Page images

The silken cassock, and the sable gown-
Make other less agreeable things go down:
Like him, how many! (could we make the search)
Who while they hate the Gospel, love “the Church."

- That Gospel, preach'd by Jesus to the poor;
Simple, sublime, and spiritual and pure.-
Is not constructed, and was ne'er design'd,
To please the morbid, proud, romantic mind:
'Tis not in flow'rs or fields, or fancy found;
Nor on Arcadian, nor on holy ground;
Tis not in poetry, 'tis not in sound;
Not even where those infant lips respire,
A heav'n of music from the fretted quire;
Chaunting the prayer or praise in highest key,

- Te Deuin, or Non nobis Domine.' pp. 85—7. It was rather daring to bring forward so unreservedly an Itinerant preacher as a contrast to the Enthusiast: but we give our Author credit for having painted from the life, and as her appeal is to facts, she ought to be safe even from the sneer of the man of taste. Perhaps the parallel which is drawn between the poor, contemned, and hectic methodist preacher, and the titled, beneficed overseer of the Church, will appear invidious; yet the strange thing'

6 is after all too true.' One circumstance our Author does not neglect to introduce with feeling and emphasis,-that whosoever is guilty of preaching the Gospel in heathen districts, where now, " the once savage

miner kneels and prays,'—even the poor itinerant, is safe from absolute persecution; he is no longer exposed at least to such persecution

as his fore-fathers saw, Thanks to the shelt'ring arm of civil law.' The effects of his labours are then described, and the poem closes with the following indignant challenge.

Now let the light of nature-boasting man,
« Do so with his enchantments,” if he can!
Nay, let him slumber in luxurious ease,
Beneath the umbrage of his idol trees;
Pluck a wild daisy, moralise on that,
And drop a tear for an expiring gnat,
Watch the light clouds o'er distant hills that pass,

Or write a sonnet to a blade of grass.' p. 92. · The World in the llouse,' and · The World in the Heart,' are the rather quaint titles of the last two Essays in the volume. They relate to that great stumbling-block,' the inconsistency of the temper and spirit often manifested by professed Cbristians, with that renunciation of the world and that separate character, which are described in the New Testament as the distinguishing marks of the disciples of Christ.

• Love not the world'-most merciful decree

That makes its friendship enmity with 1 hee.' The subject ffords scope for all the severity of satire, and if at any time this mode of assault may be effectively employed in the service of truth, it seems most appropriate when directed against inconsistency. Incongruity is always riliculous. Our Author will not, ho ever, be easily forgiven for the freedom of her strictures on the shenoy taste, the ostentatious cbarities, and the secul r spirit of the religious world; yet it should tend in no small degree to conciliate, that having such power of satiric humour at command, and under such temptation to exercise it with diverting effect, the passages are few in which she bas deviated into the tone of irony or sårcasm ; and in those few the sarcasm is undeniably just. As the passages to which we allude, will again and again be quoted, personally applied, perhaps, and mis-applied, and blamed as uncandid by those who feel thrir truth-we shall prefer taking our extracts from other parts of the Poems. The concluding lines in the first of these two Essays, deserve transcription for the excellent spirit they breathe, no less than for the axiomatic wisdom of the sentiments.

Oh, for a soul magnanimous, to know,
Poor world, thy litųeness, and let thee go!
Not with a g'oomy proud, ascetic mind
That loves thee still and only hates mankind;
Reverse the line, and that my temper be,

-To love mankind, and pour contempt on thee.' In the World in the Heart,' the various forms in which earthly-mindedness discov: rs itself, are admirably described, although we have some exceptions to make in point of illustration, as well as of expression. We may as well siate in this place, that our Author is not unfrequently misled, either by a dread of over-refined expression, or by a wish to give the utmost force to her sentiments, into colloquialisms, and illustrations of a domestic plaioness, which will not in all cases be intelligible, and in most instances, they let down the subject. We refer to the worldly minded cook,' to the simile of * Tom Tickler's ground,' to suc! phrases as say her say,' and persevering click,' and at the risk of being thought fastidious, we must add he word “skull,' which occurs by the necessity of rhyme, in the following couplet.

• The few ideas that travel, slow and dull

Across the sandy desert of her skull," Vol. VI. N. S.


These offences against taste are rare, but they are not the less objectionable. We regret also exceedingly, that the versification in some instances betrays marks of carelessness or fatigue. Imperfect rhymes, false quantity, or accent, such lines as

• Who seeking that, cares little for all this,'faults of this nature are the less to be excused, where the composition itself is of so high a character, and when the sentiments deserve that the utmost elaboration should be bestowed on expressing them.

To how bigh a style of poetry Miss Taylor is capable of attaining, will be evidenced in the two extracts we have reserved as concluding specimens of the volume. The first is taken from · The World in the Heart.' After depicting in strongly marked lines, the melancholy portrait of the nominal Christian, in the decline of life, merged in the spirit of the world, the Author presses home the importance of ascertaining on what evidence we rest our hopes of Heaven, when, as an object of desire, it appears so dim and distant,

· Not as it is indeed-true, awful, near.

