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drags it to the shore. His feelings are well described while he sits with the body in his arms, haunted by the miserable presentiment that it is the body of Lilian; and the dread with which he shrinks from the near approach of light after so devoutly desiring it, praying to be relieved from doubt while it was dark, and shuddering at the certainty when the morning was breaking, is very natural.
From Vortimer and Lilian the poet returns to the Saxon fleet,. and rapidly traces the voyage down the eastern coast to the Isle of Thanet. On the opposite shores of Kent were encamped the Britons under Samor, pining already for the soft luxuries of peace, and sustained only by the example and spirit of their leader. The first measure of the wily Hengist is an offer to retire from the island on permission to sell Kent for a sum of money, which offer, in spite of a noble and indignant harangue from Samor, the Britons accept, and agree to ratify the compact at a solemn festival. This was that deadly feast at Stonehenge, and Mr. Milman prepares our minds for it by a very spirited imitation of the closing lines of the first book of the Georgics, with which every scholar is familiar. We lament that our limits forbid our transferring it entire to these pages.
The festival on the plains of Sarum is ushered in with becoming splendour, and cheerfulness of poetry, which contrasts very well with the tremendous bodings that closed the last book.
"The laughing skies
Look bright, oh Britain, on thy hour of bliss.
Shake joyous clouds of fragrance round her float.
Wafting glad tidings: wide their flower-hung gates
Seem harmony; still all fierce sounds of war;
No breath within the clarion's brazen throat;
Soft slumber in the war-steed's drooping mane.'-p. 107.
With the same brilliancy Mr. Milman paints the long procession, the gorgeous feast, and the eminent among the nobility and warriors of both nations who graced it; he brings to notice, we think, with great happiness, the thoughtless exultation of a
whole people, the entire forgetfulness of past ills, and past causes of hatred, the greedy welcome given to the returning peace. The giddy curiosity too of the females and children form no uninteresting feature in this busy picture. So far all the colours are glowing and gay: they become more sombre as the poet paints the fall of evening, the spectators returning from the feast in long lines, and small parties recounting the pleasures of the day; the picture still darkens as we see women watching late for their lords return, children worn out with waiting and composed to rest, maidens inwardly chiding the delay of their lovers; night falls, and one long and lonely blast of a single horn is heard from the plain; the weary women start at the signal of the return, forms are seen in the gloom entering the gates, they preserve a dismal silence; each wife is looking for her husband, each maid for her lover, but they see none but Saxons-Saxons still; and at last their bloody knives uplifted reveal the whole dreadful secret. Here the poet judiciously breaks off-the plunder, the murder, the rape that ensued would have been a common-place consummation to such a picture ―he has done more wisely; for all the gorgeousness of the feast, the richness of music, the sumptuousness of habiliments, the splendour of the mid-day sun, the bands of bright and manly forms assembled; for all the glowing pride of the day, and all the tender thoughts of the evening, he exhibits to us in the heavy darkness of midnight,
'On the wide plain one lonely man. Wan light,
Bears token of rude strife.'-p. 110.
Samor was that sole survivor-stunned and bewildered for the moment by the harrowing scene which he had so miraculously passed unhurt. Within the mysterious ring of Stonehenge he lies down and collects his thoughts; breathing his soul in prayer he solemnly devotes himself to the cause of his country, and the waging of interminable war against the Saxons. His heart then turns to his wife and family, and he hurries homeward-here too the hand of fate was heavy on him; he sees the White Horse banner floating on the walls of the Bright City-his palace plundered, his wife and children all gone; and from a dying daughter he learns the whole dismal tragedy. Mr. Milman, as usual, has sunk much below himself in the unreasonable speech of this expiring child; but he rises
to his proper level in the complete desolation, the undaunted bearing, the tender heart, the pious resignation of his hero. Samor buries his daughter on the margin of the Severu,
'clos'd that mournful office, nearing fast
Is heard a dash of oars, and at his side
He sprang, and pass'd to Severn's western shore.'-p. 130. With this extract, which sets the hero forward upon his glorious task, we close our analysis of the poem. To pursue it at the length, which we have hitherto allowed ourselves, would be to trespass far beyond the limits of a single article, and we feel at the same time, that the substantial purposes of criticism cannot be answered by running over it in a more superficial manner. The progress, however, which we have already made will serve to give the reader an adequate conception of the whole poem, though we are bound to state, in justice both to the public and Mr. Milman, that the opening books are much the least interesting of all, as far as relates to the characters and the story. The detailed remarks too, which we have made with friendly, but entire freedom, while they will establish, we would hope, some general principles of criticism, will sufficiently apprise our readers of the judgment which we are disposed to pass on the poem. After so much censure it would be idle to pronounce sentence of unqualified approbation; but we thank Mr. Milman sincerely for much pleasure. There is scarcely a page of the book, which does not testify that he is a poet of no ordinary powers. Every one of them exhibits some beautiful expression, some pathetic turn, some original thought, or some striking image. This is Mr. Milman's praise, and we bestow it on him gladly; but after all, if his ambition be what it ought to be, this will be but unsatisfactory; for all these things do not suffice to make a good poem. Samor is not a good poem, and we are less confident now, than on a former occasion, that its author ever will produce one, because he is now much older, and we fear, more hardened in unre peuted error.
