« AnteriorContinuar »
and then the rag becomes a doll; and although the rag doll has neither head, nor eyes, nor arms, nor legs, Miss sees them all in faucy, and it is accordingly nursed and treated as kindly as if it were a perfect baby. The Doctor's imagination was equally vivid, and bountiful. With this great master of poetry the changeful opals roll their lucid eyescowslips stretch their golden arms,' aud drowsy Fog fings' his hairy limbs on the stagnant deep. When any loose analogy' can be discovered between the thing and its Darwinian personification, it is well; when none at all, it is better; for then the Doctor has more scope for imagivation.' Perrin Dandin, the peace-maker, took his oath that he had a perfect recollection of having seen that honourable gentleman, his worship Council of Lateran with his broadbrimmed scarlet liat, as well as the most worthy lady Prugmatic Sanction(Council of Lateran's wife) with her rosary of large jet beads, and her gown of mazarine blue satin. But Perrin Dandin was purs: blind compared to the Doctor when he saw the beauties of the bride : and bridegroom, at the celebrated wedding of Light and Oxygen:
Sylplis! from each sun-bright leaf, that twinkling shakes" .: O'er Earth's green lap, or shoots amid her lakes,
Your playful bands with simpering lips invite,
And wed th' enamoured Oxygene to Light. 1. Round their white necks with fingers interwove,
Cling the fond pair with unabating love ;
Economy of Vegetation, Canto IV. v. 31, 40 In the fine vision of Owen, the soldier, we are told that he saw Adam lying beneath the tree of life, with the expression of joy on one side of his face, and of sorrow on the other, a grotesque emblem of the blended feelings which may be supposed to arise in our common father, on beholding the strange combination of wisdom and of folly in his children. Each individual shares more or less in the frailty of his kind : and Darwin is a lamentable example of the treacherous strength of the human intellect. Whatever contempt we may bestow upon his verse, he nevertheless deserves high praise in those pursuits to which his studies had been directed. In physiology and in general science his acquirements were extensive. His views of nature were clear and profound; and if, in an evil hour, the wicked demon of rhyme had not possessed him, his name would have gone down in good odour to the after-time. No one can really taste the beauty of poetry without a real love of knowledge and of learning. And Darwin's poetry abounds with knowledge and learning, polluted indeed, and degraded by the skipping jingle of bis rhymes, but yet of stirling worth. The matter which he has selected is unfit for song, but it
is one of the noblest themes which can offer itself to the mind : and one which, however treated, must always retain some share of dignity and attraction. Our reasoning faculties are gratified by the subjects which he introduces, although our taste ought to be offended at the manner of their introduction. The geologist stoops and examines the rich and varied minerals which the author of the fabric has collected, and becomes indisposed to arraign the hand which has disposed them in whimsical grotto work. The botanist attends to bim whilst he traces the plant from its germ to its maturity, and at length becomes reconciled to the gaudy Flora of the Botanic Garden.
Hence it is principally to the well-informed that Darwin is a dangerous author; for they allow themselves to indulge in the gratification which he affords, without considering the real sources whence that gratification arises. And although Miss Porden's poem is not, by any means, to be considered as an imitation of Darwin, yet we must suppose that it is by his example that she has been seduced into the attempt of clothing subjects which are purely and drily scientific in the language of poetry. The story of the poem, the loss and restoration of the veils, was originally a little and elegant fairy romance written in short cantos,' and its extension into its present form, at once allegorical and didactic, was an afterthought. We had rather have seen it in its original simplicity and unity; and we should have been well contented to receive such a vivid and forcible delineation, as is afforded by the following lines, alone and unaccompanied by the personifications of volcanic' fire, which she has afterwards introduced.
"On lofty Stromboli the sky was bright,
thro' numerous openings came 1.1 Thick fumes of sulphur in continued stream,
Hot was the humid soil, and all around
Within the ancient crater now she stood,
• Westward her course the bold adventurer bends,
• Descending now, she reach'd a rocky height,
When that red void should be her hated home.'--p. 208, 9. A spirit then appears at the bidding of the Fire-king, and under his guidance Leonora plunges into the blazing gulph.
• The fearless nymph obey'd-her tender feet
' How vast the fiery realm! around her stood
Unnumber'd Sprites, that various tasks pursu’d.'-p. 212. There is so much poetic spirit in this passage, that we will not destroy the impression of poetical reality which it produces, by
extracting the enumeration of the labours of the spirits of the volcano : they would dispel the illusion which the fancy of the writer has created with such ability. We shall
therefore pass on to the return of Leonora to the realms of day. The sweetness of the lines, and the contrast between their calin and softened imagery, and the fiery scene from which Leonora has rushed, remind us of the first stanzas of the Purgatorio.'
* Thro' the deep gulf again she mounts to air.
Is that her airy car?'-p. 235-6. Miss Porden thinks vigorously, and she always expresses her. self with terseness. Such passages as the following may be instanced for their condensed and apophthegmatic turn.
long and keenly smarts the rankling wound,
Book iv. v. 880_.
Book ni. 700 -4. Nor can she be otherwise than lively and elegant when we clear away the primitive and secondary rocks, which she' afterwards thought fit to superiuduce upon her fairy tale. We shall conclude our extracts with the nuptials of the Water-king and his beneficent bride.
• Yet many a youth that to the tourney came,
And marvell’d much how envy found a place
But mutter something of a broken vow.'-p. 182—3. The personifications of metals and minerals,' and of the agencies of volcanic fire,' as may be expected from the specimens which we have given of Miss Porden's poetry, are managed with great talent and ingenuity, and they exhibit a thorough knowledge of the subject. But they are materials which talent and ingenuity should not attempt to work. They are either too refractory to be moulded into grace, or too rarified and penetrating to be rendered visible and tangible. Nor could these difficulties be surmounted, even if, as Miss Porden wishes, the operations of her Rosicrucian mythology had been directed by a person possessing the scientific knowledge of Sir Humphry Davy, and the energy and imagination of Lord Byron and Mr. Scott.'
The privilege of personification is an important one, and therefore it should be used charily. The forms bestowed by the poet must be indicated, not defined. The vitality which he bestows must be breathed into the object in an instant, and for an instant only. Like the mock life produced in the slaughtered animal by the powers of galvanism, as soon as the subtle influence has darted through, its effects must cease; and inert nature must relapse into its primitive quiescence. Thus,
• Jura answers through her misty shroud
Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud.' But although the voices of the mountains were heard during the raging of the midnight storm, we do not find that they continued to hold a dialogue after it had subsided.
The themes of poetry must be such as can agitate or allure us; the lessons of poetry must be such as can enter into alliance with our virtues, nay, even with our errors. But science soars above the troubled region of passion and feeling, and dwells in the calm and cloudless heaven where all is light and tranquillity.
ανεμοισι τινασσίται, ουτε ποτ' όμβρω δευεται ουτε χιων επισιλναται. αλλα μαλ' αιθρη σεσταται αννεφελος, λευκη δ' επιδεδρομεν αιγλη.