Imágenes de páginas

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,
Where Tuscan temples crown'd the hills of Rome,

Or Sion's courts enclosed the holiest dome :

Where reign'd the God whose service thrills these towers;
Or where mankind had analysed his powers,
Impersonated each, with fancy warm,
Enshrined, and imaged in an idol's form.
When fears, or thanks, or man's insatiate love
To fathom fate and question Heaven above,
On marble steps bow'd supplicating knees;
Where ranks of columns reared on high a frieze,
Which crown'd the temple with a bossy zone,

Of white-robed priests and warriors horsed in stone,
And scenes of opening heaven in pediments were shown.
In front an altar blazed: and hark! with drums,
And clarion's sound, and song, a victim comes:
Some spotless lamb, or heifer white as milk,
Or bull with golden horns array'd in silk.
High peals the choral hymn-responses swell-
Maids quire with youths; and, issuing from the cell,
Stoled in procession, priests descend the stairs,
With garlands, wands, and sacramental prayers;
And compassing the altar, hail, and lead,
With slacken'd cord, the offering up to bleed.
Till then the victim seem'd a thing of earth,
For God's and man's communion nothing worth:
But, silence, all! and hence! profaners, hence!
The oblation now begins, the rites commence.
Bright censers swing! sweet incense mounts the sky,
Vows follow after-Heaven is summon'd nigh.
Lo! when, with ritual works, the girdled priest
Has veil'd his brow, and fronting toward the East,
With hands, first bathed, above the victim spread,
Devoted, hymning as he smites, the head-
'I hallow thee by incense, wine, and bread :'
And mingling blood with incense, bread, and wine,
Transform'd their essence to a sacred sign,
And made all consecrate-made all divine:
Then, then, an expiation came to pass,
An host was shown, a mystery, and a mass:
Death's agonies were witness'd-cups imbued
With blood were tasted, and a feast ensued."

"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:
Devolved from fountains far beyond our reach,
Profound as matter's-dark as those of speech:
Yet spread like them, the same in various modes,
Through all religions, liturgies, and codes;

Famed through all climates, stamp'd on every breast.
How came it thither? Why and whence imprest?
Sprung forth these rites spontaneous from the sod?

Then whence? Who placed them here? Who made them ?—God.
Yes, these blest heritage of all mankind,

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
Some primal temple-fragments of a wreck,
Which witness, drifting o'er the seas of time,

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.
This shall endure through every age and clime,
Till the last angel soar and sound the doom of time."

These extracts will, of themselves we
think, go far to justify the high opin-
ion we have already expressed of the
author's powers, and they will have
prepared you to expect something
extraordinary in the Chapter- House.

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,
Or dream'd awake; but one there was who wept.
Alas! young monk, what withering loss or sin
Has struck that gentle cheek, so pale and thin?
And oh what dire misdeed, or dread mishap,
Yoked to thy neck the collar of La Trappe?
With vows, on bitterest roots to make thy fare,
Thy night half vigil, all thy morning prayer;
With bloody scourge to discipline thy breast,
To clothe in thorny shirt and steely vest,
To use no lodging but a darksome cave,
No labour but to dig thy daily grave,

And never more give words with man a breath,
Save these, Memento mori !-think of death!'

[ocr errors]

"Can this be he whose forehead bram'd as day?
Whose heart's high sallies Heaven alone could sway?
Who vied alike to cheer the sport of fools,
Grace pilgrim choirs, and triumph in the schools?
At moot, no voice with deeper thought could roll;
In song, none sweeter thrill to woman's soul,
Whose snowy breast beat measure to his strain,
And glancing eyes shot after him, in vain :
Whether pride fenced his bosom from their dart,
Or mask'd unworthy flames that wrapt his heart.
For high his birth, though youth obscurely past;
Till haughtiest kinsmen own'd his worth at last;
Earl Esher's towers his nephew's entrance hail'd-
But, ah! Heaven call'd him, and its voice prevail'd!"

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
La Trappe."

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
and mace,

Pole-axe and pillar borne before his face,
Of hoary locks, but eye that darted fire
From beetling brows, beneath his forky

In purple robe, with rocket and a cope-
Lord Primate of the realm, Lord Legate
of the Pope."

