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From rut to deeper rut of shapeless stone,
With many a general heave, and general groan.
Onward, still darker, doubly desolate,
Winds o'er the shrinking head the dangerous strait.
The light is lost ; in vain we peer our way
Through the rank dimness of the Fauxbourg day ;
In vain the wearied eyeball strains to scale
That squalid height, half hovel and half jail:
At every step the struggling vision bar
Projections sudden, black, and angular,
Streak'd with what once was gore, deep rent with shot,
Marks of some conflict furious and--forgot!
At every step, from sewer and alley sail
The crossing steams that make the senses quail,
Defying breeze's breath and summer s glow,
Charter'd to hold eternal mire below.
Grim loneliness !--and yet some blasted form
Will start upon the sight, a human worm
Clung to the chapel's wall-the lank throat bare,
The glance shot woeful from the tangled hair,
The fleshless, outstretclı'd arm, and ghastly cry,
Half forcing, half repelling charity.
Or, from the portal of the old hotel,
Gleams on his post the victor centinel,
Briton or German, shooting round his ken,
From its dark depth, a lion from his den.
« 'Tis light and air again : and lo! the Seine,
Yon boasted. lazy, livid, fetid drain !
With paper booths, and painted trees o'erlaid,
Baths, blankets, wash-tubs, women, all but trade.
Yet here are living beings, and the soil
Breeds its old growth of ribaldry and bruil.
A whirl of mire, the dingy cabriolet
Makes the quick transit through the crowded way;
the courier, creaks the crazy wain,
Dragged through its central gulf of mud and stain ;
Around our way-laid wheels the paupers crowd,
Naked, contagious, cringing, and yet proud.
The whole a mass of foliy, filth, and strife,
Of heated, rank, corrupting, reptile life;
And, endless as their ouzy tide, the throng
Roll on with endless clamour, curse, and song,
· Fit for such tenants, low'r on either side
The hovels where the gang less live than hide;
Story on story, savage stone on stone,
Time-shattered, tempest-stained, not built, but thrown
Sole empress of the portal, in full blow,
The rouged grisette lays out her trade below.
Ev'n in her rags a thing of wit and wile,
Eye, hand, lip, tongue, all point, and press, and smile.
Close by, in patch and print, the pedlar's stall
Flutters its looser glories up the wall.
Spot of corruption ! where the rabble rude
Loiter round tinsel tomes, and figures nude ;
Voltaire and Lais, long alternate eyed,
Till both the leper's soul and sous divide.
Above, tis desart, save where sight is scar'd
With the wild visage through the casement barr’d;
Or, swinging from their pole, chemise and sheet
Drip from the attic o'er the fuming street.
• But, venture on the darkness; and within
See the stern haunt of wretchedness and sin.
The door unhinged, the wall of plaster bare,
The paper pane, the gapp'd and shaking stair,
Winding in murkiness, as to the sty
Of forlorn guilt, or base debauchery ;
The chamber, tattered, melancholy, old,
Yet large-where plunder might its midnights hold;
And in its foulest corner, from the day
Sullen and shrunk, its lord, the Federé.
Meagre the form, the visage swart and spare,
Furrowed with early vice and desperate care;
Hollow the cheek, the eye ferocious guile,
Yet gentle, to his hard, habitual smile.
His end, on earth, to live the doubtful day,
And glean the livre for the Sunday's play.' The next passage we shall transcribe, is in a much higher style.
• Yes, 'twas the spot ?-where yonder slow gend'arme
Sweeps from his round the loitering pauper-swarm;
Where up the mouldering wall that starveling vine
Drags on from nail to nail its yellow twine;
For ornament! Still something for the eye ;
Prisons, nay graves, have here their foppery :
There, primed for blood, Danton drew up his band,
The Marseillois, the Fauxbourg's black brigand.
The gate rolld back, -as out to liberty
One bounding came,—the murderers niet his eye,
He heard their laugh,-he dropp'd in desperate prayer
For life-for life !-His brain was spattered there :-
Another came-recoil'd - gave one wild wail,
And sank in gore, the bullet stopp'd his talė.
The work went hotly on Dark placeof crime !
What hideous guilt. what suffering sublime
Were in thee,-emblem of the ruin d land!
Frequent amid the shoutings of the band,
Rose from within prayer, laughter !-Pass that wall,
A crowd were gather d in a lofty hall,
An ancient chapel, lingering each till came
The harrowing, certain summons of his name.
A man stood in its pulpit : one strong ray
That through the grating struggled down its way,
Fell on his upturn'd brow and tonsure bare.
His hands were clasp'd, he pray'd with mighty pray'r,-
Then bent him where the failing light below
Just glanc'd on shapes and visages of woe.
And there were those who felt, yet scorn'd to feel,
And smil'd in ghastliness to see his zeal ;
And knowing they had reach'd their dying day,
Resolv'd to think no more, and turn'd away!
And those, who weary of the cell and chain,
Saw the last day of life the last of pain ;
And, sadly flung upon the chilling floor,
Listen'd lethargic to the outward roar.
But there were those, who on him fix'd the eye,
In the deep gaze of utter agony ;
Kneeling without a heave, without a groan,-
As if that hour had struck them into stone.
• The shouts had died,—'twas silence,-sudden rang
A shriek throughout the prison !- All upsprang ;-
Each fixing on his fellow wretch the eye,
In the broad glare of desperate sympathy;
Another miserable hour, and they
Who shudder'd there might be-but gore and clay!
The preacher bow'd
his head ;-his hands were prest A moment with his Bible on his breast; His voice a moment stopp'd :—the pang was past, — 'Twas nature's terror,-painful, but her last. His voice awoke ;-his spirit in him burn'd; All
eyes instinctive on the martyr turn'd. He told them of the things that man's dull ear, Fill'd with life's flatteries, so hates to hear; He told them of the Christian's cross and crown, And rais'd his hands to bless them ;-all sank down, All humbly bow'd their heads to earth, all felt At his ascending prayer their bosoms melt; All trembled,—and strange thoughts upon them stole, That look'd like heavenly dawnings in the soul; And tears began down wither'd cheeks to flow, Not tears of joy, but far too soft for woe! They rose ;-and they who knelt upon that floor, Were naked spirits ere that day was o'er. • 'Twas shapeless carnage now ; in meek despair, Gazing on Heaven, the pastor died in prayer; The soldier met the sabre's whirl unmoved ; The matron perish’d on the corse she loved ; Yet there were dying bursts; with rush and reel, Some 'mid the assassin ranks made desperate wheel, Down-stricken, rising, bleeding, tottering round, Till the ball stretch'd the struggler on the ground;
Others, the red knee clasping, sank and wept;
Alike o'er faint and bold the havoc swept.
The evening fell, in bloody mists the sun
Rush'd glaring down; nor yet the work was done.
Twas night ; and still upon the Bandit's eye
Came from their cavern those who came to die;
A long, weak, wavering, melancholy wave,
As from the grave, returning to the grave,
'Twas midnight ;-still the gusty torches blazed
On shapes of woe, dim gestures, faces glazed ;
And still, as through the dusk the ghastly file
Moved onward, it was added to the pile !! The change of metre adopted with the view of avoiding the monotony of a perpetual recurrence of the same measure, is, we think, injudicious, inasmuch as there is no obvious corresponding change of subject to warrant it, and it gives the poem still more the appearance of being made up of a collection of detached passages, taken from the Author's portfolio, and strung together under one title, in consequence of an after-thouglat. If it had been his sole object to relieve the reader from the drone of the rhyming couplet, a much more natural expedient would have been, to intersperse the poem throughout with alternate rhymes, or with stanzas of shorter measure. The monotonous march of the ten-feet, or heroic verse, is not obviated by a varied disposition of the rhymes, which is all that is obtained by the introduction of Spenser's stanza. So far, therefore, as there is any ground for Mr. Croly's remark respecting the monotony of the heroic couplet, it would seem io demand the occasional variation of the length of the line, rather than merely of its terminal sound, and were the transition obviously warranted by a marked change in the style, the effect of the shorter measure would, we think, be a much more pleasing relief. We are by no means sensible, however, of the necessity of such expedients for assisting a reader susceptible of the genuine beauties of poetry, through a production of sustained excellence; and as to that class of consumers who stand in need of having their attention thus humoured and toyed with, in order to entice them through the fatiguing extent of a few hundreds of lines, and for whose accommodation such resting places may be requisite, the length of a poem will, after all, be à fault for which nothing, in the mere structure of the verse, will be sufficient to atone. This indolence and inconstancy of attention are, we are persuaded, the real source of the objection referred to.
Nevertheless, for poems of considerable length, no measure appears so unexceptionable as a free blank verse : the almost infinite modificatious of cadence and cesura of which it admits, as well as the pliability of character which allows of its combining with every style, and adapting itscif to every rise and fall in the subject, recommends it to a writer of real power of thought, in
preference to any other. It is true, it will not suffer the poet to rest upon his oars, and to trust to the stream of verse, to bear his reader unconsciously along. In order to keep it above the level of prose, the poet must always be the poet; and it does not therefore suit with mediocrity. But even where it becomes the most prosaic, it is not really the less poetical for the want of rhyme, and if it sometimes fails to fill the ear, it never produces the weariness of satiety.
But we have lost sight of Paris and Mr. Croly, and we must make amends by the insertion of a varied specimen of his style.
• If pride be evil ;-if the holiest sighs
Must come from humblest hearts, if man must turn
Full on his wreck of nature to be wise ;
If there be blessedness for those who mourn ;-
What speak the purple gauds that round us burn?
Ask of that kneeling crowd whose glances stray
So restless round on altar, restment, urn;
Can guilt weep there? can mild repentance pray?
Ask, when this moment's past, how runs their sabbath day's
• Their sabbath day! Alas! to France that day
Comes not; she has a time of looser dress,
A time of thicker crowded ball and play,
A time of folly's hotter, ranker press ;
She knoweth not its hallowed happiness,
Its eve of gather'd hearts and gentle cheer.
Paris ! - how many an outcast might confess
Her heart's first dazzling in its guilty glare!
What saith yon melancholy Morgue?--the victim's there!"
• 'Tis open !-Never fails its sight of woe!
And crowds are rushing to that fearful dome,
And crowds are scattcring out, subdued and slow ;
They've seen,--to what complexion life may come.
'Tis narrow as the grave, a house of gloom:
And on the wall, with ouze and blood long dyed,
Are hung a spangled robe, a broken plume,
Dropping, as fresh-drawn from the river tide,
And cold beneath them lies—the lost !-the suicide!'
• A few rude boards are now her beauty's bed;
Her still and roseless cheek has now no veil
But one long, dripping lock across it shed;
Yet her wide eye looks living. Oh! the tale
Told there-of reason that began to fail,
Of wild remorse, of the last agony,
When wandering, desperate, in the midnight gale,
She flung to sightless heaven her parting cry,
Then in the dark wave plunged, to struggle and to die.'
• The crowd pass on. The hurried, trembling look,
That dreaded to have seen some dear one there
Soon glanced, they silent pass. But in yon nook,
Vol. IX. N.S.