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The peace that floated
Love had he found in huts, where poor men lie,
Wordsworth's Song at the feast of Brougham Castle.
Sonnet 8, line 9.
Popular fancy has generally conceived a connection between the Foxglove and the good people. In Ireland, where it is called Lusmore (the great herb) and also Fairy-cap, the bending of its tall stalks is believed to denote the unseen presence of supernatural beings. The Shefro, or gregarious Fairy, is represented as wearing the corolla of the Fox-glove on his head, and no unbecoming head-dress either. See Crofton Croker's “ Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland," a book to the author of which, unknown as he is to me, I gladly seize this opportunity of returning thanks for huge delight and considerable accession of fairy lore. Crofton Croker is evidently a man of genius and poetical feeling. Is it not to be wished that he had given more free way to the poetry of his nature? He seems almost afraid lest some one should suspect him of fearing and believing in the good people himself, and consequently tells his stories as if he did not believe them, which makes them appear more like great big Irish lies than the genuine educts of superstition. Now this may be proper enough in such tales as Daniel O'Rourke's Voyage to the Moon, Ned Sheehy's Excuse, and some others; but still superstition is one thing, and lying another, and though the superstitions are often mendacious, or rather destitute of any standard of truth within their minds, and when hard pushed will consciously and conscientiously forge to keep up the credit of their creed, (countless are the falsehoods that have been told as well as believed, for conscience sake,) yet really superstitious persons do not, Falstaff-like, set about of malice propense to raise a laugh by the enormity of their inventions. Many thanks to Crofton for his three delectable little volumes; but I do suspect, that from injudicious emulation of Tam-o-Shanter, he sometimes “mars a curious tale in telling it.” It is his manifest endeavour to be as Irish as possible, but are his Irishmen always genuine Milesians? Are they not too much like the Kilmallocks, and Mactwolters, and Brulgrudderies ? all excellent fellows in their way, but not fit company for Fairies. A certain dash of the ludicrous is not amiss in a terrible story, because fear is a ridiculous passion, whether its object be man or goblin; but it should be naiveté, or unconscious humour, not irony or sarcasm, far less the slang knowingness of a hoaxer.
Of all the imaginations of Erin, the Banshee is the most affecting, and the best authenticated. There are some narratives of this apparition attested by startling evidence. But perhaps the most beautiful fancy is the Thierna-na-Oge, or land of youth, a region of perpetual spring beneath the waters, where there is no decay, no change, no time, but all remains as at the moment of submersion. To this Moore alludes in those lines :
On Lough Neagh's bank, as the fisherman strays,
When the clear, cold eve's declining,
In the wave beneath him shining.
Sonnet 15, last lines.
Thou worshippest at the Temple's inner shrine,
Sonnet 16, line 5.
The Chinese, or monthly rose, so frequently seen clustering round the cottage-porch, both in the remotest vales and in the immediate outskirts of busy, smoky towns, is almost destitute of scent. The manner in which this cheerful foreigner perseveres in the habits of a warmer climate, through all vicissitudes of ours, is a remarkable instance of vegetable nationality.
Sonnet 18, line 5.
In the “Bride's Tragedy,” by Thomas Beddoes, of Pembroke College, Oxon, occurs a hypothetical simile which some prose-witted dunce of a reviewer thought proper to assail with great animosity. Something, I forget what, is
Like flower's voices—if they could but speak. Whoever feels the beauty of that line, has a soul for poetry.
Sonnet 19, line 7.
Thou know'st, the first time that we smell the air
Shakspeare: King Lear, Act 4. The thought, which is obvious enough indeed, occurs in an older writer than Shakspeare, and might probably be traced to some of the fathers, or to Seneca. Robert Greene reproaches Shakspeare with reading Seneca done into English.
Sonnet 19, line 10.
Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own.
And no unworthy aim,
The homely nurse doth all she can
Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
Shakspeare : Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2. Imitators and alterers do not often improve upon Shakspeare, but when they do, it is but fair to give them credit for it. Dryden, in his “ All for Love,” has omitted all the philosophy, and two thirds of the poetry of Shakspeare's play, but he has certainly made a much more compact and consecutive drama; and by putting the description of Cleopatra's “grand aquatic procession” into the mouth of Antony himself, has made it a natural and dramatic portion of the play; whereas, in Shakspeare, it has too much the air of a quotation from an epic or descriptive poem. Neither Shakspeare nor Dryden have done much more than versify Plutarch's, or rather Dr. Philemon Holland's prose, and they were wise in not hunting after useless originality : but Shakspeare has added some exquisitely poetical touches.
At the helm
Her people out upon her; and Antony,
And left a gap in nature. If Antony owed to the Egyptian Queen the loss of his empire and life, he is indebted to her for a less hateful renown than would have clung to his name had she never “pursed up his heart on the river of Cydnus.” The murderer of Cicero is merged in the lover of Cleo. patra.
Sonnet 20, line 10.
The phrase occurs in a hymn of the Saxon poet Cædmon, and seems to imply, not the supposed centrality of the earth in the firmament, but the intermediate condition between the poles of good and evil. I have here adapted it to signify, that on earth we only contemplate objects in transitu, being unable to trace any process to its origin or its termination.
Sonnet 31, line 11.
This ineradicable taint of sin.
Childe Harold: Canto IV., 126.
In this and other translations from the Italian, I have not succeeded in preserving the simple purity of the original diction so completely as I could have wished. Italian words are so beautiful, that they are when “unadorned, adorned the most.” English, with all its excellen