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could sit upon the ground and tell strange stories of the deaths of kings, and who never in one instance sacrificed an atom of the right to an acre of the expedient. It is worth while reading in this work his musings, as of a separate spirit, upon the public transactions of his day. In society, too, he sat an insulated being, wbose silence was often more formidable than his words. His face, even when he spoke not, shone a quiet mirror to the “ thoughts and intents of the hearts” of those around him, and he came away with their past as well as present history silently inscribed upon his mind. His conversational sarcasm was tremendous.“ Was not the Emperor Alexander a very pious man ?" “ Very pious," he answered; “I believe he said grace ere he swalIowed Poland.” We could quote, if we durst, unpublished specimens still racier. Hall himself is said to have felt somewhat nervous in his presence when in this mood; and there is a floating rumor of a meeting between him and Lord Brougham on some educational question, in which his lordship came off, and shabbily, second best.
Foster's indolence has been often, but, we think, unjustly, condemned. It ought rather to be deplored. Unfurnished with a regular training, yet furnished with an exquisitely sensitive taste, early“ damned to the mines” of hopeless professional toil, transferred thence to the drudgery of writing for bread-never gifted with a fluent language nor a rapid pen—what wonder that he found composition an ungracious task, or that he shrank from it with a growing and deepening disgust? Our surprise is that he wrote so much, and not that he wrote so little. Latterly, but for an overwhelming sense of duty, he would not have written at all. If we saw a giant, whose arms had been cut off, moving in impotent strength his bleeding fragments, who would not weep at the spectacle? In such mutilated might sat Foster at his desk.
His“ Journal and Correspondence” contain much attractive and interesting matter. His letters, without case, have great sincerity, calm discernment, disturbed by bursts of misanthropical power, as when he calls for a tempest of fire and brimstone upon the Russians, on their invasion of Poland, and a perpetual stream of sarcasm, adds a tart tinge to the whole. His “ Journal,” on the other hand, is rich in
those thoughts which procreate thought in others-in descriptions of natural objects which he encountered-in quiet sidelong glances into human character--in the expression of gloomy and desolate feelings, and in sudden, momentary, and timorous glimpses into the deeper abysses of thought than those where his spirit usually dwells. How grand this, for instance :-" Argument from miracles for the truth of the Christian doctrines. Surely it is fair to believe that those who received from heaven superhuman power received likewise superhuman wisdom. Having rung the great bell of the universe, the sermon to follow must be extraordinary.” Hear, again, this criticism on Burke :—“Burke's sentences are pointed at the end—instinct with pungent sense to the last syllable; they are like a charioteer's whip, which not only has a long and effective lash, but cracks and inflicts a still smarter sensation at the end. They are like some serpents, whose life is said to be fiercest in the tail.” The whole " Journal," indeed, is a repository of such things.
How much of Foster's originality lay in his thoughts, or how much in his images, or how much of it resulted from his early isolation from suitable books and kindred minds, we stay not to inquire. As it is, we have in his works the collected thoughts of a powerful mind that has lived “ collaterally or aside” to the world—that never flattered a popular prejudice—that never bent to a popular idolthat never deserted in the darkest hour the cause of liberty—that never swore to the Shibboleth of a party, or, at least, never kept its vow—and that now stands up before us alone, massive and conspicuous, a mighty and mysterious fragment, the Stonehenge of modern moralists. Shall we inscribe immortality upon the shapeless yet sublime structure? He who reared it seems, from the elevation he has now reached, to answer, No; what is the thing you call immortality to me, who have cleft that deep shadow and entered on this greater and brighter state of being ?
We dare not say, with a writer formerly quoted, that to “ Foster the cloud has now become the sun.
But certainly we may say that to him, “ behold the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth,” if not in its noonday effulgence, yet at least in its mild and twilight softness.
