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and in like manner, in our own nation, the two faculties have always gone hand in hand. The genius of Spenser, Shakspeare, and Milton, is not more exhibited in the greatness of their conceptions, than in the unimprovable felicity and beauty of their diction. Here, again, we are inclined to say, that slovenliness, or poverty of language, is not to be regarded as a result merely of carelessness, but as an indication of the absence of high genius.
It may be thought, that the remarks we are making are pitched on a key a great deal too high for the humble subject by which they have been suggested. But we cannot allow it to be said, that lyrical composition is to be measured by any different or lower rule than that which applies to other poetry. There is the same occasion and the same necessity for exhibiting genius in its true character in a few simple verses of a song, as in a much longer or more ambitious poem: and there are the same grounds for condemning in this department any attempt at poetry, which has not the pure and noble characteristics by which poetry always ought to be, and perhaps always is, distinguished.
The greatest poet of the present age has given us some, though not many, models of the species of composition of which we are now treating.
We shall notice two of them as examples at once of deep feeling, of poetical power, and of finished composition. We do not doubt that these poems are to be ascribed to the class of songs, though we have not heard of their being united to music'; and we suspect there is no living composer, Gio VOY BOOTOI SII, who could do justice to their character, and more particularly to the exquisite tenderness of the shortest and best.
The first of the two is a beautiful
picture of a widowed heart seeking
relief in a removal from the scenes of departed happiness, and finding that the softened sorrow of sincere affection finds its only enjoyment in a return to those objects which remind it of what it has lost.
"I travell'd among unknown men,
"She lived unknown, and few could know
We would rather be the author of one noble and finished composition, like this of Wordsworth's, than of an innumerable swarm of what the vulgar taste has called clever or charming songs things with here and there a smart idea, and here and there a tolerable line, but for the most part consisting merely of disguised commonplace, or fanciful exaggeration, wrapped up in a threadbare dress of tawdry and tinselly language. The more we examine the beautiful lyric which we have just quoted, the more beautiful it will appear. It is simple in the extreme, without one word above the the innate nobility of the ideas, how level of ordinary speech; yet, from gracefully dignified, how powerfully pathetic! A few plain words in the first verse introduce us at once to the sweet solitude of Lucy, a maid with few friends and no flatterers. The images in the second verse are as new as they are beautiful, and are perfect poetical types of that lonely loveliness which they are intended to picture. Of the conclusion, it may perhaps be said, that it represents the sorrows of bereavement in the only way in which
this can be perfectly done, by suggesting to the reader's mind the strength of their influence, from the impossibility of attempting to express them. suppression of the utterance of profound grief has, we think, been aptly characterised as an example of the same high style of art which prompted Timanthes to veil the head of Agamemnon, in his picture of Iphigenia's sacrifice. "Non reperiens," as Quinctilian well expresses it, " quo dignè modo patris vultum posset exprimere, velavit ejus caput, et suo cuique animo dedit æstimandum.'
The lyrics of Moore are not of the same school as those we have just been examining. We have much respect for Moore's talents, which are various and versatile, and have been elaborately improved by industry and practice. No song-writer has, perhaps, gathered his subjects from so many sources of erudition and imitation, and none has acquired greater readiness and dexterity in the use of his tools and materials. His natural wit and vivacity have saved him from the fault of being dull, and his enthusiastic love of his country has given to many of his effusions, that force and dignity which are ever the accompaniments of genuine feeling. But we question greatly whether Moore can lay claim to the gift of poetry in any lofty sense of the term. He seems to us to want the creative power and vivid vision of the true poet, and to have never, at least, risen from the region of fancy to that of imagination. We shall examine some of his principal songs, in hopes of discovering some marks of poetical fervour; but we suspect that, in general, it will be found that mere ingenuity has attempted to supply the place of genius. The very frivolous and wholly unpoetical themes which have often occupied his muse, seem to be a proof that her element is not much elevated above the earth. Nor do we recollect any truly great lyric composition that has fallen from his pen. But, perhaps, other causes may have produced this result, than the absence of poetical power. Moore has so long and so successfully carried on with his customers an African traffic in glass beads and Birmingham buttons, that he has never felt the necessity of offering them more substantial merchandise.
It is not easy to compare the characters of Moore and of Burns as lyrical poets. Their education, their habits, and their station, had essential differences, which materially influenced their poetry. The different circles of personal admirers surrounding them, must also have had an effect. The one could draw his thoughts from little else than the storehouse of his own feelings, or a narrow compass of vernacular literature: while the other has borrowed hints and images in every possible quarter,-from Herodotus to D'Herbelot, from Sappho to Shenstone, from the Fathers to the Fancy. The one was habitually surrounded by rude or humble companions, or by men of enthusiastic but irregular minds, and only occasionally admitted to the condescending notice of rank or refinement. The other has, from his early years, been the friend and favourite of many whose social position, and whose attainments or pretensions in literature, gave them a right, or a claim, to a high place in the scale of fashion and of taste. Neither of these positions, perhaps, was favourable to the great lesson of self-knowlege, or to the production of works that would stand the test of elevated or rigorous criticism. But with all those disadvantages, and with many individual differences between them, each of them, whether by the force of genius or of talent, has attained an extensive and deserved popularity as a lyrical writer, particularly among his own countrymen; and has contributed not a little to the advancement of lyrical composition.
