We rejoice once more to see a polished and pathetic poem, in the old style of English pathos and poetry. This is of the pitch of the Castle of Indolence, and the finer parts of Spencer, with more feeling, in many places, than the first, and more condensation and diligent finishing than the latter. If the true tone of nature be not everywhere maintained, it gives place, at least, to art only, and not to affectation — and, least of all, to affectation of singularity or rudeness.
Beautiful as the greater part of this volume is, the public taste, we are afraid, has of late been too much accustomed to beauties of a more obtrusive and glaring kind, to be fully sensible of its merit. Without supposing that this taste has been in any great degree vitiated, or even imposed upon, by the babyism or the antiquarianism which have lately been versified for its improvement, we may be allowed to suspect, that it has been somewhat dazzled by the splendour, and bustle, and variety of the most popular of our recent poems; and that the more modest colouring of truth, and nature may, at this moment, seem somewhat cold and feeble. We have endeavoured, on former occasions, to do justice to the force and originality of some of these brilliant productions, as well as to the genius (fitted for much higher things) of their authors — and have little doubt of being soon called upon for a renewed tribute of applause. But we cannot help saying, in the mean time, that the work before us belongs to a class which comes nearer to our conception of pure and perfect poetry. Such productions do not, indeed, strike so strong a blow as the vehement effusions of our modern Trouveurs; but they are calculated, we think, to please more deeply, and to call out more permanently, those trains of emotion, in which the delight of poetry will probably be found to consist. They may not be so loudly nor so universally applauded; but their fame will probably endure longer, and they will be oftener recalled to mingle with the reveries of solitary leisure, or the consolations of real sorrow.
There is a sort of poetry, no doubt, as there is a sort of flowers, which can bear the broad sun and the ruffling winds of the world, — which thrive under the bands and eyes of indiscriminating multitudes, and please as much in hot and crowded saloons, as in their own sheltered repositories; but the finer and the purer sorts blossom only in the shade, and never give out their sweets but to those who seek them amid the quiet and seclusion of the scenes which gave them birth. There are torrents and cascades which attract the admiration of tittering parties, and of which even the busy must turn aside to catch a transient glance; but "the haunted stream" steals through a still and a solitary landscape; and its beauties are never revealed, but to him who strays, in calm contemplation, by its course, and follows its wanderings with undistracted and unimpatient admiration. There is a reason, too, for all this, which way be made more plain than by metaphors.
The highest delight which poetry produces, does not arise from the mere passive perception of the images or sentiments which it presents to the wind, but from the excitement which is given to its own eternal activity and the character which is impressed on the train of its spontaneous conceptions. Even the dullest reader generally sees more than is directly presented to him by the poet; but a lover of poetry always sees infinitely more; and is often indebted to his author for little more than an impulse, or the key-note of a melody, which his fancy makes out for itself. Thus, the effect of poetry depends more on the fruitfulness of the impressions to which it gives rise, than on their own individual force or novelty; and the writers who possess the greatest powers of fascination, are not those who present us with the greatest number of lively images or lofty sentiments, but who most successfully impart their own impulse to the current of our thoughts and feelings, and give the colour of their brighter conceptions to those which they excite in us. Now, upon a little considerations it will probably appear, that the dazzling, and the busy, and marvellous scenes which constitute the whole charm of some poems, are not so well calculated to produce this effect, as those more intelligible delineations which are borrowed from ordinary life, and coloured from familiar affections. The object is, to awaken in our minds a train of kindred emotions, and to excite our imaginations to workout for themselves a tissue of pleasing or impressive conceptions. But it seems obvious, that this is more likely to be accomplished by surrounding us gradually with those objects, and involving us in those situations with which we have long been accustomed to associate the feelings of the poet than by startling us with some tale of wonder, or attempting to engage our affections for personages, of whose character and condition we are little able to form any conception. These, indeed, are more sure than the other to produce a momentary sensation, by the novelty and exaggeration with which they are commonly attended; but their power is spent at the first impulse: they do not strike root and germinate in the mind, like the seeds of its native feelings; nor propagate throughout the imagination that long series of delightful movements, which is only excited when the song of the poet is the echo of our familiar feelings.
It appears to us, therefore, that by far the most powerful and enchanting poetry is that which depends for its effect upon the just representation of common feelings and common situations, and not on the strangeness of its incidents, or the novelty or exotic splendour of its scenes and characters. The difficulty is, no doubt, to give the requisite force, elegance, and dignity to these ordinary subjects, and to win a way for them to the heart, by that true and concise expression of natural emotion, which is among the rarest gifts of inspiration. To accomplish this, the poet most do much; and the reader something. The one must practise enchantment, and the other submit to it. The one must purify his conceptions from all that is low or artificial, and the other must lend himself gently to the impression, and refrain from disturbing it by any movement of worldly vanity, derision, or hard-heartedness. In an advanced state of society, the expression of simple emotion is so obstructed by ceremony, or so distorted by affectation, that though the sentiment itself be still familiar to the greater part of mankind, the verbal representation of it is a task of the utmost difficulty. One set of writers, accordingly, finding the whole language of men and women too sophisticated for this purpose, have been obliged to go to the nursery for a more suitable phraseology; another has adopted the style of courtly Arcadians; and a third, that of mere Bedlamites. So much more difficult is it to express natural feelings, than to narrate battles, or describe prodigies!
