« AnkstesnisTęsti »
historical character powerfully portrayed, and undoubtedly, we think, the masterpiece of the drama. Her fervid enthusiasm, her dominant piety, her uncontrollable benevolence, her fearless simplicity, and, more than all, perhaps, her strong human affection, are brought out with a vividness, force, and beauty, that could scarcely be surpassed. Her story, as here presented, contains a noble lesson on the right of natural instincts to dictate its duties to the human soul, and further reveals our nature to us with such a fearless truthfulness, that prudery might well study it, and blush to confess its own weakness and unhealthy thoughts.-The character of Lewis, too, simple, affectionate, and easily moulded,-that of Conrad, stern, ambitious, prejudiced, devoted,—and that of Walter of Varila, a man of strong sense and noble nature, but (as it is expressed in the Introduction) " exhibiting the healthy animalism of the Teutonic mind," rather than any more spiritual feature,—all seem to us true types of character, carefully and powerfully drawn.
To these characters, and the simple air of reality pervading the history, and to the well-chosen language, the play owes its interest, for it is quite devoid of intrigue, there is no plot or counterplot, it has the even flow of a sad, powerfully-depicted drama of unvarnished human life.
We regret that the tragedy did not close with the fourth act. After the death of Elizabeth all interest is gone: and as no material end seems to be gained by the arrangement of the later acts, as the action of the play, after the close of the second act, is not marked by any obvious division, these four might have been extended into the legitimate five, or contracted into the allowable three, without adding to or taking from the poem, or breaking the continuity of the several parts. In regard to the rhythm, it seems to us a mistake to have introduced several varieties of metre. Besides the prevailing blank verse, there are Alexandrines used (as in pages 145-6), and also those still longer lines which Tennyson, with the additional use of rhyme, has employed with so much effect in his "Locksley Hall;" there is an example of this in page 69. In pages 128-9, an irregular metre like that of an ode is employed with rhyme; it might, however, be intended for a song. There are several songs of more or less beauty scattered through
the play; those in pages 73 and 103 are particularly worthy of notice; the proem, too, is spirited. We must give a specimen or two of the poetry. Here is the speech of Lewis when informed of the love of Elizabeth, with whom he had been familiar, and to whom he had been betrothed from his youth, and who for want of his protection is suffering repeated insults from the courtiers:
"Lewis. Loves me! Henceforth let no man, peering down Through the dim glittering mine of future years,
Say to himself, Too much! this cannot be !'
To-day, and custom, wall up our horizon:
Before the hourly miracle of life
Blindfold we stand, and sigh, as though God were not.
I've wandered in the mountains, mist bewilder'd,
And now a breeze comes, and the veil is lifted,
And priceless flowers, o'er which I trod unheeding,
She, who to me was as a nightingale
That sings in magic gardens, rock-beleaguered,
Whose dark eyes hung, like far-off evening stars,
Down from the cloud-world of her unknown fancy-
Seemed all too gross-who might have been a saint,
The spotless rose of her own maidenhood
To give it unto me !"-Act I. Scene 2, p. 54.
Here is the exclamation of Elizabeth, when she hears of this avowal:
Tell him-tell him-God!
Have I grown mad, or a child within the moment!
Is thus to cast my virgin pride away,
And find my strength in weakness."-Act I. Scene 3, p. 61.
Here is a fine passage from Act II. Scene 3, p.
"Eliz. Oh! contemplation palls upon the spirit, Like the chill silence of an autumn sun:
While action, like the roaring south-west wind,
With the two following lines beautifully descriptive of winter, we must reluctantly close our notice of this very interesting little volume, returning Mr. Kingsley our sincere thanks, and expressing the hope that he may not leave us long without another occasion for drawing attention to his great merits.
