ePub 版


pervades the whole of this volume indicates a closer resemblance to the genius of the hypochondriacal Cowper, than to that of the cynical vituperative bard of the “ Age of Bronze.” The blank verse of Cowper, however, although seldom mellifluous, is almost uniformly accurate in respect to numbers, and seldom lays the accent on short and unemphatic syllables, a practise of Percival dreadfully destructive of harmony. Besides, Cowper is seldom so very abstract or figurative as to involve his meaning in obscurity, a fault which is the very worst that a writer, who designs to write sense at all, can commit, and one of which Dr. Percival's best friends acknowledge that he is often guilty. Cowper also, with all his seriousness, often indulges in a sprightly satirical vein of humour, which relieves the reader from the plodding contemplations induced by the graver passages, and prevents him from becoming fatigued in their perusal. But we cannot recollect in the whole of the three hundred and ninety-six pages which the volume before us consists, one single deviation into any thing like humour or wit, that can afford the mind relief from the horrors of the never ceasing melancholly and despondency, that continue their doleful lamentations from one end of the book to the other.

We must not, from these remarks, be supposed to have any hostility to grave and pathetic poetry. On the contrary, that poetry which pleases us more than any other, is the poetry of feeling; and we would not give up the parting of Hector and Andromache for the most sublime and fiery description of a battle or a debate in the whole Iliad. But then before it can please, the poetry of feeling must be given to us in strains both impressive and perspicuous. We cannot bear it when it is shrouded in metaphors or buried in metaphysics, and for the plain reason that we have then to search for its meaning.

To show our readers that we have good grounds for what we have said concerning the obscurity, and want of melody and force in Percival's blank verse, we extract the following brief sentence of only forty seven lines, from the “ Wreck," with that it is, by no means the worst constructed that this poem contains.


But nature still was in her, and she soon
Felt, that the fond affection of her sire,
And her lov'd tasks—the study of high thoughts,
Poured out in sainted volumes, which had been
Stamped in the mint of genius, and had come
Unhurt through darkest ages, bright as gems
That sparkle ; though in dust-the skilful touch
Of instruments of music, and the voice
Sweet in its untaught melody, as birds
Clear warbling in the bushes, but attuned
To the just flow of harmony-tbe hand
That woke the forms of pencilld life, and gave
Its colour of the violet, and its fire
To the dark eye, its blushes to the cheek,
And the lip its sweetness; or that drew
O'er the pure lawn the silken thread, and wove
The fall leafed vine, and the luxuriant rose,
All petals and vermillion-or the walk
On the rude shore, to hear the rushing waves,
Or view the wide sea-sleeping-on the hill
To catch the living landscape, and combine
The miracles of nature in one full
And deep enchantment-or to trace the brook
Up to its highest fountain in the shade
Of a thick tuft of alders, and go down
By all its leaps and windings gathering there
The forest roses, and the nameless flowers,
That open in the wilderness and live
Awhile in sweetest lovliness, and die
Without an eye to watch them, or a heart
To gladden in their beauty, or in that,
The fondest to the pure and delicate,
The gentle deed of charity, the gift
That cheers the widow, or dries up the flow
Of a lone orphan's bitterness, the voice
The melting voice of spmpathy, which heals,
With a far softer touch, the wounded heart,
Than the cold alms dropped by the scornful band,
That flings the dole it grudges-such but tears
Anew the closed wound open; while the friend,
Who smiles when smoothing down the lonely couch,
And does kind deeds which any one can do,
Who has a feeling spirit, such a friend
Heals with a gentle balsam ;-though her days
Passed on in such sweet labours, still she felt
Alone, and there was in her virgin heart
A void that all her pleasures could not fill.

Whoever can with satisfaction wade through such a mass of irrelevant and tautological clauses as this mamoth sentence exhibits, and, without fretting, suspend his curiosity to know its meaning until he arrives at the end of it, by which time he must bave a truly miraculous memory, if he has not forgotten its beginning, must possess a degree of patient endurance with which, we confess, we are not gifted. We must also say, that whoever can discover in verses like the following, the accurate measurement of the five iambic fect, so essential to every line of blank verse where harmony is intended, must greatly surpass us in the knowledge of English prosody.

