Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

public, until at length he aroused the leading men of the city, headed by the indefatigable Brougham, to set about accomplishing the undertaking. In such a city as London, when once the citizens became convinced of the utility of the design, funds for its execution could not be long wanting. When Campbell, however, saw the business taken hold of by more active and persevering men than himself, he relapsed into his former quiescent habits; and contenting himself with occasionally attending committees, left the management to others whose skill and activity in business details exceeded his own. He had the satisfaction, however, to see the work go forward with unexampled rapidity, for in less than three years after he had made his project known to the public, the university was in full operation.

The reader of this sketch has thus far seen nothing but prosperity attending the career of the poet of Hope. This prosperity seemed to have been crowned by an event which must have been extremely grateful to his feelings; that of having been elected by the students of his Alma Mater, the university of his native city, the lord rector of that ancient seat of learning, for three successive years, although the influence of the professors was exerted against him, and the candidates opposed to him were individuals of no less merit and renown than the minister Can, ning and Sir Walter Scott.

But the life of Mr. Campbell has not passed without its share of tribulation. He has experienced domestic afflictions of peculiar severity. Of his two sons, one died when he was approaching his twentieth year, and the fate of the other was still more calamitous. He had been left at the University of Bonn, as has been already stated. He there in a short time exhibited symptoms of insanity, so decided as to oblige his father to have him brought to England, where the disease, although it assumed a milder form, became confirmed and incurable. He was for some years placed in a lunatic asylum, where, the derangement gradually abating, the unhappy young man became altogether harmless, and his father took him home. This calamity may well be supposed to have been the source of the keenest sufferings to the mind of a father constituted like that of Campbell.

Campbell is of small stature, and slender, but well made. His countenance indicates great sensibility, and something of distrust or rather fastidiousness in regard to the exercise of his own powers in any undertaking. His expression is generally grave; his eyes are large, of a blue colour, and remarkably striking. His nose is aquiline, and his hair dark, and he has long worn a peruke of the same colour. In thedisposition of his mind, he has all the irritable characteristics of the poet. He is quick in his impulses; but charitable and kind. It is said that he indulges in few amusements ; the company of a friend and social conversation being the recreations in which he most delights. DISSERTATION

ON THE

POEM OF THE PLEASURES OF HOPE.

“ WERE it not for Hope, says the proverb, "the heart would break." And thousands and tens of thousands of human beings have, in the midst of accumulated misfortunes, felt the truth of the saying.

But it is not on the minds of the unfortunate alone, that Hope exerts her benign influence. They who, in possession of youth, health, and joyous spirits, pursue the glittering and smiling agents of pleasure, and they who, spurred by ambition or avarice, labour in pursuit of power or riches, are alike animated on their paths by the universal stimulator to all exertion and sweetener of all toil; precious and consoling Hope.

To select such a pleasing attribute of the mind, for the subject of song, was a happy conception in Campbell; and to sing it so well, was an achievement which has gained him immortality. His poem is one of those lucky exertions of the intellect, which have occasionally burst upon the world with a force and permanency of splendour, unexpected even by their authors, and beyond their power a second time to produce. In this particular there is a striking similarity between the production of “The Pleasures of Imagination" and " The Pleasures of Hope.” They were both written in the nonage of their authors, who never afterwards produced any work comparable to them, although both lived to a mature age, cultivating literature and devoted to the muses. The minds of these authors, as well as their ages, at the time they composed these exquisite poems, seem to have been similarly conditioned, and imbued with the same species of inspiration. Warmed by the intellectual excitements of collegiate studies, and full of admiration for the beauties of classical literature and ancient poetry, they were prompted to an emulation of what they admired ; and although using a different language from the great bards whose fascinating strains had won their affections, and animated them for the time with powers not their own, they poured into that language, thoughts and numbers characteristic of the source of their inspiration, and worthy even of the bards at whose shrines the fervour of their youthful genins had been awakened. Hence the frequent allusions to Grecian times, to Grecian mythology, to Grecian history, to Grecian arts, literature, poetry, heroism, and liberty, with which these poems abound. Hence, also, the full-flowing energy and sounding harmony of their numbers : for such numbers-warm with music-could have been produced only by men whose souls were rendered musical by the mellifluousness of Grecian song.

These poems,-written as they were by students whose views of nature and feelings of song were yet uncorrupted by the contagion of fashionable theories, or the eccentricities of new schools; and whose generous aspirations and youthful ardour were yet unchecked and uncooled by the chilling influence of worldly experience,-breathe all the freshness of nature and the fervour of romance, in strains glowing, polished, and melodious, as the great classical models whose beauties had inspired them. But after the authors of these poems left the inspiring atmosphere of their colleges, and mingled with the busy world, what did they produce answerable to the expectations awakened by the high promise of their academical efforts ? Let the dull odes of Akenside, and the whining Gertrude, and the insipid Theodric, of Campbell, reply. Their contact with real life may not have impaired their general intellectual powers, but it seems to have blunted their poetical feelings, chilled their classical enthusiasm, and rendered them too prone to comply with the artificial tastes in poetry which happened to be the fashion of the day. It is true that the muse of Campbell has occasionally exhibited transient and short gleams of her youthful brilliancy. But they have been like the angel visits of which he speaks, “ few and far between.” Their whole amount is comprised in a few lyrical effusions, which, although excellent in their kind, are in regard

« ZurückWeiter »