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Remember the Days of Old,' would find appropriate expression from a lady's voice and a pianoforte accompaniment. Burns's War Ode' would most fitly resound from the lips of valiant men in the very shock and grasp of battle, accompanied by the flash of swords and the roar of cannon.
Moore is not the poet of strong emotions. Yet is there genuine pathos in many of his beautiful songs; but it is pathos of the gentle kind, such as a cambric handkerchief wipes away, to leave the eyes of the fair songstress only the more radiant for such sweet tears, and revealing an expression, or rather realising one of the most charming similes Moore himself has ever penned―
'Her floating eyes! Oh, they resemble
Blue water-lilies, when the breeze
Is making the waves around them tremble!'
It must not, however, be forgotten, in estimating the value of Moore's ballads, that before his time fashionable English songs were, almost without exception, as far as words went, mere rubbish. He effected a valuable reform in this department of poetry and verse, and hosts of imitators maintain the improvement so well that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the productions of the master and those of some of his selfconstituted pupils and followers. His wit, however, cannot be so easily imitated; and there is certainly a wide difference between the classical and polished fancies of Moore and the tinsel conceits of the mass of our later song-writers.
In 1812 Moore determined on writing an Eastern tale in verse; and his friend Mr Perry of the 'Chronicle' accompanied him to Messrs Longman, the publishers, to arrange for the sale of a work of which the proposed author had not yet written a line nor even settled the subject. Perry appears to have been an invaluable intermediary. He proposed at once, as the basis of the negotiation, that Moore should have the largest sum ever given for such a work. That,' observed the Messrs Longman, 'was three thousand guineas.' And three thousand guineas it was ultimately covenanted the price should be, thanks to Moore's reputation, and the business abilities of his friend Perry. It was further agreed that the manuscript should be furnished at whatever time might best suit the author's convenience, and that Messrs Longman should accept it for better for worse, and have no power or right to suggest alterations or changes of any kind. The bargain was altogether a safe one on Moore's side, and luckily it turned out equally profitable for the publishers.
In order to obtain the necessary leisure and quiet for the composition of such a work, Moore resolved to retire from the gaieties of Holland and Lansdowne Houses, and other mansions of his distinguished patrons and friends, to the seclusion and tranquillity of the country. He made choice of Mayfield Cottage, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire, and not far distant from Donnington Park, Lord Moira's country-seat, where an excellent library was at his service. It may be as well to mention that when this early and influential friend of Moore went out to India as governor-general, he apologised for not being able to present his poetical protégé with anything worth his acceptance in that country. But,' said Lord Moira (Marquis of Hastings), 'I can perhaps barter a piece of India patronage against something at home that might suit you.' This offer, which would have gravely
compromised Moore with his Whig friends, he with some asperity declined. The governor-general went to India, and Moore retired to Derbyshire, remaining, with the exception of his Bermudan registrarship, placeless. This offer and refusal Moore communicated by letter to Leigh Hunt. Mayfield Cottage, when the poet and his wife arrived to view it, wore anything but an inviting aspect. It was a poor place,' Moore wrote, 'little better than a barn; but we at once took it, and set about making it habitable and comfortable.' He now commenced the formidable task of working himself up into a proper Oriental state of mind for the accomplishment of his work. The first part of this process consisted in reading every work of authority that treated of the topography, climate, zoology, ornithology, entomology, floriculture, horticulture, agriculture, manners, customs, religion, ceremonies, and languages of the East. Asiatic registers, D'Herbelot, Jones, Tavernier, Flemming, and a host of other writers, were industriously consulted; and so perfect did Mr Moore become in these various branches of knowledge, that a great Eastern traveller, after reading 'Lalla Rookh,' and being assured that the poet had never visited the scenes in which he placed his stories, remarked that if it were so, a man might learn as much of those countries by reading books as by riding on the back of a camel! This, however, was but a part of the requisite preparation. 'I am,' says Mr Moore, ' a slow, painstaking workman, and at once very imaginative and very matter-of-fact;' and he goes on to say that the slightest exterior interruption or contradiction to the imaginary state of things he was endeavouring to conjure up in his brain threw all his ideas into confusion and disarray. It was necessary, therefore, to surround himself in some way or other with an Eastern atmosphere. How this could be managed in the face of the snows of three Derbyshire winters, during which the four stories which compose 'Lalla Rookh' were written, it is difficult to conceive, and perhaps to the fact that it could not be effectually done, must be ascribed the ill success which beset the poet during an entire twelvemonth. Vainly did he string together peris and bulbuls, and sunny apples of Totkahar: the inspiration would not come. It was all 'Double, double, toil and trouble,' to no purpose. Each story, however trippingly it began, soon flagged, drooped, and, less fortunate than that of -The bear and fiddle,
Begun and broke off in the middle,'
expired of collapse after a brief career of a few score lines only, frequently nothing like so many. Some of these fragments have since been published. One of them, 'The Peri's Daughter,' ran to some length, and is rather pretty and sparkling.
