When this publication was first announced to us, we had some fears lest the fair Psyche, who had won our affection under the seductive veil of secrecy and mystery, should lose somewhat of her influence in the glare of broad day-light. A powerful charm is attached to exclusive possession, and to the enviable distinction of being the hundredth particular friend, to whom alone a lady has betrayed the begged, borrowed, and stolen sweets of her manuscript book, or the contents of a volume, which modest genius has limited to private circulation. Aware of this, we were inclined to suspect that the furtive glance at Psyche, with which we had long ago been favoured, was indebted for half its charm to these factitious sources of attraction. The elegant little volume which we then saw, (a fit quarto for the library of the Queen of Elfland), took a place in our memory among the sports of fancy and the visions of youth; and we sat down to the perusal of this mere mortal quarto with the same querulous sensations with which we have opened our eyes upon the morning light that has shortened the luxury of a pleasing dream. As we advanced, however, we found the spell still potent, and its fascination irresistible. The rigour of our brow, as yet scarcely naturalized, insensibly relaxed; and we forgot "one moment, and no more," that our object was not to feel and admire, but to criticise. A seasonable visit from our bookseller, who interrupted a rapturous eulogium with a shake of the head, and an acute dissertation on the prevailing taste of the times, dispelled the delusion, and recalled us to a sense of our duty, or rather of our interest. Accordingly we resumed our censorial capacity, though with feelings, we confess, not unlike those with which a judge may be supposed to put on the black cap for a criminal whom he has previously determined to reprieve, on the score of general good character.
We blame, then, or rather, we lament, the allegorical cast of the chief poem in this collection; and whilst we acknowledge, we cannot help also regretting the skill that has been bestowed on threading a mystical maze, and in counteracting the disadvantages of a stanza ill adapted to our language. Adorn it as you will, allegory, extended beyond certain limits, must pall upon the sense. It is becoming as an ornament, but cumbrous as a garb. Could the application of high, or even first-rate poetical talent have redeemed it from this imputation, it would have been redeemed
In magic Spenser's wildly-warbled song.
But it is notorious that "the Fairie Queene" collects dust upon our shelves, while poems, far inferior to it in all the graces of diction and embellishments of fancy, lie upon our tables and charm our leisure hours. Hurd may cry out against the blasphemy of earth-born critics, but this does not alter the fact. Again, we would undertake to quote from "the Castle of Indolence" passages which rival some of the most brilliant in Thomson's "Seasons;" but in point of celebrity the poems bear no comparison. This may be attributed to various causes; but the one to which we are inclined to give the most weight is this, that the virtues and vices, however important in their proper department, are the most uninteresting of all the shadowy forms that people the regions of fiction. However aptly personified and exquisitely delineated, they never exalt our imaginations sufficiently to delude us into a momentary and dreaming belief of their existence, and consequently they never interest our feelings. Comprehensive as it is, they have no place in our poetical creed. We meet with them too frequently in their every-day clothes to be deceived by their masquerade dress, and therefore they neither exercise our ingenuity nor pique or curiosity. "Notre coeur exige de la verite dans la fiction meme," as an elegant critic has observed; and to enable us to sympathize with beings which the imagination has "bodied forth," we must yield a sort of credence to their existence, and fancy that at least they might be. In some instances this delusion is favoured by early prejudices, by fire-side superstitions, and by a sort of established character which belongs to certain fictitious personages; in others the success of the attempt rests wholly on the creative skill of the poet. And to none but true poets does this power of giving an air of credibility to the marvellous belong. It is vainly exercised, however, on such characters as fill the scene in the poem now under our consideration. At the same time we must confess that its author has not been wanting in the attempt to obviate this difficulty, and that from the great skill displayed in delineating the character of the two leading personages of the poem, as lively an interest is excited as could be under existing circumstances.
Psyche has often sat for her picture, but we have no doubt to which of her painters she herself would give the preference. She has always been represented as beautiful, but never before had much character. She has always claimed our compassion as a sufferer, but never before our love and admiration as a bright pattern of all that is attractive and engaging in the female character.
Those, however, who put the finishing hand to a work of art, and exhibit it in its most perfect and polished state, must be content to set apart a share of the sum total of praise which it deserves for the original inventor. We cannot but own ourselves indebted to the mistake or the malice of Fotis, which sent Apuleius, in the shape of an ass, to hear the housekeeper of the thieves, the worthy prototype of Le Sage's Dame Leonarde, amuse the captive lady with this beautiful fable. She told her story well, and our author has not only borrowed the groundwork of her plot, but drawn from the same store some of the minuter graces of the composition. We may instance the description of the funereal nuptials of Psyche.
But now what lamentations rend the skies!
In amaracine wreaths the virgin choir
With Io Hymen mingle funeral cries:
Lost in the sorrows of the Lydian lyre
The breathing flutes' melodious notes expire;
In sad procession pass the mournful throng
Extinguishing with tears the torches' fire,
While the mute victim weeping crowds among,
By unknown fears oppressed, moves silently along. P. 27.
