1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Wilson

Francis Jeffrey, Review of Wilson, The Isle of Palms; Edinburgh Review 19 (February 1812) 373-88.



This is a new recruit to the company of lake poets; — and one who, from his present bearing, promises, we think, not only to do them good service, and to rise to high honours in the corps; but to raise its name, and advance its interests even among the tribes of the unbelievers. Though he wears openly the badge of their peculiarities, and professes the most humble devotion to their great captain, Mr. Wordsworth, we think he has kept clear of several of the faults that may be imputed to his preceptors; and assumed, upon the whole, a more attractive and conciliating air, than the leaders he has chosen to follow. He has the same predilection, indeed, for engrafting powerful emotions on ordinary occurrences; and the same tendency to push all his emotions a great deal too far — the same disdain of all worldly enjoyments and pursuits — and the same occasional mistakes, as to energy and simplicity of diction, which characterize the works of his predecessors. But he differs from them in this very important particular, that though he does generally endeavour to raise a train of lofty and pathetic sensations upon very trifling incidents and familiar objects, and frequently pursues them to a great height of extravagance and exaggeration, he is scarcely ever guilty of the offence of building them upon a foundation that is ludicrous or purely fantastic. He makes more, to be sure, of a sleeping child, or a lonely cataract — and flies into greater raptures about female purity and moonlight landscapes, and fine dreams, and flowers, and singing-birds — than most other poets permit themselves to do, — though it is of the very essence of poetry to be enraptured with such things: — But he does not break out into any ecstacies about spades or sparrows' eggs — or men gathering leeches — or women in duffle cloaks — or plates and porringers — or washing tubs — or any of those baser themes which poetry was always permitted to disdain, without any impeachment of her affability, till Mr. Wordsworth thought fit to force her into an acquaintance with them.

Though Mr. Wilson may be extravagant, therefore, he is not perverse; and though the more sober part of his readers may not be able to follow him to the summit of his sublimer sympathies, they cannot be offended at the invitation, or even refuse to grant him their company to a certain distance on the journey. The objects for which he seeks to interest them, are all objects of natural interest; and the emotions which he connects with them, are, in some degree, associated with them in all reflecting minds. It is the great misfortune of Mr. Wordsworth, on the contrary, that he is exceedingly apt to make choice of subjects which are not only unfit in themselves to excite any serious emotion, but naturally present themselves to ordinary minds as altogether ridiculous; and, consequently, to revolt and disgust his readers by an appearance of paltry affectation, or incomprehensible conceit. We have the greatest respect for the genius of Mr. Wordsworth, and the most sincere veneration for all we have heard of his character; but it is impossible to contemplate the injury he has done to his reputation by this poor ambition of originality, without a mixed sensation of provocation and regret. We are willing to take it for granted, that the spades and the eggs, and the tubs which he commemorates, actually suggested to him all the emotions and reflexions of which he has chosen to make them the vehicles; but they surely are not the only objects which have suggested similar emotions; and we really cannot understand why the circumstance of their being quite unfit to suggest them to any other person, should have recommended them as their best accompaniments in an address to the public. We do not want Mr. Wordsworth to write like Pope or Prior, nor to dedicate his muse to subjects which he does not himself think interesting. We are prepared, on the contrary, to listen with a for deeper delight to the songs of his mountain solitude, and to gaze on his mellow pictures of simple happiness and affection, and his lofty sketches of human worth and energy; and we only beg, that we may have these nobler elements of his poetry, without the debasement of childish language, mean incidents, and incongruous images. We will not run the risk of offending him, by hinting at the prosperity of Scott, or Campbell, or Crabbe; but he cannot be scandalized, we think, if we refer him to the example of the dutiful disciple and fervent admirer who is now before us; and entreat him to consider whether he may not conscientiously abstain from those peculiarities which even Mr. Wilson has not thought it safe to imitate.