But even when the poet has done his part, there are many causes which may obstruct his immediate popularity. In the first place, it requires a certain degree of sensibility to perceive his merit. There are thousands of people who can admire a florid description, or be amused with a wonderful story, to whom a pathetic poem is quite unintelligible. In the second place, it requires a certain degree of leisure and tranquillity. A picturesque stanza may be well enough relished while the reader is getting his hair combed; but a scene of tenderness or emotion will not do for the corner of a crowded drawing-room. Finally, it requires a certain degree of courage to proclaim the merits of such a writer. Those who feel the most deeply, are most given to disguise their feelings; and derision is never so agonizing as when it pounces on the wanderings of misguided sensibility. Considering the habits of the age in which we live, therefore, and the fashion, which, though not immutable, has for some time run steadily in an opposite direction, we should not be much surprised if a poem, whose chief merit consisted in its pathos, and in the softness and exquisite tenderness of its representations of domestic life and romantic seclusion, should meet with less encouragement than it deserves. If the volume before us were the work of an unknown writer, indeed, we should feel no little apprehension about its success; but Mr. Campbell's name has power, we are persuaded, to ensure a very partial and a very general attention to whatever it accompanies, and, we would fain hope, influence enough to reclaim the public taste to a juster standard of excellence. The success of his former work, indeed, goes far to remove our anxiety for the fortune of this. It contained, perhaps, more brilliant and bold passages than are to be found in the poem before us; but it was inferior, we think, in softness and beauty; and, being necessarily of a more desultory and didactic character, had far less pathos and interest than this very simple tale. Those who admired the Pleasures of Hope for the passages about Brama and Kosciusko, may perhaps be somewhat disappointed with the gentler tone of Gertrude; but those who loved that charming work for its pictures of infancy and of maternal and connubial love, may read on here with the assurance of a still higher gratification.
The story is of very little consequence in a poem of this description; and it is here, as we have just hinted, extremely short and simple. Albert, an English gentleman of high character and accomplishment, had emigrated to Pennsylvania about the year 1740, and occupied himself, alter his wife's death, in doing good to his neighbours, and in educating his infant and only child, Gertrude. He had fixed himself in the pleasant township of Wyoming, on the banks of the Susquehana; a situation which at that time might have passed for an earthly paradise, with very little aid from poetical embellishment. The beauty and fertility of the country, — the simple and unlaborious plenty which reigned among the scattered inhabitants, — but, above all, the singular purity and innocence of their manners, and the tranquil and unenvious equality in which they passed their days, form altogether a scene, on which the eye of philanthropy is never wearied with gazing, and to which, perhaps, no parallel can he found in the annals of the fallen world. The heart turns with delight from the feverish scenes of European history, to the sweet repose of this true Atlantis; but sinks to reflect, that though its reality may still be attested by surviving witnesses, no such spot is now left, on the whole face of the earth, as a refuge from corruption and misery!
The poem opens with a fine description of this enchanting retirement. One calm summer morn, a friendly Indian arrives in his canoe, bringing with him a fair boy, who, with his mother, were the sole survivors of an English garrison which had been stormed by a hostile tribe. The dying mother had commended her boy to the care of her wild deliverers; and their chief, in obedience to her solemn bequest, now delivers him into the hands of the most respected of the adjoining settlers. Albert recognizes the unhappy orphan as the son of a beloved friend; and rears young Henry Waldegrave as the happy playmate of Gertrude, and sharer with her in the joys of their romantic solitude, and the lessons of their venerable instructor. When he is scarcely entered upon manhood, Henry is sent for by his friends in England, and roams over Europe in search of improvement for eight or nine years, — while the quiet hours are sliding over the father and daughter in the unbroken tranquillity of their Pennsylvanian retreat. At last, Henry, whose heart had found no resting-place in all the world besides, returns in all the mature graces of manhood, and marries his beloved Gertrude. Then there is bliss beyond all that is blissful on earth, — and more feelingly described than mere genius can ever hope to describe any thing. But the war of emancipation begins; and the dream of love and enjoyment is broken by alarms and dismal forebodings. While they are sitting one evening enjoying those tranquil delights, now more endeared by the fears which gather around them, an aged Indian rushes into their habitation, and, after disclosing himself for Henry's ancient guide and preserver, informs them that a hostile tribe, which had exterminated his whole family, is on its march towards their devoted dwellings. With considerable difficulty they effect their escape to a fort at some distance in the woods; and at sunrise, Gertrude, and her father and husband, look from its battlements over the scene of desolation which the murderous Indian had spread over the pleasant groves and gardens of Wyoming. While they are standing wrapt in this sad contemplation, an Indian marksman fires a mortal shot from his ambush at Albert; and as Gertrude clasps him in agony to her heart, another discharge lays her bleeding by his side. She then takes farewell of her husband, in a speech more sweetly pathetic than any thing ever written in rhyme. Henry prostrates himself on her grave in convulsed and speechless agony; and his Indian deliverer, throwing his mantle over him, watches by him a while in gloomy silence; and at last addresses him in a sort of wild and energetic descant, exciting him, by his example, to he revenged, and to die. The poem closes with this vehement and impassioned exhortation.
