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him. The mighty men of old, with whom he used some time elapsed before he published any thing to be compared, have disappeared. Byron, Shel- more in a poetical form, and during that time he ley, Scott, Coleridge, Campbell and Southey, have appears to have formed that system of poetry to gone, while Moore, Wordsworth, Rogers, and all which he has since adhered. This system is, in who remain, are mule, or nearly so. The critics reality, a kind of cockney variety of Wordsworth's, must therefore lower their ideas, and Hunt will enriched with an admixture of the faults of the old bear a very tolerable comparison with Tennyson, English poets, and pedantic allusions to the anBarry Cornwall, Haynes Bayley, Eliza Cook, et cients, particularly the Greeks. It can readily be hoc genus omne, and thus, in his old age, he is seen, that such a plan would materially injure the reaping the harvest of praise that was denied him effect of the highest genius, and it is therefore not in his youth. Pity that the latter fate were not as surprising that it destroys the little with which well deserved as the former! Even Christopher Leigh Hunt has been blessed. North turns round and condescends to approve of This system is more particularly carried out in his former " re del Cocknio Parnaso."
“ The Story of Rimini” than in any other of his Such has been his literary history. The revul- poems, and as that is at once the most ambitious sions of favor which he has experienced were shared and the best of his productions we will examine it alike by Wordsworth and Coleridge, but not in so more particularly as an exemplification of his merits great a degree, and, at the same time, much better and demerits. The story itself is excellently merited. The chief wonder would appear to be, adapted for the purposes of the poet; it has great how a man with no more talents than Hunt pos- capabilities, and the little episode which Dante has sesses could manage to attract so much attention made of it in his Commedia Divina, touched, as it through so long a series of years. But this admits is
, with the hand of a master, is considered as the of an easy explanation. Ever since the year 1801, most beautiful passage in that great poem. Hunt's in which he commenced his authorship, he has been production is in parts quite good, and sometimes industriously engaged in writing and sending forth rises to the pathetic, but his "system” is continuhis works, both in prose and poetry, to the world. ally interposing itself between him and his better His intense vanity, apparently, will never suffer
poetry and injuring the effect of his most striking him to be at rest unless he has the satisfaction of
passages. knowing that some one is writing or talking about
The poem opens with the description of a fine him ; which pleasure he can generally procure by spring morning—one of the best of which he can his smartness and some natural talent.
boast, for he is not usually very felicitous when Considering the length of time during which he
speaking of nature. has been engaged in writing poetry, his productions in that branch of literature are singularly few and “ The sun is up, and 'tis a morn of May
Round old Ravenna's clear-shown towers and bay. insignificant. It may be that he writes with diffi
A morn, the loveliest which the year has seen, culty, and employs much time in finishing and pol
Last of the spring, yet fresh with all its green; ishing. If so, he has the happy art of concealing
For a warm eve, and gentle rains at night, his art, for his poetry all seems as if it were written Have left a sparkling welcome for the light,
stans pede in uno," without the slightest care, And there's a crystal clearness all about; either in the composition or revision. We would The leaves are sharp, the distant hills look out;
A balmy briskness comes upon the breeze, rather put him in the class to which Horace con
The smoke goes dancing from the cottage trees; signed himself,“ rarò et perpauca loquentis.” This
And when you listen you may hear a coil is in poetry, for his prose essays and works are in
Of bubbling springs about the grassy soil; numerable as the leaves of Vallombrosa, and in And all the scene in short, -sky, earth and sea, one of his autobiographies he acknowledges, that
Breathes like a bright-eyed face that laughs out openly." some of them are superior to any of his verses,
Now this is really quite pretty, notwithstanding a truth he does not much relish.
the faults of style, and the air of jauntiness and It might be expected, that in poems extending
smartness which pervades it. These blemishes, over so many years, there would be observable a however, it has in common with the whole poem, great difference in style and manner,—but this
and, indeed, is remarkably free from them, conis scarcely the case. After his “ Juvenilia”*
sidering that it was written by Hunt. We will say no more concerning this production. Con. Our author then proceeds to describe the scene sidering it as poetry, it is beneath criticism, and we will in Ravenna where Guido, the Prince, is awaiting only quote his own remarks on it (Autobiography prefixed the coming of “bold Giovanni, Lord of Rimini," to Descent of Liberty, p. 4.) “ My verses were my own, to whom his fair daughter is to be married. There but not my will. The pieces were written with sufficient imitative enthusiasm, but that is all. I had read Gray, and
is a very long description of the gorgeous train of I must write something like Grey; I admired Collins, and perfectly true, (except that the poems are not exactly like I must wri:e something like Collins; I adored Spenser, Gray's, Collins' and Spenser's), and no doubt, if he lives and I must write a long allegorical poem, filled with “ne's," forty years longer, he will have as just an idea of his sub. * whilom's” and personifications like Spenser." This is sequent efforts.