Mr. Wilson is not free from some of the faults of diction, which we think belong to his school. He is occasionally mystical, and not seldom childish: But he has less of these peculiarities than most of his associates: and there is one more fault from which, we think, he has escaped altogether. We allude now to the offensive assumption of exclusive taste, judgment and morality which pervades most of the writings of this tuneful brotherhood. There is a tone of tragic, keen and intolerant reprobation in all the censures they bestow, that is not a little alarming to ordinary sinners. Every thing they do not like is accursed, and pestilent, and inhuman; and they can scarcely differ from any body upon a point of criticism, politics or metaphysics, without wondering what a heart he must have; and expressing, not merely dissent, but loathing and abhorrence. Neither is it very difficult to perceive, that they think it barely possible for any one to have any just notion of poetry, any genuine warmth of affection or philanthropy, or any large views as to the true principles of happiness and virtue, who does not agree with them in most of their vagaries, and live a life very nearly akin to that which they have elected for themselves. The inhabitants of towns, therefore, and most of those who are engaged in the ordinary business or pleasures of society, are cast off without ceremony as demoralized and denaturalized beings; and it would evidently be a considerable stretch of charity in these new apostles of taste and wisdom, to believe that any one of this description could have a genuine relish for the beauties of nature — could feel any ardent or devoted attachment to another, — or even comprehend the great principles upon which private and public virtue must be founded. — Mr. Wilson, however, does not seem to believe in the necessity of this extraordinary monopoly; but speaks with a tone of indulgent and open sociality, which is as engaging as the jealous and assuming manner of some of his models is offensive. The most striking characteristic, indeed, as well as the great charm, of the volume before us, is the spirit of warm and unaffected philanthropy which breathes over every page of it — that delighted tenderness with which the writer dwells on the bliss of childhood and the dignity of female innocence — and that young enthusiasm which leads him to luxuriate in the description of beautiful nature and the joys of a life of retirement. If our readers can contrive to combine these distinguishing features with our general reference of the author to the school of Wordsworth and Southey, they will have as exact a conception of his poetical character as can be necessary to prepare them for a more detailed account of the works that are now offered to their perusal.

The most considerable of these is "The Isle of Palms," which, though it engrosses the whole title-page, fills considerably less than half the volume, — and perhaps not the most attractive half. It is a strange, wild story of two lovers that were wrecked in the Indian Sea, and marvellously saved on an uninhabited, but lovely island, when all the rest of the crew were drowned; — of their living there, in peace and blessedness, for six or seven years — and being at last taken off, with a lovely daughter, who had come to cheer their solitude — by an English ship of war, and landed in the arms of the lady's mother, who had passed the long interval of their absence in one unremitting agony of hope and despair. This, in point of fact, is the whole of the story, — and nearly all the circumstances that are detailed in the four long cantos which cover the first 180 pages of the volume before us: For never, certainly, was there a poem, pretending to have a story, in which there was so little narrative; and in which the descriptions and reflections bore such a monstrous proportion to the facts and incidents out of which they arise. This piece is in irregular rhymed verse, like the best parts of Mr. Southey's Kehama; to which, indeed, bears a pretty close resemblance, both in the luxuriance of the descriptions, the tenderness of the thoughts, the copiousness of the diction, and the occasional harmony of the versification, — though it is perhaps still more diffuse and redundant. To some of our readers, this intimation will be quite enough; but the majority, we believe, will be glad to hear a little more of it.

The first canto describes the gallant ship, in the third month of her outward hound voyage, sailing over the quiet sea in a lovely moonlight evening, and the two lovers musing and conversing on the deck. There are great raptures about the beauty of the ship and the moon, — and pretty characters of the youth and the maiden in the same tone of ecstasy. Just as the sky is kindling with the summer dawn, and the freshness of morning rippling over the placid waters, the vessel strikes on a sunken rock, and goes down almost instantly. This catastrophe is described, we think, with great force and effect; — allowance being always made for the peculiarities of the school to which the author belongs. He begins with a view of the ship just before the accident.

Her giant-form
O'er wrathful surge, through blackening storm,
Majestically calm, would go
Mid the deep darkness white as snow!
But gently now the small waves glide
Like playful lambs o'er a mountain's side.
So stately her bearing, so proud her array,
The main she will traverse for ever and aye.
Many ports will exult at the gleam of her mast!
—Hush! hush! thou vain dreamer! this hour is her last.
Five hundred souls in one instant of dread
Are hurried o'er the deck;
And fast the miserable ship
Becomes a lifeless wreck.
Her keel hath struck a hidden rock,
Her planks are torn asunder,
And down come her masts with a reeling shock
And a hideous crash like thunder.
Her sails are draggled in the brine
That gladdened late the skies,
And her pendant that kiss'd the fair moonshine
Down many a fathom lies.
Her beauteous sides, whose rainbow hues
Gleam'd softly from below,
And flung a warm and sunny flush
O'er the wreaths of murmuring snow,
To the coral rocks are hurrying down
To sleep amid colours as bright as their own.

