« PreviousContinue »
* Then come ! thy Arab maid will be
This strain, and the sentiment which it embodies, remind the offended monarch of his charming Nourmahal ; and he names her name in accents of tenderness and regret.
“ The mask is off — the charm is wrought !-
And Selim to his heart has caught,
His Nourmahal, his Haram's Light!” – p. 334. We have now said enough, and shown enough, of this book, to let our readers understand both what it is, and what we think of it. Its great fault certainly is its excessive finery, and its great charm the inexhaustible copiousness of its imagery the sweetness and ease of its diction — and the beauty of the objects and sentiments with which it is concerned. Its finery, it should also be observed, is not the vulgar ostentation which so often disguises poverty or meanness — but the extravagance of excessive wealth. We have said this, however, we believe before — and suspect we have little more to say.
All poets, who really love poetry, and live in a poetical age, are great imitators; and the character of their writings may often be as correctly ascertained by observing whom they imitate and whom they abstain from imitating, as from any thing else. Mr. Moore, in the volume before us, reminds us oftener of Mr. Southey
HIS POETICAL RELATIONS.
and Lord Byron, than of any other of his contempora. ries. The resemblance is sometimes to the Roderick of the first-mentioned author, but most frequently to his Kehama. This
This may be partly owing to the nature of the subject; but, in many passages, the coincidence seems to be more radical - and to indicate a considerable conformity, in taste and habits of conception. Mr. Southey's tone, indeed, is more assuming, his manner more solemn, and his diction weaker. Mr. Moore is more lively — his figures and images come more thickly; and his language is at once more familiar, and more strengthened with points and antitheses. In other respects, the descriptive passages in Kehama bear a remarkable affinity to many in the work before us — in the brightness of the colouring, and the amplitude and beauty of the details. It is in his descriptions of love, and of female loveliness, that there is the strongest resemblance to Lord Byron - at least to the larger poems of that noble author. In the powerful and condensed expression of strong emotion, Mr. Moore seems to us rather to have imitated the tone of some of his Lordship's smaller pieces — but imitated them as only an original genius could imitate — as Lord Byron himself may be said, in his later pieces, to have imitated those of an earlier date. There is less to remind us of Scott than we can very well account for, when we consider the great range and variety of that most fascinating and powerful writer; and we must say, that if Mr. Moore could bring the resemblance a little closer, and exchange a portion of his superfluous images and ecstacies for an equivalent share of Mr. Scott's gift of interesting and delighting us with pictures of familiar nature, and of that spirit and energy which never rises to extravagance, we think he would be a gainer by the exchange. To Mr. Crabbe there is no resemblance at all; and we only mention his name to observe that he and Mr. Moore seem to be the antipodes of our present poetical sphere; and to occupy the extreme points of refinement and homeliness that can be said to fall within the legitimate dominion of poetry. They could not meet in the middle,
HIS MORAL LESSONS UNEXCEPTIONABLE.
we are aware, without changing their nature, and losing their specific character; but each might approach a few degrees, we think, with great mutual advantage. The outposts of all empires are posts of peril:— though we do not dispute that there is great honour in maintaining them with success.
There is one other topic upon which we are not quite sure whether we should say anything.
On a former occasion, we reproved Mr. Moore perhaps with unnecessary severity, for what appeared to us the licentiousness of some of his youthful productions. We think it a duty to say, that he has long ago redeemed that error; and that in all his latter works that have come under our observation, he appears as the eloquent champion of purity, fidelity, and delicacy, not less than of justice, liberty, and honour. Like most other poets, indeed, he speaks much of beauty and love; and we doubt not that many mature virgins and careful matrons may think his lucubrations on those themes too rapturous and glowing to be safely admitted among the private studies of youth. We really think, however, that there is not much need for such apprehensions: And, at all events, if we look to the moral design and scope of the works themselves, we can see no reason to censure the author. All his favourites, without exception, are dutiful, faithful, and self-denying; and no other example is ever set up for imitation. There is nothing approaching to indelicacy even in his description of the seductions by which they are tried; and they who object to his enchanting pictures of the beauty and
of the beauty and pure attachment of the more prominent characters would find fault, we suppose, with the loveliness and the embraces of angels.
