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disturbs the illusion, which should be preserved in all works of fiction, as imitation of incident. In a narration of real events if a circumstance occurs resembling one already familiar to us, we are surprised at first, but we instantly regard it as what it really is, a curious though not an unnatural coincidence, and the sensation on the whole is rather pleasurable than otherwise. But when the same thing happens in a work of fiction, we reflect and examine for a moment as in the former case, but the first and immediate effect of this is to dispel all the dream, in which we had yielded to the story as true; and this alone is painful; the second effect is, dissatisfaction with the author, who having the tissue of incidents at his disposal might have avoided this imitation. In the present instance the borrowed incidents may be convenient for the introduction and development of new characters, but we think that Mr. · Milman's ingenuity properly tasked might have discovered some less hacknied means for the same object.
In order to make our readers understand this part of the poem, we must go back a little to events which are supposed by the poet to have happened before its commencement. Constantine, King of Britain, is said to have aspired to the purple, and to have led an army to the continent to support his claim. After some successes he lost his own life and crown, together with the flower of his troops, in a disastrous battle near Arles.* He left three sons, Constans, Emrys, (Aurelius Ambrosius,) and Uther, but they were all thought too young to conduct the retreat of the army and sustain the sinking fortunes of Britain; Vortigern therefore was elected King. In the council now assembled Emrys first rises, and in a firm yet temperate manner reclaims for his brother and himself the crown, which they had lost by their youth, but which Vortigern had forfeited by his treason to the common weal. Uther followsa more impetuous character-his warm and animating appeal to the chiefs, his denunciation of instant and interminable war on Vortigern and his allies produce a suitable effect on the council. Shouts of war are heard, spears are brandished, and shields are clashed; when Samor rises to still the commotion. This is managed with too apparent intention of contrast, and his speech is much too long and too rhetorical; as in many other places it is Mr. Milman and not his hero, who speaks; still there is much of beauty, and even moral force in the address;
Our council thus appealing, may not wear
Or phrenetic vengeance: we must rise in wrath,
*It is not of much importance in a case like this, but Mr. Milman will find that he has misquoted Gibbon as to these facts in his prefatory notice..
But wear it as a mourner's robe of grief,
In sorrow to be so enforc'd.'--p. 28.
In reply to Emrys and Uther he urges the superior right of Constans, their elder brother, to the vacant throne. Constans was a peaceful hermit, and the proposition of such a man for King at such a crisis calls forth the bitter scoff of Caswallon, chief of the mountains north of Trent; who demands the crown for himself, and threatens to join the Saxons if rejected. Caswallon's character will fully appear in the sequel; it is sufficient here to observe of him that he is the Mezentius of the poem, as Malwyn, his only son, is the Lausus. This latter personage bursts upon us in a very interesting manner, refusing to share his father's treason, but throwing himself between him and the spears of the irritated chiefs.
Caswallon, however, is dismissed in safety from the assemblya single incident in the mode of his departure finely marks the character of the man,
'far was heard
His tread along the rocky path, the crash
Of branches rent by his unstooping helm.'-p. 33.
Samor's proposition is assented to, and he is himself commissioned to bear the offer of the crown to Constans; Emrys departs to solicit succours from Hoel, King of Aquitain; Uther is dispatched to the west, and the other chiefs repair each to his own domains to stir up bis vassals to the great enterprize. Such is the council, of which it seemed necessary to say thus much for the better knowledge of the personages who fill great part of Mr. Milman's
Samor immediately departs on his mission to Constans, accompanied by his friend Elidure; in their way, from a woody eminence they see the bridal procession of Vortigern and Rowena winding along the valley below. How or why this procession came so near the place of assembly of the insurgent chiefs, or whither it was going, we are not informed. It seems to have been brought here for the sake of an incident, which might have been very sublime, if the judgment which regulated the execution had been at all equal to the fancy which conceived it. A shape of strange and savage appearance bursts suddenly upon the gay troop, and arresting its progress by the terror it inspires, utters a tremendous denunciation of woe upon the nuptials. Before a shaft could fly,' the path was vacant.'-Vortigern alone recognises Merlin, and moans' his name in anguish. This is finely imagined. A slight inaccuracy may be remarked in the manner of the recognition by Vortigern. It must be remembered that the persons on the stage at present are Samor
and Elidure: they are seeing the procession from some distance. In the main action of his poem, a poet by tacit compact is allowed to be omniscient and all-seeing; we allow him to tell us what is passing in the hearts even of his personages, and never ask how he learned the secret. But his personages themselves are not so unlimited; they can only be allowed to see, hear, and know, according to the faculties of their nature. Now in the present instance the procession is not the main action, but it bears the same relation to it which a picture introduced in a picture, or a play in a play, bear respectively to the picture or play which contain them; that is to say, they are wholly subordinate to them. The poet then must divest himself of his own unlimited faculties, and describe nothing relating to the procession, which those who are the main subjects could not have seen and heard. But, to mention one instance of the violation of this rule, it is clear that Samor and Elidure could not from the place of their concealment have heard Vortigern moan the name of Merlin-this therefore should have been omitted. A more obvious, and less pardonable fault remains to be commented on in the denunciation. Here again it is Mr. Milman who speaks, and not Merlin-it is the youthful poet, high in spirits, rioting in the luxuriance of words and ideas, and delighting to toss them about in point and antithesis, not the aged, woe-begone, and austere prophet. If we can be sure of any thing that is matter of taste and judgment, we are sure that the denunciation should have been short and solemn; the poet has made it long, brilliant, and ironical. Irony is always a dangerous weapon, but in epic poetry especially the mightiest master should strike but a single blow with it, it can scarcely ever be in his hands safely for more than an instant at a time. Mr. Milman has used it once or twice with success, but what can we say to such lines as these, among many others?
