Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

After some strong expressions of tenderness for his daughter, Giaffir informs her that she must prepare to receive as her husband Osman, a Bey of the House of Carasman, and leaves her, accompanied only by Haroun and Selim.

In the scene which follows, Lord Byron evinces a clear insight into the human heart, and the most happy method of approaching it. Sunk in horror at the sentence passed upon Zuleika by the pacha, Selim stands absorbed in sullen silence, almost proof against all her tender blandishments, till, ignorant of the real cause, she suggests the idea that the Bey to whom she is betrothed is an enemy of Selim's, in which case she swears by Mecca's shrine that he shall not have her hand. Roused by this tender avowal, he presses her till he obtains her consent to leave the haram at twilight, and walk with him to the seaside, in order that he may in privacy unfold to her a secret of importance to them both, and emphatically tells her that he is not what he

appears. Lord Byron upon many occasions discloses the softness, the warmth, and the sweet plaintiveness of Ovid, though it cannot be said of him, as it was of that poet when he was living in exile at Pontus, that his sorrows depress his genius—we doubt whether at any time more rapturous effusions of tenderness ever escaped the Roman poet than some which enrich the production we are considering. For instance, when Zuleika is endeavouring to reconcile him to himself, and make him speak to her:

“ O, Selim dear! 0, more than dearest!
Say is it I thou hat'st or fearest ?
Come, lay thy head upon my breast,
And I will kiss thee into rest."

“My love thou surely knew'st before,
It ne'er was less, nor can be more.
To see thee, hear thee, near thee stay,

And hate the night, I know not why;
Save that we meet not but by day-
With thee to live, with thee to die,

I dare not to my hope deny :
Thy cheek, thine eyes, thy lips to kiss,
Like this and this--no more than this,

For Alla! sure thy lips are flame,

What fever in thy veins is flushing ?
My own hath nearly caught the same,

At least I feel my cheek too blushing."

With an agreement between them to meet at twilight and retire to the seashore the first Canto ends.

In the opening of the second Canto, the author indulges in that fondness for classic lore and classic ground which, next to the great master passion already alluded to, seems to hold the most supreme sovereignty over his heart. The night scene to which he brings Selim and Zuleika, is placed upon the highest of classic groundthe margin of the Hellespont; and this suggests to his enriched fancy the story of Hero and Leander, from which a train of recollections arise, and foremost among them Troy, and the divine bard to whom that celebrated city owes its immortality, and, perhaps, its existence. Readers, whose thoughts are raised to a view of such lofty themes, will peruse this part of the poem with great delight. Allusions, in themselves very beautiful, are often injured by being introduced without any obvious connexion with the main subject. But nothing can be imagined more interestingly relative than this of Hero and Leander to the story in hand; because not only the scene but the tragical catastrophe, and the causes that led to it, are in effect the same ;, and the recollection of the story of antiquity brings the mind of the reader into a mood fitted for the reception of the melancholy catastrophe of the modern. Indeed, no scholar can read the works of this author without observing the sublimed spirit of erudition which (to borrow the words of Doctor Parr) “pervade with essential fragrance” all his compositions. In that before us, after the beautiful allusion above, and a tribute to “ the blind old man of Scio's rocky Isle,” he indulges in the following apostrophe :

“O! yet--for there my steps have been,

These feet have pressed the sacred shore,
These limbs that buoyant wave hath borne-
Minstrel ! with thee to muse, to mourn

To trace again those fields of yore-
Believing every hillock green

Contains no fabled hero's ashes-
And that around the undoubted scene

Thine own broad Hellespont' still dashes-
Be long my lot-and cold were he

Who there could gaze denying thee!"

Of our author's classic enthusiasm a stronger proof cannot be imagined, than a fact mentioned by him in a note to this passage, namely, that be swam across the Hellespont.

Zuleika, conducted by Selim in the dress of a Turkish sailor, arrives at a grotto near the shore. Here he unfolds to her the secret of his birth, and of his father's murder, and informs her that during the absence of Giafir in the war with Paswan Oglou, Haroun indulged him with liberty to go abroad, availing himself of which he had visited the Grecian Islands, and become the chief of a band of pirates, who were now on their way to the shore with a bark to convey her and him to a retreat he had provided for their reception and security, in one of those islands and he enforces his solicitations for her departure with him, by reminding her that if she return back to the haram, the next morning will place her in the possession of Sultan Osman. The whole of this interesting scene is conducted by the author with great art, and in a charming uninterrupted strain of fine poetry. One passage claims very particular applause for the fervid glow of feeling—the enthusiastic rapture in which he describes his emotions on being set at liberty by Haroun.