The same scene is thus described in Apuleius: — "Jam feralium nuptiarum miserrimae virgini choragium struitur: Jam toedae lumen atrae fuliginis cinem arcessit: et sonus tibiae Zygia mutatur in querulum Lydii modum: cantusque laetus Hymemaei lugubri flintur ululatu. Perfectio igitur feralis thalami cum summo moerore solennibus, toto prosequente populo, vivum producitur funus; et lacrymosa Psyche comitatur non nuptias, sed exequias suas. Itur ad constitutum scopulum montis ardui, cujus in summo cacumine statutam puellam cuncti deserunt; toedasque nuptiales quibus praeluxerant ibidem lacrymis suis extinctas relinquentes." — Apule. Metamorph. lib. 4. Great discrimination is manifested in the selection of those particular passages, and of those parts of the general plot, which are most worthy of imitation. La Fontaine has not been so happy in this respect. With the exception of some episodes, he has adhered more closely to the original, to the detriment, as we think, of his composition. The graces which this "Papilon du Parnasse," as he justly styled himself, has introduced, are truly of the French order; and it must be allowed that he has succeeded in his attempt to give us an entertaining version of the tale. To interest was not his aim. At least, if it was, he was wide enough of the mark. Nor do we suppose that many, even of the most moveable, have found their sensibility awakened by the sufferings of our heroine in the drama, to the production of which Moliere and Pierre Corneille contributed their joint labours. It was a hasty composition, as might have been discovered from internal evidence, had other notices been wanting.
There is a poem on the subject written by Gloster Ridley. It deviates however from the original more boldly than any other, and forms a sort of fabulous representation of the fall of man and its consequences; but with too much of the air of parody to excite any appropriate train of feelings and sentiments.
Hitherto, we believe, that Psyche, in spite of all these attempts, and of all her own merits, has had by no means a general acquaintance: she is now introduced to the world in a manner which will secure her admission into the first company, and, unless we are much mistaken, will be a great favourite with our fair countrywomen, amongst whom she has so many counterparts in virtuous feeling and refined and correct sentiment, though fortunately none of them are tainted with that inquisitive propensity which was so fatal to her. She has secured their favouring voices by a well-deserved panegyric, which closes the song in which the triumphs of chastity are celebrated.
Even now the strain prophetically just,
In unborn servants bids their queen rejoice,
And in her British beauties firmly trust;
Thrice happy fair! who still adore her voice,
The blushing virgin's law, the modest matron's choice!
Not that we would insinuate that a well-turned compliment has the slightest influence upon their judgments. But we are treading on ticklish ground, and to secure our footing, will enter on the necessary, but rather dull task of giving an abstract of the plan and contents of the poem. To lighten our labour we will interpose amidst our prose some of the choicest flowers of poesy which we can cull in our way. By this means we shall also most effectually introduce our author to the notice of the public.
After a few prefatory stanzas, which are quite in character, and form a fit vestibule for this elegant structure, we are introduced to the way-worn and disconsolate Psyche in a scene which is thus described.
'Mid the thick covert of that woodland shade,
A flowery bank there lay undressed by art,
But of the mossy turf spontaneous made;
Here the young branches shot their arms athwart,
And wove the bower so thick in every part,
That the fierce beams of Phoebus glancing strong
Could never through the leaves their fury dart;
But the sweet creeping shrubs that round it throng,
Their loving fragrance mix, and trail their flowers along.
And close beside a little fountain played,
Which through the trembling leaves all joyous shone,
And with the cheerful birds sweet music made,
Kissing the surface of each polished stone
As it flowed past:—
Here she determines to repose; and as it was quite impossible that the action of the piece should go on during her nap, the author judiciously takes this opportunity of giving us a little insight into her previous history. She was born of royal parents, and royal suitors had paid fruitless homage to her beauty, which was so great that she became the rival of Venus herself, and the object of a mistaken worship which ought to have been offered at the shrine of that goddess. The veriest tiro in mythological history must know that Venus was not the lady to put up with such an affront as this. Other authors indeed add something about an ancient grudge which had set her against the family; but this is bad taste, because it was totally unnecessary. Here was reason enough to make a goddess stir up sixty cantos of mischief instead of six; and our author was perfectly right in being contented with it. The fact was enough for the goddess, who did not stop to inquire into the intention. If she had, she would have found that Psyche, so far from promoting this impious secession, was not even elated by it:
For she was timid as the wintry flower,
That, whiter than the snow it blooms among,
Droops its fair head submissive to the power
Of every angry blast which sweeps along
Sparing the lovely trembler, while the strong
Majestic tenants of the leafless wood
It levels low. But, ah! the pitying song
Must tell how, than the tempest's self more rude,
Fierce wrath and cruel hate their suppliant prey pursued.
Her modesty however, as it probably heightened her beauty, was not likely to disarm the wrath of Venus, who sent for her son, and charged him with the execution of her scheme of vengeance. Like a dutiful child, he immediately undertook the task, and repaired to the Island of Pleasure, where he was to furnish himself with the means of its accomplishment. This island was watered by two streams very opposite in their nature. In the one
—deadly anguish pours unmixed his store
Of all the ills which sting the human breast,
The hopeless tears which past delights deplore,
Heart-gnawing jealousy which knows no rest,
And self-upbraiding shame, by stern remorse opprest.
