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Soft, o'er the vale, she blew her bugle horn,
“Oh! where, Maria,--whither dost thou stray! Return, thou false maid, to the echoing sound !”
I flew, nor heeded the sweet Syren's lay.
Hail, Melancholy! to your lonely towers
I turn, and hail their time-worn turrets mine; Where flourish fair the nightshade's deadly flowers,
And dark and blue the wasting tapers shine.
There, Oh, my Edwin, does thy spirit greet,
In Fancy's maze, thy lov'd and wandering maid; Soft, through the bower, thy shade Maria meets,
And leads thee onward through the myrtle glade.
Oh! come with me, and hear the song of eve,
Far, sweeter far, than the loud shout of morn; List to the pantings of the whispering breeze,
Dwell on past woes, or sorrows yet unborn.
We have a tale and song will charm these shades,
Which cannot rouse to life Maria's mind, Where Sorrow's captives hail thy once lov'd maid,
To joy a stranger, and to grief resign'd.
Edwin, farewel!-go take my last adieu ;
Ah! could my bursting bosom tell thee more! Here, parted here, from love, from life, and you,
I pour my song as on a foreign shore.
But stay, rash youth! the sun has climb'd on high,
The night is past, the shadows all are gone; For lost Maria, breathe the parting sigh,
And waft thy sorrows to the gales of morn.
The inaccuracy of some of the rhymes of the preceding poem might easily be amended; but, what is more to our present purpose, the confusion of ideas is apparent: nevertheless, a poetical enthusiasm breathes through every stanza which, probably, was never felt by this unfortunate lady in her better days. Wildness of manner, however, is not inconsistent with the occasional flights of the soundest intellect; for Mr. Day's Elegy, beginning with,
Yet once again, in yonder myrtle bowers,
Whence rose-lipp'd zephyrs, hovering, shed perfume, I weave the painted radiance of the flowers,
And press coy Nature in her days of bloom,
might serve as a counterpart to that which we have last quoted.
We believe that, ever since it was published, no one has either spoken, or written, concerning English Elegies, without adverting to Gray's on a Country Church-yard. It would be vanity in us to attempt adding to its praise:-it has already received the stamp of immortality.
Warton, in a dissertation prefixed to his edition of Theocritus, labours hard to prove that pastoral poetry arose out of ancient Comedy, which latter, he says, had its origin in the free games that were celebrated by the inhabitants of the country,
on their festivals, after they had finished their labours. “The sum, says he, of what we have advanced, and desire to establish is this. In the infancy of Comedy, the persons were rustics, prone to throw out mutual reproaches. Among the rest, shepherds were sometimes introduced upon the stage, and Pastorals were acted. In process of time, mean characters were entirely banished from the theatre. Pastoral dialogues, however, remained.
The poets observed the delights and graces which the country had to boast; and it was discovered that, by clear description and happy imagery, a poem perfectly in character might be composed, representing the actions and manners of pastoral life.”
This supposition of a pastoral stage's having preceded pastoral poetry, is supported by no direct evidence. Pastoral dramas do exist; but they are few, and all of modern invention. The Italians boast of two, the Aminta of Tasso and the Pastor Fido of Guarini; and Gay's forgotten Tragedy of Dione is the only Drama of the kind in English. Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd is a Pastoral Comedy, in the Scotch language, which would do honour to any age or country. To those who understand the Doric dialect in which it is written, and are acquainted with the rural manners of the nation, this Drama gives universal delight; and, what can scarcely be said of any other work, it is equally the favourite of the young and of the old; of the learned and of the illiterate; of the peer and of the peasant. We could point out many passages of simple tenderness and exquisite beauty; but we despair of imparting the sentiments, in the words in which they are written, to an English ear. The following lines, extracted from Peggy's sorrowing farewel to her lover, will probably remind the classical reader of the Galatea of Virgil; but we can assure him that the lasciva puella is no where to be found in the Gentle Shepherd:
Nae mair again we'll on the meadows play,
OF THE HIGHER SPECIES OF POETRY,
We have hitherto spoken only of such simple poetical effusions as, being each directed to a single object, keep that object invariably in view. But the subject of a poem may be of a compound nature, embracing many separate acts, persons, and circumstances combined into one whole; and these are the compositions which we here designate by the title of the higher species, although they are not always of a higher worth. A composite poem (if really poetical) may be compared to a string of jewels, connected by links of baser materials; while a simple and smaller production may exhibit only a single pearl,--but “more precious than all the tribe.”
The class of poems, now under consideration, may be conveniently viewed under three distinct heads:
1. Tales and Romances;