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They rise in joy, the starry myriads burning!
And from the silvery sea
-Unchanged they rise, they have not mourned for thee !
Swept by the wind away ?
And was there powers to smite them with decay?
When from its height afar,
Shines not the less for that one vanished star! This and the following poem exhibit Mrs. Hemans' keen perception of the picturesque, whether in thought, feeling, or incident. They also display her great power of illustrating and varying a single idea— drawing all things to one.'—In her best pieces, it is very interesting to watch the progress of the thought or feeling in all its stages; from the germ in the first verse, to the climax in the last.
• The Siege of Valencia' abounds with admirable, but it contains few quotable passages. As a dramatic poem the interest of parts must in great measure depend on their reference to the whole, and to detach a number of beauties from their context, is as unfair and unsatisfactory, as to cut the flowers from a piece of embroidery, or the figures out of a picture. There is however one passage complete in itself, which we shall give. It occurs in the scene where Gonzalez, the governor, announces to his wife that their two sons can only be rescued from impending death by an immediate surrender of the city. The whole scene is wrought up with extraordinary power; and the way in which Elmina pleads with her husband, forgetful of every character but the mother-every consideration but her • pretty little ones,'--pierces to the heart.
A MOTHER'S LOVE.
LOVE! love ! There are soft smiles and gentle words,
Could any but a woman, a true woman, have written the last passage ? And is not one such appeal to the deepest, because the holiest feelings of our nature, feelings founded, sanctioned, and upheld by God himself, far better worth, than the ravings of love-lorn maidens, and desperate cavaliers ? Passion is a poetical cant word of the day; it is something worse unfortunately-a kind of literary demon, upon whose shrine good sense, good feeling, and good taste, are to be recklessly immolated. Nothing is supposed to be said strongly that is said simply ; every line must produce
an effect;' every word must ‘tell ;'-in fact, what Goldsmith said truly in one sense, is now equally true in another
Who peppers the highest is surest to please. The human heart is to be treated like Lord Peter's coat in the Tale of a Tub—authors need “mind nothing, so they do but tear away.' Powerful is another cant word, which palms off every delineation that is monstrous and absurd. Language is powerful, when epithets succeed each other as fast and heavily as the strokes of a blacksmith's hammer ;-ideas are powerful, when they cannot be defined; but, like Ossian's ghosts, reveal themselves in mist and shadow ;-and characters and incidents are powerful, when they make us wonder what is to follow after! Those who catered for the Nursery in the olden times, had very correct notions on these points. Jack the Giant Killer is truly powerful! Blue Beard is fraught with passion! Mrs. Hemans' admirable taste completely guards her from these, the besetting sins of our lighter literature ; and yet, when she unreservedly surrenders the pencil to the guidance of her own heart and fancy, her pictures are as beautiful for their fervid colouring, as they invariably are for their correct and vigorous outlines. But it is a remarkable circumstance, that Mrs Hemans has so rarely, that we might also say, has never, made personal feeling the subject of her poetry. This unusual reserve has proceeded from delicacy of taste, but it has, we think, diminished the interest of her works, because the reader could never, so to speak, individualize the poet.
Young, and mediocre authors, generally injure themselves by a contrary line of conduct; they absolutely wear out a reader's patience by the continual recurrence of Stanzas to i' and 'Stanzas on - But with an author of acknowledged genius, and established fame,' the case is different. We are not satisfied with seeing them in character, we wish to be admitted behind the scenes ;-having bowed before them as enchanters, we long to associate with them as friends-to hear them with their own voices tell us of their own feelings, or at least their opinions on subjects common to all. It is this, even more than their beauty, which renders the private sonnets of Milton and Shakespeare so intensely interesting ; it was well-managed egotism that first made Lord Byron the idol of the public; nay, we do not scruple to assert, that the most generally popular productions of our modern poets are those which have had a reference to private feeling. It is Wordsworth's · She was a Phantom'-and Coleridge's 'Genevieve'-and Scott's • Introductions to Marmion'-and Burns' To Mary in Heaven'-and Leigh Hunt's · Lines to his Child'-and Shelley's “Stanzas written in the Bay of Naples'-and a host of other pieces we could name, that have excited the deepest interest. It is a high, but it is also a deserved compliment, that we mean to pay Mrs. Hemans, when we express a wish that she would oftener be to us an unveiled prophetess; and without the intervention of history, ancient or modern-classical or romantic-impart to us her own impressions on subjects that come more immediately home to the human heart, and are more intimately connected with the course of human life. In The Sceptic' she has done this in a most interesting as well as masterly style. We shall indulge in a pretty long extract from this poem.
