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forest-tree is to nature) will receive sprightly delight from the exact carving of a kneeling saint, or the high finish of a humble shrine, while the magnificent choir, and the lofty aisle, whose termination (the emblem of human existence) is lost in mysterious gloom, fail to make any impression upon his mind.
This may be termed intellectual near-sightedness:-the organs of a person so affected may be more penetrating and durable; they may even be sensible to little touches of beauty that escape others; but they are precluded from embracing wide-extended prospects, and of estimating and enjoying the grand or the sublime. The species of composition of such a man, therefore, is only a second-rate sort of descriptive poetry, which, as our readers know, is itself only second-rate in the general scale of the productions of the muse; and he must be satisfied with the share of praise due to the rank such poems are entitled to hold. As faces, that are merely pretty, without the features of grandeur and dignity, are often insignificant, and sometimes become mean, so this kind of versification, which has not the higher qualities of the art, is apt to degenerate into affected trifling, and paltry conceit: those writers who attempt the loftier walks, are frequently turgid and bombastic; and those who take a lower aim at mere prettinesses, run into the contrary extreme, and produce what is petty and unmeaning.
Although, upon the whole, we have been much gratified by "The Naiad," we cannot say that it is free from the fault to which we have last alluded; but we must admit, on the other hand, that the prettinesses are in many places as refined and delicate as any that we have read: the opening is singularly beautiful; all the little touches are given with a grace and precision not easily rivalled.
"Twas autumn-tide,—the eve was sweet,
Had lightly touch'd, and left it golden:
O'er yellow sand and pebble blue,
All freshly dwelt, with white leaves wet.
Away the sparkling water play'd,
Singing, and bearing, hour after hour,
A glimpse of that fair willow'd brook:
The busy brook with stars was twinkling,-
'Twas heavenly to walk in the autumn's wind's sigh, And list to that brook's lonely tinkling."
It is to poetry like this that the lines of an almost unknown, and very unequal, old poet apply, when he is speak ing of the pleasures he received from the remembrance of the delightful occupations of his youth, augmented by an ardent love for the Muses.
"In my former days of bliss,
Wither's "Shepherd's Hunting," 1620, Eccl. 4.
The story of the poem is introduced by the author of "The Naiad" in the mode above quoted. Lord Hubert, accompanied by a page, is riding towards his castle through this scene, when he is addressed by a Naiad, who appears on the surface of the brook: notwithstanding the entreaties of his page, he is seduced by her alluring artifices: he em
braces her, and follows her into the water, through which he sinks, and is never again heard of: the young bride, whom he had forsaken for the Naiad, dies of grief at the desertion of her lord. This story, as the author states, is taken from a Scotch ballad, procured from a young girl of Galloway; but whether he was unwilling that a comparison should be instituted, or whether he imagined that the original was well known, does not appear, but he quotes no part of it, and gives no information where it is to be found: we immediately, however, called to mind The Mermaid of Galloway, in the collection published by the late Mr. Cromek in 1810, which, perhaps, is without exception the most fanciful and beautiful production of the kind in any lan. guage, abounding with that charming simplicity of style, that rivals the simplicity of the scenes described, and with that affecting pathos, which rather consists in what is left to the mind, than in what is offered to the eye. We do not think, therefore, that the author of "The Naiad" exercised a sound judgment when he undertook to alter it: to succeed, was not to raise himself above his original; and to fail, was to convict himself at once of incompetence in talent and discretion. No man has been more ridiculed by persons of true taste, than the poet (one, too, of no mean name) who ventured to do the same with the Notbrowne mayde. It is fair, however, to say, that the author of "The Naiad" has not been quite so imprudent as Prior; for though he has considerably altered The Mermaid of Galloway, he has not been vain enough to hazard a modernization of it. The change of the principal agent in the poem from a Mermaid to a Naiad, cannot be called an improvement in the story; because, although to mermaids and syrens mystical and magical properties are ascribed by superstition, such powers and influences have rarely, if ever, been given to Naiads: we have been accustomed to look at them as innocent and beautiful creatures, like Sabrina in Comus, rather employed in aiding the unfortunate, than in inveigling and destroying the happy. Neither has the author of The Naiad" made his nymph nearly as attractive and bewitching as the Mermaid; while, on the other hand, in the remonstrances of the page to Lord Hubert, and the picture the boy draws of the loveliness of the young bride he is about to desert, many more inducements are given him to refrain than are offered to the hero of the Scotch ballad. It was also injudicious in him to introduce the song of the Naiad at all, which, while it possesses little comparative merit, calls to mind many
others of first-rate excellence, from the time of Homer down to the unequalled Syrens' Song in Spenser, and the graceful dialogue between Ulysses and the Syren in the poems of Samuel Daniel. The author of the original more wisely contented himself with describing some of the effects of the voice of his bewitching Mermaid.
"I' the very first lilt o' that sweet sang
An' they flew i' the gate of the gray howlet
The song is also described as having a magical influence even upon the stars of heaven, and well, therefore, might it seduce a mortal of earth. The song of the Naiad is followed by a few lines of description that are exquisite in their way.
"She play'd with her locks; and she sang to the night,
We must do the author of "The Naiad" the justice to say, that he has described the effect of the seduction of the water-nymph-the manner in which Lord Hubert follows herto her murmuring dwelling-place," with great success. This is an addition, and an improvement, to his prototype, which merely says:
"She faulded him i' her lilie arms,
His fleecy locks trailed owre the sand
The writer of the poem before us has the following lines upon the subject :—
"On the lady glided slow,
Her feet on the grass left a moonlight glow;
• Fear not to follow-thou'rt charm'd from death;
"She stept into the silver wave,-
And look'd on the water as on his grave.
It was lovely, and mellow'd, and tenderly hollow:
Step on the wave, where sleeps the moon-beam;
He started-pass'd on with a graceful mirth,
"And her jewels and rings flung carelessly by,
left unmov'd,-save the tear in her eye.”
We are sorry that we cannot bestow the same praise upon that part of the poem which relates to the death of the bride here the old ballad has been tediously expanded, and its simplicity and tenderness have been smothered in an abundance of description: yet even here there are some pretty touches, and the description of daybreak is happily expressed.
We have already observed that this author is not free from the conceits to which this class of poetry is peculiarly liable: the following is not only unnatural in the thought, but in the language.
"Its breast is like snow, and its hand is as fair,
Such examples are, however, not numerous; and it would give neither our readers nor ourselves pleasure to collect them. The picture of the Mermaid,
"Her lips were a cloven hinnie cherrie,
brought to our mind a most exquisite verse in the Lord's Marie-a ballad also in the volume of Mr. Cromek, which the author of "The Naiad" seems to have read attentively.