Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

derer, are painted with great vividness and breadth of colouring, There is also, of course, a love affair ; but, as the newspapers say of causes very important to the parties but not very lively, it is totally destitate of public interest." We wish our rising novelists would not in this respect imitate the author of Waverley.

The second tale “Connemara," is vrry amusing ; but we are sorry to say that its hero is no other than Mr Martin of Galway, who, under the appellation of Dick M'Loughlin, is painted, like one of the bullocks he befriends," as large as life, and iwice as natural.” The author has evidently intended no unkindness; but we, object on principle, to the introduction of real and living persons into works of fiction which serves to foster the depraved taste for personalities, which is the great vice of modern literature. Mr. Mariin, to be sure, lives very much for the public; and we dare say that, with the magnanimity which has led him so often to expose his person to be fired at and his humanity to be ridiculed, he will not grudge the readers of this tale a hearly laugh, though his real or supposed peculiarities should contibute to raise it.

« Old and New Light” is the least agrecable tale in these volumes. It is intended to exhibit the absurdities of the ultra evangelical party, and to shew practically the mischief of two violent an interference with the religious prejudices of the peasantry. This is one of the few good designs to which a work of fiction cannot properly contribute ; for it is impossible freely to ridicule singularities of doctrine and pretensions to inward feeling without bordering on the profane. Our author has wisely forborne from a vivid description of the sect, and has consequently been duller than he would otherwise have been in his descriptions. To give a factitious interest to this piece, he has introduced Sir Harcourt Lees, under the name of Sir Starcourt Gibbs ; but this personality is the less excusable, as, to say the truth, the Rev. Baronet is not in the least amusing

The last story, called “ The Tovle's Warning," is in another and much better style; and though short, is full of terrific and enchaining interest. It is founded on a wild Irish superstition, wbich the anthor has contrived to invest with the air of familiarity, that renders it fearfully real. We will not deprive our readers of the pleasures of curiosity by a broader hint, than that few things have taken stronger hold of our fancy than “the little parlour” in the deserted house, which has been shut up since the last frightful warning was heard there, and is found as it was left, with the dusty and mouldering appliances of comfort, the table set out for a small party, and the cards with which they were playing !

We ought not to take our leave of the author, without acknow. ledging his entire freedom from the violence and the cant of party, which is as rare as it is pleasant, when Ireland is the theme. He sees fair play between all parties, and is the champion of nothing but human nature in all its variable aspects. There are some extravagances of language sprinkled through this work, which we doubt not will be corrected by time. But, on the whole, his tales abound with incident, situation, and character, and are told in a spirit and manner calculated to excite cordial feelings towards the country in which his scenes are laid, and hearty wishes for his complete success in the walk of literature which he has chosen. Vol. X. No. 65,–1825.

4

THE INSPIRATION OF TASSO.

Tasso! I feel thy phrenzy-yes, 'tis there,
The beauteous vision hovers in the air.
She leaves the home the stars conceal from earth,
Where Pleasure knows no hours and Life no birth;
Where angels wake the sphere-accorded quire,
And borne on golden wings outspeed desire.
A soften'd glory streams around her head;
No trace, no echo leaves her airy tread ;-
She glides-she sinks : I see thy knee iocline,
And on thy visage melt a glow divine;
Thy forehead sinks in worship on thy breast,
But by thy outstretch'd hands thy joy 's exprest :
Twice dared thy eye those features not behold:
But thou canst not thy mental vision fold.
Into thy heart has smiled that seraph gaze
Where soothing Pity veiled the Godbead's blaze.
Eternal majesty that brow array'd;
Eternal love that melting lip display'd ;
And like sweet music which a dreamer wakes
At night, when through a cloud the moonlight breaks.
So steals her voice upon thy ravish'd ear,
And rapture's spell has disenchanted fear.
“The angels' lyres,” she said, “had ceased to thrill :
Each front was bow'd, each lip in prayer was still;
And o'er their radiant features fell their hair,
And veil'd their vision from the o‘erpowering glare
Of their Creator's majesty; when lo!
A strain arose, which (but its theme was wo!)
Had seem'd by seraph drawn; and though delight
Stay'd on the parted lip the accents' Alight,
Still would each arching brow and starting eye
Ask who could sorrow in the abode of joy ?
And then a moment on each angel-face
A shade of pity fill’d the glory's place,
As from a sigh to nought the measure stole,
When thus spake he who breath'd to sound its soul :-
« Descend some seraph to yon vapoury bourne,
Where half his life in gloom fallen man must mourn ;
There but alike his kind in form, not mind,
Tasso, the Minstrel of the Cross, thou 'lt find;
And as his sorrows charm'd the sons of bliss,
For once let joy immortals feel be his ;
And say, 'tis written in futurity-
Thy chains shall fall; and those who taunted thee,
And call'd the mad, shall crowd thy triumph-train,
And, kneeling, pray to thee to rear again,
And lift thee on Ambition's ruined thrope,
And proffer thee their consul's faded crown.*
And thou shalt smile, forgiving, on the swarm,
Like seraph hovering o'er the gathering storni,

