« AnteriorContinuar »
For well may maids of Helle deem
Which mocks the tempest's withering hour
Nor woos the summer beam-
A bird unseen--but not remote
His long entrancing note!
Though mournful, pours not such a strain;
As if they loved in vain !
'Tis sorrow so unmixed with dread, They scarce can bear the morn to break
That melancholy spell,
He sings so wild and well!
Expires that magic melody.
Yet harsh be they that blame,)
Into Zuleika's naine.
Alone--and dewy--coldly pure and pale
As weeping Beauty's cheek at Sorrow's tale !" We cannot help thinking, that this was altogether an affair very ill managed on the part of Selim, who should surely have had the boat, and every thing else in readiness, to transport his prize. It seemed, however, as if pains had been taken to frighten the poor young lady out of her senses, by collecting about her every appalling circumstance, with which the cruellest ingenuity could contrive to distress her. The piled arms, the bloody weapon, the portentous goblet, and the rough accoutrements of the pirate prince, were all at once brought to bear upon her astonished senses, Nothing is done by Selim to soften the horrors of the situation : but the few moments of terrific suspense that should naturally have been consigned to the duty of comforting and composing the agitated feelings of the princess, are employed by Selim in an unfeeling relation of his birth, the fratricide committed by Giaffir, his present bloody calling, and the perilous and turbulent life to which the timorous maiden, acquainted as yet with nothing beyond the walls of the haram and the palace garden, was about to be exposed.
Other parts of the story might also be commented upon as defective in what all stories, place, time, and machinery being given, are bound to observe-consistency and probability. The mind of the reader must supply a great deal, to remove the difficulties which would lie in the way of Selim's contrivance to conduct the enterprizes of a band of pirates, and pay his regular devoirs to the stern despot, in whose palace he is supposed to have lived in domestic effeminacy.
We will not, however, press these objections. They are in some measure atoned for by two or three vigorous passages which reconcile all, at least for the moment we are reading them. Upon the whole, however, we cannot think the performance at all worthy of the reputation or ability of the poet. The verses are in general very puerile and flat, and too much like the exercise of a school-boy. One cannot but be greatly surprised, that a writer who has shewn himself so capable of sustaining the melody of the Spenser stanza should have wandered into so many forms of metre in this little poem, all of them, as it appears to us, ill chosen, and certainly very improperly blended together. The poem commences with a specimen of the amphibrachys or cretic, a metre of rare use in our language; and principally occuring on sportive, familiar, rustic, or satirical occasions. It is said to have been the metre of the fescennine verses at Rome, sung at marriage feasts and harvest home, among the Romans, and full, as is well known, of coarse and obscene allusions, and abusive satire.
It is obviously ill-suited to the subject of this poem. In the first and fifth lines, the short monosyllable is wanting, with which every line of this metre should commence.
It is otherwise not properly the amphibrachys, but a series of dactyls, which do not agree with the melody of our language. But this metre becomes quite intolerable when it is introduced with rhymes at each hemistich, in the leonine manner, as is the case in the lines in the second page,
in which Giaffir orders his train to leave his apartment. Again in page 32, this same prodigality of rhyme occurs, but is found too troublesome to be persevered in, his lordship not seeming to possess a mind fond of encountering difficulties. He has, somebow or other, been misled by a whimsical persuasion, that all that was necessary to give to his poetry the irregular fire of the lyrie, was thus mechanically to fritter his verse into metrical confusion. We cannot say that we are reconciled to the promiscuous use of the measure of four feet, now adopted in imitation of Mr. Walter Scott, upon all occasions, humorous, elegiacal, and heroical. We do not say that it is incapable of force or pathos, or even of sublimity, but it must be by a great effort of the muse that its dignity can be sustained; whenever it drops from its elevation, it tumbles down at once into the flat or ridiculous. It seems to us that a man of taste can scarcely read a page of this little poem, now under review, without being sensible of the justice of this observation; and it is on this account, perhaps, as much as from his peculiar cast of thinking and expression, that his lordship seems so often to halt between the terrible and the ludicrous, and to place the sympathies of his reader under such distracting inHuences. It could not be very amusing to the reader to prove by instances, that the greater part of this poem is flat, prosaic, and puerile. We will open the book at a venture, and extract a passage.