THE MANIAC. Oh what is Nature's strength ? the vacant eye ; My mind deserted, hath a dread reply! The wild delirious laughter of despair, The mirth of frenzy-seek an answer there! Turn not away, though pity's cheek grow pale, Close not thine ear against their awful tale, They tell thee, Reason, wandering from the ray Of Faith, the blazing pillar of her way, In the mid-darkness of the stormy wave, Forsook the struggling soul she could not save ! Weep not, sad moralist, o'er desert plains, Strewed with the wrecks of grandeur-mouldering fanesArches of triumph, long with weeds o'er grown, And regal cities, now the serpent's own: Earth has more awful ruins-one lost mind, Whose star is quenched, hath lessons for mankind, Of deeper import than each prostrate dome, Mingling its marble with the dust of Rome. But who with eye unshrinking shall explore That waste, illumed by Reason's beam no more ? Who pierce the deep, mysterious clouds that roll Around the shattered temple of the soul, Curtain'd with midnight ? - low its columns lie, And dark the chambers of its
imagery, Sunk are its idols now and God alone May rear the fabric, by their fall o'erthrown ! Yet, from its inmost shrine, by storms laid bare, Is heard an oracle that cries Beware! Child of the dust! but ransomed of the skies ! One breath of Heaven—and thus thy glory dies ! Haste, ere the hour of doom, draw nigh to Him Who dwells above between the Cherubim !” Spirit dethroned ! and checked in mid career, Son of the morning! exiled from thy sphere, Tell us thy tale ! - Perchance thy race was run With Science, in the chariot of the sun; Free as the winds, the paths of space to sweep, Traverse the untrodden kingdoms of the deep, And search the laws that Nature's springs control, There tracing all-save Him who guides the whole ! Or did thy power pervade the living lyre, Till its deep chords became instinct with fire; Silenced all meaner notes, and swelled on high, Full and alone, their mighty harmony, While woke each passion from its cell profound, And nations started at the electric sound ? Lord of the Ascendant! what avails it now, Tho' bright the laurels wav'd upon thy brow ? What, tho' thy name, thro' distant empires heard, Bade the heart bound, as doth a battle-word ? Was it for this thy still unwearied eye, Kept vigil with the watch-fires of the sky, To make the secrets of all ages thine, And commune with majestic thoughts that shine O'er Time's long shadowy path-way?-Hath thy mind Severed its lone dominion from mankind, For this to woo their homage ?—Thou hast sought All, save the wisdom with salvation fraught, Won every wreath—but that which will not die, Nor aught neglected-save eternity !
Poetry like this steals over the heart with a salutary influence; reviving those holy impressions which are but too apt to droop beneath the daily influence of earthly cares and vanities. The poet who refines the taste, exalts the imagination, and addresses the better feelings of our nature, does much, and deserves alike the praise and gratitude of his fellow-men; but the poet who seeks to unite religious truth with intellectual beauty-what is sacred with what is graceful—who hangs his chaplet on the cross, and lays that living lyre, the heart, upon the single altar worthy such an offering--he only can be esteemed great. It is very pleasant to turn over the pages of modern poetry; and notwithstanding the frequent recurrence of what is dark and degrading in subject and sentiment, to find these verdant spots whereon the heart may safely rest. We have many poems of a decidedly immoral character—too many more that are merely negative; that are entirely unconnected with utility; and that, like the morning clouds, and the early dew, please for a moment, and pass away for ever. But there are also strains of a higher mood; poets, who like the birds that ministered to the prophet in the wilderness, bring us food from heaven: Blessings be with them
and eternal praise ! We have, we hope, done justice to the high literary excellence of Mrs. Hemans' writings; but we cannot bring these remarks to a close without again adverting to their highly moral, and as our last extract will evidence, often more than moral tendency. For their picturesque delineations, vivid imagery, exquisite taste, and absolutely superb fancy, we assign her works an honourable niche in our libraries; but it is for better qualities still, that we enshrine them in our regards, and commend them to our youth. It is for her sedulous inculcation of noble sentiment, and generous feeling ; her respect for what is sacred in principle; her eulogy of every thing lovely in conduct and character; her repugnance to delineations not merely of unhallowed, but even of excessive emotion; her invariable regard to the character of the woman, evidenced in all that she has done as an author; it is for these things, that we honour Mrs. Hemans as we do not many others; for these that
An Epic Poem should be sweet as Manna,
ON READING IN THE MORNING CHRONICLE THAT A POOR WOMAN HAD BEEN
BROUGHT TO BED IN A STAGE COACH.
* This little squib is ascribed to the pen of Mr. Thomas Campbell, the poet. This is, we believe, its first appearance in print. -Ed. Lit. Mag.