Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

committed under the disguise of an honourable trade, it is impossible to speak in terms of too strong reprobation; and in the first impulse of our indignation, we were inclined to avenge such iniquitous practices by some signal punishment. We naturally reflect, that such offences, in whatever light they are viewed, are of a far deeper dye than many of those for which our sanguinary code awards the penalty of death and we wonder that the punishment hitherto inflicted, has been limited to a fine. If we turn our view, however, from the moral turpitude of the act, to a calm consideration of that important question, namely, What is the most effectual method of protecting the community from those frauds ?--we will then see strong reasons for preferring the lighter punishment. We do not find from experience, that offences are prevented by severe punishments. On the contrary, the crime of forgery, under the most unrelenting execution of the severe law against it, has grown more frequent. As those, therefore, by whom the of fence of adulterating articles of provision is committed, are generally creditable and wealthy individuals, the infliction of a heavy fine, accompanied by public disgrace, seems a very suita able punishment: And if it be duly and reasonably applied, there is little doubt that it will be found effectual to check, and finally to root out, those disgraceful frauds.

ART. VIII. A Sicilian Story. With Diego de Montilla ; and

other Poems. By BARY CORNWALL, 12mo. pp. 180. London, 1820.

A coop
imitation of what is excellent, is generally

preferable to original mediocrity :-Only it provokes dangerous comparisons—and makes failures more conspicuous—and sometimes reminds us that excellent things are imitable by their faultsand that too diligent a study of the wonders of Art, is apt to lead into some forgetfulness of the beauties of Nature.

In spite of all these dangers we must say that the author before us is a very good imitator—and unquestionably, for the most part, of very good models. His style is chiefly moulded, and his versification modulated on the pattern of Shakespeare, and the other dramatists of that glorious age-particularly Marlow, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Massinger. He has also copied something from Milton and Ben Jonson, and the amorous cavaliers of the Usurpation and then passing disdainfully over all the intermediate writers, has flung himself fairly into the arms of Lord Byron, Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Leigh Hunt. -This may be thought, perhaps, rather a violent transition ; and likely to lead to something of an incongruous mixture. But the materials really harmonize very tolerably; and the candid reader of the work will easily discover the secret of this amalgamation.

In the first place, Mr Cornwall is himself a poet-and one of no mean rate ;-and not being a maker of parodies or centos, he does not imitate by indiscriminately caricaturing the prominent peculiarities of his models, or crowding together their external or mechanical characteristics—but merely disciplines his own genius in the school of theirs—and tinges the creatures of his fancy with the colouring which glows in theirs. In the next place, and what is much more important, it is obvious, that a man may imitate Shakespeare and his great compeers, without presuming to rival their variety or universality, and merely by endeavouring to copy one or two of their many styles and excellences. This is the case with Mr C. He does not meddle with the thunders and lightnings of the mighty poet; and still less with his boundless humour and fresh-springing merriment. He has nothing to do with Falstaff or Silence; and does not venture himself in the lists with Macbeth, or Lear, or Othello. It is the tender, the sweet, and the fanciful only, that he aspires to copy--the girlish innocence and lovely sorrow of Juliet, Imogen, Perdita, or Viola—the enchanted solitude of Prospero and his daughter—the etherial loves and jealousies of Oberon and Titania, and those other magical scenes, all perfumed with love and poetry, and breathing the spirit of a celestial spring, which lie scattered in every part of his writings. The genius of Fletcher, perhaps, is more akin to Mr C.'s muse of imitation, than the soaring and ' extravagant spirit' of Shakespeare; and we think we can trace, in more places than one, the impression which his fancy has received from the patient suffering and sweet desolation of Aspatia, in his Maid's tragedy. It is the youthful Milton only that he has presumed to copy-the Milton of Lycidas and Comus, and the Arcades, and the Seraphic Hymns--not the lofty and austere Milton of the Paradise. From Jonson, we think, he has imitated some of those exquisite songs and lyrical pieces that lie buried in the rubbish of his masks, and which continued to be the models for all such writings down to the period of the Restoration. There are no traces, we think, of Drydeni, or Pope, or Young;—or of any body else indeed, till we come down to Lord Byron, and our other tuneful contemporaries.-From what we have already said, it will be understood, that Mr. C. has not thought of imitating all Byron, any VOL. XXXIII. NO. 65,

K

more than all Shakespeare. He leaves untouched the mockery and misanthropy, as well as much of the force and energy of the noble Lord's poetry—and betakes himself only to its deep sense of beauty, and the grace and tenderness that are so often and so strangely interwoven with those less winning characteristics.

