Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

The shepherd stalks gigantic—till at last
Wreathed dun around, in deeper circles still
Successive, closing sits the general fog
Unbounded o'er the world, and mingling thick,

A formless grey confusion covers all.' This is description !-and this is national ! —this is English albeit it was the Tweed, · Whose pastoral

nks first heard that Doric reed.' Again too, in another vein-that inclination to stoop from the grave to the low—which, as I have hinted is less frequently displayed in Thomson than in Young (in Akenside, it is scarcely, if at all, noticeable) this is English. À fox-hunter's debauch,

* Set ardent in For serious drinking,

confused above
Glasses and bottles, pipes and gazetteers,
As if the table even itself was drunk,
Lie a wet broken scene, and wide below
Is heaped the social slaughter, where astride
The lubber power in filthy triumph sits, &c.
Perhaps some doctor of tremendous paunch
Aweful and deep, a black abyss of drink,

Outlives them all!' &c. “ These are passages which would be rarely found in the same poem in any other language than ours—and the spirit that pervades blank verse, such as this, is altogether different from that which reigned over the contemporaneous rhymes of the day. It breathes of life, of action, of the open air, of the contemplative walk in the fields at eve, or the social hearth at night. But the genius of rhyme lived in London-talked with courtiers-made love and witticisms in a breath

— babbled about green fields’ in a dusty closet-and when it walked into print it was never without a bag-wig and a sword.

“ The • Seasons' were completed in 1730. Fourteen years afterwards appeared Akenside's . Pleasures of Imagination:' it is a great poem ; but Akenside's habits and profession and education all conspired to rob it of the freshness and zest that the subject claimed. He was a physician, a warm political controversialist, an elegant scholar ; (his Latin is better than much which is more celebrated) and above all, he was a pedant in the Greek philosophy. All this tended to unanglicise his poem and make it infinitely too scholastic, and certainly neither in vigour or richness of expression, in close description, in sublimity, in terseness, in avoidance of cold generalities, is he to be put on a par with Thomson or Young. But still if you compare his blank verse with his own rhyme, or with that of Johnson's • London,' (which, though I do not remember the exact date it was published, must have appeared somewhere about that period), you find the native muse more visible, more at liberty in the blank verse, than the other and more crippled metre. I mention Johnson in particular, for the genius of both was scholastic and didactic. Both thought of the Antients—the one copied from Juvenal, the other imagined from Lucretius. The passages I shall quote from each are

strictly classical. But one is of the old English race of classical description—it breathes of Spenser and of Milton—the other was the anti-national, the new, the borrowed, the diluted, the classical description, which steals the triteness of old, without its richness. One takes the dress—the other the jewels. Thus Johnson :

• Could'st thou resign the park and play, content,

For the fair banks of Severn or of Trent;
There might'st thou find some elegant retreat,
Some hireling senator's deserted seat,
And stretch thy prospects o'er the smiling land,
For less than rent the dungeons of the Strand;
There prune thy walks, support thy drooping flowers,
Direct thy rivulets, and twine thy bowers,
And while thy grounds a cheap repast afford,
Despise the dainties of a venal lord;
There
every

bush with nature's music rings,
There every breeze bears health upon its wings :
On all thy hours security shall smile,

And bless thine evening walk, and morning toil.' “ Now then for Akenside. He has burst into an apostrophe on Beauty (with Johnson it would have been Venus!) and after asking whether She will fly

• With laughing Autumn to the atlantic isles.' The poet adds

• Or wilt thou rather stoop thy vagrant plume

Where glidiny through his daughter's honoured shades
The smooth Peneus from his glassy flood
Reflects purpureal Tempe's pleasant scene-
Fair Tempel-haunt beloved of sylvan powers
Of Nymphs and Fauns, where in the golden age
They played in secret on the shady brink
With antient Pan. While round their choral steps
Young hours and genial gales with constant hand
Showered blossoms, odours, showered ambrosial dews,

And Spring's elysian bloom !' “ Here all is classic-antique-Grecian—it might be a translation from Euripides. But how different the life in this page, to the cold resuscitation of dry bones in Johnson. Johnson who despised the fine ballads which make the germ of all that is vivid and noble in our poetry, could not have comprehended the difference between the genuine antique and the mock. They both have filled their vases from the old fountain splendidior vitro ;' but the vase of one is the Etruscan shape—and that of the other is a yellow-ware utensil from Fleet Street. But now, having somewhat prepared ourselves by the short survey-retrospective and contemporaneous that we have thus taken of English poetry, we come at once to Young—a man whose grandeur of thought, whose sublimity of expression, whose wonderful power of condensing volumes into a line, place him, in my opinion, wholly beyond the reach of any of his contemporaries, and enable him to combine the various and loftiest characteristics of prose and verse; -enable him to equal now a Milton in the imperial pomp of his imagery, and now a Tacitus in the iron grasp of his reflection."

