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376 KEATS-TOO REGARDLESS OF SENSE AND REALITIES.
propensities, that they are pretty sure to captivate and amuse those to whom their poetry may be but an hinderance and obstruction, as well as those to whom it con. stitutes their chief attraction. The interest of the stories they tell — the vivacity of the characters they delineate — the weight and force of the maxims and sentiments in which they abound — the very pathos, and wit and
humour they display, which may all and each of them exist apart from their poetry, and independent of it, are quite sufficient to account for their popularity, without referring much to that still higher gift, by which they subdue to their enchantments those whose souls are truly attuned to the finer impulses of poetry. It is only, therefore, where those other recommendations are wanting, or exist in a weaker degree, that the true force of the attraction, exercised by the pure poetry with which they are so often combined, can be fairly appreciated :—where, without much incident or many characters, and with little wit, wisdom, or arrangement, a number of bright pictures are presented to the imagination, and a fine feel. ing expressed of those mysterious relations by which visible external things are assimilated with inward thoughts and emotions, and become the images and exponents of all passions and affections. To an unpoetical reader such passages will generally appear mere raving and absurdity — and to this censure a very great part of the volumes before us will certainly be exposed, with this class of readers. Even in the judgment of a fitter audience, however, it must, we fear, be admitted, that, besides the riot and extravagance of his fancy, the scope and substance of Mr. Keats's poetry is rather too dreamy and abstracted to excite the strongest interest, or to sustain the attention through a work of any great compass or extent. He deals too much with shadowy and incomprehensible beings, and is too constantly rapt into an extramundane Elysium, to command a lasting interest with ordinary mortals — and must employ the agency of more varied and coarser emotions, if he wishes to take rank with the enduring poets of this or of former generations. There is something very curious, too, we
yhink, in her have
NEW PRESENTMENT OF PAGAN DEITIES. 377 also,
way in which he, and Mr. Barry Cornwall dealt with the Pagan mythology, of which made so much use in their poetry. Instead
its imaginary persons under the trite and vulgar traits that belong to them in the ordinary systems, little more is borrowed from these than the general conception of their condition and relations; and an original character and distinct individuality is then bestowed upon them, which has all the merit of invention, and all the grace and attraction of the fictions on which it is engrafted. The ancients, though they probably did not stand in any great awe of their deities, have yet abstained very much from any minute or dramatic representation of their feelings and affections. In Hesiod and Homer, they are broadly delineated by some of their actions and adventures, and introduced to us merely as the agents in those particular transactions ; while in the Hymns, from those ascribed to Orpheus and Homer, down to those of Callimachus, we have little but pompous epithets and invocations, with a flattering commemoration of their most famous exploits — and are never allowed to enter into their bosoms, or follow out the train of their feelings, with the presumption of our human sympathy. Except the love-song of the Cyclops to his Sea Nymph in Theocritus — the Lamentation of Venus for Adonis in Moschus — and the more recent Legend of Apuleius, we scarcely recollect a passage in all the writings of antiquity in which the passions of an immortal are fairly disclosed to the scrutiny and observation of men. The author before us, however, and some of his contemporaries, have dealt differently with the subject; — and, sheltering the violence of the fiction under the ancient traditionary fable, have in reality created and imagined an entire new set of characters; and brought closely and minutely before us the loves and sorrows and perplexities of beings, with whose names and supernatural attributes we had long been familiar, without any sense or feeling of their personal character. We have more than doubts of the fitness of such personages to maintain a permanent interest with the modern pub
SKETCH OF THE SHEPHERD KING,
lic;— but the way in which they are here managed certainly gives them the best chance that now remains for them; and, at all events, it cannot be denied that the effect is striking and graceful. But we must now proceed to our extracts.
The first of the volumes before us is occupied with the loves of Endymion and Diana — which it would not be very easy, and which we do not at all intend to analyse in detail. In the beginning of the poem, how. ever, the Shepherd Prince is represented as having had strange visions and delirious interviews with an unknown and celestial beauty: Soon after which, he is called on to preside at a festival in honour of Pan; and his appearance in the procession is thus described:
· His youth was fully blown,
Through his forgotten hands!”—p. 11, 12. There is then a choral hymn addressed to the sylvan deity, which appears to us to be full of beauty; and reminds us, in many places, of the finest strains of Sicilian or of English poetry. A part of it is as follows:"O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
From jagged trunks; and overshadoweth
The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth.-
Passion their voices coolingly 'mong myrtles,
MAGNIFICENT HYMN TO PAN.
What time thou wanderest at eventide
Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies
Hear us, O satyr king!
While ever and anon to his shorn peers
And wither drearily on barren moors !'”—p. 114—117. The enamoured youth sinks into insensibility in the midst of the solemnity, and is borne apart and revived by the care of his sister ; and, opening his heavy eyes in her arms, says —
“ • I feel this thine endearing love
All through my bosom! Thou art as a dove
HIS VISIONS OF LOVE.
Such morning incense from the fields of May,
my horn parley from their foreheads hoar!
So mournful strange."- p. 25-27. He then tells her all the story of his love and madness; and gives this airy sketch of the first vision he had, or fancied he had, of his descending goddess. After some rapturous intimations of the glories of her goldburnished hair, he says —
" And then her hovering feet!