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The subject selected is one of a vefy peculiar nature, being no other in its substance than the belief which presumes that the oracles of antiquity were delivered by demons or fallen angels, who wandered over the face of the earth, forming attachments to various mortals, and sometimes exciting adoration as divinities. It is obvious that materials of such a nature as these, allow of considerable latitude to the fancy, and we are happy to add that the opportunities for such indulgence are very successfully made use of in the present poem. It is divided into six cantos, and the measure consists of that which is well known under the title of the elegiac, that is, the hexameter with alternate rhymes. The story itself offers very little, in the way of interest, to possess much attraction, and the chief merits, and those which we are most disposed to dwell upon, are those of illustration, whether in the text itself or in the notes which are appended to many of the stanzas.
In the first stanza we have a scene evidently sketched from the sunny regions of the South American clime, with which it is evident that the authoress is very well acquainted. Describing a tranquil and lone situation, the pleasures of which she appears to have frequently experienced, she tells us that those who never felt it cannot possibly conceive its effect. "In Cuba" she continues, "the woods, which are naturally so interwoven with vines, as to be impervious to a human being, are, in some places, cleared and converted into nurseries, for the young coffee-trees, which remain sheltered from the sun and wind, till Sufficiently grown to transplant. To enter one of these 'semilleros,' as they are here called, at noonday, produces an effect like that anciently ascribed to the waters of Lethe. After sitting down upon the trunk of a fallen cedar or palm-tree, and breathing for a moment the freshness of the air and the odour of the passion-flower, which is one of the most abundant, and certainly the most beautiful of the climate; the noise of the trees, which are continually kept in motion by the trade winds; the fluttering and various notes (though not musical) of the birds; the loftiness of the green canopy, for the trunks of the trees are bare to a great height, and seem like pillars supporting the thick mass of leaves above; and the soft peculiar light which the intense ray of the sun, thus impeded, produces; have altogether such an effect, that one seems involuntarily to forget everything but the present, and it requires a strong effort to rise and leave the place."
In this Canto the birth of Egla takes place, and she is represented as reposing, during her youth, in a grove of Acacias, where she finally consents to receive Meles as her husband. In the mean time Zophiel sees Egla, falls in love with her, and seeks to destroy his rival, who, however, succeeds in obtaining Egla's hand; but, unhappily, expires on the very night of their mair age. Egla and her family are commanded to the palace to answer for me murder of Meles. The history of the catastrophe is then related
vol. Ii. (1833) No. Iv. 2 Q
by Egla, who acquits herself and her relations of any guilt in the transaction; and she is retained in the palace, where she is treated with kindness and honours by the royal family. But the king determines that he shall choose her husband himself, and he lays an injunction upon her to marry the person whom he shall appoint, on pain, in case of a refusal, that her father would be put to death. A candidate for a husband was sent to her by the King, but the moment he entered her chamber he expired also; and four other individuals, sent for the same purpose, in succession met with the same dismal fate; so that the king, at length, caused Egla and her father to retire altogether from the palace.
During the report which Egla made of the death of Meles to the king, it appears that she offered, as a test of her innocence, that she should be brought to his tomb, and that there her lifeblood should flow. The scene of this story being in the east, the circumstance just mentioned demonstrates the existence of 8 curious popular notion amongst them, which well deserves attention. The Greeks believed that man consisted of four distinct parts, and that one of them wandered about the tomb where the body to which it had belonged was buried. The Jews undoubtedly believed that the soul of a Hebrew sometimes appeared again after death, and made frequent excursions from its destined residence to visit its former body and inquire into its condition; that it wanders about for a full year after its first separation from the body; and that it was before the expiration of this year that the Witch 0/ Endor called up the soul of Samuel.
Calmet gives a very curious account of the resurrection of plants, as it was described to have taken place in London. This process is called palingenesis, and is thus effected:
They take a flower and burn it to ashes, from which, being collected with great care, they extract all the salts by calcination. These salts they put into a glass vial, and, having added to them a certain composition, which has a property of putting the ashes in motion upon the application of heat, the whole becomes a fine dust of a bluish colour. From this dust, when agitated by a gentle heat, there arises gradually a stalk, leaves, and then a flower; in short, there is seen the apparition of a plant rising out of the ashes. When the heat ceases, the whole show disappears, and the dust falls into its former chaos at the bottom of the vessel. The return of heat always raises, out of its ashes, this vegetable phoenix, which derives its life from the presence of this genial warmth, and dies as soon as it is withdrawn.
