Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

215

220

[ocr errors]

The brutish gods of Nile as fast,
Isis, and Orus, and the dog Anubis,' haste :
Nor is Osiris seen
In Memphian grove or green,

Trampling the unshower'd grass 5 with lowings loud :
Nor can he be at rest
Within his sacred chest;

Nought but profoundest hell can be his shroud :
In vain with timbrel'd anthems dark
The sable-stoled sorcerers bear his worshipt ark.
He feels from Juda's land
The dreaded Infant's hand ;

The rays of Bethlehem blind his dusky eyn :
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide;

Not Typhon huge ending in snaky twine :
Our Babe, to show his Godhead true,
Can in his swaddling bands controul the damned crew.
So, when the sun in bed,
Curtain'd with cloudy red,

Pillows his chin upon an orient wave,
The flocking shadows pale
Troop to the infernal jail;

Each fetter'd ghost slips to his several grave;
And the yellow-skirted fayes
Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze.
But see, the Virgin blest
Hath laid her Babe to rest :

Time is, our tedious song should here have ending :

225

230

i

235

[ocr errors]

| And the dog Anubis. Virgil, “Æn." viii. 698.

Omnigenumque Deum monstra, et latrator Anubis.-TODD,

& Trampling the unshower'd gra88. There being no rain in Egypt, but the country made fruitful with the overflowings of the Nile.-RICHARDSOX.

b Pillows his chin upon an orient wave.
The words “pillows" and "chin" throw an air of burlesque and familiarity over a com-
parison most exquisitely conceived and adapted.—T. WARTON.

i The flocking shadows pale, &c.
Mr. Bowle directs us to the “Midsum. Night's Dr." a. iii, 8. ult.

And yonder shines Aurora's harbinger;
At whose approach, ghosts, wandering here and there,
Troop home to churchyards: damned spirits all,
That in cross-wnys and floods have burial,

Already to their wormy beds are gone. -T. WARTON.
į And the yellow-skirted fayes

Fly after the night-steeds, leaving their moon-loved maze. It is a very poetical mode of expressing the departure of the fairies at the approach of morning, to say that they “fly after the steeds of Night."-T. WARTOX.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Heaven's youngest-teemed star
Hath fix'd her polish'd car,

Her sleeping Lord with handmaid lamp attending :
And all about the courtly stable
Bright-harness'd angelsi sit in order serviceable.

* With handmaid lamp attending. Alluding, perhaps, to the parable of the ten virgins, in the Gospel.-DUNSTER.

1 Bright-harness'd angels. Bright-armed. So, in Exod. xiii. 18: “The children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt."-NEWTON.

A great critic, in speaking of Milton's smaller poenis, passes over this Ode in silence, and observes, “ All that short compositions can commonly attain is neatness and elegance.” But Odes are short compositions, and they can often attain sublimity, which is even a characteristic of that species of poetry. We have the proof before us. He adds, “Milton never learned the art of doing little things with grace." If by "little things" we are to understand short poems, Milton had the art of giving them another sort of excellence.-T. Wartox.

Here Warton does justice to this sublime Hymn. In this piece are all the constituents of poetry, including high and solemn invention: the imagery is also poetical; the metrical combination of the words rises like the gathering force of a flood, or rather of the careering winds. Milton had already learned to amalgamate his ideal riches, and cast them in a mould of his own.

THE PASSION.

This Ode, or rather Elegy, is unaccountably inferior to the preceding Hymn, and

unworthy of Milton : indeed, the poet, by leaving it unfinished, and by his note at the end, seems himself to have thought so: one wonders, therefore, that, with such an impression on his own part, he printed it. The language is of an humbler cast, and more like the common poets' of his day.

EREWHILE of musick, and ethereal mirth,
Wherewith the stage of air and earth did ring,
And joyous news of heavenly Infant's birth,
My Muse with angels did divide to sing ;
But headlong joy is ever on the wing;

In wintry solstice, like the shorten'd light,
Soon swallow'd up in dark and long out-living night.

