페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

have been concentrated into a few pages, cannot be expected to have given a very full or interesting image of life in his compositions. A few odes, splendid, spirited, and harmonious, but by no means either faultless or replete with subjects that come home to universal sympathy, and an elegy, unrivalled as it is in that species of composition, these achievements of our poet form, after all, no such extensive grounds of originality, as to entitle their author to be spoken of as in genius "second to none." He had not, like Goldsmith, the art of unbending from grace to levity. Nothing can be more unexhilarating than his attempts at wit and humour, either in his letters or lighter poetry. In his graver and better strains some of the most exquisite ideas are his own; and his taste, for the most part, adorned, and skilfully recast, the forms of thought and expression which he borrowed from others. If his works often "whisper whence they stole their balmy spoils," it is not from plagiarism, but from a sensibility that sought and selected the finest impressions of genius from other gifted minds. But still there is a higher appearance of culture than fertility, of acquisition than originality in Gray. He is not that being of independent imagination, that native and creative spirit, of whom we should say, that he would have plunged into the flood of poetry had there been none to leap before him. Nor were his learned acquisitions turned to the very highest account. He was the architect of no

poetical design of extensive or intricate compass. One noble historical picture, it must be confessed, he has left in the opening scene of his Bard; and the sequel of that ode, though it is not perhaps the most interesting prophecy of English history which we could suppose Inspiration to pronounce, contains many richly poetical conceptions. It is, however, exclusively in the opening of the Bard, that Gray can be ever said to have pourtrayed a grand, distinct, and heroic scene of fiction.

The obscurity so often objected to him is certainly a defect not to be justified by the authority of Pindar, more than any thing else that is intrinsically objectionable. But it has been exaggerated. He is nowhere so obscure as not to be intelligible by recurring to the passage. And it may be further observed, that Gray's lyrical obscurity never arises, as in some writers, from undefined ideas or paradoxical sentiments. On the contrary, his moral spirit is as explicit as it is majestic; and deeply read as he was in Plato, he is never metaphysically perplexed. The fault of his meaning is to be latent, not indefinite or confused. When we give his beauties re-perusal and attention, they kindle and multiply to the view. The thread of association that conducts to his remote allusions, or that connects his abrupt transitions, ceases then to be invisible. His lyrical pieces are like paintings on glass, which must be placed in a strong light to give out the perfect radiance of their colouring.

THE BARD:

RUIN seize thee, ruthless king! • Confusion on thy banners wait, "Though fann'd by conquest's crimson wing, They mock the air with idle state. 'Helm, nor hauberk's twisted mail,

Nor e'en thy virtues, tyrant, shall avail
To save thy secret soul from nightly fears,
'From Cambria's curse, from Cambria's tears!'
Such were the sounds that o'er the crested pride
Of the first Edward scatter'd wild dismay,

As down the steep of Snowdon's shaggy side
He wound with toilsome march his long array.
Stout Glo'ster stood aghast in speechless trance:
To arms! cried Mortimer, and couch'd his quivering
lance.

[ocr errors]

A PINDARIC ODE.

On a rock, whose haughty brow Frowns o'er old Conway's foaming flood, Rob'd in the sable garb of woe,

6

With haggard eyes the poet stood; (Loose his beard, and hoary hair

Stream'd, like a meteor, to the troubled air)
And with a master's hand, and prophet's fire,
Struck the deep sorrows of his lyre.

Hark, how each giant oak, and desert cave,

Sighs to the torrent's awful voice beneath!

'O'er thee, oh king! their hundred arms they wave, 'Revenge on thee in hoarser murmurs breathe; • Vocal no more, since Cambria's fatal day, To high-born Hoel's harp, or soft Llewellyn's lay.

Cold is Cadwallo's tongue,

• That hush'd the stormy main;

Brave Urien sleeps upon his craggy bed:

Mountains, ye mourn in vain

Modred, whose magic song

'Made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-top'd head. 'On dreary Arvon's shore they lie,

Smear'd with gore, and ghastly pale:

6

Far, far aloof th' affrighted ravens sail :

• The famish'd eagle screams and passes by..

[ocr errors]

Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,
Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes,
'Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart,
Ye died amidst your dying country's cries-
No more I weep. They do not sleep.
On yonder cliffs, a griesly band,

I see them sit, they linger yet,

Avengers of their native land:

With me in dreadful harmony they join,

' And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.

[ocr errors]

"Weave the warp, and weave the woof, "The winding-sheet of Edward's race. "Give ample room, and verge enough "The characters of hell to trace.

VOL. V.

[ocr errors]

"Mark the year, and mark the night,

"When Severn shall re-echo with affright,

"The shrieks of death through Berkeley's roofs that ring;

"Shrieks of an agonizing king!

"She-wolf of France, with unrelenting fangs, "That tear'st the bowels of thy mangled mate, "From thee be born, who o'er thy country hangs "The scourge of Heaven. What terrors round him wait!

"Amazement in his van, with Flight combin'd; "And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.

"Mighty Victor, mighty Lord,

"Low on his funeral couch he lies!

"No pitying heart, no eye afford

"A tear to grace his obsequies. "Is the sable warrior fled?

"Thy son is gone. He rests among the dead. "The swarm, that in the noon-tide beam were

born?

"Gone to salute the rising morn.

"Fair laughs the morn, and soft the zephyr blows, "While proudly riding o'er the azure realm "In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes; "Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm ; "Regardless of the sweeping Whirlwind's sway, "That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his evening

prey.

« 이전계속 »