Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Meadows

rack

cessful and abiding things, are noticeable A rural church; some scattered cottage roofs, for their delicacy of fancy and feeling, Silently wreathing through the breezeless air, their perfection of melody, and their Ascended, mingling with the summer sky;

A rustic bridge, mossy and weather-stained; frequent play on the same strain of sen

A fairy streamlet, singing to itself; timent, “mournfully reverting to the And here and there a venerable tree happy days of boyhood, wailing for de- In foliaged beauty—of these elements,

And only these, the simple scene was formed. solate and disconsolate love, or symbolizing man's fate by the decay of the

Such gold-gaps and patches of green year.” Though he wrote much, he im- and blue take precedence of paintproved to the last, adding to the expe- ing, because while they present literal riences of his ripening years, a fuller transcripts of the scenes of nature, they tone of thought; while his heart lost suggest by a few broad touches, human none of its youthful freshness, but con- thoughts and feelings of a kindred tone, tinued young in sentiment to the very and carry both the mental and the visual last.

eye to scenes far away. These things His poetry has two prime excellences. the painter cannot accomplish — the It is full of true domestic feeling, chas- limit to his expression is the edge of tened into a tender spirituality, by reli- his canvass. Right well could he sing gious faith and trust, and of descriptions of of scenery equal to the productions of any writer of the present century. What

And palm-tree shadows, could excel in picturesqueness the follow- And bee-hive cones, and a thymy hill,

And greenwood mazes, ing, from the “Fowler:"

And greensward daisies,

And a foamy stream, and á clacking mill; Now day with darkness for the mastery strove: The stars ha I waned away-all, save the last And fairest, Lucifer, whose silver lamp, for it was the spirit of his love and life In , "Nid the far west, where, through the clouds of to cling to all things gentle, and beau

tiful, which could minister to the high Floating around, peep'd out at intervals spirituality of his simple nature, wheA patch of sky; straightway the reign of night Was finished, and, as if instinctively,

ther green trees, or glad birds, or tender The ocean flocks, or slumbering on the wave flowers, or rosy-cheeked children; for Or on the isles, seem'd the approach of dawn

his heart was a stranger to sordid symTo feel ; and, rising from afar were heard Shrill shrieks and pipings desolate—a pause pathies, and his genius sought kindred Ensued, and then the same lone sounds return'd, with the homely and the heart-warming. And suddenly the whirring rush of wings Went circling round us o'er the level sands,

Though so much that he has written Then died away; and, as we look'd aloft, will soon be forgotten, his “ Domestic Between us and the sky we saw a speck Of black upon the blue-some huge, wild bird,

Verses,” his “Elegiac Effusions," and Osprey or eagle, high amid the clouds

a few of his sonnets and his prose tale, Sailing majestic, on its plumes to catch

Mansie Wauch,” will live for ever as The earliest crimson of the approaching day.

productions worthy of the author of

Casa Wappy.” True to his fine heart is the lesson of humanity taught him by the slaughter the Poetical Literature of the Last

Delta's last work, the “ Lectures on which he and the Fowler there com- Half Century,” requires a brief notice mitted on the wild flocks of sea birds.

before we conclude this paper. This is Soul-sicken'd, satiate, and dissatisfied, a book of wholesome, manly criticism; An alter'd being homewards I return'd, not free from errors of judgment, or My thoughts revolting at the thirst for blood, So brutalizing, so destructive of

entirely purged of prejudice, yet conThe finer sensibilities which man In boyhood owns, and which the world destroys. far from detracting, only exhibit his

taining errors and prejudices which, so Nature had preached a sermon to my heart: And from that moment, on that snowy morn generous enthusiasm and goodness of (Seeing that earth enough of suffering has,

heart; and are and death)--all cruelty my soul abhorr'd,

as creditable, in a Yea, loathed the purpose and the power to kill. poetical sense, as if they were charac

teristics of perfection. Himself a poet, There is a little sketch in his poem and on terms of intimacy with many of on “Thomson's Birth Place,” so short, the living writers whose works it was sweet, and sunny, that it might be placed his duty to criticise, it is pleasing that beside one of Wilson's, or Watteau's, or he has discharged his task in so geneMoreland's pictures, as a literary tran- rous and independent a manner, so that script of Nature's own outlines and co- we can well afford to forgive him for his lours; it is this;

few blunders,

[ocr errors]

In criticising the works of the writers Another prejudice, long cherished respectively comprised within the period and stoutly maintained, was that strange under consideration, the genial cha- conception of the nature and office of racter of Delta's mind evinces itself in poetry which placed it in opposition to the most pleasing manner. His dis- the revelations of science, as a creation tinctions are delicate, and his summings so distinct and remote from facts, as to up exhibit great breadth of appreciation, be in danger of annihilation in this age fulness of reading, and considerable of philosophical inquiry and precision. power of analysis. He has a keen eye This idea Hashes out frequently in his for borrowed lines, and all degrees of poems, but is expounded in full force in plagiarism. He hits off the character- the last of these lectures, In his “Reistics of the several authors by spark- miniscences of Boyhood " he saysling epigrammatic comparisons, so pi

The leaden talisman of truth, quant in spirit, so kindly in tone, as to

Hath disenchanted of its rainbow hues provide a mélange of light reading, side The sky, and robbed the fields of half their

flowers. by side with the most solid estimates of modern poetical literature. But the book has two besetting sins.