Before proceeding to lay any part of the poem itself before our readers, we should try to give them some idea of that delightful harmony of colouring and of expression, which serves to unite every part of it for the production of one effect, and to make the description, narrative, and reflections, conspire to breathe over the whole a certain air of pure and tender enchantment, which is not once dispelled, through the whole length of the poem, by the intrusion of any discordant impression. All that we can now do, however, is, to tell them that this was its effect upon our feelings; and to give them their chance of partaking in it, by a pretty copious selection of extracts.
The descriptive stanzas in the beginning, which set out with an invocation to Wyoming, though in some places a little obscure and overlaboured, are, to our taste, very soft and beautiful.
On Susquehana's side, fair Wyoming,
Although the wild-flower on thy ruin'd wall
And roofless homes a sad remembrance bring
Of what thy gentle people did befall,
Yet thou wert once the loveliest land of all
That see the Atlantic wave their morn restore.
Sweet land! may I thy lost delights recall,
And paint thy Gertrude in her bowers of yore,
Whose beauty was the love of Pensylvania's shore!
It was beneath thy skies that, but to prune
His Autumn fruits, or skim the light canoe,
Perchance, along thy river calm at noon
The happy shepherd swain had nought to do
From morn till evening's sweeter pastime grew,
Their timbrel, in the dance of forests brown
When lovely maidens prankt in flowret new;
And aye, those sunny mountains half way down
Would echo flagelet from some romantic town.
Then, where of Indian hills the daylight takes
His leave, how might you the flamingo see
Disporting like a meteor on the lakes—
And playful squirrel on his nut-grown tree:
And ev'ry sound of life was full of glee,
From merry mock-bird's song, or hum of men,
While heark'ning, fearing nought their revelry,
The wild deer arch'd his neck from glades, and then
Unhunted, sought his woods and wilderness again.
And scarce had Wyoming of war or crime
Heard but in transatlantic story rung, &c. p. 5-7.
The account of the German, Spanish, Scottish, and English settlers, and of the patriarchal harmony in which they were all united, is likewise given with great spirit and brevity; as well as the portrait of the venerable Albert, their own elected judge and adviser. A sudden transition is then made to Gertrude.
Young, innocent, on whose sweet forehead mild
The parted ringlet shone in simplest guise,
An inmate in the home of Albert smil'd,
Or blest his noonday walk — she was his only child.
The rose of England bloom'd on Gertrude's cheek—
What though these shades had seen her birth, &c. p. 11.
After mentioning that she was left the only child of' her mother, the author goes on in these sweet verses.
A lov'd bequest and I may half impart—
To them that feel the strong paternal tie,
How like a new existence to his heart
Uprose that living flow'r beneath his eye,
Dear as she was, from cherub infancy,
From hours when she would round his garden play,
To time when as the rip'ning years went by,
Her lovely mind could culture well repay,
And more engaging grew from pleasing day to day.
I may not paint those thousand infant charms;
(Unconscious fascination, undesign'd!)
The orison repeated in his arms,
For God to bless her sire and all mankind;
The book, the bosom on his knee reclin'd,
Or how sweet fairy-lore he heard her con,
(The playmate ere the teacher of her mind):
All uncompanion'd else her years had gone
Till now in Gertrude's eyes their ninth blue summer shone.
And summer was the tide, and sweet the hour,
When sire and daughter saw, with fleet descent,
An Indian from his bark approach their bow'r, &c. p. 12, 13.
This is the guide and preserver of young Henry Waldegrave; who is somewhat fantastically described as appearing
Led by his dusky guide, like Morning brought by Night.
The Indian tells his story with great animation — the storming and blowing up of the English fort-and the tardy arrival of his friendly and avenging warriors. They found all the soldiers slaughtered.