[ocr errors]

a Erechile of musick, and ethereal mirth. Hence we may conjecture that this Ode was probably composed soon after that on the Nativity : and this perhaps was a college exercise at Easter, as the last was at Christmas.-T. WARTON.

b My Muse with angels did divide to sing. See Spenser, “Faer. Qu.” 11. i. 40:

And all the while sweet musicke did divide

Her looser notes with Lydian harmony.
As Horace, “Imbelli cithara carmina divides." Od. 1. xv. 15.-T. WARTON.

c But headlong joy is ever on the wing. An elegant and expressive line.-T. WARTON.

10

For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
And set my harp to notes of saddest woe,
Which on our dearest Lord did seize ere long,
Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than so,
Which he for us did freely undergo :

Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight!

15

20

He, sovran Priest, stooping his regal head,
That dropt with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
Poor fleshly tabernacle entered,
His starry front low-rooft beneath the skies:
O, what a mask was there, what a disguise !

Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide;
Then lies him meekly down fast by his brethren's side.
These latest scenes confine my roving verse;
To this horizon is my Phæbus bound:
His godlike acts, and his temptations fierce,
And former sufferings, other where are found;
Loud o'er the rest Cremona's trumpe doth sound:

Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.

25

80

Befriend me, Night, best patroness of grief;
Over the pole thy thickest mantle throw,
And work my flatter'd fancy to belief,
That heaven and earth are colour'd with my woe;
My sorrows are too dark for day to know :

The leaves should all be black whereon I write,
And letters,' where my tears have wash'd, a wannish white.

35

See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
That whirl'd the prophet up at Chebar flood;
My spirit some transporting cherub feels,
To bear me where the towers of Salem stood,
Once glorious towers, now sunk in guiltless blood :

There doth my soul in holy vision sit,
In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatic fit.

40

d Most perfect Hero. From Heb. ii. 10. “The captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings."-TODD.

e Loud o'er the rest Cremona's trump. Our poet seems here to be of opinion, that Vida’s “ Christiad" was the finest Latin poem on a religious subject.-Jos. Wartox.

I The leaves should all be black whereon I write,

And letters, &c. Conceits were now confined not to words only. Mr. Steevens has a volume of Elegios, in which the paper is black, and the letters white; that is, in all the title-pages: every intermediate leaf is also black. What a sudden change from this childish idea, to the noble apostrophe, the sublime rapture and imagination, of the next stanza!—T. WARTON.

Mine eye bath found that sad sepulchral rock
That was the casket of Heaven's richest store;
And here, though grief my feeble hands up lock,
Yet on the soften'd quarry would I score
My plaining verse as lively as before ;

For sure so well instructed are my tears,
That they would fitly fall in order'd characters.

Or should I thence, hurried on viewless wing,
Take up a weeping on the mountains wild, s
The gentle neighbourhood of grove and spring
Would soon unbosom all their echoes mild;l
And I (for grief is easily beguiled)

Might think the infection of my sorrows loud

Had got a race of mourners on some pregnant cloud. This subject the author finding to be above the years he had when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.

8 Take up a weeping on the mountains wild. This expression is from Jeremiah, ix. 10: “For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, "&c.-T. WARTON.

h The gentle neighbourhood of grove and spring

Would soon unbosom all their echoes mild. A sweetly beautiful couplet, which, with the two preceding lines, opened the stanza 60 well, that I particularly grieve to find it terminate feebly in a most miserably disgusting concetto.-DUNSTER.

O DES.

INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

The Minor Poems which follow are not of sufficient length or importance to demand or justify a separate introduction to each.

The “Circumcision” is better than the “ Passion," and has two or three Miltonic lines.

The "Elegy on the Death of a fair Infant” is praised by Warton, and well characterized in his last note upon it; but it has more of research and laboured fancy than of feeling, and is not a general favourite.

The ode, or rather fragment, “ On Time," closes with three noble and sonorous lines.

