Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

“ Methought I saw my late espoused saint

Brought to me, like Alcestis, from the grave,
Whom Jove's great son to her glad husband gave,

Rescu'd from death by force, though pale and faint.
Mine, as whom, wash'd from spot of childbed taint,

Purification in the old law did save,
And such, as yet once more I trust to have

Full sight of her in Heaven without restraint ;-
Came, vested all in white, pure as her mind :

Her face was veil'd ; yet to my fancied sight

Love, sweetness, goodness, in her person shin'd
So clear as in no face with more delight.

But 0, as to embrace me she inclin'd,

I wak'd ; she fled ; and day brought back my night."--Milton. A dream ! it shall be the poet's mouth," and visits the subterranean dream. And here is Elton's - Dream cataracts. So much we consider as of Orpheus." He has most happily the drop-scene indicative of the genetreated the subject as a dream, with ral character of the piece, for in other the boldness, the transition, the action respects it is unnecessary. From this of a Greek. He is Greek in his he emerges, in his “ bodiless, swift dream, and has given us an English presence," and is again upon the moun. version not to be despised. The poet, tains, which are poetically described in a vision,~“my visual sense was as fit scenery for the agency of the soul,"—is amongst strange mountains poem. and forests. He pierces " a cavern's

“ The vulture cross'd the azure with his shade,
And eagles from the cliffs the sun survey'd
With fix'd irradiate eye, and from those hills
I saw the lion stooping towards the rills
That boil'd in clefts of rocks, and tigers slow
Stole from the brake, or, crouching, gazed below
On some aërial antelope, anon

Starting, as ’t were a leaf, scarce seen and gone." - Page 181. He is in the territory of the Bacchants, hears enchanting music, and “ with a thought” is before a mountain grotto. There are “ nymphs with vine-leaves crown'd.” Orpheus, of the music of whose lyre he had heard, is here introduced with effect.

Stags, with their antlers, peep'd; and the streak'd pard
Crouch'd harmless; for before them lean'd a bard
Against the lichen'd rock; within his grasp
A seven-string'd shell ; a coil'd and trampled asp

Beneath his foot, the fang still dropping gore." - Page 182. There is then silence-afterwards comes the song of the Bacchants, who taunt Orpheus with his absence, and his worship of his unaiding god, when his Eurydice, flying from the shepherd Aristæus, fell under the bite of the asp. They then try their amorous arts to engage him in a new affection. In vain

“ There was a pause : a silence, fearful, deep,
As though the wilderness were hush'd in sleep;
The youth had grasp'd with agonizing hands
His robe of snowy fleece, while propp'd he stands
Against the granite rock; his frame is shook
With ague thrills; a fire is in his look ;
And his wild locks seem curling from his head,
And his cheeks flush with hectic stains of red.
His hand is on his harp: and hark !—the clash,
Shrill, loud, and sudden as the thunder-flash!

ORPHEUS.
I fix my eyes upon thee, mighty Sun!
Thou hear'st what these have witness'd, and behold'st
The mockery of their pity! Thou art HE!

The god, whom they blaspheme, is their own god,
Whom they in base and mortal shape would seek
Among their tangled haunts: when they might stand
Upon the mountain which thy glory gilds,
And see thee in thy naked majesty,
God of the vine they worship. Hear me now!
Celestial Bacchus ! radiant Hercules !
That runn'st thy race of strength around the stars !
Thou Jove, thou Juno of the azure air !
Thou Neptune, brother of thyself, that rulest
The tempest-toiling element of sea !
Thou! who art both the sign and source of all,
The world of earth and waters and deep skies,
Hear me !--I ask a token.”—Pp. 186, 7.

The token is the repossession of Eurydice. Orpheus breaks from the Bacchants, throws himself to the branch of a high tree, whence “rock'd giddily,"

“ when it bending swept
The verdure-tufted crag, at once he leapt
Sheer from the branch, and felt beneath his feet
Heights which no footsteps but the deer's had beat ;
And bounding, where the eagle builds, from sight
He faded upwards iuto dizzy light.
Then javelins shook and clash'd; a long shrill yell
Was sent through every woodland, cave, and dell;
The hawk flew screaming from his rock; and o'er
The forest growl'd remote a mutter'd mingled roar.