If we were to characterise the lyrical poetry of Moore, in reference to its most faulty peculiarities, we should say that he has the quaintness of Cowley, without his power; and the facility of Prior, without his adherence to nature. It is, indeed, very remarkable to see the extremes of learning and frivolity meeting together, and to find in the nineteenth century a revival of the metaphysical school of poetry at our pianofortes and supper-tables. It is certain, however, that Moore is full of those far-fetched fancies that were so liberally employed by the love poets of the earlier part of the seventeenth century to puzzle the heads, if they could not touch the hearts, of their mistresses. In every page of Moore we have examples of that perverseness of wit, which, in illustrating
subjects of tenderness and passion, assembles together the most remote and discordant agreements, in a manner of all others the least indicative of true feeling in the poet, and the most destructive of it in his hearers. A good many illustrations of this tendency will occur in the course of the extracts we have afterwards to make.
The imitation of Prior's style in one department of Moore's compositions, may be evident, by recurring to the smoothness and colloquial ease of the following song, taken from the writings of his prototype, and which, except for the absence of any very extravagant conceits, we might almost have ascribed to the bard of Erin himself
"Dear Cloe, how blubber'd is that pretty face!
Thy cheek all on fire, and thy hair all uncurl'd; Pr'ythee quit this caprice; and (as old Falstaff says) Let us ev'n talk a little like folks of this world.
"How canst thou presume thou hast leave to destroy The beauties, which Venus but lent to thy keeping? Those looks were design'd to inspire love and joy: More ordinary eyes may serve people for weeping.
"To be vext at a trifle or two that I writ,
Your judgment at once, and my passion, you wrong: You take that for fact, which will scarce be found wit: 'Od's-life! must one swear to the truth of a song?
"What I speak, my fair Cloe, and what I write, shows
"The god of us verse-men, (you know, child,) the Sun, How, after his journey, he sets up his rest:
If at morning o'er earth 'tis his fancy to run:
"So, when I am weary'd with wandering all day,
"Then finish, dear Cloe, this pastoral war;
And let us like Horace and Lydia agree: For thou art a girl as much brighter than her, As he was a poet sublimer than me."
The style, we think, in which Moore most excels, is where simple tenderness of feeling is expressed in the simplest language, without aiming at imagery or ornament. He undoubtedly possesses sensibility, and often succeeds in giving utterance to it in a touching manner; but he is not equally successful where he attempts to combine pathetic with imaginative ideas.
It must be observed, with regard to Moore's lyrics, and the circumstance
has no doubt greatly contributed to their success, that his peculiar and practical knowledge of music enabled him to adapt them always, with perfect felicity in point of accent and articulation, to the melodies with which they are associated.
We shall give two examples of Moore's lighter lyrics, in which we think great facility of expression is united to any thing but facility of thought.
"Oh! had I leisure to sigh and mourn,
"Reflected bright in this heart of mine,
It is certainly not easy to conceive more laborious trifling, or less enlivening mirth, than most of the images in this song. The two last lines are tolerable: but all the rest would have been poor, even as impromptus in a drawing-room, and are insufferable when delivered from the press, as the work, for aught we know, of hours or days of mature meditation. To what persons, we would ask, is such a song as this addressed, either as a topic of persuasion or as a source of pleasure? It is thinking poorly of the sex, to imagine
that the most sentimental semstress
The next specimen we shall take from the Irish melodies. It is in a different style, and professes to have more seriousness in its merriment.
"Come, send round the wine, and leave points of belief
This moment's a flower too fair and brief
To be wither'd and stain'd by the dust of the schools.
But while they are fill'd from the same bright bowl,
"Shall I ask the brave soldier, who fights by my side
From the heretic girl of my soul shall I fly,
To seek somewhere else a more orthodox kiss?
These lines, we presume, were written to advance the cause of Catholic Emancipation; but, although they have some spirit and plausibility, they are not very cogent, and resolve a good deal into a petitio principii. The novel though not striking illustration, of the blue and purple punch
glasses, will not appear very convincing, except to those who are already satisfied that differences in religion are equally unimportant as the colour of a drinking-cup-a sentiment which is probably not very prevalent among Protestants, and certainly not more so among Roman Catholics. The last verse,
if it proves any thing, either as to public or as to private practice, seems to prove too much; as it establishes not only that different shades of Christian belief are to be overlooked, but that we should without hesitation marry a Mahometan, or choose our public functionaries from the votaries of the vilest idolatry.
But it is wrong to try these trifles
by any serious or any poetical standard. Let us turn to some more ambitious or more admired samples of Moore's lyrical powers.
And first, turning to the Irish melodies. We presume that the "Meeting of the Waters" will be considered a fair specimen of Moore's more serious, though not of his most lofty style. Let us examine it.
"There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet,
"Yet it was not that nature had shed o'er the scene
"'Twas that friends the beloved of my bosom were near,
"Sweet vale of Avoca! how calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade, with the friends I love best,
We doubt if there be much poetry here. The first verse is commonplace, and indifferently written. The distinction between a valley and a vale we do not understand. "Feeling and life" need not both be given: either will do. The image which connects the bloom of the valley with the rays of life and feeling, is either unmeaning, or is so obscurely presented to us, as to be no image at all. The first couplet of the second stanza reminds us less of the dreamy loveliness of natural scenery than of a neatly-covered dinner-table, well furnished with champagne and hock glasses: while the exclamation
"O no! it was something more exquisite still,
might in the same way be best applied to the gastronomic feelings, or is fitter to express the admiration of a cockney than of a poet in the midst of a moun.
nor is our opinion of the poet's powers of wing very much exalted by the little flutter that is attempted in the line that follows. We question if the last stanza is very congruous, as "a bosom of shade," if there be such a thing, is better calculated to protect against a burning sky than against a cold world. The idea with which the song concludes, of hearts mingling like waters, is more of a quibble than of a poetical figure.
Our next example, we believe, is equally popular, but does not appear to be much more deserving of praise as a poetical effusion.
"Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Were to change by to-morrow, and fleet in my arms,
Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art,
Let thy loveliness fade as it will,
And around the dear ruin, each wish of my heart,