“Darts on a dove, and with a motionless wing." But the poem of the “ Wreck” contains some beautiful passages, which show that Percival has the faculty of thinking as a true poet, however much the influence of bad taste may have prevented him from expressing himself as such. We select the following

“ Youth is the time of love, All other loves are lifeless, and but flowers Wreathed round decay, and with a livid hue

Blowing upon a grave.” The following description of a stormy ocean, is equal to any thing of the kind in poetry.

“The waves still rulled tremenduously and burt
Loud thundering on the rocks, they tossed the foam
High up the hills, and ploughed the moving sands,
Sweeping the fragments forth, then rushing back

With a devouring strength that cleared the shore.” The image which follows, is both beautiful and perspicuous ; but placing the accent on such an unimportant word as the article a, injures the harmony, and it is a species of injury which Percival is too much in the habit of inflicting on his verses.

“ A few short steps, she paused, and then sank down,

As a flower sinks upon the new-mown turf.” The following easy change in the arrangement of the words would have obviated this awkwardness in the sound.

As sinks a flower upon the new-mown turf. We admit that the former style is sometimes useful for the purpose of variety, as an occasional discord is agreeable in mu

VOL. I. No. III. 31

sic; but discords too often repeated become intolerable, whether in music, poetry, or life ; and Dr. Percival hesitates not to repeat them with unmerciful frequency in his verses.

We have laboured at the poem of “ Prometheus" with heroic determination to read it through. It is divided into two parts, the first of which we managed to get over with great perseverance ; but the second completely knocked us up, and we abandoned the task in despair. Indeed, who that is made of flesh and blood, could bear to tug at upwards of two hundred such metaphysical, and almost unintelligible Spenserians as the following?

Love is attraction, and attraction, love

The meeting of two fond eyes, and the beat
Of two accordant pulses are above

Planets, that always tend, but never meet :

To us, that have a feeling, love is sweet,
The life of our existence, the great aim

Of all our hope and beauty—but they fleet,
Moments of fond endearment-years will tame
The electric throb of bliss, and quench the spirit's flame,

But yet there is to us a purer light,

And that is in the beautiful unfading,
The mould, wherein all phantoms of delight

Are fashion'd into loveliness; the shading
Of earth may give in softness, kindly aiding
The weakness of our feeble nature, while

Mine has not fledg’d its pinions ; soon pervading
Space in its daring, as a long-sought isle,
It turns with naked gaze to that Eternal smile,

Whose charm is on the Universe, the blue

Mellow'd with light's full essence on the sphere
Wrapping us in its mantle, whence the dew

Falls clear and pearly, like a tender tear

Shed on the hues, that fade so quickly here,
But are awhile so beautiful-the sea,

That smooths its gold, or as the light winds veer,
Crispsit, or decks it o'er with stars- the sea

Takes all it hath to charm, Eternal Love! from thee. The great fault of this poem is its heaviness and obscurity of expression. This is partly owing to its unfortunate versification, and partly to the author's evident predilection for the profound in poetry, which, according to Martinus Scriblerus, delights in darkness.

There is in this volume, a doleful poem of nearly a hundred and fifty Elegiac stanzas, entitled the “Suicide,” which no one of weak nerves ought to attempt reading. We are, we believe, as seldom assailed by the “* Azure Demons," to use a polite phrase, as most of our neighbours, but really we could not peruse this gloomy production without quivering under their torturing grip. As a poem, however, we think this superior to "Prometheus," because it is less mystical and diffuse, and because in the structure of its verses there are fewer violations of the laws of prosody. We extract some stanzas which really possess much poetic merit.

'Twas where a granite cliff high beetling towered
Above the billows of the wertern main,
Deep in a grot, by sable yews embowered
A youth retir'd to ponder and complain.

Dark, sullen, gloomy as the scene around,
The soul that harbour'd in that youthful breast,
To him the wild roar was a soothing sound,
The only one could hush his woes to rest.


There was a savage sternness in his breast;
No half-way passion could his bosom move,
None e'er by him was scorn'd and then caressed ;
His was all gloomy hate or glowing love.


And thou, arch moral murd'rer, hear my verse,
Go-gorge and wallow in thy priestly sty,
Than what thou art, I cannot wish the worse,
There with thy kindred reptile crawl and die !

We agree with Dr. Johnson that the ten syllable quatrain is too stately in its march, and susceptible of too little variety in its tone to be agreeable in a long poem. Next to the unwieldy

« 上一頁繼續 »