MR. JAMES MONTGOMERY is by birth a Scotchman, and was born on the 4th of November, 1771, at Irvine, a small sea-port town in Ayrshire, Scotland. He was the eldest son of a Moravian minister, by whom he was removed to Gracehill, in the county of Antrim, Ireland, in the year 1776; and afterwards placed at the early age of six years in the seminary of the united Moravian brethren, at Fulneck, near Leeds, in Yorkshire. It may be almost said, that at this early period of Mr. Montgomery's life be was for ever separated from his parents, since, previous to their departnre as missionaries for the West Indies, where his mother died in 1789, and his father in 1790, he resided with them but for three months in the year 1784.
How happy the parents of Mr. Montgomery had been in placing their son, circumstanced as they were, under the guidance and tuition of the pious and learned Moravian brethren, can now be easily perceived from the result it has produced. For, notwithstanding that every reader of Mr. Montgomery's works may trace in them the effects of a mind naturally virtuous and religious, we cannot withhold from believing that he is in a great measure indebted to the education he has received for his wellearned fame as a moral poet. He began to write sacred poetry when he was no older than ten years, and report even goes so far as to say, that he had composed at this tender age, two volumes of such poetry. On finishing his studies in the seminary of the Moravian brethren, which occupied ten years, he was placed by his friends as an apprentice with a very worthy man of his own persuasion, who kept a retail shop at Mirfield, near Wakefield. This was a calling in no manner calculated to suit the genius of Montgomery; and not being under the articles of apprenticeship, he left his master at the end of a year and a half, with only three shillings and sixpence in his pocket, but big with the expectation of reaching London, which now his youthful imagination pourtrayed as the patron city of learning and talent. His humble means, however, did not allow him to proceed as far as he expected, and he found himself constrained on the fifth day, to enter into an employment at Wath, near Rotherham, which was not dissimilar to that he had left behind him at Mirfield. Previous to his departure from this latter place, he had left a letter with his employer, in which, besides testifying his uneasiness of mind, he promised to be heard from again in a few days. He now fulfilled his promise, and requested at the same time a character to recommend him to the trust of his new master. His upright conduct and virtuous habits not only gained him this from his late employer and the rest of the Moravian brethren, but also the promise of an establishment more congenial to his wishes, if he would return. This, however, he declined, candidly confessing the cause of his melancholy, but concealing the ambitious motives which prompted him to withdraw from their benevolent protection. It was his present master, wit, whom he remained only twelve months, that many years after wards, in the most calamitous period of Montgomery's life, sought him out amidst his misfortunes, not for the purpose of offering consolation only, but to serve hi 'in substantially by every means in his power. The interview which took place between the old man and his former servant, the evening previous to his trial at Doncaster, will ever live in the memory of him who can forget an injury but not a kindness. No father could have evinced a greater affection for a darling son; the tears he shed were honourable to his feelings, and were the best testimony to the conduct and integrity of James Montgomery.
On leaving Wath, he found means to introduce himself to Mr. Harrison, a bookseller, in London, in consequence of having sent him, previous to his departure, a volume of manuscript poems. This gentleman gave Mr. Montgomery employment in his shop, but not undertaking the publication of his poems, he recommended the poet to the study of prose, as likely to be more profitable than poetry. Mr. Montgomery began now to perceive that London was not so much the land of promotion as he fancied it to be; and having had at the end of eight months a misunderstanding with Mr. Harrison, which was accompanied with the misfortune of not being able to dispose of an eastern tale in prose, he returned to his former employment in Yorkshire.
He removed in 1792 to Sheffield, and engaged himself with M. Gales, the publisher of a very popular newspaper, at that time known by the title of the Sheffield Register. Mr. Montgomery became a useful correspondent to this paper, and gained so far the good opinion and affection of Mr. Gales and his family that they vied with each other in demonstrating their respect and regard for him. In 1794, when Mr. Gales left England to avoid a political prosecution, Montgomery, with the assistance of a literary gentleman, with whom he had not been even personally acquainted, became the publisher of the Register, which title he changed for that of the Iris. He was not, however, long in his new profession before he fell twice into the hands of Justice, and underwent each time the penalty of fine and imprisonment. His first crime was to have printed a song, composed by an Irish clergyman, at the entreaty of a man whom he had never seen before. He was tried for this at the Quarter Sessions of 1795, and found guilty of publishing; but this verdict being tantamount to an acquittal, it was refused by the court, and the jury were sent to reconsider for another hour, when they gave in a general verdict of guilty. The sentence, which was delivered by M. A. Taylor, Esq. was a fine of twenty pounds and three months imprisonment in York Castle. Our readers may think that we are forgetting ourselves in this part of Mr. Montgomery's biography, and are leading them back to some remote and barbarous age; but such a trial did take place at no earlier a period than thirty years ago. During his confinement, an active friend superintended his business, and on resuming his editorial duties he commenced a series of essays, entitled the Whisperer, which, notwithstanding that they were written in haste for his paper, contained a very considerable share of genuine humour.
Though he was very anxious not to leave it in the power of the law to find him guilty of an offence a second time, it was not however long after undergoing his first penalty, that he had to experience the severity of another. He gave in his paper, as he thought, in a correct manner, the particulars of a riot that took place in the streets of Sheffield, and in which two men were shot by the military. His statement of the circumstances, however, gave offence to a magistrate in the neighbourhood, who preferred a bill of indictment against Mr. Montgomery; and notwithstanding that the latter had a great many witnesses who verified his account of the transaction in the iris, he was found guilty at Doncaster Sessions, in January, 1796, and sentenced to pay a fine of thirty pounds, and suffer another imprisonment in York Castle, for the space of six months.
He found his constitution greatly impaired in consequence of these two imprisonments, and immediately after his last liberation he repaired to Scarborough for the benefit of his health. It may he said that this was the first time for him to behold the sea as a poet, and the delight which the sight of it afforded his mind was not greater than the health restored to his body. His visits thither were consequently repeated, and it was one of these which gave birth to his poem on the Ocean, written in the slimmer of 1805. In 1797 he published his Prison "Amusements," and in 1806, produced the volume, containing the "Wanderer of Switzerland." His time was now chiefly occupied in editing his paper, and no work of considerable magnitude appeared from his pen until the year 1809, when his West indies was published in quarto, with superb embellishments. Three years after the appearance of this last mentioned poem, he produced "The world before the Flood," which is to stamp his fame for ever as a superior poet.
It has been frequently, and perhaps justly, observed, that the delight which beautiful poetry affords, is obtained too often to the prejudice of moral feelings and precepts, which are better calculated to ennoble the human mind. But had we not Milton, Fenelon, Klopstock, and even the divine writers themselves, to show the fallacy of this bold accusation, brought against the most powerful language and effort of man, the poems of Montgomery alone would form a compilation of proofs so able and so manifest in themselves, as to be fully sufficient for composing a refutation at once unanswerable and undoubted. Every line of his poetry invites to a love of virtue and all that is amiable in our nature; while it fills the soul at the same time with the sweet luxury of pure, yet delightful enjoyment, and creates within us an admiration and esteem for that art under which so many great and happy powers have been put forth.
These few prefatory remarks may be sufficient to show the outline of Mr. Montgomery's character as a moral poet, and also to prove that poetry is neither useless nor vicious when in able and proper hands; we shall now place before our readers a more extensive and minute representation of his powers, from venturing on a critique of his two principal poems, — The "Wanderer of Switzerland," and "The World before the Flood."
The former of these two beautiful productions has been the basis of Mr. Montgomery's present popularity, but it is, however, inferior to the latter, in every qualification that can exalt a poetical composition in the opinion of the man of letters and refined taste.
The story of the" Wanderer of Switzerland " is simply thus:
A native of Switzerland and his family, consisting of his wife, his widowed daughter and her young children, emigrating from their country in consequence of its subjugation by the French, in 1798, arrive at the cottage of a shepherd, beyond the frontiers, where, while they are hospitably entertained, the Wanderer, at the desire of his host, relates the sorrows and sufferings of his country during the invasion and conquest of it by the French. An account of his own misfortunes is told in connection with this, and he concludes by saying, that, after the example of many of his countrymen, flying from the tyranny of France, it is his intention to settle in some remote part of America.
The poem is divided into six parts. The FIRST PART is merely introductory to the sad story of the Wanderer and his country, which begins in the second; it cannot therefore be supposed to interest us as those that follow, in which we have a pathetic relation, not only of the misfortunes of the Wanderer and his distressed family, but of an entire country brought under the' subjection of a cruel and haughty people. The FIRST PART, however, contains some beautiful stanzas; among these the two following are conspicuous.
The Wanderer is addressing his fallen country:
O'er thy mountains sunk in blood,
Are the waves of ruin hurled;
Like the waters of the flood
Rolling round a buried world.
The shepherd alludes to the close of evening:
On the western hills afar
Evening lingers with delight,
While she views her favourite star
Brightening on the brow of night.
The stanzas on the avalanches or glaciers, are as sublime as the measure in which the poem is written will admit:
By an hundred winters piled,
When the Glaciers, dark with death,
Rang o'er precipices wild,
Hang-suspended by a breath:
If a pulse but throb alarm,
Headlong down the steep they fall;
—For a pulse will break the charm,—
Bounding, bursting, burying all.
Struck with horror stiff and pale,
When the chaos breaks on high,
All that view it from the vale,
All that hear it coming, die.
The SECOND PART contains little more than an account of the preparations made by the Wanderer's countrymen to oppose the invaders. At the conclusion of a spirited description of the birth place of his sires, he has the following beautiful and picturesque stanza:—
There, my life, a silent stream,
Glid along, yet seemed at rest;
Lovely as an infant's dream
On the waking mother's breast.
The scenery about the camp of the invaded is portrayed in a very sublime and happy manner:
Nature's bulwarks, built by Time,
'Gainst Eternity to stand,
Mountains terribly sublime,
Girt the camp on either hand.
Dim behind, the Valley brake
Into rocks that fled from view;
Fair in front the gleaming lake
Roll'd its waters bright and blue.
'Midst the hamlets of the dale,
STANTZ, with simple grandeur crown'd,
Seem'd the mother of the vale,
With her children scatter'd round.
The image in the last stanza is well conceived, but is yet inferior to the following, which shows the situation of Stantz after its subjugation.
Midst the ruins of the dale
Now she bows her hoary head,
Like the widow of the vale
Weeping o'er her children dead.
The THIRD PART contains a description of the battle and massacre of Underwalden, and is, perhaps, the most animated of the whole poem. We can only admit these few pathetic stanzas:—
Fierce amid the loud alarms,
Shouting in the foremost fray,
Children raised their little arms
In their country's evil day.
On their country's dying bed,
Wives and husbands pour'd their breath;
Many a youth and maiden bled,
Married at thine altar, death!
Cold and keen the assassin's blade
Smote the father to the ground,
Through the infant's breast convey'd
To the mother's heart a wound.
The FOURTH PART is more pathetic than any of the rest; in it the Wanderer relates the circumstances attending the death of Albert, his son-in-law; and as his daughter, the widow of Albert, is present, the most tender emotions are excited in consequence of her trouble on hearing the recital of those events connected with the early fate of her beloved husband.
The following beautiful simile is also in this part:
So when night with rising shade
Climbs the Alps from steep to steep,
Tilt in hoary gloom array'd
All the giant-mountains sleep—
High in heaven their monarch stands,
Bright and beauteous from afar,
Shining unto distant lands
Like a new-created star.
In the FIFTH PART the Wanderer relates his adventures after the battle of Underwalden; the best stanzas in it are those descriptive of the scene after the battle:—
Many a widow fixed her eye,
Weeping, where her husband bled,
Heedless, though her babe was by
Prattling to his father dead.
Many a mother, in despair
Turning up the ghastly slain,
Sought her son, her hero there,
Whom she long'd to seek in vain!
Dark the evening-shadows roll'd
On the eye that gleam'd in death;
And the evening-dews fell cold
On the lip that gasp'd for breath.
In the SIXTH PART the Wanderer tells his intention of settling with his people in America: it contains more true patriotism than all the rest of the poem put together. As our short space will admit but one extract, we prefer the following to any other, because it places before the reader a happy outline of this part of the poem.
Far beyond the Atlantic floods,
Stretch'd beneath the evening sky,
Realms of mountains, dark with woods,
In Columbia's bosom lie.
There, in glens and caverns rude,
Silent since the world began,
Dwells the virgin solitude,
Unbetray'd by faithless man;
Where a tyrant never trod,
Where a slave was never known,
But where nature worships GOD
In the wilderness alone;
—Thither, thither would I roam;
There my children may be free:
I for them will find a home,
They shall find a grave for me.