(To be continued in our next.)

[blocks in formation]

“What a delightful thing the world is ! Lady Lennox's ball, last night—how charming it was !—every one so kind, and Charlotte looking so pretty—the nicest girl I ever saw ! But I must dress now. Balfour is to be here at twelve with the horse he wants to sell me. How lucky I am to have such a friend as Balfour !-so entertaining—so good-natured—so devilish clever too—and such an excellent heart! Ah! how unlucky! it rains a little; but never mind, it will clear up; and if it don't—why, there's billiards. What a delightful thing the world is !"

So soliloquized Charles Nugent, a man of twenty-one-a philanthropist an optimist. Our young gentleman was an orphan, of good family and large fortune ; brave, generous, confiding, and open-hearted. His ability was above the ordinary standard, and he had a warm love and a pure taste for letters. He had even bent a knee to Philosophy, but the calm and cold graces with which the goddess receives her servants had soon discontented the young votary with the worship: Away!” cried he, one morning, Alinging aside the volume of La Rochefoucault, which he had fancied he understood; “ Away with this selfish and debasing code !--men are not the mean things they are here described—be it mine to think exultingly of my species !” My dear Experience, with how many fine sentiments do you intend to play the devil? It is not without reason that Goëthe tells us, that though Fate is an excellent, she is also a very expensive schoolmistress.

“Ha! my dear Nugent, how are you?" and Captain Balfour enters the room; a fine dark, handsome fellow, with something of pretension in his air and a great deal of frankness. « And here is the horse. Come to the window. Does not he step finely? What action! Do you remark his forehand ? How he carries his tail !" Gad, I don't think

you shall have him, after all !" “ Nay, my dear fellow, you may well be sorry to part with him. He is superb! Quite sound-eh

“ Have him examined.” « Do

you think I would not take your word for it? The price?”. « Fix it yourself. Prince Paul önce offered me a hundred-andeighty; but to you

You shall have it." “ No, Nugent-say, a hundred-and-fifty.” “ I won't be outdone-there's a draft for the 1801."

Upon my soul, I'm ashamed; but you are such a rich fellow. John, take the horse to Mr. Nugent's stables. Where will you dine to-day?- at the Cocoa-tree?" “ With all my

heart.” The young men rode together. Nugent was delighted with his new purchase. They dined at the Cocoa-tree. Balfour ordered some early peaches. Nugent paid the Bill. They went to the Opera.

“Do you see that danseuse, Florine ?” asked Balfour. ancle-eh?"

“ Yes, comme ça--but dances awkwardly—not handsome.”

« Pretty

o What! not handsome? Come and talk to her. She's more admired than any girl on the stage."

They went behind the scenes, and Balfour convinced his friend that he ought to be enchanted with Florine. Before the week was out the danseuse kept her carriage, and in return, Nugent supped with her twice a-week.

Nugent had written a tale for “ The Keepsake;" it was his first literary effort; it was tolerably good, and exceedingly popular. One day he was lounging over his breakfast, and a tall, thin gentleman, in black, was announced, by the name of Mr. Gilpin.

Mr. Gilpin made a most respectful bow, and heaved a peculiarly profound sigh. Nugent was instantly seized with a lively interest in the stranger

. “Sir, it is with great regret,” faltered forth Mr. Gilpin, " that I seek you. 1-1-1_" A low, consumptive cough checked his speech. Nugent offered him a cup of tea. The civility was refused, and the story continued.

