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Robert Montgomery's version. Then we have the poor, mindless, pale-faced maniac boy," who
"Rolls his vacant eye,
To greet the glowing fancies of the sky."
What are the glowing fancies of the sky? And what is the meaning of the two lines which almost immediately follow?
A soulless thing, a spirit of the woods,
He loves to commune with the fields and floods.”
How can a soulless thing be a spirit? Then comes a panegyric on the Sunday. A baptism follows; after that a marriage: and we then proceed, in due course, to the visitation of the sick, and the burial of the dead.
Often as Death has been personified, Mr. Montgomery has found something new to say about him.
"O Death! though dreadless vanquisher of earth,
Dragging the world into eternity!
If there be any one line in this passage about which we are more in the dark than about the rest, it is the fourth. What the difference may be between the victims and the martyrs, and why the martyrs are to lie before Death, and the victims behind him, are to us great mysteries.
We now come to the third part, of which we may say with honest Cassio, "Why, this is a more excellent song than the other." Mr. Robert Montgomery is very severe on the infidels, and undertakes to prove, that, as he elegantly expresses it,
"One great Enchanter helm'd the harmonious whole " What an enchanter has to do with helming, or what a
helm has to do with harmony, he does not explain. He proceeds with his argument thus:
And dare men dream that dismal Chance has framed
All that the eye perceives, or tongue has named;
The spacious world, and all its wonders, born
Designless, self-created, and forlorn;
Like to the flashing bubbles on a stream,
Fire from the cloud, or phantom in a dream?"
We should be sorry to stake our faith in a higher Power on Mr. Robert Montgomery's logic. He informs us that lightning is designless and self-created. If he can believe this, we cannot conceive why he may not believe that the whole universe is designless and self-created. A few lines before, he tells us that it is the Deity who bids "thunder rattle from the skiey deep." His theory is therefore this, that God made the thunder, but that the lightning made itself.
But Mr. Robert Montgomery's metaphysics are not at present our game. He proceeds to set forth the fearful effects of Atheism.
Then, blood-stain'd Murder, bare thy hideous arm,
And thou, Rebellion, welter in thy storm:
Awake, ye spirits of avenging crime;
Burst from your bonds, and battle with the time!'
Mr. Robert Montgomery is fond of personification, and belongs, we need not say, to that school of poets who hold that nothing more is necessary to a personification in poetry than to begin a word with a capital letter. Murder may, without impropriety, bare her arm, as she did long ago, in Mr. Campbell's Pleasures of Hope. But what possible motive Rebellion can have for weltering in her storm, what avenging crime may be, who its spirits may be, why they should burst from their bonds, what their bonds may be, why they should battle with the time, what the time may be, and
what a battle between the time and the spirits of avenging crime would resemble, we must confess ourselves quite unable to understand.
"And here let Memory turn her tearful glance
Whether Rebellion shakes her own hand, shakes the hand of Memory, or shakes the hand of France, or what any one of these three metaphors would mean, we know no more than we know what is the sense of the following passage:
Let the foul orgies of infuriate crime
When leagued Rebellion march'd to kindle man,
Fright in her rear, and Murder in her. van.
And thou, sweet flower of Austria, slaughter'd Queen,
Who dropp'd no tear upon the dreadful scene,
When gush'd the life-blood from thine angel form,
Thy look obedience, and thy smile a law."
What is the distinction between the foul orgies and the raging havoc which the foul orgies are to picture? Why does Fright go behind Rebellion, and Murder before? Why should not Murder fall behind Fright? Or why should not all the three walk abreast? We have read of a hero who had
"Amazement in his van, with flight combined,
And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.”
Gray, we suspect, could have given a reason for disposing the allegorical attendants of Edward thus. But to proceed, "Flower of Austria" is stolen from Byron. "Dropp'd" is false English. "Perish'd in the storm" means nothing at all; and "thy look obedience" means the very reverse of what Mr. Robert Montgomery intends to say.
Our poet then proceeds to demonstrate the immortality of the soul:
"And shall the soul, the fount of reason, die,
Dimless and quenchless, though the breath expire?
The soul is a fountain; and therefore it is not to die, though dust and darkness lie round its temple, because an ethereal fire has been breathed into it, which cannot be quenched though its breath expire. Is it the fountain, or the temple, that breathes, and has fire breathed into it?
Mr. Montgomery apostrophizes the
"Immortal beacons, - spirits of the just,"
and describes their employments in another world, which are to be, it seems, bathing in light, hearing fiery streams flow, and riding on living cars of lightning. The deathbed of the sceptic is described with what we is meant for energy. We then have the deathbed of a Christian made as ridiculous as false imagery and false English can make it. But this is not enough. The Day of Judgment is to be described, and a roaring cataract of nonsense is poured forth upon this tremendous subject. Earth, we are told, is dashed into Eternity. Furnace blazes wheel round the horizon, and burst into bright wizard phantoms. Racing hurricanes unroll and whirl quivering fire-clouds. The white waves gallop. Shadowy worlds career around. The red and raging eye of Imagination is then forbidden to pry further. But further Mr. Robert Montgomery persists in prying. The stars bound through the airy roar. The unbosomed deep yawns on the ruin. The billows of Eternity then begin to advance.
The world glares in fiery slumber. A car comes forward driven by living thunder.
"Creation shudders with sublime dismay,
And in a blazing tempest whirls away."
And this is fine poetry! This is what ranks its writer with the master-spirits of the age! This is what has been described, over and over again, in terms which would require some qualification if used respecting Paradise Lost! It is too much that this patchwork, made by stitching together old odds and ends of what, when new, was but tawdry frippery, is to be picked off the dunghill on which it ought to rot, and to be held up to admiration as an inestimable specimen of art. And what must we think of a system by means of which verses like those which we have quoted, verses fit only for the poet's corner of the Morning Post, can produce emolument and fame? The circulation of this writer's poetry has been greater than that of Southey's Roderick, and beyond all comparison greater than that of Cary's Dante or of the best works of Coleridge. Thus encouraged Mr. Robert Montgomery has favoured the public with volume after volume. We have given so much space to the examination of his first and most popular performance that we have none to spare for his Universal Prayer, and his smaller poems, which, as the puffing journals tell us, would alone constitute a sufficient title to literary immortality. We shall pass at once to his last publication, entitled Satan.
This poem was ushered into the world with the usual roar of acclamation. But the thing was now past a joke. Pretensions so unfounded, so impudent, and so successful, had aroused a spirit of resistance. In several magazines and reviews, accordingly, Satan has been handled somewhat roughly, and the arts of the