페이지 이미지


Naught cared this body for wind or weather
When youth and I lived in't together.

Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;

O the joys that came down shower-like,
Of Friendship, Love, and Liberty,
Ere I was old!

Ere I was old? Ah woeful ere!

Which tells me Youth's no longer here!
O Youth for years so many and sweet,
"Tis known that thou and I were one;
I'll think it but a fond deceit -
It cannot be that thou art gone;
Thy vesper-bell hath not yet toll'd,
And thou wert aye a masquer bold;
What strange disguise hast now put on,
To make believe that thou art gone?
I see these locks in silvery slips,
This drooping gait, this altered size;
But spring-tide blossoms on thy lips,
And tears take sunshine from thine eyes!
Life is but thought; so think I will

That Youth and I are housemates still."


Of Coleridge's original coadjutors, Lloyd and Lamb, only a few words require to be said. The former had considerable vigour and originality, but was involved and deficient in directness. In his "Nugæ Canoræ" there were many striking poems and passages; but the harshness and ruggedness of his versification for ever debarred him from being a popular favourite. He is best remembered by his faithful and spirited translation of "The Tragedies of Alfieri."

Charles Lamb was a true poet, but not a great one. His genius was peculiar and wayward; and his mind seemed so impregnated with the dramatists preceding or cotemporary with Shakespeare-Marlowe, Webster, Ford, Shirley, Marston, Massinger, and their compeers—that he could not help imitating their trains of thought.

[blocks in formation]

Yet he struck out a few exquisite things-sparks from true genius, which can never be extinguished; as "The Old Familiar Faces," "To Hester," "The Virgin of the Rocks," and the descriptive forest-scene in "John Woodvil," which, it is said, Godwin, having found somewhere extracted, was so enchanted with, that he hunted-of course vainly-through almost all the earlier poets in search of it.

"To see the sun to bed, and to arise,

Like some hot amorist, with glowing eyes,

Bursting the lazy bands of sleep that bound him,
With all his fires and travelling glories round him.

Sometimes out-stretched, in very idleness,
Naught doing, saying little, thinking less,
To view the leaves, thin dancers upon air,
Go eddying round; and small birds how they fare
When mother Autumn fills their beaks with corn,
Filched from the careless Amalthea's horn;
And how the wood-berries and worms provide
Without their pains, when Earth hath naught beside,
To answer their small wants.

To view the graceful deer come tripping by,
Then stop and gaze, then turn they know not why,
Like bashful younkers in society.

To mark the structure of a plant or tree,

And all fair things of earth, how fair they be."

As a dramatic writer, Lamb was sadly deficient in plot and constructiveness. But, as a critic, his merits were of a higher order, and he is entitled to stand nearly in the first rank. His reputation will, however, ultimately rest on the "Essays of Elia," than which our literature rejoices in few things finer.

We come now to the last of this great brotherhood of poets, and one of the most distinguished names that general literature has to boast of Robert Southey. Like his brother bards, he was, in adolescence, an opti



mist-a dreamer, like them, of golden dreams; but, with him, these died away before the strengthening sun of his intellect, like the deceitful exhalations of the morning.

Coleridge was unfitted for the encounter of social life, alike by temperament and circumstances. Wordsworth repudiated it from choice, and from its incompatibility with the plan he had charted out for himself. Southey, on the contrary, would have been a remarkable man in whatever he turned his attention to, let it have been law, physic, or divinity, the accountant's desk or the merchant's wharf, the pen or the sword. His enterprise, like his industry, was boundless; his self-appreciation was justly high; his spirits were exuberantly elastic, his courage indomitable. To himself he was the hardest of taskmasters; and he was not contented, like Coleridge, with merely meditating great things, but uniformly carried them through, compelling himself to a more than Egyptian bondage-for it was from year to year, and every day, and all day long, and to the end of his life. Yet, with a noble feeling of independence and self-respect, he submitted to this cheerfully, thinking less about the completion of a quarto than most authors do of a pamphlet. Hour after hour had its allotted task, continuously, unendingly. History, antiquities, bibliography, translation, criticism, tale, poem, political economy, statistics, polemics, almost every department of knowledge received emblazon from his able, ready, versatile, and unwearied pen. His finest phase, however, was as a poet; and we have now to glance at his chief works-"Joan of Arc," "Thalaba,” "Madoc," "Kehama," and "Roderick." Totally independent of these, his lesser poems alone would have afforded ample materials for a substantial and enduring reputation to any other less ambitious writer.

In the earlier productions of Southey, he showed himself a poet of vivid imagination, ardent feeling,




descriptive power, but uncertain taste; and all this was proved as much in his choice of subjects as in his manner of treating them. There was evidently too much writing from the mere impulse of the moment, without regard to what preceded, or was likely to follow; a mixture of baldness and mellowness; in short, a want of unity in the masses which made up his groups and landscapes. We are often haunted with a feeling of mismanagement, of misdirection, or carelessness; for he worked out whatever materials were before him, or most easily accessible. When his fancy was at fault he called in his reading, and thus made a compound of invention and remembrance; and hence it is that his poetical enthusiasm occasionally savours less of inspiration than rhetoric. Both Dr Johnson and Helvetius believed that an able man could write well at any time, if he only set doggedly about it - and they might have added on any subject, for Southey would have afforded an excellent illustration. But there can be little doubt, I think, that even Southey would have achieved much higher things had he been less self-complacent, and written with more elaboration.

Southey shone in the paths of gentle meditation and philosophic reflection; but his chief strength lay in description, where he had few equals. It was there that he revelled and rioted in the exuberant energy of his spirit a devoted worshipper of nature. Akenside describes a landscape as it affects the fancy; Cowper as it impresses the feelings; Southey daguerreotypes the landscape itself. Coleridge descants on the waving of a leaf; Southey on its colour and configuration. Wordsworth delights in out-flowing sentiment; Southey in picturesque outline. His capacious mind may be likened to a variegated continent, one region of which is damp with fogs, rough with rocks, barren and unprofitable; the other bright with glorious sunshine, valleys of rich luxuriance, and forests of perennial verdure.



Notwithstanding the wildness, the irregularity, the monstrosity of Southey's Arabian and Hindoo romances, they possess a fascination, a power, and a beauty, which could only have been imparted by the touch of genius. If, occasionally, we miss the polish of high art, we have always the freshness of nature and its variety. Thalaba is in himself an exquisite creation-beautiful in youth, ardent in affection, staunch in virtue, heroic in courage, combining feminine sensibility of heart with more than chivalrous daring. His biography is outlined to us from the days of his innocent childhood, when he took delight to

"Launch his aimless arrow high in air,

Lost in the blue of heaven,"

until his heart, in adolescence, ripens with a full harvest of love for "Oneiza, his own Arabian maid."

"She called him brother! was it sister love
Which made the silver rings

Round her smooth ankles and her tawny arms
Shine daily brightened? For a brother's eye
Were her long fingers tinged,

As when she trimmed the lamp,

And through the veins and delicate skin
The light shone rosy? That the darkened lids
Gave yet a softer lustre to her eye?
That with such pride she tricked

Her glossy tresses, and on holiday
Wreathed the red-flower crown around
Their waves of glossy jet?

How happily the years
Of Thalaba went by !"

We behold him, in the generous fever of his spirit, leaving in faith all he loved, to accomplish a mysterious plan of retribution; and we follow him in his wanderings, now by gorgeous groves, and now through the burning sands of the desert; now we see him lying beside

« 이전계속 »