Page images
PDF
EPUB

VOL. 4.]

Remarks on the Poetry of Thomas Moore,

331

manifest so total a blindness to the only as Imogen or Una. The smiles of charm which is deep and enduring—to which he loves to warble, are not those that of which all the rest are but the of the “ Unblenched Majesty” which images and shadows-to that for which Milton worshipped. Their nature is no luxury compensates, and no passion sufficiently betrayed by the company in can atone. I have heard your fair which he places them. Listen to the countrywomen warbling the words of words which he has placed in the mouth Moore ; and from their lips what can of a dying poet--for even death, that appear unclean ? But in the retiremeot awful moment in whose contemplation of the closet, and deprived of the pro- nature and religion teach the purest to tection of their purity, the words were tremble, is represented hy this songster “ weighed in the balance and found as the scene of calm and contented rewanting.” The sinless creatures that miniscences of sensual delights-exutter them cannot understand their actly as if the mighty change were nomeaning. I do not wish to say that thing more than a revolution of corpotheir meaning is any thing positively, real atoms, as if there were no soul to expressly, necessarily bad. It is enough wing an eternal flight from the lips of for my purpose that it is not positively the departed. and necessarily good. The Epicurean - When in death I shall calm recline, tinge is diffused over the whole. The Oh carry my heart to my mistress dear : beautiful garlands which these chaste Tell her it lived upon smiles and wine fingers handle have been gathered in

All the time that it lingered here." the garden of the Sybarites. They In adopting tbe sentiments of ancient should not twist them into their inno- poets concerning women, he has widely cent locks—there is phrenzy in their erred. It is, however, a sad aggravaodours.

tion of his offence, that, among a set of One of the chief distinctions between authors, who are all impure, he has sethe poets of ancient and those of mod. lected, for the models of bis special imern times, consists in the wide difference itation, those in whose productions the which may be observed in their modes coinmon stain is foulest. It is needless of representing the character and influ- to say any thing of Anacreon, or of the ence of the feinale sex; and in no one perverse ingenuity which Mr. Moore point perhaps is the superiority so visi- exhibited in exaguerating the corrupbly on the side of the moderns. Of tion of that which was already abunthose modern poets, nevertheless, who dantly impure-in taking away from have been contented with the praises of the lewd verses of the Teian that simgayety, sprightliness, invention, and plicity of language and figure which spontaneously disavowed every claim formed the only offset to the pollution to the bighest honours of their art, not of their ideas. If one may judge either a few have, from vice or affectation, from the text, or from phe notes even of dared, in scorn of their destiny, to re- Mr. Moore's latest publications, the vive in their strains the discarded impu• chief of his antique favourites are such rity of their predecessors. It will be men as Aristophanes, Catullus, Ovid, understood that I refer not to casual or Martial, Petronius, and Lucian. In superficial impurities merely, but to truth, he is totally unacquainted with those which imply a complete and radi- the true spirit of ancient poetry, and cal pollution of all ideas conceroing the admires and borrows exactly the worst nature of the softer sex-a degradation things about that which he would proof the abstract conception of their cha- fess to study with an intelligent delight. racter, and of the purposes for which The flattering ideas which Mr. Moore they have been created. This corrup- has embraced concerning the measure tion has entered into the composition of of his own powers, are betrayed by the no poetry more deeply and essentially attempt which he has openly made to than into that of Moore. He never for compete with the genius of Lord Bya moment contemplates them but with ron in the choice of some of his scenes the eye of a sensualist. He has no and subjects. But, notwithstanding the capacity to understand such a character absurd eulogies of some of your revien