the expected bridegroom-we extract a few lines the next line ends with “square,") but goes on to as a specimen.
say that Francesca falls in love, at sight, with this
“ glorious figure," which she of course deems to “ With various earnestuess the crowd admire
be her husband—but her father has been too conHorsemen and horse, the motion and the attire. Some watch as they go by, the riders' faces,
ning for her. Extremely anxious to have the Looking composure, and their knightly graces ;
match take place, and knowing that The life, the carelessness, the sudden heed, The body curving to the rearing steed,
“She had stout notions on the marrying score," The patting hand that best preserves the check And makes the quarrel up with a proud neck.
he has had recourse to artifice. Giovanni of RiThe thigh broad pressed, with spanning palm upon it, mini is a stern and bold warrior, but litile used 10 And the jerked leather swaling in the bonnet.
the niceties of female intercourse, and, through Others the horses and their pride explore,
the advice of Guido he has sent his brother Paulo Their jauntiness behind and strength before ; to marry Francesca by proxy, and conduct her to The flowing back, firm chest and setlocks clean, Rimini. She, believing Paulo to be her destined The branching veins, ridging the glossy lean,
husband, gives her consent, and finds her mistake The mane hung sleekly, the projecting eye
too late to retract it. Paulo is entangled by her That to the stander near looks awfully, The finished head, in its compactness free,
beauty, and thus, in the first Canto, we have enough Small, and o'erarching to the bended knee.
seeds of misery for the other three. The start and snatch as if they felt the comb,
The second Canto is occupied in detailing these With mouths that fling about the creamy foam,
various intrigues, and in describing the bride's jourThe snorting turbulence, the nod, the champing, The shift, the tossing, and the fiery tramping."
ney home. From this we can extract but two lines. We have no doubt that Mr. Hunt considered
"plashy pools, with rushes,
About whose sides the swarming insects fry, this labored passage as a most vigorous piece of
Opening with noisome din as they go by." description, but we doubt whether he will be able to find any one of his opinion. What, for instance, The third Canto naïvely commences, after the are we to think of
following silly and egotistical fashion. “the riders' faces
“Now why must I disturb a dream of bliss, Looking composure, and their knightly graces."
Or bring cold sorrow 'twixt the wedded kiss! And who ever heard of "the jauntiness behind" Sad is the strain with which I cheer my long
And caged hours, and try my native tongue. of a horse, while certainly a “flowing back” would Now. 100, while rains autumnal, as I sing, render him very unfit for the saddle. Altogether, Wash the dull bars, chilling my sicklied wing, who that ever knew any thing about a horse would And all the climate presses on my sense, pretend to describe one of the above fashion? It But thoughts it furnishes of things far hence, is just what might be expected from a cockney, which I should else disdain, tear-dipped and healing," &c.
And leafy dreams affords me, and a feeling, who about once in five years enjoys the opportupity of seeing one out of harness. As to the dic
We suppose that as Milton deplores his blindtion, any remarks of ours would but injure the ness and his having “ fallen on evil days," Hunt happy effect which it must produce on the reader. presumed that he might bemoan his two years' imA couplet like
prisonment, and the cold rains of Autumn which
“ washed the dull bars." As might be expected, “ The flowing back, firm chest, and fetlocks clean. The branching veins, ridging the glossy lean,"
such a mistake carries its own punishment with it.
He then draws the portraits of the brothers, Or
Paulo and Giovanni. The latter is excellent as a “The thigh broad pressed, with spanning palm upon it,
character, and is only spoilt by the low and vulgar And the jerked feather, swaling in the bonnet,” language used.
is enough to condemn the whole batch of cockney poets to the shades.
But to proceed. The train passes on, and at last, while Guido and his fair daughter Francesca are anxiously looking for the bridegroom from the balcony of the palace, a voice
“ Bold, handsome, able if he chose to please,
"esclaims, 'the prince ! non-now!' And, on a milk-white courser like the air A glorious figure springs into the square."
