Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Fell ruining from high. So vast the din,
When, gods encountering gods, the clang of arms
'Commingled, and the tumult roar'd from heaven."

CHAP. XXVI.

SOUTHEY'S RODERICK.

<

"No writer of the present day," observed Egeria, turning over the leaves of Southey's RODERICK, THE LAST OF THE GOTHS,' as it lay in her lap, "has written more of what I would call respectable poetry, than the Poet Laureate. He has, I acknowledge, produced several passages of great beauty and magnificence, but none which can justly be called truly sublime or pathetic. He ranks high in the estimation of the world, and deservedly so, as a man of genius; and, perhaps, in point of industry, he is not inferior, neither in constancy of application, nor in productive power, to the greatest of his contemporaries. But the whole of his lays and lucubrations bear an impress of art and authorship which will ever keep them out of the first class. He has ease undoubtedly, and wonderful facility, but he has little of that natural vivacity which enchants the attention. One never forgets, in reading the works of this clever and ingenious person, that one has a book in one's hand, nor that it is the production of Mr Southey yet in his works there is no great degree of mannerism, and really very little egotism, although I believe few authors of our time have been more charged with the latter fault.

"This Poem is decidedly his best, but those who delight in the wild and wonderful will prefer Thalaba. It has more of talent than of genius; more of reflection than perception; juster notions both of adventure and of situation than any other of his epics; but still, like them all, it fails to reach the heart, and though it pleases, never elevates the mind. The defect is undoubtedly owing to some lack both of power and of taste. Mr Southey cogitates himself into a state of poetical excitement, but he seems to be rarely touched with the fine phrenzy of the poet. He conceives his works according to certain predetermined principles, and is seldom inspired with the creative energy that calls forth those startling and glorious emanations, which at once make life felt and beauty visible. He has capacity and means to build a pyramid, but the little entaglio of Grey's Elegy is more valuable than all this great tumulus to the memory of the last of the Goths;-still the volume contains many splendid and beautiful passages, which, when first seen, afford a very high degree of pleasure. It is only when we read them a second and a third time that we find out how much of their beauty is more owing to the mechanical structure of the language, than to the feeling or the elegance of the fancy embodied in them. The following description of the return of Roderick to Leyria is perhaps one of the finest passages in the book; but although full of imagery and of circumstances, the slightest of which, effectively managed, would have melted the very heart, I doubt if its merits, great as they are, have ever received the tribute of a tear."

[ocr errors]

""Twas even-song time, but not a bell was heard ;
Instead thereof, on her polluted towers,
Bidding the Moors to their unhallow'd prayer,
The crier stood, and with his sonorous voice
Fill'd the delicious vale where Lena winds
Through groves and pastoral meads. The sound, the sight
Of turban, girdle, robe, and scimitar,

And tawny skins, awoke contending thoughts
Of anger, shame, and anguish in the Goth;
The unaccustom'd face of human-kind
Confused him now, and through the streets he went
With hagged mien, and countenance like one
Crazed or bewilder'd. All who met him turn'd,
And wonder'd as he past. One stopt him short,
Put alms into his hand, and then desired,
In broken Gothic speech, the moon-struck man
To bless him. With a look of vacancy
Roderick received the alms; his wandering eye
Fell on the money, and the fallen King,
Seeing his own royal impress on the piece,
Broke out into a quick convulsive voice,
That seem'd like laughter first, but ended soon
In hollow groans supprest: the Mussulman
Shrunk at the ghastly sound, and magnified
The name of Allah as he hasten'd on.
A Christian woman spinning at her door
Beheld him, and with sudden pity touch'd,
She laid her spindle by, and running in
Took bread, and following after call'd him back,
And placing in his passive hands the loaf,
She said, Christ Jesus for his Mother's sake
Have mercy on thee! With a look that seem'd
Like idiotcy he heard her, and stood still,
Staring awhile; then bursting into tears
Wept like a child, and thus relieved his heart,
Full even to bursting else with swelling thoughts.

.

So through the streets, and through the northern gate,
Did Roderick, reckless of a resting place,
With feeble yet with hurried step, pursue
His agitated way; and when he reach'd
The open fields, and found himself alone
Beneath the starry canopy of Heaven,
The sense of solitude, so dreadful late,
Was then repose and comfort. There he stopt
Beside a little rill, and brake the loaf;
And shedding o'er that unaccustom'd food
Painful but quiet tears, with grateful soul
He breathed thanksgiving forth; then made his bed.
On heath and myrtle."

"A midnight march in Spain is also very beautifully described."

"The favouring moon arose, To guide them on their flight through upland paths Remote from frequentage, and dales retired, Forest and mountain glen. Before their feet The fire-flies, swarming in the woodland shade, Sprung up like sparks, and twinkled round their way; The timorous blackbird, starting at their step, Fled from the thicket, with shrill note of fear; And far below them in the peopled dell, When all the soothing sounds of eve had ceased, The distant watch-dog's voice at times was heard, Answering the nearer wolf. All through the night Among the hills they travell'd silently; Till when the stars were setting, at what hour The breath of Heaven is coldest, they beheld Within a lonely grove the expected fire, Where Roderick and his comrade anxiously Look'd for the appointed meeting. Bright rose the flame replenish'd; it illumed

The cork-tree's furrowed rind, its rifts and swells
And redder scars, . . and where its aged boughs
O'erbower'd the travellers, cast upon the leaves
A floating, grey, unrealizing gleam.”

"There is also much sweetness and pleasing poetry in the description of the investiture of the young Alphonso with the honours of knighthood."

"Rejoicing in their task,
The servants of the house with emulous love
Dispute the charge. One brings the cuirass, one
The buckler; this exultingly displays

The sword, his comrade lifts the helm on high:
The greaves, the gauntlets they divide; . . a spur
Seems now to dignify the officious hand
Which for such service bears it to his Lord.
Greek artists in the imperial city forged

That splendid armour, perfect in their craft;
With curious skill they wrought it, framed alike
To shine amid the pageantry of war,
And for the proof of battle. Many a time
Alphonso from his nurse's lap had stretch'd
His infant hands toward it eagerly,

Where gleaming to the central fire it hung
High in the hall; and many a time had wish'd
With boyish ardour, that the day were come
When Pedro to his prayers would grant the boon,
His dearest heart's desire.

No season this for old solemnities,

For wassailry and sport; . . the bath, the bed,
The vigil, . . all preparatory rites

Omitted now, . . here in the face of Heaven,
Before the vassals of his father's house,
With them in instant peril to partake

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »