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gazes upon him, while he tells her, in sweet accents, the story of his love and sufferings--her bosom heaves sadly, the tear starts into her eye, and she speaks to him in the voice of passionate love.
“Sweet spirit of earth! return no more to thy woodland homeabide with me in this region of light and glory--we will lie within the fleecy drift, and hang upon the arched rainbow-the gems of the sky shall glitter on thy brow, and thou shalt bathe in the pure streams of ether; we will repose within the circle of the Pleiades, or rest on the starry belt of Orion, and my sylphs shall sing to thee, songs, that will disperse the misty dews of evening-thou shalt pillow softly on my breast, while the heavenly breathings float around. Blest with the spirits of air, thou wilt forget the fairy joys of thine earthly home.”
The elfin's heart beats fitfully, as he listens to the lovely queen-but dearer, and lovelier far, is the image of his earthly maid, and deeply is it stamped upon his soul. He thinks upon her meek and gentle eyes, and the flush of her rosy cheeknever again may he lie in the sweet sunshine of her smilebut to see her in the visions of evening, or clasp her in his waking dreams, is worth all else that heaven and earth contain..
"Lady," he cries, "I have this night sworn, by my knightly faith, to expiate the sin which is charged upon me; my honour is scarcely freed from stain, and I may not again tarnish its purity. Farewell—I must haste to the task which is before me.”
The queen sighs deeply and mournfully, and her eyes are filled with tears. She leads the fay to her palace gate, and calls the attendant sylphs to bring the sable car. She surrounds him with charms, to protect him from the fiends of air; then tying his fire-fly steed before the cloudy car, she presses his hand, and bids him speed to the northern sky-
“For by its wane and wavering light,
There was a star would fall to-night”Afar north, on the wings of the rushing blast, he shoots along-the clouds are left behind him, and he flies past the flickering stars, with the quickness of lightning-he reaches the northern plain—then checks his courser, and waits the falling of the rocket light
“ The star is yet in the vault of heaven,
But it rocks in the summer gale;
And now 'tis deadly pale ;
And quenched is its rayless beam,
It bursts in flash and flame.
As swift as the glance of the arrowy lance
That the storm-spirit flings from high,
As it fell from the sheeted sky.
The elfin gallops along,
But the sylphid charm is strong;
While the cloud-fiends fly from the blaze ;
And rides in the light of its rays.
And caught a glimmering spark:
And sped through the midnight dark." And now, ye ouphes and goblins-imps and sprites-elves and starry fays-ye that love the mellow light of the chaste moon, hither speed ; welcome the wanderer to his woodland home, with songs and merry dancings-wind ye around in a joyous ring, and let the hills echo to the sounds of gladness,
“ But hark ! from tower on tree-top high,
The sentry elf his call has made,
The cock has crowed and the fays are gone." We have thus given an analysis of the “Culprit Fay,” and though any prosaic paraphrase would fail in justly conveying the peculiar beauties of the poem, it will, at least, exhibit the richness of fancy, the admirable refinement of style and vigour of expression, which characterise the writings of the departed bard.
The inference which we derive from a rapid, though not careless view of the subject, is that the lyric poetry of America will not materially suffer by a comparison with that of foreign cotemporary authors.
True, this is not the highest praise that could be bestowed upon the poetical literature of a nation; yet, when we consider the infancy of our own, it is grateful to our hopes for the future to be able to say even thus much. As yet, the constitution of society prevents the adequate encouragement of a mure exalted style of composition. A high state of intellectual cultivation, sufficiently extensive to give a character to society at large, is requisite for the promotion of the higher branches of poetry. In other countries, the epochs most distinguished for literary excellence, were also most prolific in the production of great poets. VOL. XIX.
:- NO. 37.
In the reign of James the First, the literature of England had attained an elevated condition, and in no other single generation has that nation been marked by the existence of so many illustrious poets. Shakspeare was in the zenith of his fame. Massinger, who approached Shakspeare in dignity more closely than any writer of the age-Beaumont and Fletcher, who surpassed every living author in their delineations of female character-Marston, Shirley, Webster, Ford, Brome, and other dramatic writers of scarcely inferior meritSpenser, whose melodious numbers have been the model of so many modern poems-Drayton, Beaumont the elder, Fairfax the translator of Tasso, the learned and metaphysical Ben Jonson, and the immortal John Milton, dignified this favoured
The peculiar condition of the literature of that day destroyed, in a great measure, a taste for simplicity in poetry. When this is once destroyed in a nation, it is very difficult to restore it; and from the reign of James until the commencement of the civil wars, the philosophical abstractions of Jonson, Donne, Cowley, and others, monopolised the favour of the public.