Then follows the manner in which Father Kircher endeavours to accoun for the wonderful phenomenon, and the author continues with an assertion that the members of the Royal Society at London had (as he was infonnea; made the same experiment upon a sparrow, and were then hoping to raa* it succeed upon men.
In the meantime, Zophiel continues all his affection for Egla> and is roused from a fit of despondency to make a visit to a p8'aC
of Gnomes, where his mind is directed from the consideration of his misfortumes. Gnomes are described to be the guardian genii of minerals and precious stones, and it will not De surprising, under such circumstances, that their palace was supplied with the richest treasures of the earth. The following extract, describing the interior of the palace, will enable the reader to estimate the power of the imagination which forms so prominent a qualification of the fair authoress: *
Zophiel looked up to know, and to his view
The vault scarce seem'd less vast than that of day;
No rocky roof was seen; a tender blue
Appear'd, as of the sky, and clouds about it play;
And, in the midst, an orb look'd as 'twere meant
To shame the sun, it mimick'd him so well.
Cold as the rock beneath, the paly radiance fell.
Within, from thousand lamps the lustre strays,
Reflected back from gems about the wall;
Just in the centre of the spacious hall:
But whether in the sunbeam form'd to sport,
And then to decorate this wonderous court.
Or, moulded by some imitative Gnome,
Casting their showers and rainbows 'neath the dome,
No snowy fleece in these sad realms was found,
Nor silken ball, by maiden loved so well;
In seemly folds a shining tapestry fell.
And fibres of asbestos, bleached in fire.
And all with pearls and sparkling gems o'er-flecked,
Of that strange court composed the rich attire.
And such the cold, fair form of sad Tahathyam deck'd.
Of marble white the table they surround,
And reddest coral deck'd each curious couch.
And of a surface smooth and wooing to the touch.
Of sunny gold and silver, like the moon,
, Torn open by man's weaker race so soon
Supplied tie alluring hoard, or here had birth.
That baffling, maddening, fascinating art,
Half told by Sprite most mischievous, that he
The guests left uninquired;—'tis still a mystery.
Here were no flowers, but a sweet odour breathed,
Of amber pure; a glistening coronal,
In form of garland, for the festival.
All that the shell contains most delicate,
Of vivid colours, ranged and dressed with care.
Was spread for food, and still was in the state
Among cold rocks, so far from upper air,
Or were in hoards preserved, the muse cannot declare.
But here, so low from the life wakening sun,
However humble, life was sought in vain;
'Twas prized and guared well in this domain.
Four dusky spirits, by a secret art
Taught by a father, thougetful of his wants,
But only deep in sea were their permitted haunts.
In the fourth canto we find a powerful poetical description of a storm, which we are informed by the writer is only a true description of what passed in the island of Cuba, under her own observation.
I lay, she says, under a transparent mosquito net, listening to the pleasing noise made by the trees and shrubs around the principal dwelling of the Cafetal San Patricio, and watching the flashes of lightning that darted through the green blinds of an unglazed window. It was about midnight when the loudness of the thunderpeals increased, and the flashes became more continued than any I had ever seen. A crash was soon heard from without, and the whole room seemed deluged, as it were, with flame.
Thinking the building on fire I arose, and succeeded in waking a negress, who still slept soundly by the door of my apartment. Going into the hall, and getting a window opened which looked into a broad piazza, I was surprised to see it occupied by those fierce dogs which were accustomed to be let loose at ten or eleven o'clock at night, in order that they might prowl about till sunrise and guard the plantation. They had sought shelter from the elements, and as they ran in a distressed manner from one side of the piazza to the other, it seemed as if they moved in fire; for the whole firmament continued to be, at long intervals, like a vast sea of light. Some glazed windows on the slant roof of the building were torn from their hinges and whirled over the secaderos, and the rain then descended in cataracts.
The sun rose brightly the next morning, and the scene, though rather sad, was delightful. The Eermuda-grass plats were strown with leaves, twigs, and broken flowers ; and numbers of those black birds which the Spanish inhabitants of the island call judeos, were hovering over a dark clump of bamboos which had been torn up by the roots, and uttering the most piteous cries; for many of them were unable to find again their nests constructed amidst the almost impervious foliage of those vast and beautiful reeds which now lay prostrate.
The palm thatching was torn from some of the outhouses of San Patricio. One mansion and a neighbouring estate (belonging to Don Jose Martinez) was taken by the tempest from an insecure foundation and set in another place; one estate, several leagues distant and near a river, was deluged, but no human lives, that I heard of, were lost.
We recommend the work as a very favourable specimen of the exalted state of cultivation which the female mind has attained in the present auspicious era.