Sidor som bilder
[merged small][ocr errors]

TIIoMAs Noon TALFound is a native of Reading, and was born about the year 1796. He was educated at a grammar school under Dr. VALpy, and in 1811, while yet a student in the classics, he published his first volume of poems. One of these early compositions is “On the Brotherhood of Mankind,” and another on “The Education of the Poor.” They won for him the acquaintance and friendship of Lord BRough AM, who advised him to work his way through literature to the bar. He studied his profession under Mr. Chitty, whom he assisted in his great work on the Criminal Laws. His earlier essays as an author were several pamphlets on religion and politics, and, in 1815, “An Attempt to Estimate the Poetical Talent of the Present Age.” He was called to the bar by the society of the Middle Temple in 1821, and in 1834 he was elected to Parliament, from his native town, by a large majority of all parties. He was returned again in 1839, but declined being a candidate in 1841. Previous to the publication of his great dramatic poem, he was only known on this side of the Atlantic as the author of various critical articles in the “New Monthly Magazine,” the “Edinburgh Review,” the “Encyclopedia Metropolitana,” and the “Retrospective Review,” written with much grace of style, and abounding in metaphor and illustration. He was the fiend of LAMe, HAzlitt, HUNT, and the other members of the literary coterie of which they formed a part, and has repeatedly borne testimony to their genius and character, even at those periods when to praise some of them was to participate in their unpopularity. Of all the authors of the present age, however, he seems to have the most veneration for Wordsworth. He has poured forth the full wealth of his own mind in illustrating the poetry and poetical character of his idol. The publication of “Ion” gave him an immediate reputation both in Great Britain and in this country, a reputation which promises to be lasting. The two tragedies he has since produced, “The Athenian Captive,” and “Glencoe,” though of much merit, have

been overshadowed by the fame of his first effort. TALFound has earned the gratitude of men of letters by his celebrated defence of Moxon, who was prosecuted as the publisher of ShelLEY, and for his advocacy of the rights of authors, in various speeches in the House of Commons on the copyright question. His writings, whether in prose or verse, bear the marks of patient meditation and careful correction. They display a fine temper, large attainments, an affluent imagination, and great richness and fulness of diction. Few works of the age are characterized by such purity of thought, or display a deeper love and reverence for beauty and goodness. The mildness of his disposition, his tenderness of feeling and sentiment, the calm, brooding spirit diffused over his compositions, and his tendency to overload his diction with glittering words and images, have subjected him, at times, to the charge of effeminacy and euphaism; but there is no lack of true power discernible in him, if we pass behind the profuse ornaments of his style, to the thought and emotion they are intended to decorate. No recent age has produced in England more fine dramatic poetry than the present.

Of the acted dramatists, TALFourd, Bulwer,

and KNow LEs have been most successful. It is wonderful, considering the condition of the stage, that the faultless, classical poetry of “Ion” was received with such applause. BRow NING, author of “Paracelsus” and “Strafford,” MARstoN, author of the “Patrician's Daughter,” and others, have written pieces full of passionate and imaginative poetry, but failed of audience, except in the closet, and after a few efforts, unsuccessful with the managers, have abandoned the dramatic for the epic or lyric forms of composition. A collection of TALFourD’s “Critical and Miscellaneous Writings,” comprising all his more important contributions to the literary magazines, was published by Carey and Hart in 1843, and about the same time Moxon brought out in London a complete edition of his tragedies and minor poems. 297



Ovn gentle Charles has pass'd away, -
From earth's short bondage free,

And left to us its leaden day
And mist-enshrouded sea.

Here, by the restless ocean's side, Sweet hours of hope have flown, When first the triumph of its tide * Seem'd omen of our own.

That eager joy the sea-breeze gave, When first it raised his hair,

Sunk with each day's retiring wave, Beyond the reach of prayer.

The sun-blink that through dazzling mist,
To flickering hope akin,

Far waves with feeble fondness kiss'd,
No smile as faint can win;

Yet not in vain with radiance weak The heavenly stranger gleams—

Not of the world it lights to speak, But that from whence it streams.

That world our patient sufferer sought,
Serene with pitying eyes,

As if his mounting spirit caught
The wisdom of the skies.

With boundless love it look'd abroad
For one bright moment given,

Shone with a loveliness that awed,
And quiver'd into heaven.

A year made slow by care and toil
Has paced its weary round,

Since death's enrich'd with kindred spoil
The snow-clad, frost-ribb'd ground.

Then Lamb, with whose endearing name Our boy we proudly graced,

Shrank from the warmth of sweeter fame Than ever bard embraced.

Still 't was a mournful joy to think
Our darling might supply

For years on earth, a living link
To name that cannot die.

And though such fancy gleam no more On earthly sorrow's night,

Truth's nobler torch unveils the shore Where lends to both its light.

