Page images

Several inscriptions are published for the first time in this volume; they are generally well explained by the learned editor, but not always. For instance, in p. 457. we have the following, from the journals of Mr. Hawkins :








Caius Julius Celer built, at his own expense, for the people of Apollonia, the recess or passage; and Caius Julias Hermas, who is called also Mercupus, paved at his own cost the broad court leading from the zygostasium as far as the recess.'

Mercupus! a pretty name! what can be clearer than that the true reading is MEPKOTPIOZ, Mercurius? The ὑποχώρησις was a recess by the side of the street, resembling, we suppose, those on Westminster Bridge; for what purpose we need not say. ZuyoσTάosov should have been translated, the weighing place, or public steelyards, which, in every city of the Roman empire, were superintended by an officer, called præfectus ponderibus. Lastly, the concluding words should be rendered, paved at his own cost the street from the steelyards to the recess;' not ' leading from the zygostasium,’which would have been τὴν πλατεῖαν τὴν ἀπὸ TOU . with the article repeated.

The volume concludes with a valuable dissertation of Mr. Wilkins upon a Greek inscription, six years older than the date of Euclid's archonship, at which era the Ionic letters began to be used at Athens in public documents. But we observe some inaccuracies, both in the copy of the inscription, which is given as divested of its archaisms, and also in the translation of it; none, however, of material consequence.

Amongst other symptoms of the haste with which this volume has been put together, is the circumstance, that some of the plates are in one part and the descriptions of them in another. Thus, at p. 321. we have the representation of a lecythus, which is described in p. 539. This cruse, which presents the figures of two horses and their grooms, is entitled ΛΗΚΥΘΟΣ ΑΤΤΙΚΟΣ. Now as the book is an English one, we do not see the propriety of giving Greek titles to the plates; which, to our minds, savours of pedantry. An English inscription would at all events have avoided the false concord of λήκυθος ̓Αττικός for λήκυθος ̓Αττική.

9 3


The editor's notes upon the various communications display extensive reading; but we wish he had bestowed a little more attention upon the correction of the press; it is pity that so handsome a volume should be disfigured by so many typographical


ART. XI.-Woman: a Poem. By the Author of The Heroine.' 12mo. pp. 121. *1818.

THE preface to this little volume is written with peculiar candour

[ocr errors]

and modesty. Mr. Barrett, it informs us, published, some time since, a poem on the same subject, and felt all the irritation, common in such cases, at finding it universally condemned by the critics. After the lapse of a few years, however, he himself began to discover, that his favourite performance' was written in a false taste; and as, when we begin to hate, we generally hate that most which we had before loved best, so Mr. Barrett, it seems, managed to contract a most unqualified abhorrence for his quondam Dalilah. The consequence was, that he drew his pen, with a vindictive resolution to exterminate it from every earthly library. We know not where to look in the annals of literature for a similar instance of an author, who professedly sets up himself against himself, and assiduously endeavours to run down his own production. At the same time, we trust he has not acted in a dishonourable manner towards his earlier love, and resorted to the contemptible expedient of injuring it by invidious attacks in the periodical journals. As, on this occasion, he lies entirely at the mercy of himself, he is bound, we think, to exercise his power with moderation, and not to take an ungenerous advantage of his own acrimony against his own work.

But while we indulge a smile at the suicidal hostility of Mr. Barrett, we are far from wishing to leave any ultimate impression of ridicule upon it. On the contrary, as critics, whose suggestions are almost always taken in ill part by authors, we feel interested in recommending to their imitation the ingenuous example of this poet, and in calling their especial attention to the following extract from his preface. After acquainting us with his mortifying discovery of the defects in his former work, he adds,

But, at least, the discovery contained a moral. It shewed that we should listen with deference to those critics whose taste differs from our own, since even our own, in process of time, may differ from itself.'

We may, therefore, suppose him quite sincere, when he says,

< Indeed, I had formed so erroneous an estimate of my former work, that I am almost afraid to hope any thing from this, and. I can most conscientiously add, that my chief feelings on the subject are doubt and apprehension.'


[ocr errors]

We now come to the work itself. However Mr. Barrett may pique himself upon the subject which he has chosen, we must take leave to dissent from his opinion of its peculiar happiness.' In the first place, we consider the question with respect to the station which the female sex should hold in society, as long since settled in theory, and as pretty generally reduced to practice. In times immediately previous to the commencement of chivalry, when women were really degraded and despised, his vindication of their claims would have acquired an importance which it is not so likely to enjoy in the present age. For what sympathy can he now hope to extract from his male readers, when the greater part of them will probably peruse his work in a drawing-room, the very seat of female despotism, where a thousand ceremonials of homage give the lie direct' to the predominance of the lordly sex'? and where the finest couplet is liable to be broken off by the polite indispensibility of getting up to hand a chair?

Of all this, however, the author himself seems so well aware, that he has dedicated but a very small portion of his poem to the statement of the grievances of woman-much the greater part being occupied in describing her attractions. And here again we must beg permission to say, that however beautiful each individual attraction may appear, there is the same sort of monotony in a professed catalogue and collection of them, that we should experience in a sculptor's exhibition-room, where the Graces and Muses and Virtues were crouded around us, and where the only distinction between them was in the drapery, attitude and symbols. We might, indeed, acknowledge that each statue was charming in itself, but on viewing the whole series together, we should wish for some combination of action, or at least for the interposition of a Hercules or a Laocoon, to give contrast and animation to the group.

