Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

• from

[ocr errors]

tured spirit howling with rage and horror as or mispresentment of the “very virtuous it knows not what, save that it is the dim maid,” is true enough; but when, with every phantasmagoria of the hell it ever bears wish to rid our mind of prejudice and prewithin itself ? What are those thoughts ? possession, we strive to realize what ShaksWe must first be damned eternally ere we peare meant Isabel to be, how he regarded can know. And yet Shakespeare in half a her, and what place he desired for her in the dozen words has made us feel what they must heart of the great world, which is just, --- we be.” If the comment is daringly expressed, find it impracticable to recognize Mr. White's at least it is in harmony with the daring mys- version, and are only too glad to escape, in tery of the thrilling text, of imagination all this instance, from the refracting medium of compact.

the critic to the poet's fontal light. “I shrink,” There is an excellent analysis of the seem- says Mr. White, on one occasion, ingly inconsistent character of Oliver, in “As thrusting myself between my readers and you Like It.” “He is not a mere brutal, their spontaneous admiration of Shakspeare.” grasping elder brother ; but being somewhat It is not often that his presence is felt to be morose and moody in his disposition, he first obtrusive, or that we are not happy in his envied and then disliked the youth who, al- aid; but here it is otherwise. In Isabella, though his inferior in position, is so much in Mr. White sees an “embodiment of the iciest, the heart of the world, and especially of his the most repelling continence.” She is a proown people, that he himself is altogether mis- fessional pietest, chaste by the card. She is prised. The very moody disposition which deliberately sanctified, and energetically vir

“ makes bim less popular than his younger tuous.” She is “a pedant in her talk, a prude brother, led him to nourish this bitter dislike, in her notions, and a prig in her conduct.” till it became at length the bitter hate which Hers is a “ porcupine purity." "She has sohe shows in the first scene of the play. Had lemnly made up her mind to be chaste.” Oliver been less appreciative of the good in “She has a dreadfully rectangular nature, is others, and less capable of it himself, he an accomplished and not very scrupulous diawould not have turned so bitterly against Or- lectician, and thinks it proper to be benevolando. It is quite true to nature that such lent only when she has the law on her side." a man should be overcome entirely, and at “She is utterly without impulse.” “ No wononce, by the subsequent generosity of his bro- der,” Mr. White in his contemptuous bitterther, and instantly subdued by simple, earnest ness can say, “that Lucio tells her, Celia. But his sudden yielding to sweet and noble influences is not consistent with the

-if you should need a pin, character of the coarse, unmitigated villain You could not with more tame a tongue desire it. whom we see upon the stage, and who is the monstrous product, not of Shakespeare, but But it is very questionable whether Isabella of those who garble Shakespeare's text." was womanish enough to need a pin, she Equally true is Mr. White's refusal of the probably used buttons,-or would bave done stage version of Jacques, as a melancholy, so had she lived now-a-days. It may be untender-hearted young man, with sad eyes and charitable, perhaps, to accuse her of having a sweet voice, talking morality in most musi- an eye to the reversion of the points with cal modulation. “Shakespeare's Jacques,” which Claudio tied his doublet and hose; on the contrary, “is a morose, cynical, quer- but her indifference to his death looks very ulous old fellow, who has been a bad young like it.” A sorry jest, but in keeping with one. He does not have sad moments, but the sorry argument of Shakspeare's Scholar. 'sullen fits,' as the Duke says. His melan. But again : she is a “sheriff in petticoats,” choly is morbid ; and is but the fruit of that of an “impassibility absolutely frightful" and utter loss of mental tone which results from “cold blooded barbarity.” Her spirit is years of riot and debauchery.” Among other “utterly uncompassionate," “ pitiless,” “inShakspearian creations characterized by Mr. human, not to say unwomanly," in her interWhite with more or less felicity and detail, view with her doomed brother, and the lanare, Falstaff, Glo'ster, Angelo, Bottom, Viola, guage she uses repulsively “obdurate” and Desdemona, Rosalind, and Imogen.

