Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

6

6

[ocr errors]

ous whole. Madame Hahn-Hahn is quite right when, in repelling a similar suspicion regarding one of her own heroines, sbe says,-' But nature cannot be copied ; it must be conceived so 'as to make part of the mind, in order to be actually portrayed.' The actual character suggests the first notice of the ideal one, and this is all; meaning, of course, where the poetical faculty is actually at work.

The object, tendency, and execution of this Poem have been, and will continue so long as it continues to be discussed, the main points of criticism; but as all our readers can hardly be assumed to have read it, we will add a word or two as to the plot, if plot it can be called where plot is (we will not say none, but) very little. The Child of the Islands is his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. He was chosen, 'not as the theme of • a Birthday Ode, or Address of Congratulation, but as the most complete existing type of a peculiar class-a class born into a

world of very various destinies, with all the certainty human 6

prospects can give, of enjoying the blessings of this life, without 6

incurring any of its privations. I desired to contrast that • brightness with the shadow that lies beyond and around.' This is rather dangerous ground to tread on, and so the author appears to have felt; for the royal infant is brought forward much more frequently to be warned, encouraged, exalted, and eulogized, (by anticipation,) than contrasted ; and by some ingenuity of handling, which we should be puzzled to explain, all invidiousness of contrast, though seemingly inevitable, is kept back.

Every body knows Paley's famous metaphor of the pigeons, 'gathering all the corn they could pick up into a heap for one, • and that the weakest, perhaps, and worst pigeon of the flock,

sitting round, and looking on all the winter, whilst this one was devouring, throwing about, and wasting it.' George the *Third never forgave this (as he thought) truculent slap at monarchy; and when the writer was proposed for a Bishopric, he exclaimed— What, Pigeon Paley a Bishop-no, no!' in some fear, after reading Mrs Norton's preface, that, with a heart full of loyalty, she was running some risk of stopping her own preferment at court, by turning an undue degree of attention on the startling contrast between the conditions of the peasant and the prince. But the shading is perfect; she never fails to justify the ways of God to man; and we undertake to say, that not only will no additional murmur be raised, but many a doubt will be set at rest, and many a rising feeling of dissatisfaction be conciliated. Can any one read such stanzas as the fol. lowing, and not feel the emptiness of conventional distinctions,

We were

and the insufficiency of rank and wealth to dispel sorrow-a common enough text, it must be owned; yet it is by the mode of dealing with common topics, that the finest qualities of head and heart may be manifested :

God hath built up a bridge 'twixt man and man,

Which mortal strength can never overthrow;
Over the world it reaches its dark span-

The keystone of that mighty arch is Woe!

Joy's rainbow glories visit earth, and go,
Melting away to Heaven's far-distant land;

But grief's foundations have been fixed below:
PLEASURE divides us :— the Divine command
Hath made of SORROW's links a firm connecting band.

[ocr errors]

In the clear morning, when I rose from sleep,

And left the threshold for the fresh'ning breeze,
There I beheld a grieving woman weep;

The shadow of a child was on her knees,

The worn heir of her many miseries;
“ Save him !” was written in her suppliant glance:

But I was weaker than its fell disease,
And ere towards noon the dial could advance
Death indeed saved her babe from life's most desperate chance.

• The sunset of that day-in splendid balls

Mourning a little child of Ducal race, (How fair the picture memory recalls !)

I saw the sweetest and the palest face

That ever wore the stamp of Beauty's grace,
Bow'd like a white rose beat by storms and rain,

And on her countenance my eyes could trace,
And on her soft cheek, mark'd with tearful stain,
That she had pray'd through many a midnight watch in vain.'

6

The last stanza forms an exception to what we have said before about copying. The original of the sweetest and the palest face,' may be seen in those same ducal halls, with the stamp of beauty fresh upon it, yet the picture is as poetical as a fancy piece. So, too, is one of a different order, the spirited sketch of the great warrior Duke :

«In thy life's prime," ere yet the fading grey

Had blanch'd the tresses of thy gallant head:
Or from thy step Time's gradual faint decay

Stole the proud bearing of a Soldier's tread.' The words, in thy life's prime,' are explained by a note. At a dinner given by the East India Directors on Sir Henry Har

dinge's departure for India, the Duke, on returning thanks, observed— But we have not met here to-day to talk of bygone • transactions, though I am very grateful for the mention of ser

vices I had the honour of rendering to the East India Com• pany-when I was in India—in the prime of my life. This casual expression elicited a burst of cheering:

One great charm of this poem is the number of striking incidents, as well as fine observations, embodied in it; and they appear to fall naturally and easily into their proper places, though nothing can well be more desultory than the plan. The Seasons do certainly follow each other in their natural order, and the Opening comes first, because, by a recognised rule of composition, il faut commencer par le commencement ; but this is the only kind of arrangement that is obvious to the cursory reader. Yet we seldom feel diverted from the main argument by the episodes, or confused by the variety of the (apparently) incidental matters; and the reason is, that the author never loses sight of her object, nor ever pauses or digresses except to forward it-chat is, except with the wish and intention of forwarding it-for we cannot help thinking that a topic or two, such as the Scottish Church Controversy, might have been advantageously suppressed. What, however, the poem most wants is compression ; and we could specify a few stanzas on which the labour of the file' might be advantageously employed.