We subjoin a brief specimen. A peri had married the 'rightful Prince of Ormuz,' and must be supposed to have left this heir-apparent de jure to the crown of Ormuz, as after a time she comes floating back to her husband's bower with a charming present in her care:—
"Within the boat a baby slept,
Like a young pearl within its shell,
Gracefully waving in her hand
With which from time to time she stirr'd
Here concluded both the peri's voyage and the 'Peri's Daughter,' both muse and boat coming alike to a dead stop; and Mr Moore, finding the 'Peri's Daughter'—-spite of his most desperate efforts to get on-immovably aground, abandoned the lady, the child, the ferry-boat, and the golden anchor, notwithstanding the rightful prince was, and is to this day, anxiously but vainly expecting his peri-wife and semi-peri child.
This uninspiring state of things seemed interminable-the three thousand guineas were as far off as ever; and apprehension of the necessity of a bodily journey to the East, in order to get at the genuine atmosphere,' must have suggested itself, when a gleam of light, in the idea of the 'Fire-Worshippers,' broke in upon the poet; the multifarious collection of Eastern materials deposited in the chambers of his brain arranged themselves in flowing numbers, without encountering any further accident; and at the end of three years 'Lalla Rookh' was ushered before an admiring world. Its success was immense, and the work ran rapidly through many editions. 'Paradise and the Peri,' the second story, although not so much praised as the first and third, is, we fancy, much the most read of the four; and from its light, ringing tone, its delicate and tender sentiment, its graceful and musical flow, will always be a principal favourite with the admirers of Thomas Moore's poetry. Amongst the numerous testimonials to the merits of 'Lalla Rookh' there is one, pridefully recorded by the author, that must have compensated him a thousandfold for the coarse remark of Hazlitt, that Moore ought not to have published 'Lalla Rookh' even for three thousand guineas. Its chief incidents were represented by tableaux vivans at the Château-Royal, Berlin, in 1822, by, amongst others, the imperial and royal personages whose names appear in the following extract from a printed French programme of the entertainments:
'Fadladin, Grand Nasir,
Aliris, Roi de Bucharie,
Arungzebed, le Grand Mogul,
Comte Haach, Maréchale de Cour.
S. A. I. Le Grand Duc Nicholas de Russie.
S. A. I. La Grande Duchesse.
S. A. R. Le Prince Guillaume (Frère du Roi.)
S. A. R. La Princesse Louise de Radzivil.'
Some portions of the scenery were magnificent, especially the gate of Eden, with its crystal bar, and occasional glimpses of splendour jetting through and falling upon the repentant Peri. At the close of the entertainments, Son Altesse Impériale la Grande Duchesse, and now Empress of all the Russias, made, it is said, the following speech:-' Is it, then, all over? Are we now at the close of all that has given us so much delight?
And lives there no poet who will impart to others and to future times some notion of the happiness we have enjoyed this evening?' In answer to this irresistible appeal one of the actors, the poetical Baron de la Motte Fouqué, stepped gallantly forward, and vowed that he would give the poem to the world in a German dress. On hearing which the Empress Lalla Rookh graciously smiled.' This story, we beg to observe, rests for its authority on the preface to Monsieur Le Baron de la Motte Fouqué's translation, and whether, consequently, the speech of the Grand Duchess is a veritable imperial speech or a trade puff we cannot take upon ourselves, from internal evidence alone, to determine.