The author does not stop to inform us why the prince's courser was like the air, (probably because
Of course Francesca finds it difficult to love this
unengaging husband, being already smitten with Francesca dies on hearing of Paulo's end. Achis engaging brother. She sees all the affections cording to his last request, they are both buried and attentions, with which she endeavors to con- together at Ravenna, and the poem concludes thus, quer the unlawful love, thrown back upon her, and yet still she strives.
“They say that when Duke Guido saw them come
He clasped his hands, and, looking round the room, « And did she chance at times like these to hear
Lost his old wits forever. From the morrow Her husband's foolsteps, she would haste the more,
None saw bim after. But no more of sorrow. And with a double smile open the door,
On that same night, those lovers silently And ask him, aster all his morning's doing,
Were buried in one grave, under a tree. How bis new soldiers pleased him in reviewing,
There, hand in hand, and side by side they lay, Or if the boar was slain which he had been pursuing,” &c.
In the green ground;- and on fine nights in May
Young hearts betrothed used to go there to pray." In the meanwhile, the situation of Paulo was scarcely more to be envied. For some time he The faults and beauties of the poem can easily was unconscious of his love, and the description of be seen from the above extracts. The story is his self deceit is admirably true to nature, with the well developed and well told, and some of the same faults of language and expression. Thus scenes and characters are described with a fidelity they remain for awhile, each hour attaching them which shows Hunt to be a man of some observamore strongly to cach other, and opening their eyes tion in his own small sphere, though they are all to their true state, till, one fatal afternoon, they were so common
on-place, that they prove him to have had reading the old tale of Launcelot
no conception of a character beyond the most ordi
nary kind. But all the good points of the poem “And Paulo, by degrees gently embraced,
are more than overbalanced by the low poverty of With one permitted arm ber lovely waist, And hoth their cheeks, like peaches on a tree,
the language, the occasional vulgarity of the ideas Leaned with a touch together thrillingly;
and the extreme harshness of the versification. And o'er the book they hung, and nothing said,
As respects language, he observes in his preface, And every lingering page grew longer as they read.
" the proper language of poetry is, in fact, nothing As thus they sat, and felt with leaps of heart
different from that of real life, and depends for its Their color change, they came upon the part Where fond Geneura, with her flame long nursed,
dignity upon the strength and sentiment of what it Smiled upon Launcelot when he kissed her first. speaks. It is only adding a musical modulation to Thal touch at last through every fibre slid ;
what a fine understanding might really utter in the And Paulo turned, scarce knowing what he did, midst of its griefs or enjoyments.” We do not Only he felt he could no more dissemble,
intend to dispute this point, which has been so often And kissed her lovely lips, all in a tremble.
debated, or to repeat the arguments in favor of it, Sad were those hearts, and sweet was that long kiss. Sacred be love from sight whate'er it is.
which have been already urged ad nauseam, and The world was all forgot, the struggle o'er,
refuted ad misericordiam, but will only say that, Desperate the joy. That day they read no more." granting the truth of Mr. Hunt's proposition, he There is so much that is beautiful in the fore- will still be convicted. He not only uses comgoing passage, that we have not the heart to criti- mon but vulgar language, which certainly no cize its faults as they deserve, even the all in a understanding” would use under any circumstances; tremble,” and we have only to regret the slight and he commits the glaring error of not varying or vulgarity of the concluding lines. Hunt had bet- rising with his subject. A man under the influter have kept still closer to Dante.
ence of his passions of course speaks in a more Giovanni soon discovers the intercourse between elevated manner than when his mind is in a state his brother and wife by her talking in a dream. of repose ; but Hunt, writing in a forced style, is He immediately rises and forces Paulo to follow unable to catch even these common distinctions, him to the tilt-yard, where they fight; when Paulo and describes a fine spring morning in language as throws himself on his brother's sword and expires. good, or better, than the scene of high wrought His death is beautifully told, but Giovanni mourns
interest where Paulo over him in stuff like this
“ could no more dissemble, “I trust we reap at last as well as plough ;
But kissed her lovely lips all in a tremble.”
It is really pitiable to be so completely brought
down by the folly of the author as one must be by That ever came in press of chivalry;
such expressions; and they are frequent, occurAnd, for a sinful man, thou wert the best,
ring on almost every page. Thus, what can we That ever for his friend put spear in rest ;
say, when told that Duke Guido on hearing of his And thou wert the most meek and cordial,
daughter's death, That ever among ladies eat in hall; And thou wert still, for all tbat bosom gored,
“looking round the room The kindest man that ever struck with sword.”