* savage." She is Shakspeare's ideal of the But the essay on Isabella appears to us a "unfeminine, repulsive, monstrous," in wopiece of perverted ingenuity. That by a dili man—of the too much brain and too little gent aggregation of certain particulars in her heart. “Its unloveliness was not to deter actions and speeches, an air of plausibility him from the task. ... He drew an Iago may be thrown over Mr. White's presentmeni, I and an Angelo among men; among women,

а

why should he hold his hand from a Lady loves him, she is jealous of his honor, and Macbeth and an Isabella ?" As for her her own involved in his,—and she could marriage with the irresolute laissez-faire-lov- weep tears of joy to see him bow meekly to ing, eaves-dropping Duke, which Mr. Hal- the impending fate, as the guaranty of his lam calls“ one of Shakspeare's hasty half reconcilement with God, and of her union thoughts,” Mr. White's only scruple, if any, with him in spirit by ties the sweetest and is, that the poor Duke had too bad a bar- most hallowed, though impalpable hencegain. “She, after having listened to his ar- forth to gross and grovelling sense, -rather, guments, probably found him guilty—not of oh how much rather than tears of shame, love, that would have been un pardonable-such as must scald the saintly maiden's but of preference of a female, under extenua- cheeks, to say nothing of the wasting and ting circumstances, and-married him. He corroding thoughts that lie too deep for needed a 'grey mare ;' and Shakspeare, with tears, if her father's son made election of the his unerring perception of the eternal fitness life that now is, instead of the life which is of things, gave bim Isa’ella.Such is Mr. i to come. The shock she experiences as the White's interpretation of the character which humiliating truth dawns on her, is expressed we regard as Shakspeare's embodiment of in a vehemence of emotion, stormy enough noblest womanhood, in its religious phase,- to prove that, pace Mr. White, Isabella is not a creature so pure and intense in her heaven- "utterly without impulse." But in good ward aspirations, that she cannot conceive sooth, there needs but a certain gift of spethe possibility of utter baseness and renegade cial pleading, and a steady one-sidedness of treason against Heaven, in one so near to her view, to do with any other of Shakspeare's as her brother; devoutly fixed as her own women what Mr. White has done with the eye is on things unseen and eternal, not on votaress already abused by Mrs. Lenox-to things seen and temporal ; immovably fixed make Rosalind a mere prurient foul-talker, as her affections are on things above, not on Perdita a forward minx, Ophelia an impurethings on earth : for she walks by faith, and minded and double-tongued trifler, Hermione not by sight; and because she loves her a harsh unforgiving piece of austerity, with brother dearly, she would have him die at no more of milk in her bosom or warm blood once, in penitence and hope, that, the once in her veins than the statue she finally and for-all death past, the judgment after death fitly represented. may not leave him reprobate; because she

The FRENCH AND THE English Contras- | keep a journal of what you observe, and it is TED.—The following incident was, some years disliked extremely by the government. I ago, related by baron Brunnow, late Russian advise you to burn your journal immediately, ambassador at our court, to Dr. Lee, and otherwise you will run the risk of being which the latter bas recorded in his work on thrown into prison.” He immediately cast the “ Last Days of the Emperor Alexander," his journal into the fire, and it was consumed. etc. The anecdote, however, has previous- The same evening the English nobleman ly been published. “An English nobleman waited upon him, and M. de Montesquieu reand the celebrated M. de Montesquieu once lated the circumstance, and expressed himmet at Venice, and were comparing the En- self very uneasy at the thought of being subglish and French nations. M. de Montes jected to imprisonment. The Englishman obquieu maintained, that the French were much served,“ Now you see the difference between more intelligent and acute than the English. the English and French : had this happened The Englishman did not contradict bim, al- to an Englishman he would have considered though he did not give his assent entirely, the probability of this, or at least have enbeing prevented by politeness from contra- deavored to avoid it; he would certainly not dicting him. Every night M. de Montes have thrown his journal into the fire as you quieu committed to paper what had passed have done. I sent the Italian to see how during the day. On the following morning you would act on this occasion, for the purafter this conversation, an Italian entered the pose of showing you the difference between apartments of the marquis, and said, “ You | the two nations."

From the North British Review.

WILLIAM COWPER.*

dried up?

It is a favorite saying in the present day, that whilst we are coioing one metal into anthat “the tendencies of the age are essenti- other, the brain-coinage of that great ideal ally prosaic.” The precise meaning which currency, which is more enduring than iron these words are intended to convey may not and stone, must necessarily be suspended ? be very clearly understood by the majority Does it mean that the aliment of poetry is of those who utter them; but they seem to vanishing from off the face of the earthembody a general idea of the unpoetical that external and internal beauty, are both character of the times. There is a confused ceasing to be—that inanimate nature is more notion in men's minds, that the Practical and formal and the human mind more prosaic ; the Ideal not only cannot associate, but can- that the seasons do not alternate, nor men's not co-exist one with the other-that the hearts pulse as they were wont; that mevoice of Fact must bellow down the voice of chanism has usurped the world, and gross Fiction—that the clangings of our iron must selfishness the people ;-in a word, that the drown the harpings of our bards-that be sources of imaginative inspiration are utterly cause we can travel on a straight road, at the rate of forty miles an hour, the excur. Or is it meant, that although the few may sions of the imagination and the wanderings write poetry, the many will not read it; that of Fancy must be disregarded for evermore our minds, barnessed, as it were, in a go-cart that the generation which bas tunnelled of one utilitarian pursuit or another, have no Box-hill can never care to climb Parnassus. sympathy with anything of which the answer All this is in effect so often repeated, in to the cui bono does not lie

upon

the surface; one form or another, that its truth has been that we have by one consent adopted the taken for granted by multitudes of men who Benthamite doctrine that Poetry has no echo and re-echo the cry; and still we are greater claims than Push-pin upon mankind, told that the age is unpoetical, and that the and in this “money making age,” arrived present generation is a generation of worship- generally at a conclusion that it “ does not pers at the great shrine of Matter-of-Fact. pay.” Is it meant that we have too much But what, after all, is the meaning of the cry? to do with the literature of fact—that what Does it mean, that given up as we are to with our Blue Books and Statistics, our materialities-laying down iron roads by Mark Lane Expresses, our Rail way, our Minhundreds of miles; spanning immense rivers ing, and our Building Journals, our Associawith arches of stone; flashing messages tions for the Advancement of Science, our along electric wires with the speed of the Sanitary Commissions, and our endless offilightning ; covering the seas with magic fire-cial reports on every conceivable subject, we ships ; multiplying by the same mysterious have no time to read anything that is not agency testile fabrics not wrought by hands, designed primarily to teach us to make money of a beauty and a splendor such as Solomon or to take care of ourselves ? Is it meant in all his glory never dreamt of-the intel that all iron has so eaten its way upon earth, ligence and the inventiveness of the age ex- that the sublimest and the sweetest hymnpend themselves upon projects of utilitarian- ings of the bard cannot rouse in the breasts ism, and intent upon the palpable realities of the many one sympathetic emotion ? before us, we have neither eyes to “glance

In whichever direction the interpretation from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,” of the popular aphorism is to be found, we nor wings to bear us up in illimitable space; pronounce it without a misgiving, to be a

rank and offensive fallacy. The smoke of a * Poetical Works of William Cowper. Edited steam-vessel may sometimes obscure the sun by ROBERT BELL. 3 Vols., 1854. [Annotated from the loiterers upon deck; but all the Edition of the English Poets, by ROBERT BELL, Author of the “ History of Russia,', " Lives of the steam in the world, or the material tendeng lish Poets," &c. v.d.]

