Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

withstanding what a learned writer has advanced to the contrary. Nothing, certainly, could be more greatly conceived, or more adequately expressed, than the image in the laft couplet.

That deception, sometimes ufed in Thetoric and poetry, which presents us with an obje& or fentiment contrary to what we expected, is here introduced to the greatest advantage :

“ Farewel the youth, whom fighs could not detain,
Whom Zara's breaking heart implor'd in vain !
Yet, as thou go'st, may every blait arise.

Weak and unfelt as these rejected sighs!
But this, perhaps, is rather an artificial prettiness, than a real, or natural beauty.

[blocks in formation]

THAT innocent and native fimplicity of manners, which, in the first eclogue, was allowed to constitute the happiness of love, is here beautifully described in its effects

. The fultan of Persia marries a Georgian Shepherdess, and finds in her embraces that genuine felicity which unperverted nature alone can beftow. The most natural and beautiful

parts of this eclogue are those where the fair sultana refers with fo much pleasure to her pastoral amusements

, and those scenes of happy innocence in which The had passed her early years; particularly when, upon her firft departure,

“ Of as she went, she backward turn'd her view,

And bade that crook and bleating flock adieu.” This picture of amiable fimplicity reminds one of that passage, where Proferpine, when carried off by Pluto, regrets the loss of the flowers she has been gathering.

“ Collecti flores tunicis cecidere remiffis :
Tantaque fimplicitas puerilibus adfuit annis,
Hæc quoque virgineum movit jactura dolorem.'

[blocks in formation]

THE beautiful, but unfortunate country, where the scene of this pathetic eclogue is laid, had been recently torn in pieces by the depredations of its favage neighbours, when, Mr. Collins so affectingly described its misfortunes. This ingenious man had not only a pencil to pourtray, but a heart to feel for the miseries of mankind, and it is with the utmost tenderness and humanity he enters into the narrative of Circassia's ruin, while he realizes the scene, and brings the present drama before us. Of every circumftance that could possibly contribute to the tender effect this paftoral was designed to produce, the poet has availed himself with the utmost art and address. Thus he prepares the heart to pity the distresses of Circassia, by representing it as the scene of the happiest love.

“ In fair Circaffia, where, to love inclin'd,

Each swain was bleft, for every maid was kind.” To give the circumstances of the dialogue a more affecting folemnity, he makes the time midnight, and describes the two shepherds in the very act of fight from the destruction that swept over their coụntry:

“ Sad o'er the dews, two brother shepherds fled,

Where wildering fear and desperate forrow led :" There is a beauty and propriety in the epithet wildering, which strikes us more forcibly, the more we consider it.

[ocr errors]

The opening of the dialogue is equally happy, natural, and unaffected; when one of the shepherds, weary and overcome with the fatigue of flight, calls upon

his

companion to review the length of way they had passed. This is, certainly, painting from nature, and the thoughts, however obvious, or deftitute of refinement, are perfectly in character. But, as the closest pursuit of nature is the furest way to excellence in general, and to fublimity in particular, in poetical description, so we find that this limple suggestion of the shepherd is not unattended with magnificence. There is grandeur and variety in the landskip he describes :

" And first review that long-extended plain,
And yon wide groves, already paft with pain !
Yon ragged cliff

, whole dangerous path we try'd ! And last this lofty mountain's weary fide!" There is, in imitative harmony, an art of expressing a flow and difficult movement by adding to the usual number of pauses in a verse. This is observable in the line that describes the ascent of the mountain :

And last || this lofty mountain's || weary side 11. Here we find the number of pauses, or musical bars, which, in an heroic verse, is commonly two, increased to three.

The liquid melody, and the numerous sweetness of expression in the following defcriptive lines is almoft inimitably beautiful :

" Sweet to the fight is Zabran's flowery plain,
And once by nymphs and shepherds lov'd in vain!
No more the virgins shall delight to rove
By Sargis' banks, or Irwan's shady grove,
On Tarkie's mountain catch the cooling gale,

Or breathe the sweets of Aly's flowery vale. Nevertheless in this delightful landskip there is an obvious fault: there is no diftinion between the plain of Zabran, and the vale of Aly: they are both flowery, and consequently undiversified. This could not proceed from the poet's want of judgment, but froin inattention: it had not occurred to him that he had employed the epithet flowery twice within fo short a compass; an oversight which those who are accustomed to poetical, or, indeed, to any other species of composition, know to be very possible.

