is, however, in his prose works, and especially in his correspondence, that the versatility of his talents, his acquirements, his piety, and his moral excellence are most conspicuous.

A question arises with respect to him which, in the history of a young poet, is always important, but which Mr. Southey has not touched. Abundance of proof exists in his writings of the susceptibility of his heart; but we are not told whether he ever formed an attachment. In many of his pieces he speaks with tenderness of a female whom he calls Fanny; and in one of them, from which it appears that she was dead, he expresses his regard in no equivocal manner; but there are other grounds for concluding that his happiness was blighted by disappointed affection.

To his friend Mr. Maddock, in July, 1804, he observed :

“ I shall never, never marry. It cannot, must not be. As to affections, mine are already engaged as much as they ever will be, and this is one reason why I believe my life will be a life of celibacy. I love too ardently to make love innocent, and therefore I say farewell to it.”

« AnteriorContinuar »