Imágenes de página

that they were employed by the Moravians of Sarepta, to distribute the Bible among the Calmuc tribes. They returned, however, without having succeeded in circulating more than two copies! The opposition of the Lamas and their priests to the introduction of a new religion was found utterly insurmountable, and even if it had not been so determined, what beneficial effect could the Bible have produced among a nation of wandering tribes, of whom not one person in a thousand can read? Besides, it is to be observed, that although the Russian government permits the free distribution of the Scriptures among its subjects, the Russian church allows no converts to be made throughout the empire, except to its own tenets, and all missionaries of a different religion, who are permitted to distribute the sacred book in that country or its dependencies, are prohibited to accompany it by a single syllable of explanation! We cannot, therefore, be surprised at the failure of Mr. Zwick, a young German of apparently respectable character. Even among the Calmucs who had been in the civilised parts of Europe in 1814, he found no disposition towards education or improvement of any description. One of these, who was constantly recounting the wonders he had seen in Paris, said, among other extravagant things, that "the English had wings,"-probably mistaking, says the author, on account of the resemblance of Angli and Angeli, "English" for "angels." The same travelled barbarian further assured his countrymen that he saw the moon so low down in the sky of France, that he could almost throw a noose over its horns!

ART. III.-1. The Retrospect, or Youthful Scenes: with other Poems and Songs. By John Wright. 8vo. Edinburgh: Boyd. Glasgow: Atkinson and Co. 1830.

2. Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse, Moral and Religious. By Richard Manley. 12mo. Southmolton: W. Paramore. 1830.

3. The Mechanic's Saturday Night, a Poem in the Vulgar Tongue; humbly addressed to Sir Robert Peel. By a Mechanic. 12mo. London: Printed for the Author. 1830.

THE three works whose titles we have here copied, are the productions, respectively, of individuals, whose fortune it has been to be placed in a situation of life which afforded them neither the means nor the opportunities of cultivating their minds. The volumes, we should observe, have been almost simultaneously sent to us by their various authors, and remembering the remoteness at which they live from each other, one being an inhabitant of Glasgow, and another residing in the vales of Devonshire,-we cannot but be struck at the coincidence. We feel proud, however, of the conjoint compliment which we have thus received, for, no doubt, the authors were induced to place their works under our inspection, from the conviction, that as neither wealth nor rank ever extorted our approbation



in favour of a bad book, so would we never be prevented by the humility of its lot, from giving to merit ample applause.

We, at the same time, acknowledge, that we have never sat down to pen a criticism on any work that came before us under the circumstances which accompany the present volume, without feeling to irksomeness the extreme delicacy of our task. We read on with delight-we are astonished at the originality and power of the writer-we pause over the achievements of his unassisted mind, and yield to the excitement which his untutored eloquence produces upon us. But then, in most instances, this delight springs altogether from the remembrance of the relation which subsists between the performance and the means of execution. We think of the little degree of cultivation the author enjoyed-we think of the hasty glance which his narrowed circumstances have allowed him to snatch of the treasures of intelligence, and we wonder at the power of the natural genius which, with such a limited share of resources, could accomplish so much.

This then is a distinct pleasure from that which we should derive, in the abstract, from genuine poetry; and the great and delicate question with us on all these occasions is, whether or not we shall admonish the humble poet of the fact, that nothing but extreme excellence in his line will ever satisfy the reading world; that posterity do not enter into the domestic circumstances of bards, but that they will sternly decide upon the commodity that is before them, and keep a deaf ear, alike to the pleading of poverty, as to the influence of station and affluence. We have, however, always felt that it is by far the best course to give genius-more particularly genius that has to war against fortune-every encouragement in its onset. The danger of such encouragement, which is that it may drive the object of it to a literary occupation, where, alas! his hopes, either of fame or reward, may never be realized-this danger, we say, may, in most instances, be averted, by the exercise of that instinctive sagacity which almost always accompanies native strength of intellect; so that, on the whole, the chances of doing mischief by early incitement, are as dust in the balance, compared with the probabilities of doing good.

We shall allow the author of the first of these works to urge his claims to indulgence in his own unaffected accents :—

"Glasgow, October, 1830.

'SIR, 'I have taken the freedom of sending you a copy of the Retrospect, a poem of mine, newly published, to which I trust you will give a timely perusal; at the same time making much allowance for a young man, in the largest sense of the word-illiterate, who was never under the tuition of any one except for six months, at a very early age, though I am fully sensible that no circumstances whatever can apologize for insipid poetry. If you judge it worthy of being noticed in your periodical you will oblige 'Yours,


The Retrospect is a poem of considerable length. It is evidently the production of a mind deeply imbued with the melancholy and querulous strains of a Byron. The stanza, too, is after the Childe Harold fashion, and the conduct of the poem is, in like manner, in close imitation of the same model. In the endeavour to concentrate his meaning in as few words as possible, the author has sometimes fallen into obscurities of expression. This is one of the principal faults which present themselves to us, and which we mark only for the purpose of recommending it to the author's attention. The most promising characteristic about this poem is the ardent and bold fancy which it displays-wild, indeed, and undisciplined, but not on that account the less consistent with the years of Mr. Wright. We quote the following stanzas on that month so dear to the poets.

For ever lovely, thy deep thoughtful hue,
Soft Autumn eve! these clouds thy spirit fair,
Like necromantic chariots posting through
The blue expanse, here life all, lifeless there,--
As serpents billowing forth with speckled glare;--
And there a serpent rests upon the snow
Above, and belches down abrupt through air,
A burning fire-flood to the plain below,

And o'er an azure deep, where little skiffs float slow.