Oh! many a dream was in the ship
An hour before her death;
And sights of home with sighs disturb'd
The sleepers' long-drawn breath.
Instead of the murmur of the sea
The sailor heard the humming tree
Alive through all its leaves,
The hum of the spreading sycamore
That grows before his cottage-door,
And the swallow's song in the eaves.
His arms inclosed a blooming boy,
Who listen'd with tears of sorrow and joy
To the dangers his father had pass'd;
And his wife — by turns she wept and smiled,
As she look'd on the father of her child
Return'd to her heart at last.—
He wakes at the vessel's sudden roll,
And the rush of waters is in his soul. p. 32-34.

Now is the ocean's bosom bare,
Unbroken as the floating air;
The ship hath melted quite away,
Like a struggling dream at break of day.
No image meets my wandering eye
But the new-risen sun, and the sunny sky.
Though the night-shades are gone, yet a vapour dull
Bedims the waves so beautiful
While a low and melancholy moan
Mourns for the glory that hath flown. p. 36.

The second canto begins with a very absurd expostulation, to the Moon, for having let the good ship be lost after shining so sweetly upon it. Nothing but the singular infatuation which seems to be epidemic on the banks of Winander, could have led a man of Mr. Wilson's abilities to write such lines as the following.

Oh vain belief! most beauteous as thou art,
Thy heavenly visage hides a cruel heart.

And a little after,

Wilt thou not then thy once-lov'd vessel miss,
And wish her happy, now that she is gone?
But then, sad moon! too late thy grief will be
Fair as thou art, thou can'st not move the sea.

After this wild fit, however, has spent itself; we are conducted to a little sea-beat rock, where the unhappy lover finds himself stretched in horrible solitude; and where, in a sort of entranced slumber, he has a vision of a blissful land, over which he seems to wander with his beloved. On opening his eyes, he finds her actually leaning over him; and, by and by, the ship's pinnace comes floating alongside, with its oars and sails ready for immediate service. They embark with holy hope and confidence; and, at the close of evening, reach a shady and solitary shore, where they kneel down and return thanks to Providence.

The third canto is filled almost entirely with the description of this enchanted island, and of the blissful life which these lovers lived in its beautiful seclusion; and, certainly, a more glowing picture of Elysium has not often been brought before us, than is contained in these pages such shades and flowers — and wooded steeps — and painted birds — and sunny bays and cascades and dewy vales and thickets — and tufted lawns! — The following are but cold and tame citations.

There, groves that bloom in endless spring
Are rustling to the radiant wing
Of birds, in various plumage bright.
As rainbow-hues, or dawning light.
Soft-falling showers of blossoms fair
Float ever on the fragrant air,
Like showers of vernal snow,
And from the fruit-tree, spreading tall,
The richly ripen'd clusters fall
Oft as sea-breezes blow.
The sun and clouds alone possess
The joy of all that loveliness.
How silent lies each shelter'd bay!
No other visitors have they
To their shores of silvery sand,
Than the waves that, murmuring in their glee,
All hurrying in a joyful band
Come dancing from the sea. p. 75, 76.

Like fire, strange flowers around them flame,
Sweet, harmless fire, breathed from some magic urn,
The silky gossamer that may not burn,
Too wildly beautiful to bear a name.
And when the Ocean sends a breeze,
To wake the music sleeping in the trees,
Trees scarce they seem to be, for many a flower,
Radiant as dew, or ruby polish'd bright,
Glances on every spray, that bending light
Around the stem, in variegated bows,
Appear like some awakened fountain-shower,
That with the colours of the evening glows.
And towering o'er these beauteous woods,
Gigantic rocks were ever dimly seen,
Breaking with solemn grey the tremulous green,
And frowning far in castellated pride;
While, hastening to the Ocean, hoary floods
Sent up a thin and radiant mist between,
Softening the beauty that it could not hide.
Lo! higher still the stately Palm-trees rise,
Checquering the clouds with their unbending stems,
And o'er the clouds amid the dark-blue skies,
Lifting their rich unfading diadems. p. 87, 88.

