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fine bursts of poetry. The experiment convinced him, that to bestow popularity on this tutonic minstrelsey, it would be necessary to give it the polish of modern improvements. This he accomplished in the "Lay of the Last Minstrel." The desire of novelty, which the Thalaba of Southey had but partially abated, was now gratified; and Scott was hailed as an original genius, who had struck out a new road to the summit of Parnassus, when, in truth, he had but smoothed and decorated one, which had been abandoned for ages as too rugged. The reputation which Thalaba was gradually acquiring, for its eccentric but spirited resistance of the French domination, was now superseded by the reputation of the "Lay," a poem, which if it had been equal to its rival in other particulars, possessed, in its subject, more active causes of popularity with the English nation. The subject was, in the first place, British, and thus enlisted in its favour national partialities: it was then the lay of a minstrel, and the name of a minstrel was associated with the enchantments of youthful love, with the charms of rural retreats, and with what was tender, romantic, and musical; and finally, the subject was the chivalrous feats of “barons bold and ladies gay;" and the very mention of the "age of chivalry”—when a thousand swords would leap from their scabbards at the call of beauty-was of itself sufficient to kindle the imagination.

In addition to the subject, another cause of the popularity of the "Lay" must be sought for, in the originality of its versification. It is a problem, not to be resolved, but after repeated experiments, what particular measure is adapted to the nature. of a language. The hexameter verse was adopted by the Greeks and Romans, as suited to the majesty of their tongue, abounding in pollysyllables, and these, marked accurately by quantity; but the attempt failed, of Jodelle in France, and Sydney in England, to introduce into the poetry of their respective countries this metre, Dante modelled the Italian verse into lines of eleven syllables; Poliziano, and some preceding writers, moulded these lines into stanzas; with which Spencer, with partial success, endeavoured to trammel the freedom of English poetry: and the example of Spencer has been perversely followed by some later writers. But Milton, and the poets of his age, practically proved that it

was the heroic verse of ten syllables, composed of iambic and trochaic feet, which accorded best with the genius of our language; and Dryden and his successors wrought to perfection the rhymed couplets of the same measure. Since the days of Pope, talents and industry made no experiments to discover whether the capacities of our verse admitted of any other movement and measure, until Mr. Southey presented, in his Thalaba, a specimen of blank verse, not divided into equal lines, which possessed as much harmony, melody, and expression, as any that had preceded it. Mr. Scott, in his "Lay," adopted in rhyme the same irregularity of versification; and this abandonment of ancient standards is not without its reason. When a poet may diversify his numbers, he will not be compelled to debilitate his verse by drawling epithets, nor to discard the most appropriate expressions, because they are discordant to his metre; he may give to his poem greater richness of harmony and more variety of cadence; he may relieve our poetry from that monotony occasioned by its uniform closes of sense and music, and which becomes prodigiously tedious in a long work; and finally, he may inspirit his poetry by that high excellence which is termed expression or a consonance, between the movements of the verse and the emotions of the mind. These remarks apply with their principal force to blank verse: and we do not say that Mr. Scott

• To show how the harmony and melody of verse may be increased, by not compelling a poet to construct all his lines of equal feet, we quote an anonymous writer of some age, after first observing, that melody and harmony depend upon accents and pauses, and that accent cannot be properly observed unless in a succession of three syllables. "When a single syllable is cut off from the rest, it must either be united to the line with which the sense connects it, or be sounded alone. If it be united to the other line, it corrupts the harmony; if disjointed, it must, with regard to music, be superfluous; for there is no harmony in a single sound, because it has no proportion to another."

"Hypocrites austerely talk,

"Defaming as impure what God declares

"Pure; and commands to some leaves free to all."

"When two syllables, likewise, are abscinded from the rest, they evidently want some associated sounds to make them harmonious:"

"He ended, and the sun gave signal high

"To the bright minister that watch'd, he blew

"His trumpet."

It will be perceived, at once, that if Milton had been allowed to form the four last words of this passage into a single line, the objection would have been ob. viated.

in the "Lay," and especially Mr. Southey, in his "Curse of Kehama," do not vary the length of their lines capriciously, which we have no hesitation in condemning as a radical error. Rhyme necessarily breaks up the verse into couplets, and harmony requires that the lines of these couplets should be of nearly equal lengths. With rhyme, therefore, we should have regular arrangements, unless we are compensated for irregularity by some high reasons. But before concluding this detail of the causes of Mr. Scott's popularity, we fondly believe we should mention, as one, the exhibition of that feracity and vigour of those rich and unrepressed sallies of the imagination, which distinguish our earlier writers, and which it was refreshing to encounter after so long an absence. We were not, in his works, assaulted by false refinements, classical affectations, and laboured nothings; but he gave scope and liberty to his genius, and did not, as in our gardens at Harrowgate, and in the true spirit of the continental taste, clip the luxuriance of his growths into pyramids and cones, and compel his streams to meander by the compass. These old writers are so truly English, and amidst all their faults, have so many redeeming virtues, that, although they stand at the very vestibule of our literature, they should be considered as having fixed the model of any after structures; and therefore, whatever fabrics other poets may subsequently raise, the merit of them will depend upon their concordance with the standard at the entrance of the building, as the proportions of our ancient temple were always modelled from the diameter of the pillar.

