Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

of Leila's person. If it is not something very bad, it may possibly be something so superlatively good as to break the bounds of criticism, and soar above the reach of our common minds. It seems to us to contain the very essence of what is worst in the characteristic manner of Mr. Scott and Lord Byron. Let the reader again judge for himself.

“ Her eye's dark charm 'twere vain to tell,
But gaze on that of the Gazelle,
It will assist thy fancy well,
As large, as languishingly dark,
But soul beam'd forth in every spark
That darted from beneath its lid,
Bright as the

gem

of Giamschid.
Yea, soul, and should our prophet say
That form was nought but breathing clay,
By Alla ! I would answer nay;
Though on Al-Sirat's arch I stood,
Which totters o'er the fiery flood,
With paradise within my view,
And all his Houris beckoning through.
Oh! who young Leila's glance could read
And keep that portion of his creed
Which saith, that woman is but dust,
A soulless toy for tyrant's lust?
On her might Muftis gaze, and own
That through her eye the immortal shone
On her fair cheek's unfading hue,
The young pomegranate's blossoms strew
Their bloom in blushes ever new
Her hair in hyacinthine flow
When left to roll its folds below,
As midst her handmaids in the hall
She stood superior to them all,
Hath swept the marble where her feet
Gleamed whiter than the mountain sleet
Ere from the cloud that gave it birth,
It fell, and caught one stain of earth.”

And yet we do not mean to deny that there is even in this passage a sprinkling of Lord Byron's better taste. But should a!l the friends of the noble bard, with the lash uplifted, call upon us to confess, in contradiction to our creed of criticism, that the soul of poetry animated these verses,

By Alla! we would answer, nay.” That we are admirers of Lord Byron's muse, after what we have said in this article, will perhaps be scarcely believed. And

yet we again declare, that we contemplate his powers withi un feigned respect. We have already written largely on liis Childe Harold, and have expatiated with sincere delight on the singular beauties of that poen. As we are weak enough to bé sincere Christians, Lord Byron must allow us to be a little displeased where he speaks contemptuously of our unclassical superstition. For this we deserve his pity rather than his anger.

The character of his Giaour is of a cast which we cannot approve. It was the perverted aim of the moral of the Childe Harold to clothe a disappointed sulky sensualist with the dignity of that misanthropic disgust which minds too exquisitely fastidious in their honourable feelings are' liable to contract in this mixed state of good and ill. The Giaour is evidently one of those persons whom modern poetry and the German drama have, under various modifications, so frequently introduced to us-a being, whose tumultuous passions, mixed with a sort of blustering humanity and turbid sentiment, assume the right of trampling upon the rights of others, of breaking the bands of society, and of treating honest men and their wives “ living peaceably in their habitations” as creatures of a lower world, designed for their pastime. This franchised gentleman is thrown upon the shores of Turkey, where, under some disguise, he debauches a lady of the harem of a Turkish emir (it would have been the same to him had it been an honest citizen's wife), and then murders the Moslem, who, it must be owned, well deserved his fate, as far as regards his own merits.

There is a sort of morbid, sentimental hue thrown over the stormy character of the Giaour, which is likely to beget a feeling in which too much of admiration enters, for a reader not well grounded in good principles to be safe under its influence. And, upon the whole, we are of opinion that these heroes and heroines of the new epic are not a whit more respectable than the heroes and heroines of the Beggar's Opera.

We will not part with his lordship without doing him the justice which he may demand at our hands, of exhibiting one of those beautiful passages which are the genuine offspring of his lordship’s genius.

“ If solitude succeed to grief,
Release from pain is slight relief;
The vacant bosom's wilderness
Might thank the pang that made it less.
We loathe what none are left to share
Even bliss 'twere woe alone to bear;
The heart once left'thus desolate,
Must fly at last for easem-to hate.

It is as if the dead could feel
The icy worm around them steal,
And shudder, as the reptiles creep
To revel o'er their rotting sleep
Without the power to şcare away
The cold consumers of their clay !
It is as if the desart-bird,

Whose beak unlocks her bosom's stream,

To still her famish'd nestlings' scream,
Nor mourns a life to them transferr'd;
Should rend her rash devoted breast,
And find them flown her empty nest.
The keenest pangs the wretched find

Are rapture to the dreary void
The leafless desart of the mind

The waste of feelings unemploy'd
Who would be doom'd to gaze upon
A sky without a cloud or sun?
Less hideous far the tempest's roar,
Than ne'er to brave the billows more-
Thrown, when the war of winds is o'er,
A lonely wreck on fortune's shore,
'Mid sullen calm, and silent bay,
Unseen to drop by dull decay ;-
Better to sink beneath the shock
Than moulder piecemeal on the rock!”.

