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we would fain see changed. It approaches the bathos too closely, and shows how needful it is to bridle the wayward fancy at times. We may, in the way of metaphor, take certain liberties in imagery, and may compare the tint of the heavens at sunset to the rich hue of the rose, but we cannot liken the vast heaven to the flower, and denominate it such, without being obliged to admit that we have fallen into the track of that imagery which Swift and Pope have charged upon some writers of their time. It is too much like the poet Longfellow, whom the booksellers' art has speculated into the first poet of the present age, and whose metaphor of the setting sun in its glory as a "burning cinder," is a true specimen of the bathos, or act of sinking in poetry. Mr. Michell is above such similes. All through this volume we have an exuberance of fancy, it is true, which a little curbing might improve, but we are continually reminded that the author, full of genius, like one with a testing instrument in his hand, is still unaware of the necessity for its use, though he has the ability requisite for the purpose. There is as ever a necessity for care in this respect with the best writers on local scenes, as much indeed as there is in any other department of poetical composition. We would fain be honest in our opinion, and while pointing out what we think is not advantageous to the character of such a work of genius, desire by no means to damp the ardour of a man of generous aspirations in his poetical efforts, evidently a genuine lover of that glorious emanation from on high which rendered immortal the shores of the river of Babylon, the Cephisus, the banks of the Tiber, and the Thames.
Here, all nature calm, a mansion is described standing near the sea, and pleasantly delineated it is with the scenery around, but perhaps it would have been better if more condensed in description. Thus opening with a picture of evening, we are again reminded of it in the seventh stanza, which was not necessary. In a rustic arbour, a second Calypso's grot, is seated the heroine of the tale, her name Sibyl. We have a love for those dreamy imaginings and odd names. Her portrait would perhaps better display the author's power of description by a quotation than an attempt to delineate it here, but it consists of nine stanzas, which would occupy too much space to quote in full. The writer's style regarding it may be judged by this quotation:
She leaned upon her hand; before her lay
An open book; but those deep museful eyes
And through the arbour's entrance sought the skies.
A something calms the spirit, holy, blest,
That all have felt when watching the red west;
Nearer to heaven, and borne away in dreams.
There is in the above stanza a use of words hardly justifiable, in "museful" and "thralling." Our language is a copious one; but let that pass. The lady is thus delineated:
Sibyl was gazing motionless and hushed,
Not common was her beauty, in warm Spain
Fair beings, like that maid, may shed their smiles;
All who may gaze-hearts struggle, yet obey,
We can hardly tolerate the phrase of "shed their smiles;" it is not inexpressive, but it is gauche.
This fair lady, the heroine of the tale, is still more elaborately delineated in the sequel in regard to person, with every accessory which can be called in for the purpose by a fresh and vivid poetical fancy still in a reverie imagining a distant scene-a scene in India, where, in fitful fancy, she sees one dear to her. There is, perhaps, too much of description without stirring events in the writer's pages, but all is pleasing and graceful. Are we to be for ever tempted with scenes of violent action! The heroine in sweetness and elegance harmonises with that scenery, on which the writer seems pleased to dwell, and which he must regard with a poet's pleasure to delineate so minutely and faithfully in its principal features. It shows purity of spirit and real affection for the beautiful. The want of action, it is necessary the reader should remember, is not to be looked for in pictures of still life. The cottage, the aged, the homely, then the heroine Sibyl by the bed of sickness, all are scenes of tranquil country life well described. We say well, for they are so described in a sufficient degree to show they were felt by their author in the painting, and that others must feel them too. Sibyl pursuing her way home on one occasion, the author gives a very faithful description of a Cornish scene near the wild sea shore; and, indeed, the poem all through speaks of sensibility to the grandeur of the shores of his native county, for really grand they are. The heroine has an unwelcome lover, who holds her father in his power, and is determined to wed Sibyl. The father, who struggles with his position, at first determines to meet the worst, and then retracts, but at last consents.
Thus the poem proceeds. Tresillian, a lover of Sibyl, appears on the scene, but it is only to part, until the end is brought about under a better aspect than was anticipated. There are episodes introduced by the author, which seem foreign to the purpose, or perhaps he introduced them to aid in effect, that relative to Egypt appearing somewhat out of place. On the whole, there are no less than fifteen cantos, if they may be so called; brief, it is true; and, with some trivial irregularities in authorship, exhibiting much poetical genius, and a strong degree of local attachment, pure feeling, and, as well, considerable power over the language. As before remarked, there is too much natural description in place of concentrated human action—we mean too much for the insen
sibility of the time to justness of feeling and pure nature, though the descriptions show not only fidelity to nature, but an affection for its aspects and a knowledge of them, both rare in the present day, which is not the author's fault.
Of the other poems, the Land's End, the theme of many a poctical description even before an immortal pen wrote,
Where the great vision of the guarded mount
to the humbler praises of the modern muse.
styled, too, and long styled:
Bolerium, seat of storms.
