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comings and misgivings; and to be in earnest is a charm which beyond all others, rivets the attention of the reader. But we must pass on to others of these gemmed worthies. Whom have we next? Lord Byron.
The illustration is a dog by Landseer. We know not whether Mr. Hall intended by this any particular satire on his Lordship. If intended, we duly appreciate it. 'Tis eminently characteristic of the poet and his writings, of the suarling tone of the Byronic philosophy. We sincerely pity the man, who wrote the lines which are appended to this engraving. The inscription on a Newfoundland dog." They are untrue, malevolent, and self-convicting. The abuse lavished on the world redounds against the author, and the confession at the end is an acknowledgment of unworthiness. He who never knew a friend never deserved one, and for such a man a dog is a fitting companion. These lines are our especial aversion. We are ready to acknowledge the unequalled power with which Lord Byron has pourtrayed human nature in one particular aspect, the aspect in which he beheld it, when he looked into his own dark soul. His range was limited, his philophy mistaken, his imagination diseased. He does not elevate, he degrades, he has little sympathy with the pure and the beautiful. He cannot admire, but he can scorn; and he thinks that pride is greatness, the most lamentable of all errors, for pride.
Howe'er disguised in its own majesty,
Far nobler is it to love than to hate, to admire than to contemn, to sympathize with than to shun our fellows.
We live by admiration, hope and love,
We need not say that these lines are Wordsworth's, nor point out the severity with which they may be applied to the stern moralist who can speak of humanity in terms so degrading as this :
Now, in our opinion, these lines for rancorous drivel are unsurpassed by any we have ever read. They are slime; and we know not whether we feel more pity or more disgust as we read them. Our own conviction is so opposite to that contained in the second couplet of this extract, that we are always rejoiced to have an opportunity of declaring, that the more we see of mankind the more rooted we become in our optimism. An increase of years, with its attendant increase of experience, only renders our philosophy more cheerful. Perhaps We are more fortunate than others, but almost every day adds a little to our store of love and admiration; and as for friends, we think, it will be a long
time before we betake ourselves to the brute creation. We know too fine a specimen of humanity to be ever driven to such miserable straits.
Southey and Moore follow next: we think the former the greatest writer, now living, and the latter the prettiest rhymester. We shall say nothing of them, but pass on to the next on the list, who is a poet, a true poet, and one of our favorites-Percy Bysshe Shelley. Leigh Hunt has written the prefatory scrap of biography, in his own most generous spirit; but it would seem that he had not written quite enough for the purpose, as Mr. Hall has appended to these remarks a few sentences of his own, to make then fit, we suppose, and in these few sentences he has contrived, with most praiseworthy candour, to neutralize all Hunt's generosity. Now we are at issue on this point with Mr. Hall. We remember two or three years ago, (the gentleman was then editor of the New Monthly Magazine) that in the periodical just named, it was with reference to a forgotten work of our own, he spoke of Shelley as one of the most brilliant but most hollow-hearted of created beings." Now, if there be any one word in the English language less descriptive of Shelley's heart than all others, it is certainly that word hollow. He was a remarkably full-hearted man: from the very fullness of his heart proceeded all his errors; he was mistaken but he was certainly sincere. Leight Ilunt, in his prefatory observations, remarks that "whether his (Shelley's) speculations were well or ill grounded he is acknowledged on all hands to have been sincere in the pursuit of them, and that his friends entertain the sincerest regard for his memory." It is very evident that Leigh Hunt knew little of the man whom he was writing for, and that he little bargained for the editor's appendix, when these lines were penned, he could little have thought that Mr. Samnel Caster Hall would insert in his piece of joinery such a neutralizing passage ast the following. "The dangerous tendency of Shelley's writings, his mistakes theoretical and practical, in some instances acknowledged by himself, will not find from others the excuse they have found from those, who had personal segard for the man as well as admiration for the poet. Shelley may have been, as it is contended he was, sincere in his schemes for remodelling society; bu his doctrines are not therefore the less pernicious." See what infinite pains the editor takes to falsify Leigh Hunt's words. Mr. Hunt says "it is acknowledged on all hands that Shelley was sincere," but Mr. Hall, for whom he is writing, will acknowledge nothing of the kind. "He may have been sincere," says this generous editor, "in his schemes for remodelling society." We should very much like to know what interested motives he could have had, seeing that his birth, his talents, and his fortune might have placed him, had it so pleased him, in the very highest ranks of the society he wished to remodel. If Rothschild had advocated a communion of property he would surely have been acknowledged sincere. Mr. Owen of Lanark is sincere ; if he were a poor man, people might doubt the fact, but as he is wealthy, it is past dispute. Mr. Shelley was born an aristocrat; it he had sprung from the dregs of the people, then Mr. Hall might have doubted his sincerity.
We e are neither disposed to quarrel with, nor to commend, the editor for the selections he has made from Shelley. He seems to have gone upon his neutralizing system; having introduced us to one of the worst and one of the best of Shelley's minor pieces. Perhaps this is but fair, as the duty of a selector should be to present the reader with such specimens of a poet, as may give the best idea to a stranger of the general qualities of that poet's muse, both as to its beauties and its defects. Mr. Hall, in the present instance at least, has done this most conscientiously, he has given us" The Cloud," which exhibits the peculiar vices of Shelley's genius, obscurity and extravagance, more glaringly than any poem we know. Beauties it has of rhythm and diction assuredly, but it is a most bewildering poem, as far removed from the sphere of human sympathy, as poetry possibly can be. We never in our life read a poem so overladen with discordant metaphors. Let us take two stanzas as specimens of the incongruous images which a wildly exuberant fancy will conjure up in relation to
Νεφέλαι of Aristophanes.
