Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

to find the most perfect known example of alliteration exhibited in this subdivision. The nature and effect of “ Rhyme” is thus beautifully delineated in one sentence :-“ By universal usage, however, rhyme seems to be almost indispensable in lesser metres, to distinguish the lines on recitation, and give a certain finish to the cadence of each; as though the strain were set to some kind of music, which played during the delivery, but called not off attention from the subject, the thoughts, nor the language: as conversation may be carried on in a drawing-room, while low, sweet, undisturbing instrumental harmony in the vestibule, or under the window, is heard, though not listened to, all the time.” The wonderful power of compression it imparts to the poet is exemplified .by an instance from the “ Essay on Man," where, in the space of ten lines, “ all the great features of the visible universe, the beauties of Divine Providence, and the general business of human life, are presented ; sun, moon, and stars ; earth, ocean, air ; flowers, fruits, harvest, and vintage ; wealth, luxury, commerce ; and, the 'end' of all-the gratification of the rational creature.”

In treating of “ Blank Verse," Mr. Montgomery launches out into a warm eulogy on “ Thalaba," with which we completely coincide. On Poetic Phraseology he remarks, that poetry displays a mannerism so peculiarly characteristic, as to be utterly incapable of substitution; which he exemplifies by a translation of three lines, from the “ Tempest," into language " which, according to dictionary authority, is perfectly synonymous.” The result is evident :

Nothing in him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.Tempest, Act I. Scene 2. Which is thus translated :

There's nothing in him decays,
But undergoes an alteration from the water
Into something valuable and uncommon.

Under the head “ Variety of Style," the theories of Mr. Wordsworth and Dr. Darwin are considered, on which we shall offer but one remark. Dr. Darwin's has long been obsolete: a refutation of it was therefore superogatory; and the ideas of Mr. Wordsworth on“ Poetic Diction," insofar as they are untrue, have been most completely and instructively shown to be so, by his admirer, friend, and ally, Mr. Coleridge, in two masterly chapters of the “ Biographia Literaria.” In the author's observations on “ Scottish Verse,” allusion is made to the character of Burns; and here, as in a subsequent part, on which we shall comment in its place, we observe manifestations of a moral sensitiveness, which, while operating as a positive enhancement of his claim to admiration, respect, and esteem, as a man and a member of society, conduces, by its abhor

rent shrinking from the very name of vice, to incapacitate him altogether for the calm consideration of any case, the features of which are at all darkened by the shade of immorality, and to render him unfit for the office of judge, when the merits of a vicestained character form the subject of deliberation. The disgust Mr. Montgomery feels for every thing which can be characterised as vicious, may be (we have not the smallest doubt that it is) the growth of religion, nourished by reason, and confirmed by every day's observation and experience; and when viewed in relation to himself, as a quality of his own character, the perception of its existence is and must be immediately succeeded by a sense of approbation and pleasure. But when considered with reference to others, as influencing and colouring the impression which others may make upon the mind of Mr. Montgomery, we own the knowledge of its existence and activity, connected, as it is, with the knowledge of the general, and on most points merited deference paid to the opinion and judgment of Mr. Montgomery, we cannot view it with the same degree of pleasure; or rather, we are painfully disappointed in finding, that on such points our author's inequitable sentence compels us to express our difference in opinion. "It will be evident that we do not attribute to Mr. Montgomery rancorous severity, or bitterness of spirit, nor do we, on our own part, obtrude ourselves as the champions of vice, or as the palliators of moral obliquity; but our object is to suggest, that when a person, particularly such a person as Mr. Montgomery, deliberates with himself on the features of another person's character, and that such an individual as Burns, before he fix his opinion, or publish it, and especially before he endeavour to instil that opinion in the public mind, he should be sure that his mental sight is not dimmed by the mists of prejudice, and that his own real or fancied moral strength has not underrated the alluring charms of temptation, or miscalculated the, in many instances, almost irresistible force of the current of circumstances. The character of Robert Burns we believe to be very generally misappreciated ; it should rather attract sympathy than excite disgust; it should shine as a beacon-fire to warn from the rocks and shoals in the dangerous track which he pursued, and not be set up as the legitimate mark of contempt, the proper object of religious abhorrence, and the natural food of censorious prejudice. We have said, and think it right to repeat, that we do not attribute this spirit of rancour to Mr. Montgomery; but we have known persons in whom that spirit has dwelt—who have, with inconsiderate vehemence, denounced Burns as the shame of his country; whereas, the form of the expression should be “ shame to his country." His own countrymen dragged him to ruin : the insinuating force of example, the syrenallurements of temptation, the goading oppression of circumstances -all combined to check the upward soaring of his ardent spirit, to deprave his taste, to deaden his conscience, and at length to send him reeling down the steep precipice of vice. We may surely indulge our sympathy here, without giving just offence to the most conscientious. We must return to our book.