And from the tree we with her child unbound
A lonely mother of the Christian land—
Her lord — the captain of the British band—
Amidst the slaughter of his soldiers lay;
Scarce knew the widow our deliv'ring hand;
Upon her child she sobb'd, and swoon'd away;
Or shriek'd unto the God to whom the Christians pray.—
Our virgins fed her with their kindly bowls
Of fever-balm, and sweet sagamite;
But she was journeying to the land of souls,
And lifted up her dying head to pray
That we should bid an ancient friend convey
Her orphan to his home of England's shore;
And take, she said, this token far away
To one that will remember us of yore,
When he beholds the ring that Waldegrave's Julia wore.— p. 16, 17.
Albert recognizes the child of his murdered friend with great emotion; which the Indian witnesses with characteristic and picturesque composure.
Far differently the mute Oneyda took
His calumet of peace, and cup of joy;
As monumental bronze unchanged his look:
A soul that pity touch'd, but never shook:
Train'd, from his tree-rock'd cradle to his bier,
The fierce extremes of good and ill to brook
Impassive — fearing but the shame of fear—
Stoic of the woods — a man without a tear.— p. 20.
This warrior, however, is not without high feelings and tender affections.
He scorn'd his own, who felt another's wo:
And ere the wolf-skin on his back he flung,
Or laced his mocasins, in act to go,
A song of parting to the boy he sung,
Who slept on Albert's couch, nor heard his friendly tongue.
"Sleep, wearied one! and in the dreaming land
Shouldst thou the spirit of thy mother greet,
Oh! say, to-morrow, that the white man's hand
Hath pluck'd the thorns of sorrow from thy feet;
While I in lonely wilderness shall meet
Thy little foot prints — or by traces know
The fountain, where at noon I thought it sweet
To feed thee with the quarry of my bow,
And pour'd the lotus-horn, or slew the mountain roe.
"Adieu! sweet scion of the rising sun!" &c. p. 21, 22.
The Second part opens with a fine description of Albert's sequestered dwelling. It reminds us of that enchanted landscape in which Thomson has embosomed his Castle of Indolence. We can make room only for the first stanza.
A valley from the river shore withdrawn
Was Albert's home, two quiet woods between,
Whose lofty verdure overlook'd his lawn;
And waters to their resting place serene
Came fresh'ning, and reflecting all the scene:
(A mirror in the depth of flowery shelves;)
So sweet a spot of earth, you might, (I ween)
Have guess'd some congregation of the elves
To sport by summer moons, had shaped it for themselves. p. 27.
The effect of this seclusion on Gertrude is beautifully represented.
It seem'd as if those scenes sweet influence had
On Gertrude's soul, and kindness like their own
Inspir'd those eyes affectionate and glad,
That seem'd to love whate'er they look'd upon;
Whether with Hebe's mirth her features shone,
Or if a shade more pleasing them o'ercast,
(As if for heav'nly musing meant alone;)
Yet so becomingly th' expression past,
That each succeeding look was lovelier than the last.—
Nor, guess I, was that Pensylvanian home,
With all its picturesque and balmy grace,
And fields that were a luxury to roam,
Lost on the soul that look'd from such a face!
Enthusiast of the woods! when years apace
Had bound thy lovely waist with woman's zone,
The sunrise path, at morn, I see thee trace
To hills with high magnolia overgrown;
And joy to breathe the groves, romantic and alone. p. 29, 30.
The morning scenery, too, is touched with a delicate and masterly hand.
While yet the wild deer trod in spangling dew,
While boatman caroll'd to the fresh-blown air,
And woods a horizontal shadow threw,
And early fox appear'd in momentary view. p. 32.
The reader is left rather too much in the dark as to Henry's departure for Europe; — nor, indeed, are we apprised of his absence, till we come to the scene of his unexpected return. Gertrude was used to spend the hot part of the day in reading in a lonely rocky recess in those safe woods; which is described with Mr. Campbell's usual felicity.
To human art a sportive semblance wore;
And yellow lichens colour'd all the clime,
Like moonlight battlements, and towers decay'd by time.
But high, in amphitheatre above,
His arms the everlasting aloes threw:
Breath'd but an air of heav'n, and all the grove
As if with instinct living spirit grew,
Rolling its verdant gulphs of every hue;
And now suspended was the pleasing din,
Now from a murmur faint it swell'd anew,
Like the first note of organ heard within
Cathedral aisles, — ere yet its symphony begin. p. 33.
In this retreat, which is represented as so solitary, that except her own,
—scarce an ear had heard
The stock-dove plaining through its gloom profound,
Or winglet of the fairy humming bird,
Like atoms of the rainbow fluttering round— p. 34.
—a stranger of lofty port and gentle manners surprises her, and is conducted to her father. They enter into conversation on the subject of his travels.
—And much they lov'd his fervid strain,—
While he each fair variety re-trac'd
Of climes, and manners, o'er the eastern main:—
Now happy Switzer's hills, — romantic Spain,—
Gay lilied fields of France, — or, more refin'd,
The soft Ausonia's monumental reign;
Nor less each rural image he design'd,
Than all the city's pomp and home of human kind.
