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world of letters, we scarcely meet with an individual who is less than seventy or eighty years of age--and no very small proportion actually last till near ninety or a hundred-—although the greater part of them seem neither to have lodged so high, nor lived so low, as their more active and abstemious brethren in other cities. M. Grimm observes, that, by a remarkable fatality, Europe was deprived, in the course of little more than six months, of the splendid and commanding talents of Rousseau, Voltaire, Haller, Linnæus, Heidegger, Lord Chatham, and Le Kain-a constellation of genius, he adds, that when it set to us, must have carried a dazzling light into the domains of the King of Terrors, and excited no small alarm in his ministers if they bear any resemblance to the ministers of other sovereigns.
The Giaour, a Fragment of a Turkish Tale. By Lord Byron.
8vo. pp. 41.
[From the Edinburgh Review.]
This, we think, is very beautiful-or, at all events, full of spirit, character, and originality ;
-nor can we think that we have any reason to envy the Turkish auditors of the entire tale, while we have its fragments thus served up by a restaurateur of such taste as Lord Byron. Since the increasing levity of the present age, indeed, has rendered it impatient of the long stories that used to delight our ancestors, the taste for fragments, we suspect, has become very general; and the greater part of polite readers would now no more think of sitting down to a whole epic than to a whole ox :- And truly, when we consider how few long poems there are, out of which we should not wish very long passages to have been omitted, we will confess that it is a taste which we are rather inclined to patronize-notwithstanding the obscurity it may occasionally produce, and the havoc it must necessarily make, among the proportions, developments, and callide juncture of the critics. The truth is, we suspect, that after we once know what it contains, no long poem is ever read but in fragments; and that the connecting passages, which are always skipped after the first reading, are often so tedious as to deter us from thinking of a second ;-and in very many cases so awkwardly and imperfectly brought out, that it is infinitely less laborious to guess at the author's principle of combination, than to follow out his full explanation of it.
In the present instance, however, we do not think that we are driven upon such an alternative; for though we have heard that
some persons of slender sagacity, or small poetical experience, have been at a loss to make out the thread of the story, it certainly appears to us to be as free from obscurity as any poetical narrative with which we are acquainted—and is plain and elementary in the highest degree, when compared with the lyric compositions either of the Greeks, or of the Orientals. For the sake of such humble readers, however, as are liable to be perplexed by an ellipsis, we subjoin the following brief qutline-by the help of which they will easily be able to connect the detached fragments from which it is faithfully deduced.
Gigour is the Turkish word for infidel; and signifies, upon this occasion, a daring and amorous youth, who, in one of his rambles into Turkey, had been smitten with the charms of the favourite of a rich Emir; and had succeeded not only in winning her affections, but in finding opportunities for the indulgence of their mutual passion. By and by, however, Hassan discovers their secret intercourse; and in a frenzy of jealous rage, sews the beauteous Leila up in a sheet-rows her out, in a calm evening, to a still and deep part of the channel—and plunges her into the dark and shuddering flood. The Giaour speedily comes to the knowledge of this inhuman vengeance; and mad with grief and resentment, joins himself to a band of plundering Arnauts, and watches the steps of the cruel Hassan, who, after giving out that Leila had eloped from his Serai, proceeds, in a few days, with a gorgeous and armed train, to woo a richer and more noble beauty. The Giaour sets upon him as he is issuing from a rocky defile, and after a sanguinary contest, immolates him to the shade of the murdered Leila. Then, perturbed in spirit, and perpetually haunted by the vision of that lovely victim, he returns to his own country, and takes refuge in a convent of Anchorets ;-not, however, to pray or repent, but merely for the solitude and congeniat gloom of that lonely retreat. Worn out with the agony of his recollections, and the constant visitation of his stormy passions, he there dies at the end of a few miserable years; and discloses to the pious priest whom pity and duty had brought to the side of his couch, as much of his character and history as the noble author has thought fit to make known to his readers.
Such is the simple outline of this tale-which Turk or Christian might have conceived as we have given it, without any great waste of invention-but to which we do not think any other but Lord Byron himself could have imparted the force and the character which are conspicuous in the fragments that are now before us. What the noble author has most strongly conceived and most happily expressed, is the character of the Giaour ;-of which, though some of the elements are sufficiently familiar in poetry, the sketch which is here given appears to ns in the highest degree
striking and original. The fiery soul of the Marmion and Bertram of Scott, with their love of lofty daring, their scorn of soft contemplation or petty comforts, and their proud defiance of law, religion, and conscience itself--are combined with something of the constitutional glooin, and the mingled disdain and regret
for human nature, which were invented for Childe Harold; while the sterner features of that lofty portraiture are softened down by the prevalence of an ardent passion for the gentlest of human beings, and shaded over by the overwhelming grief which the loss of her had occasioned. The poetical effect of the picture, too, is not lowered, in the present instance, by the addition of any of those debasing features, by which Mr. Scott probably intended to give a greater air of nature and reality to his representations. The Giaour has no sympathy with Marmion in his love of broad meadows and fertile fields-nor with Bertram, in his taste for plunder and low debauchery; and while he agrees with them in placing in the first rank of honour the savage virtues of dauntless courage and terrible pride, knows far better how much more delightfully the mind is stirred by a deep and energetic attachment. The whole poem, indeed, may be considered as an exposition of the doctrine that the enjoyment of high minds is only to be found in the unbounded vehemence and strong tumult of the feelings; and that all gentler emotions are tame and feeble, and unworthy to move the soul that can bear the agency of the greater passions. It is the force and feeling with which this sentiment is expressed and illustrated, which gives the piece before us its chief excellence and effect; and has enabled Lord Byron to turn the elements of an ordinary tale of murder into a strain of noble and impassioned poetry.
The images are sometimes strained and unnatural-and the language sometimes harsh and neglected, or abrupt and disorderly; but the effect of the whole is powerful and pathetic; and, when we compare the general character of the poem to that of the more energetic parts of Campbell's O'Connor's Child, though without the softness, the wildness, or the occasional weakness, of that en chanting composition, and to the better parts of Crabbe's Lyrical Tales, without their coarseness or details—we have said more to recommend this little volume to all true lovers of poetry, than if we had employed a much larger space than it occupies with a critique and analysis of its contents. It is but fair, however, that the reader should be enabled to judge, from a few specimens, of the justness or accuracy of this comparative estimate. He may take, first, the following little sketch of an oriental beauty.
“Her eye's dark charm 'twere vain to tell
As large, as languishingly dark,
The drowning of this lovely, loving, and unresisting creature, is described with great force and feeling. Hassan comes, in profound silence, with a silent band, bearing gently among them a silent and heaving burden in a white sheet. They row out in a still and golden evening from the rocky shore, and silently slip their burden into the water.
“ Sullen it plunged, and slowly sank,
The death of Hassan is no less characteristic, and forms a picture of equal excellence, though of a very different expression.
“ With sabre shiver'd to the bilt,
That streak'd with dusky red, portend
The imprecation of the Moslem upon the Christian conqueror, is also conceived with great spirit. The passage about the vam pyre is the most original and energetic.
“ But first, ou earth as Vampyre sent,
“But one that for thy crime must fall,
“Wet with thise own best blood shall drip,
We hasten, however, to the Giaour's own dying and passionate confessions; in which, we think, the chief force and beauty of the poem is summed up. It opens thus
"* Father! thy days have pass'd in peace,
'Mid counted beads, and countless prayer; To bid the sjos of others cease, Thyself without a crime or care,