* Every one knows that Tasso expired the day before he was to have been crowned in the capitol; but it has not been, perhaps, so generally remarked, that his beautiful Invocation to Jesus, seems to anticipate this event.

O musa, tu, che di caduchi allori
Non circondi la fronte in Elicona,
Ma su nel cielo infra i beati Cori
Hai di stelle immortali aurea corona.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Who knows that soon the ever-changing wave
Will cease at waning of the mnon to heave.
And when they throw their arms aloof to hail
Thee victor-sudden, powerlešs shall fail
Each arm--the smile of Triumph from each visage flee,
Their voices die away inaudibly,
And to thy drooping forehead shall be given
A crown more worth--unperishing-in Heaven.”

TALES OF THE CRUSADERS.*

THERE is, we think, a broader and more essential distinction between this work and those which have preceded it than has appeared in any other series from the same liberal hand. A sort of progressive declension had been remarked by the public; yet inferiority was rather in degree than in kind; and though the great author was sometimes vapid, and at others extravagant, he did not condescend to narrow his general outline, or confess his store of original observation exhausted by applying for aid to the ordinary materials of romance. The tints, indeed, grew fainter; the humour was more strained and fantastical; the pathos was more lachrymose and less profound; and the master-touches more rarely and carelessly thrown in; but still there was simplicity of manner, and boldness of design which we looked for elsewhere in vain But these tales are written in another and a lower style-more elaborately finished in the minuter parts than some of the author's best works, but with less of the vital spirit that animated and redeemed his worst. For improbable incidents, inconsistent superstitions, and violent catastrophes, experience had prepared us ; but we did not expect to find his descriptions, which used to be so clear, obscured by tawdry language; his figures, deteriorated with similes till they are well nigh hidden; and the interest of his story, broken by perpetual attempts to produce a succession of little effects by petty means. The work is so much more flowery and metaphorical than any of its predecessors, that, but for the announcement, we should have attributed it to a younger hand.

Part of the failure of which we complain may, however, be ascribed to the subject on which the author has wrought. He has indeed, excelled in reviving, or seeming to revive the manners and the feelings of time long past: in bidding the train of ancient glories, follies and pleasures to pass before us in processional array; and in making us witnesses, and almost partakers of the feasts, the councils, the darings, and the sufferings of the great of old. But the age of the Crusaders is at once too vast and too visionary to be subjected to that process by which he has given reality and present life to distant periods. It is the fairy-land of history, over which a dreamlike glory hovers, and which is sacred to airy fancies. We think not of its persons as beings moulded like ourselves, but as bright abstractions of certain qualities, of which they gave the first examples ; and regard

* Tales of the Crusaders, by the Author of “ Waverley," “ Quentin Durward," &e. la 4 vols.

the world merely as a stage in which they were to exhibit thein in all their purity. We are on enchanted ground, into which sympathy scarcely enters, and admiration only is awake. Now our author, at his best, deals with flesh and blood, and surrounds us with the massive and the real. It is true that he weaves into his tale wild and appalling superstitions; but they are such as have not yet lost their hold on ihe homely imagination, and which yet chill us, because they are mingled with incidents and forms which seem palpable to feeling and to sight. Not so the visions which encircled the cradle of chivalry, and which mock the robust grasp of Scottish power.

We care pot for them but as the gay creatures of a childish dream, and endure them only when every thing about them is equally impossible, brilliant, and shadowy. For the Knights and the Ladies of their love, we only desire to see them in picturesque attitudes and striking situations, and desire not to investigate feelings which we did not understand when we learned to admire them. The novelist, therefore, who tries to realize them and their adventures, will probably make an unpleasant compromise, divesting the magnificent fiction of half its wonders, and making the reinainder look absurd, by dragging them into a light which they cannot sustain,

