« PreviousContinue »
Nothing, however, can lull to rest the troubled and indignant spirit of Hengist. His late disgrace presses heavy on his mind, and he apostrophizes the weird sisters in an angry and taunting strain, charging them with having not only deceived him as to their promised aid in obtaining Inogen and the British kingdom, but having been, in fact, the cause of his incurring the reproach of recreancy, in shunning the proffered combat with Arthur in the isle of Ligon.
Scarcely had the accusation escaped his lips, when Valdandi and Skulda, rising through the yawning earth, appear before him, and, bidding him to declare his wishes, promise a compliance with them. He expresses a desire to resemble Arthur in person, fame, and interest with Inogen; a desire no sooner formed than partly granted; for through their potent agency he assumes the form, and voice, and arms of the British prince, and is told, that having effected these changes, and conducted him to the residence of Inogen, they have accomplished all within their power, for that his further influence with the maid must rest with himself; adding, as the strongest motive to his perseverance, that, should he succeed in obtaining the
love of Inogen, the sons of Odin would for ever fill the throne of Britain. Yet they reluctantly confess, at the same time, the danger to be great, and the event to them unknown. This latter intimation, however, shakes not the resolution of Hengist, and he is instantly conveyed by Valdandi, in a chariot of clouds, to the summit of Rawran, a mountain from which they have a view of the spot in which Inogen is concealed. Valdandi then presents the Saxon with a milk-white steed, and vanishes.
We have now a very beautiful description of the bower of Inogen, as raised by the protecting skill of Merlin, and in which Mr. Hole appears to have put forth no inconsiderable portion of his strength. The following lines, a part of this pleasing picture, form a striking contrast with the Lapland sketch just given. The poet, after mentioning the grateful gloom which the intermingling branches of several aged oaks fling over the boundaries of this retreat, adds
Oft as beneath their shade deep-musing stray'd,
When the bright moon adorn'd heaven's spangled plain,
In white-plumed helms, and vests of splendid hue,
And while, to crown the revels of the night,
In simplest minds, and give to vacant eyes
The daring efforts of the glowing mind,
That "scales invention's heaven." While censure vain And keen derision mock th' unletter'd swain;
Though to his view ideal forms arise,
And Fancy gilds them with her brightest dyes.
B. vi. p. 184.
Lovely, however, as is this sequestered abode, the seat of eternal spring, diversified with all the charms of hill and dale, of wood and water, resounding with the melody of birds, and adorned with fruits and flowers of every varied hue and odour, it is still to Inogen a place of confinement; and she cannot contemplate the distant mountains
without a longing desire to be amidst them, free and unfettered as the breeze that sports upon their sides and passes on. This feeling, so natural to the mind under restriction, has drawn from our bard a truly eloquent and heartfelt eulogium on the blessings of liberty, one, indeed, of the most animated and impressive passages in the poem:
Oh, Liberty! thy precious smiles can cheer
The barren heath, and howling wild endear.
No joys luxurious the wild Arabs need;
Their wealth the missive lance and bounding steed.
B. vi. p. 188.
Whilst Inogen, absorbed in thought, sighs as
she muses on the past, and looks forward to the future with apprehension, she is awakened from her reverie by the distant sound of arms, and almost immediately afterwards perceives a knight approaching through the glade. It is Hengist, under the form of Arthur, and, deceived by the closeness of the resemblance, she receives him with joy. To her eager inquiries after her friends and the state of her country, the treacherous Saxon replies, that her father, no longer wishing to protract their union, had sent him to conduct her where the Britons, assembled in arms, were waiting impatiently to receive their prince and the fair object of his vows, having sworn that her approving smile should lead them on to conquest and to glory. She reluctantly refuses to accompany him, urging her father's commands not to leave the bower until she has permission to do so from his own lips. On this, the supposed Arthur bitterly complains of her unkind mistrust of his words, and exclaiming, in wellfeigned agony, that he is loved no more; the doubt, the anguish, and the terror, which in turns distract her bosom, receive a delicate yet vivid illustration from the following beautiful simile, which strikes me as possessing merit of no common kind :