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little things of life. Thus, in conduct or writing, they tend to weary us by a morbid sentimentalism. From this fault Miss Barrett is wholly free. Personal feeling is in its place ; enlightened by Reason, ennobled by Imagination. The earth is no despised resting place for the feet, the heaven bends wide above, rich in starry hopes, and the air flows around exhilarating and free.
The mournful, albeit we must own them tuneful, sisters of the lyre might hush many of their strains at this clear note from one who has felt and conquered the same difficulties.
A dulcimer of patience in his hand:
Whence harmonies we cannot understand
Fall on us while we hear and countermand
Our sanguine heart back from the fancy land,
We murmur—'Where is any certain tune,
Are not so minded; their fine ear hath won
And smiling down the stars, they whisper-SWEET.”
Te are accustomed now to much verse on moral subjects, such as follows the lead of Wordsworth and seeks to arrange moral convictions as melodies on the harp. But these tones are never deep, unless the experience of the poet, in the realms of intellect and emotion, be commensurate with his apprehension of truth. Wordsworth moves us when he writes an “Ode to Duty,"
Dion,” because he could also write “Ruth," and the exquisitely tender poems on Matthew, in whom nature
"for a favorite child Had tempered so the clay,
That every hour the heart ran wild,
Yet never went astray.”
The trumpet call of Luther's • Judgment Hymni' sounds from the depths of a nature capable of all human emotions, or it could not make the human ear vibrate as it does. The calm convictions expressed by Miss Barrett in the sonnets come with poetic force, because she was also capable of writing The Lost Bower,' • The Romaunt of the Page,' • Loved Once,' • Bertha in the Lane,' and ' A Lay of the Early Rose.' These we select as the finest of the tender poems.
In the · Drama of Exile' and the · Vision of Poets,' where she aims at a Miltonic flight or Dantesque grasp—not in any spirit of rivalry or imitation, but because she is really possessed of a similar mental scope—her success is far below what we find in the poems of feeling and experience; for she has the vision of a great poet, but little in proportion of his plastic power. She is at home in the Universe ; she sees its laws; she sympathises with its motions. She has the imagination all compact—the healthy archetypal plant from which all forms may be divined, and, so far as now existent, understood. Like Milton, she the angelic hosts in real presence; like Dante, she hears the spheral concords and shares the planetary motions. But she cannot, like Milton, marshal the angels so near the earth as to impart the presence other than by sympathy. He who is near her level of mind may, through the magnetic sympathy, see the angels with her. Others will feel only the grandeur and sweetness she expresses in these forms. Still less can she, like Dante, give, by a touch, the key which enables ourselves to play on the same instrument. She is singularly deficient in the power of compression. There are always far more words and verses than are needed to convey the meaning, and it is a great proof of her strength, that the thought still seems strong, when arrayed in a form so Briarean clumsy and many-handed.
We compare her with those great poets, though we have read her preface and see how sincerely she deprecates any such comparison, not merely because her theme is the same as theirs, but because, as we must again repeat, her field of vision and nobleness of conception are such, that we cannot forbear trying her by the same high standard to see what she lacks.
Of the “ Drama of Exile” and other poems of the same character, we may say that we shall never read them again, but we are very glad to have read them once, to see how the grand mysteries look to her, to share with her the conception and outline of what would, in the hands of a more powerful artist, have come forth a great poem. Our favorite, above anything we have read of hers, is the “ Rhyme of the Duchess May,” equally admirable in thought and execution, in poetic meaning and romantic grace.
Were there room here, it should be inserted, as a sufficient evidence of the writer's high claims; but it is too long, and does not well bear being broken. The touches throughout are fine and forcible, but they need the unison of the whole to give them their due effect.
Most of these poems have great originality in the thought and the motive powers. It is these, we suppose, that have made “ The Brown Rosarie” so popular. It has long been handed about in manuscript, and hours have been spent in copying it, which would have been spared if the publication of these volumes in America had been expected so soon. It does not please us so well as many of the others. The following, for instance, is just as original, full of grace, and, almost, perfectly simple :
THE ROMANCE OF THE SWAN'S NEST..
How sweetly natural! and how distinct is the picture of the
* Several poems mentioned in these articles, and published in the first instance, are omitted now on account of their length.
little girl, as she sits by the brook. The poem cannot fail to charm all who have treasured the precious memories of their own childhood, and remember how romance was there interwoven with reality.
Miss Barrett makes many most fair and distinct pictures, such. as this of the Duchess May at the fatal moment when her lord's fortress was giving way :
Low she dropt her head and lower, till her hair coiled on the floor.
Which you might be listening for.
May find grace with Leigh of Leigh.”
Right against the thunder-place,
No, nor how their lords may ride.
Here are descriptions as fine of another sort of person from
LADY GERALDINE'S COURTSHIP.
Her foot upon the new-mow'n grass-bareheaded—with the flowing
For her eyes alone smiled constantly. her lips had serious sweetness,
How fine are both the descriptive and critical touches in the .following passage:
Ay, and sometimes on the hill-side, while we sat down in the gowans,
There, obedient to her praying, did I read aloud the poems
Or at times a modern volume-Wordsworth's solemn-thoughted idyl,
Or I read there, sometimes, hoarsely, some new poem of my making -
Oh, to see or hear her singing! scarce I know which is divinest-
Then we talked-oh, how we talked! her voice so cadenced in the talking,
,-as skies about the stars.