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With snowy wreaths to crown the beauteous
brow; The rose will fade when storms assail the year, And Time, who changeth not his swift career,
Constant in this, will change all else below!
Here to each eye the wind seems gently playing With the light vest, its wavy folds arraying
In many a line of undulating grace; While Nature, ne'er her mighty laws suspending, Stands, before marble thus with motion blending, One moment lost in thought, its hidden cause
LORENZO DE MEDICI.
“Non di verdi giardin ornati e colti."
We come not, fair one! to thy hand of snow
From the soft scenes by Culture's band array'd; Not rear'd in bowers where gales of fragrance blow,
But in dark glens, and depths of forest shade ! There once, as Venus wander'd, lost in woe,
To seek Adonis through th' entangled wood, Piercing her foot, a thorn that lurk'd below
With print relentless drew celestial blood ! Then ourlight stems, with snowy blossoms fraught, Bending to earth, each precious drop we caught,
Imbibing thence our bright purpureal dyes ; We were not foster'd in our shadowy vales By guided rivulets or summer gales— Our dew and air have been Love's balmy tears
and sighs !
(A volume of translations published in 1818, might have been called by anticipation, “ Lays of many Lands." At the time now alluded to, her inspirations were chiefly derived from classical subjects. The “graceful superstitions" of Greece, and the sublime patriotism of Rome, held an influence over her thoughts which is evinced by many of the works of this period—such as “ The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy," “ Modern Greece," and several of the poems which formed the volume entitled “ Tales and Historic Scenes.”
Apart from all intercourse," says Delta, “ with literary society, and acquainted only by name and occasional correspondence with any of the distinguished authors of whom England has to boast, Mrs Hemans, during the progress of her poetical career, had to contend with more and greater obstacles than usually stand in the path of female authorship. To her praise be it spoken, therefore, that it was to her own merit alone, wholly independent of adventitious circumstances, that she was indebted for the extensive share of popularity which her compositions ultimately obtained. From this studious seclusion were given forth the two poems which first permanently elevated her among the writers of her age, —the “Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy,' and • Modern Greece. In these the maturity of her intellect appears; and she makes us feel, that she has marked out a path for herself through the regions of song. The versification is high-toned and musical, in accordance with the sentiment and subject; and in every page we have evidence, not only of taste and genius, but of careful elaboration and research. These efforts were favourably noticed by Lord Byron; and attracted the admiration of Shelley. Bishop Heber and other judicious and intelligent counsellors cheered her on by their approbation : the reputation which, through years of silent study and exertion, she had, no doubt, sometimes with brightened and sometimes with doubtful hopes, looked forward to as a sufficient great reward, was at length unequivo. cally and unreluctantly accorded her by the world, and, probably, this was the happiest period of her life. The Translations from Camoens; the prize poem of Wallace, as also that of Dartmoor, the Tales and Historic Scenes, and the Sceptic, may all be referred to this epoch of her literary career." —Bioyraphical Sketch, prefixed to Poetical Remains, 1836.
In reference to the same period of Mrs Hemans' career, the late acute and accomplished Miss Jewsbury (afterwards Mrs Fletcher) has the following judicious observations:
“ At this stage of transition, her poetry was correct, classical, and highly polished ; but it wanted warmth: it partook more of the nature of statuary than of painting. She fettered her mind with facts and authorities, and drew upon her memory when she might have relied upon her imagination. She was diffident of herself, and, to quote her own admission, * loved to repose under the shadow of mighty names.'"Athenaeum, Feb. 1831.]
ON THE HEBE OF CANOVA.
“ Dove per te, celeste ancilla, or vassi ?"
WHITHER, celestial maid, so fast away?
What lures thee from the banquet of the skies! How canst thou leave thy native realms of day
Forthis low sphere, this vale of clouds and sighs ? O thou, Canova ! soaring high above
Italian art—with Grecian magic vying ! We knew thy marble glow'd with life and love,
But who had seen thee image footsteps flying?
We rear no marble o'er thy tomb
No sculptured image there shall mourn ; Ah ! fitter far the vernal bloom
Such dwelling to adorn. Fragrance, and flowers, and dews, must be The only emblems meet for thee.
Is thine a heart the world hath stung,
Beyond her magic to restore;
Thy grave shall be a blessed shrine,
Adorn'd with Nature's brightest wreath; Each glowing season shall combine
Its incense there to breathe ; And oft, upon the midnight air, Shall viewless harps be murmuring there.
And oh! sometimes in visions blest,
Sweet spirit ! visit our repose; And bear, from thine own world of rest,
Some balm for human woes
Or to his loved, his distant land
On your light wings the exile bear, To feel once more his heart expand
In his own genial mountain-air; Hear the wild echoes well-known strains repeat, And bless each note, as heaven's own music
But oh! with fancy's brightest ray,
Blest dreams ! the bard's repose illume ; Bid forms of heaven around him play,
And bowers of Eden bloom ! And waft his spirit to its native skies Who finds no charm in life's realities.