The nurseling there that hand may take None ever grasp'd in vain,

And smiles of well-known sweetness wake, Without their tinge of pain.

Though 'twixt the child and childlike bard Late seem'd distinction wide,

They now may trace, in Heaven's regard, How near they were allied.

Within the infant's ample brow
Blythe fancies lay unfurl’d,

Which, all uncrush'd, may open now
To charm a sinless world.

Though the soft spirit of those eyes
Might ne'er with Lamb's compete—

Ne'er sparkle with a wit as wise,
Or melt in tears as sweet,

That calm and unforgotten look
A kindred love reveals

With his who never friend forsook
Or hurt a thing that feels.

In thought profound, in wildest glee,
In sorrow's lengthening range,

His guileless soul of infancy
Endured no spot or change.

From traits of each our love receives
For comfort nobler scope;

While light which childlike genius leaves
Confirms the infant's hope:

And in that hope with sweetness fraught
Be aching hearts beguiled,

To blend in one delightful thought
The poet and the child.



How simple in their grandeur are the forms That constitute this picture! Nature grants Scarce more than sternest cynic might desire— Earth, sea, and sky, and hardly lends to each Variety of colour; yet the soul Asks nothing fairer than the scene it grasps And makes its own for ever! From the gate Of this home-featured inn, which nestling cleaves To its own shelf among the downs, begirt With trees which lift no branches to defy The fury of the storm, but crouch in love [ceive Round the low snow-white walls whence they reMore shelter than they lend—the heart-soothed guest Views a furze-dotted common, on each side Wreath'd into waving eminences, clothed Above the furze with scanty green, in front Indented sharply to admit the sea, Spread thence in softest blue—to which a gorge, Sinking within the valley's deepening green, Invites by grassy path; the eastern down, Swelling with pride into the waters, shows Its sward-tipp'd precipice of radiant white, And claims the dazzling peak beneath its brow Part of its ancient bulk, which hints the strength Of those famed pinnacles that still withstand The conquering waves, as fortresses maintain'd By death-devoted troops, hold out awhile After the game of war is lost, to prove The virtue of the conquer’d—Here are scarce Four colours for the painter; yet the charm Which permanence, mid worldly change, confers


Is felt, if ever, here; for he who loves
To bid this scene refresh his inward eye
When far away, may feel it keeping still
The very aspect that it wore for him,
Sure changed by time or season: autumn finds
Scant boughs on which the lustre of decay
May tremble fondly; storms may rage in vain
Above the clumps of sturdy furze, which stand
The forest of the fairies; twilight gray
Finds in the landscape's stern and simple forms
Naught to conceal; the moon, although she cast
Upon the element, she sways a track
Like that which slanted through young Jacob's sleep
From heaven to earth, and flutter'd at the soul
Of shadow's mighty painter, who thence drew
Hints of a glory beyond shape, reveals
The clear-cut framework of the sea and downs
Shelving to gloom, as unperplex'd with threads
Of pallid light, as when the summer's noon
Bathes them in sunshine; and the giant cliffs
Scarce veiling more their lines of flint, that run
Likeveins of moveless blue, through theirbleak sides,
In moonlight than in day, shall tower as now
{. when some moss's slender stain shall break
nto the samphire's yellow in mid air,
To tempt some trembling life) until the eyes
Which gaze in childhood on them shall be dim.
Yet deem not that these sober forms are all
That Nature here provides, although she frames
These in one lasting picture for the heart.
Within the foldings of the coast she breathes
Hues of fantastic beauty. Thread the gorge
And, turning on the beach, while the low sea
Spread out in mirror'd gentleness, allows
A path along the curving edge, behold
Such dazzling glory of prismatic tints
Flung o'er the lofty crescent, as assures
The orient gardens where Aladdin pluck'd
Jewels for fruit no fable—as if earth,
Provoked to emulate the rainbow's gauds
In lasting mould, had snatch'd its floating hues
And fix'd them here; for never o'er the bay
Flew a celestial arch of brighter grace
Than the gay coast exhibits; here the cliff
Flaunts in a brighter yellow than the stream
Of Tiber wasted; then with softer shades
Declines to pearly white, which blushes soon
With pink as delicate as autumn's rose
Wears on its scattering leaves; anon the shore
Recedes into a fane-like dell, where stain'd
With black, as if with sable tapestry hung,
Light pinacles rise taper: further yet
Swells out in solemn mass a dusky veil
Of purpled crimson.--while bright streaks of red
Start out in gleam-like tint, to tell of veins
Which the slow-winning sea, in distant times,
Shall hare to unborn gazers.
- If this scene
Grow too fantastic for thy pensive thought,
Climb either swelling down, and gaze with joy
On the blue ocean, pour'd around the heights,
As it embraced the wonders of that shield
Which the vow'd friend of slain Patroclus wore,
To grace his fated valour; nor disdain
The quiet of the vale, though not endow’d

