Слике страница
PDF
ePub

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,
Under that mount of other days,
Where human voice from other walls
In faintest echo never falls-
That only cot for rugged miles
Which rises midst these giant piles,
Heard once the household song of mirth
Around its rude and humble hearth.
It rose with quiet roof and lowly
O’er kindly hearts and spirits holy.
The father of the little flock
Saw worship in the rill and rock-
And taught his children lessons high,
Drawn from this broad immensity !
A silent pilgrimage he trod,
With but his Bible and his God.
Familiar voices that impart
A solace to the sternest heart,
And are its glory when they rise,
The quick untuiored melodies
Of kind and peaceful spirits, given
Each to its home, and all to Heaven
These were his music—and he went
Along his lighted path, content;
Howe'er the checkered moments ran,
They found him still an honest man.""

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 :

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ There was a music in her soul;.
That kind of low-voiced harmony, that wells
From the clear fountain of the spirit, when
It overflows and pours along the heart.
Oh! I have listened to the artless tones
That come upon the ear of confidence,
Rich in their own simplicity, and heard,
In all its proud imperial dignity,
The story of her thoughts; and when there came
The fire of Heaven down into her mind,
And kindled up its altar-and the light
Illumined all her nature-till your gaze

Sank in the halo that enshrined her form!
“Her presence was a garden-and the air

Seemed purer round you as you stood by her;
And flowers, and all things bright, encompassed you,
Until you found it happiness to stay,
And felt it almost misery to part.
There was a freshness in her words;
Something that was so new-so passing pure,
In all its sweet, unpractised singleness,
Rung musically forth, like the small shout
Of birds that shoot straight up into the blue,
When all the air is tenderness and dew!
There was a wreathing of kind words and looks,
Which your soul loved to help her spirit twine
Around your own, because it was a joy !
Hers was an infant one arranged in smiles,

And fresh with fascination, all her own!"
In the same strain of purity, beauty, and delicacy, is the
description of two lovers, in a poem entitled " A Dream of the
Sea :"

" And there were two locked in each other's arms;
And they were lovers !-
O God ! 'how beautiful !-laid cheek to cheek,
And heart to heart upon that splendid deep,
And bridal bed of pearls !-a burial
Worthy of two so young and innocent !
And they did seem to lie there like two gems—
The fairest in the halls of ocean-both
Sepulcher'd in love-a tearless death-one look-
One wish-one smile-one mantle for the shroud-
One hope-one kis3—and that not yet quite cold !
How sweet to die in such fidelity!
Ere yet the curse has ripened-

[ocr errors]

Again I stood beside the lovely pair;
The storm and conflict had passed wildly on.
I stood-and shrieked—and laughed-and yet no voice,
That I could hear, came in my madness there!
It hardly seemed that they were dead-so calm,
So beautiful—the sea-stars round them shone,
Like emblems of their souls-s0 cold and pure !
The bending grass wept silent over them,

Truer than any friend on earth-their tomb
The jewelry of ocean, and their dirge

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
That earth-forsaken man ! his pallid brow
Bathed in the risen morning as a flood,
Never so glorious and so calm as now!
'It is the trial hour,' he cried, and I
Am ready to be offered-lead the way-
I'll forth and meet them for 't is but to die !
And oh! it seems but weary to delay

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,
One glance that kindling eye on Alban bent;
'Brother, we meet again,' the quick words rung;
And on his sounding pathway swift he went
Into the forest solitudes. But ere
Its deeps closed round him, that repentant son,
With bounding step, and cheek unblenched by fear,
His march of wo already had begun-

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
His triumph on its way. 'He hears the crash
Of the loud thunder round his enemies,
And dim through tears of blood he sees it dash
His dwelling and its idols. Joy to him !
The Lord—the Lord hath spoken from the sky !
The loftier glories on his eye-balls swim!
He hears the trumpet of Eternity !
Calling bis spirit home—a clarion voice on high!
"Yet, yet one moment linger! Who are they

That sweep far off along the quivering air ?
It is God's bright, immortal company-,
The martyr pilgrim and his band are there !
Shadows with golden crowns and sounding lyres,
And the white royal robes are issuing out,
And beckon upwards through the wreathing fires,
The blazing pathway compassing about,
With radiant heads unveiled, and anthem's joyful shout!
“He sees, he hears! upon
Forth from the throng one bright-haired angel near,
Stoops his red pinion through the mantling blaze-
It is the Heaven-triumphing wanderer!
'I come—we meet again!'—the martyr cries,
And smiles of deathless glory round him play-
Then on that flaming cross he bows—and dies !
His ashes eddy on the sinking day,

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
And rifle earth of all its loveliness,
And of all things created hither bring
The rosiest and the richest—but, alas !
The world is all too poor to rival this!
Ye summon nothing from the place of dreams,
The orient realm of fancy, that can cope,

his dying gaze,

« ПретходнаНастави »