ePub 版

excellence, is disqualified to judge of poetry or eloquence. He is deficient in the sense most requisite. For him to attempt it is something, as if a blind man were to undertake to judge of the beauty of the visible world.

*Most readers will probably have anticipated the remark which we are about to make, that the works of Mrs Hemans are eminently distinguished by moral beauty, and the noble expression of high sentiments. Images of what is lovely, affecting, and glorious in human character are reflected from her mind as from an unsullied mirror. Of this her last volume affords some of the most striking examples. It is the praise of this lady, that her literary course has been one of continual improvement. With the exception, perhaps, of her tragedies, she has, heretofore, given to the world no long poem of equal power with her Forest Sanctuary. The argument of this poem is thus stated.

· The following poem is intended to describe the mental conAlicts, as well as outward sufferings, of a Spaniard, who, flying from the religious persecutions of his own country in the sixteenth century, takes refuge with his child in a North American forest. The story is supposed to be related by himself amidst the wilderness which has afforded him an asylum.

It commences with some verses in which domestic scenes and affections are called up in all their tenderness and beauty, and with all their power to touch the heart of an exile.

The voices of my home !—I hear them still ! . .
They have been with me tbrough the dreamy night-
The blessed household voices, wont to fill
My heart's clear depths with unalloy'd delight !
I hear them still, unchang'd :-though some from earth
Are music parted, and the tones of mirth-
Wild, silvery tones, that rang through days more bright!

Have died in others,-yet to me they come,
Singing of boyhood back-the voices of my home!

They call me through this hush of woods, reposing
In the grey stillness of the summer morn,
They wander by when heavy flowers are closing,
And thoughts grow deep, and winds and stars are born";
Ev’n as a fount's remember'd gushings burst
On the parch'd traveller in his hour of thirst,
E’en thus they haunt me with sweet sounds, till worn

By quenchless longings, to my soul I say0! for the dove's swift wings, that I might fee away,

And find mine ark !—yet whither ?-I must bear

A yearning heart within me to the grave. Pp. 3, 4. After some other fine stanzas, expressing bis recollections and feelings, the wanderer relates the circumstances that had led hiin to a knowledge of true religion, on account of the profession of which he had been obliged to fly his native country, and take refuge in the wilderness. He tells of his return, in his youth, from a foreign land on the morning of the day when an Auto da Fe was to be celebrated."

Clear, yet lone,
In the rich autumn light the vineyards lay, .
And from the fields the peasant's voice was gone ;
And the red grapes untrodden strew'd the ground,
And the free flocks untended roam'd around :
Where was the pastor ?--where the pipe's wild tone ?

Music and mirth were hush'd the hills among,
While to the city's gates each hamlet pour’d its throng.

Silence upon the mountains !—But within
The city's gates a rush-a press—a swell
Of multitudes their torrent way to win;
And heavy boomings of a dull deep bell,
A dead pause following each-like that which parts
The dash of billows, holding breathless hearts
Fast in the hush of fear-knell after knell;

And sounds of thickening steps, like thunder-rain,
That plashes on the roof of some vast echoing fane !

What pageant's hour approach'd ?—The sullen gate
Of a strong ancient prison-house was thrown
Back to the day.

pp. 9, 10. He gazes on the sad procession which comes forth, till he perceives among them his heart's best friend, Alvar, the friend of his boyhood, by whose side he had stood in battle, the preserver of his life,+-accompanied by his two sisters. I'he characters of Alvar and his two sisters, queenlike Theresa, radiant Inez,' are admirably described. Theresa, the eldest, is represented as meeting her sufferings with an unbroken mind.

For the soft gloom whose shadow still had hung
On her fair brow, beneath its garlands worn,

Was fled ; and fire, like prophecy's, had sprung
Clear to her kindled eye.

* * * *
And yet, alas! to see the strength which clings
Round woman in such hours !-a mournful sight,
Though lovely !-an o'erflowing of the springs,
The full springs of affection, deep as bright!
And she, because her life is ever twin'd
With other lives, and by no stormy wind
May thence be shaken, and because the light

Of tenderness is round her, and her eye
Doth weep such passionate tears therefore she thus can die.

p. 21. Theresa is followed by Inez, whose strength is prostrated by the horrors with which she is surrounded. The memory of her brother's friend, brings back the image of her former loveliness and gaiety, and a scene of calm and deep beauty in which he had once beheld her.

And she to die !-she lov'd the laughing earth
With such deep joy in its fresh leaves and flowers !

-Was not her smile even as the sudden birth
Of a young rainbow, colouring vernal showers ?
Yes! but to meet her fawn-like step, to hear
The gushes of wild song, so silvery clear,
Which, oft unconsciously, in happier hours

Flow'd from her lips, was to forget the sway
Of Time and Death below,-blight, shadow, dull decay!