Anon some wilder portraiture he draws;
Of Nature's savage glories he would speak,—
The loneliness of earth that overawes,—
Where, resting by some tomb of old Cacique,
The lame-driver on Peruvia's peak,
Nor voice nor living motion marks around;
But storks that to the boundless forest shriek;
Or wild-cane arch high flung o'er gulph profound,
That fluctuates when the storms of El Dorado sound. p. 36-7.
Albert, at last, bethinks him of inquiring after his stray ward young Henry, and entertains his guest with a short summary of his history.
His face the wand'rer hid; — but could not hide
A tear, a smile, upon his cheek that dwell;—
"And speak, mysterious stranger!" (Gertrude cried)
"It is! — it is! — I knew! — I knew him well!
'Tis Waldegrave's self, of Waldegrave come to tell!"
A burst of joy the father's lips declare;
But Gertrude speechless on his bosom fell:
At once his open arms embrac'd the pair,
Was never group more blest, in this wide world of care. p. 39.
The burst of their joy and artless love is represented with all the fine colours of truth and poetry; but we cannot now make room for it. The Second Part ends with this stanza.
Then would that home admit them — happier far
Than grandeur's most magnificent saloon—
While, here and there, a solitary star
Flush'd in the dark'ning firmament of June;
And silence brought the soul-felt hour, full soon,
Ineffable, which I may not pourtray;
For never did the Hymenean moon
A paradise of hearts more sacred sway,
In all that slept beneath her soft voluptuous ray. p. 43.
The Last part sets out with a soft but spirited sketch of their short-lived felicity.
Three little moons, how short, amidst the grove,
And pastoral savannas they consume!
While she, beside her buskin'd youth to rove,
Delights, in fancifully wild costume,
Her lovely brow to shade with Indian plume;
And forth in hunter-seeming vest they fare;
But not to chase the deer in forest gloom;
'Tis but the breath of heav'n — the blessed air—
And interchange of hearts unknown, unseen to share.
What though the sportive dog oft round them note,
Or fawn, or wild bird bursting on the wing;
Yet who, in love's own presence, would devote
To death those gentle throats that wake the spring;
Or writhing from the brook its victim bring?
No! — nor let fear one little warbler rouse;
But, fed by Gertrude's hand, still let them sing,
Acquaintance of her path, amidst the boughs,
That shade ev'n now her love, and witness'd first her vows. p. 48, 49.
The transition to the melancholy part of the story is introduced with great tenderness and dignity.
But moral pleasure, what art thou in truth!
The torrent's smoothness ere it dash below!
And must I change my song? and must I shew,
Sweet Wyoming! the day, when thou wert doom'd,
Guiltless, to mourn thy loveliest bow'rs laid low!
When where of yesterday a garden bloom'd,
Death overspread his pall, and black'ning ashes gloom'd.—
Sad was the year, by proud oppression driv'n,
When Transatlantic Liberty arose,
Not in the sunshine, and the smile of heav'n,
But wrapt in whirlwinds, and begirt with woes:
Amidst the strife of fratricidal foes,
Her birth star was the light of burning plains;
Her baptism is the weight of blood that flows
From kindred hearts — the blood of British veins—
And famine tracks her steps, and pestilential pains. p. 50-1.
Gertrude's alarm and dejection at the prospect of hostilities are well described,
"O, meet not thou," she cries, "thy kindred foe!
But peaceful let us seek fair England's strand," &c.
—as well as the arguments and generous sentiments by which her husband labours to reconcile her to a necessary evil. The nocturnal irruption of the old Indian is given with great spirit: — age and misery had so changed his appearance, that he was not at first recognized by any of the party.
"And hast thou then forgot," (he cried forlorn,
And ey'd the group with half indignant air),
"Oh! hast thou, Christian chief, forgot the morn
When I with thee the cup of peace did share?
Then stately was this head, and dark this hair
That now is white as Appalachia's snow;
But, if the weight of fifteen years' despair,
And age hath bow'd me, and the tort'ring foe,
Bring me my boy and he will his deliverer know!"—
It was not long, with eyes and heart of flame,
Ere Henry to his lov'd Oneyda flew:
"Bless thee, my guide!" — but, backward, as he came,
The chief his old bewilder'd head withdrew,
And grasp'd his arm, and look'd and look'd him through.
'Twas strange — nor could the group a smile controul—
The long, the doubtful scrutiny to view:—
At last delight o'er all his features stole,
"It is — my own," he cried, and clasp'd him to his soul.—
"Yes! thou recall'st my pride of years, for then
The bowstring of my spirit was not slack,
When, spite of woods, and floods, and ambush'd men,
I bore thee like the quiver on my back,
Fleet as the whirlwind hurries on the rack;
Nor foeman then, nor cougar's crouch I fear'd,
For I was strong as mountain cataract:
And dost thou not remember how we cheer'd
Upon the last hill-top, when white men's huts appear'd? p. 54-56.
