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was quite possible that fate had sent some lucky hand to save him in an extremity of danger; for Thealma herself had been snatched from a watery grave in which many of her friends supposed her still immured. There is a touch of genuine nature in the manner in which this consolatory suggestion breaks through Thealma's troubled thoughts, like a sudden light between shifting clouds.
Thealma, all this while with serious eye,
Her ears suck'd in her speech, to quench her fire:
She then consents to partake of her servant's pastoral delicacies, if she will only promise to be merry. This change in her mistress, for a moment, overwhelms Caretta with conflicting emotions of grief and joy.
Still Caretta wept,
Sorrow and gladness such a struggling kept
While the mistress and her maid are thus occupied in an interchange of kind expressions, they are startled by the sudden appearance of a boar pursued by a huntsman; and as the chace is described with great force and freshness, I shall lay the entire passage before the reader. The passages in italics are highly graphic.
A fell boar
Rush'd from the wood, enrag'd by a deep wound
Cry'd out for help their cry soon reacht his ear,
Redoubling of their cries to fetch in aid,
Where a new fear assay'd them: 'twas their hap
And doubt would let them, as the man drew near
Tow'rds him he makes; the boar was soon aware,
Upon his guard he stands, his tusks new whets,
His wary foe went traversing his ground,
The huntsman turns out to be Thealma's brother, Prince Anarus, who had supposed his sister dead. They recognize eac1 with delight, and go together to Thealma's cottage. The
of night now fell upon the fields, and all Arcadia was at re cept the fisherman Rhotus, who was yet at sea. By the light
moon he espied a frigate that he discovered to have come from Lemnos. The master of the ship hailed the fisherman, and, after dropping an anchor, invited him on board. He at once obeyed the call, and found all the passengers with such an air of sadness in their countenances as indicated that some misfortune had befallen them. The most conspicuous of them, a grave old lord who went by the name of Cleon, questioned the honest fisher as to the news of Arcadia. Rhotus, on this, gives a description of this paradise of the poets, as it was in the age of gold, to which unhappily the age of iron had succeeded.
This description, which is too long to quote, reminds me of some passages in Sidney's pastoral romance. Who would not wish to live in such an age and country, as Sidney and Chalkhill have described, and have inscribed upon his monument (as on the tomb in the picture of Poussin), “ I ALSO WAS AN Arcadian !”
“Would I had fallen upon those happy days,
We cannot but marvel at the cold severity of Godwin's judgment when he confessed that, in perusing Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, the thought occurred to him that our ancestors who admired it, must have had a blood that crept but feebly in their veins, and that they were yet only half awaked from the stupidity of the savage state. They had indeed no taste for the convulsive contortions and melodramatic horrors that we look for in the modern Muse; but such fresh and faithful and Claude-like representations of external nature and rural objects as abound in Sidney's prose and in Spenser's verse, and impart a feeling of the open air, were congenial to their healthier imaginations. Lord Orford, too, in his "Royal and Noble Authors," has told us that
the Arcadia is "tedious, lamentable, and pedantic*." It is said, however, that it gave delight to Shakspeare, and even in a later day to Milton; and their admiration is a tolerable set-off against the sneers of modern critics. It might have been supposed, as I think Hazlitt has observed, that the single pastoral image of the shepherd boy piping as though he should never be old, would have saved it from the contempt of every reader who has himself any share of imagination. It is true that the style is occasionally quaint and prolix, and the sentiments affected and fantastic; but the strange or unsightly foliage of some few trees of this Arcadian Orchard do not render less delightful the ripe and precious fruits that abound beneath it and the general beauty of the scene.
But let us return to the poem. Both Rhotus and Cleon are subsequently discovered to be noblemen of high character, who had been persecuted by the government ;-the latter had been banished. It is not at all necessary to enter into the minute details of their adventures. To confess the truth, the whole story of the poem is a little tedious, and there are so many plots within plots, and the main thread is so intricately interwoven with the general texture, that nothing but the exquisite truth and simplicity of the descriptions, and the sweetness and variety of the verse, could make so long and involved a narrative at all supportable. On this account I shall not weary the reader or myself, with following up the progress of the story, but select such detached passages as will show the author's genius to
Sir William Temple, in his Essay on Poetry, has paid a glowing tribute to the merits of the Arcadia. "The true spirit or vein of ancient poetry," says he, "in this kind," (prose romance, a kind of poetry in prose) "seems most to shine in Sir Philip Sidney, whom I esteem both the greatest poet, and the noblest genius of any that have left writings behind them, and published in ours or any other modern language; a person born capable, not only of forming the greatest ideas, but of leaving the noblest examples, if the length of his life had been equal to the excellence of his wit and virtues."
The following description of the Temple of
the best advantage. Diana, is a picture as highly finished as any thing in modern art.
Within a little silent grove hard by
The curiosity of ear and eye.
Thóróugh the thick leav'd boughs he makes a way,
They tender'd their devotions: with sweet airs,
And cross their snowy silken robes, they wore