Imágenes de páginas

his head and end his life, that, to a heart so wasted, would not be worth the ha ving. The scoffing fiend actually leaves no one feeling for the mind to feed upon; religion, morals, philosophy, the very sense and beauty of excellence, all are swept away by him. When Faustus, who is gazing at a lovely image in the witch's enchanted mirror, exclaims in the excess of his delight,

“ Can such beauty be on earth ?" He replies,

“No! 'Tis natural when a God has plagued himself for six days, and cries bravo to himself, on the seventh, that something excellent should come of it!"

In the mean time the cauldron, left to itself, begins to boil over, in consequence of which the fire swells up the chimney, and the witch tumbles down through the blaze with a horrid shriek. Her first salutation to the company is by sprinkling over them flames which she draws from the magic kettle; at this the beasts retreat, howling; but, fire being the native element of Mephistophilus, he stands his ground bravely, and farther amuses himself with dashing to pieces all her glass and crockery. At first the indignant witch draws back; but, soon recognizing her old master, dances about him in a tumult of joy. At his command she begins to prepare the magic draught that is to renew youth; for this purpose she draws about her a circle, in which the Monkey-cats are placed, by way of reading desk for her folio of the Black Arts, while the glasses and the cauldron ring. Faustus is invited by her to enter into the magic round, but he flatly declares his utter abhorrence of all this mummery. Mephistophilus replies in his usual scoffing tone, and, sooth to say, the poet himself too often plays the Devil with his readers, leaying it no easy task to distinguish between his jest and earnest. Faustus seems more stunned, than convinced, by the fiend's admonitions, but he accepts the draught, which is no sooner placed to his lips than it turns to fire. His companion exclaims ;

“ Down with it,
Down with it quickly; quaff, friend, quaff;
"Twill make the heart within thee laugh;
Art thou the Devil's friend, yet fear
To share the Devil's fiery cheer?"
(To be concluded in our next.)


(Concluded from page 13.)

[ocr errors]


