網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

is even in the “ Essay on Man” and the “ Prologue to Cato,something more than

“A puling infant's force That swayed about upon a rocking-horse,

And thought it Pegasus." Sir Walter Scott, though he exhibited a noble impartiality and a rare self-insight when speaking of his own poems, was not a first rate judge of the poetry of other men. “ He often said to me,” (says his friend Ballantyne,) “ that neither his own nor any modern popular style of composition, was that from which he derived most pleasure. I asked him what it was ; he answered," (what does the reader suppose ? Shakespeare's, Spenser's, Milton's, Dryden's, Pope's, Burns'? Oh! no-) Dr. Johnson's (!) and that he had more pleasure in reading London' and 'The Vanity of Human Wishes' than any other poetical composition he could mertion.Scott, however, is the only poet I have read of, who judged fairly and yet unfavourably of his own poetical compositions. He always said that they could never live : and were not to be compared with the works of many of his contemporaries. In the meridian of his own poetical popularity he felt that those comparatively neglected writers, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, were far greater poets, and more deeply touched with the holy fire of inspiration. Nor did Scott ever prefer his worst pieces to his best. In this respect he exhibited a far clearer judgment than many other celebrated authors. Petrarch doted on his Africa, Milton on his Paradise Regained, Prior on his Solomon, and Byron on his Hints from Horace.

I have now, I think, sufficiently established my position that good poets are not always good critics, and that we ought not to trust too implicitly to their authority on a question of poetical criticism. But I should not wish it to be supposed either that I am hostile to the poets, to whom we are all so much indebted, or that I consider them worse judges of poetry than other men. I

only contend that their judgment is not infallible; but I still think they are greatly better critics upon poetry than the generality of mankind. If we could suppose a poet with no exclusiveness of taste, (and there may be many such,) we might be pretty sure that his superior sensibility to poetic excellence, would make him a much better critic than other men; and even those poets who are wedded to some particular branch or style of art, are generally the best judges of the relative merit of productions in their own favourite department. It is a rare thing indeed to meet with a true critic upon either of the fine arts, but though such a judge is not often to be found, he is more frequently to be found amongst the artists themselves than elsewhere. It is on this account that a poet so fondly treasures up to his dying day a single word of praise from the lips of some great master in his profession. “I really believe,” exclaims Sir Egerton Brydges, " that three or four cherished lines in the hand of Wordsworth upon one of my sonnets, saved me from a total mental wreck ; and the recovery was completed by the letters of Southey and Lockhart, which have been impressed so deeply on my heart, that, while it beats, they will never be effaced or faded."

DEATH AND THE WARRIOR.

[The following poem was written as an illustration of an engraving by R. Dagley, Esq., in the second edition of a work entitled Death's Doings." Death is represented as in the act of placing a helmet on the head of a young warrior, who is standing at the door of a tent, while a female is winding a scarf round his arm. A horse caparisoned, military emblems, &c. are seen in the back. ground.)

I.

The warrior's soul is kindling now

With wildly blending fires;
He fondly breathes each raptured vow

That faithful love inspires;
But not those soothing words alone

Arrest the maiden's ear,
For
young

ambition's loftier tone
Awakes the throb of fear !

II.

They hear the war-notes on the gale,

Before the tent they stand ;
His form is clad in glittering mail,

The sword is in his hand ;
Her scarf around his arm is twined,

Love's silken chain and spell, -
Ah! would that mortal skill could bind

The links of life as well !

III.

The battle-steed is waiting nigh,

Nor brooks his lord's delay,
And eager troops are trampling by,

And wave their banners gay.
Nor boding dream, nor bitter care,

In that proud host is found,
While echoing through the startled air

The cheering trumpets sound !

IV.

The maid with mingled pride and grief,

Faint hopes and trembling fears,
Still gazes on the gallant chief

Through dim impassioned tears.
He sees but victory's laurel wreath,

And love's unfading flame,
Nor thinks how soon the form of Death

May cross the path of fame!

V.

"A last farewell-a last embrace

And now for Glory's plain!"
Those parting accents left a trace

Of frenzy on her brain ;
And when the warrior's helm was brought

To crown his forehead fair,
Alas! the shuddering maiden thought

'Twas Death that placed it there !

[blocks in formation]

SONNET. Lady-when life is desolate and drear,

How sweet to weep, if charms like thine beguile Wild passion's strife and wake the soothing tear !

Benign consoler ! at thy pensive smile Calm piety and trusting faith prevail

O’er sorrow's madness ; Hope's rekindled beam The dull gloom cheers, and Peace, so wont to fail,

Steals o'er the troubled spirit like a dream! A cloud is on my heart,-yet, fondly now

I gaze on thee, nor breathe one murmuring sigh ;There is a grace upon thy placid brow,

A soul of beauty in thine azure eye, Blent with a holy meekness in thine air, That speak not of the earth, and shame the fiend, Despair !

SONNET-TO POESY. Fair Ruler of the visionary hour!

Sweet idol of the passionate and wild !

Enchantress of the soul! Lo! Sorrow's child
Still haunts thy shrine, and invocates thy power !
Alas! when Fortune and the false world lower,

Shall thy sad votary supplicate in vain ?
Wilt thou, too, scorn affliction's withered bower,

Nor lend thine ear to misery and pain ?
Spirit unkind! And yet thy charms controul

My fervent aspirations-worthless still,

And fitful visions, all undreamt at will,
With ungrasped glory mock my cheated soul!

Like beauteous forms of hope, that glimmer nigh,
But from Despair's approach for ever fly!

« 上一頁繼續 »