We have already said, and repeat it here, that when the faculty of abstract reflection and a vivid imagination are eminently combined, the individual who possesses them has within him the elements of intellectual poetry ; when these are not united, it were vain, and worse than vain, to attempt this exalted style of composition. Shakspeare possessed this union in a greater degree than any other poet of England, and the result of the combination is observed in the deathless produc. tions of his inspired pen. Jonson had no imagination—no perception of the sublime or the beautiful-and as a consequence, his writings are filled with far-fetched imagery, and characterised by a learned profundity, which render many of them incomprehensible, not only to general readers, but to all readers.
What is it, then, that causes unintelligible poetry to find favour with the people? It is this—A vivid fancy and a musical ear are pleased with any poetry that is lofty in its tone, and melodious in its numbers. It may be destitute of sense or meaning when calmly and critically analysed, but its high-wrought language and majesty of sound suggest ideas and images in the minds of those who are predisposed by natural constitution to indulge in the exercise of imagination. We have pored over the gloomy poetry of the “Revolt of Islam," without comprehending, or hoping to comprehend, a tithe of its meaning, (if, indeed, a tithe of it has any meaning) but there is a wild sublimity which runs throughout the poem, eminently calculated to excite the fancy to energy and action. There are many passages,
also, in the writings of others of the modern poets, which are thought by some readers to possess great beauty, but which, nevertheless, when minutely examined, will be found to exceed the comprehension of man.
The lyric is the poetry of deep emotion, and in all countries, and all conditions of society, this species of composition must be, in some measure, cherished; for man never ceases to feel. But besides the emotions of personal feeling, there are in this country other sources of inspiration for the lyric writer; we have not in our borders the crumbling tower and castle, or the ivied and solemn cathedral, garnished within by the historic monuments and flaunting banners of the past; but external nature spreads before us her everlasting page, glowing with sublimity and beauty. For us, the mighty cataract lifts up its voice, and the high mountain holds commerce with the clouds; and if the loveliness and grandeur of nature can awaken the lyre of the bard, never need the American poet fly for inspiration away from the land of his fathers.
The general literature, too, of the past and the present, which is available to transatlantic writers, lies open to our own. The models which form true standards of beauty—the breathing thoughts and burning words of the great masters of the English lyre, from Chaucer to Byron--these are ours, to suggest images, and to discipline the taste; and if the youthful and aspiring poet seeks to establish a fame with posterity, as well as among his cotemporaries, let him not be induced to adopt a vicious and depraved style, under the false impression 'that the reputation of a lyric writer is limited to the present day. The lofty tlights of the daring Pindar are destined for immortality, and the sweet breathings of the amorous Sappho will never be forgotten while the memory of man endures.
Let Horace speak for us :-
“Ne forte credas interitura, quæ
Verba loquor socianda chordis.
Stesicorique graves Comænæ.
Æliæ fidibus puellæ."
ART. VII.--DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.
1. De la Démocratie en Amérique. Par ALEXIS DE TOCQUE
VILLE, Avocat à la Cour Royale de Paris, l'un des auteurs du livre intitulé: “ Du Système Pénitentiaire aux Etats-Unis.”
Orné d'une Carte d'Amérique. Seconde édition. Paris : 1835. 2. Democracy in America. By ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE, &c.
&c. Translated by HENRY REEVE, Esq. In two volumes: (first only received). London : 1835.
The reciprocal influence of the manners and political institutions of a people upon each other, --in other words, the connection between their civil and social habits, is the first object with which an intelligent traveller should make himself acquainted. By most travellers it is neglected altogether. It is much easier, as one meanders through a country, to seize a few obvious features,--the salient points of national character,and to sketch them boldly and broadly, than to study carefully, and accurately to delineate, the curious combinations and influences under which a community has been formed and fostered. The first object which Micromegas and his companion saw, on descending to the earth in the neighbourhood of the Baltic Sea, was a whale; whence the younger traveller very sagaciously concluded that whales were the sole inhabitants of the little planet on which he had alighted. He would have gone back to Saturn with the impression in full force, had not his more experienced friend found means to correct the error. Broad as the satire is, the Saturnian, six thousand feet in stature, is no bad type (however the author may have had in view another object) of those modern tourists who can scarce see or realise any thing except upon the level of their own prejudices --who refer every thing to their own standard, and who pronounce upon nations according to conventional laws, or the accidents of their own education. This is not the fashion after which enlightened antiquity described foreign countries : nor are these the descriptions that enlightened posterity will read and cherish.
It is doubtless the fate of all countries to be misrepresented. The honest credulity of the old travellers, ignorant of science, led them into a thousand exaggerations concerning the physical characteristics of distant nations, by which a child of our times would scarcely be deceived for a moment. They saw, wondered, believed, (for belief, in rude times, is the child of wonder,) and narrated. Marco Polo, Sir John Mandeville, and others of that category, ran no danger of being dubbed, like poor Lucian, great scoffers at religion, because,