Imágenes de páginas

warranted to play at this game, though they have not whiskers. Have you a fiddle in the Settlement, or, at any rate, a Jew's-harp which will play in spite of one's teeth? When you have nothing else to do for a whole day, I'll tell you how you may employ it : first get up, and when you are dressed, as it would be pretty early, with a high wind in the woods, give George a cold pig, with my compliments, then you may saunter into the nearest coffeehouse, and after taking a dram and a look at the "Chronicle," go and frighten the wild bears on the strength of it. You may as well bring one home for breakfast, serving up the hoofs, garnished with bristles, and a grunt or two, to accompany the singing of the kettle. Then, if George is not up, give him a colder pig, always with my compliments. After you have eaten your breakfast, keep your eye upon dinner, it is the safest way; you should keep a hawk's eye over your dinner, and keep hovering over it till due time, then pounce upon it, taking care not to break any plates. While you are hovering with your dinner in prospect, you may do a thousand things-put a hedge-hog into George's hat, pour a little water into his rifle, soak his boots in a pail of water, cut his jacket round into shreds, like a Roman kilt, or the back of my grandmother's stays, tear off his buttons—

The following poem, the last I have written, is the first and only one with which I have taken even moderate pains; I have, for the most part, dashed off my lines in a hurry; this one I have done leisurely; I think it reads the more richly for it, and it will I hope encourage me to write other things in even a more peaceable and healthy spirit. You must recollect that Psyche was not embodied as a goddess before the time of Apuleius the Platonist, who lived after the Augustan age, and consequently the goddess was never worshipped or sacrificed to with any of the ancient fervor, and perhaps never thought of in the old religion: I am more orthodox than to let a heathen goddess be neglected.

(Here follows the "Ode to Psyche" already published.)

I have been endeavoring to discover a better Sonnet stanza than we have. The legitimate does not suit the language well, from the pouncing rhymes; the other appears too elegiac, and

the couplet at the end of it has seldom a pleasing effect. I do not pretend to have succeeded. It will explain itself:

"If by dull rhymes our English must be chained," &c.*

This is the third of May, and every thing is in delightful forwardness: the violets are not withered before the peeping of the first rose. You must let me know every thing, now parcels go and come- -what papers you have, and what newspapers you want, and other things. God bless you, my dear brother and sister,

Your ever affectionate brother,

The family of George Keats in America possess a Dante covered with his brother's marginal notes and observations, and these annotations on "Paradise Lost," appeared in an American periodical of much literary and philosophical merit, entitled "The Dial;" they were written in the fly-leaves of the book, and are in the tone of thought that generated "Hyperion."


"THE genius of Milton, more particularly in respect to its span in immensity, calculated him by a sort of birth-right for such an argument as the 'Paradise Lost.' He had an exquisite passion for what is properly, in the sense of ease and pleasure, poetiçal luxury; and with that, it appears to me, he would fain have been content, if he could, so doing, preserve his self-respect and feeling of duty performed; but there was working in him, as it were, that same sort of thing which operates in the great world to the end of a prophecy's being accomplished. Therefore he devoted himself rather to the ardors than the pleasures of son lacing himself, at intervals, with cups of old wine; and those are, with some exceptions, the finest parts of the poem. With some exceptions; for the spirit of mounting and adventure can never be unfruitful nor unrewarded. Had he not broken through


* See the "Literary Remains.”

the clouds which envelop so deliciously the Elysian fields of verse, and committed himself to the extreme, we should never have seen Satan as described.

" But his face

Deep scars of thunder had entrenched,' &c.

"There is a greatness which the Paradise Lost' possesses over every other Poem, the magnitude of contrast, and that is softened by the contrast being ungrotesque to a degree. Heaven moves on like music thoughout.

"Hell is also peopled with angels; it also moves on like music, not grating and harsh, but like a grand accompaniment in the bass to Heaven.