The "Ode at a Solemn Musick” is a short prelude to the strain of Genius which produced “Paradise Lost.” Warton says, that perhaps there are no finer lines in Milton than one long passage which he cites. I must say that this is going a little too far, That they are very fine, I admit; but the sublime philosophy, to which he alludes as their prototype, must not be put in comparison with the fountains of “Paradise Lost." So far they are exceedingly curious, that they show how early the poet had constructed in his own mind the language of his divine imagery, and how rich and vigorous his style was almost in his boyhood; as this :

Where the bright seraphim, in burning row,
Their loud uplifted angel trumpets blow;
And the cherubick host, in thousand quires,

Touch their immortal harps of golden wires. The “Epitaph on the Marchioness of Winchester" does not much please me: I do no like its quaint conceits, nor its want of pathos. The third line,

A viscount's danghter, an earl's heir, is equivocally expressed. It means the daughter of a viscount, which viscount was heir to an earl. See T. Warton's note on ver. 59. Thomas, Lord Darcie, of Chiche, in Essex, was created Viscount Colchester, 19 James I., with a collateral remainder to Sir Thomas Savage, of Rock-savage, in Cheshire, who had married Elizabeth Laughton; and at length coheir of the said Thomas Lord Darcie; and in the second Charles I. he was created Earl Rivers, with the same remainder. Thus this Sir Thomas Savage was called Viscount Colchester, and was heir to an earldom; but he did not succeed to it, for he died in 1635, before his father-in-law, who survived till 1639, when his son, Sir John Savage, second baronet (the brother of the marchioness), became second Earl Rivers, and died 1654. He had three sons, and five daughters : Jane, the second daughter, married, first, George Brydges, sixth Lord Chandos; secondly, Sir William Sedley; thirdly, George Pitt, of Strathfield-say, in Hampshire; and having obtained Sudely castle from her first husband, left it to this third husband, Mr. Pitt. The Marchioness of Winchester was mother of Charles Powlett, first Duke of Bolton, whose daughter Lady Jane married John Egerton, third Earl of Bridgewater, from whom all the subsequent peers of that title descended. Thomas Savage, third Earl Rivers, dying 1694, was succeeded by his son Richard, fourth earl, who died without issuemale, 1712.* He was succeeded by his cousin, John, son of Richard Savage, third son of the second earl. The title became extinct in 1728. I take the date of this Epitaph to have been 1631, for a reason given by me in “The Topographer," 1789, vol. i., which Todd has referred to.

The “Song on May Morning," is in the tone of the beautifully descriptive passages in “ Comus."

The “Verses at a Vacation Exercise in the College," are full of ingenuity and imagery, and have several fine passages; but, though they blame "now-fangled toys" with a noble disdain, they are themselves in many parts too fantastic.

As to the “Epitaph on Shakspeare,” Hurd despises it too much. It is true, that it is neither equal to the grand cast of Milton's poems, nor worthy of the subject; but still it would honour most poets, except the last four lines, which are a poor conceit.

The two strange “Epitaphs on Hobson the Carrier,” are unworthy of the author.

The rough lines on the “New Forcers of Conscience," are interesting on account of the historical notes of Warton, to which they have given occasion.

The “Translations" are scarcely worth notice, except the Ode of Horace, which has a plain and native vigour.

Of the “ Psalms" I have said all that is necessary in the poet's Life.

5

UPON THE CIRCUMCISION.
Ye flaming powers, and winged warriours bright,
That erst with musick, and triumphant song,
First heard by happy watchful shepherds' ear,
So sweetly sung your joy the clouds along
Through the soft silence of the listening night;
Now mourn ; and, if sad share with us to bear
Your fiery essence can distil no tear,
Burn in your sighs,a and borrow

Seas wept from our deep sorrow : * Richard Savage, the poet, was, or claimed to be, his natural son, by the Countess of Macclesfield.

a Your fiery essence can distil no tear,

Burn in your sighs. Milton is puzzled how to reconcile the transcendent essence of angels with the infirmities of men. In “Paradise Lost," having made the angel Gabriel share in a repast of fruit with Adam, he finds himself under a necessity of getting rid of an

« AnteriorContinuar »