After warning them of the approach of their terrible foe, the conflagration is seen, and the whoops and scattering shot of the enemy heard at a distance. The motley militia of the neighbourhood flock to the defence of Albert: the effect of their shouts and music on the old Indian is fine and striking.
Rous'd by their warlike pomp, and mirth, and cheer,
Old Outalissi woke his battle song,
And, beating with his war-club cadence strong,
Tells how his deep-stung indignation smarts, &c. p. 61.
Nor is the contrast of this savage enthusiasm with the venerable composure of Albert, less beautifully represented.
Calm, opposite the Christian father rose,
Pale on his venerable brow its rays
Of martyr light the conflagration throws;
One hand upon his lovely child he lays,
And one th' uncover'd crowd to silence sways;
While, though the battle Hash is faster driv'n,—
Unaw'd, with eye unstartled by the blaze,
He for his bleeding country prays to Heav'n,—
Prays that the men of blood themselves may be forgiven. p. 62.
They then speed their night march to the distant fort, whose wedged ravelins and redoubts
Wove like a diadem its tracery round
The lofty summit of the mountain green—
and look back from its lofty height on the desolated scenes around them. We will not separate, nor apologize for the length of the fine passage that follows; which alone, we think, might justify all we have said in praise of the poem.
A scene of death! where fires beneath the sun,
And blended arms, and white pavilions glow;
And for the business of destruction done,
Its requiem the war-horn seem'd to blow.
There, sad spectatress of her country's woe!
The lovely Gertrude, safe from present harm,
Had laid her cheek, and clasp'd her hands of snow
On Waldegrave's shoulder, half within his arm
Enclos'd, that felt her heart, and hush'd its wild alarm!
But short that contemplation — sad and short
The pause to bid each much-lov'd scene adieu!
Beneath the very shadow of the fort,
Where friendly swords were drawn, and banners flew.
Ah! who could deem that foot of Indian crew
Was near? — yet there, with lust of murd'rous deeds
Gleam'd like a basilisk, from woods in view,
The ambush'd foeman's eye — his volley speeds,
And Albert — Albert — falls! the dear old father bleeds!
And tranc'd in giddy horror Gertrude swoon'd;
Yet, while she clasps him lifeless to her zone,
Say, burst they, borrow'd from her father's wound,
These drops? Oh God! the life-blood is her own;
And falt'ring, on her Waldegrave's bosom thrown—
"Weep not, O Love!" she cries, "to see me bleed—
Thee, Gertrude's sad survivor, thee alone—
Heaven's peace commiserate; for scarce I heed
These wounds; — yet thee to leave is death, is death indeed.
"Clasp me a little longer, on the brink
Of fate! while I can feel thy drear caress;
And, when this heart hath ceas'd to beat — oh! think,
And let it mitigate thy woe's excess,
That thou hast been to me all tenderness,
And friend to more than human friendship just.
Oh! by that retrospect of happiness,
And by the hopes of an immortal trust,
God shall assuage thy pangs — when I am laid in dust!
"Go, Henry, go not back, when I depart,
The scene thy bursting tears too deep will move,
Where my dear father took thee to his heart,
And Gertrude thought it ecstasy to rove
With thee, as with an angel, through the grove
Of peace, — imagining her lot was cast
In heav'n; for ours was not like earthly love.
And must this parting be our very last?
No! I shall love thee still, when death itself is past.—
"Half could I bear, methinks, to leave this earth,—
And thee, more lov'd, than aught beneath the sun,
If I had liv'd to smile but on the birth
Of one dear pledge; — but shall there then be none,
In future times — no gentle little one,
To clasp thy neck, and look, resembling me!
Yet seems it, ev'n while life's last pulses run,
A sweetness in the cup of death to be,
Lord of my bosom's love! to die beholding thee!"
Hush'd were his Gertrude's lips! but still their bland
And beautiful expression seem'd to melt
With love that could not die! and still his hand
She presses to the heart no more that felt.
Ah heart! where once each fond affection dwelt,
And features yet that spoke a soul more fair. p. 64-68.
The funeral is burned over with pathetic brevity; and the desolated and all-enduring Indian brought in again with peculiar beauty.
Touch'd by the music, and the melting scene,
Was scarce one tearless eye amidst the crowd:—
Stern warriors, resting on their swords, were seen
To veil their eyes, as pass'd each much-lov'd shroud—
While woman'd softer soul in woe dissolv'd aloud.
Then mournfully the parting bugle bid
Its farewell o'er the grave of worth and truth;
Prone to the dust, afflicted Waldegrave hid
His face on earth; — him watch'd in gloomy ruth,
His woodland guide; but words had none to sooth
The grief that knew not consolation's name:
Casting his Indian mantle o'er the youth,
He watch'd, beneath its folds, each burst that came
Convulsive, ague-like, across his shuddering frame! p. 69.
