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The poetry of the nineteenth century boasts more eminent women among its votaries than that of any other age. Among them FELICIA HEMANs, one of the best of her sex, enjoys prečminent popularity. Her poems are pure and sweet, dealing with the affections rather than the passions, and characterized throughout by an indescribable tone of holiness. She possessed a fine perception of moral beauty, and a rich fancy; but her writings are deficient in powerful imagination, except in some splendid passages. To enjoy her poetry, but little should be read at a time. It cloys with sweetness and tires with harmony. There is a serene beauty in her delineations of life and nature, eminently calculated to purify the affections, and introduce a habit of thoughtfulness into the mind; but they do not evince large mental resources. Two thirds of her writings are repetitions of herself. They enfeeble when taken in immoderate quantities. The pensive sadness diffused through them, when dwelt upon at too much length, is liable to make the soul daintily good, and sentimentally virtuous. She saw life through a medium of womanly sentiment, by which all her perceptions were unconsciously colored. Though individual, her individuality was neither broad nor intense. After all abatements, however, from the extravagant eulogies of her admirers, she must be allowed to possess a rare and truly feminine nature, endowed with uncommon refinement of thought and feeling, and to have written poetry of much origimality and oeauty. We have no space to do justice to JoANNA BAILLIE, whose mind occupies a neutral station between the masculine and feminine, with some of the best qualities of "er dramas are among the most excellent written since the Elizabethan period, and display much comprehension. LETITIA E. LANDON, the pet of young ladies, wrote heaps of fanciful and passionate verse, with remarkable fluency and sameness of tone. It tells the old story of love and sorrow. MRs. Norton, a woman of far higher order of mind, and greater depth of sensibility, and whose life has been tried by calamity and suffering, takes a high rank among the second class of poets. Her genius has some points in common with that of Byron. Much of her poetry has been inspired by individual experience of woe and wrong, and possesses a deep subjective character. She has a fine feeling for the beautiful, and much graceful facility of elegant expression. The poem called “Recollections,” and the dedication of “The Dream,” are among her most characteristic productions. MARY Russell, MITFoRD, the kind-hearted and clear-headed author of “Our Willage,” has written two or three tragedies, containing much eloquent writing. “Rienzi” is a very good dramatic poem, with several passages of exceedingly nervous declamation. Miss Mitford, however, is best known by her sketches of country life, which, inimitable of their kind, have found readers all over the world, and converted every reader into a friend. Her humor and pathos, as displayed in these, are exquisitely fine and feminine; and “Our Willage” is a permanent addition to one of the most beautiful departments of English literature. But probably the greatest female poet that England has ever produced, and one of the most unreadable, is ELIZABETH B. BARRETT. In the works of no woman have we ever observed so much grandeur of imagination, disguised, as it is, in an elaborately infelicitous style. She has a large heart and a large brain; but many of her thoughts are hooded eagles. That a woman of such varied acquirements, of so much delicacy of sentiment and depth of feeling, of so much holiness and elevation of thought, possessing, too, an imagination of such shaping power and piercing vision, should not consent always to write English, should often consent to manufacture a barbarous jargon compounded of all languages, is a public calamity. “The Cry of the Human,” to her, is, “Be more intelligible.” The scholar who was in the custom of “unbending himself over the lighter mathematics” might find an agreeable recreation in Miss Barrett's abstruse windings of thought, and terrible phalanxes of Greek and German expressions. A number of her poems are absolutely good for nothing, from their harshness and obscurity of language. Her mind has taken its tone and character from the study of Æschylus, Milton, and the Hebrew poets; and she is more familiar with them than with the world. Wast and vague imaginations, excited by such high communion, float duskily before her mind, and she mutters mysteriously of their majestic presence; but she does not always run them into intelligible form. We could understand this, if she displayed any lack, on other occasions, of high imagination; but her frequent inexpressiveness is a voluntary offering on, the altar of obscurity. “We understand a fury in the words, but not the words.” In one of her sonnets, “The Soul's Expression,” we are made acquainted with her condition of mind, when she wishes to utter her deep imaginings. Nothing could better represent a heart possessed by the mightiest poetic feeling, yet awed before its own mystical emotions. It is the soul “falling away from the imagination.”
“THE SOUL’S EXPRESSION.
“With stammering lips, and insufficient sound,
Miss Barrett's genius, though subjective in its general character, is of considerable range. She is especially powerful in dealing with the affections. Her religious poetry is characterized by a most intense and solemn reverence for divine things, and often swells into magnificent bursts of rapture and adoration. Her feeling for humanity is deep and tender, and she has a warm sympathy with its wants and immunities. Her sonnets, though of various degrees of merit, and some of them crabbed in their versification, have generally a rough grandeur which is very imposing. “The Drama of Exile,” though teeming with faults, has noble traits of intellect and passion, which no faults can conceal. Many of her minor pieces show a most delicate perception of beauty and sentiment, expressed with much simplicity and melody of style.
P. J. BAILEy, the author of “Festus,” is one of the most remarkable men among the poets of the present century. His egotism almost approaches that point of the sublime where it topples over into the ridiculous. He chooses the most lofty subjects, without seeming to doubt his capacity to grapple with their mysteries. He plagiarizes from authors whose names he would not condescend to mention. He hardly realizes the existence of others, except so far as they are related to himself. In “Festus” he displays at times a certain “lust of power, a hunger and thirst after unrighteousness, a glow of imagination unhallowed save by its own energies,” which well indicates the element of daring in which his nature moves. To most readers, the poem would appear a monstrous compound of blasphemy and licentiousness. Though evincing power, and variety of power, it excites the most wonder from its disregard of all the moral, religious, and artistical associations of others. Pantheism and fatalism, in their most objectionable forms, are inculcated as absolute truth. The two flaming ideas in his mind are God and Lucifer. One of his scenes occurs “Anywhere,” and another “Everywhere.” The merest commonplaces of antagonistical systems of philosophy and religion are all mingled together in the chaos of his theory. Occasionally all regard for the proprieties of the diabolic is eschewed. The devil falls violently in love in one place; and in another scolds the damned like a Billingsgate fish-woman. He reproves his friends for laziness, telling them that they do not earn enough to pay for the fire that burns them up. Human passions and human ideas Bailey continually blends with things superhuman and divine. Doctrines of the most monstrous import, and doctrines of the utmost purity and holiness, so follow each other, that the author evidently notices no discord in their connection. He can delineate the passion of love with great refinement, without seeming to distinguish it from the most unhallowed