And in another he expresses the wishThese are the classification of poets as

And be my mind

To science, when it deadens, blind. to merit and style, and the enunciation of what we regard as a most unphilo- Though we have not room to discuss sophical idea in regard to the relations this question here, nor if we had, would and objects of poetry itself

. Some of it perhaps be fit we should; yet, we Delta’s estimates are accurate and just, may dismiss the point by stating our and especially when they concern mi- opinion that science and poetry may nute particulars; but when he attempts harmoniously march together; the one to arrange the poets in the order of their widening the field of man's physical respective positions in literature, he and mental triumphs, the other minismakes (we think) some decisions so erro- tering to the requirements of his moral neous as to verge on the ludicrous. nature; both necessary elements of his What does the reader think of his character and life. If science teaches placing Sir Walter Scott “ alone and us to regard as fictions many of the above all” in the list of modern poets creations of the mind which so long above Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge; have been the truths of poetry; if she above Campbell, Keats, Shelly, Tenny, discards the witches and their infernal son! "I at once put him far beyond broth; the seers, the demons, the fairies, Byron, Wordsworth, or any other com- and all the spells of a necromancy petitor for supremacy, on a throne by which has perished; she, at the same, the side of Shakspere.” And again, “I enlarges the sphere of man's thought challenge one instance from the whole and wonder ; lifts him nearer to the history of literature, where that popu- Creator by an inspiration drawn from larity, whether slow or sudden, which the Creator's works; and so provides a was not deserved, has continued to en- region of new idealities wherein the dure; and assuredly Scott's must, while creatures of poetry and imagination a single human heart continues to may find "room and verge enough” to beat." In poetry, there can be little develope each its particular form of ground for disputing that Scott was, to a being. Whatever increases man's knowconsiderable extent, extinguished by ledge of nature and himself, increases Byron, whose genius took a higher flight the domain of true poetry, by the prointo regions where Scott's less ample duction of a series of images and perwing would not carry him; and now, sonalities peculiar to the new life which Scott is least read of any of the seven has arisen ; and it must be the task of whose names are believed, by Delta, to imagination to adapt itself continually have been eclipsed by him. Scott's to the new conditions of existence, and immortality rests on his prose fictions, not to cling in sadness and tears and only the most partial nationality to perishing idols, merely because there could have prompted Delta to place his was once a time when they were worpoems“ alone and above all on a shelf shipped with hearts of devotion and by the side of Shakspere."

with eyes of faith

240

66

SIR THOMAS MORE. BIOGRAPHY may be compared to a lamp parts and unimpeached integrity; wearperpetually burning before the niche ing the robes of a judge, and doubly exwhich contains the effigy of a great man. alted, in his old age, by seeing his son If it be feeble and dim, the image re- the Chancellor of England. Few of his mains half-shadowed; but if it throw a maxims, nevertheless, have been befull and brilliant light, the figure and queathed; though one axiom matriface of the dead are reflected in lumi- monial all chroniclers have thought prenous relief from the chiaroscuro of the cious enough to be preserved.

The past. Through the works in which our choice of a wife," said the forensic sage, ancestral master-spirits have embalmed " is like dipping your hand into a bag their minds for immortality, they“ rule full of snakes, with only an eеl among our spirits from their urns;" but through them: you may happen to light upon the groves of the historical academy, the eel, but it is a hundred to one that they become visible as the lights to you are stung by a snake.” Sincere or which a hundred centuries may look not in this profession, Sir John three back for warning or example. Sir times risked the venom, for so many THOMAS MORE was one whose works times did he marry, and died at last, were dedicated to the future, but whose aged ninety, not like Cleopatra, by blood was shed for the past; in morals, warming an asp upon his breast, but a philosopher, mounting far above his from feasting too luxuriously on grapes. time; in religion, an enthusiast, cling- Thomas was by his first wife, who reing to superstitions by which an usurp, lated to her physicians a dream, which, ing church had profaned and polluted in that credulous age, obtained the the pure faith first preached abroad by credit of a prophecy. She had, she the fishers of Galilee. In depicting his said, a vision of all her children, and character, writers have sometimes con- among them was one whose countefounded the office of the historian with nance shone with a superior brightness. that of the funeral orator, or the partizan This was Thomas. He was born in of a hostile creed. There have, how- Milk-street, London, in 1480; the ever, been temperate and candid pens twentieth year of Edward the Fourth's employed in delineating his career, reign. Anecdotes are related of his which appears indeed so conspicuously infancy, prophetic of a future greatness; in the annals of his age, that we find, but they are nurses' gossip, too puerile without unusual difficulty, the colours to be preserved. He was early placed to paint him for our biographical at St. Anthony's Free School, an an. gallery.

