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Upon the instant to return to thee.
De Mon. I did! I did! 'Twas that which drove me hither. I could not bear to meet thine eye again.
Jane. Alas! that, tempted by a sister's tears,
De Mon. When he disarm'd this curs’d, this worthless hand
Jane. O this is horrible! Forbear, forbear!
De Mon. Then let it light.
Jane. Oh! wouldst thou kill me with these dreadful words?
De Mon. Let me but once upon his ruin look,
Jane, I cannot now speak to thee.
I have killed thee.
. Thou too, De Montfort, In better days wast wont to be my pride,
De Mon. I am a wretch, most wretched in myself,
He has spread misery o'er my fated life;
Jane. I've held my warfare thro' a troubled world,
-(Act ii. sc. 2.) The characteristic qualities of Mrs. Joanna Baillie's poetry in her Dramas are, to a considerable extent, to be found in the very charming collection of poems, which, under the title of • Fugitive Verses,' she has with equal good sense and modesty just given to the world. Many of these, it appears, have been printed before; but the collection is to us, and probably to the greater part of our readers, almost entirely new. It contains the productions of the poetess in her earliest and latest years, and in all of them we have the same healthful tone, the same abundance of thought, the same clear and forcible style, frecked with the same amount of petty inaccuracies of language. A summer's day would suffice for eradicating these teasing weeds, that seem left on purpose to worry the purist; and we heartily wish some poor scholar might be commissioned by Mrs. Joanna to do the work. It is a pity that there should be any drawback whatever to the praise with which this volume, and indeed the other poetical works of this excellent writer, might be accompanied.
We have already hinted our suspicion that Mrs. Joanna Baillie was not always conscious of what constituted her own peculiar merit as a poet, or, accordingly, of her literary affinity to some with whom she does not appear to suppose herself in the smallest degree connected. Modern poetry,' she says, 'within these last thirty years, has become so imaginative, impassioned, and sentimental, that more homely subjects, in simple diction, are held in comparatively small estimation. This, however, is a natural progress of the art, and the obstacles it may cast in the path of a less gifted or less aspiring genius, must be subunitted to with a good grace.' (Preface, p. vi.) Surely Mrs. Joanna Baillie's reading, both before and since the era she assigns, must have been singularly circumstanced to justify to her own mind such a remark as this. We are disposed to state the reverse, or something near it, to be the fact. If homely' (not meaning, we presume, vulgar) 'subjects in simple diction’ are holden in less estimation now than when many of the poems in this volume were composed, we must demand of all the Reviews and all the Magazines the meaning of their perpetual acknowledgments of the services rendered to the
cause of poetry by that ancient Talus of unsimple diction who dwells at Rydal. We must appeal to Wilson, and especially to his Unimore.' We must drag Heraud and his' Roman Brother' from their hiding-place; Milnes and his · Poetry for the People' must answer; Taylor, Talfourd, and Kenyon, Trench and Moultrie, Sterling and Hartley Coleridge must be asked; and Dana and Bryant must speak from over the Atlantic. * These will all say that a time there was, indeed, when crazy fancy, and rant, and sentimentalism passed current respectively for imagination, and passion, and thought; when a lingo grande-made up no scholar knows how-usurped the place of English, and the dearest associations, and the most affecting images in man's daily life, could not be mentioned in serious verse. Since that time, under the circumstances which we began by noticing, criticism has been reformed; and in a sense—not apparently intended by Mrs. Baillie, because the very pieces which she excepts are for the most part instances of it—the laws and scope of the imagination have been better understood, the sources of genuine passion proved, and the sentiment of the last age--the unlaid ghost of defunct thought-has been frightened off. Necessarily coincident with this convalescent state of the public mind (for it is not a perfect cure yet) has been an eager return to a wholesome diet in matter of language; and we think we can assure our authoress that the free, natural, and unsophisticated diction generally prevalent throughout this present volume would not have earned for her from the Monthly Review,' or · British Critic,' of 1800, the hearty praise which the Quarterly Review of 1841 now takes the liberty of bestowing upon it. It is almost as true of her as it is untrue of Shakspeare, that she has grown immortal in her own despite.' She seems to regard as models writers to whom she is happily most unlike; and her plays are in general so much more legitimate than the principles of dramatic poetry laid down in her various prefaces, that we wish for our own satisfaction the one might henceforth be allowed to fight their way down the stream of time without the incumbrance of the other.
