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SONGS AND BALLADS.
“« And tell me, I charge you! ye clan of my spouse,
But each mantle unfolding, a dagger display'd.
Glenara! Glenara! now read me my dream! “ In dust low the traitor has knelt to the ground,
And the desert reveald where his lady was found; From a rock of the ocean that beauty is borne, Now joy to the house of fair Ellen of Lorn!” —p. 105–107. We close this volume, on the whole, with feelings of regret for its shortness, and of admiration for the genius of its author. There are but two noble sorts of poetry – the pathetic and the sublime; and we think he has given very extraordinary proofs of his talents for both.
There is something, too, we will venture to add, in the style of many of his conceptions, which irresistibly impresses us with the conviction, that he can do much greater things than he has hitherto accomplished; and leads us to regard him, even yet, as a poet of still greater promise than performance. It seems to us, as if the natural force and boldness of his ideas were habitually checked by a certain fastidious timidity, and an anxiety about the minor graces of correct and chastened composition. Certain it is, at least, that his greatest and most lofty flights have been made in those smaller pieces, about which, it is natural to think, he must have felt least solicitude; and that he has succeeded most splendidly where he must have been most free from the fear of failure. We wish any praises or exhortations of ours had the power to give him con
fidence in his own great talents; and hope earnestly, that he will now meet with such encouragement, as may set him above all restraints that proceed from apprehension; and induce him to give free scope to that genius, of which we are persuaded that the world has hitherto seen rather the grace than the richness.
Theodric, a Domestic Tale : with other Poems. By THOMAS
CAMPBELL. 12mo. pp. 150. London : 1824.
IF Mr. Campbell's poetry was of a kind that could be forgotten, his long fits of silence would put him fairly in the way of that misfortune. But, in truth, he is safe enough ;—and has even acquired, by virtue of his exemplary laziness, an assurance and pledge of immortality which he could scarcely have obtained without it. А writer who is still fresh in the mind and favour of the public, after twenty years' intermission, may reasonably expect to be remembered when death shall have finally sealed
up the fountains of his inspiration; imposed silence on the cavils of envious rivals, and enhanced the value of those relics to which it excludes the possibility of any future addition. At all events, he has better proof of the permanent interest the public take in his productions, than those ever can have who are more diligent in their multiplication, and keep themselves in the recollection of their great patron by more frequent intimations of their existence. The experiment, too, though not without its hazards, is advantageous in another respect ; — for the re-appearance of such an author, after those long periods of occultation, is naturally hailed as a novelty - and he receives the double welcome, of a celebrated stranger, and a remembered friend. There is, accordingly, no living poet, we believe, whose advertisement excites greater expectation than Mr. Campbell's :-—and a new poem from him is waited for with even more eagerness (as it is certainly for a much longer time) than a new novel from the author of Waverley. Like all other other human felicities, however, this high expectation and prepared homage has its drawbacks and its dangers. A popular author, as we
CAMPBELL'S THEODRIC A DOMESTIC STORY,
have been led to remark on former occasions, has no rival so formidable as his former self—and no comparison to sustain half so dangerous as that which is always made between the average merit of his new work, and the remembered beauties — for little else is ever remembered — of his old ones.
How this comparison will result in the present instance, we do not presume to predict with confidence but we doubt whether it will be, at least in the beginning, altogether in favour of the volume before us. The poems of this author, indeed, are generally more admired the more they are studied, and rise in our estimation in proportion as they become familiar. Their novelty, therefore, is always rather an obstruction than a help to their popularity ;-and it may well be questioned, whether there be any thing in the novelties now before us that can rival in our affections the longremembered beauties of the Pleasures of Hope — of Gertrude — of O'Connor's Child — the Song of Linden - The Mariners of England — and the many other enchanting melodies that are ever present to the minds of all lovers of poetry.
The leading piece in the present volume is an attempt at a very difficult kind of poetry; and one in which the most complete success can hardly ever be so splendid and striking as to make amends for the difficulty. It is entitled “a Domestic Story” — and it is so ;-turning upon few incidents-embracing few characters, dealing in no marvels and no terrors -displaying no stormy passions. Without complication of plot, in short, or hurry of action — with no atrocities to shudder at, or feats of noble daring to stir the spirits of the ambitious - it passes quietly on, through the shaded paths of private life, conversing with gentle natures and patient sufferings - and unfolding, with serene pity and sober triumph, the pangs which are fated at times to wring the breast of innocence and generosity, and the courage and comfort which generosity and innocence can never fail to bestow. The taste and the feeling which led to the selection of such topics, could not but impress their
AND THEREFORE DIFFICULT FOR A POET.
character on the style in which they are treated. It is distinguished accordingly by a fine and tender finish, both of thought and of diction—by a chastened elegance of words and images — a mild dignity and tempered pathos in the sentiments, and a general tone of simplicity and directness in the conduct of the story, which, joined to its great brevity, tends at first perhaps to disguise both the richness and the force of the genius required for its production. But though not calculated to strike at once on the dull palled ear of an idle and occupied world, it is of all others perhaps the kind of poetry
best fitted to win on our softer hours, and to sink deep into vacant bosoms—unlocking all the sources of fond recollection, and leading us gently on through the mazes of deep and engrossing meditation and thus ministering to a deeper enchantment and more lasting delight than can ever be inspired by the more importunate strains of more ambitious authors.
There are no doubt peculiar and perhaps insuperable difficulties in the management of themes so delicate, and requiring so fine and so restrained a hand — nor are we prepared to say that Mr. Campbell has on this occasion entirely escaped them. There are passages that are somewhat fade :—there are expressions that are trivial:
But the prevailing character is sweetness and beauty; and it prevails over all that is opposed to it. The story, though abundantly simple, as our readers will immediately see, has two distinct compartments — one relating to the Swiss maiden, the other to the English wife. The former, with all its accompaniments, we think nearly perfect. It is full of tenderness, purity, and pity; and finished with the most exquisite elegance, in few and simple touches. The other, which is the least considerable, has more decided blemishes. The diction is in many places too familiar, and the incidents too common - and the cause of distress has the double misfortune of being unpoetical in its nature, and improbable in its result. But the shortest way is to give our readers a slight account of the poem, with such specimens as may enable them to judge fairly of it for themselves.