ers, Mr. Moore's Eastern Poetry has perceive and amend one solitary fault. Dot, I perceive, taken any hold of the When he discovers not the inky spot, English mind; and this should be there is proof abundant that darkness is sufficient to convince that gentleman of around him. his mistake. The radical io feriority of Whatever the measure of bis power Mr. Moore is abundantly visible even may be, that map is unworthy to be a in that respect where, with sorrow do I national poet, whose standard of moral speak it, it might least have been expec- purity and mental elevation falls below ted to appear. Lord Byron has done that of the people to which he would wrong in choosing to represent woman have his inspirations minister. It is the at all times as she exists in those coun- chief part of Mr. Moore's ambition to tries where her character is degraded by be received as the national bard of his the prevalence of polygamy. But he own island ; and I observe, that on a has in some measure atoned for this late occasion, a very numerous and reerror. He has at least made her as spectable body of his countrymen as: noble as she could be in such a situa- sembled to express, in his presence, their tion. He has poured around her every admission of his claims. No one can dignity which she could there be ima- be less ioclined than I am to speak gined to possess, and ascribed to her harshly of an elegant, accomplished, every power and influence whicb she and, in his own person, virtuous man ; could there enjoy: nay, by the prefer- but I must say, that I should be very ence with which he has uniformly re- sorry to think so meanly of Ireland, as presented her as receiving those who to imagine her deserving of no better mingle with their love the chivalry of poetry than Mr. Moore can furnish. Christendom, he has at least insinuated The land which can look upon the what her rights are, and vindicated the principles of bis poetry as worthy of conscious nobility of her nature. Mr. her, cannot herself be worthy of its geMoore has brought into the haram no nius. I trust that the gay spirits of a such reliques of the truth. In his lays, the single city are not permanently to dieSultana of the East betrays no lurking tate the decision of a generous nation ; aspirations after a purer destiny; that the pure-minded matrons and highCælum non animum mutat qui trans mare currit; spirited men of Ireland, will pause ere in Dublin, London, Bermuda, Khoras- they authorize the world to seek the san, Mr. Moore sees nothing in a wo- reflection of their character in the gaudy man but an amiable plaything or a ca- impurities and tinsel Jacobinism of this pricious slave.

deluded poet. The truth is, that I am I have enlarged upon this poet's by no means apprehensive of seeing the manner of representing women, not " Green Isle" debase berself by making because in that point alone he falls be- common cause with Mr. Moore. Below the stand: by which the great fore any man can become the poet of a poets of your country must be contented nation, he must do something very difto be tried, but because it is one on ferent from what has either been accomwhich every reflecting man must at once plished or promised in any of his preagree with me, while, in regard to many ductions. He must identify his owo other points, I could not calculate upon spirit with ibat of his people, by emquite so speedy an acquiescence. But bodying in his verse those habitual and as it is said in the Scripture, that “ he peculiar thoughts which constitute the who breaks one of the commandments essence of their pationality. I myself has offended against them all,” so it have never been in Ireland ; but I may very safely be admitted, that the strongly suspect that Moore has been poet who betrays impurity and degra- silent with respect to every part of her dation of conception in respect to one pationality-except the name. Let us point of moral feeling, can never be truly compare him for a moment with one pure and losty in any other. In every whose position in many circumstances man's system there is some consistency; resembled his, and whose works bave and Mr. Moore is a man of so much certainly obtained that power to which acuteness, that he could not fail soon to bis aspire. Let us compare the poet

Vol. 4.]

Remarks on the Poetry of Thomas Moore.

333

whose songs have been so effectually virgin radiance of the harvest moon. Ja embalmed in the heart of Scotland, with the haunts of the dissolute, the atmoshim who hopes to possess, in that of phere of corruption might seize upon Ireland, a mausoleum no less august. him, and taint his breath with the cold

There are few things more worthy of ness of its derision ; but he returned to being studied, either in their character right thoughts in the contemplation of or in their effects, than the poems of the good, and felt in all its fulness, Robert Burns. This man, born and when he bent his knee by the side of bred a peasant, was taught, like all oth- “ the Father and the Priest," the gener Scotsmen, to read his Bible, and tle majesty of that religion which con. learned by beart in his in fancy, the he- soles the afflicted and elevates the poor. roic ballads of his nation. Amidst the - He is at present, the favourite poet of solitary occupations of his rural labours, a virtuous, a pious, a patriotic people; the soul of the ploughman fed itself and the first symptom of their decay ia with high thouglits of patriotism and virtue, piety, and patriotism, will be religion, and with that happy instinct seen on the instant when Scotsmen shall which is the best prerogative of genius, cease to treasure in their hearts the he divined every thing that was neces. “ Highland Mary,” the " Cotter's Satsary for being the poet of his country, urday Night," and the “ Song of Ban

The men of his nation, high and low, nockburn." are educated men ; meditative in their Mr. Moore has attempted to do for spirit, proud in their recollections, Ireland the same service wbich Buros steady in their patriotism, and devout rendered to Scotland; but although bis in their faith. At the time, however, genius is undoubted, he has failed to do when he appeared, the completion of so. It will be said, that the national their political union with a greater and character of his countrymen did not wealthier kingdom, and the splendid furnish such materials as fell to the share success which had crowned their efforts of his rival, and there is no doubt that in adding to the general literature of so far this is true. The Irish have not Britain-but above all, the chilling na- the same near recollections of heroic actore of the merely speculative philoso- tions, or the same proud and uncontamphy, which they had begun to cultivate, inated feeling of independence as the seemed to threaten a speedy diminution Scots. Their country has been conof their fervent attachment to that which quered, perhaps oppressed, and the was peculiarly their own. This mis- memory of those barbarous times in chievous tendency was stopped by a which they were ruled by native reguli peasant, and the noblest of his land are is long since faded into dimness and the debtors of his genius. He revived insignificance. The men themselves, the spark that was about to be extin- moreover, are deficient, it may be, in guished and taught men to reverence some of those graver points of characwith increasing homage, that enthusiasm ter, which afford the best grappling of which they were beginning to be places for the power of poetry. All ashained. The beauty of many of bis ibis may perhaps be adınitted ; but descriptions, the coarseness of many of surely it will not be contended, but that his images, cannot conceal from our much, both of purpose and instrument, eyes the sincerity with which, at the was still left within the reach of him Lottom of his heart, this man was the that would aspire to be the national worshipper of the pure genius of his poet of the Irish. Their religious feelcountry. The improprieties are super- ings are not indeed of so calm and dig. ficial, the excellence is ever deep. The nified a nature as those of some naman might be guilty in his own person tions, but they are strong, ardent, pasos pernicious trespasses, but his soul sionate, and, in the hands of one worthy came back, like a dove, to repose amidst to deal with them, might furoish abunimages of purity. The chaste and däntly the elements both of the beautilowly affection of the village maiden ful and the sublime. Their character was the only love that appeared worthy is not so consistent as it might be, but it in his eyes, as he wandered beneath the yields to none in the fine attributes of warmth, of generosity, and the whole verse which I could imagine to be imchivalry of the heart. · Were these pressed upon the memory, nor brought things likely to have been left out of the together a single groupe of images calcalculation of a genuine poet of Ire- culated to ennoble the spirit of an Irish land ?-Mr. Moore addresses nothiog peasant. to his countrymen that should make Were the Irish to acknowledge in them listen to him long. He seems to this map, their Buros or Camoens, they have no part oor lot with them in the would convince Europe, that they are things which most honourably and entirely deficient in every thing that most effectually distinguish them from renders men worthy of the name of a others. He writes for the dissipated nation. The “ Exile of Eriu," and fashionables of Dublin, and is himself the “ O'Connor's Child" of Campbell, the idol in the saloons of absentees; are worth more to Ireland than all the .but he has never composed a single poetry of Moore. *

From the New Monthly Magazine, November 1818.

MELANCHOLY. * The joy of grief."-Ossian. . Should ne'er seduce his bosom to forego THAT the mind of man should de

Those sacred hours, when stealing from the noise

* Of care and envy, sweet remembrance soothes, 1 rive gratification from the excite- With virtue's kindest looks, his aching breast, ment of those sensations which are in And turns his tears to rapture ! themselves painful, is a paradox too

Akerside. mysterious to be solved; but, that the “ Melancholy,” observes Steele, “ is seeds of delight are not unfrequently the true and proper delight of inen of implanted by the hand of sorrow, is an knowledge and virtue. The pleasures observation more generally allowed than of ordinary beings are in their passions, accounted for. Fontenelle says, “ that but the seat of this delight is in the onthough pleasure and pain are sentiments derstanding.” There is much truth in so entirely different in themselves, yet this remark. The indulgence of melthey do not differ materially in their ancholy tends frequently to strengthen cause ; as it appears that the movement and ameliorate the heart. It extinof pleasure pushed too far becomes guishes the passions of envy and ill-will, paio, and the movement of pain a little corrects the pride of prosperity, and inoderated becomes pleasure.” Diffi- beats down that fierceness and iosolence culties certainly increase passions of which is apt to get into the minds of the every kind, and by rousing our atten- daring and fortunate. Few individuals tion, and exciting our active powers, are so gross and uncultivated, as to be produce an emotion wbich nourishes incapable, at certain moments, and the prevailing affection. Nothing en- amid certain combinations of ideas, of dears a friend so much as sorrow for feeling that sublime influence on the his death : the pleasure of his society spirits—that soft and tender abstraction has not so powerful an influence ; and from the cares aud vexations of the whilst we look back with keen regret world, which steals upon the soul, on scenes of happiness, dissipated by “And fits it to hold converse with the Gods." unforeseen misfortune, and not by our Such a frame of mind raises and enowo unworthiness, our woes are quali- courages that sweet and lofty enthusiasm fied by that mysterious and indescriba- which warms the imagination at the ble feeling which Ossian bas so expres- sight of the glorious and stupendous sively denominated the “joy of grief.”

works of our Creator: it leads us Ask the faithful youth,

To sit on rocks, to muse o'er flood and fell, Why the cold urn of her whom long be loved

To slowly trace the forest's shady scene, So often fills his arıns, so often draws

Where things that own not man's dominion, dwell, His lonely footsteps, silent and unseen,

And mortal feet have de'er or rarely been, To pay the niournful tribute of his tears.

