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The purple girdle, that around his waist,
B. i. p. 15.
It was doubtless the aim of the poet, that Merlin, one of the principal agents in the plot of his fable, should be ushered to us in a manner worthy of his age and superhuman powers; and it will be allowed, I think, that the mode of his introduction, and the portrait given of him in these lines, are finely conceived, and boldly executed. The "few grey locks" of the prophet, "the wreath of honour'd age," form a striking contrast with the picture which had been just previously drawn of Arthur, of whom it is said, that
mingled in his face
The charms of youth, and manhood's riper grace
The object of the sage in this unexpected visit
was to reprove Arthur for mistrusting Heaven, and for neglecting the injunctions which had been given him. He had been forewarned, it seems, by Merlin, never to desert his host, and told, at the same time, and from the same authority, that the powers of hell were in league against him; yet had he, seduced by Urda, in the friendly form of Gawaine, yielded to the illusions of magic, and left his fleet, and but for the interposing arm of Merlin, had perished in the attempt.
Arthur, repentant of his rashness and credulity, is consoled by Merlin, who assures him that his fleet is in safety, and, after inculcating the virtues of fortitude and resignation as the essentials of his future conduct, he recommends him to seek immediately the blessings of repose; and with Arthur's submission to this advice and consequent retirement, the first book terminates.
(To be continued.)
Much of old romantic lore
On the high theme he kept in store.
THE sudden appearance of Merlin having, as might naturally be supposed, struck the ruler of Ebuda and his chieftains not only with reverence but astonishment, he prepares to satisfy their curiosity, by informing them who he was, and what had given rise to the interference which they had just witnessed. He states, that, after a residence of many years at the court of Uther, he had been blessed in his latter days with a daughter, whom he had named Inogen; but that a prophecy concerning her, which had escaped from the lips of the priest at the period of her baptism, had, by its ambiguity, involved his mind in a perpetual conflict of hope and fear. It had declared, that, unless she fled from the man whom she most approved, and was by him rejected who loved her best, she should
pine through life in sorrow; but that he who espoused her should from that hour not only reign supreme in Britain, but transcend all others in heroism and renown.
To render her worthy of the high destiny thus singularly unfolded, by adding to the beauties of her form the utmost cultivation of her mental powers, was now, he proceeds to relate, the object of his sole employ; and, with the view of more exclusively dedicating himself to this purpose, he had sought a retirement on the banks of the river Dee in Merionethshire.
The description of this solitude, and its moral uses; the motives which he assigns for at length quitting it, and his regret in so doing; the delight which Inogen experiences from the prospect of mingling with the world, and the estimate of human life with which the whole closes, contribute to form one of the most pleasing passages in the book.
Tired of mankind, and grandeur's irksome weight,
By Deva's stream, 'mid vales and mountains rude.
Most sweet to study nature's secret laws,
And trace her wonders to the primal cause.
What deep instruction the reflecting mind,
Shall I my Imogen, in beauty's bloom,
Thus keep sequester'd in the forest-gloom?
And shall the fairest flower that decks the spring Lavish its sweets on Zephyr's idle wing,
At length resolved, but with reluctant heart,
How sweet the world's delights at distance ey'd!
For all the pleasures cruel fate denies,
Hope can prevent, and fancy realise.
B. ii. p. 30.