“ My sprite was with the bard; I follow'd him
To other mountains, where the sight grew dim
If backward turn d below: one arm his lyre
Clasp'd close; the sun had touch'd a pine with fire;
He seized a branchy torch; I heard the wave
Dash loud and long and shrill; a yawning cave
Receiv'd him, and I enter'd.”_P. 190.

'The poet is in spirit with him, and the description of the descent is truly graphic. Orpheus arrives in confidence at the very centre of Infernal Glory, which is gorgeously painted.

“ At length the rock receded over-head;
A sky of amethyst o'er-arching spread
Its concave, studded with strange stars, and bright
With comets, wheeling in concentric light ;
And straight before, a palace rear'd on high
Its gold-leav'd doors and walls of porphyry;
And I beheld him, while the valves flew wide,
Across the threshold plant his venturous stride,
And pace, with harp in hand, the jasper floor :
Till, touching a soft stop, he paused before
A veiling arras, that with purpling glow
Checker'd in shifting lights the stone below.
He rais'd it with his arm, and the strong ray
Of starry lamps flash'd out a midnight day;
And supernatural statures caught the eye
Like shadows flung against a mountain sky:
Embodied attributes, strange virtues, powers
Of vengeance such as range the guilty towers
Where crime has left its stain : and some there were
Who wreathed the serpent round their female hair.
The sweet string trembled; all incontinent
Gazed, gestureless and mute; the prophet bent
His forehead; since, above that dream-like crowd,
Steps of pyramidal sweep sustain'd a cloud,

Through whose ensanguined and transparent light
What seem'd a pillar'd throne half met the sight,
Where sate a human shape of doubtful guise,
Tenebrous splendour, and colossal size ;
Dazzling, yet dimly seen. The charming rhyme
Melted from Orpheus' lips; he dared to climb
The slope pyramidal of steps, that grew
Beneath his toiling feet, till to my view
He stood diminished; the last stair he trode,
Fainting, and touch'd the footstool of the god."- Pp. 193, 4.

Mr Elton has made the most advantageous use of the Orphic Remains, and has embodied with high poetical conception the zivs of the ancient Greek. The following lines are extremely beautiful, and the dream-like visionary transmutation of the distinct yet blended powers of the One are in the true spirit of poetry :

“ He saw a monarch in his pomp of place
Propt on a statf of gold; he saw the face
Of Jove - Apollo in his subterrene
Presence: of two-sex'd aspect : a dark queen
Sate, gazing pensive on him, Pluto's spouse ;
Arch'd on her forehead met her raven brows,
And languishingly look'd her fawn-like eyes
Through long-fring'd eyelids dipt in hyacinth dyes ;
Her tower-tress'd hair was diadem'd. Anon
The apparition of that shape was gone ;
And through the fire-red vapour, mantling round
The chair of burnish'd adamant, there frown'd
A giant king, whose spiky crown was set
O'er locks that dropp'd in rings of clustering jet ;
Thus, in their violet robes enwrapt, the pair
Sate twain, or one ; with crisp'd, or flowing, hair ;
Or stern, or melancholy mild: each came
And went alone; each different, yet the same ;
Nor e'er at once were those grand phantoms seen-
A lonely king, a solitary queen.
One only lean'd upon that staff of gold,
And whom you late beheld, you still behold :
Her sandal'd feet still press the agate stair,
And his those raven brows, that tower-wreathed hair ;
The lineaments by involution strange
Of form and sex, pass'd with alternate change
And reappear'd; and still a disc of rays
Haloed each brow—a faint and flickering blaze ;
And in that sign the ravish'd prophet knew
His priesthood pure, his inspirations true.
He look'd upon the self-dividing one,
The female Jove of hell, the subterranean Sun;
And, as he twitch'd the chords with ivory rod,