Oh, how unlike the pure transparent stream,
Which near it bubbles o'er its golden sands!
The impeding stones with pleasant music seem
Its progress to detain from other lands;
And all its banks, inwreathed with flowery bands,
Ambrosial fragrance shed in grateful dew:
There young Desire enchanted ever stands,
Breathing delight and fragrance ever new,
And bathed in constant joys of fond affection true. P. 21.
From these he filled severally two amber vases, and thus provided sought the royal chamber of the maid, whom he found fast asleep. These vases might be deemed rather an awkward incumbrance to the flying god, especially as he had his bow and arrows to carry besides; but our author has disposed of them so ingeniously, that they form a becoming appendage to his figure, and afford a happy hint for next year's exhibition.
Psyche had an unfortunate trick of sleeping with her mouth open, against which we take this opportunity of cautioning our fair readers, and Cupid, who seems from this to have been educated at a public school, adroitly emptied the vase of sorrow into it. Not content with this, he wounded her with a dart, but incautiously grazed his own neck with the same weapon; and after pouring the drops of joy upon her hair, departed. Psyche's spirits were soon affected by the draught she had swallowed, and not having learned the modern secret of counteracting it with a glass of laudanum, she could not conceal this from her parents. They consulted the oracle on the subject, and were overwhelmed with grief when the following answer was delivered,
"On nuptial couch, in nuptial vest arrayed,
On a tall rock's high summit Psyche place:
Let all depart, and leave the fated maid
Who never must a mortal Hymen grace:
A winged monster of no earthly race
Thence soon shall bear his trembling bride away;
His power extends o'er all the bounds of space,
And Jove himself has owned his dreaded sway,
Whose flaming breath sheds fire, whom earth and heaven obey." P. 26.
This strange command was fulfilled after some delay; and the bride, while looking out for the dragon that was to make a meal of her, was borne by gentle Zephyrs to the Island of Pleasure. Here she found a palace ready for her reception, furnished with all that could charm the eye, and minister to her gratification. She partook of a banquet provided in the true fairy style by unseen hands; and her hymeneal song was here sung without any mixture of lamentation.
Oh, you for whom I write! whose hearts can melt
At the soft thrilling voice whose power you prove,
You know what charm, unutterably felt,
Attends the unexpected voice of Love:
Above the lyre, the lute's soft notes above,
With sweet enchantment to the soul it steals
And bears it to Elysium's happy grove;
You best can tell the rapture Psyche feels
When Love's ambrosial lip the vows of Hymen seals. P. 34.
But, ere the breezes of the morning call
Aurora from her purple, humid bed,
Psyche in vain explores the vacant hall,
Her tender lover from her arms is fled,
While sleep his downy wings had o'er her eye-lids spread. P. 35.
Her life passed in a manner suitable to this beginning. Her invisible attendants exerted themselves in every possible way to amuse her solitary days.
But to her frequent questions nought reply,
Her lips in vain her lover's name require,
Or wherefore thus concealed he shuns her eye.
One of their modes of amusement seems rather extraordinary, considering that, it was designed for a delicate young lady, and not for a member of the Whip Club.
The gilded car they bid her fearless guide,
Which at her wish self-moved with wondrous powers,
The rapid bird's velocity defied,
While round the blooming isle it rolled with circuit wide.
But what enjoyments can compensate for the days of protracted solitude? To what purpose was she supplied with
All that can the female heart delight
Of fair attire,
With nobody to see how well it became her? Ennui was the sure consequence of such a system, and at length affected her so visibly, that Cupid reluctantly gave her a short leave of absence, for the purpose of visiting her parents, accompanied with a warning against the bad advice to which he knew she would be exposed. Accordingly she found herself at home the next morning, where, of course, she was a most welcome visitor. Like other celebrated beauties, she had the usual allotment of two envious sisters, who, by way of compassing her ruin, filled her mind with doubts and suspicions, and persuaded her to unravel the mystery, which concealed the pretended sorcerer, to whom she was united.
To this end they supplied her with a lamp, by which she was enabled to view him in his sleep.
Oh, daring Muse! wilt thou indeed essay
To paint the wonders which that lamp could shew?
And canst thou hope in living words to say
The dazzling glories of that heavenly view?
Ah! well I ween, that if with pencil true
That splendid vision could be well exprest,
The fearful awe imprudent Psyche knew
Would seize with rapture every wondering breast,
When Love's all potent charms divinely stood confest.
All imperceptible to human touch,
His wings display celestial essence light,
The clear effulgence of the blaze is such,
The brilliant plumage shines so heavenly bright
That mortal eyes turn dazzled from the sight;
A youth he seems in manhood's freshest years;
Round his fair neck, as clinging with delight,
Each golden curl resplendently appears,
Or shades his darker brow, which grace majestic wears.
Or o'er his guileless front the ringlets bright
Their rays of sunny lustre seem to throw,
That front than polished ivory more white!
