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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 be is a prodigious egotist)—to his family-his fellow-travellers, and all who hate Buonaparte with a hearty hatred. We by no means approve of his performance, convinced 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;
Exalt a nation's hymn of gratitude,
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 bis family. We are well aware how strongly he must have been tempted to expatiate on a subject so fascinating; and we could easily have 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, “ordine 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. Soutbey has chosen his 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 clear 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,
Embarking there upon an autumn day,
Embarking then, we glided on between
Strait banks rais'd high above the level land,
In goodly neighbourhood on either hand.
Drew our gay vessel, slow and sleek and large;
Directs the way, and steady went the barge.
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 quotation 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,
Preserv'd from spoil; yet as much farther on
And there the house of Belle Alliance stands,
In friendship or in wedlock joining hands.
Śmall theatre for such a tragedy!
To where the groves of Hougoumont on high
And trace with understanding eyes a scene
From western Hougoumont thy way begin;
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;
What heart of Aesh unmov'd could bear the sight.
For that great lesson wbich ye fail'd to give?
Black as he is with blood, ye let him live!
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. E
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,
The dreadful Prussians' cry was in his ears,
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;
The loose materials crumbled in decay:
Toward the top, more firm the structure seem'd,
Strong and well-built, perchance I might have deem'd
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;
Who to their lot of bitterness resign'd,
Who saw their famish'd children pine and die;-
To linger in abhorr'd captivity ;-
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 !
Of Freedom on rejoicing France arose,
But soon the glorious dawn was overcast:
Till now, thıough all its fatal stages past,