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The inspirer of my thoughts, which but for him
He was inferior to One; for the pride
And sullen majesty on his dark brow showed
Of the lightning splendours he might once have walked in,
In his setting glory! His vast wings were furled:
But intense light from his grand presence shone,
Making the darkness visible; one hand
He stretched towards me, motioning me on:
Which, as the clouds rolled surging back, I saw
Sparkling with distant worlds. "Why, Cain," (his voice,
I followed him!'
Cain leaves his wife and child, and sets forth alone on his wanderings. In this his solitude, Lucifer appears to him; and then follows a great deal of very abstruse disquisition, in which it appears to be Lucifer's object to mystify and puzzle Cain, and in which he seems to be as successful as his skill deserved. Cain is then taken by the Tempter through various scenes; first, to the centre of the earth,' where he sees masses of glorious 'shapes, all indistinct!' and is told to behold the elements in their central force, which formed the whole around them, and ' are here renewing ever.' He asks where a stream of fire leads, and is told
To the great heart of the earth, whence it reflows,
Ebbing again, to be again renewed.'
Cain again asks
What are these broken masses near us, rounded
VOL. LIII. NO. CV.
They are, replied Lucifer,
The pillars of the dwellings of earth's kings,
Built to eternize them as they hoped on earth.'
Lucifer next transports his victim to what Mr Reade calls 'the void of space,' when Cain, whose 'brain reels,' looks round at the stars, and exclaims
Oh, that I were the Maker of them all!
After this wild and exorbitant wish, which the Devil's superior sense of propriety induces him to chide, Cain is taunted with an ignoble desire to return to the earth which he had left. He
Never, spirit, never! what? revisit
The places where I walked in ignorance
And agony; stained too with guilt, and horror,
Of my father and Eve, and perhaps hear their curses?
It was not in her gentle nature! but
She would look on me, and that look would
Upon which Lucifer rejoins
< Thou art deceived by a seeming strength
Where was this will, self, thought, and consciousness,
That dwelt apart, innate in each, until
They joined in thee their breathing compound, from whence
They shall separate, and unmake thee, in despite
This fantasy of a self apart which rules them.
To will-that self should be unchangeable,
With power to reject the senses' every impulse,
Resolves were broken and contemned? but once
Thy present impresses; still unaware,
Will, thought, and passion, are as straws, borne on
After this, Lucifer shows to Cain two other scenes—' the world ' in warfare,' and 'the world in deluge,' which last is among the best in the drama. He is then conducted to the paradise of an imaginary being, half woman half angel, called 'Heilel,' where he is steeped in pleasures which prove unsatisfactory; and, tired of the rather scandalous life which he is living in the society of Heilel, he bethinks him of his deserted wife; and, quitting the mistress of whom he had grown weary, revisits his former home. Ada has died in his absence, he finds her grave, and throws himself upon it,-laments a while, and then rises to seek his father Adam. The last scene is in Adam's tent, and the catastrophe is thus told: ENOCH (from without.) Help!-save me, save me!
He is coming-is upon me!
[ENOCH rushes in from behind, and hides himself
Why break'st thou thus into the house of mourning?
Take breath and speak-what is it frights thee, Enoch?
I was bearing fresh flowers to strew my
When a shape I had never seen sprung hastily
From the grass, and stretched his arms out and pursued me:
Shot back my arrow as my father taught me,
And-hark! there is a heavy tread !
[ADAM opens the door of the tent, and the body of
The hand of God is over us! Behold
THE WANDERER RETURNED!'
Our readers will now be enabled to form some opinion of the style of Mr Reade. It is on his style alone that we shall animadvert; for we have no wish to enter at present into any discussion on the
tendency of his works, and his selection and treatment of scriptural subjects. He is skilled in ambiguity; and can give a seeming force and value to even ordinary expressions, by employing them in unusual modes, and so connecting them as to destroy their common acceptation, and leave only a mysterious no-meaning, so exquisitely metaphorical, that, in our difficulty to comprehend it thoroughly, we are glad, if possible, to think it fine. A rich cluster of poetical terms, when involved with tolerable intricacy, will frequently pass current with a great majority of readers, who rest satisfied with a general impression that what they have been perusing must be something very beautiful and sublime, but without being able to collect any one distinct image. There is much of this specious incorrectness in the poems before us; and it is only necessary to analyse any of the most seemingly high-wrought passages to discover it. Take the following, for instance, over which we have no doubt many a fair reader may have murmured beautiful!'
Her lips are parted, and move like rose-leaves opening
Doth its pale golden wreaths in tangled
What a store of poetical phrases is here! 'leaves' 'golden wreaths'-'tangled luxuriance'-'white bosom' -'violet vein'-'dim lustre !' But let us try how they hang together. The likening of lips to rose-leaves is a very reasonable but commonplace simile, if nothing were adverted to but their colour; but, in order to make it not commonplace, the author has made it nonsense-lips must not only look but move' like rose-leaves, and like rose-leaves' opening to the invisible airs.' By this we presume is meant, (or the word opening' deceives us,) not rose-leaves moved by the wind, but a rose-bud slowly expanding. Now, we are not aware that the motion of an expanding rose-bud is perceptible to the human eye, more than any other process of vegetation. Cain, however, in the passage above quoted, is describing what he sees. He sees the motion of her lips, and he is made to compare it to a motion which neither he nor any one else could see. We may next enquire what is the peculiar novelty and beauty of the epithet 'invisible,' as applied to' airs.' In the following sentence we find two words which neutralize each other's meaning-lightly,' and 'cluster.' The word cluster,' implies thickness and heaviness, and hair which seems to fall lightly, cannot with propriety be said to cluster at all. Then we have a violet vein shedding a dim lustre on a white
bosom. Now, the vein is darker than the bosom; and when a dark object is upon a light one, we conceive that the lustre,' whether 'dim' or otherwise, must proceed from the latter.
A few words now on the versification of these poems, and more particularly of Cain, of which, in the prefatory dialogue, the author thus speaks:
'C. Your verses are often rugged, and—
'A. Ah! so were "glorious John's."* From the age of fourteen we steep ourselves, as it were, in the mellifluousness of Pope; but seven or eight years afterwards, one sickens of honey, of the eternal "smoothshaven green," and longs for and loves the rough energy, and rude but often grand harmony of glorious old Dryden,
"The long resounding march, and energy divine,"
as it has been owned by Pope himself. If in imitating a little his ruggedness, I have now and then caught a touch of his vigour, I shall be well satisfied.'
Is it then on the authority of Dryden that we are to accept such lines as the following?
Shall be levelled by them; why he is, and was—
Thou art mighty in punishment-oh! be mightier in-
And was happy because alone, and my heart opened-
Of blindness withdrawn, and your eyes opened to
The English heroic verse consists properly of ten, sometimes of eleven syllables; but it does not therefore follow that prose chopped into portions of ten or eleven syllables, should be entitled to be called verse-much less that portions of nine, twelve, thirteen, and fourteen syllables, should have any pretensions to such a name. We had understood that rhythm and accent are a little to be attended to, and that it is by no means easy to write harmonious blank verse. But, according to Mr Reade's system, nothing can be easier. All that seems
requisite is to dispose the words in lines, containing from nine to fourteen syllables, with only this restriction, that every line shall consist of entire words, and that they shall not be divided on the ultra-liberal plan exhibited in The Anti-Jacobin'
Thou wert the daughter of my tu-
*See The Pirate.