- It is the poetry of Manfred, of Parisina, of Haidée and Thyrsa, that he aims at copying, and not the higher and more energetic tone of the Corsair, or Childe Harold, or Don Juan. He has indeed borrowed the manner of this last piece in two of the poems in this little volume--but has shown no great aptitude for wit or sarcasm, and has succeeded only in the parts that are pathetic and tender. There is a great deal of the diction of Wordsworth and Coleridge, and some imitation of their beanties : But we think the natural bent of his genius is more like that of Leigh Hunt than any other author.--He has the same play of fancy, and the same capacity of deep and delicate feeling, together with the same relish for the old Italian poetry, and the plain and simple pathos of Dante and Boccacio.- We doubt, however, whether he has equal force of original talent, or whether he could have written any thing so good, on the whole, as the beautiful story of Rimini: But he has better taste and better judgment—or, what perhaps is but saying the same thing, he has less affectation, and far less conceit. He bas scarcely any other affectation, indeed, than is almost necessarily implied in a sedulous imitator of difficult models--and no visible conceit at all. On the contrary, we cannot help supposing him to be a very natural and amiable person, who has taken to write poetry, more for the love he bears it, than the fame to which it may raise him—who cares nothing for the sects and factions into which the poetical world may be divided-but, regarding himself as a debtor to every writer who has given him pleasure, desires nothing better than to range freely over the whole Parnassian garden, stealing and giving odour' with a free spirit and a grateful and joyous heart.

It is this apparent devotion to the purer part of his art-and the total exclusion of all contentious and dogmatical matter, that constitutes the great charm of his writing. The fever of party spirit, and the bitterness of speculative contention, have of late years infected all our literature; and Poetry itself, instead of bea ing the balm and anodyne of minds hurt and ruffled with the rugged tasks and angry struggles of the world, has too often been made the vehicle of moral and political animosity, religious antipathy and personal offence. We cannot always, with all our philosophy, escape the soil and tarnish of those contagious pursuits; but it is delightful to turn from them awhile, to the unalloyed

[ocr errors]

sweets of such poetry as Mr Cornwall's; and to refresh our fancies, and strengthen and compose our good affection, among the images of love and beauty; and gentle sympathy and sorrow, with which it everywhere presents us. It is time, however, to impart a portion of these soothing strains to our readers also ; as we are sure we have already said more than enough to explain to the intelligent the opinion we entertain of them, and the principle on, which we conceive them to be constructed.

The first; and, in our opinion, the finest poem in the book, is the Sicilian Story;' the outline, and a good deal of the details of which, are taken from a well known tale in the Decameron. It is in the sweet and irregular measure of Lycidas -though in a much more familiar and dramatic strain of diction than any of the Miltonic varieties. The following verses appear to us extremely beautiful.

• One night a masque was held within the walls

Of a Sicilian palace : the gay flowers
Cast life and beauty o'er the marble halls,
And, in remoter spots, fresh waterfalls
That 'rose half hidden by sweet lemon bowers
A low and silver.voiced music made :
And there the frail perfuming woodbine strayed
Winding its slight arms 'round the cypress bough,
And as in female trust seemed there to grow,
Like woman's love ʼmidst sorrow flourishing :
And every odorous plant aud brighter thing
Born of the sunny skies and weeping rain,
That from the bosòm of the spring
Starts into life and beauty once again,
Blossom'd; and there in walks of evergreen,
Gay cavaliers and dames high-born and fair,
Wearing that rich and melancholy smile
That can so well beguile
The human heart from its recess, were seen,
And lovers full of love or studious care
Wasting their rhymes upon the soft night air,
And spirits that never till the morning sleep.
And, far away, the mountain Etna flung
Eternally its pyramid of flame
High as the heav'ns, while from its heart there came
Hollow and subterranean noises deep,
And all around the constellations hung
Their starry lamps, lighting the midnight sky,
As to do honour to that revelry.
Yet was there one in that gay shifting crowd
Sick at the soul with sorrow : her quick eye

K2

Ran restless thro' the throng, and then she bowed
Her head upon her breast, and one check'd sigh
Breath'd sweet reproach 'gainst her Italian boy,
The dark-eyed Guido whom she loved so well :
(0 how he loved Sicilian Isabel !)
Why came he not that night to share the joy
That sate on every face,' &c.
Dark Guido came not all that night, while she
His young and secret bride sate watching there,
Pale as the marble columns : She search'd around
And 'round, and sicken'd at the revelry;
But if she heard a quick or lighter bound
Half 'rose and gazed, and o'er her tearful sight
Drew her white hand to see his raven hair
Come down in masses like the starless night;
And 'neath each shortened mask she strove the while
To catch his sweet inimitable smile,
Opening such lips as the boy Hylas wore;
(He whom the wild and wanton Nymphs of yore
Stole from Alcmena's Son :) But one, and then

Another passed, and bowed, and passed again.' pp. 8–10. Her brother, who had always thwarted her love, passes near her; and in accents of hate and bitter scorn, pronounces the name of Guido. She shudders at the ill-omened sounds; and the poet proceeds to describe how the lovers had passed the morning

"That mořn they sat upon the sea-beach green ;
For in that land the sward springs fresh and free
Close to the ocean, and no tides are seen
To break the glassy quiet of the sea :
And Guido, with his arm 'round Isabel,
Unclasped the tresses of her chesnut hair,
Which in her white and heaving bosom fell
Like things enamour'd, and then with jealous air
Bade the soft amorous winds not wanton there;
And then his dark eyes sparkled, and he wound
The fillets like a coronet. around
Her brow, and bade her rise and be a queen.
And oh ! 'twas sweet to see her delicate hand
Pressed 'gainst his parted lips, as tho' to check
In mimic anger all those whispers bland
He knew so well to use, and on his neck
Her round arm hung, while half as in command
And half entreaty did her swimming eye
Speak of forbearance, 'till from her pouting lip
He snatched the honey-dews that lovers sip,

« PředchozíPokračovat »