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of picture-drawing and reflection to the writing of tales; but if we were to prescribe to a young poet his course of practice, this would certainly be our advice. The luxuriance of a young fancy delights in description; and the quickness and inexperience of the same age, in passing judgments;-in the one richness, in the other antithesis and effect are too often more sought after than truth: the poem is written rapidly, and correctness but little attended to. But in narration more care must be taken; if the tale be fictitious, the conception and sustainment of the characters, the disposition of the facts, the relief of the soberer parts by description, reflection, or dialogue, form so many useful studies for a growing artist: if the tale be borrowed from history, a more delicate task is added to those just mentioned, in determining how far it may be necessary or safe to interweave the ornaments of fiction with the ground-work of truth, and in skilfully performing that difficult task. In both cases the mind is compelled to make a more sustained effort, and acquires thereby greater vigour, and a more practical readiness in the detail of the art.
The principal poem in this volume is the Abencerrage; it commemorates the capture of Granada by Ferdinand and Isabella, and attributes it in great measure to the revenge of Hamet, chief of the Abencerrages, who had been induced to turn his arms against his countrymen, the Moors, in order to procure the ruin of their king, the murderer of his father and brothers. During the siege he makes his way by night to the bower of Zayda his beloved, the daughter of a rival and hated family; her character is very finely drawn, and she repels with firmness all the solicitations and prayers of the traitor to his country. The following lines form part of their dialogue;--they are spirited and pathetic, but perfectly free from exaggeration.
'Oh wert thou still what once I fondly deem'd,
A noble sorrow, cherish'd to the last,
Yes, let affection weep-no common tear
The next volume in order consists principally of translations, It will give our readers some idea of Mrs. Hemans's acquaintance with books, to enumerate the authors from whom she has chosen her subjects; they are Camoens, Metastasio, Filicaja, Pastorini, Lope de Vega, Franciso Manuel, Della Casa, Cornelio Bentivoglio, Quevedo, Juan de Tarsis, Torquato and Bernardo Tasso, Petrarca, Pietro Bembo, Lorenzini, Gessner, Chaulieu, Garcilaso de Vega; names embracing almost every language in which the Muse has found a tongue in Europe. Many of these translations are very pretty, but it would be less interesting to select any of them for citation, as our readers might not be possessed of, or acquainted with the originals. We will pass on, therefore, to the latter part of the volume, which contains much that is very pleasing and beautiful. The poem which we are about to transcribe is on a subject often treated; and no wonder: -it would be hard to find another which embraces so many of the elements of poetic feeling; so soothing a mixture of pleasing melancholy and pensive hope; such an assemblage of the ideas of tender beauty, of artless playfulness, of spotless purity, of transient yet imperishable brightness, of affections wounded, but not in bitterness, of sorrows gently subdued, of eternal and undoubted happiness. We know so little of the heart of man, that when we stand by the grave of him whom we deem most excellent, the thought of death will be mingled with some awe and uncertainty; but the gracious promises of Scripture leave no doubt as to the blessedness of departed infants, and when we think what they now are, and what they might have been; what they now enjoy, and what they might have suffered; what they have now gained, and what they might have lost; we may, indeed, year to follow them; but we must be selfish indeed to wish them again 'constrained' to dwell in these tenements of pain and sorrow. The dirge of a child, which follows, embodies these thoughts and feelings, but in more beautiful order and language.
'No bitter tears for thee be shed,
Whose all of life, a rosy ray,
Yes, thou art gone, ere guilt had power
Clos'd is the soft ephemeral flower
The sunbeam's smile, the zephyr's breath,
Thou wert so like a form of light,
Such dwelling to adorn.
Fragrance and flowers and dews must be
And bear from thine own world of rest
What form more lovely could be given
Than thine to messenger of heaven?'-p. 61.
Had Mrs. Hemans stopped here, she might have claimed a considerable share of praise for elegant composition; but her last two publications are works of a higher stamp-works, indeed, of which no living poet need to be ashamed. The first of them is entitled the Sceptic, and is devoted, as our readers will easily anticipate, to advocating the cause of religion. Undoubtedly the poem must have owed its being to the circumstances of the times, to a laudable indignation at the course which literature in many departments seemed lately to be taking in this country, and at the doctrines disseminated with industry, principally (but by no means exclusively, as has been falsely supposed,) among the lower orders. Mrs. Hemans, however, does not attempt to reason learnedly or laboriously in verse; few poems, ostensibly philoso
phical, or didactic, have ever been of use, except to display the ingenuity and talent of the writers; people are not often taught a science or an art in poetry, and much less will an infidel be converted by a theological treatise in verse. But the argument of the Sceptic is one of irresistible force to confirm a wavering mind; it is simply resting the truth of religion on the necessity of it, on the utter misery and helplessness of man without it. This argument is in itself available for all the purposes of poetry; it appeals to the imagination and passions of man, it is capable of interesting all our affectionate hopes and charities, of acting upon all our natural fears. Mrs. Hemans has gone through this range with great feeling and ability, and when she comes to the mind that has clothed itself in its own strength, and relying proudly on that alone in the hour of affliction, has sunk into distraction in the contest, she rises into a strain of moral poetry not often surpassed.
'Oh what is nature's strength? the vacant eye
Strew'd with the wrecks of grandeur-mouldering fanes
After a few more lines to this effect, she addresses the maniac himself in a passage almost too long for citation, yet which we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of transcribing.
'Spirit dethroned, and check'd in mid career,
Haply thine eye its ardent glance had cast
By the bright lamp of thought thy care had fed
Or did thy power pervade the living lyre,
While woke each passion from its cell profound
Kept vigil with the watch-fires of the sky,
And commune with majestic thoughts that shine
And did all fail thee, &c.
* * *
Lift the dread veil no further! hide, oh hide
See but the Avenger's arm, forgot th' Atoner's love.'-p. 18. We must venture upon one extract more. It is from a part of the poem in which the writer is supplicating for the aids which Heaven alone can bestow to sustain her at the hour of death; and she naturally and truly asserts that that hour is most awful and distressing to unsupported nature.
In the pride
A closing triumph, a majestic scene,
Where gazing nations watch the hero's mien,