His blooming cheeks with deeper blushes glow
Than roses scattered o'er a bed of snow:
While on his lips, distilled in balmy dews,
(Those lips divine that even in silence know
The heart to touch) persuasion to infuse
Still hangs a rosy charm that never vainly sues. P. 56, 57.
Lost in admiration, she let fall the lamp, and thus dispelled his sleep, and revealed her breach of his injunctions. In matrimonial squabbles a fit is an approved recipe in extreme cases; and poor Psyche having nothing to say in her own behalf, very judiciously swooned away; but when she came to herself,
The terrors of her fate stand all confest,
In vain she casts around her timid glance,
The rudely frowning scenes her former joys enhance.
No traces of those joys, alas, remain!
A desert solitude alone appears.
No verdant shade relieves the sandy plain,
The wide spread waste no gentle fountain cheers,
One barren face the dreary prospect wears;
Nought through the vast horizon meets her eye
To calm the dismal tumult of her fears,
No trace of human habitation nigh,
A sandy wild beneath, above a threatening sky.
In answer to a very tender and affecting address, Love charged her to endeavour to appease the wrath of Venus, as the only means of their being reunited. In obedience to this injunction she sought the temple of the goddess, and there learned that she must never hope for pardon till she could offer to her, in the temple of happiness, an urn filled from the fountain of beauty. As she did not happen to know the way to the temple, or the fountain in question, this intelligence reduced her to despair. She was already faint with toil and hunger, but Love very opportunely sent her a turtle. Not such an one as was sent to Paris to console Lord L. under his diplomatic disappointments; or to the Texel, to fortify Sir W. C. against the terrors of a siege; and yet a turtle of no mean gifts, for it not only supplied her with food, but flew before as she travelled onward, like the green bird of Thalaba, the solace of her toils, and the guide of her way. It was the turtle-dove of Innocence. One difficulty was thus removed, but another of no less magnitude remained. Had our heroine's road happened to lie through a safe and peaceable country like Ireland, she might have felt perfectly at ease; but this not being the case, she had some unpleasant apprehensions about travelling alone. From these and other cares she had found a short repose in the bower where we first beheld her; but her fears return with double force when she is awakened by the near approach of an armed knight. She is gradually, however, reassured by his courteous and respectful behaviour, and accepts the offer of his services as her champion and attendant. It happened fortunately that he was bound on the same quest with herself.
Divinely eloquent, persuasion ran
The herald of his words ere they depart
His lips, which well might confidence impart,
As he revealed how he himself was bound
By solemn vow, that neither force nor art
His helmet should unloose, till he had found
The bower of happiness, that long-sought fairy ground.
But the knight is mounted, and the lady on foot, which gives rise to a difficulty. They might indeed surmount it by riding double, a practice very frequent among the ladies of romance; but it must be allowed that they form a much more picturesque group by the help of a lion, the emblem of passion, which suffers the knight to bestride his back, and guide him with a golden chain, leaving his charger for the lady's use. The party is completed by Constance, the knight's page, who is the very reverse of Gilpin Horner in every thing excepting usefulness to his master.
We have now got out of all the beaten tracks; as far, that is, as the former historians of Pysche are concerned: and in spite of the objections which we have taken against the moral personages that occupy the scene during the remainder of the poem, we are much more willing to follow her into their haunts, than upon the whimsical errands on which she was sent by Apuleius and his closer imitators. It is to this part of the composition only that the credit of invention belongs; and even here the traces of originality are too sparing to give our author any claim to a high rank in this higher department of poesy. We will not however take off the freshness from what the poem has of novelty, by pursuing our abstract any farther, nor blunt the edge of curiosity by hinting at its catastrophe. Had it been longer before the public, we should have had less delicacy on this head.
The extracts we have already given will, we trust, be a sufficient incentive to our readers to follow the fair Psyche through all her wanderings; and we can venture to assure them, that they will find it a pleasurable task. Having given our verdict against the plan of the poem, we are happy in being authorized to qualify it by the remark, that it is, in great measure, free from many of the faults peculiarly incident to allegorical compositions. There is less of magnifying extravagance, and more of simplicity, moderation and arrangement, than we have generally met with in productions of this cast. The same may be said of the characteristic defects of the Spenser stanza, as it is sometimes denominated; which, by its marked boundaries and triple rhymes, holds out a temptation to tautology and circumlocution. We are aware, however, that exceptions may be found in both instances. In the conflict with ambition, in the island of Indifference, the cave of jealousy, and the castle of suspicion, there is a luxuriance that would admit of the pruning-knife, an amplification which might have been seasonably curtailed. There are examples too of weakness produced by tautology. We find in one stanza,
Yet nought of insolence or haughty pride
Found ever in her gentle breast a place; P. 12.
and in the next,
To her whose guiltless breast ne'er felt elation proud. P. 13.
And the author seems to have been infected by the languor that is described in the following lines:
But melancholy poisons all her joys,
And secret sorrows all her hopes depress,
Consuming languor every bliss destroys,
And sad she droops repining, comfortless. P. 38.
