Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

mile from it. To follow up the illustration from Swift's admirable satire, how pitifully insignificant was a man six feet high in the land of Brobdignag. As we read of his standing upon the uplifted hands of a child, we do not wonder at the people splitting their sides with laughter when Gulliver, attempting to look big, drew his sword, and talked of his wounded honor. Gulliver's nice sense of his own moral dignity, in such a situation, seems a mockery of man; and yet thought and passion are not matters of length and breadth. What a world of gigantic and god-like imaginings reside in that little globe, the human skull; and yet within its diminutive limits, there is “ample room, and verge enough for more.” The “thoughts that wander through eternity” had spacious cradles in the head of Milton. The very idea of the seat in the car makes one giddy. It looks awfully open and insecure. An inexperienced aeronaut would hardly dare to look towards the earth, “lest the deficient sight topple down headlong.” There is something inexpressibly sublime in the objects presented to the imagination in these glorious excursions into the upper regions. I recollect reading somewhere an account of an aërial ascent, in which, though the aeronaut left the earth considerably after sunset, the sun again became visible to him as he rose high into the air. The solitary wanderer must have felt a vivid consciousness that he had left the exterior surface of this earthly globe, and was sailing through illimitable realms. What mighty thoughts would have passed through the brain of Milton, had the sublime bard been placed in such a position. The experiments that have been made with small birds, such as linnets and pigeons, let loose from the parachute at a dreadful height, are extremely interesting. They have generally trembled and fluttered awhile on the edge of the machine, then timidly plunged into the vast ocean of air, and at last, as if bewildered at the endless prospect of cloud upon cloud, have returned to the balloon.

WOL.

ELEGIAC STANZAS.

I.
OH ! sweet departed Saint 1
If aught of earth could reach thine ear, -
Love's fevered sigh, and sorrow’s ceaseless plaint,
Might wake thy tenderest tear !

II.
Not that my saddened heart
Would stain thee now with kindred woe,
Or bid thy spirit's sinless dreams impart
A less ethereal glow !

III.
But, still, the thought of pain,
That we, so true, shall meet no more,
Hath agonized a breast whose griefs disdain
All that would peace restore 1

IV.
Oh! desolate and cold !
Hope's lingering beam is quenched at last,-
The trusting mind futurity controlled
Now dwells but on the past !

V.
O'er this deserted scene,
Where'er my wandering eye may turn,
Rise long-remembered spots where thou hast been,
But never shalt return 1

II. 2 s

VI.
The fragrant noon-tide grove
The moon-light's lone and silent bowers,
The sweet haunts once of ecstacy and love,
But breathe of happier hours l

Wii.
I seek thine early tomb
With sad and unavailing tears,
While echo wakes amid the cheerless gloom,

The voice of other years 1

SONNET-A STORM.
(written IN INDIA.)

The strife is hushed,—yet lingering shadows lower
Around the rising sun 1 The distant hill
Lies hid in mist,-the tempest-swollen rill
O'erflows the vale,_this antique, hoary tower
Austerely frowns above the stricken bower,
Where droops the wet-winged minah, cold and still.
Yon prostrate tree the gazer's breast doth fill
With thoughts of death's inevitable hour.
The mighty spirit of the midnight storm
Passed where for ages rose the greenwood's pride,
And what availed its glory Its vast form,
Stretched on the groaning earth, but serves to hide
The serpent's dwelling; and decay's dull worm
Soon in its mouldering bosom shall abide

MASSINGER.

WHEN we reflect upon the personal history of Massinger, and the sad obscurity of his career, it is gratifying to observe that the justice which was refused to him in his life-time, and for more than a century after, has been awarded to him in the present age. His name and his writings are at this day familiar to every student of English Literature, though when Johnson wrote his Lives of the Poets, he knew so little of one of our greatest dramatic authors, that he seems to have been ignorant that the Fair Penitent of Rowe was a plagiarism from the Fatal Dowry of Massinger. It is now well-known that Rowe had prepared an edition of the entire works of Massinger, of whose genius, at that period so rarely recognized, he appears to have been a warm admirer. When, however, his own avarice of distinction led him to covet the gold and jewels that adorned his idol, he determined to leave him in that obscurity from which alone he could hope for the concealment of his own sacrilegious theft. About the middle of the seventeenth century appeared an edition of Massinger prepared by Coxeter. This was an attempt, but a very unsuccessful one, to correct the numerous blunders of the old editions. It was followed soon after by an equally incorrect edition published by Mr. Davies, and to this succeeded that of Mason. None, however, of these reprints did any essential service to the poet's reputation, and it was not till Mr. Gifford produced his very careful and excellent edition in 1805, that the works of Massinger were generally read and justly appreciated. The only drawback from the gratification that every student of English poetry has received from this edition, is the excessive arrogance and acrimony which the editor has displayed in his very numerous notices of the errors of his predecessors. He never makes a silent correction, when he has an opportunity of expressing his malignant triumph over the ruin of another's fame. He seems to speak with the bitterness of personal hatred of men whom he never saw, or who were at rest in the grave before he himself was in his cradle. This virulence and ferocity introduced into questions of no moral consequence, not only interferes materially with the more pleasurable and peaceful emotions which the contemplation of the poet's beauties is calculated to excite, but leads us to call in question even the personal character of the editor, and makes us less disposed than we otherwise should be, to recognise the indications of his laborious care and his critical acumen. Mr. Gifford is guilty of another, but a more amiable and more common fault—a highly exaggerated estimate of the genius of the poet on whom he comments. There is no question that Massinger was a most distinguished ornament of what is called the age of Elizabeth, which, in reference to the History of our Literature, is generally made to include the reign of James the first. But I cannot agree with Gifford, that Massinger is, in any one respect that has relation to the higher qualities of genius, a rival of the immortal Shakespeare, or that his superiority to all his other contemporaries is quite so decided as he would have us think. Some commendatory verses, addressed to Massinger by a friend, ought to have suggested to Mr. Gifford the propriety of praising his favorite poet with somewhat more reserve. The following passage in these verses reminds me of a correspondent sentiment in Pope.*. “Yet whosoe'er beyond desert commends, Errs more by much than he that reprehends;

For praise misplaced, and honor set upon
A worthless subject, is detraction.”

* Praise undeserved is censure in disguise.—Pope.

« AnteriorContinua »