The. Excursion; being a Portion of the Recluse, a Poem. By
William WORDSWORTH. 4to. pp. 447. London, 1814.*
This will never do! It bears no doubt the stamp of the author's heart and fancy: But unfortunately not half so visibly as that of his peculiar system. His former poems
* I have spoken in many places rather too bitterly and confidently of the faults of Mr. Wordsworth's poetry : And forgetting that, even on my own view of them, they were but faults of taste, or venial self-partiality, have sometimes visited them, I fear, with an asperity which should be reserved for objects of moral reprobation. If i were now to deal with the whole question of his poetical merits, though my judgment might not be substantially different, I hope I should repress the greater part of these vivacités of expression : And indeed so strong has been my feeling in this way, that, considering how much I have always loved many of the attributes of his Genius, and how entirely I respect his Character, it did at first occur to me whether it was quite fitting that, in my old age and his, I should include in this publication any of those critiques which may have formerly given pain or offence, to him or his admirers. But when I reflected that the mischief, if there really ever was any, was long ago done, and that I still retain, in substance, the opinions which I should now like to have seen
more gently expressed, I felt that to omit all notice of them on the present occasion, might be held to import a retraction which I am as far as possible from intending; or even be represented as a very shabby way of backing out of sentiments which should either be manfully persisted in, or openly renounced, and abandoned as untenable.
I finally resolved, therefore, to reprint my review of “The Excursion ;" which contains a pretty full view of my griefs and charges against Mr. Wordsworth ; set forth too, I believe, in a more temperate strain than most of my other inculpations, and of which I think I may now venture to say farther, that if the faults are unsparingly noted, the beauties are not penuriously or grudgingly allowed; but commended to the admiration of the reader with at least as much heartiness and good-will.
But I have also reprinted a short paper on the same author's “White Doe of Rylstone,” — in which there certainly is no praise, or notice of beauties, to set against the very unqualified censures of which it is wholly made up. I have done this, however, not merely because I adhere to these censures, but chiefly because it seemed necessary to bring me
WANTS BOLDNESS AND SIMPLICITY.
were intended to recommend that system, and to bespeak favour for it by their individual merit; — but this, we suspect, must be recommended by the system — and can only expect to succeed where it has been previously established. It is longer, weaker, and tamer, than any of Mr. Wordsworth's other productions; with less boldness of originality, and less even of that extreme simplicity and lowliness of tone which wavered so prettily, in the Lyrical Ballads, between silliness and pathos. We have imitations of Cowper, and even of Milton here; engrafted on the natural drawl of the Lakers -- and all diluted into harmony by that profuse and irrepressible wordiness which deluges all the blank verse of this school of poetry, and lubricates and weakens the whole structure of their style.
Though it fairly fills four hundred and twenty good quarto pages, without note, vignette, or any sort of extraneous assistance, it is stated in the title — with something of an imprudent candour — to be but “a portion” of a larger work; and in the preface, where an attempt is rather unsuccessfully made to explain the whole de
fairly to issue with those who may not concur in them. I can easily understand that many whose admiration of the Excursion, or the Lyrical Ballads, rests substantially on the passages which I too should join in admiring, may view with greater indulgence than I can do, the tedious and flat passages with which they are interspersed, and may consequently think my censure of these works a great deal too harsh and uncharitable. Between such persons and me, therefore, there may
be no radical difference of opinion, or contrariety as to principles of judg. ment. But if there be any who actually admire this White Doe of Rylstone, or Peter Bell the Waggoner, or the Lamentations of Martha Rae, or the Sonnets on the Punishment of Death, there can be no such ambiguity, or means of reconcilement. Now I have been assured not only that there are such persons, but that almost all those who seek to exalt Mr. Wordsworth as the founder of a new school of poetry, consider these as by far bis best and most characteristic productions ; and would at once reject from their communion any one who did not acknowledge in them the traces of a high inspiration. Now I wish it to be understood, that when I speak with general intolerance or impatience of the school of Mr. Wordsworth, it is to the school holding these tenets, and applying these tests, that I refer: and I really do not see how I could better explain the grounds of my dissent from their doctrines, than by republishing my remarks on this White Doe."