We will now conclude this hasty criticism (for such it really is) with respectfully recommending to his lordship a more worthy employment of his mind than the construction of fragments; or, to use the phrase of a great orator, the " architecture of ruins ;” and with urging, as far as we can presume to do it, the duty which his superior endowments have laid upon him, of essaying “ to build the lofty rhiyme" with well cemented materials, and on the lasting foundations of truth, religion, and virtue.

ART. VIII.-Memoirs of the private and public Life of William

Penn. By Thomas Clarkson, M.A. 8vo. 2 Vols. Loudon. 1813.

"As, after a storm, earth, air, and ivater appear to teem with new life, and insects rare and marvellous float upon every sunbeam; so, after a revolution, new sects“ full of strange phans

[merged small][ocr errors]

of men.

tasies” are sure to crowd the horizon of politics and religion. Such were the consequences by which the reformation was followed, especially in this country, the cradle of freedom in opinion and action. All possible licence was given to the fancies

The reins were thrown upon the neck of enthusiasm. Every one thought for himself—almost every thinker became a preacher or publisher—and the man who went to bed a quiet cobler, arose the apostle of a new doctrine, the new Luther of some new reform.-It was at this prolific period that quakerism descended to earth- descended, not indeed from that empyreal region where reason and scripture hold undisputed sway, but, as we conceive, from some intermediate sphere just enough above the earth to receive all those vapours which are too rare for our denser atmosphere. Its followers, for a time, were men who, though differing upon other points, were confederated in this one great principle--that the divine light which every man has within him is a sufficient rule of faith and conduct.”—A set of men, for instance, called the "seekers," from their dissatisfaction with all existing sects, and their search for a better, in many cases settled down into quakers. Such also of the class called the ranters” as desired to retain the doctrines * without the licentiousness of their party, found an asylum in quakerism. Others connected with the establishment, who looked rather to present than ultimate consequences; who impatiently endured even its mild government and liberal creed; who coveted a religion of

passion and tumult rather than of reason and - leapt also into this new pale. Finally--those who saw and ·lamented the measure of secularity which too often creeps into those religious institutions in alliance with the state, and who at the same time did not discover the large infusion of good by which this evil is far more than neutralized, flocked to the same -standard. The spirits “ black, white, and grey” thus mustered, were all bound to one another by the enthusiastic principle above mentioned-a principle which, however modified, however connected with the doctrine of divine influence, however guarded by the wisdom of philosophers, must always tend to form a religion as wild as the vagrancies of human fancy. If whatever is suggested to the mind is to be taken for inspiration, then, unless the believer becomes, as all reasonable quakers are, inconsistent with himself, adieu to scripture, to reason, to public prosperity, and to domestic peace.

The excesses accordingly committed in the early stages of

peace

* Laxter's Life

[ocr errors]

quakerism were, except by the anabaptists at Munster, unparalleled in Christendom. Let faithful Richard Baxter describe them *

“One while several of them went naked through many chief towns and cities of the land, as a prophetical act. Some of them having famished and drowned themselves in melancholy, others have undertaken, by the power of the spirit, to raise them; as Susan Pierson did at Glaines, near Worcester, where they took a man out of his grave, who had so made himself away, and commanded him to arise and live; but to their shame. Their chief leader, James Nayler, acted the part of Christ, at Bristol, according to much of the history of the gospel, and was long laid in Bridewell for it, and had his tongue bored as a blasphemer by the parliament. In the like spirit a female rushed into Whitehall chapel, stark naked, when Cromwell and the court were present. A man presented himself at the door of the parliament house with a drawn sword in his hand, and wounded several persons, asserting himself to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to kill every man that sat in that house. And these are but a sample of the extravagancies committed.-Can it be wondered that they provoked that not very tolerant age to the fullest display of its intolerance? We cannot defend the punishment, but still less can we justify the crimes which provoked it."

It is difficult to say who was the author of the system. George Fox, born in 1624, is the father to whom the quakers are most fond of attributing it. But if under him they first assumed the name, others before his time held many of their principles. It was to him, however, that quakerism owed its more regular forin

he contrived a part of its discipline—and, in conjunction with Barclay, Keith, and William Penn, whose life now lies before us,

brought it nearly to the state in which we find it among the regu·lar quakers at this day.-It is not our object, in this place at least, to unfold the system. Something of it will escape in our examination of the Memoirs before us; and we shall perhaps, in summing up our evidence upon the character under review, find it necessary to state our judgment of the principles on which he acted. An examination either of the principles or the man, if it has much to reward curiosity, has also much to wound the feelings. Where so much is good, it is truly painful to have so much to condemn. He himself is by turns preposterous and sublime. And the system itself unites the largest inass of good and bad, of wisdom and absurdity, which the dexterity and the folly of man ever incorporated. After this preface we turn to the interesting, though somewhat prolix and redundant, volumes of Mr. Clarkson--who has here added to his History of the Slave Trade and his Portraiture of

* Baxter's Life, by Calamy, vol. i. 102.

« AnteriorContinuar »