cies of wbich it is the representative, could

as readily put out the sun as they could put marring the beauty of the country, because out poetry. As long as there is sunshine; here and there may be seen an unsightly as long as there are moon and stars; sky enbankment, consider that there are thouand cloud; green fields and sweet flowers; sands and thousands amongst us, who but for the changing ocean, and the human heart these iron roads, would never see the country which contains the likeness of them all, the at all. The Rail is, indeed, the great openfew will sing and the many will listen. To sesame of Nature. It is the key that unus, indeed, this would seem to be a truism locks her choicest treasures to the overscarcely worth uttering, if it had not been in worked clerk and the toil-worn mechanic, effect so often contradicted. We are utterly and brings all sweet sounds and pleasant at a loss for a reason why it should be other sights and fragrant scents within the reach wise. There is room enough in the world of men who else would know of nothing that both for Poetry and Steam. A man is not is not foul, unsightly, and obstreperous. less likely to be endowed with “the vision What is this but to say that the Rail is a and the faculty divine," or less likely to ad- great teacher, educating both head and heart, mire its manifestations in others, because his preparing the few to utter, and the many to father goes up to London every day, with a appreciate the utterances of Poetry.

season ticket” in his pocket, from the fair All this may be conceded; and yet it may hills of Surrey or the green woods of Berk- still, perhaps, be alleged that ihe age is essenshire, instead of travelling in the Brixton or tially a prosaic one. An increasing addicClapham omnibus along the old high road; tion, it may be said, to the study of the or because he himself can rush from the exact sciences is as much an effect as a cause smoke and din of the metropolis in a few of all those great material improvements hours,—

which are the growth and the characteris tic

of the civilization of the nineteenth century. To see the children sporting on the shore, And it is assumed that Science and Poetry And hear the mighty waters rolling evermore ;

are the antagonists, not the help-meets and

handmaids of each other. But most true is to bury himself deep in a mighty wood, or it of our civilization, thatto ascend the rugged mountain side until he steeps himself in the clouds. If there be Science and Poetry and Thought anything in poetical education, anything in Are its lamps—They make the lot the effect of external influences upon the

Of the dwellers in a cot poetical temperament, surely the agency

So serene they curse it not. which brings a man most readily within their They do not enter the cottage or the man. and benignities of Nature—is to be regarded sion, to jostle and to wrestle with, but to aid, as one of the best aids to the development encourage, aud to support each other. They of the Divine faculty, and in no sense an ob- may rarely find expression through the same struction to it. It is not one, indeed,

oracular mouth-piece. But their influences

of the least benefits which Steam' has conferred upon the generation at large are conjoint and

co-extensive. * The well-known, often quoupon the age, that it brings the country, ted Baconian passage, setting forth that the sca and shore, hill and valley, wood and

age

which is fertile in men of action, plain, the yellow corn-fields, the winding

as warriors and stalesmen, is fertile also in river, the mossy turf, the fragrant wildflowers, the song of the lark, the tinkling of men of thought, as poets and philosophers, the sheep-bell— within the reach of the anx particular application. The age which pro

might have both a more general and a more ious town; almost as it were, to the very duces giants of one kind produces giants of doors of dwellers in the heart of our cities. * Let those who talk about our iron roads ting upon one order of intelligence generate

another. The same influences which opera• Coleridge said, apologetically,

great mechanics, operating upon another will

generate great poets. As with the body of I was reared In the great city :

an individual man, so with the body of men And saw nought lovely, but the sky and stars." in the concrete, there is a sympathy between Contrast this with Wordsworth's well-known

its different parts. Those salutary influences lines, "The tall cliff

* It may be remarked, too, that men of science Was my delight, the sounding cataract were never more poetical, nor poets more scientific, Haunted me like a passion,” &c. &c.

than at the present time.