The characters of the "Wanderer of Switzerland" are familiar and welcome to every human breast: the aged father and mother, affectionate son-in-law, and widowed disconsolate daughter, with her poor helpless children, are what we see every day in real life, and need only possess the common sense and nature bestowed on man, to share in the delights and pain of every thing connected with their fate. But there are, however, some visible defects in this poem. The circumstances attending the fate of the Wanderer's countrymen, and the death of Albert, which excite the greatest interest throughout, are known about the conclusion of the fourth part, which ought, if possible, to have been deferred to the sixth, the end of the poem. If this had been done, the mind of the reader would have been filled with the same share of excitement and eager anticipation during the perusal of the whole, in consequence of the main incidents being still expected, as it had been while it passed over the four first parts. There is besides this what we consider a defect in the versification, which in some places borders on what critics call sing-song. We cannot trace this defect, however, in any of the other poems of Mr. Montgomery, which show the masterly hand of a superior poet in every line; but what we allude to is not an unusual mark of a juvenile poet, and mostly arises from the latter lines of a stanza being little more than an echo of those which precede them; or by an unnecessary repetition of the line last repeated.
It is happy for that critic, who has so much good sense and taste left, that the blemishes of a work are incapable of prejudicing him so far against the author, as to cause him to pass over its beauties with silent contempt. The Edinburgh Reviewers were not so far fortunate in their criticism on the "Wanderer of Switzerland." A short time after its first appearance they did whatever lay in their power to crush it altogether, and discourage the author from ever writing again. But this was not, however, until it had gone through three editions; for they said they took compassion upon Mr. Montgomery, on his first appearance, conceiving him to be some slender youth of seventeen, intoxicated with weak tea and the praises of sentimental ensigns and other provincial literati, and tempted in that situation to commit a feeble outrage on the public, of which the recollection would he a sufficient punishment. A third edition, however, they thought too alarming to be passed over in silence; and though they were "perfectly assured" that, in less than "three years," nobody would know the name of the "Wanderer of Switzerland," or any of the other poems that accompanied it, still they thought themselves called on to interfere, and prevent as far as lay in their power the mischief that might arise from the intermediate prevalence of so distressing an epidemic. But all their combined efforts to annihilate the poor Wanderer were unavailing; every day saw it gain more and more prevalence in public favour, till fresh productions from the able pen of Mr. Montgomery, proved beyond every doubt that the bold assertions of the "great journal" respecting his character as a poet, were as malicious and as ill founded, as its predictions regarding the duration of his poem.
The "World Before The Flood," is by far Mr. Montgomery's best poem. It is divided into ten Cantos, written in the heroic couplet, and has for the foundation of its story, the invasion of Eden by the descendants of Cain. The principal characters on the side of the invaded, are Enoch, Javan, and Zillah. Javan, having been ambitious of acquiring fame, forsook his native fields in the ardour of youth, and having joined the bands of the idolatrous king, continued with them during many of their conquests, till the latter coming to invade Eden, the young adventurer feels himself prevailed upon by the influence of an early attachment he had for Zillah, to retreat in the night time from the camp of the descendants of Cain, and seek once more his native glen. The passage descriptive of this retreat of Javan, is undoubtedly the best in the first canto; with the exception of those lines which pourtray his character in such a clear and powerful manner. We are sorry our limits will not allow us to give them entire.
Quick his eye and changeable its ray,
As the sun glancing through a vernal day;
And like the lake, by storm or moonlight seen,
With darkening furrows or cerulean mien,
His countenance, the mirror of his breast,
The calm or trouble of his soul express'd.
As years enlarged his form, in moody hours,
His mind betray'd its weakness with its powers;
Alike his fairest hopes and strangest fears
Were nursed in silence, or divulged with tears;
The fulness of his heart repress'd his tongue,
Though none might rival Javan, when he sung.
He loved, in lonely indolence reclined,
To watch the clouds, and listen to the wind;
But from she north, when snow and tempest came.
His nobler spirit mounted into flame;
with stern delight he roam'd the howling woods,
Or hung in ecstacy o'er headlong floods.
Meanwhile excursive fancy long'd to view
The world, which yet by fame alone he knew.
