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Minstrel is charming, and most of the descriptions are very agreeable. The poem is written in metrical stanzas, like the old Scotch ballads, * a circumstance which adds to its singularity. It is true that the author, like all foreigners, is sometimes too diffuse, and sometimes deficient in taste. Dr. Beattie likes to enlarge on common maxims of morality, without possessing the art of giving them a new appearance. In general, men of brilliant imagination and tender feelings are not sufficiently profound in their thoughts, or forcible in their reasoning. Ardent passions or great genius are necessary towards the con céption of great ideas. There is a certain calmness of heart and gentleness of nature, whicli-seem to exceed the sublime.
A work like the Minstrel can hardly be analyzed; but I will extract a few stanzas from the first book of this pleasing production. I would rather employ myself in displaying the beauties of an author than in nicely investi. gating his faults. I would rather extol a writer than de base him in the reader's eyes. Moreover, instruction is. better conveyed by admiration than censúre ; for the one reveals the presence of genius, while the other confines itself to a discovery of blemishes which all eyes could have perceived. It is in the beautiful arrangements of Heaven that the Divinity is perceived, and not by a few irregularities of nature.
« Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
The steep, where Fame's proud temple shines afar ;
Ah ! who can tell how many a soul sublime
Has felt the influence of malignant star,
And wag'd with Fortune an eternal war;
Check'd by the scoff of Pride, by Envy's frown,
And Poverty's unconquerable bar;
In life's low vale remote has pin'd alone,
Then dropt into the grave, unpitied and unknown?
And yet the langour of inglorious days
Not equally oppressive is to all :
Him, who ne'er listen’d to the voice of praise,
The silence of neglect can ne'er appal.
There are, who, deaf to mad Ambition's call,
Would shrink to hear the obstreperous trump of Fame :
Supremely blest, if to their portion fall
Health, competence, and peace. Nor higher aim
Had he, whose simple tale these artless lines proclaim.
This sapient age disclaims all classic lore;
Else I should here, in cunning phrase display
How forth THE MINSTREL fared in days of yore,
Right glad of heart, though homely in array:
His waving locks and beard all hoary grey :
And from his bended shoulder decent hung
His harp, the sole companion of his way,
Which to the whistling wind responsive rung;
And ever as he went some merry lay he sung.
Fret not thyself, thou glittering child of Pride,
That a poor Villager inspires my strain;
With thee let Pageantry and Power abide:
The gentle muses haunt the sylvan reign ;
Where through wild groves at eve the lonely swain
Enraptur'd roams, to gaze on nature's charms.
They hate the sensual, and scorn the vain;
The parasite their influence never warms,
Nor him whose sordid soul the love of gold alarms.
Though richest hues the peacock's plumes adorn,
Yet horror screams from his discordant throat.
Rise sons of harmony and hail the morn,
While warbling larks on russet pinions float:
Or seek at noon the woodland scene remote,
Where the grey linnets carol from the hill.
V let them ne'er with artificial note,
To please a tyrant strain their little bill,
But sing what Heaven inspires, and wander where they will!
Liberal, not lavish, is kind Nature's hand;
Nor was perfection made for man below.
Yet all her schemes with nicest art are plann’d,
Good counteracting ill, and gladness woe.
With gold and gems if Chilian mountains glow;
If bleak and barren Scotia's hills arise ;
There plague and poisor., lust and rapine grow:
Here peaceful are the vales, and pure the skies,
And freedom fires the soul, and sparkles in the eyes."
To this extract I will add a few more stanzas towards the end of the first book:
« Oft when the winter storm had ceas'd to rave,
He roam'd the snowy waste at even, to view
The cloud stupendous, from th’ Atlantic wave
High-tow'ring, sail along the horizon blue:
Where, inidst the changeful scenery, ever new,
Fancy a thousand wond'rous forms descries,
More wildly great than ever pencil drew,
Rocks, torrents, gulfs, and shapes of giant size,
And glitt'ring cliffs on cliffs, and fiery ram parts rise,
Thence musing onward to the sounding shore,
The lone enthusiast oft would take his way.
List'ning, with pleasing dread, to the deep roar
of the wide-welt'ring waves. In black array
When sulphurous clouds rolld on the autumnal day,
Even then he hasten'd from the haunt of man,
Along the trembling wilderness to stray,
What time the lightning's fierce career began,
And o'er heaven's rending arch the rattling thunder ran.
Responsive to the sprightly pipe, when all
In sprightly dance the village youth were join'd,
Edwin, of melody aye held in thrall,
From the rude gambol far remote reclin'd,
Sooth'd with the soft notes warbling in the wind.
Ah then, all jollity seem'd noise and fally,
To the pure soul by Fancy's fire refin'd,
Ah what is mirth but turbulence unholy,
When with the charms comparid of heavenly melancholy!
Is there a heart that music cannot melt?
Alas! how is that rugged heart forlorn!
Is there, who ne'er those mystic transports felt
Of solitude and melancholy born?
He needs not woo the Muse; he is her scorn.
The sophist's rope of cobwebs he shall twine;
Mope o'er the schoolman's peegish page; or mourn,
And delve for life in Mammon's dirty mine;
Sneak with the scoundrel fox, or grunt with glutton swine.
For Edwin, Fate a nobler doom had plann'd;
Song was his favourite and first pursuit.
The wild harp wrang to his advent'rous hand,
And languish'd to his breath the plaintive flute.
His infant muse, though artless, was not mute :
Of elegance, as yet he took no care ;
For this of time and culture is the fruit;
And Edwin gain'd at last this fruit so rare;
As in some future verse I purpose to declare."
It will be seen from the last stanza that Beattie intended to continue this poem, and he did in fact write a second canto sometime afterwards, but it is very inferior to the first. Edwin having attained manhood, takes walks of wider circuit” than before.
“One evening, as he fram'd the careless rhyme,
It was his chance to wander far abroad,
And o'er a lonely eminence to climb,
Which heretofore his foot had never trod;
A vale appear'd below, a deep retired abode.
Thither he hied, enamour'd of the scene,
For rocks on rocks pil'd, as by magic spell,
Here scorch'd with lightning, there with ivy green,
Fenc'd from the north and east this savage dell.
Southward a mountain rose with easy
Whose long long groves eternal murmur made ;
And tow'rd the western sun a streamlet fell,
Where, through the cliffs, the eye, remote, survey'd,
Blue hills, and glitt'ring waves, and skies in gold array'd.
Along this narrow valley you might see
The wild deer sporting on the meadow ground,
And, here and there, a solitary tree,
Or mossy stone, or rock with woodbine crown'd.
Oft did the cliffs reverberate the sound
Of parted fragments tumbling from on high ;
And from the summit of that craggy mound
The perching eagle oft was heard to cry,
Or on resounding wings to shoot athwart the sky.
One cultivated spot there was, that spread
Its flow'ry bosomn to the noon-day beam,
Where many a rose-bud rears its blushing head,
And herbs for food with future plenty teem.
Sooth'd by the lulling sound of grove and stream,
Romantic visions, swarm on Edwin's soul :
He minded not the sun's last trembling gleam,
Nor heard from far the twilight curfew toll ;
When slowly on his ear these moving accents stole."
It is the voice of an aged hermit, who, after having known the illusions of the world, has buried himself in this retreat, for the purpose of indulging in meditation, and singing the praises of his Creator. This venerable old man instructs the young troubadour, and reveals to him the secret of his own genius. It is evident that this was a most happy idea, but the execution has not an. : swered the first design of the author. The hermit speaks too long, and makes very trite observations with regard to the grandeur and misery of human life. Some pas.