Page images

And deals his blessings here with lib'ral hand,
Yet works of higher eminence declare
His ceaseless zeal for man's defective race,
His watchful labours, and paternal care.
Soon shall the Christian revelation burst
With noon-tide splendour on the convert's mind,
Shed its pure lustre o'er the gloomy doubts,
Which erst, like undigested chaos, warr'd
In conflict harsh, and elemental strife,
And brew'd disturbance in the human mind;
Taught by th' angelic system, o'er the scenes
Of chequer'd life, the mournful or the gay,
He looks with calm serenity, resign'd,
Alike for sorrow, or for joy prepar'd,
As heaven's high mandate wills, contented he
To run with patience his appointed race,
Or o'er the rugged wild, or level plain,
Till death shall summon to the realms of bliss,
And joys unfading crown the Christian's course."

We must observe that there are many marks of haste in this poem Such defective lines as these do not unfrequently cccur:

• Vain, atheistical, induc'd, and blindly spread-p. 39.
To raise, or lift their limited ideas-p. 50.

Like God's own steward to all the needy tribe-p. 61.’ Steadily averse from all national reflections, we read with disgust the passage, p. 49, in which the Scotch are accused of servility and perfidy; and we could not suppress a smile at the very familiar introduction of the name of the late Poet Laureat :

[ocr errors]

Old honest Warton sung,' &c. p. 8.

We almost doubted whether the author had not confounded Isaac Walton and the best modern scholar that England can boast; who was not less eminent for the depth of his erudition than for the elegance of his taste and the sagacity of his criticism.

Where we see so many proofs of ability as Mr. Sharpe has given in this poem, we venture to advise him; as we find men of sense most capable of correction. We therefore think it our duty to hint to. this writer that the beauties of THE CHURCH appear to us the offspring of genius; and that the faults, though frequent, probably arise merely from haste and inattention. If he means to cultivate the fields of poetry, he must be industrious; or, like all negligent cultiva tors, he will fail of success.

Art. 31. Britannia: a Poem. By Samuel Hull Wilcocke. 8vo pp. 83. 38. sewed. Dilly. 1797.

The author of this poem seems to have formed a design of writing a poctical heroic history of his country; and it must be allowed that this island has produced many men renowned for wisdom and valour; qualities which, when exerted for the benefit of mankind, constitute (according to Sir William Temple) that transcendent excellence which is denominated heroic virtue. Perhaps, however, the fame due to their illustrious atchievements might be established on a firmer

basis by the saber voice of historic truth, than by the enthusiasm of poetic fiction. We agree with Mr. Wilcocke that, in the earliest stages of society, poetry has proved a happy vehicle for recording the exploits of the warrior, or describing any uncommon and grand appearance in nature; and that these sublime and heroic songs were attended with wonderful effects: but he does not seem sufficiently to have considered that poetry addresses itself chiefly to the imagination and the passions, which, in men untamed by civilization, are active, vigorous, and susceptible of the warmest impressions; and that, in an improved state of society, both the one and the other are enfeebled by restraint, while the rational powers gather strength by daily exercise. This progress may be traced by any man who will pay attention to the operations of his own mind. Astonishment is succeeded by admiration; admiration leads to inquiry and investigation; and these cannot be performed without comparing and judging, which form the peculiar province of reason. Hence may be assigned one cause of an age of criticism being unfavourable to the exertion of original poetic genius; for surely the mind that can read a poem with such calmness, as accurately to appreciate its merits and defects, can feel little of that warmth and enthusiasm which the Bard wishes to inspire ;—a consideration that would be very mortifying to every poet of the present times, did they not experience, in common with their readers, the difficulty of forming a conception truly sublime, or soaring to any great heights in the regions of imagination,


The before us contains an historical narrative of the most splendid events which happened in Britain, from the time of Cassibelan, who opposed Cæsar in his invasion, to the reign of Carausius, who was acknowleged joint-emperor by Dioclesian and Maximian. Mr. Wilcocke, both in his preface and notes, appears to possess no inconsiderable portion of learning, and he deserves our esteem for that patriotic love of his country which he manifests throughout the work: but in poetry we cannot think him entitled to the highest applause; though by no means destitute of a taste for that divine art. If we cannot justly rank him with our first-rate Bards, he may, perhaps, assume to sit down with Leonidas Glover; and with him, in friendly concert," rehearse the deeds and glorious death" of Spartans brave, and Britons bold.

"Rehearse, O Muse, the deeds and glorious death," &c. Glover's LEONIDAS.

The following lines may be quoted as a proper specimen of his -style and versification:

Come, Muse of Albion! who in Thomson's verse
Breathed Liberty's extatic ardent strain,
Who gave to Addison a Cato's soul,
To Milton, his sublime exalted strength,
And to th' inimitable Shakespeare's verse,
The genuine stamp of nature, aweful, true,
And forceful as th' impetuous gust of heaven;
Give me to share their energy divine;
Give me to paint, in ardent numbers bold,


The arms and arts that graced this matchless isle;
'Tis not alone to martial deeds that here
Th' historic Muse confines her liberal praise,
Sometimes she leaves th' ensanguined field of war
For milder themes, and, reminiscent oft
Of poets, artists, and of general worth,
Holds bright examples to the willing mind,
As various as each several state can ask,
That each may in the arduous task assist,
And hand in hand, raise high our British fame;
And as the Roca Ora* braves the storm
Of ages in the north' antipodes,
Receiving ever on it's dreary sides.
The billows of the Magellanic main,
Full many a thousand league impetuous rolled
From south to north, by envious Neptune swelled
And the nigh-bursting cheeks of Æolus,
To dash its pride, yet centered in itself
It dares their efforts vain; so may thy rock,
Britannia! stand unshaken, unimpaired,
Fixed on the firmest base, deep-chained to fate,
And laugh to scorn a world's unmeaning rage,
Nor fall but with old time; and when this globe,
At the dread clangour of the heavenly trump,
Swept by an igneous comet from its orb,
In huge combustion, crumbles into chaos,
May Britain's time-outliving fame remain
Recorded in angelic memory,

The noblest state that ever stood on earth.'

Speaking of the late unsuccessful expedition of the French against Ireland, he thus expresses himself

But Ocean smiled to see the unfledged brood,
Garish and gawdy in their Gallic trim,
Brave with presumptuous sails the lurking storms
And scowling horrors of December's sky,
And soon, indignant at the vain attempt
To grasp at conquest where himself defends,
Like a huge whale, prone on Norwegian seas
His mile-long length extending o'er the deep,
When on his back, mistaken for an isle,
Some pygmy Lapland fishermen descend
Unknowing of the danger, while they tread
With careless steps along the slimy sward,
The bulky monster, moving ponderous,
Heaves his broad carcase, the disparting flood
Ingulphs remorseless all the infant crew;

*The Roca de Ora, a stupendous rock in the midst of the Northern Pacific Ocean, first discovered, and thus named, by the Spaniards.'


So the terrific genius of the main

Half reared his billowy front; deep in the waves
The glittering gewgaws sunk beneath his frown.'

We quote this passage not from any disposition to censure, but to shew how dangerous it is for a poet of moderate talents to attempt to rival Milton:

"Or that sea-beast Leviathan, which God of all his works

Created hugest that swim th' ocean stream:

Him haply slumb'ring on the Norway foam," &c. Par. Lost, book i, ver. 200. These are the lines which, no doubt, Mr. W. had in his eye when he introduced the simile,

Like a huge whale,' &c. in the passage above cited.-N. B. By the whale, &c, we suppose he alludes to the strange stories of the Kraken.

Half bound.

Art. 32. Select Epigrams. 12mo. 2 Vols. 1os. 6d. Low. 1797. Much has been written by critics on the composition of an epigram: but they are not agreed as to its constituent parts. The antients seem to have included, under that appellation, epitaphs and inscriptions of every kind, whether elegiac, laudatory, or satirical: but the moderns are of opinion that wit is an essential ingredient in an epigram; a notion that has given rise to numberless puerile conceits, and forced and unnatural thoughts. Few men have succeeded in this species of poetry; and the greater part of those epigrams that have been most admired are indebted for their reputation to a pun, or to the perverted sense of some ambiguous term. Yet it cannot be denied that epigrams have sometimes been made a pleasing vehicle for moral truth and pathetic sentiment. The selection now before us is made with judgment, and will be read with pleasure by those who are fond of compositions of this sort.

The two following epigrams, among others, do credit to the collec. tion;


Imitated from a Greek Epigram,

By J. AIKIN, M. D.

Where, hapless ILIUM! are thy heav'n-built walls,
Thy high embattled tow'rs; thy spacious halls;
Thy solemn temples, fill'd with forms divine;
Thy guardian Pallas, in her awful shrine?
The mighty Hector, where?-thy favʼrite boast;
And all thy valiant sons, a numerous host;
Thy arts, thy arms, thy riches, and thy state;
Thy pride of pomp, and all that made thee great?
These, prostrate all, in dust and ruin lie;
But thy transcendant fame can never die:
'Tis not in fate to sink thy glories past;
They fill the world, and with the world shall last
REV. DEC. 1797.

I i

[ocr errors]

· TO MISS ****** ̧

O clear that cruel, doubting brow,
I'll call on mighty Jove
To witness this eternal vow;-
'Tis you alone I love!
"Pray leave the God to soft repose,"
The smiling maid replies,
"For Jove but laughs at lovers' oaths,
"And lovers' perjuries."


By honour'd Beauty's gentle pow'r !
By Friendship's holy flame!


"Ah! what is Beauty, but a flow'r,
"And Friendship but a name?"

By those dear, tempting lips,' I cried ;-
With arch, ambiguous look,

Convinc'd, my Chloe glanc'd aside,
And bade me kiss the book.

Art. 33. Elegiac Sonnets, and other Poems. By Charlotte Smith. Vol. II. Crown 8vo. 6s. Boards. Cadell jun. and Davies. 1797. The general merits of Mrs. Smith as a writer, and the characteristics of her Sonnets in particular, are well known. The present volume is said to have been composed under the heavy pressure of difficulties, and amid heart-rending sorrows. It pains us to hear so frequently of this lady's misfortunes, and, unable as we are to remove them, to find no others equally willing, and more empowered, to alleviate them.

The following Sonnets are specimens of this volume, and of the elegant writer's gloomy cast of thought:

On passing over a dreary Tract of Country, and near the Ruins of a deserted Chapel, during a Tempest.

Swift fleet the billowy clouds along the sky,
Earth seems to shudder at the storm aghast
While only beings as forlorn as I,

Court the chill horrors of the howling blast.
Even round yon crumbling walls, in search of food,
The ravenous Owl foregoes his evening flight,
And in his cave, within the deepest wood,

The Fox eludes the tempest of the night.
But to my heart congenial is the gloom

Which hides me from a World I wish to shun;
That scene where Ruin saps the mouldering tomb,
Suits with the sadness of a wretch undone.

Nor is the deepest shade, the keenest air,
Black as my fate, or cold as my despair.'

On being cautioned against walking on an Headland overlooking the Sea, because it was frequented by a Lunatic.

Is there a solitary wretch who hies

To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,
And, measuring, views with wild and hollow eyes
Its distance from the waves that chide below;


« EelmineJätka »