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purity seemed ever to be hovering, a being who had buffetted waves of circumstance with which she had never been called to struggle, in the strength of a power whose vitality she could perceive and admire, but not understand. Lady Boulder's religion at present might be called a religion of conjoined ethics and æsthetics; it was the beautiful appanage of a nature that nourished high ideals of morals, that liked looking up at anything above itself, that had inherent irrepressible sympathies with "whatsoever was pure, and honest, and lovely, and of good report," that could not help falling down in worship before the spiritually graceful and tender. She wanted the knowledge of what religion must be if it is to be a recognisable living energy, and not merely a vague impalpable shadow; that it cannot remain an appanage, however beautiful and attractive, of an entity of moral persuasions and tendencies and æsthetic susceptibilities, but that it must itself become the conscious soul of that entity, the dominant and eternal controller of its functions, subordinating every other development to its own primary and supreme claim. But to acquire this knowledge some powerful agency is generally required to be brought to bear upon the mind which can impart the consciousness of absolute dependence, and create the craving for a support never before appreciated, and of such an agency Lady Boulder had as yet had no experience.
Since the Treeby's arrival there had been numerous changes among the guests at Ashleigh Manor; there had been a succession, of exits and entrances. Lord Dillie had departed for London to attend at cabinet councils and assist his colleagues in providing for the great Opposition onslaught, which was expected in the ensuing session; Mr. Rucklebed and Colonel Rickarby had made their exits, the former to his house in the neighbourhood of Kendlethorpe, not more than twelve miles off, the latter to some of his "friends," whose whereabouts seemed somewhat obscure; Mr. Lionel Sprott and family had returned to London; the only ones that remained of the Christmas party were the Quaques and their children, Miss Neeve, and Miss Buzbane. The absentees' empty bedrooms had been duly filled up by new arrivals, and many bedrooms besides, which had been untenanted, were now occupied. And where was Noel Manners?
LOCAL poetry was considered in time past to possess considerable attraction, though it may be justly a question whether the attraction extended to scenery beyond the habitual observation of the civic multitude attracted by known objects under a renewed aspect. That formerly a strong sympathy was created by such works there is no doubt; but there was then a connexion or tie between the country and the inhabitant of the towns, which has been continually weakening as artificial life has led the latter astray from nature. Hence too it is that the interest formerly felt in country life and its simple truths has become so greatly lessened. Denham's "Cooper's Hill," Pope's "Windsor Forest," and similar poems, were successful in no small degree from the greater regard which was formerly felt for rural scenes and objects—perhaps, in some cases, more when in proximity to the metropolis. The fashion of the day causes the citizen to see and to admire-or affect to admire them, when he regarded little in common with his fellows the real merit of the rural images before him, any more than the mellifluous verse which was so celebrated, and bore, and will continue to bear, such scenes, majestically colouring the stream of time. It is become a different task at present to invest with. attraction and effectively, objects however simple, beautiful, and elevated they may be, in proportion as they may be thus characterised. All is now artifice or affectation. Excitement, exaggeration, and novelty supersede taste in its purity, however elevated in sentiment and worthy in moral effect, whether in relation to art or literature, for in both the elevated mind is as lamentably deficient as in a pure taste. The present work, therefore, as far as relates to the incidents upon which it is founded, labours under disadvantages more likely to stand in its way than formerly, as far as the subject is concerned. It has the disadvantage, too, of a want of condensation, but there is all through the volume a pure and strong poetical spirit, though the pruning-knife would not be amiss, here and there, to invigorate the verse and add force to the pictures presented. These bear rather too great a semblance to each other. The author's imagination overflows, and he is prodigal of his imagery beyond the power of restraint. It hurries him "into fresh scenes and pastures new," before he has finished off those which preceded to their fulness. He seems in haste to travel to the end of his labour, and to present new images in place
*Sibyl of Cornwall, a Poetical Tale; the Land's End; St. Michael's Mount, and other Poems. By Nicholas Michell. Chapman and Hall.
of completing his work as he proceeds. With less affluence of imagery and language, and more regard to condensation, he would be still more effective, for that he is effective cannot be denied. His volume is a delineation in verse of scenes in his native county, which affords him ample materials, but he seems not to be aware how much condensation is required to produce high effect. As in mechanics so in the poetic art, we must accumulate strength by avoiding elongation. In managing his similes and avoiding the bathos, too, it is needful to be on the guard. We would fain be faithful, since to the merit of the writer of such a work as the present it is due to explain lucidly what we think, equally in justice to him and to ourselves.
The volume commences with an Address to romantic Cornwall, descriptive of particular scenes, and recalling, in some degree, Drayton's Polyolbion. His reference to his county, and his union of Davy and Opie, however, seem to imply a forgetfulness of the higher characters his far-famed county has produced. Davy, it is true, is immortal in science, but Opie is nearly forgotten already, while a list of high names, by no means of small note, honour the locality. Opie's history as an artist was more singular than his abilities were lofty. There is a list of Cornish worthies extant sufficient for any degree of praise, and some of them of the very olden time, right worthy, in the church, in navigation, and in deeds of arms-but not to be hypercritical-the story of Sibyl of Cornwall is full of the true poetical spirit, almost unbridled. Our pages have borne evidence again and again to the poetical powers of Mr. Michell. The author, apparently unawake to criticism, commences his tale with a stanza which we wish he had omitted in order to commence with the second. This last is full of an aspiring and truly poetical spirit. The passage is descriptive of sunset, and very beautiful as a portrait of that soothing season, when the spirit seems to enfold itself in a holy calmness. We must copy it, for the poem opens thus artistically with a description of the close of day:
The stream forgets its blueness; crimson glowing,
Each little gadding rill in blushes flowing,
As if by magic turned to ruby wine:
The cairn, the brake, each flower that scents the way,
All catch the tints flung back by dreamy day,
Awhile on nature, dropp'd from burnish'd skies,
A gorgeous robe, half fire, half colour lies.
There is here the true spirit of poetry, the hue, and form, and handicraft of the art, but the stanza preceding savours of that exuberance of fancy which so often exceeds due bounds when adventured upon. There is in it, too, the example of a concetto which
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.