After some time spent in this mute and awful pause, this stern and heart-struck comforter breaks out into the following touching and energetic address, with which the poem closes, with great spirit and abruptness.
"And I could weep;" th' Oneyda chief
His descant wildly thus began:
"But that I may not stain with grief
The death-song of my father's son!
Or bow this head in woe;
For by my wrongs, and by my wrath!
To-morrow Areouski's breath,
(That fires yon heav'n with storms of death),
Shall light us to the foe:
And we shall share, my Christian boy!
The foeman's blood, the avenger's joy!—
But thee, my flow'r, whose breath was giv'n
By milder genii o'er the deep,
The spirits of the white man's heav'n
Forbid not thee to weep:—
Nor will the Christian host,
Nor will thy father's spirit grieve
To see thee, on the battle's eve,
Lamenting take a mournful leave
Of her who lov'd thee most:
She was the rainbow to thy sight!
Thy sun — thy heav'n — of lost delight!—
"To-morrow let us do or die!
But when the bolt of death is hurl'd,
Ah! whither then with thee to fly,
Shall Outalissi roam the world?
Seek we thy once-lov'd home?—
The hand is gone that cropt its flowers!
Unheard their clock repeats its hours!—
Cold is the hearth within their bow'rs!—
And should we thither roam,
Its echoes, and its empty tread,
Would sound like voices from the dead!
But hark, the trump! — tomorrow thou
In glory's fires shalt dry thy tears:
Ev'n from the land of shadows now
My father's awful ghost appears;
Amidst the clouds that round us roll,
He bids my soul or battle thirst—
He bids me dry the last — the first—
The only tears that ever burst—
From Outalissi's soul;—
Because I may not stain with grief
The death-song of an Indian chief." p. 70-73.
It is needless, after these extracts, to enlarge upon the beauties of this poem. They consist chiefly in the feeling and tenderness of the whole delineation, and the taste and delicacy with which all the subordinate parts are made to contribute to the general effect. Before dismissing it, however, we must say a little of its faults, which are sufficiently obvious and undeniable. In the first place, the narrative is extremely obscure and imperfect; and has greater blanks in it than could be tolerated even in lyric poetry. We hear absolutely nothing of Henry, from the day the Indian first brings him from the back country, till he returns from Europe fifteen years thereafter. It is likewise a great oversight in Mr. Campbell to separate his lovers, when only twelve years of age, — a period at which it is utterly inconceivable that any permanent attachment could have been formed. The greatest fault, however, of the work, is the occasional constraint and obscurity of the diction, proceeding apparently from too laborious an effort at emphasis or condensation. The metal seems in several places to have been so much overworked, as to have lost not only its ductility, but its lustre; and, while there are passages which can scarcely be at all understood after the most careful consideration, there are others which have an air so elaborate and artificial, as to destroy all appearance of nature in the sentiment. Our readers may have remarked something of this sort, in the first extract with which we have presented them; but there are specimens still more exceptionable. In order to inform us that Albert had lost his wife, Mr. Campbell is pleased to say, that
— Fate had reft his mutual heart;
and in order to tell us something else — though what, we are utterly unable to conjecture — he concludes a stanza on the delights of mutual love, with these three lines
Roll on, ye days of raptur'd influence, shine!
Nor, blind with ecstacy's celestial fire,
Shall love behold the spark of earth-born time expire.
The whole twenty-second stanza of the first part is extremely incorrect; — the three concluding hues are almost unintelligible.
But where was I when Waldegrave was no more?
And thou didst pale thy gentle hand extend,
In woes, that ev'n the tribe of deserts was thy friend!
If Mr. Campbell had duly considered the primary necessity of perspicuity, — especially in compositions which aim only at pleasing, — we are persuaded that he would never have left these and some other passages in so very questionable a state. There is still a good deal for him to do, indeed, in a new edition: and working — as he must work — in the true spirit and pattern of what is before him, we hope he will yet be induced to make considerable additions to a work, which will please those most who are most worthy to he pleased, and always seem most beautiful to those who give it the greatest share of their attention.
Of the smaller pieces which fill up the volume, we have scarce left ourselves room to say any thing. The greater part of them have been printed before; and there are probably few readers of English poetry who are not already familiar with the Lochiel and the Hohinlinden — the one by far the most spirited and poetical denunciation of wo since the day of Cassandra; the other the only representation of a modern battle, which possesses either interest or subliwity. The song to "the Mariners of England," is also very generally known. It is a splendid instance of the most magnificent diction adapted to a familiar and even trivial metre. Nothing can be finer than the first and the last stanzas.
Ye mariners of England!
That guard our native seas;
Whose flag has braved, a thousand years,
The battle and the breeze!