The second Canto is all Elysium. Javan arrives at the place where he had formerly parted with Zillah, when he withdrew from the Patriarch's glen, and there again discovers her in a bower asleep. As he believes it improper to stand beholding her in this situation, he conceals himself in the thicket, and plays on his flute, whilst his fair one's slumbers are visited by the most delightful and ominous dreams respecting her supposed absent lover. She awakes at length — Javan does not make himself known, and female pride in her forbidding her to acknowledge him, they separate after a short interview; she to tend her father's flock, and he to find the dwelling of Enoch. We refrain quoting from any of the parts immediately connected with the interview of the two lovers, that we may afford ourselves space to make one or two extracts from this Canto, which will place Mr. Montgomery in a superior point of view as a descriptive poet. The following is the description given of the forest through which Javan had passed, previous to his interview with Zillah:
Steep the descent, and wearisome the way;
The twisted boughs forbade the light of day;
No breath from heaven refresh'd the sultry gloom,
The arching forest seem'd one pillar'd tomb.
There, as the massy foliage, far aloof
Display'd a dark impenetrable roof,
So, gnarl'd and rigid, claspt and interwound,
An uncouth maze of roots emboss'd the ground:
Midway beneath, the sylvan wild assumed
A milder aspect, shrubs and flowerets bloom'd;
Openings of sky, and little plots of green,
And showers of sun-beams through the eaves were seen.
What follows is a description of the place where Javan parted with Zillah, when he left the Patriarch's glen; it is, perhaps, more beautiful than the above, but the latter is more creditable to the author, in consequence of its being a more faithful copy after nature.
Sweet was she scene! apart the cedars stood,
A sunny inlet open'd in she wood;
With vernal tints the wild-briar thicket glows,
For here she desert flourish'd as she rose;
From sapling trees, with lucid foliage crown'd,
Gay lights and shadows twinkled on the ground,
Up the tall stems luxuriant creepers run
To hang their silver blossoms in the sun;
Deep velvet verdure clad the turf beneath,
Where trodden flowers their richest odours breathe;
O'er all the bees, with murmuring music, flew
From bell to bell, to sip the treasured dew;
While insect myriads, in the solar gleams,
Glanced to and fin, like intermingling beams;
So fresh, so pure, the woods, the sky, the air,
It seem'd a place where angels might repair,
And tune their harps beneath those tranquil shades,
To morning songs, or moonlight serenades.
In the third Canto, Javan makes a most beautiful and pathetic soliloquy on Zillah's desertion of him; after which he reaches the ruins of his native cottage, and thence proceeds to Enoch's dwelling, where he is kindly received by the venerable Patriarch. The description of the ruined cottage and the Patriarch's glen, both of which are to be found in this Canto, add great weight to the specimens which we have already given of Mr. Montgomery's descriptive powers: as they are not long, we can find a place for both here—
—he gazed around,
In wistful silence, eyed those walls decay'd,
Between whose chinks the lively lizard play'd;
The moss-clad timbers, loose and lapsed awry,
Threatening ere long in wider wreck to lie;
The fractured roof, through which the sunbeams shone,
With rank unflowering verdure overgrown;
The prostrate fragments of the wicker-door,
And reptile traces on the damp green floor.
The author has been very happy in his choice of the last line. The Patriarch's glen would be an ornament to the canvas, were it drawn with as much beauty, and as faithfully, as it is described by the poet.
Deep was that valley, girt with rock and wood;
In rural groups the scatter'd hamlet stood;
Tents, harbours, cottages, adorn'd the scene,
Gardens and fields, and shepherds' walks between;
Through all, a streamlet, from its mountain-source,
Seen hot by stealth, pursued its willowy course.
In the fourth Canto, Enoch relates to Javan the circumstances attending the death of Adam; no part of the poem affords so many elegant specimens of true feeling as this. We give that passage which places before the reader in such a powerful and pathetic manner, the grief and anxious solicitude of Eve for Adam, when she finds him unexpectedly in his dying hour —
She sprang, as smitten with a mortal wound,
Forward, and cast herself upon the ground
At Adam's feet; half-rising in despair,
Him from our arms she wildly strove to tear;
Repell'd by gentle violence, she press'd
His powerless hand to her convulsive breast,
And kneeling, bending o'er him, full of fears,
Warm on his bosom shower'd her silent tears.