It has been already remarked that the local descriptions in 'Lalla Rookh' have been pronounced by excellent authority to be surprisingly accurate. The trees and the birds are all called by their proper names, the right sort of perfumes are used, eyelids and finger-nails are stained of the correct colour, Eastern ceremonial is truly described, and men in these tales wear turbans and swear by Allah, with many other accuracies of the same kind. All this is said to constitute their beauty and excellence as Oriental romances. With all proper deference to the critical authority which thus pronounces, we beg to demur to such a dictum. The mechanical and elaborate accuracy so much extolled relates only to the dress, the externals of Eastern society, and does not touch its life, its peculiar modes of thought, impulse, action. If to dress people in Eastern clothes, and to take care that neither they in their speech, nor the author in his descriptions, miscall anything, nor make any considerable blunder in the conventional language of ceremony, be to write an Eastern tale, then are Racine's Frenchmen, with classical tropes and figures in their mouths, and tunics and togas on their backs-Pyrrhus, Orestes, Britannicus-true Greeks and Romans, and Shakspeare's Coriolanus, Brutus, Antony, who talk very little mythology, and utter not a few anachronisms, are not true types-real living incarnations of the Roman character and spirit. Neither is Juliet-in whose glowing, impassioned speech we hear nothing about myrtles, or sunny skies, or Madonas a true Italian woman! Surely that which stamps men and women, Greeks, Italians, Turks, is the character which religion, manners, usages, climate, institutions, impress upon their minds, giving to each separate, well-defined nationality its peculiar ideas, expression, action! Judged by this test, where is the Orientalism of these tales? The actors in them, so far as they have any individuality, are all Europeanschiefly English and Irish. Hafed talks lofty patriotism, just as Captain Rock would had he the faculty of verse-Al Hassan is the stereotyped European tyrant. The love of Azib has not a tint of Orientalism about it; and Zelica, an enthusiastic young lady, cruelly deceived by a monster— not an uncommon result, we grieve to say here, although not often attended by such extremely fatal results as in her case-has, much to her credit, notions of purity and marriage entirely in accordance with those of the thousands of fair readers who have wept through the twenty editions of her griefs. The Peri! Well, perhaps we must let the East have the Peri, although even she looks at times remarkably like a young and gentle Irish Sister of Mercy. As for Fadladeen, he is a very old courtier of the Queen's,' and Mokanna dates as far back as the invention of minor theatres and blue flame. No-no; 'Lalla Rookh' sparkles with pretty fancies we admit, and
contains passages of considerable beauty, but Oriental, in the meaning which ought to attach to the word, the work is not. Nor do we hold that the poetic fame of the writer of the 'Melodies' will be at all enhanced by it as a whole, although Paradise and the Peri will perhaps always be attractive for innocent and gentle natures. It is in the more impassioned portions of this series of poems that Moore chiefly fails. The light wings of his lyric muse are not fitted for either lofty or lengthened flights. A brief, gay theme, a lively or tender sentiment breathed through a song-these are Moore's triumphs, and in this varied, if confined, range of composition, he has no superior, perhaps, taken altogether, no equal; but of highly imaginative or sustained poetry he is hopelessly incapable; and when he does attempt to scale the lofty heights of human passion, the descent is lamentable. It were easy to give proofs of this from the tragic portions of 'Lalla Rookh,' but the task is an ungracious one, and we decline it. Still one may hold this opinion of the comparative inferiority of these poems without subscribing to Hazlitt's remark-that Moore ought not, for his fame's sake, to have written them for three thousand guineas. Whatever is vital in his writings will survive, spite of the earthy matter with which it may be for a time associated and partially confounded. It is difficult besides to pronounce dogmatically upon what a man who has his bread to earn should not do for three thousand guineas, if it may be done without moral offence. Mr Hazlitt could not be entitled to pronounce such a judgment until after he had himself been similarly tempted, and had not fallen.
An odd anecdote illustrative of Moore's increasing and widely-spread fame may here be given. He was surprised one day at receiving from Sweden an offer to be elected a knight of the ancient Order of St Joachim. This distinction, it was announced in the missive, which purported to come from the chancellor of the order, was tendered as a mark of the admiration entertained by the honourable fraternity for his very charming poetry. Moore was puzzled-mystified. He had never before heard of the Order of St Joachim, and vehemently suspected some kind friend of seeking to play him a malicious trick. St Joachim! Might it not turn out to be St Jok'em? He, however, stealthily inquired amongst persons versed in knightly orders, and was informed that there really was a Swedish knighthood of the name mentioned, and that several presentable persons had belonged to it. Still, after due deliberation, he resolved to decline the generously-proffered honour. It was too hazardous. Sir Joke'm Moore! He was a man to face the battery of a three-decker cheerfully rather than risk the possibility of such a sobriquet as that!
The bow so long bent required relaxation, and in the first flush of his great success, while his ears were still ringing with the applauses, and his nostrils still titillating with the incense which the press showered upon 'Lalla Rookh,' pronounced by general consent-' when they do agree, their unanimity is wonderful '-to be unrivalled as a work of melody, beauty, and power, Moore set out on a continental tour with his friend and brother-poet Rogers. On his return to England he published the Fudge Family not a very brilliant performance, and which, with the exception of its political hits, is but an imitation of 'Les Anglaises Pour Rire.' He also worked at the 'Melodies,' and wrote articles for the Edinburgh Review. In 1818 one of the most pleasing incidents in his life occurred.