cient foundation, in ThreadneedleOf the stem from which he sprung, street, where, among other eminent his autographical epitaph declares the men, Whitgift and Heath had received truth, he was of an honourable but not their education. There, as he tells illustrious birth. Sir John More, the himself, he rather greedily devoured father, is supposed to have been de- than leisurely chewed his grammar scended remotely from an Irish stock; rules; but stayed only for a short while, but all the family papers being seized for his father had interest enough to after the attainder of the son, history is procure him admission into the family without the means of verifying this fact. of Cardinal Morton. This method of However, we look for no pedigree in education was then much in vogue, the author of Utopia.” He was at though considered the privilege of once the flower and the fruit of his noblemen's sons. The Cardinal, howe genealogical tree. No ancestral lustre ever, among all his patrician students gave an early glory to his name. His had none so illustrious as Thomas merits were original and personal—not More, who afterwards drew a generous derivative; and heralds would have bla- portrait of him in his “Utopia, zoned him dimly in their books, since as in his “History of Richard III.”. they, as Burke has phrased it, seek no His policy crowned Henry in place of further for virtue than in the preamble his usurper, and united the Houses of of a patent or the inscription of a tomb. the Red and White Rose; and his taSir John, however, who was born about lents elevated him to the triple honours the year 1440, figured as a lawyer of fine of an Archbishop's mitre, Chancellor's

as well

seal and a Cardinal's hat; yet we re-exalted offices of life-to marry, to be a member him less admiringly for these, faithful husband, a good father, and a pathan for the share he had in training to triot, active in the service of his country. maturity the rare and fruitful genius of More entered Parliament at twentythe Judge's son. He predicted of him one, and soon distinguished himself by that whoever lived to watch him grow an eloquence which the senate timidly up, would see a marvellous man; for applauded, though the Court resented it young More gave an early earnest of fiercely. For he was not a palace his capacity. In the Christmas plays agent, and once roused the Commons he took part among the actors, and to refuse a subsidy, imperiously decharmed audiences of no common sort manded of them by the Crown. One by the sparkle of his unpremeditated of the Privy Council went to the King wit; he devised pageants for the amuse- and told him," that a beardless boy had ment of his companions; drew inge- overthrown his purpose.” Even then, nious pictures, and wrote beneath them however, the sovereign dared not openly verses which he need never have been attack the representatives, but satisfied ashamed to own.

his pique by inventing a quarrel against To cultivate this sprouting geniùs, the young orator's father, from whom he the Cardinal sent him, at seventeen extorted, in the Tower, a fine of £100. years of age, to Oxford, where he re- To coerce the son, nevertheless, was mained two years. Rhetoric, logic, and found impossible, so a bishop was emphilosophy chiefly occupied his mind, ployed to cajole him, which was equally with the classics, and especially Greek, futile ; for Thomas refused the flatteries though that language of the original by which they sought to corrupt him, Muses was not then commonly studied and continued to study the arts of eloin this country. From the university quence, and to acquire that authority he came to New Inn, to read for the of learning which might give him a dolaw, where his father allowed him an minion over the minds of other men. income so scanty, and exacted from him He studied the lives of the pious, and so particular an account of his expenses, resolved to copy the virtue of Pius of that he could scarcely dress with de- Mirandula, whose works he then transcency. More, however, applauded in- lated and published. But in their celistead of blaming this conduct, for it bacy he could not persuade himself to kept him from luxurious habits which imitate the Fathers of the Roman Church; engender vice, and he was himself of an for wisely he judged, that it was better to ascetic disposition. At about twenty, live chastely with a wife, than licentiously indeed, he began to practise the morti- as a priest, and to move purely in the fications of a cloister, wearing a hair- light of day, than to brood, bat-like, in shirt next his skin, which he never put the obscurity of those catacombs, where aside even under the Chancellor's er- monks and hermits wasted their bodies, mine. In 1500, he was appointed and petrified their souls. reader in Furnival's Inn, holding that He wrote for advice to the scholarly office for three years, and publicly lec- Dean Colet, founder of St. Paul's School, turing on religious topics in St. Law- which, as an inroad into the camp of rence's Church, Old Jewry. Thither the ignorance, More afterwards compared learned of the metropolis flocked,and, as to the horse of Troy. Colet, who loved Erasmus' Epistles inform us, were not his disciple, and spoke of him as the ashamed to derive addition to their only wit in England, bade him marry; sacred wisdom from the youthful lay- and this he did, with Jane, eldest man. At the expiration of his term of daughter of John Cotte, of New Hall, in office, he felt a strong attraction towards Essex. She was a very young girl, with the solitude of a monastic life, and lived none of her native simplicity concealed four years near the Chapter House, and by art; and More, at twenty-seven rigidly performed all the spiritual exer- years of age, made her his wife. His cise and penance of a Carthusian friar. first affection, indeed, had chosen her What determined him not to join any sister; but, as he quaintly thought, it monkish community, was the general would be a shame and wrong for the elder relaxation of discipline which, to his to see the younger preferred, “he from grief, he saw; and thus, fortunately, he a certain pity framed his fancy to her, was saved from the Hypogæan darkness and soon after married her.” Settling in of a celibatical cell, to perform the most a house in Bucklersbury, be continued

