Imatges de pÓgina

just as much felt, and its glories as fully displayed, before
the Poet's Pilgrimage was penned, as they are now. It
does not, indeed, seem to have been to these that the poet
directed his chief attention ; but to himself and his own ad-
ventures (for he is a prodigious cgotist)—to his family-his
fellow-travellers, and all who hate Buonaparte with a hearty
hatred. We by no means approve of his performance, con-
vinced that it is not at all calculated to impress the minds of
foreigners with favorable sentiments of the taste and genius
of the nation-especially as he is foolish enough to call upon
the world to view him as the bard of Britain, acting ex
officio, et pro bono publico.
“Me most of all men it behov'd to raise

The strain of triumph for this foe subdu'd;
To give a voice to joy, and in my lays

Exalt a nation's hymn of gratitude,
And blazon furth in song that day's renown,

For I was grac'd with England's laurel crown.” These poems are divided into two parts; of which each has a separate object. The first describes the journey to the seat of war; the second is an allegory. Before, however, we are allowed to read of the pilgrimage, we are presented with a long proem, which describes, in a tender strain, the pleasure which the pilgrim felt in returning to the bosom of his family. We are well aware how strongly he must have been tempted to expatiate on a subject so fascinating; and we could easily bave forgiven a little parental prolixity; but we really felt as a grievance the introduction of twenty-four stanzas, in which not only his immediate descendants, but also some of the collateral branches of his family, are, dine longo," introduced and panegyrized. For what had all that to do with Waterloo ? As a specimen of novel arrangement, it was, however, admirable enough. The first and greatest of epic poets was wont to hurry his readers at once into the middle of the action : the poet-laureate does more, though, perhaps, not much better ;-he makes the very last of the events which he describes the commencement of his narration. He goes upon a pleasant pilgrimage, with some very pleasant people; but tells you nothing of what befel bim in the land he visited, or on the journey to and fro, till he has made you somewhat acquainted with his own fire-side!

With respect to the first part of the poem, we think Mr. Southey has chosen bis ground injudiciously. To describe in serious poetry an excursion from one spot to another, is


seldom an easy task. A man who should endeavour to imi body in interesting poetry of a grave cast, an account of a journey from London to Bristol, would probably fail: and yet his route would lie through a country far more picturesque than the Netherlands. Mr. Southey gives us very little more than what the most ordinary traveller who wished to communicate what he had seen and heard, would necessarily transmit to his friends at home. And, to say the truth, we would rather read a clcar lively narrative of the events in a tour like this, in unassuming prose, than in a long series of verses, most of them very insipid, and calculated to raise ex. pectations only to disappoint them. What is there of the imagery or appropriate diction of poetry in such stanzas as the following, or what to distinguish them from mere prose, except their being constructed according to similar measures, and terminating by similar sounds?

“ We left our pleasant land of lakes, and went

Throughout whole England's length, a weary way,
Even to the farthest shores of Eastern Kent.

Embarking there upon an autumn day,
Toward Ostend we held our course all night,
And anchor'd by its quay at morning's earliest light.

Embarking then, we glided on between

Strait banks rais'd high above the level land,
With many a cheerful dwelling white and green,

In goodly neighbourhood on either hand.
Huge-timber'd bridges o'er the passage lay,
Which wheeld aside, and gave us easy way.
Four horses, aided by the favouring breeze,

Drew our gay vessel, slow and sleek and large;
Crack goes the whip; the steersman at his ease

Directs the way, and steady went the barge.
Ere ev'ning clos'd, to Bruges thus we came,

Fair city, worthy of her ancient fame." But the laureate is, occasionally, not only undignified, and much addicted to the trite expressions and the homely common-place of his school; he is even very ungrammati. cal, and inaccurate in his rhymes :

« Nor did she leave us, till the bell was rung,

“ And slowly we our watry way begun.” Some of these quotations (the last excepted of course) remind us of Horace's journey to Brundusium. They have the minuteness of that beautiful little effusion, but want its wit and humour. To prove that these are not quotationi

made to expose the blemishes of the work before us, we will take those stanzas which describe the entrance to the field of battle. Such a moment, such a situation, ought to have drawn from the poet-laureate something more poetical than the following:

“Behold the scene, where slaughter had full sway!

A mile before us lieth Mount St. John,
The hamlet which the highlanders that day

Preserv'd from spoil; yet as much farther on
The single farm is plac'd, now known to fame,
Which from the sacred hedge derives its name.
Straight onward yet, for one like distance more,

And there the house of Belle Alliance stands,
So nam'd, I guess, by some in days of yore,

In friendship or in wedlock joining hands.
"Little did they who call'd it thus foresee
The place that name should hold in history.
Beyond these points the fight extended not

Śmall theatre for such a tragedy!
Its breadth scarce more, from Eastern Papelot

To where the groves of Hougoumont on high
Rear in the west their venerable head,
And cover with their shade the countless dead.
But would'st thou tread this celebrated ground,

And trace with understanding eyes a scene
Above all other fields of war renown'd,

From western Hougoumont thy way begin;
There was our strength on that side, and there first,

In all its force, the storm of battle burst.” Again, the people in the neighbourhood are thụs introduced, complaining that the English did not, when it was in their power, inflict capital punishment on Napoleon.

