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A VERY POOR THING.
and it appears to require as delicate a management to make a man a good poet by the help of the one, as to make him a good companion by means of the other. In both cases, a little mistake as to the dose or the quality of the inspiring fluid may make him absolutely outrageous, or lull him over into the most profound stupidity, instead of brightening up the hidden stores of his genius: and truly we are concerned to say, that Mr. Wordsworth seems hitherto to have been unlucky in the choice of his liquor — or of his bottle holder. In some of his odes and ethic exhortations, he was exposed to the public in a state of incoherent rapture and glorious delirium, to which we think we have seen a parallel among the humbler lovers of jollity. In the Lyrical Ballads, he was exhibited, on the whole, in a vein of very pretty deliration ; but in the poem before us, he appears in a state of low and maudlin imbecility, which would not have misbecome Master Silence himself, in the close of a social day. Whether this unhappy result is to be ascribed to any adulteration of his Castalian cups, or to the unlucky choice of his company over them, we cannot presume to say. It may be that he has dashed his Hippocrene with too large an infusion of lake water, or assisted its operation too exclusively by the study of the ancient historical ballads of “the north countrie.' That there are palpable imitations of the style and manner of those venerable compositions in the work before us, is indeed undeniable; but it unfortunately happens, that while the hobbling versification, the mean diction, and flat stupidity of these models are very exactly copied, and even improved upon, in this imitation, their rude energy, manly simplicity, and occasional felicity of expression, have totally disappeared; and, instead of them, a large allowance of the author's own metaphysical sensibility, and mystical wordiness, is forced into an unnatural combination with the borrowed beauties which have just been mentioned.
The story of the poem, though not capable of furnishing out matter for a quarto volume, might yet have made an interesting ballad; and, in the hands of Mr. Scott or
STORY OF THE POEM,
Lord Byron, would probably have supplied many images to be loved, and descriptions to be remembered. The incidents arise out of the short-lived Catholic insurrection of the Northern counties, in the reign of Elizabeth, which was supposed to be connected with the project of marrying the Queen of Scots to the Duke of Norfolk; and terminated in the ruin of the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, by whom it was chiefly abetted. Among the victims of this rash enterprise was Richard Norton of Rylstone, who comes to the array with a splendid banner, at the head of eight tall sons, but against the will and advice of a ninth, who, though he refused to join the host, yet follows unarmed in its rear, out of anxiety for the fate of his family; and when the father and his gallant progeny are made prisoners, and led to execution at York, recovers the fatal banner, and is slain by a party of the Queen's horse near Bolton Priory, in which place he had been ordered to deposit it by the dying voice of his father. The stately halls and pleasant bowers of Rylstone are then wasted, and fall into desolation; while the heroic daughter, and only survivor of the house, is sheltered among its faithful retainers, and wanders about for many years in its neighbourhood, accompanied by a beautiful white doe, which had formerly been a pet in the family; and continues, long after the death of this sad survivor, to repair every Sunday to the churchyard of Bolton Priory, and there to feed and wander among the graves, to the wonder and delight of the rustic congregation that came there to worship.
This, we think, is a pretty subject for a ballad ; and, in the author's better day, might have made a lyrical one of considerable interest. Let us see, however, how he deals with it, since he has bethought him of publishing in quarto.
The First Canto merely contains the description of the Doe coming into the churchyard on Sunday, and of the congregation wondering at her. She is described as being as white as a lily-or the moon
-or the moon-or a ship in the sunshine; and this is the style in which Mr. Words
THE DOE- - AND THE HARP.
worth marvels and moralises about her through ten quarto pages.
“What harmonious, pensive changes,
The mothers point out this pretty creature to their children; and tell them in sweet nursery phrases “Now
who have seen the famous Doe!
And she will depart when we are gone.” The poet knows why she comes there, and thinks the people may know it too: But some of them think she is a new incarnation of some of the illustrious dead that lie buried around them; and one, who it seems is an Oxford scholar, conjectures that she may be the fairy who instructed Lord Clifford in Astrology! an ingenious fancy, which the poet thus gently reproveth
Ah, pensive scholar! think not so !
But look again at the radiant doe!” And then closes the Canto with this natural and lumi. nous apostrophe to his harp.
· But, harp! thy murmurs may not cease, -
A tale of tears, a mortal story!” The Second Canto is more full of business; and affords us more insight into the author's manner of conducting a story. The opening, however, which goes back to the
- AND DISCONTENTED EARLS.
bright and original conception of the harp, is not quite so intelligible as might have been desired.
· The harp in lowliness obey'd :
Of love, upon a hopeless earth.” This solitary maid, we are then told, had wrought, at the request of her father, “ an unblessed work”
A Banner — one that did fulfil
The five dear wounds our Lord did bear.” The song then proceeds to describe the rising of Northumberland and Westmoreland, in the following lofty and spirited strains:
“ Two earls fast leagu'd in discontent,
This Banner," &c. The poet, however, puts out all his strength in the dehortation which he makes Francis Norton address to his father, when the preparations are completed, and the houshold is ready to take the field.
“Francis Norton said,
A just and gracious queen have we,
And live at home in blissful ease. The warlike father makes no answer to this exquisite address, but turns in silent scorn to the banner,
· And his wet eyes are glorified ;" and forthwith he marches out, at the head of his sons and retainers.
Francis is very sad when thus left alone in the mansion — and still worse when he sees his sister sitting under a tree near the door. However, though “he cannot choose but shrink and sigh,” he goes up to her and says,
•Gone are they, — they have their desire ;
He paused, her silence to partake,
That soul of conscientious daring.'” After a great deal more, as touching and sensible, he applies himself more directly to the unhappy case of his hearer — whom he thus judiciously comforts and flatters;
“ Hope nothing, if I thus may speak
To thee a woman, and thence weak; VOL. II.