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is disposed to claim for it. Neither in the fancy nor the form of this graceful poem is there aught for the ripeness of age, with all its gathered cultivation, refinement, and experience, to blush at or disown. The central figure, one of the grandest in our literary annals, is sketched with a loving reverence; the thread of romance is justifiably amplified, but not strained beyond the limits of the probable, whilst the accessories are all in perfect keeping and subordination. The result of the whole is a noble picture of the bard of Comus, in his youth, manhood, and age, connected by reference to a tradition which most of us cherish, but which Sir Bulwer Lytton's muse has woven into consistency. Were it not that there is, we fear, some foundation for the author's elsewhere expressed suspicion that his poems are not much read by his countrymen of the present day, it would be superfluous to remind our readers that the tale we allude to is based upon the legend of the Italian lady, who chanced to find the young poet asleep on some primrose bank or violet-spangled dell of his native country, and, struck with admiration, left by his side an epigram by a poet of her own land, Guarini, appreciative of his singular beauty. In his unfinished Life of Milton Mr. Masson is hardhearted enough to write, The story is a myth belonging to the lives of other poets besides Milton.' And in the account of the poet's life and writings prefixed to Todd's edition, suspicion is also cast upon it. What will this severe scepticism leave us, if it proceeds thus? In this case it matters less, as Mr. Masson is constrained to accept the poet's seventh Latin Elegy as an admission of a love-tale equally romantic, and a vision of beauty equally haunting. Myth or no myth, the story, which had before given occasion for a pretty sonnet by Miss Seward, found favour in the youthful eyes of Sir Bulwer Lytton, and grew into a poem rich in a profusion of gems of fancy, and flowers of nature and description. The parts of the poem divide themselves according to the epochs of the love which the supposed first interview enkindled. The first part contains the accidental first meeting, and the realisation of the dream to which it gave rise in the young poet's mind at a second rencontre beneath the skies of Italy. In the second part the serene present of the happy lovers becomes overclouded by the calls which conscience makes upon the enthusiastic Milton to return home and assist in the struggle of oppressed liberty, as well as by the sudden appearance of some shadowy guardian, whose bidding, though it tears her from her lover, the fair Italian dares not disobey. The remainder of the poem is concerned with the last days of the poet, his efforts in his country's cause, and the evil times and solitude which were his recompense for patriotism. The worn-out blind old man is revisited by a female pilgrim from far shores, who has come to look her last upon the love of her youth, but who retires without reviving either the pleasures or the pangs of memory. So much for the structure of the poem. Of its beauties one of the most striking is a descriptive passage in the first part, presenting to us that evening on which, after an Italian fête, the lady of his dreams is revealed to Milton in a bodily shape. It must have been much quoted, we feel sure ; for few passages of its kind are worthier of place in a gallery of selections. Two little jottings from it must serve for our sample of its merits as a whole, and our recommendation of it to the study of our readers. Nature and fancy kiss each other in this pretty thought


* And--wearied infants on earth's gentle breast

In every nook the little field-flowers slept.'—P. 179. Nor less so in the following image of the nightingale's song :


aye, from out her watch-tower in the tree,
The music which a falling leaf might mar,
So faint- t-so faery seemed it of the bird

Transform'd at Daulis, thrillingly was heard.'-P. 179. If further illustration were needed of the grace with which the sweetest thoughts of antiquity are endued, in Sir E. Lytton's poetry, with youthful freshness, we would cite the brief but very touching expression of the famous lines of Moschus, beginning “ai, ai, tai palágai,' in the concluding lines of the first part of this

poem on Milton :-
• Flowers bloom again—leaves glad once more the tree!

Poor life—there comes no second Spring to thee!' But it were unfair both to poet and poem not to find space for one lengthier extract; and here is one, which will excellently exhibit the author's power to portray Nature and to invest it with a soul—the mission, we conceive, of a true poet. The lovers are met at their yet undisturbed trysting-place:

All nature was a treasury which their hearts
Rifled and coin'd in passion: the soft grass,
The bee's blue palace in the violet's bell;
The sighing leaves which, as the day departs,
The light breeze stirreth with a gentle swell;
The stiller boughs blent in one emerald mass,
Whence, rarely floating liquid eve along,
Some unseen linnet sent its vesper song;
All furnish'd them with images and words,
And thoughts that spoke not, but lay hush'd like pray'r;
Their love made life one melody, like birds,
And circled earth with its own rosy air.




What in that lovely climate doth the breast
Interpret not into some sound of love ?
Canst thou e'en gaze upon the hues that rest,
Like the god's smile, upon the pictured dream
Limned on mute canvas by the golden Claude,
Nor feel thy pulses as to music move?
Nor feel thy soul by some sweet presence awed ?
Nor know that presenco by its light, and deem
The landscape breathing with a voice divine,

“ Love, for the land on which ye gaze is mine?”?—P. 188. A wooer of nature in her sweetest moods could alone have caught so many of her minuter features as are grouped in the earlier verses of this passage: the poet-soul alone could have given the spiritual touches to the picture, and have localised so happily the special abode and realm of Love. We pass by other beauties—for extracts do scant justice—and content ourselves with directing the attention of our readers to one fine passage which

may interest them, as showing how a Conservative statesman of to-day can appreciate the results of that struggle for liberty, in aid of which Milton wrote and strove. We prefer to extract, as our last loan from this poem, the sketch of the blind old man sitting before that deathless tree, which bloomed his humble dwelling-place beside,' in the dark evening of his days. The passage is not the less affecting, from the inlaying of familiar lines which even a careless reader of Milton will recognise :