“I said I was not what I seemed
• And now thou seest my words were true;
• If sooth-its truth inust others rue.
In this I speak not now of love
• Zuleika! I am not thy brother!",” (P. 33.) The above is a pretty fair average specimen of the general
tone of the composition. Will his lordship allow plain men to tell him that the real and radical reason of his late failures is his prurience for the press ? He appears to possess a truly poetical genius, perhaps the truest that belongs to any living poet; but he seems not to be fully aware that a poet, like other people, must economise and replenish his fund in porportion to his expenditure. The field of what is called fashionable life produces nothing that can nowish the imagination, or on which the heart and affections can feed. It is from nature that the poet must be always drawing fresh accessions of ideas, and renewing the decays of his mind. To exercise the thoughts on elevating topics, to watch the great march of creation and all its over-awing wonders and vicissitudes, to hold frequent commerce with the beautiful and unvitiated objects of original nature, to meditate on the surprising scene of the living world, ascending gradually to the contemplation of ourselves in the vast complex system of our physical, intellectual and moral properties and relations, and last of all to view the whole united in their communication with the great fountain of all beauty and sublimity, are employments of the faculties which no poet can neglect, and continue to write, without soon writing himself out, or proceeding in a circle of wearisome repetition.
Art. XXI.-Essay on the Theory of the Earth, translated from the French of M. Cuvier, perpetual Secretary of the °French Institute, Professor and Administrator of' the Museum of Natural History, dc. 8c. By Robert Kerr, F.R.S. and F.S.S. Edinburgh.' With mineralogical Notes, and an Account of Cuvier's geological Discoveries. By Professor
Jameson. Edinburgh. 1813. The internal formation of the earth, and the deep though marvellous traces of design in its disordered mass, have been almost the last in the succession of scientific objects which have engaged the speculations of mankind. The dazzling brightness of the canopy which overspreads this globe, and the endless varieties of animal and vegetable life which cover its surface, presented attractions with which it was long before the interior examination of its substance could stand in any competition. The treasures of the mine, indeed, were too much connected with selfish and ambitious desires to remain long in obscurity, but the
laborious operations of their extraction afforded little leisure or encouragement to philosophic research. The speculative ohservation of phenomena indicating the agency of stupendously powerful causes was reserved for an advanced
of scientific enquiry. Even the distinction of simple minerals into genera and species was unknown to the ancients. Pliny and Theophrastus have left the only records of research in the third great kingdom of nature, but these records présent nothing but some imperfect attempts to describe a few varieties of stones. We live in an age, however, in which the atiention of the curious has been directed to this pursuit, and the value of the study of geology has been duly appreciated. But the rapid advance of natural knowledge in general, during the eighteenth century, in which period geology assumed its rank among the sciences, involved some consequences which may be
be considered as rather injurious to its advancement upon sound philosophical principles. The sublime speculations of Newton, the extensive classifications of Linnæus, and the comprehensive theory of Lavoisier, had induced a too prevailing habit of generalization. The soil was too forcing for the first buddings of the tender plant, and the value of a few facts was nearly smothered by a premature ardour for hypothesis. Gratuitous and fanciful theories, disclaiming all dependence upon experiments, began, very soon after the study was introduced, to bend it in subservience to a sort of philosophical faction. Truths of the highest concern became involved in geological disputes; and the sacred history of revelation, the inspired account of the design and progress of creation, was called in question in the arbitrary explanations of natural appearances.
“ Cælum ipsum petimus stultitia." Thus the title of geologist became, in many instances, synonymous with deist, and a kind of unholy stain polluted the birth of this infant science. The zeal of some who undertook to defend, upon their adversaries' ground, the tenets of their faith, was not less injurious to science, and was more detrimental to the cause which they espoused. They, in their turn, invented hypothetical explanations of appearances, and distorted both facts and reasoning to answer their particular purpose. The refutation of these zealous absurdities was easy, but there are always those who are ready to confound the credit of a righteous cause with the imbecility of its advocates.
The first observations of geological phenomena were rude and accidental, as must be the case with all new studies before the process of spontaneous developement begins. Gradual disa coveries of arrangement lead to profounder observations and juster conclusions. System and order arise in the place of conVOL. V. NO. X.