R

the practice of the law, and carried on his crown, instead of a worse despot correspondence with many eminent men who cajoled and trampled on them all of his day. Among these, the most dis- --the more fagitiously, in proportion tinguished was Erasmus, who, after as they put their trust in him. More many mutual letters, came to England, in consonance with the general sentiexpressly to see his friend. They met ment, as well as with the fashion of at the Lord Mayor's table, and it was the day, wrote a coronation ode to this contrived that they should fall into con- prince, and his queen. Henry VIII, versation before they were introduced. was indecent enough to rejoice in Erasmus was astonished by the logic gratulations showered on him at the exand wit of the young stranger, who did pense of his father, for it was part of not fear to dispute with him, as on his character to revenge upon others equal terms, and at length exclaimed, with inhuman severity, the crimes most “Aut tu Morus es, aut nullus ?" To congenial to his own predilections. this More readily replied, " Aut tu es Soon after the accession of the king, Erasmus, aut Diabolus."*

More was appointed an under-sheriff of More's poetical writings at this time, the City of London. As a lawyer, too, were, by contemporaries, admired as he became famous, earning "without elegant and pure, but though he was a scruple of conscience,” upwards of master of rhetoric, and the English £400 a year, which was equal to six language had been restored to a classic times the amount now. There was strength, these compositions were alto- scarcely a great suit in which he was gether languid and diffuse. There is not employed, for the fame of his learndiscoverable in them, indeed, a logical ing and eloquence circulated rapidly force, and no little mixture of philoso- through every part of the kingdom. He phy, but the style is prolix, and the was twice, in 1512 and 1515, appointed ideas are lost in an overlaboured rotun- reader to Lincoln's Inn, and assiduousdity of diction. His path, however, ly buried his mind amid the unexplored was not yet to be among the myrtle treasury of knowledge, which the revishaded ways of literature. The politi- val of letters had thrown open to cal system of England was then in research. But while these fruitful that troubled state which is the fore- cares occupied his attention, the offices runner of change, and the rapid pas- of friendship were not forgotten. Erassage of authority from hand to hand, mus had dedicated to him his celebrated tended not to allay the rising commo- Praise of Folly, and now satirists rose tion. Already the young lawyer had up to depreciate the works of that proseen four kings upon the throne, had found and versatile scholar. They had been persecuted by one of them, and long pelted at him the flippant epigrams he was now witness to the universal inspired from wine cups, but at length joy that greeted the coronation of Dorpius compounded an attack on the Henry VIII. Youthful, handsome, Moriæ Encomium, to which More unopulent, prodigal, and, for a prince, dertook a reply. The philosopher himwell educated, the monarch promised self retorted mildly on his young and to become anything, but the sordid, ductile assailant, with whom he lived cruel, and licentious wretch he proved. in friendliness for many years after; The people cheered their hearts, by but the under-sheriff analyzed his dishoping for milder laws; the nobles quisition, and exposed it to Europe as flattered him with praises, in anticipa a mixture of ignorance, scurrility, and tion of a splendid reign; the clergy malevolence, and the ability of his Latin exalted him as the anointed of God's epistle on this subject won him general vicar on earth, and all joined in ap- applause, plaudingas virtues, or excusing as Six years after his marriage, More ephemeral foibles, the words and the lost his first wise, and three years afteractions of the new monarch. Rejoicing wards he took a second - Alice Middlein one tyrant's death; they exulted as ton, a widow with one daughter. It is though magnanimity itself had inherited acknowledged that he wedded her less

from any particular affection, than on * If the reader knows Latin, he will be indignant if we translate this. If he does not, he will be in account of the necessity to have some dignant if we don't. Loosely, then, Erasmus said, one in his household to care for his "If thou art anyone thou art More;" to which More children. Neither young nor beautireplied, “If thou art not the devil, thou art Erasmus,"

ful, neither rich nor of fine qualities,

« AnteriorContinuar »