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-
The cloister, paved with tombstones of the dead,
And paved with stones, which yet no letters show,
Where they, who muse above, shall mould below.
For them the chapter-house unfolds its gate.
Eight were its walls, and o'er its angles eight,
Eight arches, springing to the zenith, groin'd,
Bow'd to one pillar in the midst, and join'd;
Whose shoulders, towering from the floor, alone
Heaved up and held the firmament of stone.
And pictured saints discoursed from windows seven,
And seers approved their mission graced by Heaven,
Whose beams, thus hallow'd by the scenes they pass,
Told round the floor each parable of glass.

"Through files the primate enter'd tow'rd his chair;
Bow'd to the cross above it, murmuring prayer;
(Lest sin, beleagu'ring sin, the heart surprise,
Corrupt its ward, or pass in virtue's guise;
For subtle are the fiends within to steal,
By reason's proud or pity's kind appeal):
Then gain'd his throne, on oaken steps upheld,
High canopied, and carved with tales of eld:
Low on each side his suffragans had seat;
The rest were rank'd on benches at his feet.
All still'd, his Grace-brief stating what the cause,
These clerks, profound in Holy Church's laws,
Met to assist,-commanded those who ought,
To bring for doom who waited to be brought.

"Near the west wall, a flag-stone long and wide,
With rings, was roll'd by warders four aside;
A flame was lit; a trap-door upward thrown;
And twain with keys went down a hundred steps of stone.
Scrolls, in the mean, above the bar were spread,
By scribes, before the synod robed in red;

Below, there throng'd, dividing for a way,
Priests of all orders, white, and black, and grey.
The nearest peering down the shaft terrene;
Where torches, lost awhile, again were seen:
Whose bearers, re-ascending, led their charge.
"Young, comely, tall beyond her years, and large,
Yet delicately shaped, and finely nerved,—

Her form, though shatter'd, still that charm preserved,

Which marks a mould and temper well combined
To lodge all grace and energy of mind.
With faltering step, and hand held forth to lean,
Anxious and dark and melancholy mien :
She, wildly rising from the womb of earth,
Seem'd not of English, scarce of mortal, birth.
A robe of woollen, coarse and black, compress'd
Around her waist, and ample o'er the breast,
Hung to her feet; her neck and arms unveil'd;
Broad lofty forehead; cheek depress'd and paled;
Nose of an eaglet's daring; lips beneath

Curved o'er a wall of strong and pearly teeth-
Lips curved to sternness, but with angles prest
In dimples faint to elegance and rest;
While, from her brow dividing, flow'd behind
Her raven hair, uncurl'd, and unconfined,
Save by what moved some shudder of surmise-
Folds of white linen plaited round her eyes."

"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,
(Although so pallid was her hue,
It did a ghastly contrast bear
To those bright ringlets glistering fair,)
Her look composed, and steady eye,
Bespoke a matchless constancy;
And there she stood so calm and pale,
That, but her breathing did not fail,
And motion slight of eye and head,
And of her bosom, warranted
That neither sense nor pulse she lacks,
You might have thought a form of wax,
Wrought to the very life, was there;
So still she was, so pale, so fair."
Jeffrey says well, "The picture of
Constance before her judges, though
more laboured, is not, to our taste, so
pleasing; though it has beauty of a kind
fully as popular." It is laboured, but
not successfully-its beauty is not
without some flaws--and, worst of all,
the chief image is fatal to the pathos.
What is that? You might have thought
her "a form of wax!" And what then
if ye had? Of all creations of art
the most uninteresting to us-and we
hope to you-are "wax-works." This
at least is certain, that a wax woman
is under no imaginable circumstances
so interesting as a flesh and blood one
-and that to make us feel terror and
pity for Constance, the poet had no
need to call in the aid of Madame Tus-
saud. Strange and unaccountable to us
how such a poet-with such a vision

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!

[ocr errors]

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,
The living cause of Hugo's ill;

Her eyes unmoved, but full and wide,
Not once had turn'd to either side-
Nor once did those sweet eyelids close,
Or shade the glance o'er which they rose,
But round their orbs of deepest blue
The circling white dilated grew-
And there with glassy gaze she stood
As ice were in her curdled blood;
But every now and then a tear,
So large and slowly gather'd, slid
From the long dark fringe of that fair

It was a thing to see, not hear!
And those who saw, it did surprise,
Such drops could fall from human eyes.
To speak she thought--the imperfect note
Was choked within her swelling throat,
Yet seem'd in that low hollow groan,
Her whole heart gushing in the tone."

"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


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


« AnteriorContinuar »