Rokeby, Mr. Scott's last poem, and to which it is full time to introduce our readers, combines most of the qualities, which originally gave him popularity; but a story, four times told, is calculated to cloy upon the taste. This poem is somewhat in a lower tone than his former publications. It is, indeed, not so disconnected as the "Lay," nor so unequal as "Marmion;" but, neither does it possess so much loveliness as the first of those pieces, nor so much vigour as the second. To the "Lady of the Lake," it is, in all respects, inferior. With portions of it marked by labour, its general character is that of indolence and precipitation--blanks in the narrative, imperfect rhymes, and lines VOL. II.


running into each other. There is in it some nice discrimination of character, and some scenes of soft and mellowed affection. But the character is shown rather in delineation than in action, and the whole poem presents an evenness of surface, without much high enchasing of distinguished parts. There are, however, few lovers of poetry who can lay down the work before they have finished it. This arises from the peculiar talent of Mr. Scotthe has opened in it that fountain of interest which flows through and distinguishes all his works--he has given it a spirit, fire and alacrity; and a bold and dashing career, which neither stops nor hesitates, but pushes onward to its end with an undeviating vehemence.

The poems of Scott are so much alike, that the character of one is the character of all: and this character consists in an union of the qualities, of all the different species of poetry, whose history we have already detailed. He has taken for his foundation the ancient romance, with some of its rudeness, and has built upon it much of the force and feeling of the English taste, and the grace and lightness of the French, and the tawdry elegance of the modern--so that his poem resembles one of those ancient buildings, which has been repaired, in the style, and with the materials of each successive age, till, at length, it combines every order and variety of architecture--Grecian, Roman, Gothic and novel. We do not say that Mr. Scott has nothing of his own: to him belongs the higher powers of the archi-, tect, which gives to his materials, whatever be their value or consistence, such forms and dispositions as powerfully to affect the mind. Indeed the first impression of his works is full of force; but when the emotion produced by his prominent beauties has subsided, and you come back to him with a critical examination, you discover that he has been labouring in worthless matter. It is this discordance between the first effect, and the after examination, which originates that discordance between his readers and his critics. The ladies have been his most enthusiastic admirers, and the ladies, it is said, are apt to resign themselves to the delusion of first impressions: but if the coldness of criticism is ever warmed by his powers, the pride and the habits of this censor provoke him, on a second perusal, to analize the causes of the pleasures he receives. This investi

gation develops, that the descriptions are too minute, that the characters are too common, that the feeling is superficial, that the taste is often rude, that the diction is often showy--and that it is nothing but a singularity of talent, nothing but the magic of genius, which could breathe a life into this dead matter; and which makes it assume an harmonious arrangement, like the stones of Thebes to the lyre of Amphion. But whatever be his faults, Scott has attained his object; and he is a poet of no ordinary merit who can achieve his aims. He has bestowed upon the forgotten romances of the Troubadours a grace and popularity--he has given us characteristical drawings of feudal manners--charmed us by graphical delineations of romantic scenery--hurried our spirits by descriptions of desperate adventures and daring characters--and moulded into form our vagrant fancies of ancient chivalry and knightly courtesy. These topics Scott has touched with a master's hand; and they are topics formed to win him the favour of minds of an ordinary contexture; but it does appear, that these topics have about them too much of obtrusion, and noise, and bustle, to affect what are called poetic souls with a deep and permanent interest. There is no profound feeling in Scott-no wanderings amidst the sequestered shades of the imagination-no soarings into the regions of ideal perfection-none of those delicate touches, which, after the immediate picture of the poet has vanished, can lead off the soul into a train of sweet emotions, and leave a glow upon the mind, like the flush upon the clouds after the descent of the sun. But we must hasten back to Rokeby:

On a stormy summer's night, the clouds racking over the face of the moon, tinctured the towers of Bernard, and the stream of the Tees, with varying hues. Her light seemed now to glow with the blush of shame, and now it darkened into anger-the shifting shade resembled, at one moment, the hurry of apprehension, and then, the dim livery of sorrow, and then, it died into darkness, like despair. The confusion of these murky shadows were rivalled by the emotions that agitated the bosom of stern Oswald whom the towers of Bernard enclosed. Long had he striven to compose his weary linmbs to rest; but when sleep came, it was to give conscience power to call her furies forth,

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