Lifted his plaintive chant, and hailed the goddess.god.”—Pp. 194, 6. The Song of Orpheus," excepting “ But beware lest haste the first few lines of the poem, we

The spell dissever, think a failure. It sadly wants dig- Or, unembraced, nity. The metre offends, and meets

She is dead for ever!"_P. 201. with little apology in the matter. It From this point Mr Elton reasis of the common sing-song elegiac; sumes his poetical dignity and power. and as good verses may be found in The dreaming Poet had been disenevery village album amongst its fair- gaged from the Bard Orpheus during handed specimens of youthful and the upward passage, left therefore unvirgin talent. Nor do we see any described. He awaits him at the encharm in the speech of Proserpine, trance of the enormous cavern, the who tells Orpheus that, under spell, roarings of whose subterranean waves his Eurydice “ flits behịnd him". are

cave

dead;

we

“ Faintlier heard ; when from within the and the eternal regions of the blessed

expand before him, and around him,
A harp rang out ; a youth with hurried and all is love.
tread

" And one of roseate cheek and sunny hair,
Sprang into day, and, gasping, turn'd his

With starr'd and azured vestments, lean'd
head.

her head
The very heart within me seem'd to break
At the shrill sadness of that following

D'er a wan youth, who waked as from the
shriek."-P. 201.

Drew life and love like sun-light at his eyes,
The shriek, and misty figure, " veil. And held his breath in speechless ecstasies,
ed in snowy white," melting into Then dove-like murmured, while delight
* blindest, blackest, shade,” is certain-

grew pain,
ly an improvement upon the too pal- Eurydice! thou then art mine again!'”
pable and speech-making Eurydice of

P. 205,
the older versions. The Pontiff youth,
under the despairing passion of his

Nothing can be happier than this
grief, tearing away his harp-strings, is been an interruption to that perfect

conclusion ; a word more would have
finely conceived.
The charm of the Lyre has departed happiness, his dream, and his belief!

bliss of reunion—at once the poet's
from him.

Oh, that he should awake from this and “ The serpent cast

feel the chill of the gray morning cold Her venom on him, as he bounding pass'd

upon his widowed breast! Beneath the gnarl'd o'erbranching oaks ;

Much as we admire the Orpheus, the glare

are almost tempted to recomOf panthers met him from their briery

mend Mr Elton to give a rifacilair.”_P. 202.

mento of this fascinating poem. The The paths lead him by the loathed superiority of those portions that are image of the human Bacchus-he finds in blank verse will be striking to himself in the holiest place amongst every reader.

We do not object the slumbering Bacchants-he awakes

to rhyme-we would not disenchant them and drags their idol of Bacchus

the tale of rhyme--but we would ever from its base, and tramples in the have rhyme tell. When it comes not earth the“ mortal-visaged God.” The with its due pause, it is trifling ; its Bacchants, infuriate, pour forth the beauty is that it gives precision to Dithyrambic rage, seize and tear him thought, and encloses it, supplying the in pieces. Mr Elion does not forget place of the more distinct ictus of the the bodiless head floating down the Greek and Latin prosody. When Hebrus, and the “ frigida lingua,” still rhyme terminates a sentiment or an crying “Ah, miseram Eurydicen!"- action it gives it the muse's stamp, nor is he deterred by the burlesque of securing it from addition or interrupGay in his Trivia.

tion as a poetic axiom : it has a final “ Headless he sank; but woods, and glades, value. We cannot approve of the and rocks,

innovation of ineffective rhyming by Told back the voice of his last agony

which the imitators of the Shelley Eurydice ! ah, poor Eurydice !!

school make it a passing impertinence,
The last, the only sounds his tongue had with no apparent object but an unne-
shaped,

cessary intrusion. The monotony of
Still quiver'd on the lip when life escap'd. periodical termination may be better
The stream, that his departed visage roil'd avoided by transferring the rhymes,
Along its ruddy tides, that echo told ;

making their i ecurrence irregular, as
And all the wild roar died along the steep, in Lycidas (but Milton's ear was per-
And those who wreaked the vengeance fect; his sense of hearing was pro-
paused to weep.”_P. 204.

