Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

full of zeal in the prosecution of his object, but very unfit to meet with reverses of this kind, or to struggle with evils out of the path of his mission. He was our only interpreter with the Bedouins, as he had some knowledge of the Arabic language. The chief had given us reason to expect we should this night sleep under cover, and enjoy a comfortable meal, both of which we stood greatly in need of; but after travelling two or three hours after dark, and looking in vain for the light of some dwelling, we halted in the midst of the wilderness, where the sand was again to be our bed. Our supper consisted of some cake made of coarse flour and water, kneaded flat, and baked in the embers, and some coffee, without milk or sugar; however, we partook of it sociably with our captors, and then lay down to rest near some high bushes, through which the cold wind whistled shrill during the night. We set out long before sunrise next morning. The valley of Paran now became very narrow, the barriers of lofty rocks on each side approached each other closely; among them were often seen veins of various and beautiful marble. The hosts of Israel are supposed to have marched from the Red Sea to Sinai by this route. After advancing about three hours, we halted at a beautiful grove of palm-trees in the valley, in which was a spring of excellent water; some Arabs resided here, and we looked with anxiety for our breakfast. Of all modes of life upon earth, that of the Arabs possesses the fewest indulgences: they placed on a rock, a large piece of the cold cake left the night before, for our breakfast, and which being unleavened, was as heavy as lead; and the lonely grove of palms, and the sublime scenery of the wilderness, were insufficient at that moment to appease our vexation; for the pleasures of imagination, or the picturesque, would all have been instantly bartered for a good comfortable breakfast. We then proceeded, without halting, till about four o'clock, when we came to a small encampment of Arabs, who were the friends of Hassan's tribe. It was interesting to see the meeting of these friendly tribes in the desert; from their wandering habit of life, and their frequent and distant journeys, they seldom meet; but when they do, the pressing of the hand to the heart, the kiss on the cheek, the passionate exclamations and gestures of joy, prove the sincerity and fervour of their feelings. These Arabs insisted on our staying all night with them: we were very happy to hear this, as it was yet some hours ere sunset, and the journey of the day had been long enough. The camp consisted often tents ranged in a line; in one of these we were all accommodated. Our entertainers killed a goat for supper by way of a feast; it was boiled, as all their meat is, and served up, cut into large pieces, on dishes of wood; we had to help ourselves with our fingers; there were also thin cakes of bread, and a dish of melted butter to dip them in. This mountain-goat was eaten with great relish, and coffee was afterwards served round, with pipes. The Arabs appeared to enjoy themselves very much, and passed a long time in conversation; but as night drew on, they all dropped off one after another, and left us in possession of the tent, in common with a number of goats, who inhabited the further part. In the middle of the night, I was awoke by something moving near me, and putting out my hand, laid hold of a huge black goat, who, probably considering his territory invaded, had come to reconnoitre vOL. XI. No. Xlviii. 2 L

the intruders—he then went and trampled over W. who was buried in a profound sleep, and the dim light from the desert scarcely allowed him to distinguish what kind of being molested him:— at last, having completely broken our repose, which we could scarcely afford to lose, the goat calmly walked off' to his own quarters. Our servants at this time were living safely and luxuriously in the convent. Franco was quite at home, and ate his meals in peace and good will, although, being a Catholic, he could hold little Christian fellowship with such heathens as the Greeks; however he took possession of his master's room, reposed on the cushions, and sang his German hymns with much comfort. Michel was ill of a fever, and implored Franco to take a camel and follow and attend us during our captivity; but he shrunk at the. idea of being in the hands of such lawless idolaters, where his outward man would be famished, and the inner one sorely buffeted and tried. The good fathers had wept at our capture, and protested their inability to afford the smallest alleviation. During the whole of the day that followed it, the convent was assailed by a fire of musketry from a number of Arabs, which rendered it unsafe to walk in the corridor or stir out of the apartments. This affords an illustration of the memorable print kept in the convents of Sinai and Cairo, and which is given to all pilgrims to carry to their homes, and several were presented to us. In this print is a lofty and vivid representation of Mount Sinai, rising up like a huge tower, Moses is seen toiling up the steep, with a long beard and staff, and nearly arrived at the top; beneath is the convent of Mount Sinai, out of the window of which is pushed the bald head of a monk, who is engaged in relieving the wants of the wicked Arabs, who, drawing their bows, cover the sands below; the arrows arc seen flying and the loaves of bread falling at the same moment: the rock of Meribah, though some distance off, is brought in sight, and the water gushing forth. In the back-ground, although near two hundred miles off', is seen the passage of the Red Sea by the Egyptians, and Pharaoh, who leads them on, is shewn sinking in his chariot, to hasten which, Moses, who stands on the shore, has just aimed a tremendous blow at him with a cudgel. Few pilgrims, however, approach Mount Sinai now; and that intercourse with their fellow-creatures, which the resort to the convent formerly afforded the fathers, they are now almost entirely deprived of. The chief part of the day they are shut up in their cells or walking in the garden, and at evening they are to be seen seated on benches before the door of their apartments; each, when the weather is cold, with his little pot of charcoal burning before him.