Lost his old wits for ever,"
or the information that the Princess Francesca Another favorite crutch to assist the gooty feet
of his measure is the termination “ness ;" " leafi" had stout notions on the marrying score ?"
ness” and “lightsomeness,” he is very partial to, and the lament of Giovanni over the dead body of and uses them continually, with " sunniness," his brother comes like a cold shower-baih upon
“ floweriness," “ beamingness,” “gladsomeness," one's feelings, really moved by his untimely fate. “ rosiness," "surfy massiveness," &c., &c. Then It tempts us to throw down the book in disgust at we are constantly meeting with “ sidelong," as the man who has so lessened himself.
sidelong deck," " sidelong eye,” “ sidelong hips," But it is not only in using low and vulgar phrases (these we can partially understand, but what does
sleek," that his language is bad. As Wilson says, he is “re he mean by “sidelong meekness ?”—and " del Cocknio Parnaso,” and Bow-bell is heard through as “ sleek sea,” “ the mane hung sleekly," or, all the notes of his hand-organ. The passages
· For as the rack came sleeking on, one fell that we have quoted above bear ample evidence of With rain, into a dell, this. If more is wanted, his use of the words Breaking with scatter of a thousand notes, “ neat," " nice,” and “ fine" would be sufficient to Like iwangling pearl; and I perceived how she, convict him in any court in Christendom. Nearly
Who loosed it with her hand, pressed kneadingly,
As though it had been wine in grapy coats, every thing of which he approves has one of these
And out it gushed with that enchanting sound, adjectives liberally bestowed on it, and frequently
Like a wet shower to the ground." in places where none but a cockney would use
Nymphs. them ; but “fine" is his chief favorite,—we meet with it on almost every page.
Pray, did Mr. Hunt ever see a dry shower of
rain? “ Some of the finest warriors of the court."
Sometimes these conceited and outrè words pro
duce a most ludicrous effect. A long poem called “Never was nobler finish of fine sight.”
“ The Nymphs,” in “ Foliage,” is full of them. “Reaching, with stately step, at the fine air."
“With orange, whose warm leaves so finely suit,” &c. • There lie they lulled by little whiffling tones
Os rills among the stones, and in the “Descent of Liberty,” he dignifies a Or by the rounder murmur, glib and flush, good old man with the title of “fine old Eunomus!" of the escaping gush,” &c.
But, as if all this were not sufficient to destroy the Or, effect of any language ever written, his style has
" And there the Hamadryads are, their sisters, to suffer still further degradation from bis use of Simpler crown-twisters, old and obsolete words, manufactured phrases, and Who of some favorite tree, in some sweet spot, out of the way terminations. This arises in a Make home, and leave it not, great measure from his admiration of the Eliza Until the ignorant axe downs its fine head,
And then the nymph is fled." bethan poets and his scorn of Pope and his school. Spenser is his great favorite, and, in adopting the Or, faults of his versification, without its beauties, and “And now I find whose are the laughs and stirrings (in catching up an occasional word from him, Hunt That make the delicate birds dart so in whisks and wbirno doubt, in the inmost recesses of his little heart,
rings." imagined that he was becoming, not a parodist, but Or, a rival.
"And hey! what's this? The walls, look, Thus, we are continually meeting passages like Are wrinkling as a skin does, the following from Rimini
And now they're bent
To a silken tent, “ And the far ships, lifting their veils of light
And there are crystal windows; Like joyful hands, come up with scattery light,
And look! there's a balloon above Come gleaming up, true to the wisbed-for day,
Round and bright as the moon above !" And chase the whistling brine, and swirl into the bay."
But it is not only in expressions that we have to These adjectives like“ scattery" he is very fond find fault with him, but frequently also in ideas. of, and is continually manufacturing them when There is nothing, in any of his poetical works, there is a halt in the metre to be filled up. Thus really immoral or licentious, * but there is frequently we have "shiny peace," " a sphery strain,” “ sprin
* We have frequently been amused by the straightlaced gy-strengthed,” “ winy globes,” “ pillowy fields,” morality of the tory erities who abused Hunt as the defenclumpy bays,” “ knify way,” “ pillowy place,” der of evil passions in “Rimini," while they praised to the
grapy coats," "pinky lashes," " sweepy shape,” utmost “ Parasina," a story very similar in general outline. &c., and one of his sonnets commences
Not that we would for a moment institute a conparison
between them, but surely, if the former is calculated to do “A steeple issuing from a leafy rise
harm, the infinite beauty of the latter would only heighten With farmy fields in front and sloping green.” its powers of evil.
a cockneyish vulgarity about him, especially when | sense of both rhythm and harmony, and they are speaking of women, which is truly disgusting. such as may be found on every page without
For instance, how appropriate such passages as searching : the following are, in a serious poem!