The poems in this volume are in various styles, and in them all the authoress seems to us successful, except in her Scotch Songs and Hymns for the Kirk. Of the former, we should say that they have a forced air, as if the writer had set about inditing them with no genius but that of patriotism to aid her. They are not so much Scotch—as we understand Burns, Hogg, Ramsay, Ferguson, and the inestimable, unowned Minstrelsy of the elder
* Let us here also mention the name of Mr. George Darley, whose dramatic chronicles, Thomas à Becket' and Ethelstan,' we have read with high pleasure, and strongly recommend to public attention. VOL. LXVII. NO. CXXXIV.
day—as mere English verses purposely dashed here and there with words only in use beyond the Tweed. They appear to us as stiff and uncouth as Burns's attempts in serious English. Indeed it would have been little less than a miracle if the writer of De Montfort had preserved or attained the spirit—the knack-of the genuine Scotch song ;-a species of poetry unique, and not ad. mitting exportation, having a simple point, a pathetic terseness, and a musical brilliancy of phrase, not imitable by dint of talent, and of which we see no traces in the attempts before us. Neither do we think the Hymns designed for the use of the Kirk at all calculated for such a purpose. Without subjecting them to the parallel of the Davidic Psalms, we think the Kirk had good grounds for not recommending them for general adoption. In fact, they are not composed with an insight into the peculiar nature and spirit of congregational singing, or, as we should venture to conjecture, with any knowledge of music on the part of the author. The Scotch, who are a brave and enterprising people, might sing them under command ; and so they might • Paradise Lost,' or even the late Speech from the Throne.
Where or what the fault precisely is, it may be difficult to say; but, as it is, the English seem to have less understanding of, or spirit for, congregational singing than any other people of Christendom. The Church of England, as such, has left this most important part of divine worship to be performed in the licensed strains of Sternhold or Tate, or according to the caprice of individual clergymen. We cannot be wrong in saying, that this is a flagrant abdication of duty. Not to insist that a very small portion of the Hebrew Psalter can possibly be an adequate or even fit exponent of the emotions of a Christian congregation, what will be said in respect of the great facts and doctrines of Christianity? Where is the Church's Hymn for the Nativity ? For the Crucifixion? The Resurrection? The Ascension? The Descent of the Spirit? Is it not a strange thing to a reflective mind to enter a church full of Christians on Easter-day, and to hear some few of them only singing at all, and those few singing the balderdash version, in bad English, of a Jewish psalm, having no more reference to the resurrection of the Saviour than to the capture of Jerusalem? And this defect—a very grievous defect-one that has, perhaps more than any other single cause, contributed to that cold, indevout, drawing-room tone which prevails in our public worship-cannot be supplied by setting this or that eminent clergyman to translate the whole Psalter anew, or to compose an entire Hymnody. No man is sufficient for such a work. The last 300 years have produced in England about six good versions of a Hebrew psalm, and the same number of hymns. Bishop Ken alone, to our recollection, was twice successful. The thing to be desired is a small anthology from the numerous attempts that lie upon the face of our literature, and this collection to be invested with something like Church authority, or Church preference at least. Towards such a collection a small volume of hymns, edited in 1833 by Mr. W. W. Hull, would be found a very useful assistant; but some of the very best hymns and psalms we have would need revision and alteration to make them as perfect for the purpose as they might be made. It may be mentioned that the Dutch Reformed Church is provided with a singularly excellent collection of psalms and hymns, chiefly taken from the equally good collection generally used by the French Protestants. The French 84th Psalm is a model of the way in which the Hebrew psalm may be rendered fit for the purpose of Christian prayer and praise. The collection of the German Lutheran Church is also excellent. It is remarkable that the finest version of a psalm in existence is that by poor Camoens of the 137th. By the waters of Babylon, &c. :
De Babel sobre os rios nos sentamos,
Com saudades de ti, Siuõ, choramos.' fc. The Exile was sitting on the shore at Macao, his guitar by his side, his eye on the ocean, and his heart on the Tagus.
But to return. Mrs. Joanna Baillie has, we think, succeeded very well in her ballads in a romantic and supernatural vein. They are all, more or less, good; especially the · Elden-Tree and • Lord John of the East.' •Sir Maurice' is not so clearly narrated as it should be—but it is still a very striking poem; and there is great power of the same kind shown in • Malcolm's Heir.' We wish it were in our power to present one of these ballads entire to our readers; for the effect lies so much in the whole piece, that we should do the author injustice by giving an extract only.
Highly, however, as we estimate her · Ballads of Wonder,' we by no means think them the best parts of this volume. She is more impressive and original in passages of ordinary life, and in the expression of domestic affection. There are many small poems in this collection of that gentler character which appear to us beautiful; and amongst these we particularly notice the Lovers' Farewels,' the · Banished Man,' the • Two Brothers,' and the · Parrot.' But it is very gratifying to us to feel that the happiest composition in this volume is that which we dare say cost the authoress the least effort,—the following very elegant and affecting address to her excellent sister, Mrs. Agnes Baillie, on her birthday. It
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