These, however, are rare specimens, and by no means fair samples of the general style, which, though not characterized by energy and vivacity, is seldom weak, heavy, or insipid.
Our author's fort is the expression of tender and exalted sentiment; sentiment neither of the sickly and squeamish cast, which has attached disgust to, nor of the spurious or vitiated kind, which has awakened a well-grounded jealousy of the very name. This volume is not one of those which will be used to pioneer to seduction, and to undermine the outworks of female purity. Withered be the hand that shall add another to the list which already disgraces our catalogues! Anathemas are not our favourite weapons, but it would be mere hypocrisy to clothe in gentle terms the indignation excited in us by this species of moral incendiary. Let us find him where he will, he shall know that our motto is not an empty boast, but a pledge which we shall gladly redeem to the uttermost on the head of so dangerous a delinquent.
The vein of sentiment which runs through the poem under our consideration is far superior to that which pervades the generality of those compositions which may be termed romantic. It is not only elevated and refined, but pure and correct; chastened by good sense, and directed by a constant reference to the realities of life. Many an useful lesson may here be learnt in an art too little studied, the art of conjugal love. The following stanzas convey, with much feeling and truth, the same sound doctrine which Miss Edgeworth has inculcated so skilfully in the story of the modern Griselda.
The tears capricious beauty loves to shed,
The pouting lip, the sullen silent tongue,
May wake the impassioned lovers tender dread,
And touch the spring that clasps his soul so strong;
But ah, beware! the gentle power too long
Will not endure the frown of angry strife;
He shuns contention, and the gloomy throng
Who blast the joys of calm domestic life,
And flies when discord shakes her brand with quarrels rife.
Oh! he will tell you that these quarrels bring
The ruin, not renewal of his flame:
If oft repeated, lo! on rapid wing
He flies to hide his fair but tender frame;
From violence, reproach, or peevish blame
Irrevocably flies. Lament in vain!
Indifference comes the abandoned heart to claim,
Asserts for ever her repulsive reign,
Close followed by disgust and all her chilling train. P. 182.
A profitable lesson too is conveyed, though by a slight hint, in these lines:
Oh! Reconciling moment! charm most dear!
What feeling heart thy pleasures would repeat,
Or wish thy dearly purchased bliss, however sweet. P. 140.
We are glad to meet with an old thought looking well in new dress, as in the stanza that follows:
Oh! who the exquisite delight can tell,
The joy which mutual confidence imparts!
Or who can paint the charm unspeakable
Which links in tender bands two faithful hearts?
In vain assailed by fortune's envious darts,
Their mitigated woes are sweetly shared,
And doubled joy reluctantly departs:
Let but the sympathising heart be spared,
What sorrow seems not light, what peril is not dared? P. 115.
Many passages of exquisite feeling crowd upon our recollection, but we will pass over the minuter instances in favour of one extract, of the length of which few, we think, will complain.
When pleasure sparkles in the cup of youth,
And the gay hours on downy wing advance,
Oh! then 'tis sweet to hear the lip of truth
Breathe the soft vows of love, sweet to entrance
The raptured soul by intermingling glance
Of mutual bliss; sweet amid roseate bowers,
Led by the hand of Love, to weave the dance,
Or unmolested crop life's fairy flowers,
Or bask in joy's bright sun through calm unclouded hours.
Yet they, who light of heart in may-day pride
Meet love with smiles and gaily amorous song,
(Though he their softest pleasures may provide,
Even then when pleasures in full concert throng)
They cannot know with what enchantment strong
He steals upon the tender suffering soul,
What gently soothing charms to him belong,
How melting sorrow owns his soft control,
Subsiding passions hushed in milder waves to roll.
When vexed by cares and harassed by distress,
The storms of fortune chill thy soul with dread,
Let Love, consoling Love! still sweetly bless,
And his assuasive balm benignly shed:
His downy plumage o'er thy pillow spread
Shall lull thy weeping sorrows to repose;
To Love the tender heart hath ever fled,
As on its mother's breast the infant throws
Its sobbing face, and there in sleep forgets its woes.
Oh! fondly cherish then the lovely plant,
Which lenient Heaven hath given thy pains to ease;
Its lustre shall thy summer hours enchant,
And load with fragrance every prosperous breeze,
And when rude winter shall thy roses seize,
When nought through all thy bowers but thorns remain,
This still with undeciduous charms shall please,
Screen from the blast and shelter from the rain,
And still with verdure, cheer the desolated plain.
Through the hard season Love with plaintive note
Like the kind red-breast tenderly shall sing,
Which swells mid dreary snows its tuneful throat,
Brushing the cold dews from its shivering wing,
With cheerful promise of returning spring
To the mute tenants of the leafless grove. P. 179.
One more, and we have done with quotations of this description.
Oh! have you never known the silent charm
That undisturbed retirement yields the soul,
Where no intruder might your peace alarm,
And tenderness hath wept without control,
While melting fondness o'er the bosom stole?
Did fancy never, in some lonely grove,
Abridge the hours which must in absence roll?
Those pensive pleasures did you never prove,
Oh, you have never loved! you know not what is love!
