Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

а

seventeenth century, no less than age. Europe had not yet emancifrom the pages of classic lore. pated itself from the mythopæic With what a sweep he takes us age, and travellers' tales gave poets the sweep of an

exuberant gorgeous colouring for their wordfancy replenished with all the El pictures. Indeed the reality of Dorados of ancient or modern the new discoveries was sufficient times :

to inspire them. It may be noted

in Milton's description how promNot higher that hill, nor wider looking round,

inent a part the “dark continent” Whereon, for different cause, the temp- of Africa takes. Then, as always, ter set

vague, shadowy, and mysterious; Our second Adam, in the wilderness, great cities, great empires thrown To show him all earth's kingdoms, and broadcast on the map with a lavish their glory

hand ! The empire of Negus ! His eye might there command wher

What elements of ruthless power ever stood City of old or modern fame, the seat

wielded by a dusky potentate does Of mightiest empire, from the destined it not call up? And the range of walls

the seer's eye from Niger flood to Of Cambalu, seat Cathaian Cham, Atlas Mount! What a magnifiAnd Samarcand by Oxus, Temir's cent picture of space! There was throne,

the desert truly! But what might To Paquin, of Sinæan kings; and

there not be in those dim latitudes thence

and longitudes far beyond the To Agra, and Lahor, of Great Mogul, Down to the Golden Chersonese; or tract of burning Saharas? The where

romance of geographical discovery The Persian in Ecbatan sat, or since in North-west Africa lasted well In Hispahan; or where the Russian into the nineteenth century, when Czar

Timbuctoo, so long the object of In Moscow; or the Sultan in Bizance,

travellers of every nation, was Turchestan-born ; nor could his eye not

handed down by rumour as a city ken The empire of Negus to his utmost full as gorgeous and rich as the port

seat of Montezume. Mombaza, Ercoco, and the less maritime kings, Quiloa, and Melind are familiar Monbaza, and Quiloa and Melind, And Sofala (thought Ophir), to the the nineteenth century; but it is

names to us now at the close of realm Of Congo, and Angola farthest south ;

only recently that we have realised Or thence from Niger flood to Atlas

the existence of these places to Mount,

which Milton allotted such a greatThe kingdoms of Almanzor, Fez and That they were great may Sus,

be assumed from the descripMorocco and Algiers and Tremisen ; tions of Portuguese and other traOn Europe thence, and where Rome

vellers. Sofala (thought Ophir) was to sway The world ; in spirit, perhaps, he also

has received a great deal of at

tention of late from the fact of Rich Mexico, the seat of Montezume,

the Mashunaland expedition and And Cusco in Peru, the richer seat Mr Theodore Bent's discoveries Of Atabalipa, and yet unspoil'd amongst the ancient ruins of ZimGuiana, whose great city Geryon's sons babwe. Here, indeed, would seem Call El Dorado.”

to have existed some ancient seat This passage may be taken as of civilisation, gold - mines, forts, a poetical summary of the geo- houses, and rich treasure - trove, graphical knowledge of Milton's whither King Solomon's ships may

ness.

saw

moon

:

five

use

have steered during the time of Scarce tolerable, and from the north to the Jews' prosperity. In these

call regions the pickaxe of the miner Decrepit winter, from the south to

bring is at work bringing to light veins

Solstitial summer's heat. To the blank of wealth every day. Congo, also, has acquired a new significance of Her office they prescribed : to the other late, and the “realm of Congo," to Milton's words, is the Their planetary motions and aspects, “Congo Free State" of to-day. In sextile, square, and trine, and opHere lies a country vast in ex

posite, tent, only half explored, traversed Of noxious efficacy, and when to join

In synod unbenign: and taught the at rare intervals by the feet of

fix'a adventurous traders and pioneers, Their influence malignant when to and full, so it is believed, of end- shower, less possibilities, larger and more Which of them rising with the sun, or magnificent than the narrow strip

falling, of shore to which the Portuguese Should prove tempestuous: to the winds

they set gave the high-sounding title of the

Their corners, when with bluster to Empire of Congo. Mombassa is

confound also, as we see, another old name

Sea, air, and shore; the thunder when with a new significance. It is the to roll headquarters of modern missionary With terror through the dark aerial enterprise, and the starting place Some say he taught his angels turn

hall of a contemplated railway to the

askance great Nyanza beyond, and the

The poles of earth, twice ten degrees point whence British enterprise may turn with renewed vigour to From the sun's axle, they with labour assail the problems of Central push'd Equatorial Africa. Realms, there. Oblique the centric globe. Some say, fore, that were vague, shadowy,

the sun and indistinct in Milton's day, Was bid turn reins from the equinoctial

road romantic enough for the purpose Like distant breadth to Taurus with the of the poet, may spring into renewed life and activity. Our Atlantic sisters, and the Spartan Twins, blind Teiresias would seem to have Up to the Tropic Crab; thence down discerned with the eye of prophecy

amain the realm of Congo and the king- By Leo, and the Virgin, and the Scales, dom of Mombassa.

