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466 LORD BYRON — PRISONER OF CHILLON.
The gentle decay and gradual extinction of this youngest life, is the most tender and beautiful passage
in the poem.
“But he, the favorite and the flow'r,
last calamity, he is allowed to be at large
in the dungeon.
“And it was liberty to stride
PRISONER OF CHILLON. 467
And round the pillars one by one,
He climbs up at last to the high chink that admitted the light to his prison; and looks out once more on the long-remembered face of nature, and the lofty forms of the eternal mountains. “I saw them—and they were the same, They were not chang'd like me in frame; I saw their thousand years of snow On high—their wide long lake below, And the blue Rhone in fullest flow; I heard the torrents leap and gush O'er channell'd rock and broken bush' I saw the white-wall'd distant town, And whiter sails go skimming down; And then there was a little isle, Which in my very face did smile, The only one in view A small green isle; it seem'd no more, Scarce broader than my dungeon floor, But in it there were three tall trees, And o'er it blew the mountain breeze, And by it there were waters flowing, And on it there were young flow'rs growing, Of gentle breath and hue. The fish swam by the castle wall, And they seem'd joyous, each and all; The eagle rode the riding blast; Methought he never flew so fast As then to me he seem'd to fly.”
The rest of the poems in this little volume, are less amiable — and most of them, we fear, have a personal and not very charitable application. One, entitled “Darkness,” is free at least from this imputation. It is a grand and gloomy sketch of the supposed consequences of the final extinction of the Sun and the Heavenly bodies—executed, undoubtedly, with great and fearful force—but with something of German exaggeration, and a fantastical selection of incidents. The very conception is terrible, above all conception of known calamity — and is too oppressive to the imagination, to be contemplated with pleasure, even in the faint reflection of poetry.
“The icy earth
468 LORD BYRON — DARKNESS.
Cities and forests are burnt, for light and warmth.
“The brows of men by the despairing light
Then they eat each other: and are extinguished!
“—The world was void, The populous and the powerful was a lump, Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless — A lump of death — a chaos of hard clay ! The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still, And nothing stirr'd within their silent depths; Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea, And their masts fell down piecemeal: As they dropp'd They slept on the abyss without a surge– The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave, The moon their mistress had expir’d before; The winds were wither'd in the stagnant air, And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need Of aid from them — She was the universe.” There is a poem entitled “The Dream,” full of living pictures, and written with great beauty and genius– but extremely painful — and abounding with mysteries into which we have no desire to penetrate. “The Incantation” and “Titan" have the same distressing character —though without the sweetness of the other. Some stanzas to a nameless friend, are in a tone of more open misanthropy. This is a favourable specimen of their tone and temper. “Though human, thou didst not deceive me, Though woman, thou didst not forsake, Though lov'd, thou foreborest to grieve me, Though slander'd, thou never couldst shake, Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me, Though parted, it was not to fly,
Though watchful, 'twas not to defame me,
Beautiful as this poetry is, it is a relief at last to close
HIS SORROWS NOT FICTITIOUS. 469
the volume. We cannot maintain our accustomed tone of levity, or even speak like calm literary judges, in the midst of these agonizing traces of a wounded and distempered spirit. Even our admiration is at last swallowed up in a most painful feeling of pity and of wonder. It is impossible to mistake these for fictitious sorrows, conjured up for the purpose of poetical effect. There is a dreadful tone of sincerity, and an energy that cannot be counterfeited, in the expression of wretchedness and alienation from human kind, which occurs in every page of this publication; and as the author has at last spoken out in his own person, and unbosomed his griefs a great deal too freely to his readers, the offence now would be to entertain a doubt of their reality. We certainly have no hope of preaching him into philanthropy and cheerfulness; but it is impossible not to mourn over such a catastrophe of such a mind; or to see the prodigal gifts of Nature, Fortune, and Fame, thus turned to bitterness, without an oppressive feeling of impatience, mortification and surprise. Where there are such elements, however, it is equally impossible to despair that they may yet enter into happier combinations, – or not to hope that “this puissant spirit”
“yet shall re-ascend Self-raised, and repossess its native seat."
47() MooRE's LALLA RookH.
Lalla Rookh; an Oriental Romance. By THOMAs MooRE. 4to. pp. 405. : London, 1817.
THERE is a great deal of our recent poetry derived from the East: But this is the finest Orientalism we have had yet. The land of the Sun has never shone out so brightly on the children of the North–nor the sweets of Asia been poured forth, nor her gorgeousness displayed so profusely to the delighted senses of Europe. The beauteous forms, the dazzling splendours, the breathing odours of the East, seem at last to have found a kindred poet in that Green Isle of the West; whose Genius has long been suspected to be derived from a warmer clime, and now wantons and luxuriates in those voluptuous regions, as if it felt that it had at length regained its native element. It is amazing, indeed, how much at home Mr. Moore seems to be in India, Persia, aud Arabia; and how purely and strictly Asiatic all the colouring and imagery of his book appears. He is thoroughly embued with the character of the scenes to which he transports us; and yet the extent of his knowledge is less wonderful than the dexterity and apparent facility with which he has turned it to account, in the elucidation and embellishment of his poetry. There is not, in the volume now before us, a simile or description, a name, a trait of history, or allusion of romance which belongs to European experience; or does not indicate an entire familiarity with the life, the dead nature, and the learning of the East. Nor are these barbaric ornaments thinly scattered to make up a show. They are showered lavishly over all the work; and form, perhaps, too much, the staple of the poetry — and the riches of that which is chiefly distinguished for its richness. We would confine this remark, however, to the de