Imágenes de páginas

How while Conferva from its tender hair
Joins in bright bubbles, &c. &c. &c.'

Economy of Vegetation, Cant. IV. v. 177-87. Throughout the Doctor's ' Philosophical Poem,' he is in a constant fidget to support bis multifarious pretensions. He was to shine as a man of science, and as a man of the world—he was to come out of the laboratory perfumed with bergamot, and to put down the retort, and take a seat in the 'gilt landau. He was to be a sans-culotte philosopher, and fraternize with the citizens in dirty linen : and, at the same time, to gain admittance to the " vegetable pride of Imperial Kew,' and to make his bow to the Royal PARTNERS,' with his red night-cap in his hand. The learned were to be astounded at his gentility, and the ladies to be enraptured with his learning. But above all, he was to excite universal admiration by the poetic ability with which he had 'enlisted imagination under the banner of science.'

The Doctor made one happy discovery. He has enriched the poetical Pharmacopeia with an exceedingly neat and compendious formula for preparing personifications in any quantity which may be required. As most of our nouvs'

---so his prescription runshave in general no genders affixed to them in prose composition, and in the habits of conversation, they become easily personified only by the addition of a masculine or feminine pronoun-and secondly, as most of our nouns have the article a or the prefixed to them in prose writing and in conversation, they in general become personified even by the omission of their articles.'- Botanic Garden,

p. 182, &c.

Nothing could be more ingenious than this prescription for making he and she personifications at pleasure, nor could it be supposed that the ingenious inventor would neglect to administer a dose of it as often as he could find occasion: the poem, therefore, teems with life and action, originating simply in the application of the magic pronouns, or in the banishment of the definite or indefinite article. Of course, the Doctor gave what gender pleased him best, without being over anxious to preserve either propriety or consistency. PLATINA is a he, in spite of the termination; Night bows his Ethiop brow,' and Earth has' his realms of fire.'

Existence having been thus bestowed; it yet required a little garnish, a little ornament; and this the Doctor found in the looser analogies which dress out the imagery of poetry.'--His' personification' was to stand up in the ranks, and bustle about in the Economy of Vegetation. When children are at play they produce personifications with the utmost ease. A cross on the slate is a for, and a round on the slate is a goose. The nursery seamstress takes a piece of rag, aud rolls it up, and stitches it in the middle,


and then the rag becomes a doll; and although the rag doil has neither head, nor eyes, nor arms, nor legs, Miss sees them all in fancy, 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 eyes;''cowslips stretch their golden arms, and drowsy Fog flings' 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 imagination.' 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 bis broadbrimmed scarlet hat, 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 purblind compared to the Doctor when he saw the beauties of the bride and bridegroom, at the celebrated wedding of Light and Oxygen :

Sylphs! from each sun-bright leaf, that twinkling sbakes
O'er Earıh's green lap, or shoots amid her lakes,
Your playful bands with simpering lips invite,
And wed th’ enamoured OXYGENE to Ligut. ,
Round their white necks with fingers interwove,
Cling the fond pair with unabating love;
Hand link'd in hand on buoyant step they rise,
And soar and glisten, &c. &c. &c.

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 esample of the treacherous strength of the human intellect. Whatever contempt we may bestow nipon his verse, he nevertheless deserves high praise in those pursuits to which his studies had, been directed. In physiology and in general science bis 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 bim, 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 his 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 him 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,
As when it sparkles with the northern light,
And ever as the mountain hurld on high
Its mass of molten lava to the sky,
O'er all the isle the vivid lustre spread,
And brighten'd ocean with a glow of red;
Like distant thunder, burst a hollow sound,
Disturb’d the quivering air, and shook the shores around.'-p.205.
* At morn, attended by a trusty guide,
The fearless nymph ascends the mountain's side,
Which tower'd above the vast volcanic pile,
The giant parent of the rocky isle.
Long was the steep ascent; the path was strew'd
With stony fragments, ponderous, loose, and rude;
And as she toil'd along the rugged way,
The faithless sands her sinking steps betray.
The eastern summit gain'd, her eye survey'd
A plain with sable sand and scoria spread!--p. 207—8.


[ocr errors][merged small]


[merged small][ocr errors]

thro' numerous openings came
Thick fumes of sulphur in continued stream,
Hot was the humid soil, and all around
Her steps re-echoed from the hollow ground.

• Within the ancient crater now she stood,
Whence the long streams of liquid fire had flow'd
That form’d the solid isle, but many an age
Its fires had slept, exhausted with their rage ;
Its falling sides the dire abyss o'erspread,
And recent scoria form’d a sable bed.
Yet thro’ the crust sulphureous odours breathe,
And fumes ascend in many a snowy wreath,
And, like a lion, awful in repose,
A moment might the dreadful gulf disclose,
And Leonora hastes, and fears to view
Ils slumbering fury wake and rage anew.

• Westward her course the bold adventurer bends,
And now the mountain's loftiest peak ascends;
Beneath, unseen, the dread volcano glows,
Yet o'er the crest the smoky volumes rose ;
She hears the louder roar, and sees with dread
The flaming masses rise above her head,
And sand and ashes scatter'd all around,
The marks of former fury, strew the ground.

• Descending now, she reach'd a rocky height,
Whence the whole scene unfolded to her sight;
Saw from the gulf the orbs of lava rise,
And clouds of dusky vapour veil the skies,
And shuddering thought how soon the hour might come,

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
The lava press, yet scarcely feel its heat;
O'er solid fire proceeds the undaunted dame,
And breathes amid an atmosphere of flame,
Which round her form, by frequent currents driven,
Fann'd her dark tresses like the gales of heaven.
Yet oft, at first, she screen'd her dazzled sight
From the full splendour of that crimson light,
And shrunk from flames that round innocuous fly,
Soft as the evening zephyr's vernal sigh.

• 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 calın 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.
And oh! how lovely to her wearied eye,
The moon's soft light, the azure of the sky,
The still and placid grandeur of the scene,
The haunts of man, the tufts of sober green,
And that red cloud, that in the blue expanse,
With rapid motion sailing met her glance;

Is that her airy car?'-p. 235-6. Miss Porden thinks vigorously, and she always expresses herself with terseness. Such passages as the following may be instanced for their condensed and apophthegmatic turn.

long and keenly smarts the rankling wound,
When those admir'd and lov'd are worthless found;
And truth's broad mirror, with a thousand flaws,
Obscures the spotless image memory draws.'

Book iv. v. 880-4.
Misfortune oft in mirthful guise appears,
And woe at times will frolic tho' in tears.'

Book iii. 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 superinduce 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,

looks had sought one absent dame,
And marvell’d why Lymnoria, fair and gay,
Still prompt to haste wliere pleasure led the way,
Who lov'd the ocean's fairest maids among
To shine distinguish'd in the glittering throng,
To mark each jealous damsel's smother'd sighs
Burst as they watch'd their lover's wandering eyes,
When, like an empress, mid her slaves she shone,
And deem'd each eye should fix on her alone;
Why only she now shunn’d the festive scene,

Where all were met in honour of their queen.
· Yet many a nymph the secret reason guest,
In looks, and sigus, and whispers half exprest,


« AnteriorContinuar »