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WHAT man of middle age does not remember, with something like a repetition of the pure, bright, original feeling, the enthusiastic transport of delight with which, in his youthful prime, he hung over the beautiful pages of "The Pleasures of Hope?" As he read that noblest production of early genius, what music sounded through his imagination and his senses, now like the murmur of a river, and now like the voice of the sea! Everything was splendid and sonorous in that dream of beautified sublimity; and "a purer ether, a diviner air," seemed shed over our lower world. The young poet poured forth his emotions in the evident rapture of inspiration, and rejoiced in the yet unbaffled prowess of his genius, as he careered over the course that his fancy shaped through the glittering domains of life, all fresh and fair to the spirit that poured over them the charms of its own creative energies. Truly might it be said of Mr Campbell, during his composition of that immortal poem, in the language of Collins,
that Hope enchanted, smiled, and waved her golden hair." He seemed to have no fixed plan-no regular order-but all was one glorious tumult of exulting passions, moving to their cwn music. The untamed soul of youth spoke in every line-in every image. A beautiful array of words came processionally onwards, "the long-resounding march and energy divine;" and we felt, from the beginning to the end," this indeed is poetry." A visionary loveliness bedewed the whole world of the young poet's genius; and not one homely conception, not one prosaic form of speech, at any time broke the dream of imagination. If the feeling flagged, the fancy was instantly on the wing-if the sense failed, the sound conquered -pictures of mind alternated richly with pictures of nature-pathos expanded into majesty, and a strain that began perhaps in graceful simplicity, ended in the most gorgeous magnificence. The whole was the work of a fine and fortunate genius, inspired by the finest and most fortunate of
themes; and while yet upon the verge of manhood, and by one startling and wonderful effort, which commanded glory, Campbell was admitted, by hail and acclamation, into the company of the immortals.
We have been speaking of our youthful feelings some twenty-five years ago, (for opinions we shall not call them,) of "The Pleasures of Hope;" and perhaps they were not greatly different from the feelings with which we still occasionally peruse that poem. But now we are critics, which then we were not, and that must make considerable difference, whether we will or no, between the present and the past. Faults and vices of diction now stare us in the face in the composition we once esteemed pure, faultless, perfect. Nay, what is far worse, we cannot but discover many imperfect and confused conceptions, no-meanings innumerable, vague and indefinite aspirations, needless repetitions, pompous and inane common-places, boyish declamations, much false glitter, feebleness strutting on stilts, melodies wearisomely monotonous, and the substitution of phantasmagorial shadowings of fancy, for the permanent realities of life. Is all this, indeed, true? and if true, is it at all reconcilable with our previous panegyrical paragraph?
Now, the solution of the difficulty, (if there be a difficulty here) is to be found in this-that Mr Campbell was a very young man when he wrote his poem, and we were a very young man when we read his poem. But, fortunately for his fame, there will always be a vast crowd of young people in the world, and most of them will admire and delight in Mr Campbell. Such of them as do not, will never be good for much, and most probably will prove to be Cockneys. Every promising youth will buy a copy of the Pleasures of Hope, in his fifteenth year, or sooner if precocious. Edition will pursue Edition. Campbell will always. be a classic-and elegantly bound and richly lettered, he will, as far as we can see, lie on the drawing-room tables of the ingenuous and polite, until the extinction of civility in this empire.
Theodric, a Domestic Tale; and other Poems. By Thomas Campbell. London: Longman and Co. 1824.
We know that Mr Campbell himself, should he perchance ever look into a periodical publication such as ours, will think the above observations very judicious. He will agree with us too, in thinking, that there are good reasons why he never can again write so fine a poem as his " Pleasures." He wrote the Pleasures, to use a Scottish phrase, with all his birr-i. e. with all his genial and native might and main. He had no fears of writing badly; for, in the glow and animation of impassioned youth he was strong through his very ignorance. No doubt, he thought many things exceedingly fine then, which he now regards with pity or disdain, in his great work; but what, in mature life, can make full and complete amends for the loss of that aerial and mounting spirit, that, like a spark, flies upwards, but, unlike a spark, also flies downwards, in undimmed lustre, made brighter by motion? Wordsworth somewhere deplores the decay and death of youthful enthusiasm, but closes his lament with the consolation drawn from " years that bring the philosophic mind.” But if years do not bring the philosophic mind-if, when the fervour, the ferment, the tumult, the excitation, the pride, the transport of novel existence, be all dead and buried-the spirit feel much gone, and but little taking its place-if the animal and constitutional gladness, that brightened all the visions of boyhood into a close resemblance to the creations of genius, and gave to those creations themselves a more vivid and vigorous character, die away into the soberness and austerity of manhood, while intellect, left unaided and self-dependent, discovers that its reach is not great-and if that love of fame, which the brilliant successes of youth had fostered and fed, begins to pine for triumphs, more in despair than hope, and gradually prepare the spirit of him whom it possesses for fastidiousness or envy-then the Man of Genius must look back with a strange sorrow, and a depressing regret, on himself, the Boy of Genius, and, listening to the echoes of other years, almost hate the harp that has lost its strings, or his hand its cunning, "while starting back, he knows not why, even at the sounds himself had made" "in life's morning march, when his spirit was young." Of these two last apt quotations, one is from
Collins, the other from Campbell himself-and we know of no other third name that could, without a feeling of impropriety or incongruity, be linked with those of the two illustrious brothers.