[ocr errors]

WRITTEN AFTER READING THE CAPTURE OF THE ESMI-
RALCA BY LORD COCHRANE.

'Tis the still night hour,—hush'd lies the wide deep
Like eternity calm in its waveless sleep;
There is no moon in heaven, and between the dull clouds
But a pale lonely star here and there unshrouds

Its orb to the ocean's face.
Gloom reigns in thick silence around and around;
The muffled oars send not the shade of a sound—
Not a splash of the slow stricken water is heard,
Not the beat of a heart to bold enterprise spurred

By glory or dread of disgrace.

Softly on they are gliding, and with them is death
Ambush'd in the stillness that draws not a breath:
There are gallant hearts there that an hour will be
Sinking pulseless and cold in the fathomless sea,

Struck down in their daring deed.
They move solemn as moves a funereal band,
And nearer and nearer they make to the land—
Hath the darkness seal'd up every foeman's eye ?—
Can no sentinel through the black midnight spy

The arm by whose power he snail bleed?

Rouse, Spaniard! they are on thee, and with them they bear
All high hope can cherish, and valour can dare,—
Up, Spaniard! and see, without breeze sweeping near,
Your ensign is waving in ominous fear

Where it never shall warn you again.
Yet nearer they float to the sleeping foe,
As the pestilence marches to havock they go 5
And now they are seen by the weak star-shine,
And the death-shots bound over the slumbering brine

From the walls and the decks of Spain.

Now pull harder on through the deadly shower,
That the freeman may slay, but can never cower—
Through the smoke, and the blaze, and the iron hail,
And the shaking air and the sulphur pale,

On—on to the enemy's bow!
They are there! they have forced to the lofty deck—
They have widely scatterM confusion and wreck,—
They have wither'd the Spaniard's courage and pride,
And the ocean reddens with the hot life-tide

That smokes down his gory prow.

He has turn'd from the combat—he runs below,
His flag flies not over his proud stern now,
His own Esmiralda is Liberty's prey,
She shall never again her vain tyrant obey;

Freedom's banner above her waves—
And shall wave, and shall triumph! for come is the hour
When, mocking the imposture of heaven-held power,
Man dares to be man, and no longer resign
To the Turk or the Spaniard his own right divine

Of resistance to tyrants and slares!

Love's Labour Lost.

Mr. Editor.—Why this should be Shakspeare's labour lost is more than our love for the poet can answer. Inquire among his boasting admirers, ask the first ten you meet, if they have bestowed a second reading on this comedy, and if more than one assure you they have really gone through it twice, note it down as a curious fact. The English, with irreverence be it spoken, only admire acting plays; and presume to yield up, as an uncontested point, that Shakspeare could write bad ones. How sickening is the phrase of " it ranks among his inferior productions," and from those who crowd to see a favourite actor in "Richard the Third," and who have every speech at their tongues' end! Richard is not to be spoken of slightingly; nor is it, when we say that tragedy possesses less of the poet's soul than any other of his undisputed plays. But it works well on the stage, as it contains one all-absorbing character, and is full of changes and bustle. Uncommon actors and common audiences always delight in it,—that is, assisted by Cibber's legerdemain; for Avon's bard must be played tricks with, or he is not amusing. Shakspeare's plays lose on the stage, like Apollo tricked out by a tailor; others gain, like apprentices in their Sunday-clothes. To represent some of his works is avowedly beyond the power of the scene; and many, of quiet beauty, are cut down into operas, skeletons with shreds of nerve and sinew, stalking forward to take the silly town by the ears.