same

which strengthen one arm seldom fail to it. The existence of the poetical temperastrengthen another. At all events, nothing ment is indicated even by the profitless effort, can be more preposterous than to affirm that the impotent desire. It is something even to because one part thrives another must lan. aspire to be a poet. guish. The healthiness of the age manifests It will, perhaps, be said, that if poetry, itself in the general developments of intellec. which would once have found many readers, tual power of all kinds. We see it alike- now finds few or none, the age is, therefore,

an unpoetical one. And so it would be, if, In the steam-ship, in the railway, in the whilst rejecting this once tolerated mediocrity, thoughts that shake mankind;

we had nothing better to fall back upon. But the progress of the nineteenth century is, in the generation which can boast of Wordsa word, Catholic.

worth and Shelley-Byron and CrabbBut after all, the best reply to the vulgar Campbell and Rogers-Keats and Tennyson, assertion, that the tendencies of the age are

-as its cotemporaries, has no need to betake essentially prosaic, is to be found in the itself to such mediocrity as was erst represimple material fact of the large amount of sented by Pomfret and Yalden. Has Mr. poetry that is written, and the large amount Tennyson, the most poetical of poets, any that is read. It is true that much poetry, Has Elizabeth Barr.tt sung to a people who

reason to complain of a paucity of readers ? or much that presumes to call itself poe- will not hear? try, is written, but never read. The volumes

And, in the meanwhile, how fares it with of poetry which issue from the press, never

our older bards?

Are those who have sung to be read, but by friends and critics,-and by them sparingly—are past counting. Of worthily to a past generation forgotten or nethis phenomenon there are two noticeable glected by the present? There is no more things to be said. Firstly, that very much cogent argument to be adduced, in denial of of that unread poetry would once have been

the assumption that the tendencies of the age largely read. Unread poetry is not always are essentially prosaic, than the fact that there unreadable poetry. Many a poet, doomed in are, at the present time, three different edi

tions of the standard British poets in course this nineteenth century to taste all the bitterness of neglect, would at the close of the of serial publication. Would there be this eighteenth have made for himself a great mand? Would Mr. Bell, Mr. Gilfillan, and

ample supply if there were no adequate dereputation. There have been worse versifiers included in editions of standard British Mr. Wilmot waste their fine minds in the strepoets than those, which week after week are

nuous idleness of editing generation after ge

. now dismissed by our periodical critics in a

neration of English poets, only to supply linfew faint sentences of feeble praise. And,

ing for our trunks ? Would Mr. Parker, or secondly, that poetry must, to a consider his capital in an unfathomable well of hope

Mr. Routledge, or any other publisher, sink able number of people, be its own exceeding less speculation ? Would Mr. Cunningham great reward, or so much would not be writien for the mere pleasure of writing it. Every and their enterprize upon new editions of

and Mr. Murray fritter away their learning allowance being made for the deluding ope

“ Lives of the Poets,” and other kindred rations of hope—for all the excesses of a sanguine temperament—still the fact is main works, if we had ceased to delight in poetry ? ly to be accounted for by a reference to the Would minor publishers be, as they are, contruth, that

tinually on the alert to pounce, hawk-like, on

expired copyrights of popular poets, if the There is a pleasure in poetic pains,

tendencies of the age were essentially prosaic ? Which none but poets know.

As we write, a prospectus is placed before us,

announcing a forthcoming serial issue of By. And if this pleasure be widely experienced, ron's poems, in penny numbers, under the as by its results we know it to be, at the pre- auspices of some lawful pirate, who knows sent time, the age cannot be an unpoetical that the speculation will be a profitable one. one. It matters not, in this view of the case, Already have some of the earlier poems of whether the poetry be good or bad. We speak Southey, Scott, and others, become common here of those poetical yearnings which may property-common property, which, in a profind sufficient or insufficient utterance. What-saic age, no one would have thought worthy ever may be their audible expression, whe- 1 of the paper and print expended on its approther in immortal music or wretched stutterings, priation.

priation of the quantity of poetry that is there is a feeling of poetry at the source of printed in the present day, no doubt can be

« VorigeDoorgaan »