As deep as Capricorn, to bring in change

Of seasons to each clime: else had the To Milton the whole theory of

spring Physical Geography, the movements Perpetual smiled on earth with vernant of the stars, and the influences flowers, of the seasons, were a congenial Equal in days and nights, except to and fascinating study. In Book those x., "Paradise Lost," he propounds, Beyond the polar circles; to them day in the fashion of the poet-geo

Had unbenighted shone, while the low grapher, a theory of Physical Geo- To recompense his distance, in their

sun, graphy magnificent in its con

sight ception :

Had rounded still the horizon, and not

known Had first his precept so to move, so Or East or West, which had forbid the

shine, As might affect the earth with cold and From cold Estotiland, and south as far heat

Bencath Magellan.”

and more,

seven

[ocr errors]

"The sun

snow

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

In the elucidation of his theories the great tribute poets owe to geoof the universe, Milton not only graphers and explorers, paints his charms the ear with his stately and “ Island Eden,” and the “Tropic musical rhythm, but rivets the afternoon of Toobenai.” attention of the reader upon dry physical facts, giving them

“The cava feast, the yam, the cocoa's

root, wonderful colouring of his own.

Which bears at once the cup, the milk It is an extract worthy of his and fruit; magnificent poem, and he resembles

The bread - tree, which without the Lucretius in his power to deal with ploughshare, yields abstruse matters in majestic verse. The unreaped harvest of unfurrow'd To the geographer's pictures he is

fields,

Satan always deeply indebted.

And bakes its unadulterated loaves

Without a dilated stands “like Teneriffe or

furnace in unpurchased Atlas unremoved.Uriel is borne

groves." on the bright beam whose point There is one most remarkable bore him downwards "to the sun, instance of the inspiration poets now fallen beneath the Azores.'

can sometimes receive from the The description itself of Eden and muse of Geography, and this is the delicious fragrance thereof is “The Ancient Mariner" of Samuel

Taylor Coleridge, one of the most "As when to those who sail Beyond the Cape of Hope, and now are

beautiful and fantastic creations of past

the poetic art. The

poem is said Mozambique, off at sea north-east winds to have hung upon an incident blow

mentioned in Shelvocke's voyages Sabaan odours from the spicy shores to Cape Horn and the South Seas. Of Araby the Blest."

Captain Shelvocke and Clipperton The fig-tree whose leaves Adam

were placed in command of two and Eve used as a covering was

ships by merchants of Bristol ;

but, unfortunately, the expedition “Not that kind for fruit renowned, was badly conducted, and did not But such as, at this day, to Indians succeed. In his book Shelvocke known,

described the weird ocean scenery In Malabar or Deccan.

of Patagonia (the home of the god

Such of late Setebos) and Cape Horn; how the Columbus found the American, so girt navigators experienced such exWith feathered cincture.”

treme cold when driven into the

latitude of 61° 30' S., that a sailor The fruit that Eve carries to fell with benumbed fingers from Adam is

the mainsail, and was drowned. “Whatever Earth, all-bearing Mother, “In short, one would think it imyields

possible that anything could subsist In India East or West."

in so rigid a climate ; and indeed we

all observed that we had not the sight Had Milton lived in the days of of one fish of any kind since we were South Pacific discovery, he would come southward of the Straights of surely have seized upon the idea Le Mair." of the bread-fruit tree and made

“And now there came both mist and capital out of this. Lord Byron, in his beautiful and descriptive poem

snow,

And it grew wondrous cold ; of “The Island,” which indeed is

And ice, mast-high, came floating by throughout a notable instance of

As green as emerald.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

And through the drifts, the snowy down upon the variegated mosaic clifts,

of the earth's surface. Yonder are Did send a dismal sheen;

the Alps, there are the Apennines, Nor shapes of men, nor beasts we

below are "ancient promontories ken,The ice was all between."

sleeping in the sun; here and there

an angry spot of thunder, a grey “Not one seabird, except a discon- stain of storm, moving upon the solate black albatross, who accompanied us for several days, hovering burning field”—in the south “a about us as if he had lost himself."