With such luxurious beauty as the coast
Of Undercliff embosoms:—mid those lines
Of scanty foliage, thoughtful lanes and paths,
And cottage roofs find shelter; the blue stream,
That with its brief vein almost threads the isle,
Flows blest with two gray towers, beneath whose
The village life sleeps trustfully, whose rites [shade
Touch the old weather-harden'd fisher's heart
With child-like softness, and shall teach the boy
Who kneels, a sturdy grandson, at his side,
When his frail boat amidst the breakers parts
To cast the anchor of a Christian hope
In an unrippled haven. Then rejoice,
That in remotest point of this sweet isle,
Which with fond mimicry combines each shape
Of the great land that, by the ancient bond
Sea-parted once, and sea-united now)
inds her in unity—a spirit breaths
On cliff, and tower, and valley, by the side
Of cottage-fire, and the low grass-grown grave,
Of home on English earth, and home in heaven!



The blessings which the weak and poor can scatter Have their own season. "Tis a little thing To give a cup of water; yet its draught Of cool refreshment, drain’d by fever'd lips, May give a shock of pleasure to the frame More exquisite than when nectarean juice Renews the life of joy in happiest hours. It is a little thing to speak a phrase Of common comfort which by daily use Has almost lost its sense; yet on the ear Of him who thought to die unmourn'd 't will fall Like choicest music; fill the glazing eye With gentle tears; relax the knotted hand To know the bonds of fellowship again; And shed on the departing soul a sense More precious than the benison of friends About the honour’d death-bed of the rich, To him who else were lonely, that another Of the great family is near and feels.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The fame of those pure bards whose faces lie
Like glorious clouds in summer's calmest even,
Fringing the western skirts of darkening heaven,
And sprinkled o'er with hues of rainbow dye,
Awakes no voice of thunder, which may vie
With mighty chiefs' renown;–from ages gone,
In low, undying strain, it lengthens on,
Earth's greenest solitudes with joy to fill,—
Felt breathing in the silence of the sky,
Or trembling in the gush of new-born rill,
Or whispering o'er the lake's undimpled breast;
Yet blest to live when trumpet-notes are still,
To wake a pulse of earth-born ecstasy
In the deep bosom of eternal rest.


Ion, our sometime darling, whom we prized
As a stray gift, by bounteous Heaven dismiss'd
From some bright sphere which sorrow may not cloud
To make the happy happier! Is he sent
To grapple with the miseries of this time,
Whose nature such ethereal aspect wears
As it would perish at the touch of wrong?
By no internal contest is he train'd
For such hard duty; no emotions rude
Hath his clear spirit vanquish'd; Love, the germ
Of his mild nature, hath spread graces forth,
Expanding with its progress, as the store
Of rainbow colour which the seed conceals
Sheds out its tints from his dim treasury,
To flush and circle in the flower. No tear
Hath fill'd his eye save that of thoughtful joy,
When, in the evening stillness, lovely things
Press'd on his soul too busily; his voice,
If, in the earnestness of childish sports,
Raised to the tone of anger, check'd its force,
As if it fear'd to break its being's law,
And falter'd into music; when the forms
Of guilty passion have been made to live
In pictured speech, and others have wax'd loud
In righteous indignation, he hath heard
With sceptic smile, or from some slender vein
Of goodness, which surrounding gloom conceal d,
Struck sunlight o'er it; so his life hath flow'd
From its mysterious urn a sacred stream,
In whose calm depth the beautiful and pure
Alone are mirror'd; which, though shapes of ill
May hover round its surface, glides in light,
And takes no shadow from them.

[ocr errors][merged small]

YE eldest gods, Who in no statues of exactest form Are palpable; who shun the azure heights Of beautiful Olympus, and the sound Of ever-young Apollo's minstrelsy ; Yet, mindful of the empire which ye held Over dim Chaos, keep revengeful wrath On falling nations, and on kingly lines About to sink for ever: ye, who shed Into the passions of earth's giant brood And their fierce usages the sense of justice; Who clothe the fated battlements of tyranny With blackness as a funeral pall, and breathe Through the proud halls of time-embolden'd guilt Portents of ruin, hear me!—In your presence, For now I feel ye nigh, I dedicate This arm to the destruction of the king And of his race; O keep me pitiless: Expel all human weakness from my frame, That this keen weapon shake not when his heart Should feel its point; and if he has a child Whose blood is needful to the sacrifice My country asks, harden my soul to shed it!— Was not that thunder


0 winning pathways, o'er whose scanty blades Of unaspiring grass mine eyes have bent So often when by musing fancy sway’d, That craved alliance with no wider scene o Than your fair thickets border'd, but was pleased To deem the toilsome years of manhood flown, And, on the pictured mellowness of age | Idly reflective, image my return | From careful wanderings, to find ye gleam With unchanged aspect on a heart unchanged, | And melt the busy past to a sweet dream s As then the future was;–why should ye now Echo my steps with melancholy sound As ye were conscious of a guilty presence? The lovely light of eve, that, as it waned, Touch'd ye with softer, homelier look, now fades In dismal blackness:–and yon twisted roots Of ancient trees, with whose fantastic forms My thoughts grew humorous, look terrible, As if about to start to serpent life, And hiss around me —whither shall I turn ?— Where fly —I see the myrtle-cradled spot Where human love, instructed by divine, Found and embraced me first; I'll cast me down Upon that earth as on a mother's breast, In hope to feel myself again a child.