It remains now to say something concerning the sentiments, characters, incidents, moral, and diction, of the poem, and, a PwTOV OTTO 7PwTwv, let us speak of the sentiments. These, as I observed before, are not like Lucan's, obtruded upon the reader, but suggested by incidents. For instance, does not the circumstance of the lady's going to sea after her true-love suggest more than the most laboured declamation on the force of love? When the captain is melted by the pathetic address, and lily-white breast of the lady, is it not clearly and expressively intimated how great is the power of weeping beauty, pleading in a good cause, over even the boisterous nature of a sailor? Again, when the lady shoots Billy Taylor, what a fine sentiment is to be discovered here of the power of jealousy ? and in the death of Billy, contrasted with his former gaiety, who is there whose soul is of so iron a mould as not to be touched by the implied sentiment of the short-livedness of human pleasure and enjoyment, when even the gay Taylor is overtaken by fate? This is a most masterly piece of nature; and I venture to pronounce that the man who is uninterested by it must have been born on Caucasus and nursed by she-wolves. I come now to the characters; and here it is that the chief art of the poet is displayed. It is wonderful to observe how many and how different characters are to be found in this short poem. To say nothing of the four-and-twenty “ fellers," who are admirably characterized by the epithet “ brisk ;" we have the 'mirthful Taylor and the rugged sea-captain, the lady fair and free, and the lady gay. It may be objected that there is too great a sameness in the female characters: but no; the lady fair and free is brave and revengeful; the lady gay is simply gay, a mere insipid character, and introduced by the poet no doubt as a contrast to the turbulent and busy character of the other lady. The boisterous captain is a well-drawn and well-supported character. He is rugged, honest, blunt, illiterate and gallant. But it is the character of the hero Taylor, which is drawn and sustained with the most art and nature. In the first place he is brave, although some have contradicted this, by saying that he did not go to sea voluntarily but was pressed, and then run away the night before the engagement. But I will not believe he was a coward : no; let the critics remember that Ulysses did not go voluntarily to the Trojan war, and was always willing to escape when he could ; and yet surely he was a hero. Thus have I proved the bravery of Taylor. He had also other requisites for a hero; he was amorous, like Achilles and Æneas, and he deserted his love like the same Æneas. Then he was brisk and gay. I do not remember any hero exactly of this character. To be sure, Achilles laughs once in the Iliad, and Æneas in the Æneid; but it does not appear to have been the general character of either of them, and especially of the latter, who was a whimpering sort of hero. It does not appear that Taylor resembled Æneas in piety; but that is a silly kind of antiquated virtue, of which heroes of modern days would be ashamed, and which our poet has most judiciously omitted in the catalogue of Billy's qualities. Again, he resembles the heroes of antiquity in his untimely end, and in the cause of it-a woman. Thus Achilles was shot in the "heel ; Ulysses' was killed, though not very prematurely, by his son; Æneas was drowned like a dog, in a ditch; and Alexander was poisoned. Then as to the cause; Sampson, (though to be sure the polite reader will call that fabulous, and think me a fool for quoting such an old wife's tale,) owed his death to a woman; Agamemnon was even killed by a woman; Hippolitus lost his life by a woman; so did Bellerephon; and Antony lost the world, and his life too, by a woman, Upon the whole Billy's is a mixed sort of character, composed of good and bad qualities, in which, according to the established character of the heroes, the bad predominate. Thus, in the character of Achilles, it would be difficult to find a single good quality : he is “ impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer," and a great deal more of the same sort. Æneas is indeed pious; but then he is a perfidious deserter of an injured lady; he invades à country where he has no right, and kills the man who has the audacity to oppose the usurper of his own throne, and the ravisher of his own wife. And, as to Alexander, he was à mere brute ; he overthrew cities, as children overthrow houses made of cards, for his mere amusement; and, like the same children, wept when he had no more to knock down; he killed some millions of men, for the same reason that country 'squires shoot swallows, for exercise, and because they have nothing else to do ; and, in the time of peace and conviviality, he slew two of his best friends, merely to keep his hand in practice. Compared to these heroes, Billy is a perfect saint ; and indeed I have often thought that he is too good for a hero; and that a few rapes, and thefts, and murders, would have made a very proper and interesting addition to his character. As to the incidents, I shall merely observe that they are numerous, well-chosen, interesting, and natural. Let me next speak of the moral to be drawn from the poem. Whether the poet, according to Bossu's rule, and Homer's and Æsop's practice, .chose the moral first, I cannot pretend to say, though some, who resolve the whole poem into an allegory, favour that opinion. Certain it is, the moral is excellent, the ill effects of inconstancy; and I am sure the fair sex will be obliged to the poet's gallantry. There are also some of what I may call collateral truths to be derived from the poem ; such as not to trust too much to prosperity, exemplified in the mirth and downfall of Taylor; and the reward of virtue, in the lady's being made a first lieutenant. I shall conclude with a few remarks on the diction, or, to speak metaphorically, the dress in which the story is clothed. It has all the requisites of a good style ; it is concise, perspicuous, simple, and occasionally sublime. The poetry is not of that tumid nature which Pindar uses, but of the graceful simplicity of Homer's verse. The poet has diversified the language by the intermixture of the Doric dialect, in imitation of the Greek tragedians; of this kind are the expressions, vat vind, diskivered, I be him, and for to know. But what strikes me most is, the solemn, mournful, and pathetic beauty of the chorus, Tol lol de rol de riddle iddle ido. The Ai, ai, and φευ, φευ, of Euripides and Sophocles, the εεεε and oτο το τοι TOTO1 of Æschylus, are comparatively frigid and tasteless. Yes; this Tol lol de rol de riddle iddle ido is so exquisitely tender, and so musically melancholy, that I dare affirm, that the mind and ear that are not sensibly affected with it, are barbarous, tasteless, and incapable of relishing beauty or harmony. Thus ends my criticism.


Every one must recollect the tragical story of young E-, the Irish patriot; it was too touching to be soon forgotten. During the troubles in Ireland, he was tried, condemned, and executed, on a charge of treason. His fate made a deep impression on public sympathy. He was so young-so intelligent-so generous-so brave-so every thing that we are apt to like in a young man. His conduct under trial, too, was so lofty and intrepid. The noble indignation with which he repelled the charge of treason against his country - the elegant vindication of his name and his pathetic appeal to posterity, in the hopeless hour of condemnation-all these entered deeply into every generous bosom, and even bis enemies lamented the stern policy that dictated his execution.

But there was one heart, whose anguish it would be impossible to describe. In happier days and fairer fortunes, he had won the affections of a beautiful and interesting girl, the daughter of a late celebrated Irish barrister. She loved him with the disinterested fervour of a woman's first and early love. When every worldly maxim arrayed itself against him ; when blasted in fortune, and disgrace and danger darkened around his name, she loved him the more ardently for his very sufferings. If, then, his fate could awaken the sympathy, even of his foes, what must have been the agony of her whose whole soul was occupied by his image! Let those tell who have had the portals of the tomb suddenly closed between them and the being they most loved on earth—who have sat at its threshold, as one shut out in a cold and lonely world, from whence all that was most lovely and loving and departed.

But then the horrors of such a grave ! so 'frightful, so dishonoured! There was nothing for memory to dwell on that could soothe the pang of separation-none of those tender, though melancholy circumstances, that endeavour the parting scene-nothing to melt sorrow into those blessed tears, sent, like the dews of heaven, to revive the heart in the parching hour of anguish.

To render her widowed situation more desolate, she had incurred her father's displeasure by her unfortunate attachment, and was an exile from the paternal roof. But could

« AnteriorContinuar »