Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

thro' numerous openings came
Thick fumes of sulphur in continued stream,
Hot was the humid soil, and all around
Her steps re-echoed from the bollow ground,

• Within the ancient crater now she stood,
Whence the long streams of liquid fire had flow'd
That form'd the solid isle, but many an age
Its fires had slept, exhausted with their rage ;
Its falling sides the dire abyss o'erspread,
And recent scoria form'd a sable bed.
Yet thro' the crust sulphureous odours breathe,
And fumes ascend in many a snowy wreath,
And, like a lion, awful in repose,
A moment might the dreadful gulf disclose,
And Leonora hastes, and fears to view
Its slumbering fury wake and rage anew.

Westward her course the bold adventurer bends;
And now the mountain's loftiest peak ascends ;
Beneath, unseen, the dread volcano glows,
Yet o'er the crest the smoky volumes rose;
She bears the louder roar, and sees with dread
The flaming masses rise above her head,
And sand and ashes scatter'd all around,
The marks of former fury, strew the ground.

• Descending now, she reach'd a rocky height,
Whence the whole scene unfolded to her sight;
Saw from the gulf the orbs of lava rise,
And clouds of dusky vapour veil the skies,
And shuddering thought how soon the hour might come,

When that red void should be her hated home.'--p. 208, 9. A spirit then appears at the bidding of the Fire-king, and under his guidance Leonora plunges into the blazing gulf.

'The fearless nymph obey'd—ber tender feet
The lava press, yet scarcely feel its heat;
O’er solid fire proceeds the undaunted dame,
And breatbes amid an atmosphere of fame,
Which round her form, by frequent currents driven,
Fann'd her dark tresses like the gales of heaven.
Yet oft, at first, she screen'd her dazzled sight
From the full splendour of that crimson light,
And shrunk from flames that round innocuous fly,
Soft as the evening zephyr's vernal sigh.

• How vast the fiery realm! around her stood
Unnumber'd Sprites, that various tasks pursu'd.'-p. 212.

There is so much poetic spirit in this passage, that we will not destroy the impression of poetical reality which it produces, by

extracting the enumeration of the labours of the spirits of the volcano : they would dispel the illusion which the fancy of the writer has created with such ability. We shall therefore pass on to the return of Leonora to the realms of day. The sweetness of the lines, and the contrast between their calm and softened imagery, and the fiery scene from which Leonora has rushed, remind us of the first stanzas of the Purgatorio.'

• Thro' the deep gulf again she mounts to air.
And oh! how lovely to her wearied eye,
The moon's soft light, the azure of the sky,
The still and placid grandeur of the scene,
The haunts of man, the tufts of sober green,
And that red cloud, that in the blue expanse,
With rapid motion sailing met her glance ;

Is that her airy car ?—p. 235_6. Miss Porden thinks vigorously, and she always expresses herselt with terseness. Such passages as the following may be instanced for their condensed and apophthegmatic turn.

long and keenly smarts the rankling wound,
When those admir'd and lov'd are worthless found;
And truth's broad mirror, with a thousand flaws,
Obscures the spotless image memory draws.'

Book iv. y. 880—4.
• Misfortune oft in mirthful guise appears,
And wo at times will frolic tho' in tears.'

Book iii. 700—4. Nor can she be otherwise than lively and elegant when we clear away the primitive and secondary rocks, which she afterwards thought fit to superinduce upon her fairy tale. We shan conclude our extracts with the nuptials of the Water-king and his beneficent bride.

Yet

many a youth that to the tourney came,
With eager looks had sought one absent dame,
And marvell’d wby Lymnoria, fair and gay,
Still prompt to baste where pleasure led the way,
Who lor'd the ocean's fairest inaids among
To shine distinguish'd in the glittering throng,
To mark each jealous damsel's smother'd sighs
Burst as they watch'd their lover's wandering eyes,
When, like an empress, mid her slaves she shone,
And deem'd each eye should fix on her alone;
Why only sbe now sbunn'd the festive scene,
Where all were met in honour of their queen.
Yet many a nymph the secret reason guest,
In looks, and signs, and whispers half exprest,

And marvell'd much how envy found a place
lo that fair breast and love inspiring face ;
And some, who seminds a kindred thought conceald,
In specious guise their lurking envy veild:
“ Twas true their queen was gracious, good and fair,
" Yet other nymphs might with her charms compare ;
“ And it was hard, must be by all confest,
“ To see one nymph thus rais’d o'er all the rest,
“ And more for her, once destin’d for the throne,
“ Who deem'd this damsel but usurp'd her crown."
While some their queen's superior charins allow,

But muttering something of a broken vow.-P. 182—3. The personifications of metals and minerals,' and of the agencies of volcanic fire,' as may be expected from the specimens which we have given of Miss Porden's poetry, are managed with great talent and ingenuity, and they exhibit a thorough knowledge of the subject. But they are materials upon which talent and ingenuity should not attempt to work. They are either too refractory to be moulded into grace, or too rarified and penetrating to be rendered visible and tangible. Nor could these difficulties be surmounted, even if, as Miss Porden wishes, the operations of her Rosicrucian mythology had been directed by a person possessing the scientific knowledge of Sir Humphry Davy, and the energy and imagination of Lord Byron and Mr. Scott.'