great peacefulness of light, Syria

and Greece, Italy and Spain, laid “At length did cross an albatross, like the pieces of a golden paveThrough the fog it came;

ment into the sea-blue." Towards As if it had been a Christian soul, We hail'd it in God's name.

the north are deeper shadows

and dark forests, till the “earth The curse came upon the ship heaves into mighty masses of when

leaden rock and heathy moor, bor"Hatley, the second captain, ob- dering into a broad waste of gloomy serving, in one of his melancholy fits, purple, that belt of field and wood, that this bird was always near us, im- and splintering into irregular and agined from its colour that it might grisly islands amid the northern be some ill omen. That which, I suppose, induced him the more to

seas, beaten by storms and chilled encourage his superstition was the by ice-drift.” continued series of contrary tempes

This, indeed, is the prose-poetry tuous winds which had oppressed us of Geography. It is the modern ever since we had got into this sea. spirit breathing over and spiritBut, be that as it would, he, after ualising all aspects of nature. some fruitless attempts, at length shot the albatross, not doubting, perhaps, the great Tennyson's poetry are

Some of the finest portions of that we should have a fair wind after it."

beautiful geographical descriptions.

Listen to the “ Land of Lotos“And I had done a hellish thing,

Eaters' And it would work 'em woe.' If Samuel Taylor Coleridge had “A land of streams! some, like a downfollowed Dr Johnson's advice, he

ward smoke would never have spent his time Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawn, in reading books of travel and of

And some thro’ wavering lights and voyages to the South Seas, and, in

shadows broke, all probability, would never have Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam produced the great gem of all his below. poetry.

They saw the gleaming river seaward Ruskin, in his Scenes of Tra

flow vel,' remarks that the charts of

From the inner land : far off, three science fail in the poetical or pic

mountain-tops, torial representation of general The charmed sunset lingerd low

Three silent pinnacles of aged snow.... physical features. Roughly speak- adown ing, we recognise general contrasts In the low west ; through mountain and apprehend the attributes of clefts the dale the zones; but the poet's and the

Was seen far inland, and the yellow

dov painter's hand must fill up the details. We have to imagine our

Borderd with palm, and many a wind

ing vale selves aloft, flying with the migra- And meadow, sct with slender galintory hoede of birds, and looking

gale."

[ocr errors]

did go ;

In “Enoch Arden” the passage the truest and most beautiful debeginning

scriptions possible of a tropical

island. Dwellers in the West “The mountain wooded to the peak, Indies have often appropriated

, the lawns And winding glades high up like ways

this extract, and applied it to to Heaven,

Dominica, with its green slopes, The slender coco's drooping crown of shining rivers, and lofty peak of plumes,

Morne Diabloten. It is difficult, The lightning flash of insect and of indeed, to realise that Tennyson bird,

had never seen, as he elsewhere The lustre of the long convolvuluses That coiled around the stately stems,

describes them— and ran

“Breadths of tropic shade and palms in Ev'n to the limit of the land, the

cluster, knots of Paradise." glows And glories of the broad belt of the Can there be, therefore, a great world,

chasm between Poetry and GeoAll these he saw; but what he fain had seen

graphy, as of two distinct studies, He could not see, the kindly human

irreconcilable with, and distinct face

from, one another? Nay, may not Nor ever hear a kindly voice, but the muse of Geography be the chief heard

auxiliar of the poetic art? If, from The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean- the descriptions of geographers fowl,

and travellers, Shakespeare has The league-long roller thundering on

evolved his wonderful and matchthe reef, The moving whisper of huge trees that less creation of Ariel, the sprite of branch'd

air, Coleridge the story and curse And blossom’d in the zenith, or the of “The Ancient Mariner,” Milton sweep.

his most magnificent similes from Of some precipitous rivulet to the wave,

nature, Tennyson his most striking As down the shore he ranged, or all

and beautiful descriptive pieces, day long Sat often in the seaward-gazing gorge,

who shall say that Geography herA shipwrecked sailor, waiting for a sail: self deserves not to be enshrined as No sail from day to day, but every day the tenth muse? Geography as an The sunrise broken into scarlet shafts exact science may be distasteful, Among the palms and ferns and pre- and Geography as a compendium of cipices ;

bare names and places in foreign The blaze upon the waters to the east,

lands an unworthy study ; but The blaze upon his island overhead ; The blaze upon the waters to the west;

when the poet has come and cast Then the great stars that globed them

around these names and places selves in Heaven,

"the consecration and the poet's The hollower-bellowing ocean, and again dream,” these very

names and The scarlet shafts of sunrise—but no

places become for us living and

inspiring creations. has justly been quoted as one of

WILLIAM GRESWELL.

sail”

« ZurückWeiter »