His faults are numerous and important; the parts of the poem
are not enough blended together, but each book seems more like an independent episode than a necessary link in a continuous narration: the action is too much frittered away in preparation, the mediæ res too long delayed; probability in time, place and event too little regarded; too much is borrowed from the stores of others; we trace from ancients and moderns single phrases, whole lines, long passages, entire incidents, the most important characters. But all these faults, heavy as they are, we forbear to insist on, for they are all swallowed up by one leviathan, which demands the whole of the little space now left us.
When Mr. Milman was last before us, we were not slow to bestow upon him the praise which he did indeed so amply merit, but we then remarked on the faults of his style. Poets perhaps feel a pride in rejecting the admonitions of critics; and Mr. Milman has exceeded himself on the present occasion in the exuberant defects of his own manner. We desire not to be considered as exaggerating our expressions beyond our sober conviction, or merely framing a pointed period, when we say that in this respect Samor exhibits all that is affected in language, strange even to solecism in usage, involved in construction, and meretricious in ornament., We have really sometimes been at a loss how to extricate the commonest idea from the labyrinth of words in which it is lost. Mr. Milman may be, we are sure that he is, gifted with unusual powers, but this fault is a weight, that might over-burthen and keep down the pinions of an eagle: while the clothing of his thoughts is such as it now is, he never can aspire to the fame of a true poet. Fashion may give his writings a short-lived currency now, and the curious critic dwell on his scattered beauties hereafter, but he never will, we are morally sure, pass in ora hominum, and become, like the real poet, more read and more loved in each succeeding age. These are predictions which he may disbelieve, or disregard, content with that reputation for talent which he has already secured; but the laws of criticism are not conventional; if they were, talent might trample on them; they are the laws of nature, and we only the expounders of them. The laws, therefore, are unerring, and we, in our department, take the best mode of avoiding error by constant reference to the great high-priests, who have most successfully and zealously ministered at her altar. Mr. Milman may safely perhaps deny our jurisdiction; let him then appeal to Homer, to Virgil, and to Milton, by whom we are willing to be corrected. He will find in them as much richness and variety, as much ornament as in Samor; but he will find in them (what will be sought in vain in Samor) a grand simplicity pervading and harmonizing the whole, an agreement of the language with the thought, a freedom from strain and labour; every thing flowing as of course and incident to
the train of ideas, nothing appended for shew and supererogation; he will find an uniform dignity displaying itself by constant self-possession and facility, which puts the reader's mind in a state of complacent assurance that the poet is equal to his task, and will not sink under any difficulty, a dignity which is felt rather insensibly and gradually, and every where, than instantaneously, or in any particu
ART. IV. The Life of Robert Fulton. By his friend Cadwallader D. Colden. Comprising some Account of the Invention, Progress, and Establishment of Steam-Boats; of Improvements in the Construction and Navigation of Canals, &c. New York. 1817. Large Svo. pp. 371.
ALTHOUGH our readers may be inclined to give us credit for
some knowledge of the character of our transatlantic brethren, yet we can honestly assure them that we were not quite prepared for such a sally as this of Cadwallader Colden, Esq. before the Literary and Philosophical Society of New York.'
We cannot think,' he says, that it will be imputed to an undue partiality if we say that there cannot be found, on the records of departed worth, the name of a person to whose individual exertions mankind are more indebted than they are to the late Robert Fulton.'-p. 2.
No;-no partiality' at all. Our only doubt is whether it will not yet be some time before the paramount claim of this 'prime of men' to the gratitude of the human race,' be universally acknowledged; since we find (in the same volume) the New York Historical Society' contending to raise four or five of his countrymen to a sphere of collateral glory.
' The patron-the inventor, (of steam-boats,) are no more. But the names of Livingstone and Fulton, dear to fame, shall be engraven on a monument sacred to the benefactors of mankind. There generations yet unborn shall read,
GODFREY taught seamen to interrogate
With steady gaze, tho' tempest-tost, the sun,
FRANKLIN, dread thunder-bolts, with daring hand,
Seiz'd, and averted their destructive stroke
In triumph proud thro' the loud sounding surge.
This invention is spreading fast in the civilized world; and though
*A man of the name of Logan, we think, as obscure as Godfrey himself, claimed for the latter the invention of the Hadley's quadrant!-two years after the description of it had, as he says, appeared in the Philosophical Transactions.