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yet venerable remains of ages so long departed. Now it is the glorious perilous year 1332: and the whole country without the ramparts, where we are now standing, is crowded with armed men, over whose heads, as they march to the assault, wave the black and blue standards of Argovy and the green and white ones of Thurgovy. The scaling-ladders are laid against the walls ; the sky is darkened with arrows; the air rings with blows, and oaths, and loud war-cries, with the shrieks, of the wounded and dying, and the savage shouts of triumph and vengeance. Now it is the eve of the Annunciation, and a procession of peaceful monks is winding its way, with hymns and fragrant censers, to the church of Blessed Mary of the Snow, to return thanks to the Almighty, that mercifully bade the wind to shift on the occasion of the great conflagration of 1340. Famous too was that fire, for an instance of man's kindliness of spirit and noble forgetfulness of ancient grievances, as well as of the Divine mercy. The peasants of Unterwalden, seeing the flames blazing from afar, hurried across the lake, in numerous boats, to the assistance of the men of Lucerne. Now there had long raged a bitter feud between the inhabitants of the two cantons, growing out of a disputed right of the pasturage on the mountains that divided them; and the men of Lucerne, distrusting the intentions of so large a body of men, drew up in a line on the shore, prepared to oppose their landing. The brave peasants, filled with grief that they should be suspected of such an unworthy purpose as the endeavouring to take advantage of the calamity which had befallen their neighbours, called out, with tears in their eyes, “Dear friends and fellowcountrymen! we come but to succour you in your great danger; to help to save you and your wives, and your children, and your goods, in this great visitation wherewith it has pleased Heaven to afflict you.” Touched at once, and ashamed of their ungenerous suspicions, the citizens gratefully accepted their assistance. Their joint exertions, favoured as they were, at that very moment, by a providential change in the wind, succeeded, eventually, in extinguishing the flames, though not before they had burnt down a large part of the town. And it is a pleasant thing to be able to add, that all their differences were speedily arranged, and that a warm friendship, from that day forward down to the present time, has continued to unite the two cantons.
(To be continued.)
A TRIP TO PARNASSUS.
“ Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
THE ISLAND VOYAGER : a Smilitude. Pp. 51. London: Hope and Co. THE LAST MAMMOTH : a Romance, in Five Cantos. Pp. 88. London :
Hope and Co. THE END REVEALED. By the author of “All Things.” Pp. 26. Lon
don: G. Ferguson, King's Road, Chelsea. THE TITANS OF TO-DAY AND OTHER POEMS. By the author of “Sesostris.”
Pp. 45. London: Hope and Co. SESOSTRIS; OR, THE PRIEST AND THE KING : a Tragedy in Five Acts.
By C. H. Williams. London: Hope and Co.
The pleasure of composing verses must be very great; and he who considers himself summoned by the Muses to delight mankind, by imparting to them the noble thoughts and beautiful imaginings with which he feels himself inspired, is perhaps more to be envied than the monarch on his throne. But, probably, in degree, every man of a reflective turn has been a poet at some period of his life. We say “ in degree,” because with most men the poetic impulse is too transient, and too little encouraged, to have much influence on their mode of life. The veriest citizen, who was scarcely ever out of the sound of Bow bell, and who has passed his days among the petty details of trade, is perhaps conscious that there is within him an undeveloped capacity of mental enjoyment, which has only and on rare occasions been made manifest even to himself. A visit to a distant relative—to an old school-fellow, in some romote solitude or it may be to the sea-shore, in the sunny days of spring—touches a new chord: his mind expands under the genial influence of the kindly sympathies and novel combinations which now surround him; and, in the words of Thompson,
“ With swift wing,
Elates his being, and unfolds his powersHere for the first time, perhaps, he listens to the warbling of birds, without wishing for cages, and sees lambs sporting around him, without thinking of mint-sauce. If you met such a man, at such a time, he would, most likely, talk poetically to you, for “out of the fulness of the heart the mouth speaketh ;” but he is one whose objects in life are defined, who feels himself competent only to fulfil the duties to which he has been habituated, and whose poetical aspirations pass away with the occasion that gave rise to them.
To feel poetically and to write even tolerable poetry are two very different things.
". To a poet nothing can be useless,' said Imlac, whatever is beautiful and whatever is dreadful must be familiar to his imagination : he must be conversant with all that is awfully vast, or elegantly little. The plants of the garden, the animals of the wood, the minerals of the earth, and meteors of the sky, must all concur to store his mind with inexhaustible variety.'”