[ocr errors]

"There is always a great charm in the openings of great Poems, particularly where the action begins, as that of Dante's Hell. Of Hamlet, the first step must be heroic and full of power; and nothing can be more impressive and shaded than the

commencement here :

'Round he throws his baleful eyes
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,

Mixed with obdurate pride and stedfast hate;' &c.
Par. Lost, Book I., 1. 56.

"To slumber here, as in the vales of heaven.'

Book I., 1. 321.

"There is a cool pleasure in the very sound of vale. "The English word is of the happiest chance [choice]. Milton has put vales in Heaven and Hell with the very utter affection and yearning of a great Poet. It is a sort of Delphic abstraction, a beautiful thing made more beautiful by being reflected and put in a mist. The next mention of 'vale' is one of the most pathetic in the whole range of poetry.

'Others more mild
Retreated in a silent valley, sing,
With notes angelical, to many a harp,

Their own heroic deeds and hapless fall
By doom of battle! and complain that fate
Free virtue should inthrall to force or chance.
Their song was partial; but the harmony
(What could it less when spirits immortal sing?)
Suspended hell, and took with ravishment
The thronging audience.'

Book II,, l. 547.

"How much of the charm is in the word valley!

“The light and shade, the sort of black brightness, the ebon diamonding, the Ethiop immortality, the sorrow, the pain, the sad sweet melody, the phalanges of spirits so depressed as to be ‘uplifted beyond hope,' the short mitigation of misery, the thousand melancholies and magnificencies of the following lines leave no room for any thing to be said ther but so it is.'

That proud honor claimed
Azazel as his right, a cherub tall,
Who forthwith from the glittering staff unfurled
The imperial ensign, which, full high advanced,
Shone like a meteor streaming to the wind,
With gems and golden lustre rich emblazed,
Seraphic arms and trophies; all the while
Sonorous metal blowing martial sounds;
At which the universal host up-sent

A shout, that tore hell's concave, and beyond
Frighted the reign of Chaos and old Night.
All in a moment through the gloom were seen
Ten thousand banners rise into the air
With orient colors waving; with them rose
A forest huge of spears; and thronging heims
Appeared, and serried shields in thick array,
Of depth immeasurable; anon they move
In perfect phalanx to the Dorian mood
Of flutes and soft recorders; such as raised
To height of noblest temper heroes old
Arming to battle; and instead of rage
Deliberate valor breathed, firm and unmoved
With dread of death to flight or foul retreat;
Nor wanting power to mitigate and suage
With solemn touches troubled thoughts, and chase
Anguish, and doubt, and fear, and sorrow, and pain
From mortal or immortal minds. Thus they

Breathing united force, with fixed thought,
Moved on in silence to soft pipes, that charmed
Their painful steps o'er the burnt soil; and now
Advanced in view they stand, a horrid front
Of dreadful length and dazzling arms, in guise
Of warriors old with ordered spear and shield,
Awaiting what command their mighty chief
Had to impose.'

Book I., 1. 533-567.

"How noble and collected an indignation against kings, line 595, Book 1st. His very wishing should have had power to pluck that feeble animal Charles from his bloody throne. The evil days had come to him: he hit the new system of things a mighty mental blow; the exertion must have had, or is yet to have, some sequences.

"The management of this poem is Apollonian. Satan first 'throws round his baleful eyes,' then awakes his legions; he consults, he sets forward on his voyage, and just as he is getting to the end of it, see the Great God and our first Parent, and that same Satan, all brought in one vision; we have the invocation to light before we mount to heaven, we breathe more freely, we feel the great author's consolations coming thick upon him at a time when he complains most; we are getting ripe for diversity; the immediate topic of the poem opens with a grand perspective of all concerned.

"Book IV. A friend of mine says this book has the finest opening of any; the point of time is gigantically critical, the wax is melted, the seal about to be applied, and Milton breaks out,


O for that warning voice,' &c.

There is, moreover, an opportunity for a grandeur of tenderness. The opportunity is not lost. Nothing can be higher, nothing so more than Delphic.

« AnteriorContinuar »