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thro' numerous openings came
A moment might the dreadful gulf disclose,
"Westward her course the bold adventurer bends,
Descending now, she reach'd a rocky height,
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
'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 calm 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.
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,
'Misfortune oft in mirthful guise appears,
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.
Book iv. v. 880-4.
'Yet many a youth that to the tourney came,
And marvell'd much how envy found a place
The personifications of metals and minerals,' and of the ageneies 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 upon 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 bold 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.
ουτ' ανέμοισι τινασσεται, ούτε ποτ' ομβρῳ δεύεται, ούτε χιων επιπιλναται. αλλα μαλ' αίθρη πιπταται αννέφελος, λευκη δ' επιδέδρομεν αιγλη.
The object of science is the discovery and diffusion of truth: and the flowing veil of poetry is wholly abhorrent from this its only intent and end. Science cannot be taught in allegory or metaphor, and it seeks neither ornament nor disguise; the one can give it no additional fairness, the other must detract from its utility. The laws and properties of matter are the handmaids' of the Power who laid the foundations of the world; and in the investigation of their workings, we must confide in reasou, without invoking the deceitful aid of fancy or imagination. Let the Muse be content to roam in the haunts to which she has been accustomed from days of old, and employ herself in her wonted tasks. She may breathe the fresh gale without trying its purity in the eudiometer. When she gathers flowers, let her weave them in a wreath, and she will find it easier than to class the sweets which she has culled between the leaves of the hortus siccus. All nature is before her, and it is her duty to point out the beauties of the great pageant; but it will not be required of her, that she should conduct the spectators behind the
With respect to Miss Porden, we must conclude by confessing, that although we think her endeavour to blend poetry and science together is objectionable, yet her knowledge becomes her well; and we are quite sure that the age cannot produce many female writers possessing ability and information enough to err as she has done.
Laou-sing-urh, or An Heir in his Old Age,' a Chinese Drama. Translated from the Original Chinese. By J. F. Davis, Esq. of Canton. To which is prefixed a Brief View of the Chinese Drama and of their Theatrical Exhibitions. Small 8vo. pp. 164. London. 1817.
N the voluminous compilations concerning China, which were published on the continent of Europe, and chiefly in France, in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we meet with very few observations on the general state of literature in that country. The Catholic Missionaries, from whom they were received, labour hard, it is true, to persuade their correspondents, by vague and general assertions, that the Chinese are a nation of sages; that the love of letters is universal; that learning alone leads to wealth and honours; that, with it, the highest offices of the state are open to the lowest of the people; and, without it, that princes sink quietly, as a matter of common occurrence, into the vulgar herd; that, in short, under this enlightened government,
'Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow,
We are cautioned, however, at the same time, not to regard the literary qualifications, which pave the way to the highest offices in the state, as consisting of that vulgar wisdom which implies a knowledge of men and of things, or of the pursuits of physical or abstract science, or even of the history of the great events which have been passing in any other part of the world; but that the perfection of the human intellect, and the indispensable qualification for a great statesman, consist in knowing precisely what Yao said, and what Chun did, on any particular occasion, four thousand years ago; and in applying the maxims of the one and the practice of the other to the events of the present time. This, with a critical knowledge of the construction, and precise import, of an old character of their symbolic language, together with the exact mode of addressing a superior, or returning the salute of an inferior, according to the regulations prescribed by Confucius, constitute, in a great measure, the learning of a Chinese state philosopher. But the most remarkable circumstance seems to be that these automatons should have succeeded in persuading the Jesuits, whom no one will accuse of being deficient in worldly wisdom, that this puerile trifling of the Chinese was learning; while every succeeding communication to their superiors in Europe bore unequivocal proofs of the gross ignorance in which the whole nation was immersed. And yet we ought, perhaps, not so much to wonder at the miraculous accounts of those who had travelled to the opposite side of the globe in search of miracles, as at the credulity of such men as Voltaire, Freret, De Guignes, Isaac Vossius, and many others, who so greedily swallowed them. The Jesuits indeed had some excuse : the conversion of the heathen being the main object of their mission, they found it, probably, conducive to their success to adopt the habits and prejudices of their Chinese neophytes.
It still, however, remains to be explained why these early Missionaries, who were themselves men of learning, and more free from prejudices than any of the other Religious Orders, should not have bestowed a little attention on the modern state of literature among the great mass of the people. We read, it is true, of the hundreds of thousands of volumes contained in the Imperial library at Pekin, and every now and then we meet with the titles of some of them; we are also told that thousands of the lighter kind of productions, such as moral tales, entertaining stories, novels, plays and songs, issue daily from the press; but this lumping mention of Chinese libraries and Chinese books, with the exception of one drama translated by Père Premare, two or three moral tales, as many