Abbildungen der Seite

with a savage pencil, hardening the outlines of eyes and eyebrows, and lending an unnatural fire to the stern, grave looks with which they pierce your brain. Endure their fiery eyes as best you may, and ride on slowly and reverently, for, facing you from the side of the transom that looks longwise through the street, you see one glorious shape, transcendent in its beauty; you see the massive braid of hair as it catches a touch of light on its jetty surface, and the broad, calm, angry brow; the large eyes deeply set and self-relying, as the eyes of a conqueror, with all the rich shadows of thought lying darkly around them ; you see the thin, fiery nostril, and the bold line of the chin and throat, disclosing all the fierceness and all the pride, passion, and power that can live along with the rare womanly beauty of those sweetly turned lips. But then, there is a terrible stillness in this breathing image; it seems like the stillness of a savage that sits intent and brooding day by day upon some fearful scheme of vengeance; and yet more like it seems the stillness of an immortal, whose will must be known and obeyed without sign or speech. Bow down bow down, and adore the young Persephone, transcendent Queen of Shades.

On his way to Jerusalem and the Holy Land

Kinglake visited “on the grassy slopes of Leb

anon,” the eccentric Lady Hester Stanhope, sister of William Pitt, who after the death of the great statesman made her home there until her death, a period of thirty years. The chapter describing her manner of life and her conversation is remarkably interesting. He crossed the plains of Esdraelon and entered among the hills of Galilee, and there in the great Catholic church is the sanctuary—the dwelling of the Blessed Virgin. Whether it be the true sanctuary or not the scene is necessarily impressive, and in its description we have one of the most poetic chapters in the book. From Nazareth, under the guidance of a young Nazarene, he took the road to the Sea of Galilee. I passed by Cana and the house of the marriage feast prolonged by miraculous wine. I came to the field in which our Saviour had rebuked the Scotch Sabbath-keepers of that period by suffering his disciples to pluck corn on the Lord's day. I rode over the ground where the fainting multitude had been fed, and they showed me some massive fragments—the

relics, they said, of that wondrous banquet now turned into stone. The petrification was most complete.

He describes the Sea of Galilee, the river Jordan, and bathes in the Dead Sea. The country around is inhabited by the Arabs, not always the most comfortable of neighbors, but the most From Jerusalem and from Palestine the travels are continued across the desert to Cairo, to the Pyramids, to the Sphinx, and to Suez. Thence to Damascus and back again to the Mediterranean shores. Everywhere the traveler leads there is vast abundance of entertainment served in the happiest and most felicitous style. It is the poetry of travel.

courteous of hosts.

[merged small][ocr errors]

THE republication of Mrs. Browning’s “Aurora Leigh,” with an introduction by Mr. Swinburne, in which he says there is not “a dull line” in the whole poem, has stirred up quite a controversy in certain literary quarters, not only over the accuracy of Mr. Swinburne's statement, but as to the merits of the poem itself. No one can deny that it abounds in many beautiful and noble passages; but when it comes to asserting that a long novel in blank verse contains no dull lines it is asking something too much.

Mrs. Browning does not appear at her best in her long poems, their blemishes being more fatiguing than their beauties are inspiring. “Aurora Leigh’’ is pedantic, its meter sometimes halting, and while as a story it will hold the reader's

attention throughout, so it would had it been written in prose. The theme is “sociological,” and chiefly concerns three women and one man. But the moral, or whatever it may be called, of the story is utterly unnatural and impossible. Mrs. Browning came but little in contact with the world of actuality because of long years of delicate health, and she knew men and women only in imagination or from books. The characters, therefore, she portrayed are not lifelike or real. For this reason her longer poems, and “Aurora Leigh’’ particularly, will scarcely survive the generation for which they were written. But her short poems will cause her to be long remembered as England's chief poetess. Like all writers who have written much she is unequal and sometimes weak and faulty, but her best work is exquisitely beautiful. Her life was sad in many of its outward aspects, and she endured much physical suffering, so that it is not strange she should have dwelt more in the house of mourning than in the house of mirth. A vein of sadness runs through the greater part of her poetry, but it is a sadness tempered by exquisite sweetness. One of her best-known poems, “Cowper's Grave,” illustrates these characteristics, and few can read it without tears. The second stanza

runs :

« ZurückWeiter »