The privilege of personification is an important one, and therefore it should be used charily. The forms bestowed by the poet must be indicated, not defined. The vitality which he bestows must be breathed into the object in an instant, and for an instant only. Like the mock life produced in the slaughtered animal by the powers of galvanism, as soon as the subtle influence bas darted through, its effects must cease; and inert nature must relapse into its primitive quiescence. Thus,

• Jura answers through ber misty shroud

Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud.' But although the voices of the mountains were heard during the raging of the midnight storm, we do not find that they continue to hold a dialogue after it had subsided.

The themes of poetry must be such as can agitate or allure us; the lessons of poetry must be such as can enter into alliance with our virtues, nay, even with our errors. But science soars above the troubled region of passion and feeling, and dwells in the calm and cloudless heaven where all is light and tranquillity.

-- ουτ' ανεμοισι τινασσεται, ουτε ποτομβρη
δευεται, ουτε χιων επισιλναται. αλλα μαλλ' αιθρη
πεπταται ανεφελος, λευκη δ' επιδεδρομεν αιγλη.

The object of science is the discovery and diffusion of truth: and the flowing veil of poetry is wholly abhorrent from this its only intent and end. Science cannot be taught in allegory or metaphor, and it seeks neither ornament nor disguise; the one can give it no additional fairness, the other must detract from its utility. The laws and properties of matter are the handmaids' of the Power who laid the foundations of the world, and in the investigation of their workings, we must confide in reason, without invoking the deceitful aid of fancy or imagination. Let the Muse be content to roam in the haunts to which she has been accustomed from days of old, and employ herself in her wonted tasks. She may breathe the fresh gale without trying its purity in the eudiometer. When she gathers flowers, let her weave them in a wreath, and she will find it easier than to class the sweets which she has culled between the leaves of the hortus siccus. All nature is before her, and it is her duty to point out the beauties of the great pageant; but it will not be required of her, that she should conduct the spectators behind the scenes.

With respect to Miss Porden, we must conclude by confessing, that although we think her endeavour to blend poetry and science together is objectionable, yet her knowledge becomes her well; and we are quite sure that the age cannot produce many female writers possessing ability and information enough to err as she has done.

ART. VI. Laou-sing-urh, or An Heir in his Old Age,' a Chi

nese Drama. Translated from the Original Chinese. By J. F. Davis, Esq. of Canton. To which is prefixed a Brief View of the Chinese Drama and of their Theatrical Exhibitions,

Small 8vo. pp. 164. London. 1817. IN N the voluminous compilations concerning China, which were

published on the continent of Europe, and chiefly in France, in the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we meet with very few observations on the general state of literature in that country. The Catholic Missionaries, from whom they were received, labour hard, it is true, to persuade their correspondents, by vague and general assertions, that the Chinese are a nation of sages; that the love of letters is universal; that learning alone leads to wealth and honours; that, with it, the highest offices of the state are open to the lowest of the people; and, without it, that princes sink quietly, as a matter of common occurrence, into the vulgar herd; that, in short, under this enlightened government,

[ocr errors]

• Worth makes the man, and want of it the fellow,

The rest is all but leather or prunella.' We are cautioned, however, at the same time, not to regard the literary qualifications, which pave the way to the highest offices in the state, as consisting of that vulgar wisdom which implies a knowledge of men and of things, or of the pursuits of physical or abstract science,oreven of the history of the great events which have been passing in any other part of the world; but that the perfection of the human intellect, and the indispensable qualification for a great statesman, consist in knowing precisely what Yao said, and what Chun did, on any particular occasion, four thousand years ago; and in applying the maxims of the one and the practice of the other to the events of the present time. This, with a critical knowledge of the construction, and precise import, of an old character of their symbolic language, together with the exact mode of addressing a superior, or returning the salute of an inferior, according to the regulations prescribed by Confucius, constitute, in a great measure, the learning of a Chinese state philosopher. But the most remarkable circumstance seems to be that these automatons should have succeeded in persuading the Jesuits, whom no one will accuse of being deficient in worldly wisdom, that this puerile trifling of the Chinese was learning; while every succeeding communication to their superiors in Europe bore unequivocal proofs of the gross ignorance in which the whole nation was immersed. And yet we ought, perhaps, not so much to wonder at the miraculous accounts of those who had travelled to the opposite side of the globe in search of miracles, as at the credulity of such men as Voltaire, Freret, De Guignes, Isaac Vossius, and many others, who so greedily swallowed them. The Jesuits indeed had some excuse : the

conversion of the heathen being the main object of their mission, they found it, probably, conducive to their success to adopt the habits and prejudices of their Chinese neophytes. It still

, however, remains to be explained why these early Missionaries, who were themselves men of learning, and more free from prejudices than any of the other Religious Orders, should not have bestowed a little attention on the modern state of literature among the great mass of the people. We read, it is true, of the hundreds of thousands of volumes contained in the Imperial library at Pekin, and every now and then we meet with the titles of some of them we are also told that thousands of the lighter kind of productions, such as moral tales, entertaining stories, novels, plays and songs, issue daily from the press; but this lumping mention of Chinese libraries and Chinese books, with the exception of one drama translated by Père Premare, two or three moral tales, as many

« AnteriorContinuar »