Слике страница
[ocr errors]

In all its passionate devotedness,
With this chaste, silent picture of the heart !
Youth, bud-encircling youth, and purity,

Yielding their bloom and fragrance up in tears." But it is in the poem entitled “ The Rest of Empires,” that we met with the reading that delighted us most of any in this collection. Indeed, we know not when we have perused a modern poem more to our satisfaction. Mr. Mellen seems to have written it with all the feeling of his heart. It is on a subject altogether adapted to a heart like his. It is in celebration of the blessings of peace; and fortunately the unusually long period during which the leading nations of the earth have kept their swords in the sheath, gave him ample opportunity for contrasting the humanity of the present era with that of the terrible one which preceded it, when the wild game of war was played by the most enlightened nations, with a reckless disregard of human life and suffering, painful to contemplate. We shall treat our readers to the following portion of this poem, in which the bard laments the proneness of the elder masters of song to employ their fascinating art in celebrating warriors, and rendering the bloody occupation attractive by immortalizing the deeds of conquerors. He exultingly contrasts such prostitution of the influence of poetry with the laudable mode in which she now so frequently employs her powers—in celebrating the blessings and the glories of peace :

“We have been taught in oracles of old,
of the enskyed divinity of song ;,
That poetry and music, hand in hand,
Came in the light of inspiration forth,
And claimed alliance with the rolling heavens.
And were those peerless bards whose strains have come
In an undying echo to the world,
Whose numbers floated round the Grecian isles,
And made melodious all the hills of Rome,-
Were they inspired ?-Alas! for poetry !
That her great ministers, in early time,
Sang for the brave alone-and bade the soul
Battle for Heaven in the ranks of war!
It was the treason of the godlike ait
That pointed glory to the shield and spear,
And left the heart to moulder in its mail!
It was the menial service of the bard -
It was the basest homage of his powers-
In latter times to consecrate a feast,
And sing of gallantry in hall and bower,
To courtly knights and ladies.


But other times have strung new lyres again,
And other music greets us. Poetry
Comes robed in smiles, and in low-breathing sounds

Takes counsel like a friend in our still hours;
And points us to the stars—the waneless stars-
That whisper an hereafter to our souls.
It breathes upon our spirit a rich balm;
And, with its tender tones and melody,
Draws mercy from the warrior-and proclaims
A morn of bright and universal love
To those who journey with us through the vale;
It points to moral greatness-deeds of mind,
And the high struggles, worthy of a man-
No wild Cadwallo, with his wilder strain,
Pouring his war-songs upon helmed ears—
We have sounds stealing from the far retreats
Of the bright company of gifted men,
Who pour their mellow music round our age,
And point us to our duties and our hearts :
The poet's constellation beams around-
A pensive Cowper lives in all his lines,

And Milton hymns us on to hope and Heaven !" It would be untrue to say that there are no faults in these poems. Mr. Mellen's chief blemish as a poet is his frequent indulgence in the abstractions of the Lake school, and occasionally also in its conceits. For instance, he opens a poem in celebration of the settlement of Boston, as follows:

"O throned enchanter of the proudest clime,

Clothed with thy sceptre wandrelentless time !" A clime clothed with a sceptre wand is an idea equally absurd and unintelligible. Speaking of the present enlightened age he says :

“Lo! now the light of letters !—The hushed world

Sleeps in a moral beauty. Force, outhurld
Far from her godless throne, now dreams in dust,

O'er all that made her hated and accurst.Not to animadvert on the false rhyme which we have marked in italics, and of which too many examples occur in this volume, we must observe that the idea of “ the world slecping in a moral beauty,” is one of those specimens of incomprehensibility which poets of the Shelley school mistake for sublimity, and is of the same order of offence against good taste with those far-fetched images so much employed by the metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century, and which Dr. Johnson has so ably exposed in his criticism on the works of Cowley. But enough of censure. There is in this volume a sufficiency of poetical excellence to outweigh, in our estimation, tenfold its blemishes. It exhibits an accuracy of thinking, a tone of morality, a spirit of benevolence, a liveliness of fancy, and often a fluency of expression, which clearly prove the author to be a man of superior intellect, and of true poetical powers. VOL. XXII.--NO. 43


Art. X.-Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart.

By J. G. LOCKHART. Parts I. to IV. Philadelphia : 1837.

The good which men do while living is often buried with their bones when they die--is the sentiment of one of nature's profoundest disciples. But there are cases where this cardinal rule finds glorious exceptions; and that of Walter Scott is one. Schooled and trained under an unerring guidance, he spent his life in divulging truths of the heart, to which every human breast, susceptible of being provoked into emotion by the workings of an intelligent mind, must respond. His inspiration was not of that kind which is evoked from the action of a momentary furor escaping through the ventage of the pen; it was subdued

; by study, until fancy herself was made, by the governance of the great master, the docile handmaid of the vraisemblable. He wrote not for fame, but from nature ;—he felt the impulse of a power within him, which he thought it impious to neglect, or to control; and obeying the solemn afflatus, he wreaked upon

; expression the thoughts which, to use his own language, " sometimes made his heart feel too big for his bosom.” When such a man dies, every one who can boast the inheritance of a soul is impressed with a sense of mourning. The tear which nations accord to the brave who fall in the thickest of the fight on the field of battle, is not withheld when the literary victor yields up his laurel crown to the last enemy. Then, indeed, does a fountain of enjoyment shrink away from the earth, whose waters have been a solace and a nourishment, even when their source was unknown-until that which was at first the Rare and the Unexpected becomes the Revered and the Indispensable.