The author concludes his observations on the “Diction of Poetry” by showing, that the exhibition of the “ capabilities of language" depends entirely upon the power and quality of the mind to which it is the native medium of thought.

The next general head is, “ Various Classes of Poetry," and the title of the first section, “ Narrative Poetry;" by which is meant not only narrative in poetry, but also the true poetical narrative, where the poet creates or modifies to his own purpose characters and events, knows all he chooses to know, and imparts his knowledge to his reader. Of this kind of poetry it is to be observed, that neither the moral nor the poetical constitute necessarily the design of the poet, his aim frequently, perhaps generally, and especially in long poems, such as the Iliad and the Æneid, being “ to immortalise his own name.” Allegorical Poetry,however, is the designation of a species “ in which the moral is avowedly the foundation, and fable the superstructure:” of such were the mythological traditions of Greece and Rome; and, to come home, The Faerie Queene,“ the noblest allegorical poem in the world;" and the Pilgrims' Progress, “ to which there is no long allegory in our literature at all comparable.”

Having in a few lines given a correct estimate of the worthiness of the present Drama," both “ acting” and “reading,” Mr. Montgomery, in a passage of exquisite metaphorical beauty, rises into the sublime of indignation at the atrocious profligacy“ of the dramas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” We fully and heartily coincide with him in the uncompromising denunciation of “ atroci. ous profligacy,” but we deny the justice of his charge, to the extent of time to which he carries it, and confess ourselves astonished that equity should not have suggested a discrimination between the predecessors, contemporaries, and immediate successors of Shakspeare, and the thoroughly vile and profligate dramatists of Charles the Second's time. We had thought that the important distinction between mere want of refinement in manners, and real depravity in morals, was so well and so generally understood; that it had been so satisfactorily and powerfully exposed in the brief and often quoted illustration, made, we believe, by Mr. Charles Lamb, that those who recognise not the obvious difference between these two states, confound the nakedness of the savage with that of the prostitute; and we had considered this point to have been previously so formally and philosophically argued, that we were disposed to deem superfluous the recurrence of the demonstration which has just appeared in an able and interesting article on the writings, now for the first time collected, of James Shirley, the last of the Shaksperian School.* It was then with equal grief and surprise that we

* See the Quarterly Review for April, 1833, page 16.

found Mr. Montgomery endeavouring to revive so gross a misappreciation of character, an effort the more likely to meet with success, from the known honesty, and consequent weight of his opinions. If that high-toned principle of purity to which we have before alluded, and which we truly reverence, would restrain him from a general reading of such writers, we are confident, from our knowledge of his candour and justice, that the effect on his mind of a perusal of Mr. Charles Lamb's volume, entitled, “ Specimens of the Early English Dramatists,and of his extracts from Mr. Garrick's collection of old English plays, will be openly avowed, whether it be a confirmation or alteration of his present sentiments. With the expression of our desire to know Mr. Montgomery's ultimate opinion, we terminate our observations on this topic, and proceed with our remarks on his book.