On the first Sabbath day, they take each other for husband and wife and five or six years pass over, the reader does not well know how; — and still we find them enraptured with the flowers and their birds, and their own prayers, songs, and meditations. All at once a fairy child comes singing down a mountain in a frock of peacock's feathers; — and we find they have lovely daughter.

Sing on! Sing on! It is a lovely air.
Well could thy mother sing it when a maid:
Yet strange it is in this wild Indian glade,
To list a tune that breathes of nothing there,
A time that by his mountain springs,
Beside his slumbering lambkins fair,
The Cambrian shepherd sings.

Up yon steep hill's unbroken side,
Behold the little Fairy glide!
Though free her breath, untired her limb,
For through the air she seems to swim,
Yet oft she stops to look behind
On them below; — till with the wind
She flies again, and on the hill-top far
Shines like the spirit of the evening star.
Nor lingers long: as if a sight
Half-fear, half-wonder, urged her flight,
In rapid motion, winding still
To break the steepness of the hill,
With leaps, and springs, and outstretch'd arms,
More graceful in her vain alarms,
The child outstrips the Ocean gale,
In haste to tell her wondrous tale.
Her parents' joyful hearts admire,
Of peacock's plumes her glancing tire,
All bright with tiny suns,
And the gleamings of the feathery gold,
That play along each wavy fold
Of her mantle as she runs. p. 113, 114, 115.

The blessed babe comes to tell of strange sight she has sc on the sea; and her father soon discovers it to be a ship steering towards their shore.

How beautiful upon the wave
The vessel sails, who comes to save!
Fitting it was that first she shone.
Before the wondering eyes of one,
So beautiful as thou.
See how before the wind she goes,
Scattering the waves like melting snows! &c.

They cast their eyes around the isle:
But what a change is there!
For ever fled that lonely smile
That lay on earth and air,
That made its haunts so still and holy,
Almost for bliss too melancholy,
For life too wildly fair.
Gone — gone is all its loneliness,
And with it much of loveliness.
Into each deep glen's dark recess,
The day-shine pours like rain,
So strong and sudden is the light
Reflected from that wonder bright,
Now tilting o'er the Main.
Soon as the thundering cannon spoke,
The voice of the evening-gun,
The spell of the enchantment broke,
Like dew beneath the sun. p. 118, 119.

The fourth and last canto carries its back to England, and to the woes of the despairing mother, whose daughter had embarked so many years before, in that ill-fated ship, of which no tidings had ever reached her home. After pining in agony for years in her native Wales, she had been drawn by an irresistible impulse to take up her abode in the sea-port from which she had seen her beloved child depart, and to gaze daily on the devouring waters in which she believed her to be entombed. The following lines we think are pathetic.

And now that seven long years are flown,
Though spent in anguish and alone,
How short the time appears!
She looks upon the billowy main,
And the parting-day returns again.
Each breaking wave she knows;
And when she listens to the tide,
Her child seems standing by her side;
So like the past it flows.
She starts to hear the city bell;
So toll'd it when they wept farewell!
She thinks the self-same smoke and cloud
The city domes and turrets shroud;
The same keen flash of ruddy fire
Is burning on the lofty spire;
The grove of masts is standing there
Unchanged, with all their ensigns fair;
The same, the stir, the tumult, and the hum,
As from the city to the shore they come. p. 157, 138.

As she is lingering one sunny day on the beach, a shout is raised for the approach of a long expected vessel; and multitudes hurry out to meet their returning friends and relations. The unhappy mother flies, sick at heart, from the joyful scene of congratulation; but strange murmurs pursue her in her retreat.

Dark words she hears among the crowd,
Of a ship that hath on board
Three christian souls, who on the coast
Of some wild land were wreck'd long years ago,
When all but they were in a tempest lost;
And they are speaking of a child,
Who looks more beautifully wild
Than pictured fairy in Arabian tale;
Wondrous her foreign garb, they say,
Adorn'd with starry plumage gay,
While round her head tall feathers play,
And dance with every gale. p. 165, 166.