Did Shakspeare sometimes write to please himself, careless of the favour of a theatre? This is scarcely probable: he commenced writing for bread, and continued it for a competence in his age; he considered his plays as matters of profit, not of fame; for, in his Sonnets, he laments that Fortune had not provided for him better "than public means which public manners breed." Or was it that our ancestors at the Globe Theatre could feast on wit and poesy, in every varied shape, in the mirth, the whim of life, the witchery of fancy, and the passionate eloquence of the heart, and on these, and these alone, without a meretricious aid? Modern play-goers are one half for the show; and the remainder are spectators as much as auditors. Painters, dressmakers, and mechanists attempt to leave nothing to the imagination. Success or failure equally lays that faculty dormant; for who thinks of any thing but whether their labours are well or ill executed? Then comes the poet; and he must avoid all gentle feeling, as it will not "awake the snorting citizens;" nothing remains for him but the fiercest passions, as those who rejoice in a spectacle must rejoice in a noise. Whereas the audience at the Globe, aware they were to expect little more than mental enjoyment, went prepared to increase it. They were compelled to paint to themselves imaginary scenes; and that exertion of the fancy rendered them more capable of poetic feeling. The " Tempest," and " Midsummer Night's Dream," could then be heard unweariedly. The chorus to "Henry the Fifth" is omitted, with great propriety, on our modern stage, for who could obey his directions?

'Piece out our imperfections with your thoughts:
Into a thousand parts divide one man,
And make imaginary puissance:
Think, when we talk of horses, that you see (hem
Printing their proud hoofs i' the receiving earth:
For 'tis your thoughts that now must deck our kings,
Carry them here and there, &c."

We are not accustomed to such a call, and would refuse to listen to it. Instead of piecing out imperfections, the audience—the spectators I mean—find it more agreeable to criticise the costume of a crowd representing an army, the docility and evolutions of real horses, the profusion of costly robes, and the scene-painter's merits. If Shakspeare does not give a procession, the actors must, Of the house will be thinly attended. Henry the Fifth shows his Coronation, Prospero his Triumph of Amphitrite, Juliet her Funeral, Titania gives us an Embassy from the "farthest steep of India," Antony and Cleopatra appear in the very thick of the battle of Actium, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona play their frolics in the Carnival. No, we need not be astonished at several of Shakspeare's plays being unfit for the stage. A melodrame, " full of sound and fury," signifies every thing for the town.

"Love's Labour Lost" is as perfect, in its kind, as " Hamlet." The purpose of the comedy is to ridicule artificial manners, the affectation of students, the forced pedantry of conversation, and the serious folly of striving against nature : and is not this done to the utmost? These are faults scarcely deserving of the lash, and the poet is generally content to place them in situations where they must inevitably expose themselves. The scene is ever out of doors, as if more effectually to confront them with nature. A good-humoured laugh is in every page, and we join in it throughout. Nothing disturbs the mild humanity of the poet. All the characters, men and women, courtly or clownish, are such as, in our best fellow-feelings, we long to take by the hand,— were it not from the dread of being forced to offer our drab-coloured discourse in exchange for their sparkling partycoloured wit. Here Majesty itself is a companionable gentleman; and we mix in the elegant groups of lords and ladies, or with Costard and Holofernes, and find ourselves always at home. We are carried back to the days of Elizabeth, when chivalrous knights began to understand that poetry was at least on a par with a tournament, and that a philosopher was not so dull as a day of state; when they first fell in love with the alphabet, and, in compliment to their modern Dulcinea, were ever careful not to open their mouths without due evidence of their having "fed of the dainties that are bred in a book."

Objections are made to the poverty of the fable, and to the want of skill in the contrivance. But this is a comedy of conversation, and the author would have destroyed his own purpose, had he admitted an intricacy of plot, or placed his characters in situations to call forth the wilder passions. A reader, who can enter into the spirit of the work, will find sufficient interest to keep his attention on the alert. As to the charge of a want of dramatic invention, where the four lovers follow each other to the same spot, and where three of them read their love-sonnets, and hide themselves, by turns, among the trees, possibly that may be considered of little weight. Three of the lovers are so artificial, that nothing could be more natural than for each to pen a sonnet to his lady, not only because it was out of his power to speak to her, but because it was the fashion to pen sonnets. Then again, each must sigh her name in a grove, because such had been, time out of

« AnteriorContinuar »