Your glorious standard launch again
To match another foe!
And sweep through the deep, &c. p. 101.
The meteor flag of England
Shall yet terrific burn;
Till danger's troubled night depart,
And the star of peace return.
Then, then, ye ocean-warriors!
Our song and feast shall flow
To the fame of your name,
When the storm has ceas'd to blow;
When the fiery fight is heard no more,
And the storm has ceas'd to blow. p. 103, 104.
"The battle of the Baltic," though we think it has been printed before, is much less known. Though written in a strange, and we think an unfortunate metre, it has great force and grandeur, both of conception and expression — that sort of force and grandeur which results from the simple and concise expression of great events and natural emotions, altogether unassisted by any splendour or amplification of expression. The characteristic merit, indeed, both of this piece arid of Hohinlinden, is, that, by the forcible delineation of one or two great circumstances, they give a clear and most energetic representation of events as complicated as they are impressive, — and thus impress the mind of the reader with all the terror and sublimity of the subject, while they rescue him from the fatigue and perplexity of its details. Nothing, in our judgment, can be more impressive than the following very short and simple description of the British fleet bearing up to close action.
As they drifted on their path,
There was silence deep as death;
And the boldest held his breath,
For a time.— p. 109.
The description of the battle itself (though it begins with a tremendous line) is in the same spirit of homely sublimity; and worth a thousand stanzas of thunder, shrieks, shouts, tridents, and heroes.
''Hearts of oak," our captains cried! when each gun
From its adamantine lips
Spread a death-shade round the ships
Like the hurricane eclipse
Of the sun.—
Again! again! again!
And the havoc did not slack,
Till a feeble cheer the Dane
To our cheering sent us back;—
Their shots along the deep slowly boom:—
Then cease — and all is wail,
As they strike the shatter'd sail;
Or, in conflagration pale,
Light the gloom.—
There are two little ballad pieces, published for the first time, in this collection, which have both very considerable merit, and afford a favourable specimen of Mr. Campbell's powers in this new line of exertion. The longest is the most beautiful; but we give our readers the shortest, because we can give it entire.
O heard ye yon pibrach sound sad in the gale,
Where a band cometh slowly with weeping and wail?
'Tis the chief of Glenara laments for his dear;
And her sire, and the people, are called to her bier.
Glenara came first with the mourners and shroud;
Her kinsman they followed, but mourn'd not aloud:
Their plaids all their bosoms were folded around:
They marched all in silence — they look'd on the ground.
In silence they reach'd over mountain and moor,
To a heath, where the oak-tree grew lonely and hoar;
Now here let us place the grey stone of her cairn;
"Why speak ye no word?" — said Glenara the stern.
"And tell me, I charge you! ye clan of my spouse,
Why fold ye your mantles? why cloud ye your brows?"
So spake the rude chieftain: — no answer is made,
But each mantle unfolding a dagger display'd.
"I dreamt of my lady, I dreamt of her shroud,"
Cried a voice from the kinsmen, all wrathful and loud;
And empty that shroud, and that coffin did seem:
"Glenara! Glenara! now read me my dream!"
O! pale grew the cheek of that chieftain, I ween,
When the shroud was unclos'd, and no lady was seen;
When a voice from the kinsmen spoke louder in scorn,
'Twas the youth who had lov'd the fair Ellen of Lorn:
"I dreamt of my lady, I dreamt of her grief, "
I dreamt that her lord was a barbarous chief;
On a rock of the ocean fair Ellen did seem;
"Glenara! Glenara! now read me my dream!"
In dust, low the traitor has knelt to the ground,
And the desert revealed where his lady was found;
From a rock of the ocean that beauty is borne,
Now joy to the house of fair Ellen of Lorn! p. 105-107.
We close this volume, on the whole, with feelings of regret for its shortness, and of admiration for the genius of its author. There are but two noble sorts of poetry, — the pathetic and the sublime; and we think he has given very extraordinary proofs of his talents for both. There is something, too, we will venture to add, in the style of many of his conceptions, which irresistibly impresses us with the conviction, that he can do much greater things than he has hitherto accomplished; and leads us to regard him, even yet, as a poet of still greater promise than performance. It seems to us, as if the natural force and boldness of his ideas were habitually checked by a certain fastidious timidity, and an anxiety about the minor graces of correct and chastened composition. Certain it is, at least, that his greatest and most lofty flights have been made in those smaller pieces, about which, it is natural to think, he must have felt least solicitude; and that he has succeeded most splendidly where he must have been most free from the fear of failure. We wish any praises or exhortations of ours had the power to give him confidence in his own great talents; and hope earnestly, that he will now meet with such encouragement, as may set him above all restraints that proceed from apprehension, and induce him to give free scope to that genius, of which we are persuaded that the world has hitherto seen rather the grace than the richness.