The Land's End
The one a scene of poetic and religious celebrity, on the summit of which, arrayed in celestial glory, sat the archangel, Michael, and a grander seat this island could scarcely afford; the other a wonderful scene of sublimity. Each has an offering in the present volume, from which we have not space to quote satisfactorily. The "Seasons of Youth," the "Evening of Life," the "Dream of a London Seamstress," which last recals Hood's verses on a similar subject; "Woman's Love," hymn to the "Rising Sun," and a number of shorter pieces; these complete a volume which exhibits-albeit the writer may not have studied the "ungentle art of criticism"-a strong affection for the muse and equal power of execution.
The advantage to one so well able to display his poetical talents of a close study of our better and older poets, whose fame has become fixed, must be obvious to himself, and we recommend it. The great models for such studies are now become of the past, and fixed for ever. The present writer, with a fertile fancy and quick imagination, with a love of the muse evidently for her own sake, with strong evidence of purity of morals amid his faithfulness of description, and in the honest desire of notoriety, cannot do better than keep himself under the best of guides by studying those models, and avoiding the flaunting fashions and capricious opinions
of those ephemeral schools which at present assume so much with so little of honest merit-a merit very easily tested. The author will not imagine that the assumption of the day will be any guide to himself, for he is evidently above that feeling or desire. Nature, it appears, has been his teacher, and she rarely forsakes those who trust to her.
The tomes of rhyme and no rhyme, of vague verse run mad, and of prose assuming to be poetry, are peculiarities of the passing hour. Condensation and passion, sensibility of feeling, and an enlarged measure of knowledge, can only qualify that man for a poet whose ambition it is to become, on that account, in his works, a legacy to future generations. The present virtue of this writer's poetry shows no slight insight into nature, and no inconsiderable knowledge of her workings in the human mind. It shows that regard for the upright and the beautiful in the social body, which pleads highly and well for the power and feeling of the good and holy, socially speaking. Here we take leave of an author whose mind and undoubted genius justify the expectation, that the future will enable him to produce something yet more worthy of the "Rocky Land of Strangers"-of the land renowned from him of whom all Europe once rang from side to side-the chief of the Seven Champions, who, with his companions of the Round Table, are so mingled up in the chant of "fierce war and faithful love." Mr. Michell was right to select his themes from those romantic shores, endeared to him as the land of his nativity; and had his poems no merit but that, they would derive from it some degree of note, for there is virtue in names, as has long been said. Had the author, then, no merit but this, it would redound to his honour in a day when low ideas and grovelling pursuits lead so many to paint the great world unworthily by the mean in their aspirations. He is not wanting in the selection of worthy themes, and in the carrying them out. Too few feel pleasure in contemplating the gist, or are elevated enough in mind to enjoy, as a part of their amusement or contemplation during an idle hour, those delicious dreams and fancies which flit "in light visions round the poet's head," when they are unaffected and truthful to
Here we must take leave of the author and of" Sibyl” until some fresh effort of his pen at a future time again bid us return "to some new flight of fancy" spread out by him before us, "one and all," to quote his county motto, though we hardly need to repeat here how often our pages have been indebted to the offspring of his vivid imagination.
By her own account, and on her ipse dixit as a veracious historian-the dignity of history being above feminine foibles on the score of age-Anna Comnena was born on the first day of December, Anno Domini 1083. At thirteen-while the first Crusaders were all astir-she was, in Gibbon's phrase "nubile," and perhaps married to the younger Nicephorus Bryennius, whom she fondly styles her own Casar — τὸν ἐμὸν Κάισαρκα, "Some moderns have imagined that her enmity to Bohemond was the fruit of disappointed love."* So writes-italicizing the sheer imagination of the mare's-nest moderns-the historian of the Roman Empire in its decline and fall, in whose history the reign of Alexius Comnenus, as narrated by his august daughter in the "Alexiad," occupies a prominent place. Of the "Alexiad" itself, and of its enthusiastic authoress, Mr. Gibbon remarks, in one place, that Anna's "partial" accounts of the transactions of Constantinople and Nice may be opposed to the partiality of the Latins; but that in their subsequent exploits she is brief and ignorant. In another, he incidentally observes that the general knowledge of the age may be deduced from the example of "two learned females," the Empress Eudocia and the Princess Anna Comnena (poor empress, and poor princess, to be called "females" by a classical historian !)—who, meaning the two "females" aforesaid, "cultivated in the purple, the arts of rhetoric and philosophy." He allows that Anna may boast of her Greek style; and that Zonaras, her contemporary, but not her flatterer, may ascribe to her with truth an almost Attic turn of speech. From her preface to the "Alexiad," with Ducange's notes, it is also made apparent that the princess was conversant with the artful dialogues of Plato; and had studied the Terpakrès, or quadrivium of astrology, geometry, arithmetic, and music.† Glorious John has told us that
Two of a house few ages can afford,
a couplet which, could it have been ante-dated by some six centuries, Anna would have appropriated as pertaining in its significance, by quite particular applicability or private interpretation, to her empurpled Sire and her born-in-the-purple Self. Both Alexius and Anna have been popularised to light readers by the failing
Gibbon, Roman Empire, ch. lviii., notes.