Nothing can be more beautifully conceived, or more pathetically expreffed, than the shepherd's apprehensions for his fair country-women, exposed to the ravages of the invaders.

" In vain Circaffia boafts her spicy groves,
For ever fam’d for pure and happy loves:
In vain she boasts her fairest of the fair,
Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair!
Those eyes in tears their fruitless grief shall send;

Those hairs the Tartar's cruel hand shall rend." There is, certainly, some very powerful charm in the liquid melody of founds. The editor of these poems could never read or hear the following verse repeated, without a degree of pleasure otherwise entirely unaccountable:

“ Their eyes' blue languish, and their golden hair." Such are the Oriental Eclogues, which we leave with the same kind of anxious pleafure, we feel upon a temporary parting with a beloved frieud.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

TH

HE genius of Collins was capable of every degree of excellence in lyric poetry,

and perfectly qualified for that high province of the Muse. Possessed of a native ear for all the varieties of harmony and modulation, fufceptible of the finest feelings of tenderness and humanity, but, above all, carried away by that high enthufiasm, which gives to imagination its strongest colouring, he was, at once, capable of foothing the ear with the melody of his numbers, of influencing the passions by the force of his pathos, and of gratifying the fancy by the luxury of his description.

In consequence of these powers, but more particularly, in confideration of the laft, he chose such subjects for his lyric effays as were most favourable for the indulgence of description and allegory; where he could exercise his powers in moral and personal painting; where he could exert his invention in conferring attributes on images or objects already new known, and described by a determinate number of characteristics; where he might give an uncommon eclat to his figures, by placing them in happier attitudes, or in more advantageous lights, and introduce new forms from the moral and intellectual world into the fociety of imperfonated beings.

Such, no doubt, were the privileges which the poet expected, and such were the advantages he derived from the descriptive and allegorical nature of his themes.

It seems to have been the whole industry of our author (and it is, at the same time, almost all the claim to moral excellence his writings can boaft) to promote the influence of the social virtues, by painting them in the fairest and happiest lights.

“ Melior fieri tuendo, would be no improper motto to his poems in general, but of his lyric poems it seems to be the whole moral tendency and effect. If therefore, it should appear to fome readers that he has been more industrious to cultivate description than sentiment; it may be observed, that his descriptions themselves are sentimental, and answer the whole end of that species of writing, by embellishing every feature of virtue, and by conveying, through the effects of the pencil, the finest moral lessons to the mind.

Horace Ipeaks of the fidelity of the ear in preference to the uncertainty of the eye; but if the mind receives conviction, it is, certainly, of very little importance through what medium, or by which of the senses, it is conveyed.' The impressions left on the imagination may, poffibly, be thought less durable than the deposits of memory, but it may very well admit of a question, whether a conclusion of reason, or an impression of imagination, will fooneft make its way to the heart. A moral precept, conveyed in words, is only an account of truth in its eifects; a moral picture is truth exemplified; and which is most likely to gain upon the affections, it may not be difficult to determine.

This, however, must be allowed, that those works approach the nearest to perfection which unite these powers and advantages ; which at once influence the imagination, and engage the memory; the former by the force of animated and striking defcription, the latter by a brief, but harmonious conveyance of precept : thus, while the heart is VOL.-VII.

N

influenced through the operation of the paffions, or the fancy, the effect, which might otherwise have been tranfient, is secured by the co-operating power of the memory, which treasures up in a short aphorism the moral scene.

This is a good reason, and this, perhaps, is the only reason that can be given, why our dramatic performances should generally end with a chain of couplets. In these the moral of the whole piece is usually conveyed; and that aslistance which the memory borrows from rhyme, as it was probably the original cause of it, gives it usefulnels and propriety even there.

After these apologies for the descriptive turn of the following odes, fomething remains to be said on the origin and use of allegory in poetical composition.

By this we are not to underftand the trope in the schools, which is defined “ aliud “ verbis, aliud fenfu oftendere," and of which Quintilian says, “ufus eft, ut triftia “ dicamus melioribus verbis, aut bonæ rei quædam contrariis fignificemus, &c." It is not the verbal, but the sentimental allegory, not allegorical expression (which, indeed, might come under the term of metaphor) but allegorical imagery, that is here in queftion.

