ePub 版

12 Why did the lap receive me,

And why the breasts, that I might suck?

13 For then should I have lain down and been quiet;
I should have slept; then had I been at rest,

J 4 Wilh kings and counsellors of the earth,
The repairers of desolated places;

15 Or with princes that had gold,
And filled their houses with silver;

16 Or as an hidden untimely birth I had perished,
As infants which never saw the light.

17 There the wicked cease from troubling, There the weary are at rest.

They hear not the voice of the oppressor.

19 The small and the great are there;
And the servant is free from his master.

20 Why is light given to him that is in misery.
And life to the bitter in soul,

21 Who long for death, and it cometh not, And dig for it more than for hid treasures;

22 Who rejoice exceedingly,

Yea, exult, when they can find the grave?

23 Why is light given to a man, from whom the way is hid,
And whom God hath hedged in?

24 For my sighing cometh before I eat,
And my groans are poured out like water.

25 For that which I dreaded is come upon me;That which I greatly feared hath happened unto me.

26 I have no peace, nor quiet, nor respite; Misery is come upon me.

v. 12—' receive me.' The word 'prevent,' in the time of king James's translators, had a meaning nearly equivalent to that of the present version. It then meant' to come before,'' to anticipate,' frompravenio. See Ps. xxi. 4.

v. 14—' The repairers,' &c. who were great in resources, and high in public estimation. See Is. lviii. 12. lxi. 4. Ezek. xxxvi. 10. 'For themselves,' retained in the common version, is pleonastic, according to a known Hebrew idiom. See Stuart's Gram. §. 210. n. 3. Other explanations may be seen in Kosenmuller.

v. 23—' the way is hid.' The general meaning of the first part of the verse is the same as that of the second. The verse refers to one who can find no way of escape from his calamities, which are represented as surrounding him like a wall or hedge.

v. 26—The use of the prefer for the present, when the verb denotes a state of being or action, is well known. See Stuart's Gram. §192.

VOL. III.—No. v. 51




O Fear not thou to die!
But rather fear to live; for Life
Has thousand snares thy feet to try

By peril, pain, and strife.

Brief is the work of Death;
But Life! the spirit shrinks to see
How full ere Heaven recalls the breath.

The cup of woe may be.

O fear not thou to die!
No more to suffer or to sin;
No snares without thy faith to try.

No traitor heart within;

But fear, oh! rather fear The gay, the light, the changeful scene, The flattering smiles that greet thee here.

From Heaven thy heart that wean.

Fear lest in evil hour, Thy pure and holy hope o'ercome By clouds that in the horizon lower,

Thy spirit feel that gloom, Which over earth and heaven The covering throws of fell despair, And deem itself the unforgiven,

Predestined child of care.

O fear not thou to die!
To die, and be that blessed one,
Who, in the bright and beauteous sky,

May feel his conflict done;

Who feels that never more The tear of grief or shame shall come, For thousand wanderings from that Power.

Who loved, and called him home.


Art. XI.—The Forest Sanctuary; and other Poems. By Mrs Hemans. 8vo. pp. 205. London. John Murray.

The writings of Mrs Hemans have been so justly estimated in this country, that any praise of ours can be little more than an echo of the public voice. Her poetry, so full of deep sentiment, so pure, and elevating, calls up images and emotions, like those with which we view the brilliancy of the evening star in the stillness of a summer night. It allies itself to every thing belonging to the better part of our nature. Her poems, indeed, are of unequal merit. In some of them, as the Voice of Spring and the Revellers, the conception is so imaginative, and there is such freedom of execution, that they approach nearer than almost any other poetry, to giving in words the very forms of thought and imagination. The imperfection of language, the embarrassments of versification, all that is material and mechanical disappears; and the vision floats before us 'an aery stream.' There is a correspondence of all the parts, contributing to a common effect; the flow and expression of the language is in accordance with the thought and sentiment; and the right tone of feeling, true to nature and virtue, is heard throughout, without failure or exaggeration. With this unbroken unity of character, her finer poems 'discourse most eloquent music' The charm is found equally in others, very different from the two just mentioned. It appears, for instance, in the verses on a dead infant, suggested by one of Chantrey's statues, beginning, 'Thou sleepest; but when wilt thou wake, fair child f' The marble of Chantrey can hardly have more of calm, monumental, melancholy beauty than these lines. It appears again in the dreamy and shadowy flow of images through her Elysium, over which is diffused so much truth and tenderness of feeling; in the rapid and strong conception, and lofty sentiment of her Pilgrim Fathers; in the solemn and gloomy grandeur of her Treasures of the Deep; in her magnificent reply to the question, Where slumber England's dead I and in the agony and triumph of moral energy in her Gertrude. The subject of these last verses might have seemed too horrible for poetry; but with the commanding power of true genius, and the strong sympathy of high feeling, she has brought to view all its moral sublimity; throwing a pall over what is hideous in physical suffering. But besides the poems entitled to be placed in the same class with those which have been named, there are others written with far less display of genius, but pleasing, correct, in good taste, elegant, or animated. These would have entitled their author to a distinguished rank among living poets. Those of a higher order, and there are many such, are permanent accessions to the literature of the world. They have increased the means of human refinement and virtue.