• The old man felt the fresh air o'er him blowing,
Waving thin locks from musing temples pale ;
Felt the quick sun through cloud and azure going,
And the light dance of leaves upon the gale,
In that mysterious symbol-change of earth
Which looks like death, though but restoring birth.
Seasons return; for him shall not return
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn.
Whatever garb the mighty mother wore,
Nature to him was changeless evermore.-
List, not a sigh !—though fall’n on evil days,
With darkness compass'd round—those sightless eyes
Need not the sun ; nightly he sees the rays,
Nightly he walks the bowers of Paradise,
High, pale, still, voiceless, motionless, alone,
Deathlike in calm as monumental stone,
Lifting his looks into the farthest skies,
He sate : and as when some tempestuous day
Dies in the hush of the majestic eve,
So on his brow—where grief has pass'd away-
Reigns that dread stillness grief alone can leave.'-P. 205.



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The tale of Constance, which follows, is more remarkable for the skill with which its author diversifies exquisite sketches of rural scenery with clever cartes de visite,' so to speak—of his * dramatis persona'-than for the plot or pleasantness of the story. Yet one can forgive the introduction even of so unpleasant a character as Harcourt into it, for the neat satire which hits off the mercenary nature of his attentions to the heroine :

• High-born, yet poor, no Corydon was he,

To dream of love, and cots in Arcady,
His tastes were like the Argonauts of old,

And only pastoral, if the fleece was gold.-P. 215. A happier feature in this poem is the ease with which the author sprinkles his narrative with reflections, pertinent to it, yet indicative of his own keenness of observation. Thus when Constance, listed by marriage with an Earl into the first circles of London society, marvels at the absence of rank's harsh outlines' in the intercourse with the

poet thus takes


his text:-
"As Power and Genius interchange their hues,
So genial life the classic charm renews:
Some Scipio still a Terence may refine,
Some graced Augustus prompt a Maro's line.
The polish'd have their flaws, but least espied
Among the polish'd is the angle pride.
And howsoever Envy grudge their state,

Their own bland laws democratize the great.'—P. 242. It is this same vein of polished reflection that gives so great a charm to Sir Edward's clever sketch of St. Stephen's, past and present, where a happy couplet embalms the memory of one statesman, or gently hits the besetting weakness of another. A propos of Constance, it will occur to our readers that its hero, Ruthven, recalls the Audley Egerton of My Novel.' Both

: make politics their Bethesda, and return night after night to a homeless home :

• The sight of Home the frown of life renewed :

The World gave fame, and Home a solitude.' But Constance, and the true story, Eva, which succeeds it, have their drawbacks in the painfulness of their plots. In the case of the latter this is so much so, that it goes far to mar the beauty and grace of the versification. A finer poem is the strange story of The Beacon,' wherein a lone watcher, who has proved his selfchosen solitude unendurable, finds borne unwittingly to his barren rock the very man whose treason has made him loathe humanity. The first impulse is revenge; the second and stronger, a yearning towards the voice and face of a fellow-man:

• O Heaven !


O Heaven! methinks from thy soft skies
Looked tearful down the angel eyes :

Back to those walls to mark them go-
Hand clasp'd in hand—the Foe and Foe!
And when the sun sank slowly there,
Low knelt the prayerless man in prayer,
He knelt, no more the lonely one;

Within, secure, a comrade sleeps;
That sun shall not


down upon
A desert in the deeps.
He knelt-the man who half, till then,
Forgot his God in loathing men.
He knelt and prayed that God to spare
The Foe to grow the Brother there;
And reconciled by love to Heaven,

Forgiving-was he not forgiven?'-P. 303. But, to give up quotation, except where it seems essential to our concluding estimate of Sir E. B. Lytton's poetry, and to leave unnoticed, with regret, some of the best poems in the collection, The Parcæ,' and The Souls of Books,' a poem that should be welcome to those who think, with Cicero, that to add a library to a house, is to give that house a soul,' we shall proceed to consider whether his poetic genius assimilates to that of any foregone poet or poets, or whether he steers his bark along an untracked sea-path, disdaining trodden ways, and making originality his guiding-star. It is a little difficult to determine this question, for an author so learned, so ambitious, so varied, and so versatile, is sure to approach, almost unconsciously, one or other master of song in the changeful music of his lyre. But there is no difficulty to critic in discerning, and no shame to poet in owning, one special object of imitation, wherever admissiblewe mean the poetry of Greece and Rome, the classic fable-lore, the riches of mythology, the Virgilian polish, the elegiac sweetness of Ovid and Propertius. Indeed, the assiduity with which Sir Edward courts the Classic Muse, and borrows her images, her Fauns, and Naiads, and Dryads, may have something to do with the scanty favour which these poems have yet obtained. A matter-of-fact age undervalues all poetry, most of all that which seems to require a classical dictionary. Yet here is the fountain, of which all who would .build the lofty rhyme' must drink; here, till the world's end, lies the storehouse of poetic fine gold, from which every intelligent votary of song must continue to borrow. Our author has drunk copiously of this well, and borrowed largely from this' storehouse, but never, we submit, unseasonably or disproportionately; never, unless led to do so by

a kindred

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