The first of these tales, indeed, has its scenes on English ground, and the Crusade only glimmers in the distance. From its title “ The Betrothed,” it may be guessed, by the few who have not read it, to contain the story of some fair one leti to be persecuted and tempted at home, while her intended bridegroom is fighting for the Holy Sepulchre. This heroine is Eveline Berenger, the daughter of a noble Norman Knight, who, seated in a border castle of Shropshire, gives up himself and almost all his band to certain slaughter at the hands of the Welsh invaders, to fulfil a drunken boast which he has made to their chief in a season of truce; a piece of fully and injustice which well becomes a tale of the Seven Champions, but which is really provoking when attributed to an old gentleman for whom we had begun to feel a particular regard. The castle is invested, and, of course, we have a minute and lively journal of the siege, which is interesting as all tolerable accounts of sieges are, but is very inferior to its prototype in “Old Mortality.” The chief defender is a huge Fleming, called Wilkin Flammock, who is made to produce some of the best effects in the tale, by the contrast of his sturdy fidelity and his mercantile habits, and of his broad portly person and his chivalrous occupations.

He has a lovely daughter, by far the most real and charming person in the book, a little warm-hearted and warm-tempered beauty, who, as she attends on Eveline, is often required to enliven a dull scene or complete a pretty picture. The following scene, by night, on the battlements of the castle, in which these ladies are the principal figures, will give a fair specinien of the kind of effect which the author frequently labours to produce. Eveline has just declared to her companion that “this moment is at least hers, to think upon and to mourn her father.”

So saying, and overpowered by the long-repressed burst of filial sorrow, she sunk down on the banquette which ran along the inside of the embattled parapet of the platform, and murmuring to herseif, “ He is gone for ever !" abandoned herself to the extremity of grief. One hand grasped unconsciously the weapon which she held, and served, at the same time, to prop her forehead, while the tears, by which she was now for the first time relieved, flowed in torrents from her eyes, and her sobs seemed so convulsive, that Rose almost feared her heart was bursting. Her aflection and sympathy dictated at once the kindest course which Eveline's condition permitted. Without autempting to control the torrent of grief in its full current, she gently sat her down beside the mourner, and possessing herself of the hand which had sunk motionless by her side, she alter-pately pressed it to her lips, her bosom, and her brow-uow covered it with kisses, now bedewed it with tears, and amid these tokens of the most devoted and humble sympathy, waited a more composed moment to offer her little stock of consolation in such deep silence and stillness, that as the pale light sell upon the two beautiful young women, it seemed rather to shew a group of statuary, the work of some eminent sculptor, than beings whose eyes still wept, and whose bearts still throbbed. At a little distance, the gleaming corslet of the Fleming, and the dark garments of Father Aldrovand, as they lay prostrate on the stone steps, might represent the bodies of those for whom the principal figures were mourning."

This is obviously a picture beneath so great a writer ; and, so intent is the writer on the effect, that he actually makes the fat Fleming and priest, who are sleeping in the back-ground, enact dead bodies, as if the real situation were not sufficiently tragic.

The siege is raised by the Constable of Chester, whose nephew, Damian de Lacy, conducts the funeral of the old chief, and falls in love with the daughter. She is betrothed, however, to the uncle, who goes for three years to Palestine, leaving her to the guardianship of his nephew, who duteously keeps aloof till he is wounded in rescuing her from the Welsh, and tended at her castle. The youth is suspected of treason ; but Eveline protects him even against the forces of the king; and the constable returns to find his territories desolate, and himselí' a stranger, and to hear that his bride has transferred her affections to his nephew. There is something very touching in this return : the desolation makes one shiver ; and the manliness with which the warrior overmasters his sorrows, is noble in itself, and more striking from the loneliness in which he seems to breathe. But the following scenes, in which the Welsh harper, who has attended him through his journey, stabs, in open day, his cousin, instead of him, to avenge the daughter of the British chief,--and in which De Lacy visits Damian in disguise, and finally announces that he has relinquished his claims to the lady in bis favour, are tuo melo-dramatic.

There is, however, a fearful interest about one chapter in the work which we have passed over, where Eveline visits an aged aunt in a vast Saxon mansion, who hersell, “ an awful woman," compels her to sleep in a chamber devoted to a spectral visitant, who has power over the destinies of the house. Nor must we forget a feminine and fervid scene, where the orphan, in the moment of peril, casts herself before the picture of the Virgin, vowing to place her hand at the disposal of her deliverer, and fancies that she sees the countenance change, the eyes become animated, and return to their suppliant entreaties, and the mouth visibly assume a smile of inexpressible sweetness, as assenting to her prayers:

The second Tale has its scene in Palestine, and is full of strange accidents and worderful disguises, of which we can afford only a few specimens. In the opening, a Scotch Knight, called Sir Kenneth,

« НазадПродовжити »