? Major-general Sir Edward Pakenham, the gallant officer to whose memory these verses are dedicated, fell at the head of the British troops in the unfortunate attack on New Orleans, 8th January 1814. “Six thousand combatants on the British side," says Mr Alison, “ were in the field : a slender force to attack double their number, intrenched to the teeth in works bristling with bayonets and loaded with heavy artillery."—History of Europe, vol. x. p. 743.
The death of Sir Edward is thus alluded to in the official account of General Keane, communicating the result of the action:-“The advancing columns were discernible from the enemy's line at more than two hundred yards' distance, when a destructive fire was instantly opened, not only from all parts of the enemy's line, but from the battery on the opposite side of the river. The gallant Pakenham, who, during his short but brilliant career, was always foremost in the path of glory and of danger, galloped forward to the front, to animate his men by his presence. He had reached the crest of the glacis, and was in the act of cheering his troops with his hat off, when he received two balls, one in the knee and another in the body. He fell into the arms of Major Macdougal, his aide-de-camp, and almost instantly expired."-Edinr. An. Regist. 1815, p. 356.
No voice is on the air of night,
Through folded leaves no murmurs creep, Nor star nor moonbeam's trembling light
Falls on the placid brow of sleep. Descend, bright visions ! from your airy bower : Dark, silent, solemn is your favourite hour.
i Vide Annotation from Quarterly Review, p. 62.
The records of your wars are gone, Your names forgot by all but one.
EVENING AMONGST THE ALPS.
Soon shall that one depart from earth,
To join the brethren of his prime; Then will the memory of your birth
Sleep with the hidden things of time. With him, ye sons of former days ! Fades the last glimmering of your praise.
His eyes, that hail'd your spirits' flame,
Still kindling in the combat's shock, Have seen, since darkness veild your fame,
Sons of the desert and the rock !
Sort skies of Italy ! how richly drest,
Smile these wild scenes in your purpureal glow! What glorious hues, reflected from the west,
Float o'er the dwellings of eternal snow ! Yon torrent, foaming down the granite steep,
Sparkles all brilliance in the setting beam; Dark glens beneath in shadowy beauty sleep, Where pipes the goat-herd by his mountain.
stream. Now from yon peak departs the vivid ray,
That still at eve its lofty temple knows; From rock and torrent fade the tints away,
And all is wrapt in twilight's deep repose : While through the pine wood gleams the vesper
star, And roves the Alpine gale o'er solitudes afar.
Descendants of the mighty dead !
Fearless of heart, and firm of hand ! Oh, let me join their spirits fled
Oh! send me to their shadowy land. Age hath not tamed Ontara's heartHe shrinks not from the friendly dart.
DIRGE OF THE HIGHLAND CHIEF IN
These feet no more can chase the deer,
The glory of this arm is flown ;Why should the feeble linger here
When all the pride of life is gone ? Warriors ! why still the stroke deny? Think ye Ontara fears to die?
Son of the mighty and the free !
High-minded leader of the brave ! Was it for lofty chief like thee
To fill a nameless grave ? Oh! if amidst the valiant slain
The warrior's bier had been thy lot, E'en though on red Culloden's plain,
We then had mourn'd thee not.
He fear'd not in his flower of days,
When strong to stem the torrent's force, When through the desert's pathless inaze
His way was as an eagle's course ! When war was sunshine to his sight, And the wild hurricane delight !
Shall, then, the warrior tremble now?
Now when his envied strength is o'erHung on the pine his idle bow,
His pirogue useless on the shore ? When age hath dimm'd his failing eye, Shall he, the joyless, fear to die?
1 These very beautiful stanzas first appeared in the Edinburgh Annual Register for 1815, (p. 255,) with the following interesting heading.
“A literary friend of ours received these verses with a letter of the following tenor :
“A very ingenious young friend of mine has just sent me the enclosed, on reading Waverley. To you the world gives that charming work; and if in any future edition you should like to insert the Dirge to a Highland Chief, you would do honour to
Your Sincere Admirer.' “ The individual to whom this obliging letter was addressed, having no claim to the honour which is there done him, does not possess the means of publishing the verses in the popular novel alluded to. But that the public may sustain no loss, and that the ingenious author of Waverley may be aware of the honour intended him, our correspondent has ventured to send the verses to our Register."
Notwithstanding the mysticism in the note about the " very ingenious young friend of mine” and “ your sincere admirer," on the one hand; and the disclaimer by “a literary friend of ours," on the other, there can be little doubt that the Dirge was sent by Mrs Hemans to Sir Walter, then Mr Scott, and by him to the Register - of which he himself wrote that year the historical department. Vide Lockhart's Life of Scott, vol. iv. p. 80.
Sons of the brave ! delay no more
The spirits of my kindred call.
Oh, bid the aged cedar fall !