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THE MEMORIES OF SONG.
BY MRS. ABDY.
On! song has many memories,
And they rest within the heart, Till bid by a tuneful voice to rise,
Then forth to the light they start,
By their sweet and potent art.
It is passing dear to me,
When a babe at my mother's knee,
Of my joyous infancy.
I have poured in childhood's hours,
Laden with wreaths of flowers,
Like a rose to the summer showers.
To a dazzling throng around ;
It had not its usual sound,
And I bent them on the ground.
By my dying friend at even;
For the boon to her is given
With the seraph choir of heaven.
When the abbey's aisle I trod;
How I soared beyond the sod,
And to draw more nigh to God !
And they seem my mind to soothe,
Records of love and truth;
Of my bright and early youth.
That to spells like these belong, And I smile amid the strife and ill
Of the world's debasing throng, For my heart renews its verdure still
In the Memories of Song.
PORTIA AND JOANNA BAILLIE.
IN Shakspeare's tragedies, and the generality of melancholy tales, such as Corinne, there is a concentration of interest; in his comedies, and in ordinary stories such as Waverley, there is a multiplicity of character. Bassanio has dignity conferred on him by his being the object of Portia's love and Antonio's friendship; but others beside the heroine and her chosen one command and obtain our sympathy, the generous Antonio, whose honour, liberality, and prejudices render him the type of an English merchant-the Jew, Shylock, emblem of his tribe, imbibing the spirit of cunning, hatred, and revenge, from the slave-like treatment incident to their degraded position in society; and, when they develope the instructions of insult, hooted at instead of lauded for their proficiency. Shylock bestows importance on his daughter and Lorenzo; over Jessica, too, is flung a dearer charm-by her power to recal Rebecca of Ivanhoe, the Jewish maiden of later days and more absorbing interest. It was through the same streets, also, that Shylock roamed in quest of his child, as Brabantio silently hurried in pursuit of Desdemona.
Portia is not cabined in a thronged city, like Desdemona ; nor yet, like Juliet, prisoned in the castle of a smaller town, with its courtyard and high walls : fresh country breezes fan her noble brow, and send the lustrous flush mounting to her cheek, dilating the thin nostrils of her clearly defined, beautifully formed, but not too prominent nose. Her figure is not fragile, like that of the town-bred Desdemona ; nor low, child-like, and merely budding into beauty, like that of the infant Juliet. She is tall, but moderately so ; not taller than Desdemona, though more portly and commanding. Her countenance is sunny and brightly happy : it has less of the changeful than Juliet's ; and her glance is not so fiery, passionate, and soul-subduing, while it displays a more permanent consciousness of talent. Juliet has the fascination of unknowing childhood; Portia, the attraction of magnificently developed maturity. She has not the sentimentalness of Mrs. Hemans, the concentrated pathos of poetry, the purely chosen language, like the essence of warbling rills which drop undefiled on polished pebbles : she has, rather, the masculine style and reach of conception of Joanna Baillie. Her genius is not, like that of Juliet and Lady Wortley Montague, comparatively untutored ; nor, like that of Mrs. Hemans, apparently laboured : her attention is devoted to the matter rather than the manner.
Comparisons are not always odious; they are sometimes delightful. Know yourself, and you know all the world. You are aware what your own feelings would be in a given case; and, by comparing the difference of developement which you and the object of your study exhibit on such occasions, you may estimate the probable variations in remaining instances. Shakspeare's heroines are so chosen as to embody every species of interest, and placed in developing situations where we have seldom an opportunity to contemplate our fellowcreatures, thus affording us means of delicious instruction without which we must otherwise continue. We fancied ourselves int nate with Juliet when we completed the study immediately devoted to her ; we found ourselves more intimate when, by coming to know Desdemona, we were able to trace their varieties of character ; we shall be still better acquainted with her when we have studied Portia. Each study, while throwing light on one particular subject, will necessarily illumine others ; each in succession will yield more pleasure than the previous one, as the possession of two objects of love is more valuable than that of one, of three than that of two.
i Continued from p. 50.
Portia's eye is hazel, not dark brown like Juliet's; her tresses are auburn, not flaxen like Desdemona's. Her marked and finely arched brows are almost as dark as Juliet's, expressive of energy, though her looks are lighter. Recollections are pleasing; and the Prince of Morocco reminds us of poor Othello. The former boasts of valour, which the latter possesses; the former, without true love, is confident of his merits; the latter doubtful. But if the prince were incapable of Othello's disinterested affection, he fancied himself capable; and belief is better than scepticism ; sincere folly, than scornful worldly wisdom. His harmless confidingness, arising in part from complacency, interests us; and we sympathise with him when obliged sorrowfully to bid farewell to his mistress; not so with the Prince of Arragon, whose self-sufficiency is too arrogant and unloving: his leave-taking displays mortified and huffish pride – that of the Moor wounded vanity and real grief, for the loss of the portion as well as of the bride; all sorrow, with the Spaniard, was merged in disdain of the slighting of his deserts.
I should not like to see Shakspeare's plays acted—they are too good for acting; in the glare of scenes and attitudes we lose sight of the sterling ore of the piece, and might be nearly equally contented with unsubstantial tinsel. How painful to have our loved conceptions falsified- the author's delicate touches rendered coarse- the goddess of our affection degraded to a vulgar mortal-axioms of pure philosophy spoiled by mincing affectation or unmeaning pomp of delivery -texts for the rule of life made similarly unattractive--and feeling phrases robbed of their power to touch the heart! The theatre is not so popular as formerly ; cultivation is more diffused ; refinement is more exacting; we cannot away with merely one good actor in a corps. What could Mrs. Siddons herself effect, unless well supported ? However enraptured with her, we must lament her choice of a profession, and regret that her superior talents had not found a more fitting and a nobler field of action. The love of representing such pieces as their abilities can design, is a passion amongst comparative barbarians; but when a great object for which to exist takes the place, in higher grades, of a simple desire for amusement, such is no longer
a matter of paramount importance. Music is a science in which, with moderate ability, a sufficient proficiency to fill secondary parts may, by persevering study, be acquired; it is so also with dancing; but we cannot be taught to act pleasingly, unless we have superior natural qualifications, and nothing causes more disagreeable sensations than to witness the performance of a vulgar actress or an awkward actor. It is a question, too, whether, if we did possess the necessary attainments, they might not otherwise be more wisely employed.
