Imatges de pàgina

only observe, that Bunyan was indifferent to other points so his names were expressive. Mr Pennywise-pound-foolish is not a happy name, and still less Mr Wise-in-the-hundred-and-fool-in-the-shire, but they serve to keep the allegory before the reader's mind. On the other hand, Mrs Bat's-eyes, Mr Ready-to-halt, and Much-afraid, his daughter, Fair-speech, By-ends, and the rest, without being very improbable, have the same advantage of maintaining the reader's attention to the author's meaning. As an apology for the length and singular composition of such names as Valiant-for-the-truth, Dare-not-lie, and the like, the reader must remember, that it was the custom of that puritanical age to impose texts and religious sentences, for examples of which we may refer to the rolls of PraiseGod-Barebones' parliament.

In these observations we have never touched upon Bunyan's poetry-an omission for which the good man, had he been alive, would scarce have thanked us, for he had a considerable notion of his gift that way, though his present editor is of opinion that John modelled his verses upon those of Robert Wisdom, a degree more prosaic than the effusions of Sternhold and Hopkins. His mechanical education prevented his access to better models : and of verse he knew nothing but the necessity of tagging syllables of a certain amount with very slovenly rhymes. Mr Southey has revived some specimens


"That worthy's own brother may perhaps furnish not the worst specimen. He wrote himself, “ If-the-Lord-help-me-not l-amdamned ;" but, for shortness, was commonly called “ Damned Barebones."

of verses written by Bunyan (with great self-approbation, doubtless) upon the leaves of Fox's Book of Martyrs. These “ Tincker's tetrastics," as Southey calls them, may rank, in idea and expression, with the basest doggrel. But his later poetry excels this humble model ; he had learned to soar beyond Robert Wisdom, when he was able to express himself thus in recommendation of the Pilgrim's Progress.

“ Wouldst thou divert thyself from melancholy?
Wouldst thou be pleasant, yet be far from folly ?
Wouldst thou read riddles and their explanation ?
Or else be drowned in thy contemplation ?
Dost thou love picking meat ? Or wouldst thou see
A man i' the clouds, and hear him speak to thee?
Wouldst thou be in a dream, and yet not sleep?
Or wouldst thou in a moment laugh and weep ?
Wouldst thou loose thyself and catch no barm,
And find thyself again without a charm ?
Wouldst read thyself, and read thou know'st not what ?
And yet know whether thou art blest or not,
By reading the same lines ? O then come hither!
And lay my book, thy head, and heart together.”—P. 9.

In these lines, though carelessly and roughly fornied, there are both ideas and powers of expression. Another little sonnet, taken in connexion with the scene of repose, in the prose narrative, has a simplicity which approaches elegance. It occurs on the entrance of the Pilgrim into the valley of Humiliation.

“ Now, as they were going along and talking, they espied a boy feeding bis father's sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a fresh and well-favoured countenance, and as he sat by himself, he sung. · Hark,' said Mr Great-heart, to what the shepherd's boy saith!' So they harkened, and he said,

• He that is down needs fear no fall;

He that is low no pride ;
He that is humble ever shall

Have God to be his guide.
. I am content with what I have,

Little be it or much!
And, Lord! contentment still I crave,

Because thou savest such.
* Fulness to such a burden is,

That go on pilgrimage ;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,

Is best from age to age.' “ Then said their guide, 'Do you hear him? I will dare to say, this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart's-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet.'”-Pp. 311, 312.

We must not omit to mention, that this edition of the Pilgrim's Progress is adorned with a great variety of woodcuts, designed and executed with singular felicity, and with some highly finished engravings, after the rich and imaginative pencil of John Martin. Thus decorated, and recommended by the taste and criticism of Mr Southey, it might seem certain that the established favourite of the common people should be well received among the upper classes; as, however, it contains many passages eminently faulty in point of taste (as, indeed, from the origin and situation of the author, was naturally to be expected), we should not be surprised if it were more coldly accepted than its merits deserve. A dead fly can corrupt a precious elixir-an obvious fault against taste, especially if it be of a kind which lies open to lively ridicule, may be enough, in a critical age like the present, to cancel the merit of wit, beauty, and sublimity.

In whatever shape presented, John Bunyan's parable must be dear to many, as to us, from the recollection that in youth they were endued with permission to peruse it at times when all studies of a nature merely entertaining were prohibited. We remember with interest the passages where, in our childhood, 'we stumbled betwixt the literal story and metaphorical explanation ; and can even recall to mind a more simple and early period, when Grim and Slaygood, and even he

“ Whose castle's Doubting, and whose name’s Despair,” were to us as literal Anakim as those destroyed by Giant-killing Jack. Those who can recollect the early developement of their own ideas on such subjects, will many of them at the same time remember the reading of this work as the first task which gave exercise to the mind, before taste, grown too fastidious for enjoyment, taught them to be more disgusted with a single error than delighted with a hundred beauties.



[Fleetwood : or the New Man of Feeling. By WILLIAM

Godwin. Edinburgh Review, 1805.]

WHOEVER has read Caleb Williams, and there are probably few, even amongst those addicted to graver studies, who have not perused that celebrated work, must necessarily be eager to see another romance from the hand of the same author. Of this anxiety we acknowledge we partook to a considerable degree ; not, indeed, that we had any great pleasure in recollecting the conduct and nature of the story; for murders, and chains, and dungeons, and indictments, trial and execution, have no particular charms for us, either in fiction or in reality. Neither is it on account of the moral proposed by the author, which, in direct opposition to that of the worthy chaplain of Newgate, seems to be, not that a man guilty of theft or murder is in some danger of being hanged, but that, by a strange concurrence of circumstances, he



« AnteriorContinua »