Page images
PDF
EPUB

advancing from her covert. Hacon demands who she is who has thus dared to intrude on the sepulchral rites, and no sooner is he informed, than exulting at the circumstance, he instantly orders Eric, out of revenge to Arthur, and as an atonement to the manes of his son, to immolate the maiden on the grave of Sweno. The bard, however, whilst in the act of raising his arm to execute the mandate of his sovereign, is suddenly arrested by the voice of a youthful warrior, who is seen rushing towards the spot, and who commands him to refrain from the atrocious deed. Hacon, menacing the youth away, and threatening death in case of refusal, again commissions Eric to deal the fatal blow, who, as he once more rears his weapon for that purpose, is pierced by the spear of the knight, and sinks breathless on the ground. Hacon and Oswald now advance against this protector of injured innocence, who, notwithstanding the death of his courser, and the inequality of the contest, ultimately proves successful. Oswald is first slain, and Hacon, blinded with rage, and reckless of danger, rushes on the knight with redoubled fury, but soon shares the fate of his dependant; an event which, in relation to its immediate consequences, has drawn from the poet the following very striking apostrophe :

Where now are all thy glories, haughty king !
Thy stately towers, thy halls that wont to ring
With festive joy, or music's lofty strain,
Thy stern-brow'd warriors, and thy wide domain ?
Thy days are with the past—the fleeting scene
Shall change, and be as thou hadst rever been !
Through thy lone halls shall sigh the breeze of night,
And rust consume the trophies of thy might:
Thy friends shall sink beneath the ruthless sword ;
Or yield reluctant to a foreign lord :
On Norway's coast thy deeds be heard no more,
And thy fame wither on a distant shore !

B. vii. p. 243.

The gratitude of Inogen for this timely rescue ascends to heaven in a prayer for the prosperity and happiness of her brave deliverer, who, severely wounded and sinking from loss of blocd, has only strength to utter that the joy of saving her is the last happiness which he shall ever know, and faints away. Inogen flies to his assistance, and unbinding his breastplate, is intently endeavouring to stanch the flow of blood, when Arthur unperceived approaches on his panting steed; nor is she conscious of his presence, until, alighting and standing by her side, he pronounces her name in an accent of

reproach. She turns from him with a look of mingled wonder and displeasure, whilst he upbraids her for her falsehood, in thus mourning over a stranger knight, and in having by her causeless hate occasioned the death of his lamented Cador. Aroused by this unmerited accusation, she charges him with cruelty and dissimulation, tells him that the love she once cherished for him she dismisses for ever, and, seizing one of the weapons which lay scattered on the ground, declares that should he dare to approach her, she will instantly turn it against herself. Horror-struck, he stands gazing upon her for some time in speechless agony, and at length, the power of utterance returning, he takes an everlasting farewell, when the thunder rolls over their heads, and, through a sky more than usually bright and serene, a dark cloud is seen advancing, and the form of Merlin, as it dissolves at their feet, rises gradually before them. He bids them return thanks to Heaven, explains the mistakes under which they had alternately laboured, and pronounces that Valdemar and Hengist having perished by mutual wounds, the deep-laid schemes of hell had been completely baffled ; that, in fact, as he informs them, the ob

ject of the weird sisters had been overthrown by the

very sorcery which they had exercised to secure it; that had not Arthur's mind been estranged by delusion, had not Inogen scorned his passion, and he resigned his suit, with such skill had the sisters constructed their enchantments, neither his valour, nor her fidelity, could have saved them from their power. But that power, he adds, is now lost, for, driven to the central caves of Hecla, and there condemned to darkness and to chains, no further will they be allowed to molest either him or Inogen. Then perceiving how much the latter was distressed by the fate of the generous youth who, to all appearance, perished in protecting her, he unbinds his casque,

and shows them the features of young Ivar, announcing at the same time that his wounds are not mortal, and following up the declaration by instantly restoring him to health and vigour. The mutual joy of the parties is then beautifully described, and with the union of Arthur and Inogen, and an admirable exhortation from the lips of Merlin, the poem concludes.

The critical analysis which has now been given of Mr. Hole's 'Arthur," and the numerous passages which have been quoted from it, will, I should

imagine, have enabled the reader to form a pretty accurate judgment as to the plan and execution of the work. It will, I think, be found, if I have not greatly deceived myself, to have exhibited in the construction of its fable no common share of skill and ingenuity; in the formation of its characters, a bold and discriminating pencil; and in the departments of scenery and mythology, where the tact and talents of the poet are not less importunately demanded, a rich and excursive imagination.

That it has, however, failed to attain a similar degree of excellency in a few other particulars of considerable if not of equal importance, is not meant to be denied. It must, for instance, be allowed, that the range of incident and adventure, taking the fertility of the subject into view, is too confined, and that the versification is frequently of a character not calculated to win upon the general ear.

It is to this latter circumstance, perhaps, that we may, in a great measure, attribute the neglect into which this otherwise beautiful poem has fallen ; for in the laudable effort to give greater freedom and continuity of harmony to the structure of rhymed verse, Mr. Hole has been induced to run one line

« PreviousContinue »