It is only fair to say, that our extracts have been chosen with an almost exclusive reference to the opinions or cast of thought indicated by them; and that we should have turned to other passages,—as the sketches of the Gipsy Girl and the Opera-dancer, the lines on Flowers, (p. 170,) or the rapid succession of condensed illustrations at p. 178,—had our more peculiar object been to call attention to ease and grace of language, beauty of conception, or imagery.

The work is appropriately dedicated to Mr R. B. Sheridan, the new member for Shaftesbury, who has honourably distinguished himself by his exertions to ameliorate the condition of the poor, in his own immediate neighbourhood; and the frontispiece is adorned by a design of great merit, by Maclise.

Art. III.-Dr Martin Luther's Briefe, Sendschreiben und Beden

ken vollständig aus den verschiedenen Ausgaben seiner Werke und Briefe, aus andern Büchern und noch unbenutzten Handschrifter gesammelt, Kritisch und Historisch bearbeitet. Von DR WILHELM MARTIN LEBERECHT DE WETTE. 5 vols. 8vo. Berlin.

(Dr Martin Luther's Entire Correspondence, carefully compiled from the various editions of his works and Letters, fiom other Books, and from Manuscripts as yet private. Edited, with Critical and Historical Notes, by Dr Wilhelm MARTIN LEBERECHT DE WETTE.)

WE

[ocr errors]

E are not sure that the familiar letters of a great man, if

they are sufficiently copious, written on a variety of themes, and really unpremeditated, do not furnish us with more accurate data for estimating his character, than either the most voluminous deliberate compositions, or the largest traditional collections of his conversation. The former will always conceal much which letters will disclose ;—will give not only an imperfect, but perhaps false idea of many points of character; and will certainly suggest an exaggerated estimate of all the ordinary habitudes of thought and expression. The latter will often fall as much below the true mean of such a man's merits; and what is of

a more consequence, must depend-except in the rare case in which some faithful Boswell continually dogs the heels of genius-on the doubtful authority and leaky memory of those who report it. Letters, on the other hand, if they be copious, unpremeditated, and not intended for the eye of the world, will exhibit the character in all its moods and phases, and by its own utterances. While some of them will disclose to us the habitual states of thought and feeling, and admit us even into the privacy of the heart, others, composed under the stimulus of great emergencies, and in those occasional auspicious expansions of the faculties, which neither come nor go at our bidding, will furnish no unworthy criterion of what such a mind, even in its most elevated moods, and by its most deliberate efforts, can accomplish.

If ever any man's character could be advantageously studied in his letters, it is surely that of Luther. They are addressed to all sorts of persons, are composed on an immense diversity of subjects, and, as to the mass of them, are more thoroughly unpremeditated, as well as more completely suggested ex visceribus cause, as Cicero would say, than those of almost any other

.

[ocr errors]

man. They are also more copious ; as copious as those even of his great contemporary Erasmus, to whom letter-writing was equally business and amusement. What appear voluminous collections in our degenerate days—those of Sévigné, Pope, Walpole, Cowper, even of Swift, dwindle in comparison. In De Wette's most authentic and admirable edition, they occupy five very thick and closely-printed volumes. The learned compiler, in a preface amusingly characteristic of the literary zeal and indefatigable research of Germany, tells us, that he has unearthed from obscure hiding-places and mouldering manuscripts more than a hundred unprinted letters, and enriched the present collection with their contents. By himself, or his literary agents, he has ransacked the treasures of the archives of Weimar, the • libraries at Jena, Erfurt, Gotha, Wolfenbüttel, Frankfort on • the Maine, Heidelberg and Basle ;' and has received precious

contributions from Breslau, Riga, Strasburg, Münich, Zurich, and other places. There are many, no doubt, which time has consigned to oblivion, and perhaps some few which still lie unknown in public or private repositories-undetected even by the acute literary scent of De Wette, and his emissaries. But there are enough in all conscience to satisfy any ordinary appetite, and to illustrate, if any thing can, the history and character of him who penned them.

Even in a purely literary point of view, these letters are not unworthy of comparison with any thing Luther has left behind him. They contain no larger portion of indifferent Latin, scarcely so much of his characteristic violence and rudeness; while they display in beautiful relief all the more tender and amiable traits of his character; and are fraught with brief but most striking specimens of that intense and burning eloquence for which he was so famed. Very many of them well deserve the admiration which Coleridge (who regretted that selections from them had not been given to the English public) has so strongly expressed. I can scarcely conceive,' he says, ' a more delight• ful volume than might be made from Luther's letters, espe

cially those written from the Wartburg, if they were translated ' in the simple, sinewy, idiomatic, hearty mother tongue of the • original. A difficult task I admit.'

He is speaking, of course, of Luther's German letters. Almost all, however, from the Wartburg are in Latin.

Of late years they have received considerable attention. M. Michelet, in his very pleasing volumes, in which he has made Lutherdraw his own portrait, by presenting a series of extracts from his writings, has derived no small portion of his materials from the

« ForrigeFortsæt »