Is not something very like this visible in Gertrude of Wyoming? That is a far better written poem than the Pleasures of Hope. It is polished, worked up, touched, and retouched, into sweet artificial beauty. But the beauty is cold and statue-like-passionless, formal even-simple, but insipid-much moonlight glimmerlittle sunlight glory. It scarcely sustained the high character of Campbell, the bard of Hope; yet we do not think that he was pledged to greater things, or that the world was entitled to expect greater from his hands. His intellect was more ripened, and his taste more judicious; but he was an older man by twelve or fourteen years, and his mind did not appear to have gained as much as it had necessarily lost in the change of time. He still" looked on nature with a poet's eye," but that eye, which had seen all that lay dazzling on the surface, did not now seem imbued with a power to penetrate into the life of things, into" the beauty still more beauteous ;" and it rested with less fervent delight than long ago, on the more obvious and prominent charms of the creation. Gertrude of Wyoming was sweet, pretty, even beautiful; but she bore not the divine cestus; and how far less captivating, with her copy of Shakespeare in her lap, than Wordsworth's Ruth, the true infant of the woods, and the child of nature! A few noble, even magnificent stanzas, occur in The Gertrude, but they are all laboriously written, and do not seem to us to form parts of a living whole. Indeed, the entire composition is the effect of study, not of inspiration; beauty comes at last, slowly and almost reluctantly, at his bidding, but seldom or never "smooth-sliding without step," as if impatient of a call; there is clearness of water, but no depth; the very flowers of the forest are too pale and delicate; something of a city character is in his sylvan solitudes, and there is a suburban spirit, even in the heart of the old woods. Than the story, nothing can be more unnatural, yet, at the same time, more common place. Outalissi is like a well sup
ported Indian at a masquerade, but not the real Logan; his talk is of tomahawks, but gives us no high idea of the oratory of savage life, which we know to be noble-he has no influence on the poem, and, but for his being a portrait, might have been away on a fishing or shooting excursion, without detriment to plot or person. Yet still we love this poem-we suppose it is very popular suspect it would not be easy to write one so good, and have given it, and will give it again, this very evening, the tribute of a tear. It is a sweet poem.
Herds tinkling roam'd the long-drawn
With all these genial but somewhat subdued feelings of admiration and love of Mr Campbell's poetical character, we came to the perusal of Theodric, a Domestic Tale; and, on the whole, we have not been so greatly disappointed as all the rest of the reading world. Theodric is a still fainter, dimmer, more attenuated poem than Gertrude; but still it is very, very pretty, very pathetic even; there is much that is Campbellish about it, and it cannot be said, fairly and candidly, that it does him absolute discredit. Yet, we did expect a better poem, and if Mr Campbell were not an only son, we should have attributed Theodric to his younger brother. We should have said, "Mr Henry Campbell, who, we understand, is many years younger than his celebrated brother, has written a, &c. &c.," and we should have concluded a kind of complimentary article, with roundly rating him for divers faults and sundry mannerisms. But when we view Theodric as a work by an elderly gentleman, we cannot help looking rather grave, and, therefore, shall proceed to analysis and extract. "'Twas sunset, and the Ranz des Vaches were sung,
And lights were o'er th' Helvetian mountains flung,
And hamlets glitter'd white, and gardens flourish'd green,
'Twas transport to inhale the bright sweet air!
The mountain-bee was revelling in its
And roving with his minstrelsy across
Earth's features so harmoniously were link'd,
She seem'd one great glad form, with life instinct,
That gave the glacier tops their richest glow,
And tinged the lakes like molten gold
That felt Heav'n's ardent breath, and smiled below
Its flush of love, with consentaneous glow."
Is that a very beautiful descriptive passage, or only a good one? We cannot say. Would such a passage stamp a new writer, a man of poetical genius? We cannot say. What is a Phonix like? We cannot say. Does the mountain-bee" revel in the glare of the bright sweet air" after sunset? We cannot say. Are the four last lines good or bad, natural or artificial, strong or inflated? We cannot say. Gentle reader, judge for yourself-we are "She seemed somewhat sceptical. one great glad form, with life instinct," is, we fear, indifferent poetry. But let us proceed.
Warmth flush'd the wonted regions of
Where, Phoenix-like, you saw the eagle's form,
That high in Heav'n's vermilion wheel'd
Woods nearer frown'd, and cataracts dash'd and roar'd,
From heights brouzed by the bounding bouquetin;
"A Gothic church was near; the spot
Was beautiful, even though sepulchral
But roses blossom'd by each rustic tomb.