For some years before the decease of Scott, the cloud which had hung about the identity of the Wizard of the North had disappeared. It rode no longer in darkness around his name; and he had blazed forth upon the world, though late in his day of life, with an intensity of lustre, heightened by the length of time during which the effulgence had been obscured. The effect upon the reading communities of two hemispheres, intellectually considered, was not unlike that produced in the natural horizon, as described by the minstrel of Eden—where the troops of dusky rack are dispersed from the mountain topthe north wind is subdued to repose, and the radiant sun extends his evening beams—a sweet farewell, awakening the birds that were about to fold their painted wings for the rest of the evensong; reviving the fields, and lifting up from hill and valley their ringing utterances of joy. When Scott emerged from the sunset of his incognito, he was verging toward the grand



[ocr errors]

climacteric of his earthly existence; and those who were rapt in the grandeur and multitude of his creations, soon heard that his mind was waning; and they had scarcely learned to rejoice in his name, when it was struck from the roll of the living. Thus he flashed upon the view, and faded from the great army of his admirers, like a star which falls, the more dazzling and bright because it is never to rise again :

“Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be,

Ere one can say—it lightens." For the true estimation of such a person, both as an author and a man, his history, from first to last, can afford the only proper guide. A pious duty was assigned to Mr. Lockhart in this work, and he has fulfilled it with an unwavering purpose of impartiality. He seems to have borrowed no wrongful bias from the natural impulses of human affection, or from those vivid remembrances which are supposed to perform the office of favour to friends departed, and disfavour to enemies. He could not choose but admire-for who does not ?—the subject of his memoirs; but he has evidently chastened his feelings in many places, where the common sentiments of our nature, and the latitude conceded to deserved social attachments, might have reasonably allowed them “free way." The ample materials which he had at command, and which have combined to place before us a work of most embarrassing richness with respect to the task of selection from a mass, where nothing can be found which is not replete with interest-conspired to render his labour as a biographer far lighter, we should imagine, than a similar effort in other hands would generally be. His previous practice and reputation as an eclectic littérateur--his intimate and kindred associations with the illustrious deceased --his ability as a reviewer, capable of bringing main points, and consolidating essential facts and incidents together-all were auspicious aids in his enterprize ; and while they cheered him in it, both by the action of memory and hope, furnished him also with a sacred sense of reverence for the departed, which might almost be compared with that divine energy which would sustain a man under the firm belief that he was in very deed the amanuensis of a disembodied spirit, whose eye surveyed all that he did. The numerous sources whence he derived the copious amount of personal and literary history with which his pages are adorned, are enumerated in the preface-and include among them some of the most eminent names in the British realms.

Before proceeding to sum up and analyse the events and influences by whose effect the strong and highly gifted mind of Scott was urged upon its brilliant career, it will be proper in us


to offer sundry quotations from that brief but simple autobiography with which Mr. Lockhart has most judiciously permitted the subject of his memoirs to open the work. Mingled with this, however, it will be necessary that we should avail ourselves of such an epitome as we may supply from authentic, though limited records, on the same theme. The last London edition that has reached us of the Lays of the Last Minstrel, contains a well-written abbreviation of his story, which compares favourably with his own historic register, begun at Ashestiel, in April, 1808. He commences the direct record of his family thus :

“Every Scotsman has a pedigree. It is a national prerogative as unalienable as his pride and his poverty. My birth was neither distinguished nor sordid. According to the prejudices of my country, it was esteemed gentle, as I was connected, though remotely, with ancient families both by my father's and mother's side. My father's grandfather was Walter Scott, well known in Teviotdale by the surname of Beardie. He was the second son of Walter Scott, first Laird of Raeburn, who was third son of Sir William Scott, and the grandson of Walter Scott, commonly called in tradition Auld Watt, of Harden. I am therefore lineally descended from that ancient chieftain, whose name I have made to ring in many a ditty, and from his fair dame, the Flower of Yarrow-no bad genealogy for a Border minstrel. Beardie, my great-grandfather aforesaid, derived his cognomen from a venerable beard, which he wore unblemished by razor or scissors, in token of his regret for the banished dynasty of Stewart. It would have been well that his zeal had stopped there. But he took arms, and intrigued in their cause, until he lost all he had in the world, and, as I have heard, ran a narrow risk of being hanged, had it not been for the interference of Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth. Beardie's elder brother, William Scott of Raeburn, my great-granduncle, was killed about the age of twenty-one, in a duel with Pringle of Crichton, grandfather of the present Mark Pringle of Clifton. They fought with swords, as was the fashion of the time, in a field near Selkirk, called from the catastrophe the Raeburn Meadow-spot. Pringle fled from Scotland to Spain, and was long a captive and slave in Barbary. Beardie became, of course, Tutor of Raeburn, as the old Scotish phrase called him, that is, guardian to his infant nephew, father of the present Walter Scott of Raeburn. He also managed the estates of Makerstoun, being nearly related to that family by his mother, Barbara MacDougal. I suppose he had some allowance for his care in either case, and subsisted upon that and the fortune which he by his wife, a Miss Campbell of Silvercraigs, in the west, through which connection my father used to call cousin, as they say, with the Campbells of Blythswood. Beardie was a man of some learning, and a friend of Dr. Pitcairn, to whom his politics probably made him acceptable. They had a Tory or Jacobite club in Edinburgh, in which the conversation is said to have been maintained in Latin. Old Beardie died in a house still standing at the north-' east entrance to the churchyard of Kelso, about”

Three sons were left by this lineal Beardie. Of Walter, the eldest, the male heirs are long since extinct--and if any of the female descendants of the family remain, they are now settled in America. Robert Scott, grandfather of the novelist, was originally a seaman, but afterwards adopted the profession of a

[ocr errors]


« ПретходнаНастави »