O God! they said, it was a piteous thing,

To see the after-borrors of the fight;
The ling'ring death, the hopeless suffering -

What heart of Aesh unmov'd could bear the sight.
One man was cause of all the world of woe;
Ye had him,—and ye did not strike the blow!
How will ye answer to all after-time,

For that great lesson wbich ye fail'd to give?
As if excess of guilt excus'd the crime;

Black as he is with blood, ye let him live!
Children of evil, take your course henceforth;

For what is Justice but a name on earth!" The poet appears to have a worse opinion of the invader's deserts ihan even the good folks of Belgium ; and, though a bumane Christian on other occasions, seems willing to hand

No.XV.-VOL.III.-Aug. Rev.

him over to a more expert executioner than the hangman of Genappe.

“ Ere through the wreck his passage could be made,

Three miserable hours, which seem'd like years,
Was he in that iguoble strait delay'd:

The dreadful Prussians' cry was in his ears,
Fear in his heart, and in his soul that hell,

Whose due rewards he merited so well.” Our general opinion of the first division of this poem may be collected from the passages we have selected, and the remarks we have made on them. We are dissatisfied that in so many pages of well-printed verses, there should be so very little good poetry. Occasionally we find a stanza rising into energy, or manifesting tenderness or beauty; but, in general, the poet holds on bis course in unvarying feebleness. What else can we expect from one who thinks so well of himself, and so ill of the public.

We proceed to the second division. " It is in an allegorical form; it exposes the gross material, philosophy, which has been the guiding principle of the French politicians, from Mirabeau to Buonaparte; and it states the opinion of those persons who lament the late events, because the hopes which they entertained from the French Revolution have not been realized; and of those who see only evil, or blind chance, in the course of human events.”

This part of the work consists of four cantos, (if we may so call them,) under these titles—the Tower, the Evil Prophet, the Sacred Mountain, and the Hopes of Man. In the first of these, the poet speaks of himself as wandering over the desolated plains of Waterloo. In doing so, he perceives a tower

“ Its frail foundations upon sand were plac'd,

And round about it mould'ring rubbish lay;
For easily by time and storms defac'd,

The loose materials crumbled in decay:
Rising so high, and built so insecure,
Ill might such perishable work endure.
I not the less went up, and as I drew

Toward the top, more firm the structure seem'd,
With nicer art compos’d, and fair to view :

Strong and well-built, perchance I might have deem'd
The pile, had I not seen and understood

Of what frail matter form'd, and on what base it stood." On the summit of this edifice he meets a grave personage, who styles himself Wisdom, and who gratuitously offers to point out to him the only true way to obtain happiness,

namely, by the adoption of the principles of scepticism and infidelity. This advice is not so readily received, as it is frankly offered; and the remainder of the canto is occupied by a dialogue between the poet and Mr. Wisdom, in which the arguments for atheism are successfully combated. This portion of the work is really poetical. A refutation of the arguments usually urged in support of fatalism is not the most favourable subject for poetry; yet Mr. Southey has managed to introduce a number of very fine lines. After enumerating many who have nobly supported themselves in misfortune here, by the hopes of a glorious eternity hereafter, the poet goes on :

“ Turn we to those in whom no glorious thought

Lent its strong succour to the passive mind;
Nor stirring enterprise within them wrought;

Who to their lot of bitterness resign’d,
Endur'd their sorrows, by the world unknown,
And look'd for their reward to Death alone.
Mothers within Gerona's leagered wall,

Who saw their famish'd children pine and die;-
Widows surviving Zaragoza's fall,

To linger in abhorr'd captivity ;-
Yet would not have exchang’d their sacred woe

For all the empire of their miscreant foe.” The second part of the second canto, we are inclined to think the best in the poem. It is entirely occupied with hoary-headed Wisdom's prophecy, that the peace wbich England and Europe enjoys, will be but transient; and gives Mr. Southey an opportunity of shewing, that his politics are sometimes much sounder than his poetry.

Speaking of the dreadful carnage at Ligny and Waterloo, the poet says:

“This but a page of the great book of war,-

A drop amid the sea of human woes !
Thou can'st remember when the Morning Star

Of Freedom on rejoicing France arose,
Over her vine-clad bills and regions gay,
Fair even as Phosphor, who foreruns the day.
Such and so beautiful that star's uprise ;

But soon the glorious dawn was overcast :
A baleful track it held across the skies,

Till now, through all its fatal stages past,
Its course fulfill'd, its aspect understood,
On Waterloo it hath gone down in blood."

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