She turns in breathless impatience, and sees the sailors rushing eagerly to the embraces of their wives and children — but

—No sailor, he, so fondly pressing
Yon fair child in his arms,
Her eyes, her brow, her bosom kissing,
And bidding her with many a blessing
To hush her vain alarms.
How fair that creature by his side!
Who smiles with languid glee,
Slow-kindling from a mother's pride!
Oh! thou alone may'st be
The mother of that fairy child.
These tresses dark, these eyes so wild,
That face with spirit beautified,
She owes them all to thee.

Silent and still the sailors stand,
To see the meeting strange that now befel.
Unwilling sighs their manly bosoms swell,
And o'er their eyes they draw the sun-burnt hand,
To hide the tears that grace their cheeks so well. p. 167, 168.

They then all retire to the romantic shades of their native Wales; and the piece concludes with another apostrophe to that fairy child, who seems to have chiefly possessed the raised imagination of the author.

O, happy parents of so sweet a child,
Your share of grief already have you known;
But long as that fair spirit is your own,
To either lot you must be reconciled.
Dear was she in you palmy grove,
When fear and sorrow mingled with your love,
And oft you wished that she had ne'er been born,
While, in the most delightful air
Th' angelic infant sang, at times her voice,
That seem'd to make even lifeless things rejoice,
Woke, on a sudden, dreams of dim despair,
As if it breathed, "For me, an orphan, mourn!"
Now can they listen when she sings
With mournful voice of mournful things,
Almost too sad to hear;
And when she chaunts her evening-hymn,
Glad smile their eyes, even as they swim
With many a gushing tear.
Each day she seems to them more bright
And beautiful, — a gleam of light
That plays and dances o'er the shadowy earth!
It fadeth not in gloom or storm,—
For nature charter'd that aerial form
In yonder fair Isle when she bless'd her birth!
The Isle of Palms! — whose forests tower again,
Darkening with solemn shade the face of heaven!
Now far away they like the clouds are driven,
And as the passing night-wind dies my strain! p. 178, 179.

We are rather unwilling to subjoin any remarks on a poem, of which, even from the slight account we have given of it, we are aware that the opinion of different readers will be so different. To those who delight in wit, sarcasm, and antithesis, the greater part of it will appear mere raving and absurdity; — to such as have an appetite chiefly for crowded incidents and complicated adventures, it will seem diffuse and empty; — and even by those who seek in poetry for the delineation of human feelings and affections, it will frequently be felt as too ornate and ostentatious. The truth is, that it has by far too much of the dreaminess and intoxication of the fancy about it, and is by far too much expanded; and though it will afford great delight to those who are most capable and most worthy of being delighted, there are none whom it will not sometimes dazzle with its glare, and sometimes weary with its repetitions.

The next poem in the volume is perhaps of a still more hazardous description. It is entitled "The Angler's Tent;" and fills little less than thirty pages with the description of an afternoon's visit which the author had the pleasure of receiving from the simple inhabitants around Wast-Water, when he and Mr. Wordsworth and some other friends had pitched their tent on the banks of that sequestered lake, one beautiful Sunday, in the course of a fishing excursion among the mountains. It is of the boldest experiments we have lately met with, of the possibility of maintaining the interest of a long poem without any extraordinary incident, or any systematic discussion; and, for our own parts, we are inclined to think that it is a successful one. There are few things, at least, which we have lately read, that have pleased or engaged us more than the picture of simple innocence and artless delight which is here drawn with a truth and modesty of colouring far more attractive, in our apprehension, than the visionary splendours of the Isle of Palms. The novelty of the white tent, gleaming like an evening cloud by the edge of the still waters, had attracted the curiosity of the rustic worshippers, it seems, as they left the little chapel in the dell; and they came in successive groupes, by land and by water, to gaze on the splendid apparition. The kind-hearted anglers received them with all the gentleness and hospitality of Isaac Walton himself; and we sincerely compassionate the reader who is not both touched and soothed with the following amiable representation.