Light to his eyes at that refreshment came,
They open'd on her in a transient flame;
—"And art thou here, my Life! my Love!" he cried,
"Faithful in death to this congenial aide?
Thus let me bind thee to my breaking heart,
One dear, one bitter moment, ere we part."
—"Leave me not, Adam! leave me not below;
With thee I tarry, or with thee I go.
She said, and yielding to his faint embrace,
Clung round his neck, and wept upon his face.
Alarming recollection soon return'd,
His fever'd frame with growing anguish burn'd:
Ah! then, as Nature's tenderest impulse wrought,
With fond solicitude of love she sought
To sooth his limbs upon their grassy bed,
And make the pillow easy to his head;
She wiped his reeking temples with her hair;
She shook the leaves to stir the sleeping air;
Moisten'd his lips with kisses; with her breath
Vainly essay'd to quell the fire of Death,
That ran and revell'd through his swollen veins
With quicker pulses, and severer pains.
In the fifth Canto, Enoch leads Javan to the burying-place of the Patriarchs, it being the anniversary of the fall of Adam, to whom it was the custom on such days to offer sacrifice. The prophecy of Enoch is also in this Canto, and is executed in a very bold and masterly manner. The burying-place of the Patriarchs, is described with so much beauty, that we cannot pass it over without quoting it as a passage of great merit.
The little heaps were ranged in comely rows,
With walks between, by friends and kindred trod,
Who dress'd with duteous hands each hallow'd sod:
No sculptured monument was taught to breathe
His praises, whom the worm devour'd beneath;
The high, the low, the mighty, and the fair,
Equal in death, were undistinguish'd there;
Yet not a hillock moulder'd near that spot,
By one dishonour'd or by all forgot;
To some warm heart the poorest dust was dear,
From some kind eye the meanest claim'd a tear.
And oft the living, by affection led,
Were wont to walk in spirit with their dead,
Where no dark cypress cast a doleful gloom,
No blighting yew shed poison o'er the tomb,
But white and red with intermingling flowers,
The graves look'd beautiful in sun and showers.
Green myrtles fenced it, and beyond their bound,
Ran the clear rill with ever-murmuring sound;
'Twas not a scene for Grief to nourish care,
It breathed of hope, and moved the heart to prayer.
In the sixth Canto, Javan has a second interview with Zillah, who betrays her affection for him, in consequence of the anxiety she expresses for his safety, and her wish to perish by the sword of the invaders so that he might live. After this, Javan visits the dwellings of his neighbours, whom he had not yet seen since his late return home, and sings to his harp, whilst they are assembled round him in the evening. He commences with a beautiful address to Twilight; after which follows Jubal's song on the creation, a piece of sacred poetry, perhaps without a rival in the English language. In his song, Javan also exemplifies the power of music, by showing what a happy revolution it wrought formerly in the disposition of Cain, as he was about to murder Jubal, whilst playing on his harp. Our limits will not admit more than one short extract from this Canto, and we offer the following, which carries its own great character with it, as strongly as it describes that of the unfortunate Cain, when his dark soul was meditating the murder of the bard—
—Grim before him lay,
Couch'd like a lion watching for his prey,
With blood-red eye of fascinating fire,
Fix'd, like the gazing serpent's, on the lyre,
An awful form, that through the gloom appear'd,
Half brute, half human; whose terrific heard,
And hoary flakes of long dishevell'd hair,
Like eagle's plumage, ruffled by the air,
Veil'd a sad wreck of grandeur and of grace,
Limbs worn and wounded, a majestic face,
Deep-ploughed by Time, and ghastly pale with woes,
That goaded till remorse to madness rose;
Haunted by phantoms, he had fled his home,
With savage beasts in solitude to roam;
Wild as the waves, and wandering as the wind,
No art could tame him, and no chains could hind:
Already seven disastrous years had shed
Mildew and blast on his unshelter'd head;
His brain was smitten by the sun at noon,
His heart was wither'd by the cold night-moon.
