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The stanzas addressed to John Kemble I have never heard admired to the fulness of my feeling. Can any thing be finer than this?
“A majesty possessed His transport's most impetuous tone;
And to each passion of his breast
The graces gave their zone.” or,
"Who forgets that white discrowned head,
Those bursts of reason's half-extinguished glare,
If ’twas reality he felt ?"
“Fair as some classic dome,
Robust and richly graced,
Of genius and of taste.-
That, when supernal light is given,
And tell its height in Heaven.
His mind surveyed the tragic page;
The scholar could presage.” These stanzas are in Campbell's best style. Had he possessed as much lyric flow as force, his odes might have vied with those of Collins. But, though soaring upward on a strong pinion, his flights are never prolonged, and in this province, which earnestness and justness of sentiment, simplicity of imagery, and a picturesque turn in expression, seem to have marked out as his own, he is šurpassed by Shelley, Coleridge, and Wordsworth, from their greater power of continuous self-impulse.
I do not know where to class Campbell as a poet. What he has done seems to be by snatches, and his poems might have been published under the title of “ Leisure Hours, or Recreations of a Great Man.” They seem like fragments, not very heedfully stricken off from the bed of a rich quarry; for, with all their individual finish, there is no trace of a fixed purpose to be discerned in them. They appear to be merely occasional esfusions, like natural popular poetry ; but, as they are written by an accomplished man in these modern days of design and system, we are prompted to look for an aim, a prevading purpose. We shall not find it. Campbell has given us much delight; if he has not directly stimulated our thoughts, he has done so much to refine 'ur tastes, that we must respectfully tender the poetic garlan.
And thou, ANACREON Moore, sweet warbler of Erin! What an ecstasy of sensation must thy poetic life have been! Certainly the dancing of the blood never before inspired so many verses. Moore's poetry is to literature, what the compositions of Rossini are to music. It is the hey-day of animal existence, embellished by a brilliant fancy, and ardent though superficial affections. The giddy flush of youthful impulse empurples the most pensive strains of his patriotism, throbs in his most delicate touches of pathos, and is felt as much in Tara's Halls as in the description of the Harem. His muse is light of step and free of air, yet not vulgarly free; she is not a little excited, but it is with quaffing the purest and most sparkling champagne. There is no temperance, no chastened harmony in her grief or in her joy. His melodies are metrically perfect; they absolutely set themselves to music, and talk of spring, and the most voluptuous breath of the blossom-laden western breeze, and the wildest notes of the just returning birds. For his poetic embodying of a particular stage of human existence, and his scintillating wit, will Moore chiefly be remembered. He has been boon-companion and toast-master
to the youth of his day. This could not last. When he ceased to be young, and to warble his own verses, their fascination in a great measure disappeared. Many are now not more attractive than dead flowers in a close room. Anacreon cannot really charm when his hair is gray; there is a time for all things, and the gayest youth loves not the Epicurean old man. Yet he, too, is a poet; and his works will not be suffered to go out of print, though they are, even now, little read. Of course his reputation as a prose writer is another matter, and apart from our present purpose.
The poetry of WALTER Scott has been superseded by his prose, yet it fills no unimportant niche in the literary history of the last half century, and may be read, at least once in life, with great pleasure. “Marmion,” “ The Lay of the Last Minstrel,” &c., cannot, indeed, be companions of those Sabbath hours of which the weariest, dreariest life need not be destitute, for their bearing is not upon the true life of man, his immorial life. Cole. ridge felt this so deeply, that in a lately published work (Letters, Conversations, &c., of S. T. Coleridge) he is recorded to have said, “not twenty lines of Scott's poetry will ever reach posterity ; it has relation to nothing.” This is altogether too harsh, and proves that the philosopher is subject to narrowness and partial views, from his peculiar mode of looking at an object, equally with the mere man of taste. These poems are chiefly remarkable for presenting pictures of particular epochs, and, considered in that light, truly admirable. Much poetry has come down to us, thus far, whose interest is almost exclusively of the same nature ; in which, at least, moral conflict does not constitute the prominent interest.
To one who has read Scott's novels first, and looks in his poems for the same dramatic interest, the rich humor, the tragic force, the highly wrought yet flowing dialogue, and the countless minutiæ in the finish of character, they must bring disappointment. For their excellence consists in graphic descriptions of architecture and natural scenery, a happy choice of subject, and effective grouping of slightly sketched characters, combined with steady march and great simplicity of narrative. Here and there sentiments are introduced, always just and gracefully worded, but without that delicacy of shading, fine and harmonious as Nature's workmanship in the rose-leaf, which delights us in his prose works. It is, indeed, astonishing that he should lose so much by a constraint so lightly worn; for his facility of versification is wonderful, his numbers seem almost to have coined themselves, and you cannot detect any thing like searching for a word to tag a verse withal. Yet certain it is, we receive no adequate idea of the exuberance and versatility of his genius, or his great knowledge of the human heart, from his poetry. His lore is there as profusely displayed, his good sense and tact as admirable, as in his prose works; and, if only on account of their fidelity of description, these poems are invaluable, and must always hold a place in English literature. They are interesting too, as giving a more complete idea of the character and habits of one of our greatest and best men, than his remarkable modesty would permit the public to obtain more directly. His modes of life, his personal feelings, are no where so detailed, as in the epistles perfixed to the cantos of Marmion. These bring us close to his side, and leading us with him through the rural and romantic scenes he loved, talk with us by the way of all the rich associations of which he was master. His dogs are with him ; he surveys these dumb friends with the eye of a sportsman and a philosopher, and omits nothing in the description of them which could interest either. An old castle frowns upon the road; he bids its story live before you with all the animation of a drama and the fidelity of a chronicle. Are topics of the day introduced ? He states his opinions with firmness and composure, expresses his admiration with energy, and, where he dissents from those he addresses, does so with unaffected candor and cordial benignity. Good and great man ! More and more imposing as nearer seen ; thou art like that product of a superhuman intellect, that stately temple, which rears its head in the clouds, yet must be studied through and through, for months and years, to be appreciated in all its grandeur.
Nothing surprises me more in Scott's poetry, than that a per. son of so strong imagination should see every thing so in detail as he does. Nothing interferes with his faculty of observation. No minor part is sacrificed to give effect to the whole ; no peculiar light cast on the picture: you only see through a wonderfully far-seeing and accurately observing pair of eyes, and all this when he has so decided a taste for the picturesque. Take, as a specimen, the opening description in Marmion.
“ Day set on Norham's castled steep,
And Cheviot's mountains lone;
In yellow lustre shone;-
Seemed forms of giant height;
In lines of dazzling light.
Less bright, and less, was flung;
So heavily it hung.