網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

and monotonous Spenserian stanza we dislike this unbending quatrain, which, on account of its gloominess has obtained the appropriate appellation of the Elegiac stanza. Our language affords but one poem successfully written in it, namely, Gray's Elegy, the artist of which, however, did not disdain to employ in its manufacture a great deal of that care and labour which Dr. Percival professes to hold in such contempt. Gray's poem has also another unspeakable advantage for a production of this nature over Percival's, in not being one fifth part so long.

We may here observe, that as there is only one Elegiac quatrain poem in the language that we can read with unqualified approbation, so there is only one Spenserian that can afford us pleasure, that is Burns's “ Cotter's Saturday Night.” In this delightful production there is no prolixity to fatigue, no metaphysical wandering to perplex, no meretricious ornaments to overcloud, nor any straining at hyperbolical pomp to excite disgust. Every sentiment is natural, simple, and appropriate, and every expression easy, following, perspicuous, and harmonious ; nor should it be forgotten among its other recommendations, that it occupies no reader more than ten minutes in the perusal. Would to Apollo, that we could say the same of every Spenserian poem in our language! But, ah!-what would then become of “ Thé Faery Queen,” of the Elder Bard, which it has been so long the fashion to praise, but never to read? What would become of it!- Why, we sincerely think that it is immaterial to the interests of English literature, what would become of it.

There are few wlio derive any benefit from its perusal, for we really believe that there is not one individual in half a million who reads it at all, and the absurd fashion of praising it, has been, of late, extremely detrimental to the ease, harmony and elegance of our poetic style. Perhaps we have ventured too much in asserting that Spenser is so little read—but we are willing to abide by the expression. Dr. Percival, at least, cannot, with any good grace object to it; for should it be somewhat overstrained, we can point him out a thousand expressions in the volume before us incomparably more so. But we will go further and venture to assert that Dr. Percival himself, with all his admiration for the quaint inaccuracies of the Elizabethean bard, never read him through-as to Lord

Byron, who is the dubbed champion of Spenser's Muse, we do not think that he would take a thousand pounds to peruse the whole “ Faery Queen.” We really beleive that he would rather write five thousand stanzas in imitation of it.

Want of room prevents us from saying much of the smaller poem in this volume. There are some of them very beautiful, and some of them very metaphysical, and consequently very dull. The latter are principally in blank verse, a species of composition which no man of similar talents, ever wrote so awkwardly as Percival. In one or two pieces, he has adopted a most clumsy description of verse-one which even the genius of Burns could not make tolerable. The Scottish Bard indeed tried it but once namely, in his lamentation for the “ Wounded Hare”-and finding that it limped almost as painfully as even the oject of his commiseration, he never tried it again. This measure is undeserving of a name; we shall therefore, give it none; and we ardently wish that it were eternally banished from the precincts of our poetry. The following is a specimen of it from Percival.

* There is a voice, and there is only one,
Thrilling my bosom, as if tuned on high
Amid the spheres revolving round the sky,
Whose roll is temper'd to the sweetest tone,
Whose blended harmonies are heard at night,
Now falling distant, now ascending nigh,
And with the saffron burst of dawning light,
Peal like the long loud clarion swell of fight,
When columns in the deadly charge rush by.”

Whoever can discover in these lines either the sweetness of regular rhyme, or the majesty of well written blank verse, must have sensations extremely different from ours.

In some of his smaller pieces, however, where he has adopted a consistent and regular mode of rhyming, Percival is transcendently excellent. We here give a few specimens. They will shew that nature has endowed the author with the highest talents for poetry, and that cherishing an unfortunate taste for abstract sentimentalizing and uncouth versification alone has prevented him from equalling, if not surpassing the most pleasing and classical poets of our age.

There's a voice that is heard in the depth of the sky,
Where nothing is seen, but the blue-tinted Heaven;
That voice with the wind rolls its mellowness by,
And a few notes alone to our fond ears are given:
The spirit, who sings it, still bastens away,
He is doom'd round the wide earth for ever to roam,
He may settle a moment, but never will stay,
For he ne'er found and will never find here a home.

*

0! that voice is the dirge, that for ever is sung
O'er the wreck and the ruin of beauty and love,
But in ears that are deaf, is its melody flung,
There are none, who will listen, but pure ones above:
0! Earth is no place for the spirit, who feels
Every wound of the heart with the pang of despair,
He will mourn and be never at home, till he steals
To the skies, and the bright world, that welcomes him there.