In the seventh Canto, the glen of the Patriarch is entered during the night, and they and their families carried away captive by a detachment from the army of the invaders. They submit to their enemy without betraying a want of resignation: and having travelled all night, find themselves in the morning, on the top of a mountain, where, while they halt, they offer to the Almighty "the sacrifice of prayer and praise." Having descended the mountain, they pass by the tomb of Abel, which Enoch points out to Javan, and relates the circumstances attending his death, as occasioned by the murderer Cain. Javan relates to Enoch, in return, an account of the origin of their present invaders, believed to he the descendants of Cain, and who are called giants, from their great bulk and stature. The Canto concludes with the relation of the singular occurences attending the birth and early adventures of the giant King, leader of the host, come to invade Eden. The awful character of the foster sire, by whom this last mentioned personage was brought up, may be sufficient to prepare the minds of our readers for one of his early adventures.
A Goatherd fed his flock on many a steep,
Where Eden's rivers swell the southern deep;
A melancholy man, who dwelt alone,
Yet far abroad his evil fame was known,
The first of woman born, that might presume
To wake the dead bones mouldering in the tomb,
And, from the gulph of uncreated night,
Call phantoms of futurity to light.
'Twas said his voice could stay the falling flood,
Eclipse the sun, and turn the moon to blood,
Roll back the planets on their golden cars,
And from the firmament unfix the stars.
Spirits of fire and air, of sea and land,
Came at his call, and flew at his command;
His spells so potent; that his changing breath
Open'd or shut the gates of life and death.
O'er nature's powers be claim'd supreme controul,
And held communion with all Nature's soul:
The name and place of every herb he knew,
Its healing balsam, or pernicious dew;
The meanest reptile, and the noblest birth
Of ocean's caverns, or the living earth,
Obey'd his mandate: — Lord of all the rest,
Man more than all his bidden art confess'd,
Cringed to his face, consulted, and revered
His oracles, — detested him and fear'd.
The following is the early adventure of the giant king, whose delight in his boyhood was to brave the river's wrath, to wrestle with the waves; and when torrents had swollen the furious tide, to ride on the foamy surge.
Once on a cedar, from its mountain throne
Pluckt by she tempest, forth he sail'd alone,
And reach'd the gulph: — with eye of eager fire,
And flushing cheek, he watch'd the shores retire,
Till sky and water wide around were spread;
—Straight to the sun he thought his voyage led,
With shouts of transport hail'd its setting light,
And follow'd all the long and lonely night;
But ere the morning-star expired, he found
His stranded hark once more on earthly ground.
Tears, wrung from secret shame, suffused his eyes,
When in the east he saw the sun arise;
Pride quickly check'd them — young ambition burn'd
For bolder enterprize, as he return'd.
The eighth Canto commences with an animated and beautiful address to the spirit or soul of the lyre, put in the mouth of the giant king's minstrel, who immediately after, sings the praises of his monarch, and describes the destruction of the remnant of his enemies' forces in an assault by land and water, on their encampment, between the forest on the eastern plain of Eden, and the river to the west. The king during the song of the minstrel, is represented on the summit of a mountain beneath the shade of aged trees, and encompassed by all his giant chiefs. While the latter trembled to hear the dreadful account of their own deeds, his soul remains unmoved, and his look is often turned to the west, whilst his thoughts are labouring with the ambitious design of even storming the mount of Paradise. At the conclusion of the bard's song, the trumpet summons the appearance of the captive Patriarchs and their families before the giant king and his chieftains.
To quote the beautiful passages found in this Canto, would be to quote every line in it. We must confine ourselves to one alone, and it is that characteristic of the great giant king in all his strength and pride of conquest.
Exalted o'er the vassal chiefs, behold
Their sovereign, cast in nature's mightiest mould;
Beneath an oak, whose woven boughs display'd
A verdant canopy of light and shade,
Throned on a rock the giant king appears,
In the full manhood of five hundred years;
His robe, the spoils of lions, by his might
Dragg'd from their dens, or slain in chase or fight;
His raven locks unblanch'd by withering time,
Amply dishevell'd o'er his brow sublime;
His dark eyes, flush'd with restless radiance, gleam
Like broken moonlight rippling on the stream.
Grandeur of soul, which nothing might appal,
And nothing satisfy if less than all,
Had stamp'd upon his air, his form, his face
The character of calm and awful grace;
But direst cruelty, by guilt represt,
Lurk'd in the dark volcano of his breast,
In silence brooding, like the secret power,
That springs the earthquake at the midnight hour.