A maiden's grave-and 'twas inscribed thereon,
That young and loved she died whose dust was there."
But we now feel that it would be foolish regularly to analyze a small poem like this-of which the story is really good for nothing, and we suppose well known. So let us give a few of the best passages. Theodric, an Austrian Colonel, visits London, and during an illumination sees and falls in love with a beautiful English girl, named Constance-whom, in due time, he woes, wins, and weds.
""Twas a glorious sight. At eve stupendous London, clad in light, 10
She studied not the meanest to eclipse,
But yet her voice had tones that sway'd
dently, considerately, wisely, and modestly, says to her, at the close of a painful eclaircissement,
He sought-he won her-and resolved to make
His future home in England for her sake."
"Swear that, when I am gone, you'll do your best
To chase this dream of fondness from your breast.
It is hard to tell what is natural and what is unnatural, what is delicate and what is indelicate, what is pathetic and what is ridiculous, in the delineation of so very complex, shifting, various, and anomalous a passion as Love. Therefore we pretend not to speak authoritatively-to lay down the law-or to decide in that great Court of Chancery. Young girls form wild and romantic attachments-pine away, and in good earnest die, and are buried, for apparently very insufficient reasons, and on the most unsatisfactory grounds. This being admitted, Mr Campbell is perhaps entitled to avail himself of any such historical fact, and make the most of it. But the situation he has chosen to place poor Julia in, is, to say the least of it, extremely painful, nay, it is degrading to the dignity of the sex. Had a woman written so, we could have sympathised with the victim, and would have believed anything she happened to say on the subject. But a man shews a sad want of gallantry in telling the whole reading-public, that he knew a Colonel in the Austrian service, with whom a beautiful Swiss maiden fell
desperately in love-that the Colonel took the poor creature's passion into the kindest consideration-read her a most affectionate and yet firm lecture, on the imprudence and impropriety of giving way to such emotions in favour of his too-killing person-and, finally, requested her brother to row him across a lake, that he might be off to Vienna. Several pages of the poem are here quite despicable,-that is the factand far inferior in sentiment and expression to the general run of verses in the Lady's Magazine, or La Belle Assemblè.
Before marrying Constance, however, Theodric returns to "Cæsar's Court," on matters of concern;" and, on his way thither, he visits Udolph, a young Swiss Cornet, who, under him, had" borne an Austrian banner on the Rhine." Udolph's sister, who does not know that Theodric "is engaged," falls in love with him, or rather has a romantic affection, which she had received for her brother's deliverer from the sight of a miniaturepicture of that handsome hero, fanned into the flame of passion by his living breath. Theodric sees with grief the deep impression he has made on her too susceptible heart-and very pruVOL. XVII.
Theodric returns to London, marries Constance, and is happy.
"To paint that being to a grovelling mind
Were like pourtraying pictures to the
'Twas needful ev'n infectiously to feel Her temper's fond and firm and gladsome zeal,
To share existence with her, and to gain Sparks from her love's electrifying chain, Of that pure pride, which less'ning to her breast
Life's ills, gave all its joys a treble zest, Before the mind completely understood That mighty truth-how happy are the good!"
Rather heavy-somewhat dull, my dear Campbell, is the above; but it cannot be helped now-so let it pass.
Theodric and Constance are so happy in their wedded being, that Mr Campbell, whose intention it is to make out 66 a tale of tears, a mournful story," finds considerable difficulty in destroying their connubial bliss; and, in lack of expedients, falls upon one of the most prosaic curses that ever afflicted a new-married pair, in a house of their own, with a door to the street, and a brass knocker. The mother and sisters of Constance (all save one congenial sister) are a set of vixens, full of strife and gall-arrant mischief-makers greedy gossips-plain-featured, hard-favoured, mean, and malignant. In short, Theodric has married into a most disgusting family. These vulgar she-devils almost succeed in,making the young people quarrel, and much base and low scheming goes on, the details of which sorely puzzled our organ of causality. Meantime Theodric is about to be called out once more on active service; and, on being credibly told so by Mr Campbell himself, we could not but pity Constance, destined to widowhood "for one campaign," and a widowhood likely to be worried by weasels. Udolph, the standard-bearer, arrives at this crisis, telling Theodric that Julia poor is dying, broken-hearted, and the victim of her miserable passion; and that her beseeching prayer is to see Theodric, but for an hour, at her deathbed. Theodric breaks the matter to Constance, who, with many tears and forebodings, gives him permission to see her innocent, distant, and dying rival. The scene now changes to Switzerland; and here Mr Campbell is himself again, or nearly so. The following passage is far from being faultless, indeed is very faulty, and throughout wants ease and flow; but it is very good, although our kindness for the distinguished writer makes us like it, perhaps, better than it deserves.