also a contributor, and thus arose the written in that Bernesque style of error, long current among booksellers, ottava rima which was first introduced that Macaulay was one of the staff of into English literature by John HookThe Etonian.

ham Frere and then made popular by The strongest characteristic of Byron. The Byronic influence is Moultrie's early poems is perhaps naturally strong in Moultrie's juvenile their ideality. They are full of pas poems; and he himself was well aware sionate appeals to the spirit of ideal of this, as we see from an allusion in beauty, youthful dreams of poetry and one of his later works : love, and an eager, though modest and

“ My mind spell-bound beneath the strength hesitating anticipation of literary

Of Byron's genius in its prime." fame. One can

see that they are the creations of

a young genius He was also an attentive reader of whose poetic temperament had been Shelley, as we shall presently see, and fostered and quickened, as is the way, this at a time when Shelley's admirers and the natural way, with most young

were few.

Godiva and Maimune, pubgeniuses, at the expense of the philo- lished in The Etonian in 1820 and sophic faculty. There is no lack of 1821 respectively, are wonderful prowit, fancy, versatility, and power of ductions for an author who had only expression ; yet one feels the want of just ceased to be a schoolboy. In some more solid basis of thought and spite of the many digressions and pergreater earnestness of purpose.

It sonal allusions, which are too numerous can scarcely be doubted that Moultrie to be justified even by the license of to some extent furnished the original the Bernesque style, a tendency which of the character of Gerard Mont from the first was very marked in gomery, one of the imaginary mem Moultrie's writings, they have a sinbers of the staff of The Etonian. gular gracefulness of fancy and har“His genius,” so we read in that mony of versification, which by no magazine,

means lose their charm even by the

side of Byron's masterpieces in this “is a brilliant of the first water, but his talents have been suffered to run wild owing to their

metre. Godiva is so delightful a poem very luxuriance. I believe he had reached

that can well believe it found the perfection of human happiness, when favour

with readers of such having locked himself in his room this poetical diverse tastes as the critic Gifford and enthusiast indulged in sentimental tears over some favourite poem which he was reading

the poet Wordsworth. The former is aloud with energy and feeling. This sensi

said to have chuckled with pleasure bility often led Gerard into many other ex over some of its stanzas, and to have travagances, and he was looked upon as a

“ There can

now be no romantic visionary hy those of the common

doubt of Moultrie's powers.” Words mould."

worth expressed the opinion that Opinions will probably differ as to Godiva was superior to Beppo; and the comparative excellence of the though we may have a shrewd susgrave and the gay among Moultrie's picion that the author of The Excurearly writings. It seems to me that, sion was scarcely qualified to be a in spite of the deserved fame of My good critic of Bernesque humour, yet Brother's Grave, "the humorous it is possible that in this instance he Moultrie" is distinctly superior to was not far from the truth. There the pathetic; and he appears himself many passages of remarkable to have felt a natural inclination to beauty in Godiva, none perhaps better write in the humorous vein during than the following description of this period, whereas in the later Godiva's unrobing, which may bear poems the serious style is found to comparison even with the correspondpredominate. The four longest and ing passage in Lord Tennyson's poem, best of the early humorous pieces are

than which it is rather more diffuse.






The youthful Etonian must at least be being none other than Miss Fercredited with having anticipated a gusson, the young lady of Scotch Poet Laureate in the simile of family who afterwards became the summer moon balf-dipt in cloud.” poet's wife, while the “Genius from “ The lady rose from prayer, with cheek o'er

a fair western land,” who was subflush'd,

dued by the magic of the witch, is And eyes all radiant with celestial fire, evidently meant for the young SaloThe anguish'd beatings of her heart were

pian poet himself.