In fact, there remains so little doubt now-a-days, that a due elevation of females in society bestows full as much dignity and comfort on ourselves as on them, that a poem which goes only to prove it, cannot pretend to the popular advantages which result from a disputed theory. We might add too, that the theme itself is already sufficiently hacknied, for we have innumerable prose disquisitions on it. And, although it may not till now, perhaps, have been professedly treated in English poetry, we can scarcely open one tuneful page in which the praises of woman are not introduced by way of subsidiary ornaments.

The poem opens with an elegiac tribute to the memory of the lamented Princess Charlotte, to whom, it appears, the author was in the act of dedicating the work, when intelligence of the fatal catastrophe reached him. Of this circumstance he has taken advan

[blocks in formation]

tage, and judiciously varied the almost unavoidable sameness of monody with an incident at once poetical and affecting.

The poet then proceeds to recount the causes from which the former oppression of the sex arose, and the moral improvements from which we may deduce their present state of exaltation. This is followed by a comparison between the two sexes, as to their distinct qualifications and duties.

'To Woman, whose best books are human hearts,
Wise heaven a genius less profound imparts.
His awful, her's is lovely; his should tell
How thunderbolts, and her's how roses fell.
Her rapid mind decides while his debates,
She feels a truth that he but calculates.—
He provident, averts approaching ill,
She snatches present good with ready skill:
That active perseverance his, which gains,

And her's that passive patience which sustains.'-pp. 30, 31. An enumeration of those virtues in which the poet conceives ours to be excelled by the softer sex, closes with the following charming passage.

To guard that Virtue, to supply the place
Of courage, wanting in her gentle race,
Lo, modesty was given; mysterious spell,
Whose blush can shame, whose panic can repel.
Strong by the very weakness it betrays,
It sheds a mist before our fiery gaze.
The panting apprehension, quick to feel,

The shrinking grace that fain would grace conceal,
The beautiful rebuke that looks surprise,

The gentle vengeance of averted eyes;
These are its arms, and these supreme prevail.

Love pauses, Vice retracts his glozing tale.'

The next four lines are peculiarly happy. They have (to us at least) all the brilliancy of invention, combined with the sobriety of truth.

'Not she with trait'rous kiss her Saviour stung,

Not she denied him with unholy tongue;
She, while Apostles shrank, could danger brave,
Last at his cross and earliest at his grave.'-p. 34.

The conclusion of this part is very creditable to the poet's feelings it is in a strain of patriotism, pure, ardent, and even sublime.

Mr. Barrett proceeds, in the next canto, to derive the influence of woman from those virtues, and from various other attractions, some of which are enumerated in the following pleasing and elegant lines.

"With amiable defects of nature born,
Wants that endear and foibles that adorn,
She by reserve and awful meekness reigns;
Her sighs are edicts, her caresses chains.
Why has she tones with speaking music strung?
Eyes eloquent beyond the mortal tongue ?
And looks that vanquish, till, on nerveless knee,
Men gaze, and grow with gazing, weak as she?
'Tis to command these arts against our arms,

And tame imperious might with winning charms.'-pp. 47, 48. Amongst the sources of female influence, beauty of course could not be omitted; accordingly, after a gay and animated description of a girl of fifteen, the portrait of a more matured loveliness is exhibited. The picture, though chaste, we had almost said pure, is yet somewhat too luxuriant for our pages; but we gladly borrow the closing lines. After observing that every other object of art or nature palls on the eye, if long beheld, the poet adds,

[ocr errors]

But unallay'd,

The sight still pauses on a beauteous maid.
Each glance still finds her lovelier than before,
Each gazing moment asks a moment more.
Yet then must intellectual graces move
The play of features, ere we quite approve;

Yet must chaste Honor, ere those graces win,

Light up the glorious image from within!'-pp. 55, 56.

The episode on an unhappy victim of seduction, which concludes this canto, is, on the whole, the most interesting and highly wrought part of the poem; as such, we recommend it to the notice of our readers. We cannot afford space for any extracts from it.

The third canto is occupied with a topic not particularly new to poetry-love; something original however is contrived. The symptoms of this passion, and the 'enchanting trivialities' of courtship are well designed; and the following passage, though not novel in thought, is pretty in expression.

There is a language by the virgin made,
Not read but felt, not uttered but betray'd:
A mute communion, yet so wondrous sweet,
Eyes must impart what tongue can ne'er repeat.
"Tis written on her cheeks and meaning brows,
In one short glance whole volumes it avows;
In one short moment tells of many days,
In one short speaking silence all conveys.
Joy, sorrow, love recounts, hope, pity, fear,
And looks a sigh and weeps without a tear.
O'tis so chaste, so touching, so refined,

So soft, so wistful, so sincere, so kind,' &c.-pp. 81, 82.
The tempest in the subsequent episode enables Mr. Barrett to


« PreviousContinue »