Page images
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Crowe, the author of Lewisdon Hill, has attempted a new version of this celebrated passage respecting Sisyphus, and it is not without great merit, though unequal perhaps to that of Pope.

Then Sisyphus I saw, with ceaseless pain

Labouring beneath a ponderous stone in vain.
With hands and feet striving, with all his might
He pushed the unwieldy mass up a steep height;
But ere he could achieve his toilsome course,
Just as he reached the top, a sudden force

Turned the curst stone, and slipping from his hold

Down again, down the steep rebounding, down it rolled.

Paradise Lost abounds in examples of the beauty of which I am now treating. The toil of Satan perhaps even surpasses that of Sysiphus,

So he with difficulty and labour hard

Moved on: with difficulty and labour he—

Now for the "harsh thunder" of the gates of Hell! With what rapidity they fly open!

On a sudden open fly

With impetuous recoil and jarring sound

The infernal doors; and on their hinges grate.
Harsh thunder.

Here is a happy imitation of an echo.

I fled and cried out, death!

Hell trembled at the hideous name, and sighed
From all her caves, and back resounded death!

The pause after the word shook in the next extract is very effective.

And over them triumphant Death his dart

Shook, but delayed to strike.

The quick and joyous movement of the ensuing verses is a

particularly happy instance of representative harmony.

Let the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecks sound,

To many a youth, and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequered shade.

There is a watery music in the following lines.

Fountains and ye that warble as ye flow,

Melodious murmurs, warbling tune his praise.

Here is a description of carriage wheels descending and ascending a hill. It is noticed by Mr. Crowe, but I know not who the author is.

Which in their different courses as they pass

Rush violently down precipitate,

Or slowly turn, oft resting, up the steep.

Dyer in his "Ruins of Rome," a poem that Wordsworth remarks has been very undeservedly neglected, has a fine specimen of imitative harmony, in which the fall of ruins is represented with great effect. The passage is quoted by Johnson with commendation.

The pilgrim oft

At dead of night, 'mid his orison, hears

Aghast the voice of time; disparting towers

Tumbling all precipitate down dashed,

Rattling around, loud thundering to the moon.

The same poet well describes the sudden delay in a ship's progress on the Indian Ocean by a cessation of wind.

With easy course

The vessels glide; unless their speed be stopped
By dead calms, that oft lie on those smooth seas.

The following remarkably successful adaptation of sound to sense is from Pope's Homer's Iliad. It has a greater freedom of versification than the translator usually exhibits.

As from some mountain's craggy forehead torn
A rock's huge fragment flies, with fury borne,

(Which from the stubborn stone a torrent rends)
Precipitate the ponderous mass descends;
From steep to steep the rolling ruin bounds,

At every shock the crackling wood resounds;

Still gathering strength, it smokes; and urged amain,

Whirls, leaps, and thunders down, impetuous to the plain;

[blocks in formation]

The ensuing lines from Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" seem inflated with the bulky meaning.

"The large Achilles, on his press'd bed lolling,

From his deep chest laughs out a loud applause."

Cowley laboured hard to produce an echo to the sense, and sometimes succeeded, as the next four lines may show. The continuity of a stream is well represented.

He who defers his work from day to day,
Does on a river's brink expecting stay,

Till the whole stream that stopped him shall be gone,
Which runs, and as it runs, for ever will run on.

The progress of Milton's fiend is a very striking illustration of the effect to be gained by an artful and choice arrangement of words.

"The fiend

O'er bog, or steep, through strait, rough, dense, or rare,
With head, hands, wings or feet pursues his way,

And swims, or sinks, or wades, or creeps or flies."

I need hardly give any further specimens*, for every reader, though he may not previously have studied the subject, must now understand the nature of imitative harmony in verse. It depends, it will be seen, sometimes on the sound of particular words, sometimes on the management of the pauses, sometimes on the length or shortness of the metrical feet, and sometimes on all these circumstances artfully or happily combined.

* A few of these examples have been noticed before by Johnson, Beattie and Crowe; but I have introduced as many new ones as I could recollect.

A SOLDIER'S DREAM.

The foulest stain and scandal of our nature

Became a boast ;-one murder made a Villain,

Millions a Hero!

Porteus.

THE foe had fled-the fearful strife had ceased-
And shouts arose of mockery and joy,

As the loud trumpet's wild exulting voice
Proclaimed the victory! With weary tread,
But spirits light and free, the victors passed
On to the neighbouring citadel. Nor deemed,
Nor recked they, in that moment's pride, of aught
But glory won. Or if a tender thought

Recalled the fallen brave, 'twas like the cloud
On Summer's radiant brow-a flitting shade.

Yet on the battle-plain how many lay,

In their last dreamless sleep! Some too were there Who struggled yet within the mighty grasp

Of that stern conqueror-Death. The fearful throes
Of parting life, at intervals, would wring,

E'en from the proudest heart, the piercing cry
Of mortal agony.

In pain I sunk,

Worn and disabled, 'mid the dead and dying.

[ocr errors]

Night's shadows were around, the sickly moon,
Dim and discoloured, rose, as if she mourned
To gaze upon a scene so fraught with woe!

And there was one who passed me at this hour,
A form familiar to my memory

From long-departed years. For we had met
In early youth, with feelings unconcealed,
And passions unrepressed. E'en then he seemed
The bane of every joy. His brow grew dark
At boyhood's happy voice and guileless smile,
As though they mocked him! Now he sternly marked
My well-remembered face, yet lingered not.

There was a taunt upon his haughty lip,

A fiery language in his scowling eye,
My proud heart ill could brook!

E'en like a vision of the fevered brain,

His image haunted me-and urged to madness.-
And when my wearied limbs were locked in sleep,
The blood-red sod, my couch-the tempest-cloud,
My canopy-my bed-fellows, the dead-

My lullaby, the moaning midnight wind

I had a dream—a strange bewildered dream—

And he was with me!

Methought I heard the hollow voice of Death
Tell of another world, while awful shrieks

Of wild despair, and agony, and dread,
Shook the dark vault of heaven!-Suddenly

Deep silence came,—and all the scene was changed!

Insufferable radiance glared around,

And pained the dazzled eye. In robes of light

High on a gorgeous throne, appeared a Form

Of pure celestial glory! In deep awe

A silent, vast, innumerable throng

Of earth-freed warriors bowed. The Form sublime,

« EelmineJätka »