Canto the ninth. — The Giant King is overjoyed on beholding the patriarchs in his power, and is determined to offer up their blood ere morning, as a price for that aid which he expects from his demons, when he is to storm the mount of Paradise. On beholding Javan among the crowd, his wrath is raised to the highest, and he orders his slaves in a vehement tone to smite him, fling his limbs into the flames, and scatter his ashes to the wind. Javan is already pleading before there is time for the orders of the tyrant to he put in execution, and as he concludes by observing that he dies happy if he dies alone, Zillah on a sudden makes her appearance, when a very affecting scene takes place between the two lovers. This is at length interrupted by the awful sound of the voice of the Goatherd, the old foster sire of the giant king, who having flung himself in adoration before the tyrant, and acted in a very demon-like manner for a considerable time, to the terror of the awe-struck beholders, pretends at length to discover the secret attending the birth of the king, by declaring that the sun himself is his celestial sire and the moon his mother, who consigned her babe to him in secrecy, to be a blessing to all mankind. Shortly after this declaration he proposes his deification by ordering the giant chiefs to pour out the blood of the patriarchs as an offering to their kin. But as he continues his blasphemous harangue, and has occasion to mention the name of GOD, a spasm of horror withers up his frame at the most sacred word; and while the king and his chieftains look sore amazed in silent expectation on their sorcerer, Enoch, amidst a dead silence, makes his sodden appearance, at sight of whom the giant monarch shook—
Shook like Belshazzer, in his festive hall,
When the hand wrote his judgment on the wall.
Our space will admit but a short extract from this Canto, for which reason we give the description of the Goatherd, foster sire of the giant king.
Scarcely seem'd he of the sons of earth;
Unchronicled the hour that gave him birth;
Though shrunk his cheek, his temples deeply plough'd,
Keen was his vulture-eye, his strength unbow'd;
Swarthy his features; venerably grey,
His beard dishevell'd o'er his bosom lay:
Bald was his front; but, white as snow behind,
His ample locks were scatter'd to the wind;
Naked he stood, save round his loins a zone
Of shagged fur, and o'er his shoulders thrown
A serpent's skin, that cross'd his breast, and round
His body thrice in glittering volumes wound.
In the tenth Canto Enoch foretells the malediction ready to light upon the heads of the sorcerer and the giant king, in addition with what is to happen about the time of the general deluge. The sorcerer, he said, was doomed to roam an out-cast for ever, and to live the scoff and scorn of mankind more than he had been its terror and adoration before; and his monarch was to he snatched from the pinnacle of his glory before morning by a death without a name, and his carcass left a prey for the wolves to slumber on at sunrise. As Enoch concludes by putting the utmost power of the giants to defiance, they and their leader rush instantaneously to smite him in death, when they are utterly and shamefully foiled in the attempt by the immediate ascension of the prophet into heaven in the sight of all his fellow brethren. Javan feeling himself endued by the divine spirit of Enoch, conducts the Patriarchs and their families through the host of the giants unhurt. The latter endeavour in the night-time to storm the mount of paradise, but the tempest rises, and showers sleet and hailstones in their faces, while the wind and waters are in dreadful commotion all around, and an earthquake rocks the agonizing earth beneath, which completely unnerve their strength by overwhelming them with terror. Coming on morning they are entirely routed by the fiery cherubim taking the field on winged coursers, and during their precipitate flight, their king is slain, agreeable to the prophecy of Enoch, by some unknown hand among his own people. The panic stricken legions fly homewards, leaving all their spoil and arms behind them, by which the natives of Eden find themselves greatly enriched, and freed henceforth from the terrors and danger of war, they lead a life of happiness and peace.
We have heard it laid as a material fault to this poem, that it is not sufficiently dramatic: to this objection we are sorry Mr. Montgomery has not left it in our power to raise another; but we can say, that had the defect which we have alluded to, never existed, it seems very probable that his poem would never have been charged with this last mentioned fault, or if so, that the charge would have been without a proper foundation. What we would next object to, is a frequent want of connexion between the lines of the couplet. Pope has been censured severely by the critics for mostly closing every couplet or two lines of his elaborate poetry with a period; and whilst Mr. Montgomery seems to have carefully avoided this studied defect, he has unfortunately, and we believe unwittingly, fallen into one not less serious, — that of making such a pause at the end of the first line of the couplet as completely bars the progress of its natural flow into the second, and consequently ruins its best effect.