Mr. Gilpin's narration is soon told, when he himself is not the narrator. An unfortunate literary man-once in affluent circumstances -security for a treacherous friend-friend absconded-pressure of unforeseen circumstances—angel wife and four cherub children-a book coming out next season_deep distress at present-horror at being forced to beg-generous sentiments expressed in the tale written by Mr. Nugent forcibly struck him—a ray of hope broke on his mind—and voila the causes of Mr. Gilpin's distress and Mr. Gilpin's visit. Never was there a more interesting personification of the afflicted man of letters than Gregory Gilpin. He looked pale, patient, and respectable; he coughed frequently, and he was dressed in deep mourning. Nugent's heart swelled—he placed a bank-note in Mr. Gilpin's hands—he promised more effectual relief, and Mr. Gilpin retired, overpowered with his own gratitude and Mr. Nugent's respectful compassion.

“ How happy I am to be rich !” said the generous young philanthropist, throwing open his chest.

Nugent went to a conversazione at Lady Lennox's. Her Ladyship was a widow, and a charming woman. She was a little of the blue, and a little of the fine lady, and a little of the beauty, and a little of the coquette, and a great deal of the sentimentalist. She had one daughter, without a shilling; she had taken a warm interest in a young man of the remarkable talents and amiability of Charles Nugent. He sate next her—they talked of the heartlessness of the world—it is a subject on which men of twenty-one and ladies of fortyfive are especially eloquent. Lady Lennox complained, Mr. Nugent defended. “ One does not talk much of innocence,” it is said, or something like it is said, somewhere in Madame d'Epinay's Memoirs, “ without being sadly corrupted;" and nothing brings out the goodness of our own hearts more than a charge against the heartlessness of others.

“ An excellent woman !" thought Nugent; " what warm feelings! -how pretty her daughter is! Oh! a charming family!"

Charlotte Lennox played an affecting air ; Nugent leaned over the piano ; they talked about music, poetry, going on the water, senti

ment, and Richmond Hill. They made up a party of pleasure. Nugent did not sleep well that night-he was certainly in love.

When he rose the next morning, the day was bright and fine ; Balfour, the best of friends, was to be with him in an hour; Balfour's horse, the best of horses, was to convey him to Richmond; and at Richmond he was to meet Lady Lennox, the most agreeable of mothers and Charlotte, the most enchanting of daughters. The danseuse had always been a bore-she was now forgotten. “It'certainly is a delightful world !” repeated Nugent, as he tied his neckcloth.

It was some time—we will not say how long-after the date of this happy day; Nugent was alone in his apartment, and walking to and fro-his arms folded, and a frown upon his brow. “ What a rascal ! what a mean wretch |--and the horse was lame when he sold it not worth ten pounds !—and I so confiding-damn my folly! That, however, I should not mind; but to have saddled me with his castoff mistress !--to make me the laughing-stock of the world! By heavens, he shall repent it! Borrowed money of me, then made a jest of my good-nature !-introduced me to his club, in order to pillage me!—but, thank God, thank God, I can shoot him yet! Ha! Colonel; this is kind !"

Colonel Nelmore, an elderly gentleman, well known in society, with a fine forehead, a shrewd, contemplative eye, and an agreeable address, entered the room. To him Nugent poured forth the long list of his grievances, and concluded by begging him

to convey a challenge to the best of friends--Captain Balfour. The Colonel raised his eyebrows.

“But,- my dear Sir,--this gentleman has certainly behaved ill to you, I allow it—but for what specific offence do you mean to challenge him?"

- For his conduct in general.” The Colonel laughed.

“ For saying yesterday, then, that I was grown a dd bore, and he should cut me in future. He told Selwyn so in the bow-window at White's."

The Colonel took snuff.

“My good young friend,” said he, “I see you don't know the world. Come and dine with me to-day-a punctual seven. We 'li talk over these matters. Meanwhile, you can't challenge a man for calling you a bore."

“ Not challenge him !—what should I do then ?”

“ Laugh—shake your head at him, and say—“Ah! Balfour, you're a sad fellow !'"

The Colonel succeeded in preventing the challenge, but Nugent's indignation at the best of friends remained as warm as ever. He declined the Colonel's invitation he was to dine with the Lennox's. Meanwhile, he went to the shady part of Kensington Gardens to indulge his reflections.

He sat himself down in an arbour, and looked moralizingly over the initials, the dates, and the witticisms, that hands, long since mouldering, have consigned to the admiration of posterity.

« AnteriorContinua »