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mity is only overstrained sentiment, or that the author's themes are not worthy of his excitement, or bis thoughts of the language
in which he has embodied them. We cannot be misunderstood, as expressing our approbation of the tone of sentiment which runs through some parts of this canto. We speak of it only as it is poetry. Perhaps, in the opinion of these critics, the apostrophe to the ocean is rather foppish and declamatory, than grand and co-equal in majesty with its subject. This may be true. The boundary line between sublimity and extravagance of thought, is sometimes as difficult to be discerned as the difference between dignity and pomposity in character. We are all liable to be deceived by false semblances of things; and we are equally apt to mistake the reality for an affectation. The former is, at least, the more amiable weakness.
“Mazeppa,” and “Don Juan," cantos I. and II., appeared in 1819. During the next year, the ninth of Byron's regular reign, dating his
accession from the appearance of the two first cantos of Childe Harold, we find the only long intermission in the rapid succession of his publications.
We believe, that during this period he gave nothing of consequence to the world. He was probably preparing his “tragedies," a title which, according to Medwin, he afterwards admitted to be a misnomer. In 1821–22, there came out in a torrent,
66 Marino Faliero," " Don Juan," cantos III. IV. and V., “Sardanapalus,” “ The Two Foscari," and "Cain,” non-enjoined on account of its depravity ; “The Prophecy of Dante, and 66 Werner." In 1823, the cantos of Don Juan came out, at different intervals, up to the 15th, interspersed with “ Heaven and Earth,” The Island," and " The Age of Bronze.” The “Deformed. Transformed,” and the two last cantos of Don Juan, in 1824, with the “ Vision of Judgment," and the translation of the first canto of Pulci's “ Morgante Maggiore,” which appeared about the same time in the “Liberal," complete, we believe, the list of Byron's larger poetical works. His fugitive verses, in some of which he is allowed, by common consent, to be unequalled for sweetness and pathos, are alone sufficient to fill a large volume, and to confer immortality on their author. Among the latest of these, we find two in Medwin's book; one to the Po, referring to his attachment to the Countess Guiccioli; the other a “ Bacchanalian;" which ought both to have been inserted in the present edition.
The critics bave settled it, that Byron had not the “ dramatic faculty.” If this means that his dramas are not fit for the stage, it is true. We believe him, when he states, that they
never were intended for acting. But the sketches of character interspersed through his works, show that he was able to draw from nature; and he was at least able to borrow, if not to form, a plot of sufficient interest. As he never made an experiment of his powers in this kind of composition, and failed in no other he attempted, the dictum we have mentioned is extrajudicial, and rests upon no sufficient facts or authority.
Of the latter pieces, it may not be improper to advert to one or two, which were not particularly noticed during the rapid succession of our author's publications, and while they seemed to lie equally under the ban which the iniquities of Juan brought upon all his family.
The “ Island” is a very unequal performance; sometimes too tame even for a mediocre poet, as in portions of the first and second parts ; sometimes obscure, as in the beginning of the second ; and, occasionally, in very bad taste, when a cynical sneer, or a decidedly coarse allusion, startles us in the midst of a fine vein of poetical sentiment or description. In painting Neuha, the tender, yet heroic, laughing, loving, savage, romantic girl of the Isles, the beauty of the picture might have been enhanced by a comparison with the lovely beings that make the charm and glory of civilized nations ; but it is spoiled by a contrast, in which the latter are described, with a pencil dipped in gall, as heartless, faithless, and artificial. Some censors might object to the introduction of the two real sailors, in the scene where Christian and his lost followers are awaiting their doom; the one uttering his - Englishman's Shibboleth,” as the whole substance of his philosophy in such a desperate emergency; and the other, between the whiffs of his ancient tobacco-pipe, kindly adding “his eyes" as
“ his eyes” as a supplement. But Shakspeare would have done the same; precisely, because the sailors would have discoursed after this fashion.
There is much beautiful poetry, worthy of Byron's happiest moments of inspiration, in this narrative. We presume we shall be pardoned if we indulge in a few extracts. The first part is nearly a faithful versification of Captain Bligh's account of the mutiny on board his ship, and his expulsion by the insurgents. In the second, we find Torquil, one of the youngest of the mutineers, enjoying all that he had sighed for, in the love of a beautiful girl in Toobonai, one of the fairest of the favoured South Sea Isles. Her person is thus depicted:
« There sate the gentle savage of the wild,
When nought is ripened rapidly save crime;
The infant of an infant world, as pure
Such was this daughter of the Southern Seas,” &c. The poetical reasons assigned for the mutual passion of Torquil and this Indian maid, arising from the similarity of their early associations, are beautifully expressed; and though we feel that the unvaried and contented fulness of their happiness, even in their happy isle, is but an illusion, it is one to which the imagination most loves to yield.
" Here in this grotto of the wave-worn shore,
They passed the Tropic's red meridian o'er ;
And asking if the day indeed were done?" It is scarcely necessary to mention, that, delightful as all these images are, the nightingale and the rose are out of place; and that the comparison of the tropic sun to a dying hero, is borrowed from Scott, in almost his own language.
The paradise of the lovers is soon startled by the amazingly unpoetical “ Hallo," and equally uncongenial apparition of Ben Bunting, who announces the approach of a strange and suspicious sail, and the preparations made by Christian and his comrades to defend themselves and die, rather than be captured. Torquil is obliged to leave his mistress, with a brief
and boding farewell :
** My Neuha! ah! and must my fate pursue
Right,' quoth Ben, that will do for the marines.' A good many marines might have written as decent verses as the five on which Ben passed his opinion. But “ aliquando dormitat," &c.
At the commencement of the fourth canto, we find that the work of retribution has been nearly accomplished. All the mutineers, save four, (Christian, the principal culprit, with Torquil, Ben Bunting, and another,) have been slain, or taken captive. The measure of the versification is stately, and the poetry worthy of its creator, in the opening. We now, however, are introduced to Ben Bunting and Jack Skyscrape, to whose philosophical reflections we have before adverted. Here we cannot but find fault with the poet, for having imitated Leigh Hunt, in employing an affectation of simplicity; with an attempt at a careless use of the double rhyme, which is actually nauseating.
• Beside him was another,
Rough as a bear, but willing as a brother." And again
" And then his former movements would redouble,
With something between carelessness and trouble." This is distressing. We are not led away by the slang of any particular set of literati, whose business and object it is to abuse another coterie. We are not prepared to assent to the title of Prince of Cockaigne," conferred on Mr. Hunt; nor to ascribe his puerilities to the influence of tea and toast, his. fondness for keeping his feet on the fender, or to his airings on Hampstead-hill." But we cannot abide this adoption of his childish taste, by one who was to him, and the unfortunate gang he latterly collected about himself,
“ Velut inter ignes, Luna minores."
Leigh has written a long rigmarole before Rimini, about poetry, a plaster copy of the Phidian Jupiter, and his chamber organ—which he who understands may edify apon; but it is perfectly obvious, that the double rhyme, in the way he employs it, has the same ludicrous effect which the single rhyme produces in Italian, when intentionally used for that purpose, as by Casti, and others. It may be, and is, adopted with power and effect by our greatest poets ; but when introduced familiarly, can only serve the purposes of burlesque writing.
But enough of this. While Christian and his comrades are resolutely awaiting their fate, the bark of Neuha, with her attendants, anticipates the arrival of the hostile boats, which were approaching to seize the fugitives; and the latter, trusting to the guidance of the bride of Torquil and her companions, quit their rock, and intrust their destinies to the speed of the Indian rowers.
We make no extracts from this part, reserving the few we mean to select for the last, and most intensely interesting canto.
The similie with which it opens is, we believe, new; and the appearance to which it alludes has never been more happily expressed :
6 White as a white sail on a dusky sea,
, hope's last gleam, in man's extremity.'
The heart still follows from the loneliest shore." On approaching an abrupt, rocky precipice, where there was no landing, the two canoes in which the party were essaying their escape, closely pursued by their enemies, separate by Neuha's direction. She is left in one with her lover, plunges into the waves, and bids him follow. The pursuers see them no more, and abandon their inquest in superstitious terror; but the lovers emerge in a rock-girdled hollow of an island, which the tradition of the natives had consecrated, and the precaution of Neuha had stored with the needful requisites for their sustenance. This is told most beautifully and poetically. We are not in the regions of enchantment; in the fairy gardens described by Tasso and Ariosto; there is a possibility in the story, which heightens, instead of diminishing the interest we feel in the description of the lover's retreat.
“Wide it was and high, And showed a self-born Gothic canopy;