[ocr errors][merged small]

The names that slow oblivion have defied,
And passionate ambition's wildest shocks
Stand in lone grandeur, like eternal rocks,
To cast broad shadows o'er the silent tide -
Of time's unebbing flood, whose waters glide |
To ponderous darkness from their secret spring,
And, bearing on each transitory thing, - |
Leave those old monuments in loneliest pride.
There stand they—fortresses uprear'd by man,
Whose earthly frame is mortal; symbols high
Of power unchanging, thought that cannot die;
Proofs that our nature is not of a span,
But of immortal essence, and allied
To life and joy and love unperishing.


With no cold admiration do I gaze Upon thy pomp of waters, matchless stream' But home-sick fancy kindles with the beam That on thy lucid bosom faintly plays, And glides delighted through thy crystal ways, Till on her eye those wave-fed poplars gleam, Beneath whose shade her first ethereal maze She fashion'd; where she traced in clearest dream Thy mirror'd course of wood-enshrined repose Besprent with island haunts of spirits bright; And widening on—till, at the vision's close, Great London, only then a name of might For childish thought to build on, proudly rose A rock-throned city clad in heavenly light.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

determined to devote his time to poetry. Mr. CHARLEs Cowden CLARKE, editor of “The Riches of Chaucer,” introduced him to LEIGH HUNT, then proprietor of the “Examiner,” in which appeared the first poems he ever published. “I shall never forget,” writes Mr. HUNT, “the impression made upon me by the exuberant specimens of genuine, though young, poetry, which were laid before me, the promise of which was seconded by the fine, fervid countenance of the writer.” They soon became very intimate. “We read and walked together,” says HUNT, “and used to write verses of an evening upon a given subject; no imaginative pleasure was left unnoticed by us, or unenjoyed ; from the recollection of the bards and patriots of old, to the luxury of a summer rain at our window, or the clicking of the coal in winter-time.” At this time KEATs was twenty-one; in the next year, 1817, appeared his first volume of poetry, and in the following spring, “Endymion.” They were badly received by the critics. Every one, we suppose, has heard of the bitter review attributed to Gifford, in the Quarterly, which, with Some show of reason, was said to have caused the poet's death. It was in the common vein of those critics who, misapprehending the nature of their vocation, read only to discover faults. The poems, with great and singular beauties, had, indeed, their blemishes, such as are common to young authors. They were diffuse, and abounded in strange words, and unallowable rhymes; but they contained noble passages, such as were never written by

His birth is said to have been pre-

[ocr errors]

any other author of so immature an age. It is best, generally, to point out with honest frankness a young writer's faults; too much censure is better than over-praise; but KEATs was morbidly sensitive, quite unfit to bear the unsparing ridicule and invective with which his works were greeted, embittering the residue of his brief life, if they did not cause his death. After the publication of “Endymion,” KEATs made excursions into Scotland, and to the south of England and the Isle of Wight. During a severe illness which followed, he was watched over with tender solicitude by his friends Mr. CHARLEs Brown and LEigh HUNT. Though depressed, he was not disheartened, and he wrote in two years his “Lamia,” “Isabella,” “Eve of St. Agnes,” “Hyperion,” and some minor poems, which were printed in 1820. “He sent them out,” says Shelley, with “a careless despair,” without confidence or fear. But the world was now prepared to render a different verdict upon his works. “Hyperion,” wrote ByRoN, “seems inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as AEschylus.” Praise was not yet universal, but it came from the high-priests of genius. In October of this year, Keats left England, never to return. He sailed for Naples, whence he soon went to Rome. He lingered there, in gradual decline, until the year was nearly closed, gentle, and patient, and grateful for every kindness. He knew that he was dying. “I feel the daises growing over me,” he said one day, and at another time he requested that if any epitaph were put above him, it should be, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.” He died on the twenty-seventh of December, 1820, and was buried close by the pyramid of Cestus, in the cemetery of the English Protestants, at Rome; “a place so beautiful,” says Shelley, “that it might almost make one in love with death.” “He was under the middle height;" says Leigh Hunt, “and his lower limbs were

small in comparison with the upper, but neat 2 C. 301

« FöregåendeFortsätt »