The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
When the morning-star shines dead.
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
In the light of its golden wings;
And when sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimison pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
That orbed maiden, with white fire laden,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer:
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Now, in these two stanzas, first of all the cloud is a " sailing rack," and what a" sailing rack" may be we have taxed our ingenuity in vain to discover; then it is evidently a bird for it has " wings" and a "nest ;" then it is something or other with a floor," which subsequently we find to be "a tent ;" then it is a creature that can " laugh," and then again it is a "tent." Now, we must say, that all these metaphors give us a very vague notion of a cloud, and we are old-fash oned enough to entertain an opinion that metaphors have no business in poetry except for purposes of illustration, and that they are decidedly intended to assist, and not to bewilder, the comprehension of the reader.
But the ode" to a Sky-lark" is truly delicious; it is one of the most exquisite of Shelley's creations. It is full of imagery, but the images do not distract Each simile is kept distinct, and each complete in itself. We have not here a gorgeous, unmeaning, metaphorical mass, made, as it were, from a number of gems all ground together in a mill, but a string of jewels each more glittering than the last, undetached but yet unconfused. If our article had not already extended to such, great a length we would quote the whole of this exquisite poem, as it is, we can only give a portion of it. But go to the book reader-go to the Book of Gems--the " Sky-lark" and the "Intimations of immortality," are alone worth the value of the book. They are gems beyond all price.
All the earth and air
From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art, we know not;
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.
In the light of thought,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes, and fears it heeded not.
And is not this "harmonious madness?" Is not this "clear joyance?" Many have been the "odes to a Sky-lark;" but was there ever one in the least like this? No one but Shelley could have written it. It has not a feature in it that resembles the poetry of any other bard. It is all original : a beautiful emanation from one of the most wonderful individual minds, that ever shed a lustre upon the earth. How joyously does image after image seem to float up into the clear hyaline like the liquid notes of the blythe creature they describe. How free, how gushing, how spontaneous is each verse-the poet's strains are poured forth with as little art as those of the mounting sky-lark, and with full as much animal enjoyment.
We have never heard,
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.
The selections from Coleridge, who stands next on the list, are not badly chosen ; but we object in toto to the system upon which all the selections have been made. The editor says in his preface, that "he has taken complete poems, though short, in preference to detached passages from more extensive works." Mr. Hall terms his volume "A Book of Gems," and, therefore, w
consider, that he is bound to give us the finest passages he can meet with in the authors, who have a place in his list. This, to be sure, would have given him a vast deal more trouble, and is objectionable upon that score, although upon no other. There are always passages to be found in every lengthened work, which are perfectly complete, when separated from their context. We believe that it is Mr. Hall's intention to publish a fourth volume of his book, which is to contain only Dramatic Gems; in that work he will be obliged to give ext acts; and, for that purpose, he will be obliged to read immensely, if he trusts to his own abours alone. We would recommend him to call in Payne Collier or Alexander Dyce, to his assistance. The latter is now preparing an edition of Middleton, which, we think, will be one of the finest specimens of editorship ever issued from the press.
Mr. Leigh Hunt has written the prefatory notice appended to the extracts from Keats's works. And honestly we think, it would have been impossible, utterly impossible, to have done it better. It is quite a biographical gem. Fortunately, Mr. Hall has not contrived to botch it; it is Leigh Hunt's to the last sentence which, happening, to contain a beautifully comprehensive scrap of criticism, we shall forthwith transfer to our pages. "Of our lately deceased poets, if you want imaginative satire or bitter wailing, you must go to the writings of Lord Byron; if a thoughtful dulcet and wild dreaminess, you must go to Coleridge; if a startling appeal to the first elements of your nature and sympathies, (most musical also) to Shelley; if a thorough enjoyment of the beautiful, for beauty's sake, like a walk on a summer's noon in a land of woods and meadows, you must embower yourself in the luxuries of Keats." Whole volumes of criticism could not have individualized more distinctly these four great poets.
Now, this is a book, on which we might write for ever; but we must bring ourselves speedily to a conclusion; but, before we do this, as honest critics, we must record our opinion, that on the whole the selections are not good, at least not to our taste. There are forty poets quoted, amongst whom will be found Charles Dibdin and Tom Bayly, and Tom Hood: we think that from the unquoted ones many might have been selected much more worthy of a place in the Book of Gems, at all events, than these two Toms; to whose prænomina we were almost on the point of attaching an old family name. Arcades ambo, et cantare pares. But why are not Motherwell, and Browning, and Sheridan Knowles, and Alford, and Miss Bowles, to be found in the Book of Gems? Surely, they write better verses than Haynes Bayley and Caroline Norton. And Robert Montgomery, much as he has been abused, ought to have had a niche in the book; and Edwin Atherstone might have been there without disgracing his company.
The illustrations are forty-three in number and all beautiful, all gems - Colins's, and Martin's (how very strange their names sound together, for they are the very antipodes of landscape painters) and Reinagle's, are our favorites; there is also a church-yard scene by Creswick, which reminds us of Grey's church-yard, and re-calls to our recollection the time; but we must not indulge our egotistical propensities. There is a fine engraving too in the book, from Maclise's painting of Young Salvator and the picture-dealer, which we remember having seen a little time ago, we think, in the British Institution. Now, it is very clear, that these engravings might find us in pretty enough gossip until we had exhausted another quire of paper, and with it, the reader's patience. But, we must pause. The engravings are far superior, as a whole, to those in the volume of last year, which is now lying on the table before us. In that book there is one picture, which is worth any price, it is a full-length portrait of a lady, sitting in a chair, with her foot on a cushion; such a lady and such a foot, it reminds us of ; but we have finished our article, and thrown aside the BOOK OF GEMS.