This is only a small portion of the knowledge necessary to a poet, says the same authority; and it is a mistake, that occurs almost daily, to suppose that an inclination to make verses indicates also a genius of sufficient power, and a mind sufficiently cultivated, to secure, by the fluent productions of the pen, the applause of an admiring world. What else could induce people to inundate the press, from week to week, with poems—by courtesy so called—a dozen pages of which no amount of good-natured perseverance will enable a reader to get through, at a sitting, without falling asleep! Does anyone, advisedly and with knowledge prepense, purchase such books ? Would anybody, but an unfortunate critic, accept them as a present, or be caught, shamelessly, in the guilty fact of having them in his possession ? And what can compensate the benevolent and self-sacrificing publisher who endorses them with his name?
We cannot help thinking that some government measure might be, advantageously, passed, to protect Her Majesty's lieges from the mental assault and battery to which they are subjected at the discretion of these pen-armed bands of ruthless poetasters. Regulations have recently been made, which render it necessary that aspirants for military offices should be able to read and write, and to cast accounts; and nautical people must now qualify themselves for advancement, even in the merchant service, by answering, satisfactorily, certain questions in navigation. Why not also subject candidates for poetic fame to some test of ability, before they are permitted to obtrude themselves on the public? We would not be hard with them, but let them, at least, pass an examination in “Horace's Art of Poetry,” and commit to memory the tenth chapter of “Rasselas."
The distress of a man of true taste, at being subjected to the tender mercies of a bad poet, may be instanced by the case of Philoxenus, who was imprisoned by Dionysius, the elder, of Sicily. On the occasion of a feast, he was sent for, to give his opinion of some verses, which the tyrant had composed, and which all his courtiers had applauded. Philoxenus knew that he had only to make the smallest sign of approval in order to secure his liberation, with the certainty of being again received into favour; instead of which, as soon as the recital was finished, he turned, impatiently, to his guards, and desired to be immediately taken back to prison—thinking it a smaller hardship to work in the quarries, than, with all the luxuries of life around him, to sit and listen complacently to such excruciating poetry. Dionysius, tyrant as he was, has been, perhaps, more abused than he deserved; at all events, he could appreciate merit—he had the magnanimity to pardon his uncompromising critic.
But it is time we should bring our attention more particularly to the works before us, to illustrate the observations we have made.
Let us take the “Island Voyager," for instance; two parts (fiftyone pages) of an allegorical poem-how many more are to come is not mentioned. It is a sort of fairy tale, “the object of the author being," says the preface, “under this similitude, to shadow forth the fall of a Christian into sin, and his restoration by repentance.” The scene opens among some imaginary islands, a pleasing and poetical idea enough; and here are samples of the versification :
“ At intervals along the shore
Rode pleasure-boats at ease;
Them scud before the breeze,
Oh! 'twas a gay and pleasant sight.”
Now we rather object to the figure of pleasure-boats riding at ease, and at the same time scudding before the breeze; and in the very next
-which it is impossible to read without thinking of those venerable rhymesters Sternhold and Hopkins—we find these pleasure boats completely metamorphosed :
“How happy must those seamen be!'
The little child did say,
And dwell in them alway_'"
“ The child upon the bark is gone,
The bark is quickly flying,
With joy the birds are crying.”
The idea in the last line we believe to be entirely original.
Here also is a new figure in poetry, or, more properly speaking, in rhetoric :
“A child he seemed of tenderest years
Scarce three years old, or less ;
Their sovereign express.” Imagine the cruelty of permitting fifty pages of a hatch-up in this style to be wantonly inflicted on an innocent, unsuspecting reader, who never gave the author the least provocation! The second part is in the Spenserian stanza, but without any elevation of tone or sentiment. Take the following two verses as a fair sample of the whole. We hope the lady therein sketched was not intended for a complimentary portrait of Her Majesty, at the commencement of her auspicious reign.
“ The Island's Queen, the guardian of the fane,
A maiden might be deemed of unripe years :
But loved far more the hills and lonely meres :
A wild and fitful creature she appears,
If she drank deeper draughts of joy or tears,
For one half-crazed; which thing made some as high
Of dewdrops wove by heavenly chemistry;
Each gem yet showing in its little sky
Of leaf, or what sweet thing so e'er was nigh,
Of childhood's smiling face its mirror bending o'er.”
“ The Last Mammoth.” We were always lovers of Natural History and its wonders, and what a relief to come back to it now! Oh, Messrs. Hope and Co., of all the publishers, in London, you are the most likely to drive us to despair! Positively, you ought to be keel-hauled, or rough-musicked* at the least, for sanctioning with your respectable name the publication of such measured nonsense !
* A custom in the south of England, and derived, we believe, from very ancient times. When any domestic sins, which the law will not reach, are committed, so as to become offensive to the neighbourhood, the people assemble with all sorts of discordant instruments, and surround the house of the offender, making a dreadful noise, for some considerable time.