And thus our tent a joyous scene became,
Where loving hearts from distant vales did meet
As at some rural festival, and greet
Each other with glad voice and kindly name.
Here a pleased daughter to her father smiled,
With fresh affection in her soften'd eyes;
He in return look'd back upon his child
With gentle start and tone of mild surprise:
And on his little grandchild, at her breast,
An old man's blessing and a kiss bestow'd,
Or to his cheek the lisping baby prest,
Light'ning the mother of her darling load;
While comely matrons, all sedately ranged
Close to their husbands' or their children's side,
A neighbour's friendly greeting interchanged,
And each her own with frequent glances eyed,
And raised her head in all a mother's harmless pride.
Happy were we among such happy hearts!
And to inspire with kindliness and love
Our simple guests, ambitiously we strove,
With novel converse and endearing arts!
The gray-hair'd men with deep attention heard,
Viewing the speaker with a solemn face,
While round our feet the playful children stirr'd,
And near their parents took their silent place,
Listening with looks where wonder breathed a glowing grace.
And much they gazed with never-tired delight
On varnish'd rod, with joints that shone like gold,
And silken line on glittering reel enroll'd,
To infant anglers a most wondrous sight
Scarce could their chiding parents then control
Their little hearts in harmless malice gay,
But still one, bolder than his fellows, stole
To touch the tempting treasures where they lay.
What rapture glistened in their eager eyes,
When, with kind voice, we bade these children take
A precious store of well-dissembled flies,
To use with caution for the strangers' sake!
The unlook'd-for gift we graciously bestow
With sudden joy the leaping heart o'erpowers;
They grasp the lines, while all their faces glow
Bright as spring blossoms after sunny showers,
And wear them in their hats like wreaths of valley flowers
p. 197-199.

The following picture of the mountain damsels is equally engaging.

Well did the roses blooming on their cheek,
And eyes of laughing light, that listen'd fair
Beneath the artless ringlets of their hair,
Each maiden's health and purity bespeak.
Following the impulse of their simple will,
No thought had they to give or take offence;
Glad were their bosoms, yet sedate and still,
And fearless in the strength of innocence.
Oft as, in accents mild, we strangers spoke
To these sweet maidens, an unconscious smile
Like sudden sunshine o'er their faces broke,
And with it struggling blushes mix'd the while.
And oft as mirth and glee went laughing round,
Breath'd in this maiden's ear some harmless jest
Would make her, for one moment, on the ground
Her eyes let fall, as wishing from the rest
To hide the sudden throb that beat within her breast. p. 205, 206.

The delighted guests depart by moonlight; and while they are climbing the shadowy hills, their entertainers raise a splendid bonfire to light them on their way, and hear new clamours of acclamation ring round all the awakened echoes. The following are some of the concluding reflections, which not only do great honour to Mr. Wilson's powers of composition, but show him to be habitually familiar with thoughts and affections, far more to be envied than the fading renown that genius has ever won for her votaries.

Yet, though the strangers and their tent have past
Away, like snow that leaves no mark behind,
Their image lives in many a guiltless mind,
And long within the shepherd's cot shall last.
Oft when, on winter night, the crowded seat
Is closely wheel'd before the blazing fire,
Then will he love with grave voice to repeat
(He, the gray-headed venerable sire,)
The conversation he with us did hold
On moral subjects, he had studied long;
And some will jibe the maid who was so bold
As sing to strangers readily a song.
Then they unto each other will recal
Each little incident of that strange night,
And give their kind opinion of us all.
God bless their faces smiling in the light
Of their own cottage-hearth! O, fair subduing sight!
p. 215-216.

The same tenderness of thought and warmth of imagination are visible in the lines addressed to a Sleeping Child; from which we shall make a few detached extracts. It begins,

Art thou a thing of mortal birth,
Whose happy home is on our earth?
Does human blood with life embue
Those wandering veins of heavenly blue,
That stray along thy forehead fair,
Lost 'mid a gleam of golden hair?
Oh! can that light and airy breath
Steal from a being doom'd to death;
Those features to the grave be sent
In sleep thus mutely eloquent;
Or, art thou, what thy form would seen
The phantom of a blessed dream?

Oh! that my spirit's eye could see
Whence burst those gleams of extasy!
That light of dreaming soul appears
To play from thoughts above thy years.
Thou smil'st as if thy soul were soaring
To heaven, and heaven's God adoring!
And who can tell what visions high
May bless an infant's sleeping eye?
What brighter throne can brightness find
To reign on than an infant's mind,
Ere sin destroy, or error dim,
The glory of the seraphim?