arricksarly Englishharles Lambtice, that the confi

Dr. Johnson's position, that “ religious subjects are incapable of poetic treatment," is ably and completely refuted. “Didactic and Descriptive,” and “ Lyric Poetry,” are accurately defined, most tastefully illustrated, and copiously exemplified. In lyric poetry Italy is allowed to bear the palm. We are much astonished to find, under the head “ Metrical Romances,” no mention of Lalla Rookh, a poem greatly superior to any Sir Walter ever wrote, or ever could write. Under “Translated Poetry," a similar and culpable omission occurs. Mr. Montgomery cannot be unacquainted with the exquisite and beautiful translations by Mr. Wm. Taylor, of Norwich, from Klopstock, Burger, and Schiller ; or with Mr. Cary's Dante, and Mr. Coleridge's Wallenstein, both of which deserve mention, not only for their masterly execution, but for the great and salutary influence they have exerted on the leading minds of the day. We have seen and compared three translations of Schiller's Song of the Bell, one by Mr. Sotheby, another by Mr. Robinson, of Manchester, and a third, very far surpassing the other two, and decidedly worthy of mention here, by Mr. Page, of Bath: and it may perhaps be said, that none of Schiller's smaller poems exhibit more correctly, or more to the delight and advantage of the reader, the character of his mind and heart, than the Song of the Bell.

The sixth and last lecture is “ On the Poetical Character; the Themes and Influences of Poetry :” to this we must refer the reader, at the same time guaranteeing him a rich repast. The “ Retrospect of Literature, and the - View of Modern English Literature," would suggest many remarks ; but we have already exceeded the limit we had prescribed to ourselves, and the public are already familiar with both their contents and the comments they elicited. On the whole, we candidly, nay eagerly, avow that the work has afforded us real and deep delight; and we earnestly advise every one that wishes to have his imagination feasted, his taste improved, or his judgment matured, to purchase and read Mr.

Montgomery's Lectures on Poetry; we are sure he will rise from the perusal

“ A wiser and a better man.”

Art. VII. On the Preparation of Printing Ink ; both Black and

Coloured. By WILLIAM SAVAGE, Author of “ Practical Hints on Decorative Printing.” 8vo. pp. 185. London: Longman,

Rees, and Co. 1832. Had Mr. Savage more sagaciously consulted, then he seems to have done, the permanence of his reputation as a contributor to the useful arts, he would not surely have engaged in the wild adventure now before us, for the reader will be astonished to hear that any man who professes to have scientific improvement at heart, should do so very inconsistent an act as to put an exorbitant price on his knowledge, and, like a Jew broker, heartlessly take advantage of his monopoly. Mr. Savage tells us that no more than two hundred and fifty copies of the work are printed, but for this extraordinary innovation of practice, Mr. Savage condescends to give us no reason whatever, and indeed none can be found, except it is that he wishes to justify the further deed of folly, that of fixing two guineas as the price of this very thin volume of one hundred and eighty-five small pages. There is enough in this preliminary little piece of information, quite enough to raise very strong doubts as to the correctness of the judgment of such a writer on more serious matters. We may notice, too, another circumstance, which tallies very remarkably with the former error,-namely, that Mr. Savage having come forth to shed a new light on the printing world, yet abstains from making his appearance in his own precious ink. What! would not this be the fair and the best opportunity for him to illustrate the superiority of his mixture? One should think that he would have written a book on purpose to show off his ink, and set it floating throughout the country, in all the pride and beauty of its dark charms; but, lo! Mr. Savage condescends to patronise still the inferior commodity, which he is so desirous of superseding, and thus permits the most seasonable of all occasions to pass away with a sort of indifference, which either betrays a want of confidence in his invention, or a very culpable heedlessness. Mr. Savage tells us, that he does not think a couple of guineas too high a price, considering the amount and value of the matter condensed in his yolume. He has laid out much time and money in endeavouring to collect his information, and he is, therefore, as he says, justified in demanding an enormous price for the book which contains such a mass of inestimable materials. Now, we do not blame Mr. Savage for rating himself and his production at a high value; we, moreover, admit that he ought to be remunerated for his

« ElőzőTovább »