They do not love who can to these prefer
The tumult of the gay, or folly's roar;
The Muse they know not; nor delight in her
Who can the troubled soul to rest restore,
Calm contemplation: Yes, I must deplore
Their joyless state, even more than his who mourns
His love for ever lost; delight no more
Unto his widowed heart indeed returns,
Yet, while he weeps, his soul their cold indifference spurns.
But if soft hope illumines fancy's dream,
Assuring him of love and constancy,
How exquisite do then the moments seem,
When he may hide himself from every eye,
And cherish the dear thought in secrecy!
While sweet remembrance sooths his thrilling heart,
And brings once more past hours of kindness nigh,
Recals the look of love when forced to part,
And turns to drops of joy the tears that sadly start. P. 94.
We need scarcely point out to our readers the genuine pathos which forms the leading charm of these extracts, and forestals the tardy process of critical approbation by an irresistible appeal to the heart. Not that this constitutes their whole merit. The diction and versification are appropriate vehicles of these delicate and attractive traits of a refined sensibility. The latter has rather the easy, equable, and majestic flow of one of our southern rivers, than the bold, broken, and vehement stream of a northern torrent; and consequently its effect is rather gradual than instantaneous, it does not command, but wins our admiration. The former is the approved language of the court of Apollo, neither debased by the vulgarisms of the simple school, nor tricked out in the false ornaments of pedantry. It has a natural elegance, a sustained dignity, and occasionally an uncommon degree of richness. Nothing but its general correctness would lead us to notice such oversights as the following.
And oft with seeming piety they blame
The worship, which they justly impious call:
And oft, lest evil should their sire befal,
"Besought" him. &c. P. 13.
Yet well this little page his lord had served,
His youthful arm had many a foe repelled,
His watchful eye from many a snare preserved,
Nor ever from his steps in any danger swerved. P. 79.
The expression "timid fears," and the following line, "And thus divinely spoke the heaven-inspired tongue," P. 25. belong to a head of accusation, which we have noticed before. "Lucid myrtles" and" grace-attempered majesty" rather alarmed us, as savoring a little of Delta Cruscan taste; but we are happy to say that they have few companions, if any, to keep them in countenance; and that the splendour of Psyche's mantle is the effect not of Bristol stones, but of real brilliants. The poet, whilst he
Spernit humum fugiente penna,
and soars above the heads of the humble dealers in prose, is apt at times, as living examples might prove, to get into the clouds, and thus to give us some trouble in tracing his course. We have little complaint of this kind to make in the present instance, the style being very clear and intelligible. It requires some skill however to put the "current, flood, cup, draught, stream, and bowl" of the following stanza in their proper places, and make an accurate picture of them.
But not to mortals is it e'er allowed
To drink unmingled of that current bright;
Scarce can they taste the pleasurable flood,
Defiled by angry Fortune's envious spite;
Who from the cup of amorous delight
Dashes the sparkling draught of brilliant joy,
Till, with dull sorrow's stream despoiled quite,
No more it cheers the soul nor charms the eye,
But 'mid the poisoned bowl distrust and anguish lie. P. 20.
We are not aware of any authority for this sense of the word "despoiled." The thought is not very clearly conveyed in these lines:
For sweet refreshment all inviting seems
To taste celestial food, and pure ambrosial streams. P. 33.
There is a confusion too in the following metaphor, from the awkward introduction of the tainted gale, which is quite out of place in a sea-piece.
Vain schemer, think not to prolong thy joy!
But cherish while it lasts the heavenly boon;
Expand thy sails! thy little bark shall fly
With the full tide of pleasure! though it soon
May feel the influence of the changeful moon,
It yet is thine! then let not doubts obscure
With cloudy vapours veil thy brilliant noon,
Nor let suspicion's tainted breath impure
Poison the favouring gale which speeds thy course secure! P. 46.
This is one instance of the bad effect of being forced to eke out a thought to the measure of this stanza. The simile in p. 193, which begins with, "Thus o'er the oily surface softly slides," is wanting in perspicuity. But these instances are very rare, considering the length of the poem, the stream of which, to recur to our former allusions, though it frequently rises above its ordinary level, and be us forward on its buoyant and elevated tide, scarcely ever sinks below it, and leaves us stranded in the shallows. Some poems of considerable merit remind us of those portraits, in which the master-painter has finished only the features, and left the drapery to one of his scholars. But here the whole is evidently touched by the same pencil. Majesty gives its charm to one part, and sweetness, and that more frequently, to another; but the same delicate grace embellishes all. The little connecting links, which cannot make, but can effectually mar, a fine poem, are well executed; not being so studiously elaborated as to give them a misplaced consequence, yet sufficiently finished to satisfy a scrutinizing eye. The time of day, for instance, is thus marked.
But when meek eve hung out her dewy star
And gently veiled with gradual hand the sky. P. 33.
Now from his crystal urn, with chilling hand,
Vesper had sprinkled all the earth with dew,
A misty veil obscured the neighbouring land,
And shut the fading landscape from their view. P. 84.
But we have dealt too liberally in quotations to allow of our multiplying instances, or doing justice in this respect to our author's descriptive talents, which are of the higher order. The descriptions of scenery are circumstantial enough to give a specific character to each picture, without being tediously minute; and some of the portraits are sketched with a masterly hand. We must be content with one or two examples in each kind. The dwelling of retirement, and the palace of ambition; may illustrate happily the appropriate character of the scenery.
Mid the thick forest was a lonely dell,
Where foot of man was seldom known to tread,
The sloping hills all round in graceful swell
The little green with woods environed;
Hither the dove their passive course had led:
Here the thin smoke blue rising mid the trees,
Where broad and brown the deepest umbrage spread,
Spoke the abode of safe retired ease,
And Psyche gladly there her dove descending sees. P. 92.
High o'er the spacious plain a mountain rose,
A stately castle on its summit stood:
Huge craggy cliffs behind their strength oppose
To the rough surges of the dashing flood;
The rocky shores a boldly rising wood
On either side conceals; bright shine the towers
And seem to smile upon the billows rude.
In front the eye, with comprehensive powers,
Sees wide extended plains enriched with splendid bowers.
Hither they bore the sad reluctant fair,
Who mounts with dizzy eye the awful steep;
"The blazing structure seems high poised in air,
And its light pillars tremble o'er the deep." P. 103.
The effect produced on Psyche's guardian dove by an approach even to the "bower of loose delight," is beautifully described.
Feebly it seemed on labouring wing to fly,
Till, dazzled by the sudden glare around,
In painful trance is closed its dizzy eye,
And had it not fair Psyche's bosom found,
Its drooping pinion soon had touched the unhallowed ground. P. 85.
We will add the portraits of patience and jealousy, and a slight sketch of Psyche herself, at the moment of reconciliation to her attendant knight, of whose fidelity she had entertained some groundless suspicions.
More sweet than health's fresh bloom the wan hue seemed
Which sat upon her pallid cheek; her eye,
Her placid eye, with dove-like softness beamed;
Her head unshielded from the pitiless sky,
Loose to the rude wild blast her tresses fly,
Bare were her feet which prest the shelly shore
With firm unshrinking step; while smilingly
She eyes the dashing billows as they roar,
And braves the boisterous storms so oft endured before. P. 173.
On the damp ground he sits in sullen woe,
But wildly rolls around his frenzied eye,
And gnaws his withered lips, which still o'erflow
With bitter gall; in foul disorder lie
His black and matted locks; anxiety
Sits on his wrinkled brow and sallow cheek;
The wasted form, the deep-drawn, frequent sigh,
Some slow consuming malady bespeak,
But medicinal skill the cause in vain shall seek. P. 132.
The smiles of joy which swell her glowing cheek,
And o'er her parting lips divinely play,
Returning pleasure eloquently speak,
Forgetful of the tears which lingering stay,
(Like sparkling dew drops in a sunny day)
"Unheeded tenants of rejoicing eyes." P. 140.
We have trespassed too long on the indulgence of our readers to venture upon a minute discussion of the merits of the tumor poems, which, with one or two exceptions, are not unworthy of following in the train of Psyche, though she,
Still the fairest queen,
Like Dian, mid her circling nymphs appears.
They derive their chief interest from a soft and pleasing tinge of melancholy which pervades them all; the result, as it seems, of a deep and feeling conviction of the senseless and fruitless vanity of what is generally, but falsely, called a life of pleasure. It is the conviction too of experience, and the young, and the fair, will do well to profit by it, instead of risking their own happiness in the dangerous trial. — Experience is an article that may be borrowed with safety, and is often far too dearly bought. The sonnets have more of the proper qualities of that species of composition than most of those with which the press his teemed of late. The lines "Written at the Commencement of Spring," and "The Lily," are perhaps as pleasing as any of the smaller poems. There is a delicacy and exquisite pathos throughout the following extracts, which; as the last effusions of a mind conscious that it would shortly quit this world of sorrows, are perfectly irresistible
Oh, plume again thy jetty wing,
Sweet Blackbird, charm thy listening lover!
For thus, even thus, I heard thee sing,
When hopes could smile that now are over.
And thou, dear Red-breast, let me hear,
Exchanged once more thy wintry measure;
Thy notes proclaim the spring-tide near,
As they were wont in hours of pleasure.
The lark shall mount the sapphire skies
And wake the grateful song of gladness,
One general peal-from earth shall rise,
And man alone shall droop in sadness.
'Twas here by peace and friendship blest.
I paid to Spring my yearly duty,
When last she decked her fragrant breast
In all the glowing pride of beauty.
'Twas here the cordial look of love
From every eye benignly flowing,
Bade the kind tours in union move,
Each lip the ready smile bestowing.
But where the blooming Cherub-Boy,
Who hailed with us the pleasant season?
Whose smile recalled each childish jot,
That sadder years resigned to Reason.
Those bright, those laughing eyes, where Love
And innocence are seen embracing;
Those fairy-hands, that graceful move
Their fancy-formed circles tracing.
Oh, haste as thou wast wont to do;
We'll mount you shrubby steep together;
Thy care the first wood-flowers shall shew,
Thyself all-blooming as the weather.
Haste, sweetest Babe, beloved of all!
Our cheerful hours without thee languish:
Ah! hush! ... he hears no more thy call!
Ah! hush! ... nor wake a parent's anguish!
That lip of roses glows no more;
That beaming glance in night is clouded;
Those bland endearments all are o'er,
In death's dark pall for ever shrowded.
No, Angel-sweetness! not for ever,
Though Heaven from us thy charms hath hidden,
We joy for thee, though forced to sever,
O favoured guest, thus early bidden!
Even o'er thy dying couch, sweet Boy!
A heavenly messenger presided:
He beckon'd thee to seats of joy,
To fields of endless rapture guided.
No, not for thee this bitter tear,
It falls for those yet doomed to sorrow;
Who feel the load of life severe,
Who mourn the past, nor hope the morrow.
It falls for those who, left behind,
Must fill their woes allotted measure;
Who muse in hopes to death consigned
On visions of departed pleasure.
For those who through life's dreary night
Full many a watchful hour shall number,
And sigh for long delaying light,
Or envy those who early slumber. P. 252, &c.
Sweet tear of hope, delicious tear!
The sun, the shower indeed shall come;
The promised verdant shoot appear,
And nature bid her blossoms bloom.
And thou, O virgin Queen of Spring!
Shalt, from thy dark and lowly bed,
Bursting, thy green sheath's silken string,
Unveil thy charms, and perfume shed;
Unfold thy robes of purest white,
Unsullied from their darksome grave,
And thy soft petals silvery light
In the mild breeze unfettered wave.
So Faith shall seek the lowly dust
Where humble Sorrow loves to lie,
And bid her thus her hopes entrust,
And watch with patient, cheerful eye;
And hear the long, cold, wintry night,
And bear her own degraded doom,
And wait till Heaven's reviving light,
Eternal Spring! shall burst the gloom. P. 304.
Odours of Sprig, my sense ye charm
With fragrance premature:
And, mid these days of dark alarm,
Almost to hope allure.
Methinks with purpose soft ye come
To tell of brighter hours,
Of May's blue skies, abundant bloom,
The sunny gales and showers.
Alas! for me shall May in vain
The powers of life restore;
These eyes that weep and watch in pain,
Shall see her charms no more.
No, no, this anguish cannot last!
Beloved friends, adieu!
The bitterness of death were past,
Could I resign but you.
But oh! in every mortal pang
That rends my soul from life,
That soul, which seems on you to hang
Through each convulsive strife,
Even now, with agonizing grasp
Of terror and regret,
To all in life its love would clasp
Clings close and closer yet.
Yet why, immortal, vital spark!
Thus mortally opprest?
Look up, my soul, through prospects dark,
And bid thy terrors rest;
Forget, forego thy earthly part,
Thine heavenly being trust:—
Ah, vain attempt! my coward heart
Still shuddering clings to dust.
Oh ye! who sooth the pangs of death
With love's own patient care,
Still, still retain this fleeting breath,
Still pour the fervent prayer:—
And ye, whose smile must greet my eye
No more, nor voice my ear,
Who breathe for me the tender sigh,
And shed the pitying tear,
Whose kindness (though far far removed)
My grateful thoughts perceive,
Pride of my life, esteemed, beloved,
My last sad claim receive!
Oh! do not quite your friend forget,
Forget alone her faults;
And speak of her with fond regret
Who asks your lingering thoughts. P. 307.
On the whole, there is a characteristic delicacy, a "trew feminitee," about this publication, which is exceedingly attractive. Far be it from us to check the aspiring spirit of those ladies who prefer the din of arms to
All the love of love, and goodly womanhead,
and seek a blood-stained wreath in celebrating the fields of martial glory. On the contrary, we are willing to prove how friendly we are to such undertakings, by suggesting to the writers of a romance, which is at present deservedly popular, the addition of a sixth volume, consisting of a list of the killed, wounded) and prisoners. It would not only increase the price of her book, but give it an additional interest from the air of probability which it would impart. But we must reserve to ourselves the privilege, as a matter of private taste, of having a particular fancy for Psyche, and her fair historian, and deeming the exhibition of their suffering fortitude more honourable, because more appropriate to their sex, than that of the prowess and doughty deeds of a Britomartis, or a Bradamante. A very interesting portrait of Mrs. Tighe is prefixed to this volume. Expressive as it appears to be of the mind which pervades every part of her poetry, we are credibly informed that it falls short of the beauty and sentiment which illuminated the countenance of the fair original. Would that we might, without a sigh of unavailing sorrow, congratulate the public on the reversal of the following decree!
Fond dreamer! meditate thine idle song!
But let thine idle song remain unknown:
The verse, which cheers thy solitude, prolong;
What, though it charm no moments but thine own,
Though thy loved Psyche smile for thee alone,
Still shall it yield thee pleasure, if not fame,
And when, escaped from tumult, thou hast flown
To thy dear silent hearth's enlivening flame,
There shall the tranquil muse her happy votary claim!