The poem is hushid, So calmly heavenward did her thoughts chiefly remarkable, from a literary aspire.

point of view, for its extraordinary A moment's pause—and then she deeply resemblance in some parts to Shelley's blush'd,

Witch of Atlas, first published among As, trembling, she unclasp'd her rich attire,

his Posthumous Poems in 1824, which And, shrinking from the sunlight, shone

Moultrie had evidently studied. confest

Shelley has himself been so often The ripe and dazzling beauties of her breast.

caught tripping, however “ And when her white and radiant limbs lay sciously, in the way of plagiarism, bare,

that it is interesting sometimes to The fillet from her brow the dame un

see the reverse side of the medal, bound, And let the traces of her raven hair

and to find another poet appropriating Flow down in wavy lightness to the title, ideas, cadences, and even words, ground,

from him. This Moultrie has done in Till half they veil'd her limbs and bosom

a very marked manner in his Witch fair, In dark and shadowy beauty floating

of The North, especially in the general round,

tone of the opening stanzas, describing As clouds, in the still firmament of June, the birth of the “lady-witch," and the Shade the pale splendours of the midnight account of her magic dwelling. In

such lines as, Maimune, though considerably lon

“The deep recesses of her inmost cell ger than Godiva and still more discur

Were garnished with strange treasuressive, is scarcely less delightful. The tale is partly drawn from the story of

when compared with Shelley's, Aladdin in The Arabian Nights; while “The deep recesses of her odorous dwelling Maimune, the fairy who gives her

Were stored with magic treasuresname to the poem, is a kind of Mab,

we recognise something more than a spiritual patroness and benefactress

the frequent indebtedness of one poet of the human race, a character which

to another; while the last stanza of seems to have been a favourite one

the poem is almost a reproduction, or with Moultrie, as it appears again in rather an inversion, of Shelley's conThe Witch of The North and Sir

clusion. Shelley declares that his is Launfal. The manner in which the freakish fancy of this benignant spirit

A tale more fit for the weird winter nights

Than for these garish summer days, when we planned and effected the union of a

Scarcely believe much more than we can see;" certain prince and princess, as in the case of Aladdin and the Sultan's while Moultrie says of his that daughter, is told with keen yet deli

“Such a strain cate humour, and in language of real Is fitter far for some calm summer eve, melody and beauty. The Witch of

Than for these merry winter nights, when we The North, dated November, 1821, is

begin to dream of Christmas revelry." another poem in ottava rima. Iu A resemblance so close as this can spite of the ideal treatment, and the hardly have been unconscious; yet it halo of allegorical and imaginative it noticeable that in Maimune Moulphantasy in which the subject is trie had already described a similar shrouded, the poem is in fact a subject in very similar, and equally piece of autobiography, the Witch beautiful, verse, at a date prior not


only to the publication, but even the appeared again in the collected edi. writing, of Shelley's Witch of Atlas. tions of Moultrie's works, and having The last of Moultrie's Bernesque poems been often reprinted in anthologies was Sir Launfal, a metrical romance, and books of extracts bas probably written when the author was still very been read more widely than any of young, and first published in Knight's his other writings. That so beautiful Quarterly Magazine under the title of and genuine a poem should have been La Belle Tryamour. It is a combina written by a boy at Eton, strikes one tion of fairy lore and Arthurian legend, as scarcely less than amazing; and it derived partly from a Spenserian is doubtful if the annals of English source. As a whole it is less suc literature could produce any stranger cessful than the poems already men instance of precocious genius. But tioned, the narrative being loose and none of Moultrie's other pieces on unequal, unduly spun out in some grave and pathetic subjects ever quite parts, and left unfinished at the close. reached this high standard : certainly Yet there are many very striking The Hall of My Fathers, the compassages and not a few interesting panion piece in The Etonian and allusiors, notably those to Shelley and written in a similar style, is far inhis Achates, Leigh Hunt, who is

ferior . in power

and originality. twitted with descending from the Among the other poems written friendship of “a vast though erring before 1828 there are many pleasing spirit” to that of Byron, the “mis- lyrics, songs, and sonnets, of which anthropic peer.” The following clever the best, and the best-known, lines burlesque on the ideal philosophy of are those headed “Forget Thee,” which Berkeley seems to indicate that Moul are said to have won Moultrie his trie's views becoming more bride and are full of passion and inmatter-of-fact and practical at the tense feeling