“A little rainy, and towards night-fall chill." “And for the poet, when he goes to hide him, From the town's sight, and for the lass beside him." “Society her sense, reading her books,
Music her voice, every sweet thing her looks." But, when he gets among the nymphs, he lets his fancy run riot,
“Each by a blooming boy lightsomely led." some upward eyed
“Some with a drag, dangling from the cap's crest." Feeling the sky, and some with sidelong hips O'er which the surface of the water slips."
“Some turning a trim waist, or o'er the flow
Of crimson cloths hanging an arm of snow.” It is not easy to understand the size of these
“Of snortings proud, and clinking furniture." ladies who were engaged in “ feeling the sky” while reclining on the surface of the ocean.
“As to a friend appreciated at sight." Again
""• My master bade me say then,' resumed he, some in the water sporting
• That he spoke firmly when he told it me.'” With sides half swelling out, and looks of courting."
“ Firmly to speak, and you firmly to hear.”
“That he was forced this day, whether or no." “another only shewed On the far side a foot and leg that glowed,
These three last examples, by the way, occur Under the cloud; a sweeping back another,
within the space of five lines ! Turning her from us, like a suckling mother;
These lines might be considered as very indifThe next a side, lifting her arms to tie
ferent prose, but being presented to us as poetry, Her locks into a flowing knot ; and she That followed her, a smooth down-arching thigh
they could scarcely be excused in a poelaster with Tapering with tremulous mass internally,” &c., &c.
six months' practice. In an old rhymer like Hunt,
who is continually enlightening the world on the Bot enough and too much of this; we might subject, and abusing his superiors for being better pardon the downright vulgarity of these descrip- than he, they are ludicrously unpardonable. But tions if they were in the least degree necessary to it is part of his “system,” and he therefore perthe conduct of a poem, and there are things fifty severes in it to the destruction of the little pleatimes worse in nearly all of our “classics,” but sure left his reader by his style and manner; though these are entirely gratuitous-merely introduced he modestly informs us in his preface that in wrifor their own sweet sakes, and to gratify the sus- ting thus, he is merely doing what Chaucer and ceptible feelings of the author.
Shakspeare did ! It is time now that we should turn to Mr. Hunt's One of Hunt's most remarkable productions is versification and harmony, a point on which he pro- his little collection of poems entitled “Foliage.” fesses to have bestowed great attention, and to be the said “ Foliage" is, with the true diffidence of able to teach like a master. He holds in utter ab- genius, divided into Greenwoods," or original horrence Pope and all subsequent poets, down to poems, and" Evergreens,” or translations. Byron Rogers and Crabbe; he allows some credit to Dry- once pronounced the volume “the most monstrous den, but he evidently and conscientiously believes centaur ever begotten by Self-Esteem upon a Nightthat, since the days of Shakspeare and Spenser, mare;" hut this, we presume, was in one of those no one has in reality been able to write an heroic fits of morosity during which he used to abuse line, with the exception of little Leigh Hunt. The every one for the pleasure of saying the hardest fault he finds with Pope is the cant of the time in things he could. The main features of the work which he wrote-that of too much sameness, and in question, according to the author, (see preface,) a melody too unvaried. This, and the modest opi- are“ a love of sociality, of the country, and of the nion of his own powers are not advanced in one fine imagination of the Greeks.” The latter is place, or in two, but they are fixed ideas and as evinced in the translations, of which more anon. immutable in his mind as his system and style. As to love of the country, with a man like Hunt, On reference to the copious extracts made from that means a place like his favorite Hampstead, “Rimini,” (entirely at random with respect to the where you have brick and mortar round you, and versification,) the reader will see what kind of ir- all the delights and conveniences of a suburb to a regular jangling metre he would substitute for the great city, but in reality no country. He does smooth and easy flow of Pope's lines. We sub- not understand the country, as passages already mit a few more specimens, taken almost without quoted will abundantly testify, though he is conexamination from the same poem, as proofs of his 'tinually prattling about it, and occasionally break