« ElőzőTovább »
ing “All the world's a stage,” would go through the seven ages so beautifully described by the poet, and turn it into a pantomimic imitation of the progress of human life, from the infant “muling and puking” in its mother's arms, to the last state of all–
“Sans eyes, sans ears, sans nose, sans—everything.”
In order to get a complete idea of Mr. Taylor’s “good sense,” as developed in the composition of a tragedy, let the reader move his eye over the actions of the almost innumerable scenes of “Philip Van Arteveldt” or “Edwin the Fair.” Mr. Taylor very amusingly adds, “My critical views have rather resulted from composition than directed it.” Exactly so, he has made a dull poem instead of a play, and seeing what he has done, he says: “I like a dull poem; I meant to write a dull poem ' The highest effort of genius is a dull poem.” The only parallel case we know to this, is a story a celebrated novelist tells. Going into a coffeehouse in the city one day, he ordered a steak; when it came he found it so abominably tough he could scarcely get his knife into it. Calling the waiter to him, he remonstrated with him: “Don’t like a tough steak, sir,” said the astonished attendant, “I am surprised at that, sir; most people prefer a tough steak; I Do!”
Mr. Taylor will not be more successful than the advocate of uneatable steaks, if he hopes to argue the public into a belief that a dull and unreadable poem is the “essential” effort of human genius. But while we deny to this author the dramatic crown, we are perfectly alive to his excellence as a writer where “good sense” is paramount, and therefore suggest that perhaps Mr. Taylor meant to say “that good sense is a constituent part of his poetical genius;” in this light we echo his diction. Even in the best of Mr. Taylor's verses there is a laborious effort:
“The line too labors, and the verse moves slow.”
Whatever may be the subject described, the same heavy, monotonous tread is heard; he dances a minuet and a jig in the same funeral measure. His words and thoughts are always standing harnessed, ready for their usual rate of four miles an hour. He rides a slow tame Pegasus—rider and horse jog on at the same pace, sometimes both fast asleep, now and then shaking themselves half awake, but vain is it to expect a breathless gallop. The idea never enters the head of either of them. “The lines written in remembrance of the Hon. Charles Edward Ernest Williers, are a favorable specimen of his style; they are written in rhyme, a measure he seldom uses; he prefers to walk steadily on the road of blank verse; it better suits the commonplace peculiarity of his mind—
“His life was private; safely led, aloof
But farther may we pass not; for the ground
Nor would I it should echo to a sound
The work by which Mr. Taylor is best known is his Drama of “Philip Van Arteveldt.” This may be called the crowning triumph of level writing; it has but one single burst of dramatic passion. It is the reply of Elena, the mistress of Van Arteveldt, who when discovered embracing the dead body of her hero lover is reproached by some as being his paramour—a French knight, with the characteristic generosity and gallantry of his nation volunteers her defence. She interrupts him with the passionate exclamation,
Mr. Taylor brings down every thing to the same cold temperature of his own “reason ' It is in these words that he makes his hero ask a fiery souled Italian woman if she can love him 2 “Tell me, sweet Elena May I not hope, or rather can I hope, That for such brief and bounded space of time
As are my days on earth, you'll yield yourself,
And mark how successful this “cold water” dramatist is in quenching the small degree of interest we should have otherwise felt in his
hero! He reverts thus to some hours passed in the sco'ety of Elena, the woman he loves, or affects to love.
(After a pause.)
“Arteveldt—The night is far advanced upon the morrow,
How little flattering is a woman's love :
The cold-blooded, arrogant coxcombry of Philip Van Arteveldt is perfectly ludicrous! Wonderful dramatist, Henry Taylor, truly thou art the tailer of poets, not the ninth part of one !
His other dramatic poems resemble their elder brother, the Flemish hero, and confirm his previous failure unmistakeably.
We are inclined to think that “The Eve of the Conquest,” is the best of Mr. Taylor's poems. There is less to offend in it, if there is not more to admire, and truly that is a negative attraction. The fall of Harold is a noble theme, and might well have inspired a true poet to a great exertion, have brought the manner as well as the matter; but it becomes a heavy sluggish affair beneath the levelling process of the author's “reason.” He here indeed makes it evident to all that the constituent part of his genius is “common sense.” Alas! that his good sense was not sufficient to save him from the attempt altogether The incident of the poem is well chosen; in a more stirring writer's hand it would have been eminently touching and graphic.
We are introduced to Harold “ the eve before the fight of Hastings”—in his tent. His troubled mind courts repose in vain exemplifying Young's description.
“ Tired nature's sweet restorer—balmy sleep :
He sends for his daughter, who is found kneeling before an altar in her convent ' He then makes her the depository of his confession and his vindication. Mr. Taylor's cold unimpassioned style in this scene now and then comes in light admirable effect, as it harmonizes with the solemn predestination under which the Saxon monarch labors; but we miss altogether those escapes of supprest passion, and those touches of melancholy regrets which must of a necessity have revealed themselves. Mr. Taylor freezes his characters with the predominance of his favorite “good sense.” He forgets that if his heroes had really possest the good sense he is so constantly claiming for them, they never could have got into the scrapes which constitutes the tragedy of their position.
“‘A woman-child she was: but womanhood