. And yet, amid the hurry, toil, and strife,
The claims, the urgencies, the whirl of life,-
The soul-perhaps in silence of the night
Has flashes, transient intervals of light;
When things to come, without a shade of doubt,
In terrible reality, stand out.
Those lucid moments suddenly present
A glance of truth, as though the Heav'ns were rent.
And through that chasm of celestial light,
The future breaks upon the startled sight;
Life’s vain pursuits, and Time's advancing pace,
Appear with death-bed clearness, face to face;
And Immortality's expanse sublime,
In just proportion to the speck of time:
While Death, uprising from the silent shades,
Shows his dark outline ere the vision fades ;
In strong relief against the blazing sky,
Appears the shadow as it passes by.
And though o'erwhelming to the dazzled brain,
These are the moments when the mind is sane.',

pp. 169-170. The image of Death in these lines, is as sublime a conception as we recollect to have met with for a long time. It is awfully picturesque, and the expression is not less felicitous.

Our last extract we shall select from one of the smaller poems in the volume. These might, we think, have been placed, with more propriety, together at the end, as some of them

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

are far below the Essays in point of merit and of style. "The

Squire's Pew,' however, is a delightful little poem: the sentiment is trite as the moral of a gravestone, but it has seldom been more simply and more beautifully set. Recreation' is not well managed : a young lady who had participated in such amusement, would not so have narrated it. "A town' is a very lively descriptive sketch. But we think that by far the finest thing in the volume is the, second portrait of the Pair.' It is marked with all the minute accuracy and life of Wilkie's paintings. Wordsworth himself has nothing finer.

Down a close street, whose darksome shops display,
Old clothes and iron on both sides the way;
Loathsome and wretched, whence the eye in pain,
Averted turns, nor seeks to view again;
Where lowest dregs of human nature dwell,
More loathsome than the rags and rust they sell;---
A pale mechanic rents an attic floor;
By many a shatter'd stair you gain the door;
'T'is one poor room, whose blacken'd walls are hung
With dust that settled there when he was young.
The rusty grate two massy bricks displays,
To fill the sides and make a frugal blaze.
The door unhing'd, the window patch'd and broke;
The panes obscur'd by half a century's smoke :
There stands the bench at which his life is spent;
Worn, groov'd, and bor'd, and worm-devour'd, and bent :
Where daily undisturb’d by foes or friends,
In one unvaried attitude he bends.
His tools, long practis’d, seem to understand
Scarce less their functions, than his own right hand.
With these he drives his craft with patient skill;
Year after year would find him at it still ;
The noisy world around is changing all,
War follows peace, and kingdoms rise and fall;
France rages now, and Spain, and now the Turk;
Now victory sounds ;- but there he sits at work!
A man might see him so, then bid adieu,
Make a long voyage to China or Peru;
There traffic, settle, build; at length might come,
Alter'd, and old, and weather-beaten home,
And find him on the same square foot of floor,
On which he left him twenty years before.
-The self same bench, and attitude, and stbol,
The same quick movement of his cunning tool;

very distance 'twixt his knees and chin,
As though he had but stepp'd just out and in.

• Such is his fate-and yet you might descry
A latent spark of meaning in his eye.
-- That crowded shelf beside his bench, contains
One old, worn, volume that employs his brains :

With algebraic lore its page is spread,
Where a and b contend with x and z:
Sold by some student from an Oxford hall,

- Bought by the pound upon a broker's stall.
On this it is his sole delight to pore,
Early and late, when working time is o'er :
But oft he stops, bewilder'd and perplex'd,
At some hard problem in the learned text;
Pressing his hand upon his puzzled brain,
At what the dullest school-boy could explais.

• From needful sleep the precious hour he saves,
To give his thirsty mind the stream it craves :
There, with his slender rush beside him plac’d,
He drinks the knowledge in with greedy haste.
At early morning, when the frosty air
Brightens Orion and the northern Bear,
His distant window mid the dusky row,
Shews a dim light to passenger below.
-A light more dim is flashing on his mind,
That shows its darkness, and its views confin'da
Had science shone around his early days,
How had his soul expanded in the blaze!
But penury bound him, and his mind in vain
Struggles and writhes beneath her iron chain.
-At length the taper fades, and distant cry
Of early sweep bespeaks the morning nigh:
Slowly it breaks,- and that rejoicing ray,
That wakes the healthful country into day,
Tips the green hills, slants o'er the level plain,
Reddens the pool, and stream, and cottage pane,
And field, and garden, park, and stately hall,
Now darts obliquely on his wretched wall.
He knows the wonted signal ; shuts his book,
Slowly consigns it to its dusty nook;
Looks out awhile, with fixt and absent stare,
On crowded roofs. seen through the toggy air;
-Stirs up the embers, takes his sickly draught,

Sighis at his fortunes, and resumes his craft.' pp. 134–9. Usefulness bas evidently been the Author's principal design in tbese Essays, and their excellent tendency will ensure her ample reward. We have seldom met with a volume of poetry, that bore more strikingly the impress of native thought, or that supplied the mind more richly with materials for deep reflection. It is evident from the last extract, that Miss Taylor can achieve, as a poet, something of a still bigher cast than even these Essays in Rhymne.

« PreviousContinue »