But with this exceptime when Sir Launfal was written. tion, there is little that can claim to

approach the excellence of first-rate “Oh, 'tis most soothing, when all objects seem

poetry; and there are many signs Wrapt in a sevenfold cloud of fear and

that Moultrie's poetic genius was To know they're nothing but a hideous already on the wane, and that while dream,

still retaining his old power of meloFrom which no doubt we shall awake

dious versification and vigorous ex: to-morrow To sober certainty of bliss supreme.

pression, he had lost much of the Hence consolation from all ills I borrow characteristic grace and fantastic By disbelieving with my whole ability beauty of his youthful style. Even All things that wear a shade of probability.

as early as 1820 he himself had misI don't believe in matter-nor in spirit; givings on this point, for we find him I don't believe that I exist, not 1,

writing in Godiva, in invocation of Nor you, Sir, neither--if you choose to

the Muse, swear it, I tell you, very fairly, that you lie ;

“Spirit which art within me, if in truth If you think fit to thresh me, I can bear it,

Thou dost exist in my soul's depths, and I Knowing the thumps in fact are all my Have not mistaken the hot pulse of youth eye,

And wandering thoughts for dreams of And that all sorts of fractures, hurts, and

poesy ;" bruises Are as unreal--as the patient chooses.”

while in Sir Launfal the youthful ainThe early reputation of “the

bition is spoken of as already fled. pathetic Moultrie” rested chiefly on " And that fond dream which lured me on My Brother's Grave, a short poem

for ever somewhat in the style of Byron's Through a long boyhood, saying I might Prisoner of Chillon, first published in

The poet's laurel with serene endeavour, The College Magazine and then in the

And write my name on an enduring urn, first number of The Etonian. It Hath now departed.”




Yet as late as 1835 Macaulay wrote portion of which on religious to Moultrie from India : “You might subjects. The pastor-poet would fain have done, and if you choose may still forget the wayward flights and dreamy do great things, but I cannot blame speculations of the boyish idealist. you if you despise greatness and are Yet it must be confessed that the content with happiness.” And again, general reader of Moultrie's works, in 1837, the Quarterly Review re to whom the poet is of more interest ferred to the first collected edition than the pastor, often sighs for the of Moultrie's poems, as “A small Gerard Montgomery of The Etonian, volume of such decided excellence as scapegrace though he was, and would to give the author at once a distin willingly exchange the equable tenor guished place amongst the younger of the Lays of The English Church poets of the day." But Moultrie, for the rapid and sparkling stanzas of however much he may have been Maimune or Godiva. Another blemish gratified by the encouragement of an in the later writings is their increased old college friend and the praise of a subjectivity. It has been already said critic not usually over-indulgent to that this tendency to dwell on personal rising poets, was too sensible and matters was from the first a marked modest not to perceive that the full feature in Moultrie's style, and it was height of his youthful ambition would now carried to excess, his family, never be realised. In the concluding friends, health, joys, sorrows, and stanzas which he added about this domestic life being his too frequent time to the fragment of Sir Launfal themes. In some few of the domestic he speaks of his "fancy's frozen pieces, notably in The Three Sons, a stream” as having ceased to flow poem which is said to have affected thirteen years before. Much had hap Arnold deeply, Moultrie succeeded in pened in those years; and time bad striking a chord of feeling common to added to Moultrie's character that many hearts; but in the majority of gravity and earnestness of purpose cases the result is less successful. Yet which had been lacking in youth; but it is apparent that he retained to the with the gain in moral dignity and last much of his characteristic vigour self-control, there had been (such was and clear, perspicuous style ; and this the perversity of fate !) a correspond is especially true of his sonnets, the ing loss in the imaginative and poetic most noteworthy of which are those faculty.

to Praed, Arnold, Macaulay, Dr. In 1822 Moultrie had taken his Chalmers, and Baptist Noel. One degree, and again found himself at addressed to Augustus Swift, a young Eton as private tutor to Lord Craven, American, was written as late as 1870, who three years later presented him yet is remarkable for its conciseness with the living of Rugby. He was and force. married in 1825, but did not enter In 1843 Moultrie published a volume on his duties at Rugby until 1828, the entitled The Dream of Life, Lays of year in which Arnold was appointed The English Church, and other poems. to the headmastership of Rugby School. The first of these is an autobiography Henceforth the tone of his writings in four books of blank verse, valuable underwent a great change. The bril less for its actual poetic merits, though liant and extravagant fancy of the early it has many fine descriptive passages, poems is not only succeeded by a more than for its very interesting allusions sober and homely style, but is referred to the author's life at Eton, mto in an apologetic manner as a youth- bridge, and Rugby, and the personal ful levity to be condoned and forgotten friends made by him at each period. by the indulgent reader, in considera There is a graphic account of the Eton tion of the “calm and serious thought” of Moultrie's school-days, to us the of the maturer writings, a large pro Eton of seventy years ago, with its

Long Chamber and theatricals, and Charles Austin, the “pale spare man much else that has now passed away, of high and massive brow"; Chauncey though the fagging, and the Fourth of Hare Townshend, another Etonian June, and the cricket-matches, remain poet, and his friend Charles Taylor; almost as Moultrie has pictured them. and last, the brilliant but ill-fated In the book devoted to life at Cambridge William Sydney Walker, whose mind we meet with still more interesting was clouded in early manbood by reminiscences. After an affectionate insanity. Moultrie's estimate of tribute to the memory of Praed, that Macaulay's genius, in its weakness “nature of the purest mould,” who as well as its strength, is particularly had died two years before The Dream clear-sighted. of Life was written, the poet proceeds

He was in truth to describe the manner of his college The king of Understanding, unapproach'd, career, bis intimate friendship with Unrivall'd in his own particular range Derwent Coleridge, and their daily

Of thought; and if that range was not the first, strolls to Grandchester, Cherry Hin

If there were regions into which his gaze

Pierced not-an intuition more profound ton, Trumpington, and Madingley, Than he affected-such deficiency sole village from the plague of Found ample compensation in the strength ugliness in that drear land exempt.”

And full perfection of his actual powers To this strolling propensity, by the

And the quick tact which wielded them." by, indulged in to the detriment of The final book of The Dream of Life mathematical studies, Moultrie attri is devoted to the subject of Moultrie's butes his own loss of diligence and marriage and his entry on his minisself-discipline; but one is inclined to terial duties at Rugby. The descripthink that in this retrospect he con

tion of Rugby, the “ little town, of fused consequence with cause ; for the various brick, irregularly built," with Moultrie described in The Dream of its surrounding tract of “hedgerow Life as forgetful of the claims “of upon hedgerow," possessing no charms

and squares and parallelo- for the poet but those of “verdure and grams is obviously only a later fertility,” is not calculated to give picture of the Gerard Montgomery of

entire satisfaction to patriotic RugThe Etonian, who “skimmed with beians, who may perhaps set it down volatile eagerness along the gayer to Moultrie's Etonian predilections. and more pleasing paths of litera Full justice, however, is done to the ture." Very animated is Moultrie's character of Arnold, the “first of account of the debates at the Cam Christian teachers," with whom Moulbridge Union, and the subsequent trie was on terms of cordial friendship, oyster-suppers in his rooms in Petty although they were men of very differCury, whither“ the leaders of the war

ent character. Here, too, it is reon either side ” would often adjourn corded how Wordsworth, the “mighty for further informal discussion. Those poet of the Lakes," once visited were indeed suppers of the gods, when Moultrie at Rugby, and conversed the company included Praed, the youth with him “on themes of loftiest “fresh from Etonian discipline” import." (words which have sometimes been The Lays of The English Church are wrongly understood as applying to a portion of an unfinished work, which the late Lord Derby); Macaulay, the was originally meant to be a succession one of ampler brow and ruder of poems founded on the epistles and frame”; Henry Malden, afterwards gospels of the Anglican liturgy; a kind Greek Professor at London University, of popular Christian Year, appealing to “grave and prone to silence"; Henry simpler and less cultivated readers than Nelson Coleridge, one of the staff of those of Keble. More noteworthy than The Etonian, and still “a comely these are the two Lays of The Parish, youth, though prematurely grey"; reminiscences respectively of the cares


« VorigeDoorgaan »