'I see the nuptial pomp, the nuptial song
I hear; and full the pomp, for Hate, and Fear,
Imprecate the glad Hymenæan song.'-p. 40.
either Eschylus or Euripides might have taught him a more discriminating observation of character.
The friends pass on, and fulfil their commission; but Constans, as might be expected, refuses the crown, and tenders a ready allegiance to his brother Emrys. Free however as he was from worldly ambition, his royal primogeniture made him an object of suspicion in those disjointed times to the king and the Saxonsthe peasant who visited him on the following morning, found him murdered, and resting on his cross. This whole interview is very pleasingly told; but it is open to a remark which, even at the expense of being thought too minute, we must venture to make. The true poet never sacrifices accuracy of reasoning or description for the sake of increasing a particular effect. In applying this rule, we must of course be careful to distinguish those passages in which he identifies himself with his personages under any strong state of feeling, when all nature assumes the colouring given by that feeling, and all things are reasoned upon under its impression. The rule must be confined to places, where the poet reasons or describes propriâ personâ. Statius, in his beautiful address to sleep, wishing to produce a general impression of the calm and silence of night, mentions the rivers as flowing with a softer sound; the lines are excellently translated by Mr. Hodgson.
'Hush'd is the tempest's howl, the torrent's roar,
And the smooth wave lies pillowed on the shore.' We may be sure that Virgil never would have done this, he would have described truly what he heard, and in the general silence of the night the torrent would have seemed to roar more loudly than by day.
In the third book the scene changes; Caswallon joins the enemies of his country according to his threat, and accompanies Hengist in a voyage to the north, which that chief undertakes for the double purpose of consulting his gods upon the issue of the war, and collecting reinforcements from the tribes of Germany. Here Mr. Milman is on very strong ground, ground upon which he has even now scarcely any superior, and upon which we would fain hope that by and by he may have no equal. In the voyage he has scattered a great deal of rich and varied description; the calm, the brilliant and sunny gale, the breeze that freshens almost to tempest, the lowering sky and adverse weather, when,
Like a triumphant warrior, their bold bark
When the voyage ends, the two chieftains mount a rein-deer car, and depart still farther northward for the residence of the Valkyrs, the immortal maids, who rule the present, the past, and the future. No one can read this part of the poem without a conviction of the poet's powers-there are passages which would bear comparison with the pictures drawn by the magic pencil of Southey in Thalaba or Kehama. After the sublimer scenery of the ice-mountains, softer scenery is introduced-fanciful indeed, but not extravagant, where all is but the creation of a rich imagination.
'Nor wants soft interchange of vale, where smiles
To lie in numb repose.'-p. 57.
The Valkyrs themselves are admirably drawn, and the first cónception of them, as æthereal, passionless, bloodless, beautiful, yet unattractive beings, is perfectly well sustained throughout.
No sights, no shapes of darkness and of fear.
Tinged their full veins, yet mov'd they, and their steps
Were harmony.'-p. 57.
By de sire of Caswallon, Hengist addresses Skulda, queen of the
Valkyr, hear and speak,
Her answers, on the whole, are unfavourable-she tells Hengist,
VOL. XIX. NO. XXXVIII.