Page images

happen with regard to the builders of the pyramids, as with European churches, that some superstitious notions, connected with the east and the rising sun, may have determined the position of their faces, but that this position had any connection with science is a modern conjecture which has served at least to exercise the ingenuity of the learned. If any reasonable doubt could ever have been entertained of their original purpose, we think there are now sufficient grounds to pronounce them the mere monuments of posthumous vanity; a more civilized and artificial modification of the rude tumulus or cairn, to preserve in security, or perhaps to mark the spot where, the remains of some despot have been deposited, for which purpose they were prepared in his lifetime, or may have been raised to the memory of some favourite chief, after his death, by his faithful followers. The history of the pyramids of Egypt, obscure as it is, is in favour of the former supposition. The extraordinary care that was taken in the preservation of the body after death from violence and corruption, was quite consistent with the opinion of the Egyptians, that the soul never deserted the body while the latter continued in a perfect state. To secure this union, Cheops is said to have employed three hundred and sixty thousand of his subjects for twenty years* in raising over the angusta domus,' destined to hold his remains, a pile of stone equal in weight to six millions of tons, which is just three times that which the vast Breakwater, thrown across Plymouth Sound, will be when completed; and to render his precious dust still more secure, the narrow chamber was made accessible only by small, intricate passages, obstructed by stones of an enormous weight, and so carefully closed externally as not to be perceptible.-Yet how vain are all the precautions of man! Not a bone was left of Cheops either in the stone coffin or in the vault when Shaw entered the gloomy chamber; a circumstance which led him to conclude, hastily enough, that the pyramids were never intended for sepulchral monuments; and the learned Bryant, having settled them to be temples consecrated to the Deity, had no difficulty in transforming the sarcophagus into a water-trough to hold the sacred element drawn up from the Nilea conception about as felicitous as that which would have converted the supposed sarcophagus of Alexander into a bathing-tub; a proof of which was in the holes in the bottom to let out the water! Belzoni however has gone far to prove that Strabo and Diodorus Siculus knew better, and that these ancient authors had good grounds for asserting the Egyptian pyramids to be sepulchral monuments. The discovery now made of the Saracens having opened the second pyramid is, we believe, perfectly new.

* Herodotus, lib. ii.


We do not suppose that Mr. Belzoni is a man of much education or deep science; but he certainly possesses considerable talent for research, and unwearied perseverance; the very requisites which are calculated to explore and bring to light the hidden treasures of antiquity. From the exertions of such a man, the British Museum is likely to become the first repository in the world for Egyptian art and antiquities; and we trust that every possible encouragement will be given to those exertions by rewarding him liberally for what he has done, and by promises of future rewards proportioned to the value of his discoveries; for if we are rightly informed, he is not in circumstances to incur expense without the

chance of remuneration.

ART. VII.-Endymion: A Poetic Romance. By John Keats. London. 1818. pp. 207.

REVIEWERS have been sometimes accused of not reading the works which they affected to criticise. On the present occasion we shall anticipate the author's complaint, and honestly confess that we have not read his work. Not that we have been wanting in our duty-far from it-indeed, we have made efforts almost as superhuman as the story itself appears to be, to get through it; but with the fullest stretch of our perseverance, we are forced to confess that we have not been able to struggle beyond the first of the four books of which this Poetic Romance consists. We should extremely lament this want of energy, or whatever it may be, on our parts, were it not for one consolation-namely, that we are no better acquainted with the meaning of the book through which we have so painfully toiled, than we are with that of the three which we have not looked into.

It is not that Mr. Keats, (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt that any man in his senses would put his real name to such a rhapsody,) it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of fancy, and gleams of genius-he has all these; but he is unhappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney poetry; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language.

Of this school, Mr. Leigh Hunt, as we observed in a former Number, aspires to be the hierophant. Our readers will recollect the pleasant recipes for harmonious and sublime poetry which he gave us in his preface to Rimini,' and the still more facetious instances of his harmony and sublimity in the verses themselves; and they will recollect above all the contempt of Pope, Johnson, and such like poetasters and pseudo-critics, which so forcibly contrasted itself with Mr. Leigh Hunt's self-complacent approbation of

، all

[ocr errors][merged small]

This author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt; but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and teu times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat himself in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his own standard, yet generally had a meaning. But Mr. Keats had advanced no dogmas which he was bound to support by examples; his nonsense therefore is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and, being bitten by Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his poetry.

Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar circumstances.

'Knowing within myself (he says) the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public. -What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished.'-Preface, p. vii.

We humbly beg his pardon, but this does not appear to us to be quite so clear-we really do not know what he means— -but the next passage is more intelligible.

'The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press.'-Preface, P. vii.

Thus the two first books' are, even in his own judgment, unfit to appear, and the two last' are, it seems, in the same conditionand as two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we have a clear and, we believe, a very just estimate of the entire work.

Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this 'immature and feverish work' in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we confess that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of the tortures of the 'fierce hell' of criticism, which terrify his imagination, if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent which deserves to be put in the right way, or which, at least, ought to be warned of the wrong; and if, finally, he had not told us that he is of an age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.

Of the story we have been able to make out but little; it seems to be mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion; but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we cannot speak with any degree of certainty; and must therefore content ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and versification:-and here again we are perplexed and puzzled. -At first it appeared to us, that Mr. Keats had been amusing him


self and wearying his readers with an immeasurable game at boutsrimés; but, if we recollect rightly, it is an indispensable condition at this play, that the rhymes when filled up shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have already hinted, has no meaning. He seems to us to write a line at random, and then he follows not the thought excited by this line, but that suggested by the rhyme with which it concludes. There is hardly a complete couplet inclosing a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one subject to another, from the association, not of ideas but of sounds, and the work is composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have forced themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on which they turn.

We shall select, not as the most striking instance, but as that least liable to suspicion, a passage from the opening of the poem.

'Such the sun, the moon,

Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils

With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms

We have imagined for the mighty dead; &c. &c.'-pp. 3, 4. Here it is clear that the word, and not the idea, moon produces the simple sheep and their shady boon, and that the dooms of the mighty dead' would never have intruded themselves but for the "fair musk-rose blooms.'


'For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire
Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
A melancholy spirit well might win
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine
Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass
Of nature's lives and wonders puls'd tenfold,

To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.'-p. 8.

Here Apollo's fire produces a pyre, a silvery pyre of clouds, wherein a spirit might win oblivion and melt his essence fine, and scented eglantine gives sweets to the sun, and cold springs had run into the grass, and then the pulse of the mass pulsed tenfold to feel the glories old of the new-born day, &c.

One example more.

· Be

"Be still the unimaginable lodge

For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,

Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
Gives it a touch ethereal-a new birth.'-p. 17.


Lodge, dodge-heaven, leaven-earth, birth; such, in six words,
is the sum and substance of six lines.

He cannot
indeed write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line.
Let us see.
The following are specimens of his prosodial notions

We come now to the author's taste in versification.

of our English heroic metre.

'Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite.'—p. 4.
'So plenteously all weed-hidden roots.'-p. 6.
'Of some strange history, potent to send.'-p. 18.
'Before the deep intoxication.'--p. 27.

'Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion.'—p. 33.
'The stubborn canvass for my voyage prepared-


Endymion! the cave is secreter

Than the isle of Delos.

Echo hence shall stir

No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise

Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys

.'-p. 39.

And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."'-p. 48.

By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the meaning of his sentences and the structure of his lines: we now present them with some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr. Leigh Hunt, he adorns our language.


We are told that turtles passion their voices,' (p. 15); that' an arbour was nested,' (p. 23); and a lady's locks gordian'd up,' (p. 32); and to supply the place of the nouns thus verbalized Mr. Keats, with great fecundity, spawns new ones; such as 'men-slugs and human serpentry,' (p. 41); the honey-feel of bliss,' (p. 45); ' wives prepare needments,' (p. 13)-and so forth.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their natural tails, the adverbs, and affixing them to their foreheads; thus, 'the wine out-sparkled,' (p. 10); the multitude up-followed,' The wind up-blows,' ‚ (p. 11); and ' night up-took,' (p. 29). (p. 32); and the hours are down-sunken,' (p. 36.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

But if he sinks some adverbs in the verbs he compensates the language with adverbs and adjectives which he separates from the parent stock. Thus, a lady whispers pantingly and close,' makes hushing signs,' and steers her skiff into a ripply cove,' (p. 23); a shower falls refreshfully,' (45); and a vulture has a spreaded tail,' (p. 44.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]




« PreviousContinue »