bably sharpened by the deprivation of
The heathen poets here terminate sight), and also by the use of the trip-
the story—but the immortality of the let, in which Dryden is so happy, and
soul was a part of the Orphic creed. so expressively and finally closes the
Mr Elton, therefore, justly and with sense of a passage.
great beauty extends his vision. The But why may we not speak a few
poet is again with Orpheus where, in words of Orpheus himself-Orpheus
the cavern, the descent, the brazen the Poet! Who was Orpheus ? What
door is passed. His footsteps are on

did he do? The Poet, the modern
the jasper floor; all vanishes in mist; Sophist, the Utilitarian, will variously

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

:

1

We are

answer. Some deny his existence, sters, we should be loth to trust to the and some read all poetry by the rule most concentrated extracts of his power of contrary. We envy not such, who from any of the works that bear his would too severely put poetry to the name. Repeat some of his best lines question, and who think they confer with the volume in hand in a pretty a benefit on mankind by stripping thick wood, and never suspect that the her more naked than ever she was trees will follow you, nor fear comborn, and subjecting her limbs to plaints before magistrates of your oral the torture to chronicle her miser- depredations ! able confessions as truth.

There are some strong and pictucontent to know that trees followed resque passages in the Argonautics, for him, tigers danced and crouched instance, the Cave of Chiron ; but, exbefore his lyre. Neither do we envy cepting some few isolated scenes, thero the success of that exact enquiry by is little poetry in the work. There is which some have pretended to have a pretty story in the argument (why discovered, that the music of Orpheus so called we know not) to his Lithics, arose not from his lyre but from the which, though told with great simpestle and mortar! who resolve the plicity, shows a very successful atrecovery of Eurydice from Hades, tempt at descriptive precision and even or, according to the advertisements, studied sweetness and elegance of ver“ from under the ribs of death,” into sification. the efficacy of medicine administered Orpheus, in his way to offer his an. by the first Apothecary, Orpheus ! nual sacrifice to the Sun, meets Theo

The powers ascribed to Orpheus, damas, whom he persuades to accommaking every allowance for poetical pany him. He gives a very interest: embellishments, are, indeed, extensive ing and graphic narrative of the cause enough; he asserts in the Argonautics, which led his father to offer sacrifice with sufficient gravity, that he had on the altar of that deity. This in" trod the dark way of Tartarus into troduces a discussion, and leads the Hell for the sake of his spouse, trust. way to the poems that follow, on the ing to his harp.” Certainly, nothing merits and powers of various stones, has come down to us indicative of his the possession of which will lead to wonderful charm. The most whimsi. the attainment of the owner's wishes, cal power ascribed to a verse of Or- and guard him from the dangers of pheus, “ the wise mage,” is in the poison. The scenery of the place of Cyclops, where the coward Satyr pro- sacrifice, and the accompaniment of poses the repetition as a charm to bid the two dogs, who attend of their own ihe monster's eye walk out of his head accord, conclude the little narrative of its own accord. We are not likely with some exquisitely beautiful lines, to meet with panthers in our walks ; as expressive as any in the range of but, if Mr Wombwell's van should pastoral poetry. We offer a transbreak down and pour forth its mon- lation :

I love the converse of a man of sense,
Better than gold, that masters all who seek it-
For, being bent on sacrifice to the Sun,
I met my prudent friend Theodamas,
Towards the city, from the country wending.
I took him by the hand, and spake him thus :
“ Townward to-morrow, my good friend, unless
Most urgent business call you there to-day;
Fôr now, methinks, the very god himself
Sent thee to meet me bent on festival.
Consent, then, come with me, for blessedness
Attends the sacrifice that good men ofler ;
And the immortal gods rejoice, when men
The worthiest do these processions lead.
Nor shall I take you far aside ; for, see
The hill, above my grounds, whither I tend.
There, when I was a stripling, once alone
I ventured, following two birds escaped--
My two tame partridges : each, as it heard
Its name (I called to them), stood still awhile,

« ForrigeFortsæt »