Beneath her eider robe the patient earth
And gaze up with her at the changeless heaven,
Until this tyranny be overpast.”—Act III. Scene 3, p. 162. Mr. Trench's story of Justin Martyr is a short poem of great merit. It is too long to give in full, and we should be afraid to spoil its unity and charm by quoting a part of it, when it is all so well worth perusal. The truth of the feeling, the beauty of the language, and the deep spiritual meaning it contains, all claim for it a high place among the poems of the present day. It belongs to the highest kind of poetry, and is in truth of a rare quality. Unfortunately it stands alone in the volume; no other poem having by any means equal merit. Mr. Trench belongs to Wordsworth's school of poetry, and has fallen into the same error of publishing too much. He gives us indirectly to understand in some pleasing lines which close the volume, that he does not write for fame, but for a sacred influence. We believe, however, it is a mistake to suppose that religious feeling or thought will influence through poetry, merely as metrical composition, when of an indifferent or third-rate description. Poetry is not read by every one; only by those who would throw aside at once
serious poetry, not inspired either by the glow of enthusiasm, or the hues of fancy, or the pictures of imagination. Such a simple story as that of Honor Neale would tell much better in prose. As a tract it might be useful, especially among the poor. Here Mr. Trench, whose view of things is always spiritual, follows Wordsworth too closely : but what has not inspired himself is not likely to inspire another. "The Monk and Bird," and "A walk in the Churchyard," contain beautiful verses well worth perusal : they exhibit at once the style of the author's writing, and the religious aspect in which fiction or truth alike strike upon his serious mind.* Among the many sonnets we would refer the reader to five addressed to a lady singing (p. 136-9), and two upon the perception of beauty everywhere (p. 142-3), containing some of Mr. Trench's best thoughts, expressed in his best language. The two last verses of an Ode to Sleep are beautifully descriptive (vid. p. 152-3). At the close of the volume, where the verses are exclusively religious, the author seems to us most at home (see especially p. 260-3). There are some beautiful verses in the Day of Death, to which we would particularly direct attention (p. 264). As a specimen of Mr. Trench's descriptive power and spiritual application we select the following sonnet:
66 THE HERRING-FISHERS OF LOCHFYNE.
Weary, and leaning o'er their vessels' side."-P. 68.
* We cannot understand why Mr. Trench always uses the word spiritual as one of two syllables, where the metre is constantly broken by its introduction : of this there are numberless examples.
The same serious spirit, the same sense of mystery, the same vivid consciousness of the Unseen in which we live and move-which characterises the poetry of Mr. Kingsley and Mr. Trench-appear in the little volume called "Ambarvalia." Mr. Clough's poems are generally more remarkable for spiritual than for poetical thought: his language is often stiff, and his ideas obscure and involved, which makes it difficult to arrive at his meaning. He is too fond of alliteration, e. g. these phrases occur-" mortal moral strife," 99.66 sure assured," seem to see,' ," "dare not dare," "wills thy will," "priceless prize," "dreamier dreams," "bloomiest bloom," "primal prime,"-and are certainly awkward and unpoetical. The first poem we like much: it expresses well that mystery in which the mind gets entangled, in endeavouring to solve the difficulties which press upon the thoughtful. "Qui laborat orat" (p. 18) contains a true and noble thought, and reveals (as do all this writer's lines) a lowly yet manly and aspiring soul. He has more concentration of thought and expression than Mr. Trench, more metaphysical subtlety, but less of the poetical temperament. There are some fine verses under the title "When Israel came out of Egypt" (p. 23). The most poetical piece of all we think is the "Silver Wedding" (p. 28), celebrated in Germany when a couple have been married five-and-twenty years;-there is true poetical and deep human feeling in it, doing justice to our highest nature: it is too long to quote here. " Qua cursum ventus," (p. 50,) lines suggested by a common experience of life, is forcible and earnest as well as beautiful; it is the only specimen we have space for in this short notice of Mr. Clough's miscellaneous effusions, where, it must be candidly allowed, that a want of taste is sometimes discernible :
"As ships, becalmed at eve, that lay
When fell the night, upsprung the breeze,