There are hours, there are minutes, wbich memory brings
Like blossoms of Eden, to twine round the heart;
And as time rushes by on the might of his wings,
They may darken awhile, but they never depart:
0! these hallowed remembrances cannot «iecay,
But they come on the soul with a magical thrill,
And in days that are darkest, they kindly will stay,
And the heart in its last throb will beat with them still.

J d

My heart was a mirror, that showed every treasure
Of beauty and lovliness life can display;
It reflected each beautiful blossom of pleasure,
But turned from the dark looks of bigots away;
It was living and moving with lovliest creatures,
In smiles or in tears as the soft spirit chose ;
Now shining with brightest and ruddiest features,
Now pale as the snow of the dwarf mountain rose.

These visions of sweetness forever were playing,
Like butterflies fanning the still Summer air;
Some spurted a moment, some never decaying,
In deep hues of love are still lingering there;
At times some fair spirit descending from Heaven,
Would shroud all the rest in the blaze of its light;
Then woodnymphs and fays, o'er the mirror were driven,
Like the fire-swarms that kindle the darkness at night.

But the winds and the storms broke the mirror and severed,
Full many a beautiful an, el in t ain;
And the tempest raged on till the fragments were shiver'd
And scattered, like dust as it rolls o'er the plain:
One piece which the storm in its madness neglected
Away, on the wings of the whirlwind to bear,
One fragmert was left, and that fragment reflected
All the beauty that Many threw carelessly there.

Our eagle shall rise 'mid the whirlwinds of war,
And dart through the dun cloud of battle his eye-
Shall spread bis wide wings o’er the tempest afar
O'er spirits of valour that conquer or die.
And ne'er shall the rage of the conflict be o'er,
And ne'er shall the worm blood of life cease to flow
And still’mid the smoke of the battle shall soar
Our Eagle-till scattered and Aed be the foe.
When peace shall disarm war's dar brow of its frown,
And roses shall bloom on the soldier's rude grave-
Then honour shall weave of the laurel a crown,
That Beauty shall bind on the brow of the brave.

1

It was the appearance of such effusions as these in the public prints of the Union, that deservedly gained for Percival a poetical reputation which the contents of this volume will by no means exalt. We are solicitous for the poetic fame of America, and we think that Percival possesses powers which, under the regulation of good taste, would not fail to raise it to an envied height. He has a vivid imagination, a brilliant fancy, and a warm and feeling heart. He possesses, also, a readiness of conception, and an evident rectitude of moral principle of which many of our present writers cannot boast. These qualities, if combined with a classical taste and brought to the task of poetic composition, could not fail to produce strains which would delight the world and render their author's fame as immortal as literature itself.

We seriously wish that Percival would render bimself master of the ten syllable couplet of Dryden and Pope. Let him explore the causes of its varied and never-tiring barmony, its sweetness of cadence, and its majesty of movement; and he will berome convinced that it is the most appropriate of all English verses for subjects of length and dignity. Let him also endeavour to be

less metaphysical and sombre in his ideas; and discipline his muse to perspicuity, ease and melody of diction. He will then delight all his readers. We could then wish him to select some important subject of universal interest in the annals of his country, on which to employ his pen ; and while he is working at it, let him not disdain to alter, to condense, to polish and refine ;

let him not he ashamed to exhibit in his manuscripts the variæ lectiones, for which, in the preface already mentioned, he affects to sneer at Pope—and he will then, we have not the smallest doubt, produce a standard poem, no matter whether it be called an epic or not, (although it would add to our gratification if it deserved that title,) which will remain an everlasting monument both to his own and his country's honour.

FOR THE AMERICAN MONTHLY MAGAZINE.

THE DUELLIST.

Hurt honour, in an evil-cursed hour,
Drove me to murder
My honesty ----sweet peace of mind-all-all !
Are bartered for a name !

Colmax, JR.

[ocr errors]

Some months ago, I paid a visit to the seat of my friend Henry Howard, whom I had not seen for several years; and during the short time that I spent with him, many a pleasing hour was passed in recalling the recollection of departed days, and in conjuring up the occurrences of other years. Circumstances which had then recently transpired, introduced in the course of conversation, the subject of Duelling, and as the relation, which my friend then gave me, was of a very interesting nature I take the liberty to repeat it in detail.

" I was once” said he won the eve of becoming a participator in this deplorable practice. An acquaintance had challenged me on some trifling occasion, and being then young, thoughtless and spirited, I deemed I could not as a man of honour refuse the call. I had accordingly sat down in the height of my anger, to write an acceptance, when the letter which I now hold was brought me by a servant. It was sent to me by a friend, who

« 上一頁繼續 »