« AnteriorContinuar »
God has received his sacrifice for sin,
And all are ransom'd who partake therein :
As signs by faith received from Heaven attest.
Ye, who believe, depart, repentant, shriven and blest."
Thus it has been through every age and clime-said the Preacher-and thus he illustrates the awful meaning, "in each tradition solemnly enshrined." "Ere shepherds hail'd the choir in heaven descried,
Or kings to Bethlehem traced their starry guide:
Alike, where Egypt raised gigantic piles,
Where Greece with Dorian porches graced her isles,
Or Sion's courts enclosed the holiest dome :
Where reign'd the God whose service thrills these towers;
Of white-robed priests and warriors horsed in stone,
"And thus it was through every clime and age.
But why? but whence? Interrogate the sage!
Whence these opinions? Man's? Who first conceived,
Where preach'd, how made by other men believed
Opinions, man's self-interest so restricts,
Pity abhors, and reason contradicts?
Confess! each source, each origin, ye trace,
Is lost in high primordials of our race:
Famed through all climates, stamp'd on every breast.
Then whence? Who placed them here? Who made them ?—God.
In each tradition solemnly eashrined
These have come down from human nature's birth,
Relics of Heaven's first testament to earth;
Ruins whose structure proves them used to deck
A fabric lost, how spacious, how sublime!"
When time gave Christ incarnate birth, THE WORD wrought a twofold work on earth-revived that lost Apocalypse, and perfected its rites-and thus cries the fervent Preacher
"And thus it shall be through each clime and age,
Let scorners mock it, let the scorning sage
Dispute, let HERESY, let HELL assail
Against this rock, their gates shall not prevail.
These extracts will, of themselves we
But ere we enter that dark Divan, our attention is directed to one young monk, who, while others approved, or censured, or dozed, or dreamed, during the sermon, wept! Who was he, and whence his tears?
"And some approved, some censured, others slept,
And never more give words with man a breath,
"Can this be he whose forehead bram'd as day?
His birth, we are told, was high, though his youth obscurely passed; and in some lines, hardly intelligible, (light is thrown on them afterwards,) we are given to understand that he had been
converted during a night of dreadful and mysterious tempest.
"From that dread night, he changed in voice and brow,
Christ all his hope, the cloister all his vow:
Whose silent fold shall hence thy sorrows
Fitz-Hugh of Merton erst, now Phillip of
We are made to feel that this Trappist is deeply concerned in what is about to happen-and that is good; but why he is here, we are informed in language that to us can only be perplexing, or rather teasing-and that is bad; a mystery should be spoken of mysteriously—and in general termswhereas in this passage it is partly detailed-the poet being in possession of certain facts, some of which he cannot help letting out too circumstantially, while, in the pride of superior knowledge, others he keeps provokingly under his thumb.
But we are now on our way to the Chapter House-and you see the procession "stern Arundel their sovereign" following all
Propp'd on a staff, with pomp of cross
Pole-axe and pillar borne before his face,
In purple robe, with rocket and a cope-
Great pains have been taken-and successfully-to awaken interest in the business about to be done by the brethren, and that interest now gradually deepens into tragic passion.
"Silent and slow the cloister's court they tread-
"Through files the primate enter'd tow'rd his chair;
"Near the west wall, a flag-stone long and wide,
Below, there throng'd, dividing for a way,
Her form, though shatter'd, still that charm preserved,
Which marks a mould and temper well combined
Curved o'er a wall of strong and pearly teeth-
"Folds of white linen plaited round her eyes." This line gives a dreadful hint; and her few words are incoherent, as she is led up along the lane of the throng, and takes her stance behind a chain.
Compare this with the celebrated picture of Constance in the penitential aisle.
"When thus her face was given to view,
before him, evoked so vividly by his own strong imagination, could have suffered the very life and soul of it all to escape, at the time when his own feelings, one would have thought, must have been at the utmost pitch of inten⚫ sity-how he could have all at once so cooled them down, as to give permission to his fancy to play with an image so poor and passionless!
