« ПретходнаНастави »
notices, he has never been held forth as the poetical lion of the day, a station which, during the last ten years, has been occupied in succession by more than a dozen editorial pets, whose pretensions to renown the judgment of the world could never be brought to confirm.
In holding forth the claims of Mr. Mellen to poetical distinction, we would not allege that he is superior to all his contemporaries, nor would we even deny that some of them have produced verses which he has not yet equalled. But were it not invidious to adduce names, we could particularize even more than the number we have mentioned, whose greatness the editorial trumpets have long and loudly sounded without being able to awaken a responsive echo in the public mind; whereas, if they had only expended a moiety of such labour and zeal in behalf of Mellen's productions, the world would have felt and acknowledged the justice of their encomiums. It is this carelessness in properly discriminating the objects of praise that has brought the poetical opinions of journalists at the present day into such low repute, that the eulogy of some of them has become more fatal to young authors than their censure.
That Grenville Mellen charmed us in the perusal of his poems, we have avowed. In what his powers of charming consisted, it required some reflection to ascertain, and will require some to elucidate. There is in these poems no unusual sublimity to awaken surprise—no extreme pathos to communicate the luxury of grief-no chivalrous narrative to stir the blood to adventure-no high-painted ardour in love to make us enraptured with beauty; nor is there even the glowing ore rotundo of sounding versification, whose pomp and music sometimes atone for the absence of more valuable characteristics. Yet we were charmed, for we love purity of sentiment, and we found it; we love amiability of heart, and here we could perceive it in every stanza. Here is to be found no attempt to harrow up the feelings by overcharged pictures of human suffering, or to awaken indignation and disgust by a violent sketching of turpitude and crime. No loathsome leprosy, no scene of wanton barbarity is found here to shock the nerves of the reader; nor is there a thought or a phrase at which modesty might blush. The muse of Grenville Mellen delights in the beauties, not in the deformities, of nature; she is more inclined to celebrate the virtues than denounce the vices of man. It is true that she inculcates moral duty by showing the evils of disregarding it, as well as by showing the blessings it confers on its votaries. Mellen is, however, a poet too true to nature to conceal the shades that occasionlly obscure her fairest scenes, or the deserts which lie beside her flowery plains and fruit
ful valleys. Still he is more prone to view the brightness than the gloominess of things; and is therefore more to our taste. Even when he has to lament misfortune and to deplore the sufferings of men, he never fails to mingle consolation with grief. He always, apparently from an innate goodness of heart, qualifies his pictures of distress by introducing into them some of the smiles of hope. His Martyr triumphs in death, and a conspicuous feature in his “Buried Valley," is the cottage which remained safe amidst the surrounding devastation. The following pleasing description of the owner of that cottage, soothes the feelings even amidst the agitation occasioned by contemplating the catastrophe to which he was subjected:
“Stranger! yon mansion where you gaze,
The condition of man is often the theme of Mr. Mellen's song. But it is of man in the abstract, in his relation to the universe, not man in society, where he is an artificial being, the offspring of education, the pupil of habit-enslaved by custom and restrained by law. We have little of the manners of daily life, as they now exist, portrayed in the volume before us ; but we have the characteristics of the natural man, and chiefly those of the better kind. We have his faith, his hope, his love, and his charity, drawn in radiant colours, and spoken of in exulting strains. The music of Mellen is, in truth, very like the lady he so beautifully describes in the following lines :
“ There was a music in her soul;.
Sank in the halo that enshrined her form!
Seemed purer round you as you stood by her;
And fresh with fascination, all her own!"
" And there were two locked in each other's arms;
Again I stood beside the lovely pair;
Truer than any friend on earth-their tomb
The everlasting music of its roar!" The heart-warm benevolence of our poet, which shows itself in every subject on which he employs his song, is another, and, indeed, one of the principal charms of the volume. Whether the joy of bridal feelings, or grief for the loss of beloved objects
-whether innocence or guilt-humility or ambition-be the themes of his verse-an earnest and unsophisticated benevolence breathes through all his compositions, and communicates to every well-disposed reader feelings of the most genial and agreeable character, which,
when once experienced, he will wish to experience again. The subject of the leading poem of the volume, although one calculated to excite regret and sorrowful emotions, is yet so contrived as to bring into full relief the more amiable feelings of our nature. It is on the martyrdom of an early professor of the Christian faith, Saint Alban of England. The persecuting spirit of superstition, and the sufferings of the faithful and the virtuous, are necessarily exhibited; but the kind-hearted poet has redeemed these harsher views of our nature and condition, by showing forth, in the course of his narrative, the more amiable traits of our character, as displayed in the works of mercy, charity, and heroic devotion to the cause of truth. The very title of the poem, “ The Martyr's Triumph,” proves the unwillingness of the author to exhibit virtue suffering without hope. The martyr dies, but he dies triumphant.
The story on which this production is founded may be told in a few words. A preacher of Christianity, flying from persecution, seeks refuge at the residence of Alban, who is yet a professor of paganism. Alban, from motives of compassion, grants him shelter and concealment, at the risk of his own safety. The reasonings of the refugee soon effect the conversion of his protector. At length the persecuting authorities discover the Christian's place of concealment, and officers are sent to apprehend him. At this juncture the poet says of the holy fugitive :
"Firm as his everlasting faith he stood
When on my sight unbars this near Eternity !" Alban, however, prevails on him to consult safety in flight, and accompanies him to a postern gate where they separate :
"In haste his hair-cloth from his shoulders flung,
He stood, in his rude cloak, the revellers among." Alban informs the officers of the pilgrim's escape, and avows not only his own agency in it, but his conversion to Christianity. He is therefore seized and carried before the governor's tribunal, and condemned to the stake. The following stanzas, descriptive of the martyr's triumph in death, conclude the poem :
“Not yet, not yet the martyr dies. He sees
That sweep far off along the quivering air ?
While through the roaring oak, his spirit wings its way!" In the piece entitled “The Bridal,” there are some exquisite passages. We cannot forbear quoting the following:
“Young beauty at the altar! Ye may go
his dying gaze,