“ 'Tis vain-my tongue cannot impart
MY ALMOST DRUNKENNESS OF HEART,
When first this liberated eye
Survey'd earth-ocean-sun and sky!
As if my spirit pierced them through,
And all their inmost wonders knew
One word alone can paint to thee
That more than feeling I was free!
E’eu for thy presence ceased to pine-

The world-nay-heaven itself, was mine." And now for the catastrophe—while Selim is speaking to Zuleika, the approach of a multitude of people with torches gives them the sad intelligence that their escape from the haram has been

discovered. The poet rises with the exigency, and presents such an animated picture of the tremendous situation of the hapless pair that the reader imagines he sees it passing before him.

“ But ere her lip, or even her eye,
Essayed to speak, or look reply-
Beneath the garden's wicket porch
Far flash'd on high a blazing torch!
Another-and another-and another-

0! fly—no more-yet now my more than brother!'
Far—wide through every thicket spread
The fearful lights are gleaming red;
Nor these alone--for each right hand
Is ready with a sheathless brand :---
They part, pursue, return, and wheel
With searching flambeau, shining steel;
And last of all his sabre waving,
Stern Giaffir in his fury raving,
And now almost they touch the cave-

O! must that grot be Selim's grave?”As a last, but almost hopeless effort, Selim fires a pistol as a signal to his band to approach the shore, and determines to fight his way to the bark. In no part of his works has the poet displayed more genius than in his description of the result.

“ One bound he made, and gain’d the sand

Already at his feet hath sunk
The foremost of the prying band

A gasping head, a quivering trunk;
Another falls---but round him close
A swarming circle of his foes :
From right to left his path he cleft,

And almost met the meeting wave;
His boat appears—not five oars' length-
His comrades strain with desperate strength

O! are they yet in time to save ?

His feet the foremost breakers lave;
His band are planging in the bay,
Their sabres glitter through the spray;
Wet---wild-unwearied to the strand
They struggle---now they touch the land !
They come---'tis but to add to slaughtere
His heart's best blood is on the water!”

Here we find the poet's words keep pace with the confused celerity of the transaction.

The persons of his drama are breathless with fury, ardour, effort-and so seems his muse :-the fearful anxiety-the painful suspense, are kept up to the very last moment of Selim's existence-and the abruptness, as well as the particular words announcing his fall, are singularly beautiful, appropriate, and affecting. From this to the end of the poem, all is one continued blaze of poetic fire, in which the particular details before judiciously overlooked in order to get at the catastrophe, and particularly the death of Zuleika, are recapitulated. To extract all that we admire in this poem, would be to transcribe almost the whole of it. We fear that our admiration of the work may have already led us to trespass too far on some of our readers—but we are satisfied that those whose judgment is most desirable will be pleased. To the book itself we refer them for a multitude of beauties which it would be inconsistent with the nature of this article to introduce into it by way of extract.

Upon the whole, the Bride of Abydos, as it seems to have been conceived in a season of sorrow, deep and sincere, so it is breathed forth in the sweetest accents of plaintive poetry. Even in the irregularities of the verse there is harmony ;-and a certain wildness and disorder which pervades it, in common with most of Lord Byron's poems, far from creating perplexity and disgust, as in other hands they generally do, fascinate with their gracefulness, and delight with their beauty. How different from the ordinary cant of Cupid's flames and darts, and the fulsome wailings of the mob of amatory rhymers, are the felicitous “ breathing thoughts," the nervous diction, and the soft and elegant numbers of our poet; of what author can more be said in praise than that he differs essentially from that herd? The merits of Lord Byron, however, stand upon a still stronger foundation--the positive, intrinsic excellence of his poetry: for we venture to affirm that he who reads his Bride of Abydos, without breathing a wish for a long continuance of his lordship’s labours, can be but little susceptible of the thrilling sensations of delight imparted by genuine poetry.

We cannot, however, dismiss the work without one observation more. The only exceptionable point attending it is its title. To us it appears a palpable misnomer. Zuleika, the only female in it, is not a BRIDE.

C.

« AnteriorContinuar »