The passage is not well written— there is no exquisite choice of words. "That, but her breathing did not fail," is very awkward-" and of her bosom, warranted," still more so-" That neither sense nor pulse she lacks," is painfully prosaic-and though poetic passion indulges in repetition, not in such repetition as “ although so pallid was her hue," "so calm and pale," so pale, so fair." The last line is in itself good-but how much better had it been without the previous "pallid," and "calm," and "pale!" Had it imaged Constance as she stood there-flesh and blood, about to be buried alive in stone and mortar-and we had not been reminded that there was such a substance as wax in the world!
Byron says in one of his letters :– "I sent for Marmion, because it occurred to me there might be a resemblance between part of Parisina, and a similar scene in the second canto of Marmion. I fear there is, though I never thought of it before. I wish you would ask Mr Gifford whether I ought to say any thing upon it. I had completed the story on the passage from Gibbon, which indeed leads to a like scene naturally, without a thought of the kind; but it comes upon me not very comfortably." Byron's obliga
tions-in his poetry-to Scott are innumerable and great-as Mr Lockhart has boldly said in the Life-and it needed not "to come upon him not very comfortably," nor was there the least occasion in the world for him to apply to Mr Gifford. The scene in Parisina is, beyond all doubt, imitated, with his Lordship's usual skill, from that in Marmion-inimitable though that is said to be; and is faulty and imperfect.
"She stood, I said, all pale and still,
Her eyes unmoved, but full and wide,
It was a thing to see, not hear!
"The living cause of Hugo's ill" is a wretched line; "or shade the glance o'er which they rose" is as bad as possible, "glance" being the very reverse of the expression given to Parisina's eye throughout the passage
a glassy gaze;" as ice were in her curdled blood" is, we think, common-place, and not needed there; "from the long dark fringe of that fair lid" is elaborate, and may be very
admirable; but why" that fair lid," and not "those fair lids?" You may think that a trifling question, but a good writer never departs from the natural language of men without a sufficient reason. 66 Eyes unmoved," "sweet eyelids," "orbs of deepest blue," "that fair lid," "human eyes," should not have occurred within so short a compass. "It was a thing to see not hear," is a most unhappy and ungrammatical plagiarism from Christabelle." A sight to dream if not to tell;" and those who saw, it did surprise," is true Sternhold, and no mistake. And why it did surprise" them "that such drops could fall from human eyes," does surprise us; for human eyes were made for weeping, as human hearts for suffering, and the biggest drop that the law of gravitation will let gather there, is but a transient token of the endless misery welling up in a region visible but to God. The imperfect note" is insufferable-as of one essaying not to speak but to sing; and the two closing lines, though taken on the rough, forcible, are far from being what they ought to be-and if poetry be, as Coleridge called it, "the best words in the best places," they are not poetry; for what kind of collocation of words is" in that low hollow groan gushing in the tone?"
Turn back then from these celebrated pictures by two of the great masters, to that of Anne Ayliffe by an artist as yet almost unknown, Nicholas Thirning Moile, and tell us if you do not think it equal to either of them in conception-in execution superior?
But the trial is about to begin.
"Be silent," cries the apparitor," and hear! And Phillip of La Trappe, press not so near! Thy hood had better hide those streamy cheeks. Peace, ho attend! His Grace the Primate speaks!" The Primate, we find in Weaver, who follows Godwin, at the age of two-and-twenty years was consecrated Bishop of Ely, which he laudablie governed-considering the greennesse of his age the space of fourteene years, three weeks, and eighteene days. In which time he was Lord Chancellour of England; from Ely he was translated to Yorke; leaving for an implement at his house of Ely, a wonderfull, sumptuous, and costly table, adorned with gold and precious
NO. CCLXXXVIII, VOL, XLVI.
stones, which belonged first to the King of Spaine, and was sold to this Bishop by the Black Prince, for three hundred merks. Hee also bestowed the building of the great gatehouse of Ely-house in Houlborne: during his abode at Yorke, which was about eight years, he bestowed much in building upon divers of his houses, and unto the church. Besides many rich ornaments, he gave two great basons of silver and gilt, two great censers, two other basons of silver, and two