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Beside his rosy sleep, hath vanish'd all
In the main part of the poem, and “in the development of character and motive,” as the author expressly intimates, dramatic effect has been made a secondary object. Perpetua is unreal in her calmness. She is raised above the passionate emotions, the subduing tenderness of our nature, and a sense of coldness, of something statue-like in the effect, is left upon the admiring but unsympathizing mind. Neither is this compensated for by a rich flow of verse. In the style there is strength and simplicity, and it is so delightful to meet with this that we advert with reluctance to the inharmonious effect of the constant occurrence of the ellipsis, and the serious liberties with our language which occasionally obscure the meaning, and cannot be considered consistent with strict correctness, either grammatical or lexicographal.
We must enter our protest against such easy negligence as the conversion of “ apart” into a noun-substantive, and the faulty ellipsis in the last line.
“ Yon niche, where an apart was sought, alone
From crowds that own'd no reverence for him
In the same passionate address to Jupiter Olympus we have the following negligences of a similar kind.
" Jove! give back-
We cannot be guilty of the injustice of stopping our quotation where our censure ends, and withholding the beautiful passage that follows,—even though with some awkwardness we shall have to return to our interrupted criticisms.
“Oh! to him
We go back ungracefully to our unexhausted instances of unallowable ellipsis.
“Ay, you may jest ; 'tis none.”—p. 3. The selfish and ambitious father speaks thus of the power of Perpetua to aid his projects :
“For Vivia, mark !
E’en to the Tiber's mouth.”—p. 16.
The last defect of this nature we are about to cite, we find surrounded by such beauty that we extract the whole passage, and we shall rejoice if our criticism is utterly forgotten and lost in the excitement of higher and better sentiments.
“ O love, that shone so bright o'er all the world,
That every man seem'd image of a God!
His kingdom is within you. Thus for me,
Blest by redeeming love, into heav'n's kingdom.”—p. 63. There is an occasional tendency in our author to yield to the temptation of what is called fine writing. This consists chiefly in the use of glittering and imposing, but unmeaning and inappropriate figures. In the following passage Christ is not exalted, but lowered, when he is called “the immortal Poet of Humanity." Such an expression infallibly suggests ideas and comparisons of the most inappropriate kind,—and to our feeling there is a levity in the term which the sacredness of Christian sentiment rejects. Though his character was the divinest of creations, yet in no sense can we call Christ a Poet, except as we might call God a Poet, and by so doing offend all right feeling. Nothing again can be more hard and material, glittering but unmeaning, than the comparison of Christ's mind to a stylus, a dead instrument for tracing impressions on dead substances,—and to a classical reader who has but one idea of a stylus, it must be “ confusion worse confounded” to have to think of it as “ diamonded with light." Yet we have seen this very faulty passage quoted with high praise.
“ Bow down to him, a mightier one than all,
The immortal Poet of Humanity!
But we gladly turn to the more gracious office of presenting to our readers some of the many beauties of this poem. Saturus is the Christian instructor of Perpetua,—and here is their first meeting in the drama. Vivia had been communing with her divided heart, on her child, her duty and her death, when
“ Enter Saturus.
Now all is well.
Under thy rebuke,
We know not that the power of Faith to live a life of peace, and to look into the heart of things for the hidden workings of the love of God, has ever been more truly stated than in the following passage. We are aware that a more sparing use of the Fancy would have given to it more of depth and power.
Woe for the truth,
And sings them to forgetfulness in joy.
I do believe, Were love omnipotent within ourselves, Woe were extinct. I cannot answer theeI am but man, while He is God o'er all. Yet as a man show manliness in this, That I will trust the Pow'r hath given me all, Nor meanly scant my thankfulness with doubt. The mystery sleeps, while Faith, with arms afold, Over a trusting heart, sits smiling by. It sleeps, o'er-canopied by starry heavens, And cradled in earth's beauty. Let it rest : While sunshine comes to herald in the day ; While flow'rs and breezes intermingle sweets ; While birds still warble gladness out, like light Athwart the azure heav'ns; while mountains standThose silent, shadowy chroniclers of timeTo wake within our eyes and hearts a worship; While yon great joy of God, the ocean, heaves To seek the skies that mate it in his glory; While stately pageants throng the heav'ns by day, And multitudinous brightness crowds the night; While the calm interposing twilight comes, Tender and gracious, hand in hand with these Her grander sisters-(see, yon unmatchable star Now decks her dusky forehead into light !); While man, the fine epitome of all, Is master made of all, yea, more than allHath given to him a mind that can create Worlds endless out of this, with leave of choice Of what or seemeth good or ill to him ; While love, the crowning gift that comes from heav'n, A ray that streams direct from forth the Godhead, Lights up an earthborn man into an angel, Who wings his way to heaven upon the track ; While for each sorrow, high and strong soe'er, There lives a stronger good may ride the wave,