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which they are read, is nearly in an inverse proportion to the facility with which they are composed. It is painful to speak in this tone of censure, but the vast quantities of declamatory poetry which are daily poured upon the public call aloud for some strong measures of prevention ; and we must repeat, that however true it be, that pure sentiments and a high tone of morality are essential parts of poetry, still they cannot be allowed of themselves to stand forth as its representatives.
There is another point, in respect to which Mr. Cunningham has, we think, acted injudiciously. In Lord Byron's poems, whatever be their defects, there are unquestionably passages of that sort of power, which is peculiarly adapted to dazzle the generality of readers. Now, if Mr. Cunningham wished to counteract the poison, which he might think was conveyed in some of these passages, he might have reflected that the execution of his task required considerable delicacy; and that to betray any symptoms of his design, to write verses, which the most careless reader could not but recognize as forming a marked contrast, and challenging comparison with the doctrives and poetry of the noble author, must be extremely injudicious, unless he could be certain of his own superiority. We do not mean to attribute such a confidence to Mr. Cunningham, but we do not the less think that he would have acted wisely in omitting lines like the following, which are as evidently imitated from, as they are levell. ed against, the Giaour of Lord Byron,
“ I'd rather be the wretch who scrawls
Comes, looks, and feels himself undone." P.7. But this is not all; we have said that from the author of the " Velvet Cushion," and the “ World without Souls,” we had anticipated much eloquent and pathetic writing. But Mr. Cune ningham does not seem to move freely in the shackles of metre; and whether from this, or from some other cause, he retains but very little of his « original brightness" in De Rancé; he is declamatory rather than eloquent, strained rather than affecting :
VOL. V. MARCH, 1816.
we see the splashing which an idle boy makes with his stick in a puddle, not the natural roar and impetuosity of the mountain ca. taract. These we know are general charges, and must be sup ported not by the selection of partial passages, but by the tone and tenor of the whole book : yet as some proof of what we as. sert, we will show the manner in which Mr. Cunningham de. scribes the shock which De Rancé sustained from finding his Laura in the arms of death.
“ He comes“O mark his eye ball glarea'
And double darkness reigns." P. 49. He then adds, that what most overpowered De Rancé was his observing « on her dark brow the darker shade of mental agony," of remorse, and indignation against her seducer.
• It might be fancy; but the power
Still, to the inward eye,
Than broad reality.
He did not strike his throbbing breast;
-An idiot laugh proclaimed the rest." P. 52: We wish to know what pathos there is in these extracts There is indeed an abundance of dashes, and abrupt sentences;
but but these are only " the contortions of the Sibyl without her inspiration.” For a further proof of the justice of our censure, we refer our readers to the scene at Laura's funeral, where De Rancé leaps iuto the grave, p. 68 : and as a specimen of feeble though laboured declamation, we would direct their attention to the beginning of the first stanza of the third Canto, where the author ventures upon a picture of the love between a father and daughter, unmindful of the powerful pencils which have represented this subject before him. .
There are many things also which prove Mr. Cunningham's want of familiarity with the more mechanical part of poetry. In the selections already given, the reader will observe the frequent recurrence of imperfect lines, which interrupt the har. mony of the verse, and over which he cannot but stumble in the midst of his career. " Neither do we like such words and phrases as the following: “ man terrene;" “ on that wan cheek where death might blur, but had not power to raze beauty's æthereal character;" “ figments of the brain," and one or two others. There are also, besides the short and abrupt lines already noticed, several which are extremely harsh and unmelodious; and such as the most unpractised ear ought, we think, to have instinctively avoided.
We have performed the painful part of our duty in speaking thus freely of the poem before us. Gladly do we now turn to the task of bestowing praise, and of pointing out to the notice of the reader whatever we deem most excellent. For our own parts we do not envy the temper of those critics, who can delight to expose the errors and weaknesses alone of a respectable poet; we shall proceed therefore to approve and commend with the same sincerity, and with much greater alacrity than we have hitherto censured.
The two last Cantos are decidedly superior to the two first; which makes us the more inclined to believe, that many of the faults of the poem proceed from the author's inexperience in his art, and might be remedied by practice and careful attention. We copy the following as a favourable specimen of the author's style of narrative :
“ Nowgive the march sepulchral way,
Yon aged mourner must not wait;
He must not pass the castle gate:
Save to the triumphs of his name;
* No--down the secret spiral stair
They wind,--and through the shadowy cave,
A sunless, melancholy grave.". P. 61. The friar who performs the funeral solemnity is finely drawn :it may be seen at once that it is the production of a mind well versed in the duties and charities of the priestly office.
" The chaunt begins--that holy friar
Had watched o'er Laura's infant hour,
Had named her once “ his own sweet flower."
Of Hope upon her grave arise,
On which she mounted to the skies.
From the dark register of guilt.” P. 65. There is in this belief little of the “ priestly leaven,” which, as we are told, “debased the creed" of this pious man: in fact it is perhaps more pure than characteristic. What follows is also very good : the friar labours to lift De Rance from the grave into which he had desperately thrown himself.
16 And in that high and generous strain
Burst from its prison, and diffuse
And melts upon its siļver breast." P. 77. We like the hymn which De Rancé hears sung by one of the children in the peasant's cottage: we can only make room how-' ever for the three last stanzas,
“ Oft when the world, with iron hands,
Has bound me in its six days' chain,
And lets my spirit loose again.
The village bells, the shepherd's voice;
And always bid that heart rejoice.
Of broken Sabbaths sing the charms :
Which bears us to a father's arms. P. 96. .
We admire the conclusion beyond any part of the work: the sentiments come home to the heart of the reader; and impart far greater pleasure than could arise from the composition of the most splendid poetry. It is an answer to an imaginary objection, that the author would wish to recommend the superstitious rigour of La Trappe. We must at any rate extract the whole of this animated passage.
• To one sole altar points this hand,