When we endeavour to trace this species of figurative sentiment to its origin, we find it coeval with literature itself. It is generally agreed that the most ancient

productions are poetical, and it is certain that the most ancient poems abound with allegorical imagery:

If, then, it be allowed that the first literary productions were poetical, we shall have little or no difficulty in difcovering the origin of allegory:

At the birth of letters, in the tranfition from hieroglyphical to literal expression, it is not to be wondered if the custom of expressing ideas by personal images, which had so long prevailed, should still retain its influence on the mind, though the use of letters had rendered the practical application of it fuperfluous. Those who had been accustomed to express ftrength by the image of an elephant, swiftness by that of a panther, and courage by that of a lion, would make no fcruple of fubftituting, in letters, the symbols for the ideas they had been used to represent.

Here we plainly see the origin of allegorical expression, that it arose from the ashes of hieroglyphics; and if to the same cause we should refer that figurative boldness of style and imagery which diftinguish the oriental writings, we shall, perhaps, conclude more justly than if we should impute it to the superior grandeur of eastern genius.

From the same source with the verbal, we are to derive the sentimental allegory, which is nothing more than a continuation of the metaphorical or fymbolical expreffion of the several

agents in an action, or the different objects in a scene. The latter moft peculiarly comes under the denomination of allegorical imagery; and in this species of allegory we include the impersonation of passions, affections, virtues and vices, &c. on account of which, principally, the following odes were properly termed by their author, allegorical.

With respect to the utility of this figurative writing, the same arguments that have been advanced in favour of descriptive poetry, will be of weight likewise here. It is, indeed, from impersonation, or, as it is commonly térmed, personification, that poetical description, borrows its chief powers and graces. Without the aid of this, moral and intellectual painting would be flat and unanimated, and even the scenery of material objects would be dull without the introduction of fictitious life.

These observations will be most effectually illustrated by the sublime and beautiful odes that occasioned them; in those it will appear how happily this allegorical painting may be executed by the genuine powers of poetical genius, and they will not fail to prove its force and utility by passing through the imagination to the heart.

O DE TO PITY.
" By Pella's Bard, a magic name,
By all the griefs his thought could frame,
Receive

my

humble rite:
Long, Pity, let the nations view
Thy sky-worn robes of tendereft blue,

And eyes of dewy light!" The propriety of invoking Pity through the mediation of Euripides is obvious.That admirable poet had the keys of all the tender passions, and, therefore, could not but stand in the highest esteem with a writer of Mr. Collins's sensibility.—He dįd, indeed, admire him as much as Milton, professedly did, and probably for the same reason; but we do not find that he has copied him so closely as the last mentioned poet has sometimes done, and particularly in the opening of Samson-Agonistes, which is an evident imitation of the following paffage in the Phoeniffæ.

H[προπαροιθε, θυγατερ, ώς τυφλα ποδι
Οφθαλμος ει συ, ναυταταισιν αςρον ως
Δευg' εις το λευρον
πεδιον τιθεισ' '

Eleon,
Προβαινε.-

Act. III. Sc. I. The "eyes of dewy light” is one of the happiest strokes of imagination, and may be ranked among those expreffions which

-give us back the image of the mind.”
Wild Arun too has heard thy ítrains,
And Echo, 'midst my native plains,

Been sooth'd with Pity's lute."
There first the wren thy myrtles shed

On gentleft Otway's infant head.” Sussex, in which county the Arun is a small river, had the honour of giving birth to Otway as well as to Collins: both these poets, unhappily, became the objects of that pity by which their writings are diftinguished. There was a fimilitude in their genius and in their sufferings. There was a resemblance in the misfortunes and in the dissipation of their lives; and the circumstances of their death cannot be remembered without pain.

The thought of painting in the temple of Pity the history of human misfortunes, and of drawing the scenes from the tragic Muse, is very happy, and in every respect worthy the imagination of Collins.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

Mr. Collins, who had often determined to apply himself to dramatic poetry, feems here, with the same view, to have addressed one of the principal powers of the drama, and to implore that mighty influence she had given to the genius of Shakespeare:

“ Hither again thy fury deal,
Teach me but once like him to feel :
His cypress wreath my meed decree,

And I, O Fear, will dwell with thee !" In construction of this nervous ode the author has shewn equal power of judgment and imagination. Nothing can be more striking than the violent and abrupt abbreviation of the measure in the fifth and fixth verses, when he feels the ftrong influence of the power he invokes :

« ПредишнаНапред »