In the night he dwelt, and although the visage of death may not have been to him the glorious luminary he expected, yet is it not much that the night is gone, and gone for ever? We take our leave of him in his own words6. Paid the debt of nature.' No; it is not paying a debt, it is rather like bringing a note to a bank to obtain solid gold in exchange for it. In this case you bring this cumbrous body, which is nothing worth, and which you could not wish to retain long; you lay it down and receive for it, from the eternal treasures, liberty, victory, knowledge,
It is the lot of some men of genius to be born as if in the blank space between Milton's L'Allegro and Penseroso -their proximity to both originally equal, and their adhesion to the one or the other depending upon casual circumstances. While some pendulate perpetually between the grave and the gay, others are carried off bodily, as it happens, by the comic or the tragic muse. A few there are, who seem to say, of their own deliberate option, “ Mirth, with thee we mean to live ;" deeming it better to go to the house of feasting than to that of mourning—while the storm of adversity drives others to pursue sad and dreary paths, not at first congenial to their natures. Such men as Shakspeare, Burns, and Byron, continue, all their lives long, to pass, in rapid and perpetual change, from the one province to the other; and this, indeed, is the main source of their boundless ascendency over the general mind. In Young, of the “ Night Thoughts,” the laughter never very joyous, is converted, through the effect of gloomy casualties, into the ghostly grin of the skeleton Death—the pointed satire is exchanged for the solemn sermon. In Cowper, the fine schoolboy glee which inspirits his humor goes down at last, and is quenched like a spark in the wild abyss of his madness—“John Gilpin” merges in the “ Castaway." Hood, on the other hand, with his strongest tendencies originally to
we might almost call it, the “ Midsummer Night”-there is
the pathetic and the fantastic-serious, shrinks in timidity from the face of the inner sun of his nature—shies the stoop of the descending Pythonic power—and, feeling that if he wept at all it were floods of burning and terrible tears, laughs, and does little else but laugh instead.
We look upon this writer as a quaint masker—as wearing above a manly and profound nature, a fantastic and deliberate disguise of folly. He reminds us of Brutus, cloaking under pretended idiocy, a stern and serious design, which burns his breast, but which he chooses in this way only to disclose. Or, he is like Hamlet—able to form a magnificent purpose, but, from constitutional weakness, not able to incarnate it in effective action. A deep message has come to him from the heights of his nature, but, like the ancient prophet, he is forced to cry out, “I cannot speakI am a child !
Certainly there was, at the foundation of Hood's soul, a seriousness, which all his puns and mummeries could but indifferently conceal. Jacques, in the forest of Arden, mused not with a profounder pathos, or in quainter language, upon the sad pageant of humanity, than does he; and yet, like him, his á lungs” are ever ready to "crow like chanticleer" at the sight of its grotesquer absurdities. Verily, the goddess of melancholy owes a deep grudge to the mirthful magician, who carried off such a promising votary. It is not every day that one who might have been a great serious poet will condescend to sink into a punster and editor of comic annuals. And, were it not that his original tendencies continued to be manifested to the last, and that he turned his drollery to important account, we would be tempted to be angry, as well as to regret, that he chose to play the fool rather than King Lear in the play.
As a poet, Hood belongs to the school of John Keats and Leigh Hunt, with qualities of his own, and an all but entire freedom from their peculiarities of manner and style. What strikes us, in the first place, about him, is his great variety of subject and mode of treatment. His works are in two small duodecimo volumes; and yet we find in them five or six distinct styles attempted—and attempted with success. There is the classical—there is the fanciful, or, as
the homely tragic narrative—there is the wildly grotesquethere is the light-and there is the grave and patheticlyric. And, besides, there is a style, which we despair of describing by any one single or compound epithet, of which his 6 Elm Tree" and “ Haunted House” are specimens—resembling Tennyson's “ Talking Oak”—and the secret and power of which, perhaps, lie in the feeling of mystic correspondence between man and inanimate nature—in the start of momentary consciousness, with which we sometimes feel that in nature's company we are not alone, that nature's silence is not that of death; and are aware, in the highest and grandest sense, that we are “made of dust," and that the dust from which we were once taken is still divine. We know few volumes of poetry where we find, in the same compass, so little mannerism, so little self-repetition, such a varied concert, along with such unique harmony of sound.
Through these varied numerous styles, we find two or three main elements distinctly traceable in all Hood's poems. One is a singular subtlety in the perception of minute analogies. The weakness, as well as the strength of his poetry, is derived from this source. His serious verse, as well as his witty prose, is laden and encumbered with thick coming fancies. Hence, some of his finest pieces are tedious, without being long. Little more than ballads in size, they are books in the reader's feeling. Everyone knows how resistance adds to the idea of extension, and how roughness impedes progress. Some of Hood's poems, such as “ Lycus," are rough as the Centaur's hide ; and, having difficulty in passing along, you are tempted to pass them by altogether. And though a few, feeling that there is around them the power and spell of genius, generously cry, there's true metal here, when we have leisure, we must return to this --yet they never do. In fact, Hood has not been able to infuse human interest into his fairy or mythological creations. He has conceived them in a happy hour; surely on one of those days when the soul and nature are onewhen one calm bond of peace seems to unite all thingswhen the “very cattle in the fields appear to have great and tranquil thoughts”—when the sun seems to slumber, and the sky to smile when the air becomes a wide balm, and the