Portia's situation is a more important and independent one than that of Juliet and Desdemona. If the first wins, and the second beseeches our admiration, Portia commands it; yet she is so goodnatured, sweet-tempered, and bountiful-so well inclined to love others, not, like some women, attracted only by men ; so courteous, hospitable, clever, and well bred, that no one envies her high estate : all are thankful, rather, that she possesses it. She acts more, talks more, than even Juliet ; she cannot think more than Desdemona. We may suppose that Portia and Bassanio had previously met frequently in society; and that she calmly and considerately, yet with ardour, exhibited her preference ; not irresistibly carried away, like Juliet; nor merely permitting the flow of feeling, like Desdemona. Portia was always mistress of herself, and of those who approached her; she swayed by intellect, because conscious of her powers. Juliet ruled by instinct and impulse, not aware of how or wherefore she did
Desdemona only influenced, but permanently and continuously. Nerissa, as was fitting, is able to converse with Portia—to utter repartee--not a dictatress, like Emilia, nor a fond, vulgar hireling, like the nurse.
Portia's first conversation displays as much discrimination of character, and power of communicating her ideas, as Miss Baillie. Why, with her surpassing genius, has she not succeeded in becoming popular ?
There is a kind of presumption in woman's, I do not say merely attempting to develope male characters, though I might almost do so; but in her endeavouring to hold up to light the whims, oddities, failings, and weak points of those men who are in other respects superior. The most talented females fail in such efforts; women cannot write without experience; their portraits will have an artificial, studied air, if intimates are not the originals of their pictures. Madame de Staël is found wanting in her heroes. Noble talent is sometimes inadequate to obtain that popularity which a tithe of the ability compasses, if exerted in a more taking form. It obtains a vast deal, it is true; placing the possessor on a proud eminence; and Miss Baillie is the first of female writers; for, in that line, none has approached her excellence; and it demands greater capacity, and more varied acquirement, than any other. Nevertheless, excepting by means of a song set to music, or some unexcelled household stanzas, like those on the kitten, where she cannot overreach herself, she is not a familiar, fireside pet. Her volumes are scarcely to be seen, unless in large cities; the superior few have read, admired, and appreciated them; but the majority are simply acquainted with her celebrity, though ignorant of the masterpieces which have established it. And thus, with those who are worthy to associate with her,
Oct. 1838.-VOL. XXIII.-N0. XC.
Portia is supreme; but to the generality she is not so deliciously lovable as the favourite Juliet, nor so softly, sadly interesting as Desdemona; yet she is a more majestic creature than either—the stately queen of goddesses !
“ Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum tibi.” Mrs. Hemans often fascinates our sympathies; we feel that she feels while she writes. Miss Baillie is more independent; like Channing, she towers aloft; and though she has far more power of transporting herself and others, by fancy, to distant regions, yet she does not convince us of the reality of her personages as Mrs. Hemans does of the genuineness of her own sentiment. She is free from Mrs. Hemans's affectation of style; is she wholly so from that of matter ? There are some who will tell you their style is natural, though it reads affectedly: and simplicity is more readily attained by study than by carelessness. High-flown sentences are devoid of that finished, yet simple gracefulness, which is the chef d'æuvre of art. It is much easier by grand words to produce rolling and magnificent sounds, than by a combination of unassuming ones to compose sweet melody. There are others who, by writing just as they speak, are pleasingly natural, if not harmoniously musical ; yet if their subjects are, by themselves, deemed of vital moment, thus licensing them to endless speech, their advanced essays will be inflated—naked truths can no longer be plainly stated; they must be enlarged on-newly trimmed-lent a different face-their dress turned inside out-aided by novel comparisons-unheard-of illustrations; which is all artificial, while the authoress persuades herself she is as unadorned as ever. There is none who will not, if she is heedless, exhaust herself.
“I remember him well; and I remember him worthy of thy praise.” Juliet would not have spoken so frankly; or if so, not so unexaggeratedly and unpoetically, not so unblushingly and uncoquettishly; a dear excitement must have led her to divulge her darling secret: but if the hidden current once glanced into light, it would then sparkle bubblingly, and hurry murmuringly onwards, regardless of restraint. Portia was not thus whirled rapturously forward; no consuming passion, no rosy-faced consciousness did she exhibit. She judged discreetly, and had so much wisdom in her ways, that she hardly suspected love had thralled her. And she was the independent, able creature, framed not only to survive, but actually to triumph over, misfortune, though her cheek might pale
her step, still firm, be less elastic her manner, though cordial, less warm-her spirits, though cheerful, less buoyant-her temper, though even, less joyous-her occupations, though constant, less suddenly and vigorously undertaken. Desdemona, instead of thus asserting her opinion, would have reddeningly and timidly inquired that of another, with which, when she had heard it, perhaps venturing to believe she agreed; if not, to ask the speaker whether she really thought, or interrogatingly to remark, surely you do not deem so ? Portia understands the duties and common events of life; she has ability to comprehend those, too, which have not fallen under her own observation; her freedom from wild enthusiasm has allowed years to mature her judgment; she is