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a boy's conceit,” took first hold of my imagination,—and that sun has to me never set!'
While we sympathise in all Mr Hazlitt's sentiments of reverence for the mighty works of the older time, we must guard against that exclusive admiration of antiquity, rendered fashionable by some great critics, which would induce the belief that the age of genius is past, and the world grown too old to be romantic. We can observe in these Lectures, and in other works of their author, a jealousy of the advances of civilization as lessening the dominion of fancy. But this is, we think, a dangerous error; tending to chill the earliest aspirations after excellence, and to roll its rising energies back on the kindling soul.' There remains yet abundant space for genius to possess; and science is rather the pioneer than the impeder of its progress. The level roads, indeed, which it cuts through unexplored regions, are, in themselves, less fitted for its wanderings, than the tangled ways through which it delights to stray; but they afford it new glimpses into the wild scenes and noble vistas which open near them, and enable it to deviate into fresh scenes of beauty, and hitherto unexplored fastnesses. The face of Nature changes not with the variations of fashion. One state of society may be somewhat more favourable to the development of genius than another ; but wherever its divine seed is cast, there will it strike its roots far beneath the surface of artificial life, and rear its branches into the heavens, far above the busy haunts of common mortals.
ART. XI. Marcian Colonna, an Italian Tale, with Three Dramatic Scenes, and other Poems. By BARRY CORNWALL. 8vo.
Warren, London, 1820.
If it be the peculiar province of Poetry to give delight, this
author should rank very high among our poets: And, in spite of his neglect of the terrible passions, he does rank very high in our estimation. He has a beautiful fancy and a beautiful diction—and a fine ear for the music of verse, and great tenderness and delicacy of feeling. He seems, moreover, to be altogether free from any tincture of bitterness, rancour or jealousy; and never shocks us with atrocity, or stiffens us with horror, or confounds us with the dreadful sublimities of demoniacal energy. His soul, on the contrary, seems filled to overflowing with images of love and beauty, and gentle sorrows, and tender pity, and mild and holy resignation. The character of his poetry is
to soothe and melt and delight: to make us kind and thoughtful and imaginative-to purge away the dregs of our earthly passions, by the refining fires of a pure imagination, and to lap us up from the eating cares of life, in visions so soft and bright, as to sink like morning dreams on our senses, and at the same time so distinct and truly fashioned upon the eternal patterns of nature, as to hold their place before our eyes long after they hare again been opened on the dimmer scenes of the world.
Why this should not be thought the highest kind of poetry, we profess ourselves rather at a loss to explain ;—and certainly are ourselves often in a mood to think that it is so; and to believe that the more tremendous agitations of the breast to which the art has so often been made subservient, have attracted more admi. ration, and engrossed more talent, than ought in justice to have been assigned them. The real lovers of poetry, we suspect, will generally incline their ears most willingly to its softer and more winning strains-nor can we believe that it was for them that its more tumultuous measures were invented. Men of delicate sensibility and inflammable imaginations, do not require the stronger excitement of those boisterous and agonizing emotions, without which it may be difficult to rouse the sympathies of more tardy and rugged natures. The poetical temperament is intrinsically dreamy and contemplative; and subsists in passionate imaginings, and beautiful presentments of the fancy. Wrath and scorn and misanthropy, are scarcely among its natural elements. It has but little legitimate affinity with horror and agony, and • none at all with aversion and disgust; nor is it easy to conceive that it should very long maintain its attraction where the predominating feelings it excites are those of dread, astonishment, and disdain. Some strong and gloomy spirits there may be, that really enjoy the stormy trouble of the elements; but the greater and the better part of the lovers of poetry will always be happy to escape to milder and more temperate regions, and to pursue their meditations among enchantments of a more engaging character, and forms of a gentler aspect.
Of such enchantments Mr Cornwall is a great master; and we are happy to meet him again, with his train of attendant spirits. This volume is very like the two former; and we need not here repeat what we have so lately said of their general character. There is the same pervading sweetness--the same gentle pathos—the same delicacy of fancy, and the same fine finishing of verse and of diction--together with something of the same mannerism, and the same occasional weakness.
• Marcian Colonna,' which stands so conspicuously in the title-page, is the longest poem which the author has yet attempt
.ed—and perhaps shows, on the whole, more power than he has yet given proof of. But it is not very excellent as a story; and its great charm consists in the beauty of detached passages; —though the whole is very sweetly harmonized by a prevailing tone of tenderness and melancholy. The hero is the younger son of the proud Colonna family ; ---and being a little touched with insanity, is sent to the lonely convent of Laverna, that no gloom may rest on the happy walks and bright prospects of his elder brother-and there the forgotten youth pines and languishes for years. The following passages will show at once the spirit of poetry and beauty which breathes through even the least animated portions of the story.
• There is a lofty spot.
To live for ever—what dengits were there
To save a heart so young from perishing there?' pp. 16–18. In the mean time, all is mirth and joy in the Colonna palace, now delivered from this gloomy inmate—and the happy heir is destined to the lovely Julia.
• On that same night of mirth Vitelli came
Those gentle things to which she answered not. pp. 13, 14. The fortunate youth, however, is killed in a duel—the fair Julia is married to an unsuitable husband, and Marcian is recullel, though still a little strange and moody, to carry on the representation of the family. Julia's husband is providentially drowned, and she returns to the home of her fathers, very pale and lovely. Marcian and she had scen each other in early youth, and he had had dreams and visions of her in his convent retreat-and they are now troubled in each other's presence; but part without speaking. The following account of this second meeting is very sweet and beautiful.
• One night--one summer night he wandered far Into the Roman suburbs; Many a star
Shone out above upon the silent hours,
up in homage to the quiet moon.
To catch an old disused melody, pp. 34-36. He finds, by her song, that he is remembered and beloved -and he tells his love, and is accepted-and, after some alarms about his malady, they are united in fullness of bliss and innocence.
Sleep sofily, on your bridal pillows, sleep,