Oh! vision fair! that I could be
Again, as young, as pure as thee!
Vain wish! the rainbow's radiant form
May view, but cannot brave the storm;
Years can bedim the gorgeous dyes
That paint the bird of paradise
And years, so fate hath order'd, roll
Clouds o'er the summer of the soul.

Fair was that face as break of dawn,
When o'er its beauty sleep was drawn
Like a thin veil that half-conceal'd
The light of soul, and half-reveal'd.
While thy hush'd heart with visions wrought,
Each trembling eye-lash mov'd with thought,
And things we dream, but ne'er can speak,
Like clouds came floating o'er thy cheek,
Such summer-clouds as travel light,
When the soul's heaven lies calm and bright;
Till thou awok'st, — then to thine eye
Thy whole heart leapt in extacy!
And lovely is that heart of thine,
Or sure these eyes could never shine
With such a wild, yet bashful glee,
Gay, half-o'ercome timidity!

We have now quoted enough, we believe, to give our readers pretty just idea of the character of Mr. Wilson's poetry. We shall add but one little specimen of his blank verse; which seems to us to be formed, like that of all his school, on the model of Akenside's; and to combine, with a good deal of his diffuseness, no ordinary share of its richness arid beauty. There are some fine solemn lines on the Spring, from which we take the following, almost at random.

—The great Sun,
Scattering the clouds with a resistless smile,
Came forth to do thee homage; a sweet hymn
Was by the low winds chaunted in the sky;
And when thy feet descended on the earth,
Scarce could they move amid the clustering flowers
By nature strewn o'er valley, hill, and field,
To hail her blest deliverer! — Ye fair trees,
How are ye changed, and changing while I gaze
It seems as if some gleam of verdant light
Fell on you from a rainbow; but it lives
Amid your tendrils, brightening every hour
Into a deeper radiance. Ye sweet birds,
Were you asleep through all the wintry hours
Beneath the waters, or in mossy caves?

—Yet are ye not,
Sporting in tree and air, more beautiful
Than the young lambs, that from the valley-side
Send a soft bleating like an infant's voice,
Half happy, half afraid! O blessed things!
At sight of this your perfect innocence,
The sterner thoughts of manhood melt away
Into a mood as mild as Woman's dreams.
The strife of working intellect thy
Of hopes ambitious, the disturbing sound
Of fame, and all that worshipp'd pageantry
That ardent spirits burn for in their pride,
Fly like disparting clouds, and leave the soul
Pure and serene as the blue depths of heaven. 249-250,

There is a very sweet and touching monody on the death of Grahame, the much-lamented and most amiable author of the "Sabbath" and other poems; from which we shall indulge ourselves by making one more extract. The moral character of Mr. Wilson's poetry is, throughout, very much the same with that of the friend he here commemorates; and, in this particular piece, he has fallen very much into his manner also.

Some chosen books by pious men compos'd,
Kept from the dust, in every cottage lye
Through the wild loneliness of Scotia's vales,
Beside the Bible, by whose well-known truths
All human thoughts are by the peasant tried.
O blessed privilege of nature's bard!
To cheer the house of virtuous poverty,
With gleams of light more beautiful than oft
Play o'er the splendours of the palace wall.
Methinks I see a fair and lovely child
Sitting composed upon his mother's knee,
And reading with a low and lisping voice
Some passage from the Sabbath, while the tears
Stand in his little eyes so softly blue,
Till, quite o'ercome with pity, his white arms
He twines around her neck, and hides his sighs
Most infantine, within her gladden'd breast,
Like a sweet lamb, half sportive, half afraid,
Nestling one moment 'neath its bleating dam.
And now the happy mother kisses oft
The tender-hearted child, lays down the book,
And asks him if he doth remember still
The stranger who once gave him, long ago,
A parting kiss, and blest his laughing eyes!
His sobs speak fond remembrance, and he weeps
To think so kind and good a man should die. p. 411-412.

We now lay aside this volume with regret: for though it has many faults, it has a redeeming spirit, both of fancy and of kindness, about it, which will not let them be numbered. It has, moreover, the charm of appearing to be written less from ambition of praise, than from the direct and genuine impulse of the feelings which it expresses; and though we cannot undertake to defend it from the scorn of the learned, or the ridicule of the witty, we are very much mistaken if it does not afford a great deal of pleasure to many persons almost as well worth pleasing.