Here towers a golden statue, borne in air

By pebbly rock, and poised by gentlest wind;

There witch-forms scamper 'mongst the moon-beams fair,

Or sail along on hills, their charms unbind:
As they withdraw relaxing, like the hind,
In overseer's wished absence, or removed,
An army, from its leader; now reclined
On the horizon hills;-and now, unmoved,
Unnerved, the cold, pale moon, less lovely, yet beloved.

'As lovers lingering in each other's sight,

The more apart, more fixed the fettered eye;
As bard the eagle, in its upward flight

Surveys, through air, cleft clouds, and yielding sky;
As mariner tossed on ocean, surging high,
His bark o'erset, hails land, afar unfurled;
Thus greet we these fair forms, and still descry
Enchantment there-live emblem of the world!
Poesy and passion, thus, all subsultory whirled.
"Though fettered to the spot, we first begin

To live-and die, unseen the world by sight,
The beauty and sublimity therein;

And though our hearts ne'er heaved on Alpine height,
Nor sailed on iceberg through the Polar night,
Oh! deem not thou, aloft where fortune shines,
Our day-spring darkness, our enjoyments slight,-
In lovelier, loftier dome the Bard reclines,
These dread stupendous forms his Alps and Appenines.

'Kind Heaven, to reimburse the shackled limb
A world of wonders at our feet lets fall;
As is the light that gilds them as they skim,
As is the hand that shaped them-seen by all;
Obsequious still to fancy's forming call;
The pleasure ground of Poet's boundless home;
Spirits of thunder! and the lightning's pall!-
When dark from ocean's bed, abroad ye roam,
With half its waters drenched, o'er earth to fret and foam.


Spring's verdure fades, and Summer's flowrets die;
Ye never-Nature still keeps watch o'er you,
Ministrant delegates of the Most High!
Still marked with joy and gratulation due,
Whate'er your embassy, or form, or hue:
To few a blessing, and to all a bane,
Who may avow! ye seek not to undo
Existence, but primeval life maintain ;
Hope, Love, and Mercy bear these fire-bolts o'er the plain."

pp. 35-37. The reader will not fail to discover, in the description of the clouds of an autumnal evening, a bold and, we think, a very happy attempt to embody the fantastic shapes which they assume to a contemplative imagination. To such a vigorous fancy as Mr. Wright evidently possesses, some controul is essential, not, however, for the purpose of restraining its sallies, but in order to give them proper regulation. The best poets must submit to labour, nay, even to drudgery, in order to avoid offending in those smaller points in which they are expected to be as perfect, at least, as all other candidates for literary fame. There are some minor pieces, of various merit, in this volume, which our limited space alone prevents us from noticing.

Mr. Manley next claims our attention, in the following modest and candid epistle :

[ocr errors]


'SIR, I take the liberty of soliciting your opinion of the inclosed book. It may be necessary to inform you, its contents are the youthful productions of one moving almost in one of the humblest situations in life, whose scholastic advantages have not exceeded a country charity school education, and who, thus far through life, has had to struggle with poverty, and latterly with a lingering illness. It may be deemed a boldness in a poor and perfect stranger to make such a request; but, after a perusal, should you deem it worthy a review, your opinion of it will, perhaps, contribute to the welfare of your very humble servant,

Southmolton, Devon, September 4, 1830.

[ocr errors]


With less of fancy and depth of feeling than Mr. Wright, the author of the Miscellaneous Pieces is a good deal his superior in correct expression and melody of versification. Mr. Manley has not ventured upon any lengthened and sustained effort of his muse, but

contents himself with clothing the thoughts of the moment in very neat, and often very forcible language. A strain of tender and delicate feeling, with just so much of a religious spirit mixed up with it, as gives a solemn and almost affecting character to his lyrics, marks every line of this collection. We would challenge the whole body of the Annuals for 1831 to produce an effusion upon a subject, which every one must admit to be nearly an exhausted one in poetry, at all comparable to the Lines to Death, which we shall now quote.

How chilly thy bed, and how dreary thy regions!

What darkness surrounds thee! how boundless thy reign!
How rueful thy wastes! and, what numberless legions
Go, shivering, down to thy gloomy domain !

The sage and the hero thou takest, nor sparest

The wife of the bosom, the child of the heart;
And often, alas! are the friends we love dearest,

The first who submit to thy terrible dart.

How our nature starts back from that moment of anguish,
And hope is the last that submits to the blow;
Even those who in sorrow and poverty languish,

Are afraid of thy coming, and deem thee their foe.


The Christian, alone, redeem'd from life's errors,

Can meet thee with courage, and cheerfully sing,
O grave, thou art vanquish'd, and where are thy terrors?
Ŏ death, thou art conquer'd, and where is thy sting?'

pp. 33, 34. Blush, ye scions of Aristocracy, you who are supplied with all the luxuries of life to excite your fancies, and all the opportunities that affluence can bestow to cultivate your minds, blush, that a village youth, he seeks no better name,-struggling with poverty and illness, should thus outstrip you in the arena of the highest intellectual contention.

The simple beauty of the following very feeling lines will, we are sure, call forth the admiration of every reader :


And where are those we valued once,

When life was young and gay?
The friends of earlier years? they're gone
To brighter worlds away:

'But still we love to think upon

The time we've spent with them,
And cherish feelings sweet, that grew
On friendship's sacred stem.

The verdant meads, the purling streams,
The peaceful woodland bowers,
Where once we wander'd carelessly,
Recall those happy hours;

« AnteriorContinuar »