« ElőzőTovább »
class; as, however, we shall enter into this question at length in the American volume, we drop the subject here.
Whilst these sheets are passing through the press, our attention is called to an article in the July number of the Westminster Review, on the subject of "Earthquakes in New Zealand," wherein Alfred Domett's name, as colonial secretary, is appended to an official letter, dated Wellington, New Zealand, December 18, 1848, certifying to the moderation of a recent Earthquake, and contradicting the exaggerated rumors current of its disastrous effects.
The author of “Philip Van Arteveldt” may truly be considered the poet of elaboration ; abounding in fine passages, artificially worked up to a deceptive appearance of poetry, they remind one of false metals, or, to speak more poetically, of that beautiful waxen fruit which might almost deceive a gardener. The body is there, but the soul is wanting. It is calm, classical, and frigid. Mr. Taylor is sufficiently sagacious to know that he has no imagination, and he, therefore, to cover the defect, constantly cries that a redundancy of imagination is fatal to the great poet, as though Apollo could not bridle his own Pegasus. The palpable inference which he wishes drawn is, that he, Mr. Taylor, has a great deal of poetical fire and genius, but he is philosopher enough to subdue it to the mastery of reason.
Mr. Taylor, in his preface to Philip Van Arteveldt, enters into a minute account of his philosophy of poetry; he there largely insists upon a balance of faculties, and regards good sense as "the essential constituent of genius.” This is certainly a startling doctrine ! to deny to Marlow, Shelley, and a host of great imaginations the poetic faculty, because they had not good sense;
“good” is a very vague word, it has numerous significations ; in the present instance it seems to be used to mean common sense.” That a poet with “ common or “good sense is more perfect than a poet without that excellent quality of the mind, is undoubt
edly true, for the more faculties a man has, the greater he must necessarily be; but we deny that it is essential to the poetic mind. All experience contradicts it, and let us tell Mr. Taylor very pointedly, if he means “good taste and judgment,” so far as poetical composition is concerned, we agree with him; but if he uses the words “good sense” in the common acceptation of the world, he is stating an absurdity, or else a falsehood, to cover his own want of genius. Mr. Taylor has no doubt “good sense,” or “common sense,” but he has no poetical genius, none of that “divine afflatus” which carries a man not out of logic and cold reason, but above it. Mr. Taylor will never persuade the world to believe that Shelley is no poet, because his imagination was too vivid; and that Keats and Coleridge were deficient in a great essential of the human heart, because they were not sufficiently alive to the wonderful importance of “good sense,” which Mr. Taylor declares to be "the most essential constituent of genius.” Mr. Horne observes, “There must be something peculiarly undramatic in the mind that could conceive and execute a dramatic subject in so lengthy a form as to comprise the same number of lines as six plays, each of the ordinary length. Mr. Horne has not, however, stated the whole question; he has let the “undramatic author of Philip Van Arteveldt” off too easily; he should remember that it is not the number of lines that makes a drama undramatic, it is the number of scenes ! One poet may write his dialogues too fully, but the action will be there ; the ballet skeleton will remain, though possibly clothed somewhat too heavily with robes; while another may with some self-important tragedian, consider the words as the necessary evil of a tragedy, infinitely preferring their own spasms, convulsions, glaring eyes, distorted scowls, drawn down mouths, and volutions ; marchings about the stage, to the noblest outbursts of passionate defiance or poetical musings; they no doubt would prefer not to share the glory with the author of "As You Like It," but, instead of speak
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, mo
notonous 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 Villiers, 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
From the loud world—which yet he understood
But farther may we pass not; for the ground