Could this change be ?—the hour, the scene, where last
I saw that form, came floating o'er my mind :
- A golden vintage-eve ;-the heats were pass’d,
And, in the freshness of the fapning wind,
ller father sat, where gleam'd the first faint star
'Through the lime-boughs; and with her light guitar,
She, on the greensward at his feet reclin'd,

In his calm, face laugh'd up; some shepherd-lay
Singing, as childhood sings on the lone hills at play. p. 24.

Alvar, Theresa, and Inez are bound to the stake. But the lover of Inez appears. He forces bis way through the crowds on horseback, rushes to her, dashing off those who came to part them, and clasps her to his heart. He implores her to renounce her heresy and return to life.

She looked up wildly ; there were anxious eyes
Waiting that look-sad eyes of troubled thought,
Alvar's, Theresa's!

The struggle is too much, the hues of death come over her, and her lover feels

the heart grow still,
Which with its weight of agony had lain

Breaking on his.
The interest of the scene is now concentrated on Alvar and


I saw the doubt, the anguish, the dismay,
Melt from my Alvar's glorious mien away,
And peace was there-the calmness of the just!

And, bending down the slumberer's brow to kiss, ** Thy rest is won,” he said ;-“sweet sister ! praise for this !"

I started as from sleep ;-yes! he had spoken-
A breeze had troubled memory's hidden source !
At once the torpor of my soul was broken-
Thought, feeling, passion, woke in tenfold force.
-There are soft breathings in the southern wind,
That so your ice-chains, O ye streams ! unbind,
And free the foaming swiftness of your course!

-I burst from those that held me back, and fell Ev'n on his neck, and cried—“Friend, brother! fare thee well!'

Did he not say “Farewell ?"-Alas! no breath
Came to mine ear. Hoarse murmurs from the throng
Told that the mysteries in the face of death
Had from their eager sight been veil'd too long.
And we were parted as the surge might part
Those that would die together, true of heart.
-His hour was come-but in mine anguish strong,

Like a fierce swimmer through the midnight sea,
Blindly I rushed away from that which was to be.

Away-away I rush'd ;-but swift and high
The arrowy pillars of the firelight grew,
Till the transparent darkness of the sky*
Flush'd to a blood-red mantle in their hue ;
And, phantom-like, the kindling city seem'd
To spread, float, wave, as on the wind they stream'd,
With their wild splendour chasing me!-I knew

The death-work was begun-I veil'd mine eyes,
Yet stopp'd in spell-bound fear to catch the victims' cries.

What heard I then ?-a ringing shriek of pain,
Such as for ever haunts the tortured ear?

-I heard a sweet and solemn breathing strain * [The final scene of an Auto da Fe was sometimes from the length of the preceding ceremonies delayed till midnight.]

Piercing the flames, untremulous and clear!
-The rich, triumpbal tones!—I knew them well,
As they came floating with a breezy swell!
Man's voice was there—a clarion voice to cheer

In the mid-battle-ay, to turn the flying
Woman's—that might have sung of Heaven beside the dying !

It was a fearful, yet a glorious thing, To hear that hymn of martyrdom, and know That its glad stream of melody could spring Up from th' unsounded gulf of human woe! Alvar! Theresa !-what is deep ? what strong ? -God's breath within the soul!-lt fill'd that song From your victorious voices !--but the glow On the hot air and lurid skies increas'd -Faint grew the sounds—more faint-I listen'd-they had ceas'd!

pp. 36–38. These are glorious verses. They are lines which might give strength to a martyr before leaving his prisonhouse for the stake. We listen to a voice such as poetry has uttered but now and then in the lapse of ages, speaking worthily of the noblest energies and virtues of man.

To pass from this description without violence to the tone of feeling excited, required the finest genius and the truest sensibility. It is done with perfect success. The following stanzas iminediately succeed those last quoted.

And thou indeed hadst perish'd, my soul's friend !
I might form other ties—but thou alone
Couldst with a glance the veil of dimness rend,
By other years o'er boyhood's memory thrown !
Others might aid me onward :- Thou and I
Had mingled the fresh thoughts that early die,
Once flowering-never more !--And thou wert gone!

Who could give back my youth, my spirit free,
Or be in aught again what thou hadst been to me?

And yet I wept thee not, thou true and brave !
I could not weep !-there gathered round thy name
Too deep a passion !--thou denied a grave!
Thou, with a blight flung on thy soldier's fame!
Had not I known thy heart from childhood's time ?
Thy heart of hearts ?--and couldst thou die for crime?
-No! had all earth decreed that death of shame,

I would have set, against all earth's decree,
Th' inalienable trust of my firm soul in thee! p. 39.

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »