Page images




[ocr errors]


[merged small][ocr errors]


in a vision Bunyan saw his pilgrim, looked again upon the rock and upon the

characters ; and the characters journeying through perils. So Nova

Desolation.lis saw visions, so Richter dreamed dreams. In a vision (recorded in the Poe's other work in this direction, only prose-poem he has left us) Lamb

prose-poems which may stand in the saw the Child-Angel-most beautiful

same rank with “Silence,' are The of apparitions--who keeps in heaven

Island of the Fay,' and `Eleanora.' perpetual childhood, and still goes

But all his poetry, whether prose or lame and lovely.

verse, is such as has no counterpart Poe's prose-poems stand apart. In

elsewhere. Alike at its best and at their peculiar characteristics no other

its weakest it bears the recognised writings in the world resemble these.

impression of his mind. It breathes Nor is this wonderful - for what

in every line its own peculiar framortal ever resembled their extra

grance, not to be mistaken-as the ordinary creator ? His was a cast of

honey of Hymettus tasted of the wild mind beyond all other men's unearthly. thyme. His spirit set up her abiding house in Mr. Ruskin comes into our category ange and weird land.

It was a

by reason rather of his unrivalled land haunted by shapes of loveliness

mastery of poetic prose than for any and by shapes of terror; a land in

deliberate prose-poem, which, indeed, which were sights and sounds to freeze

he has never set himself to write. the blood; but land which also held

There are passages without number in in its odd angles the Island of the

his works in which word-painting (to Fay and the Valley of the Many.

use a phrase which would be hateful coloured Grass. His style became,

were it not so convenient), and even when he so desired, a power which eloquence-two things vastly different added a deeper colour of romance to

from poetry, however often they are what was in itself romantic, as sunset confused with it—are made poetical wraps some wild land of ruins in its

by sheer excess of beauty. This disglow of sombre fires. Undoubtedly

tinction between description which is Poe's finest effort is the piece called poetical, and description which, how•Silence. It is a piece which stands

ever fine, is merely graphic, is a disamong the finest specimens existing tinction which, if rigorously applied, of the power of prose to take poetic

at once puts out of court nine-tenths tone, the power which loads a sentence of what is generally called poetic prose. with impressiveness. The sweet and

An illustration here is far better than limpid music of Landor's · Depths of

any argument, for the distinction is Love' is far away. The words move one that must be felt, not argued. forward, in the phrase of Casca, like

Compare, then, together these two a tempest dropping fire.” Take any descriptions of the same scene——the paragraph, at random

scene of Turner's picture of • Chryses “And, all at once, the moon arose through

on the Shore.' The first is by a recent the thin ghastly mist, and was crimson in



[ocr errors]

critic, the second is Mr. Ruskin's. colour. And mine eyes fell upon a huge grey rock which stood by the shore of the river, “The large picture of Chryses merits attenand was lighted by the light of the moon. tion not only from its fine drawing of rocks, And the rock was grey and ghastly, and tall

trees, and above all of waves, but also from its and the rock was grey. Upon its front were departure from the conventional brown landcharacters engraven in the stone ; and I scape-manner of the time. We have here walked through the morass of water-lilies, warm and noble colour; the golden light of until I came close unto the shore, that I

sunset suffuses the whole scene, and turns might read the characters upon the stone. from blue to green the sea round the path of But I could not decipher them. And I was going back into the morass when the moon shone with a fuller red, and I turned and

This is a fair instance of the de

the sun.

scription which is pictorial, but not presentment-rich, impressive, solemn, poetical. Now take the next :

or gorgeous as the procession of a

king. But a consideration of this "There the priest is on the beach alone, the sun setting. He prays to it as it descends ;

power, in which no prose writer ever flakes of its sheeted light are borne to him by

rivalled Mr. Ruskin, would beguile us the melancholy waves, and cast away with

from our purpose.

We must go no sighs upon the sand.”

more astray. Our design was not to This is a prose-poem. It is a poem

wander in the wild and witching both in tone and cadence. Its words

Its words regions of poetic prose, but to reckon have something of the power usually up our stock of strict prose-poems. found only in the finest verse.


And in truth, when we descend to the that, it steals upon the soul with

work of weaker writers, it is to find, music, dies off, and leaves it satisfied.

too often, that the Muse, released from And what is this on Venice ?

building verse into a finished structure,

is apt to prove contented with a heap - a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so of rich material. The pilgrim whom weak, so quiet, so bereft of all but her loveli

she undertakes to guide, far from findness, that we might well doubt, as we watched her faint'reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, ing himself ushered into some fair which was the City and which the Shadow.” Palace of Art, made beautiful with

loving skill, firm-built on its cragOr this on lichens ?

platform, fringed with its golden “Unfading as motionless, the worm frets gallery, a statue poised on every peak, them not, and the Autumn wastes not. Strong its pictured windows glowing like fixed in loveliness, they neither blanch in heat, nor

flames, finds himself perpetually, like pine in frost. To them, slow-fingered, con

Clarence, among the wedges of gold stant-hearted, is entrusted the weaving of the dark, eternal tapestries of the hills ; to them,

and heaps of pearls, surrounded by slow-pencilled, iris-dyed, the tender framing waste wrecks of futile treasure. of their endless imagery. Sharing the still- What, then, of strict prose-poems ness of the unimpassioned rock, they share

have we left :-of the highest rank, also its endurance ! and while the winds of departing Spring scatter the white hawthorn

that is, what have we? Hawthorn, blossom like drifted snow, and Summer dims to whom some may be disposed to on the parched meadow the drooping of its turn, is, at least to certain readers, cowslip-gold, far above, among the mountains, the silver lichen-spots rest, star-like, on the

repellently self-conscious. Coleridge stone ; and the gathering orange stain upon

has given us The Wanderings of

“ the edge of yonder western peak reflects the Cain and the 'Allegoric Vision;' sunsets of a thousand years.'

Dickens has given us, 'A Child's Dream Or, as a last example, this on Imagina

of a Star;' Christopher North, “The tion ?

Fairy's Funeral.' But these—and such

as these are all we have remaining"Imagination is a pilgrim on the earth, rank far below the highest. These and her home is in heaven. Shut her from

are no rivals of the power of verse. the fields of the celestial mountains, bar her from breathing their lofty, sun-warmed air ;

On the whole, our list of greatest and we may as well turn upon her the last must consist of five names onlybolt of the Tower of Famine, and give the Landor, Poe, Lamb, Ruskin, and De keys to the keeping of the wildest surge that Quincey. Inter viburna cupressiwashes Capraja and Gorgona.”

these are the cypresses among the Such a passage bears the highest vines. mark of the poetic mind; the mind Collections of verse-poems are not of which even the most abstract rare; but of prose-poems proper no thought comes forth in form and such collection has as yet been made. shape, calls up a train of glorious And this is strange. It is true that imageries, as a sultan calls his slaves, the volume which collected our posand so appears before the eye in visible sessions would, if made, be far from

No. 324.–VOL. LIV.


[ocr errors]



make its pages

bulky. Yet it is not too much to say cloud. There would be the crashing that such a volume would contain forest and the yellow ghastly marsh specimens of the noblest writing in beside the river Zaire, with the man our language. Glowing imagery, rich trembling on the rock, and the demon and varied music, would combine to hiding among the sighing lilies be

“a perpetual feast of neath the crimson moon. There would nectared sweets.” In these would be the ghostly Island, and the frail meet together all the lovely and awful canoe, and the fading Fay upon the creations of the great men at whose shadowy waters; and the asphodels, writings we have been glancing. There the red flamingoes, the singing river would be Fiammetta, holding the vase and the golden clouds of the Valley of magic water, the lilies gleaming of the Many-coloured Grass. There in her hair. There would be the would be the Babe “who goeth lame caverns, the warm ocean, the innumer- and lovely," and the grave of Adah able arches, and the breezy sunshine by the river Pison; and there would of the mole of Baiæ; and the grottoes, be our Lady of Tears, with the diadem forts, and dells of Naples. There would about her brow, calling by night and be the dust of Posilippo, “soft as the day for vanished faces. Well might feathers in the wings of Sleep”; the the slender volume which gathered up form of Love hiding his arrow-barb such treasures bear for the motto of its behind his heels, and Hope, whose face title page this inscription, “INFINITE is always shadowed by a coloured RICHES IN A NARROW Room."




[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


ed op

of its




ONE of the commonest of the many generally very plain fare and quarters. fallacies prevalent in England regard- Great as is the number of these, they ing our American kinsfolk is the one are lost to theirfriends in so vast a space that credits them with an indifference as the sporting-grounds of America. to field-sports. This is probably only an What is known as society contributes aggravated form of that egotism which largely to this annually increasing makes the lip of your true Britisher body; but society, having no conneccurl with scorn at all alien claims to tion with the land which produces the proficiency with horse or gun: I say game, has no motive for concerning an aggravated form of this insular itself about the doings of members creed, for Americans being one with who abjure its fascinations for a month us in blood might fairly be supposed in the Adirondacks, the Alleghanies, to inherit a portion at least of the or the Carolinas. So even the best"savage ” instinct which is such a introduced traveller does not hear marked peculiarity of our common much sporting talk in the gay centres

which he visits; and when he adds So far as my experience goes the another book of first impressions sporting instinct is upon the whole as of America to the astounding list strong among our cousins as in the of such works already on Mr. Mudie's stock from which they sprang. The catalogue, he generally informs his practical absence of fox-hunting re- readers that “ Americans don't care moves one element of a comparison for field - sports.” The admirable which in any case would be difficult. sporting papers circulating throughSport, too, in America lacks the pres- out every part of Canada and the tige that it owns in this country. Union, the gun-stores and tackleThe distinction that is secured in shops that abound in the main streets Great Britain by superior excellence of the principal cities, do not seem to in such things is in no way the same have any'effect in dispelling this extrabeyond the Atlantic. Our social ordinary delusion. views of sport, which turn hundreds of To place the American or Virginian indifferent and lukewarm persons into quail (ortyx Virginiana) at the head ornamental and passable Nimrods, of the American game list might have not yet developed with our cousins. at the first sight seem somewhat The well-to-do Englishman, unless arbitrary. To Englishmen the quail his tastes are distinctly adverse, mostly means the little migratory finds himself in the natural order of European or Eastern bird of that events on the moors, among the tur- species; and the latter, though entitled nips, or by the covert-side. All no doubt to honourable mention, can society is either taking part in the hardly be associated with so exalted a same performance or interesting itself position as that claimed for its larger in the matter. But the well-to-do American relative. The American American intent on such things has al- duck-shooter, moreover, from his sinkmost always to “cut out his own line," box on the Chesapeake shore or his to detach himself from the common club-house on Wisconsin lakes, will herd of his equals in the holiday-time no doubt protest against such an of the year, to plan his own campaign, elevation of the beautiful and game to look after his own dogs, to put up Virginian bird. The chicken-shooter of with a good deal of hard work and the west may perhaps affect contempt


[ocr errors]

for the dimensions of our little friend his birds through the cycle of the year; * Bob White,” and point to the noble has listened to the “Ah, Bob White ! form of the pinnated grouse, as with ah, Bob White !” that with the fall defiant crow and thunderous whirr he of the apple blossoms begins to fill the springs from the prairie grass. The air; has stumbled upon their nests frequenter of Appalachian forests may perchance later on among the clover swear there is no satisfaction like that fields, and protected the eggs from the of trudging homeward on an October teeth of the mower and the clutch of night with a hardly-earned four brace the ruthless Ethiopian. In the warm of ruffed grouse. The cock-shooter of days of August and September he has

. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Maine, come again and again upon the infant may recall the delighted yap of his coveys, and watched them fluttering spaniel in the crisp autumn woods as


like sparrows from the thickets and the sweetest of all music, but for “the brushy watercourses where they hide greatest happiness of the greatest from the hawks which sweep unnumber," and not only that, but as molested through the air. So when affording the highest class of sport, the strong, full-grown birds come out and demanding at the same time the upon the November stubbles to feed greatest smartness with the gun, the and become ripe for the sportsman, quail has no rival among American they occupy a position in the estimabirds. I venture to go even further, tion of the community somewhat difand affirm in my partiality that he ferent from any other Transatlantic has no equal anywhere. The quail game - bird.

- They are recognised, is, in short, over a considerable slice not merely by a written law that of North America what the partridge sometimes does not amount to much is with us. Other varieties of American beyond the Atlantic, but by a yet winged game vanish before civilisation, stronger unwritten law, as appurbut the quail, in a majority of the older tenances of the land which reared states, has survived the cultivation of them. The lower class American, two centuries ; nay, where that culti- who owns no land of his own, as vation is careless and natural condi- a general thing resents nothing more tions are favourable, he has flourished than the preservation of game and with unremitting vigour. His piping close seasons of all kinds, but even call in spring-time sounds from the he has been forced to tacitly acvery garden fences of homesteads knowledge the domestic position of whose walls and porches are tottering the quail. To open a cannonade with respectable old age. He springs within sight of a man's window, or to with his brood in autumn from stub- beat a stubble-field where his horses bles whence the stumps had rotted are ploughing, is not quite the same long before George Washington was thing as traversing a prairie, a mounborn. Civilisation, when not too vio- tain, or a forest in which, though lent, is to the quail rather a friend ownership exists, it has made no than a foe; wherever grain-growing visible impress. Private property in

a is most general, provided that wood- land is nowhere held more sacred than lands and running streams are plenti- in America. Legislation which interful, there in most abundance will fered with the rights of property would he be found. Like his cousin, the nowhere upon earth be so resented as English partridge, the Virginian quail in the Western Republic. So when is a product of the soil and clings to the pursuit of game (theoretically in the lands that reared him. The land- America

common property) entails owner feels a natural sense of pro- evident intrusion or trespass upon a prietorship in the quail that does not farmer's fields, the most democratic apply to the duck, the woodcock, or the and coarse-natured hunter instinctruffed grouse. The farmer has watched ively comes to a halt outside the gate.

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »