« FöregåendeFortsätt »
all the things itself had wrote,
Of special merit though of little note.' This author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt; but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat himself in the chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his own standard, yet generally had a meaving. But Mr. Keats had advanced no dogmas which he was bound to support by examples; his nonsense therefore is quite gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and, being bitten by Mr. Leigh Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his poetry.
Mr. Keats's preface hints that his poem was produced under peculiar circumstances.
• Knowing within myself (he says) the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public. -What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. —Preface, p. vii.
We humbly beg his pardon, but this does not appear to us to be quite so clear-we really do not know what he means—but the next passage is more intelligible.
• The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press.'-Preface,
Thus the two first books' are, even in his own judgment, unfit to appear, and the two last
in the same conditionand as two and two make four, and as that is the whole number of books, we have a clear and, we believe, a very just estimate of the entire work.
Mr. Keats, however, deprecates criticism on this immature and feverish work in terms which are themselves sufficiently feverish; and we confess that we should have abstained from inflicting upon him any of the tortures of the fierce hell’of criticism, which terrify his imagination, if he had not begged to be spared in order that he might write more; if we had not observed in him a certain degree of talent which deserves to be put in the right way, or which, at least, ought to be warned of the wrong; and if, finally, he had not told us that he is of an age and temper which imperiously require mental discipline.
Of the story we have been able to make out but little; it seems to be mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion; but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we cannot speak with any degree of certainty; and must therefore content ourselves with giving some instances of its diction and versification :—and here again we are perplexed and puzzled. -At first it appeared to us, that Mr. Keats had been amusing him
self and wearying his readers with an immeasurable game at boutsrimés; but, if we recollect rightly, it is an indispensable condition at this play, that the rhymes when filled up shall have a meaning; and our author, as we have already hinted, has no meaning. He seems to us to write a line at random, and then he follows not the thought excited by this line, but that suggested by the rhyme with which it concludes. There is hardly a complete couplet inclosing a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one subject to another, from the association, not of ideas but of sounds, and the work is composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have forced themselves upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on which they turn.
We shall select, not as the most striking instance, but as that least liable to suspicion, a passage from the opening of the poem.
• Such the sun, the moon,
We have imagined for the mighty dead; &c. &c.'-pp. 3, 4. Here it is clear that the word, and not the idea, moon produces the simple sheep and their shady boon, and that the dooms of the mighty dead would never have intruded themselves but for the fair musk-rose blooms.' Again.
• For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire
To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.'—p. 8. Here Apollo's fire produces a pyre, a silvery pyre of clouds, wherein a spirit might win oblivion and melt his essence fine, and scented eglantine gives sweets to the sun, and cold springs had run into the grass, and then the pulse of the mass pulsed tenfold to feel the glories old of the new-born day, &c. One example more.
• Be still the unimaginable lodge
Gives it a touch ethereal-a new birth.'—p. 17. Lodge, dodge-heaven, leaven-earth, birth; such, in six words, is the sum and substance of six lines.
We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot indeed write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line. Let us see. The following are specimens of his prosodial notions of our English heroic metre.
• Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite.'—p. 4.
Endymion ! the cave is secreter
And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."'-p. 48. By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the meaning of his sentences and the structure of his lines: 'we now present them with some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr. Leigh Hunt, he adorns our language.
We are told that' turtles passion their voices,' (p. 15); tható an arbour was nested,' (p. 23); and a lady's locks' gordiun'd up,'(p. 32); and to supply the place of the nouns thus verbalized Mr. Keats, with great fecundity, spawns new ones; such as 'men-slugs and human serpentry,' (p. 41); the • honey-feel of bliss,' (p. 45); ' wives prepare needments,' (p. 13)--and so forth.
Then he has formed new verbs by the process of cutting off their natural tails, the adverbs, and affixing them to their for thus, “the wine out-sparkled,'(p. 10); the multitude up-followed, (p. 11); and night up-took,' (p. 29). • The wind up-blows,' (p. 32); and the hours are down-sunken,' (p. 36.)
But if he sinks some adverbs in the verbs he compensates the language with adverbs and adjectives which he separates from the parent stock. Thus, a lady whispers pantingly and close,' makes
hushing signs,' and steers her skiff into a ripply cove,' (p. 23); a shower falls refreshfully;' (45); and a vulture has a 'spreaded tail,' (p. 44.)
But enough of Mr. Leigh Hunt and his simple neophyte. If any one should be bold enough to purchase this · Poetic Romance,' and so much more patient, than ourselves, as to get beyond the first book, and so much more fortunate as to find a meaning, we entreat him to make us acquainted with his success; we shall then return to the task which we now abandon in despair, and endeavour to make all due amends to Mr. Keats and to our readers.
ART. VIII.-Greenland, the adjacent Seas, and the North-West
Passage to the Pacific Ocean; illustrated in a Voyage to Davis's Strait during the Summer of 1817. By Bernard
O'Reilly, Esq. 4to. 1818. IF we feel disposed to exercise a more than usual degree of cri
tical severity on the volume before us, it is not so much for the mere gratification of breaking a butter-fly on a wheel,' as of exposing one of the most barefaced attempts at imposition which has occurred to us in the whole course of our literary labours.
Our first impression on taking up the volume was, that, as the subject of the Arctic regions had become one of the fashionable topics of the day, (which we may fairly take to ourselves the credit of introducing,) some hanger-on of Paternoster-row had contrived, with the help of Egede, Fabricius, and the interminable Cyclopedia of Dr. Rees, to hash up a fictitious voyage to Davis's Strait, in order to gratify the eager appetite of the public, and at the same time to 'put money in his purse.' Recollecting, however, that the log-book of the ship Thomas, of Hull, in which this voyage is stated to have been made, was within our reach, we turned to it, and found that Bernard O'Reilly, Esq. was not, as we suspected, a phantom conjured up for the occasion, but that there actually was a person of this name, in the capacity of surgeon, on board that ship —for, in consequence of the · Act for Encouraging the Whale Fishery,' it is deemed imperative on every whaler to have a person so rated. As he, fortunately, is seldom called on but to assist in filling the blubber casks, and making the plum-pudding on Sundays, the owners are not particularly nice in their choice of the doctor, who is generally an apothecary's apprentice just escaped from his inden
We do not mean to say, however, that there are not exceptions; indeed we happen to know that very respectable and meritorious characters have sometimes been induced by necessity to accept the situation. We would mention, as an instance, Mr. John Laing, whose sensible and unpretending narrative of a ' Voyage to Spitzbergen,' in a small duodecimo, forms an admirable contrast to the pompous and frothy quarto of Bernard O'Reilly, Esq. But, in ascertaining the name of Bernard O'Reilly, to be
that of the person who filled the capacity of surgeon on board the Thomas, of Hull, we have also ascertained, what is much more to the purpose, that the very small portion of his.. Greenland, which is not absolute nonsense, is either fiction or downright falsehood. This grave charge we shall substantiate without much waste of our own or the reader's time.
As it is not always quite so easy to detect false facts in physics, as false principles in the abstract sciences, the former may sometimes pass for truths, and thus become as pernicious as the latter. There is little danger, however, on the present occasion. The glaring folly which pervades every page of Mr. O'Reilly's book forms a sufficient guarantee against its mischievous tendency. We find, however, in the very threshold, a premeditated misrepresentation with regard to the latitude, on which are made to depend some extraordinary discoveries, which the author could not have ventured to broach without exceeding the usual limits of a whale-fishing voyage to Davis's Strait.
He sets out by accusing the masters and the mates of Greenland ships, of falsifying their logs and journals—and for what :—for the interest of the government, of their employers, and of themselves. The interest of government (so gross is his ignorance) is the 'additional revenue to be recorded on the collector's book :' the poor man, it seems, being unable to distinguish between revenue and bounty, the latter of which is paid by the government to the shipowner, while nothing whatever is received in the shape of the former. He, generous and disinterested to a fault, having embarked for the sake of science, disdained' to trust for support to documents placed in custom-houses,' or to the uncertain information which might be
coaxed from the master of a whale-ship::- He submitted to be cooped up with uninformed, unsociable beings,'to study nature, 'to keep a journal adapted to all the scientific objects he had in view:'-Yet with all this and much more empty boasting, did this prodigy of disinterested science' write to Hull, to procure a copy of the master's journal, and to learn the highest latitude which the ship had reached! which, by a good observation of the master, was, on the 19th July, 75° 17'. This latitude, however, would not admit of his fabrications; he asserts, therefore, that many days elapsed before the sailing of the Thomas from that latitude, occasionally shifting her station; that' on one such occasion, the termination of the Linnean islands came distinctly in view, the open sea lying beyond, when the latitude, no observation being taken, was most probably about the 77th degree;' that 'the state of the atmosphere permitted a prospect of a degree at least farther to the northward, where the continental ice was evidently interminable:' every word of which we shall prove to be false. We happen to have examined the jourVOL. XIX. NO. XXXVII.