In estimating the value of poetry, and the same is true of eloquence, the highest excellencies have not always been properly regarded. On the contrary, qualities opposite to them give to many a certain kind of pleasure, and have been objects of admiration. The highest excellencies of the poet, or of the eloquent writer, are truth, in a very extensive sense of the term, and moral beauty and sublimity. In other words, that poetry or eloquence is most excellent, which is most adapted to give pleasure to him, who apprehends and feels most justly as a moral and intellectual being. To this end, it must discover truth of perception, showing a just and full apprehension of the nature and relations of things. It must be characterized by truth of imagination. The ideal forms which it presents, as images of real existences, must be only nature fully developed, and freed from all foreign and incongruous modifications; and the boldest combinations of qualities which it creates, must be possible and consistent. It must have truth of sentiment; expressing throughout a conformity of the judgment and taste of the writer, to the laws of the moral universe in their numberless bearings. It must display truth of feeling, a pervading mind, vividly and delicately sensible to the real character of the objects with which it is conversant; and with powers and affections so controlled and self-balanced, as to be affected neither in a different mode from what it ought to be, nor too much, nor too little. As regards truth of expression, it requires a a full knowledge and mastery of language, an acquaintance with the true meaning of words, and with the various associations which throw on them a reflected coloring; a command of imagery, and of the other modes of speech in which feeling and emotion express themselves; and, in general, a control of all the means with which language furnishes us, of directly or indirectly communicating to the minds of others the very thoughts and affections of our own. When resolved into their elements, perfect poetry and perfect eloquence are only perfect truth, perceived and felt in all its relations. Their object is to make known to us in its real nature and power what exists, or what it is possible may exist. Fictions, images, figures, the boldest and most imaginative, are, in their proper use, but means of expressing what is essentially true, in a manner more delightful or impressive, that is, in a manner better corresponding to its actual character. They are beautiful hieroglyphics, teaching wisdom and virtue.

Truth in the abstract, as we are now considering it, is violated by exaggerated statements and descriptions; by extravagant expressions of feeling or passion; by exhibiting fictitious characters and combinations of qualities, such as do not exist, and such as it is impossible should exist; by giving a deceptive aspect and coloring to moral feelings, dispositions, and habits, and thus disguising what is evil and good; by presenting a partial and erroneous view of a subject accommodated to some particular purpose; by the expression, direct or indirect, of a false taste, an unsound judgment, or perverted affections; and, in a few words, by every thing which discovers a vicious, a narrow, a prejudiced, or an ignorant mind.

But supposing one to think, to feel, and to express himself with truth; supposing him to be thus far gifted as a poet; what are the most noble and affecting objects with which his mind can be conversant, and which he can make the subjects of his art? They are those of a moral nature; the beautiful and the sublime in the moral world. All merely physical deformity is inoffensive, compared with moral deformity. All merely physical beauty is faint, compared with moral beauty. Moral nature is the most interesting object of contemplation; and the most delightful is moral goodness, in all its inexhaustible variety of exhibition, from the laughing smile of innocent childhood, up to the stern resolve of him 'by neither number nor example, wrought to swerve from truth ;' or manifested in its highest and most solemn display, as the life, light, and blessing of the universe. The stronger perception and feeling we have of loveliness or its awfulness, the nearer we have approached its the perfection of our nature. We see all the forms of beauty, attracted toward it, connected with it, or melting into it, as their perfect display. All that is permanently pleasing or ennobling consists in, or is associated with, moral good

« 上一頁繼續 »