To climb the trackless mountain all unsees Oh ! he will tell you that the wealth of worlds

With the wild flock that never needs a fold;

VOL. 4.]

On Melancholy.

335

Alone o'er steeps and foaming falls to lean; There held in holy passion, still

to hold

Forget thyself to marble, till, Converse with nature's God, and see his stores With a sad leaden downward cast, unrolled.

Thou fix them on the earth at last.
Byron.

Il Penseroso. There are two kinds of melancholy, There appears to be something emwhich may be thus distinguished :- blematical in these lines— First, that of the swain-of the mind Hail thou goddess sage and holy, which contemplates nature but in the

Hail divinest Melancholy,

Whose saintly visage is too bright grove or the cottage ; secondly, that of

To hit the sense of human sight, the scholar and the philosopher ; of the And therefore to our weaker view intellect which has ranged through the

O'erlaid with black, staid wisdom's hue.

Il Penseroso. mazes of science, and which has formed its decisions upon vanity and happiness,

Contemplative melancholy is again from frequent intercourse with man,

alluded to in Comusand upon extensive knowledge and ex Musing Melancholy most affects perience. The melancholy of the swain

The pensive secresy of desert cells,

Far from the cheerful haunts of men and herds, is finely depicted in the following beautiful song from Beaumont and Fletch

Some lines, prefixed to Burton's er's “ Nice Valour, or the Passionate “ Anatomie of Melancholy," seem also Madman.”—

to have afforded Milton many hints for

his Il Penseroso
Hence all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights

When I go musing all alone,
Wherein you spend your folly ;

Thinking of divers things foreknown;
There's nought in life so sweet,

When I build castles in the air,
If wise men were to see it,

Void of sorrow, void of care,
But only Melancholy,

Pleasing myself with phantasms sweet,
O sweetest Melancholy !

Methinks the time runs very fleet;
Welcome crossed arms and fixed eyes,

All my joys to this are folly,
A sigh that piercing mortifies,

Nought so sweet as Melancholy !
A look that's fastened to the ground,

When to myself I act and smile,
A tongue chained up without a sound !

With pleasing thoughts the time beguile,
Fountain heads and pathless groves,

By a brook side, or wood so green,

Unheard, unsought for, and unseen,
Places which pale passion loves,

Methinks I hear, methinks I see
Moonlight walks, when all the fowls
Are warmly housed, save bats and owls,

Sweet music, wondrous melody,
A midnight bell--a parting groan,

Towns, palaces, and cities fine,
These are the thoughts we feed upon ;

Rare beauties, gallant ladies shine;

All other joys to this are folly,
Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley ;

Nought so sweet as Melancholy!
Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely Melancholy!

Burton's Prefatory Verses.
Of this song the construction is par-

Melancholy has elicited the praises ticularly to be admired. It is divided

also of many of our more modern aus into three parts. The first part displays

thors; and as juxtaposition forms an moral melancholy : the second the per

elegant entertainmeni to the lovers of son or figure : and the third the cir

" poetry, I shall conclude this article by cumstances which create the feeling.,

s'the adduction of such passages frona Contemplative melancholy--that of the scholar and the philosopher, bas

our later poets, as may appear to illus

trate my observations.* been finely personified by Milton in the following verses :

- There is a mood,

I sing not to the vacant or the young,
Come, pensive nun, devout and pure,

There is a kindly mood of Melancholy,
Sober, stedfast and demure,

That wings the soul and points it to the skies.
All in a robe of darkest grain,

Dyer's Fleece.
Flowing with majestic train,

Few know the elegance of soul refined,
And sable stole of cypress iawn,

Whose short sensation feels a quicker joy
Over thy decent shoulders drawn;

From Melancholy's scenes, that the dull pride
Come, but keep thy wonted state,

of tasteless splendor and magnificence
With even step and musing gait,

Can e'er afford.
And looks commercing with the skies,

Warton's Pleasures of Melancholy.
Thy rapt soul sitting in thine eyes :

As the greater part of these quotations are from •« With a sad leaden downward cast. - Milton. memory, my readers will probably exeuse Ady * With leaden eve that loves the ground."-Gray trifling inaccuracy.

« PreviousContinue »