nay, we are afraid that the enthusiasm of taste has but too often overrated the effect of every fine art upon the national characterunless, indeed, the phrase is meant to denote merely the character of the higher ranks of society. This want of effect however must not be ascribed to any inherent inefficacy in the nature of poetry itself; but to the circumstances, which, in this case, have denied it the opportunity of proving its influence. In Greece, where its enjoyments were communicated through the medium of music to all ranks of the people, we have no doubt that poetry had great power in raising as well as refining the general character. Even the wild descauts of the rude minstrels of later times, have, in all forms, and most especially when accompanied by music, affected, in a marked and permanent manner, the characters of courts, and even of camps. We cannot but believe, therefore, that similar effects would have been produced by poetry upon our own commonalty if they had enjoyed similar advantages. Certainly, in the only case in which the experiment has been tried, we mean among our sailors, the result has been signally beneficial; and we should be wanting in justice if we did not add, highly creditable to the talents and feelings of the venerable bard who so patriotically devoted his genius to their service:

We admit that the temperament which disposes the soul to take fire at the beauties of poetry, must, in every state, be limited to a very small number; and we suspect that even these, considered as a body, are not the most moral class of the community. The warmth which makes them so feelingly alive to the charms of verse, is apt to lead them to the indulgence of less innocent emotions; and though they may be capable of a sudden exertion of virtue, yet that very propensity which disposes them to receive impressions so readily, occasic is these to be as readily effaced.

It is not however by this romantic kind of impression, that the most important bevefits of poetry are usually produced. These, we think, are more essentially promoted by that repugnance to every thing mean and ignoble, which becomes habitual from the study of nature in the purity of her poetical form; by the innocent, and at the same time agreeable direction which the pursuits of taste impart to the idler propensities of the mind; by the influence of generous and pathetic verse in keeping open those hearts which are in danger of being choked with the cares of business, or the still more hardening apathy of wealth; and, most of all, by that suavity of manner which the fine arts create and nourish, and which education and the unrestrained intercourse of good society are daily extending from the higher to the middling classes. It is not, in short, to strong impressions made on particular persons, but to the laudable babits and manners which a prevailing disposition to poetical pursuits insensi



bly insinuates into the whole social system, that we ascribe the benefit produced by poetry upon national character. That benefit is not a sudden luxuriance engendered by a partial inundation : it grows and ripens like the regular harvest of the season, fostered by the dews and silent rains of beaver).

These are some of our reasons for regretting, that the chief English poets have contributed so little toward a collection of songs worthy to accompany the bold and touching strains of music bequeathed by the bards of more romantic ages. We have stated our opinions rather largely, because we think that the present circumstances of society have given the subject more consequence than it ever possessed before. The abolition of those prejudices which so long condemned the female part of the community to intellectual idleness, has admitted a new and very numerous class to the enjoyments of poetry. Now, of all the poetry which women usually read, the verses that accompany their music form by far the most important portion. If then it be of consequence to form and guide the tastes and pursuits of those who are to be wives and mothers, we should encourage the genius of our lyric poets to its utmost attainable perfection. We should remember the flexibility of the female mind in early youth, and the readiness with which it receives either a good or an evil impulse. We should consider the extreme sensibility of women to the charms of music, and their sympathy with the tone of feeling, which the words connected with that music breathe. We should reflect too upon the striking effects which, in countries where such poems have been more highly valued, the songs of love, of war, and of patriotism have produced, not upon women only, but upon ' bearded men:' and thus be led to take a more liberal view of an art which, rightly directed, must be essentially conducive to the cultivation of the

warmest, and tenderest affections of the heart.

Before we proceed to the direct examination of Mr. Moore's poems, we must be permitted to say a few words about the qualities which we conceive to be the most essential in a song. The first requisite appears to be a decisive tone of feeling, whether joyous or melancholy, tender or heroic. In the next place, the versification, we think, should be free from all forced inversion ; a species of construction which saves the trouble of the writer by increasing that of the reader; which checks the flow of sympathy even at its crisis; and renders the representation of nature a distortion of her features and not a reflection,

We will mention only one more quality essential to a song, it should be very short. There is soine difficulty, no doubt, in producing a strong effect upon the feelings within the small compass of two or three stanzas ; but this makes it the more necessary

to allure superior talents into the undertaking. Ambition is not appalled by difficulties when honour lies beyond them; and if the reputation of song writing were placed on a more equal footing with that of other poetry, the additional toil which songs require would be counterbalanced by the more general circulation which their association with music usually obtains for them. In one or other of these requisites most of the older songs are obviously defective: and the praise of producing a large and interesting collection, not only free from cramp versification and prolixity, but distinguished for positive excellence, was reserved for the poet whose works are now before us.

Of his original and fatal error, the sacrifice of decorum at the altar of love, that crime for which, in his youth, he lost the world, and was content to lose it,' the present volumes happily retain no traces. The soul of his poetry has transmigrated into a purer form; and the verse, which once courted admiration by meretricious enticements alone, now steals to the heart with a surer interest, by the modesty which softens and consecrates the influence of beauty.

The most remarkable fault, in the plan of the present work, is a superabundance of ballads upon topics merely Irish. If Mr. Moore were a person whose writings were not calculated to extend beyond the varrow circle of a few discontented place-hunters in Ireland, he might strike his harp in vituperation of government until its strings cracked, without molestation from us; but as this work, not only from the author's previous fame, but from its own intrinsic merits, is likely to attract considerable attention, we put it to Mr. Moore's own judgment, whether he would not have consulted his reputation more effectually by excluding all topics of a local or political nature; topics, which by impartial readers are generally scanned with indifference, and by no small number of zealous partisans with absolute disgust. At the same time it is but justice to confess that there are some of this class (particularly the third song in the third number, beginning Oh! blame not the bard) of which, in our opinion, the energy and pathos have seldom been exceeded.

In the next place, it must be observed, that our poet is but too prone to run into strained, incorrect, and remote resemblances, so that he becomes confused, and sometimes even unintelligible. Yet he has the skill to disguise his inaccuracies in language so elegant, and melody so lulling, that though the fallacy be perceptible to the reader, the hearer is almost inevitably deceived.

There are also two or three songs in the collection, partaking of that character which, for want of a more classical title, has been usually styled, the namby-pamby. Such are, While gazing on


the moon's light,' in the third number, and What the bee is to the flowret,' in the fourth. There are also a few, though but a few, which have no striking beauty, and no glaring demerit.

But, when we have set aside all those passages which are faulty for political and local partialities, or the intermixture of false and far-fetched thoughts, or the introduction of incoherent metaphors and epithets, or a simplicity bordering upon childishness, or the mere absence of positive merit—there will still be left a large body of songs, exhibiting, we venture to say, a greater variety, and a higher tone of excellence than this order of poetry has often before attained. The most careless reader must be struck by the imagery of the following stanza : there is an old tradition that Lough Neagh suddenly rose above its level, and overwhelmed a whole region : long after which event, according to Giraldus, the fishermen, in clear weather, used to point out to strangers the tall ecclesiastical towers, still rearing themselves beneath the waters.'

« On Lough Neagh's bank as the fisherman strays,

When the clear cold eve's declining,
He sees the round towers of other days,

In the wave beneath him shining !
Thus shall memory often, in dreams sublime,

Catch a glimpse of the days that are over,
Thus, sighing, look thro' the waves of time,

For the long-faded glories they cover.' In the delineation of that deep and settled melancholy, which affects the heart with a dead, yet aching heaviness, and makes life appear a blank, uninteresting alike in its pleasures and its pains, Mr. Moore is peculiarly successful.

As a beam o'er the face of the waters may glow,

While the tide runs in darkness and coldness below,
So the cheek may be tinged with a warm sunny smile,
Tho'the cold heart to ruin runs darkly the while.
One fatal remembrance, one sorrow, that throws
Its bleak shade alike o'er our joys and our woes,
To which life nothing darker or brighter can bring,
For which joy has no balm, and affliction no sting ;-

Oh, that thought in the midst of enjoyment will stay,' &c. &c. Nor is he less so, where a gleam of gaiety is admitted to relieve the sadness of the sentiment; as in the eighth song of the first number: · think not my spirits are always as light,

And as free from a pang, as they seem to you now;
Nor expect that the heart-beaming smile of to-night
Will return with to-morrow, to brighten my brow;-




No, life is a waste of wearisome hours,

Which seldom the rose of enjoyment adorns !
And the heart that is soonest awake to the flowers,

Is always the first to be touch'd by the thorns !
But send round the bowl, and be happy awhile;

May we never meet worse in our pilgrimage here,
Than the tear that enjoyment can gild with a smile,

And the smile that compassion can turn to a tear!
The thread of our life would be dark, Heaven knows!

If it were not with friendship and love intertwined :
And I care not how soon I may sink to repose,

When these blessings shall cease to be dear to my mind!
But they who have lov'd the fondest, the purest,

Too often have wept o'er the dream they believ'd:
And the heart, that has slumber'd in friendship securest,

Is happy indeed if 'twas never deceiv'd !
But send round the bowl; while a relic of truth

Is in man or in woman, this pray'r shall be mine :-
That the sunshine of love may illumine our youth,

And the moonlight of friendship console our decline ! In exhibiting those middle tints of emotion, which interest without agitating the bosom, Mr. Moore has great merit: • Oh the days are gone, when beauty bright

My heart's chain wove:
dream of life, from morn till night,
Was love, still love.
New hope may bloom,

And days may come,

Of milder, calmer beam:
But there's nothing half so sweet in life,

As love's young dream-
Oh! there's nothing half so sweet in life,

As love's young dream.
Tho' the bard to purer fame may soar,

When wild youth's past,
Tho' he win the wise, who frown'd before,

To smile at last, -
He'll never meet

A joy so sweet,

In all bis noon of fame,
As when first he sung to woman's ear

His soul-felt flame,
And, at every close, she blush'd to hear

The one lov'd name.
Oh! that hallow'd form is ne'er forgot
Which first love traced ;

When my

« VorigeDoorgaan »