Images de page

quisite pictures from nature, that the excellency of Madoc


To the illustrious names that we have mentioned we cannot flatter the author of the Year, that his will be added by posterity. The poem is in truth insufferably dull,-so dull that, we think, criticism is almost unnecessary here. Lest, however, our readers should rather suspect our sensibility than the author's powers, we must mention one or two other little faults that we seem to espy in the poem. As to dullness, it cannot be proved without long quotations, which, in such a proof, we have not the conscience to impose upon our readers. We shall, therefore, only state that the venerable reader to our Eclectic society, having interrupted the course of the first six months with hideous yawns, finally gave over about the end of June,not, however, as he affirms, without having been admonished to that purpose by the general snore of the company.

- In the first place, the division of the poem into months is bad. The progress of the year from month to month does not furnish a new set of descriptions to the poet.

Secondly, Dr. Bidlake's way of treating his subject is the most uninviting imaginable. Every page, almost, presents us with the dullest sermonizings in the poorest verse.

The following is the argument of February. We mark in italics those parts which have a reference to this month, rather than to another. They occupy nearly four pages out of twentytwo. The rest is digression.

Description of the month-Wisdom of Providence exemplifiedExistence of a Supreme Being proved from the frame of nature Consolations of religion-Evidence of design in the works of Providence-roduction of rivers--The sea-Advantages resulting from the inequality of the earth s surface-Strata of the earth-The sunSublimity of nature-Liberality of nature-Animals of prey not numerous-Fire-Beauty and utility of the atmosphere-StreamsOccasional serenity of weather-Ploughing—Lambs—The DawPigeons.'

The style throughout is bad-a mixture of the tawdry and vulgar. For example,

"O! let the target's circled face improve

The fatal art; and teach the leaden death ;* That is, teach you how to shoot. Again:

[ocr errors]

Though wearied nature finds her time of rest,
And vegetation sleeps, yet this same sleep
Recruits exhausted powers.'

[ocr errors][merged small]

Yet, yet ascend, till mighty kingdoms look
A speck below, and oceans seem a drop;
There sits the majesty of nature throned,
There rides sublimity the climbing cloud;
Convulsive fear, and terror, lightning-eyed,
And dumb astonishment are there! And hark!
She thunders down dread Niagara's steep,
An ocean cataract of whitening foam,
And earthquakes many a mile.'

What does this mean? Once more:

Ah see! how soft, how meek,

Young colour steals o'er all the swelling grove,'
The blue-eyed moisture pours
In pattering drops o'er all the smiling vale;'
Nor less than heavenly wisdom can inspire.
Instinctive cares. The rudest savage feels
The tender passion tame his furious breast;
The fierce to softness tuned are fierce no more.
Alas! such heavenly interests are unfelt
By those who far superior motives boast."'

In the following passage is an optical allusion, which, we think, is far from being luminously clear,"

'The scatter'd thoughts thou to a focus bring'st

Of mental radiance, luminously clear.'

Where, too, did the author learn his system of the world?
Or where the Swede,

Or-magic-loving Fin, six months behold

The brilliant moon, and six the unsetting sun;'

Enough of this. There are, undoubtedly, to be found in the volume some pretty passages. The following snow-scene is worthy, we think, of a more durable poem.

In mist the morning rose; but soon disclos'd
O'er all the earth a spreading waste of white,
Whose purity no vagrant footstep stain'd,
Save of the early hind, whose faithful care
The safety of the herd or flock required;
Save of the hare, whom nightly hunger call'd
To try with treacherous feet her wonted feed.
Close to the hedge the cattle crept, and mute,
Expectant stood; while from their nostrils broad
Steam'd visible and slow, the lingering breath.
The moss-clad cottage, and the leafless tree,
Which glossy ivy clasp'd, were hung with tufts
Of snow; while in an undistinguish'd glare,
The hollow dale, the wide-spread lawn were lost.
Lost too the mazy brook, and every pool,
The lately busy mill all silent stood,

While o'er the palsied wheel the stream enchain'd,'
Fantastically frost-worked, length'ning hung
When, lo! the sun peer'd forth with level ray,
The clouds in summer brightness rose, the while
The freckled azure look'd serene behind..
Mountains and mists now strangely mix'd, appear'd:
Rude shapen forms and visionary shades;
And now th' ascending orb sparkled around
In radiant gems, reflected from the face
Of every field, and every crystal blade
Of nodding grass; pale was the silver'd earth;
But, o'er the sea where mists opaque are spread,
The yellow beams burst out in glorious strength.
Faithful as friendship, still triumphant green

Cheer'd the dead waste. The grove of solemn fir,

The ivy wreaths of glossy hue, the bush

With berries blush'd, while lingering on the oak

The ochre-tinted foliage hung, the twig


Dropp'd frequent on the leaf-strew'd ground a show'r
Of rattling ice while, as the labourer turn'd
With shining spade the stiffen'd soil, close by

The full-ey'd red-breast watch'd the writhing worm,
Eager to seize.'

There is merit too in the simplicity and truth of the following:

Yet now and then

Heat o'er the noon prevails with grateful sway,
On the slope sides of hillocks, softly fann'd
By southern gales, before whose genial breath
The morning whiteness of fantastic frost
Fast vanishes. The cottage garden feels
A cheering warmth. Clad in a robe of light,
The furze with early incense hails th' approach
Of softer gales. And how delicious breathes
The violet! Anticipation fills
The breast with summer promise.
With yellow cups the daffodillies crowd met
The leafless thicket or the orchard hedge."

See how bright

Waked by the early impulse of the sun,
A venturous butterfly, his mealy wings
Trusts to the doubtful air; the vagrant bee
Attempts th' inviting gale. From torpid sleep
Arous'd, the martin leaves awhile his cave,
Delved in the sandy bank, that girds the pool,
And sweeps on frolic wing like thoughtless youth,
Too prone to wanton in the flattering hour

Of brief prosperity.'

The following is in a very pretty style of poetical reasoning.

• Now in the feathery people instinct works;

Mysterious power! that ne'er like reason errs;
By slow advances human wisdom grows,
While ages heap experience on the past.
Instinct its utmost stretch at once acquires,
The immediate gift of Heaven's benignant care.
Burst from the imprisoning shell, why instant else,
Should downy ducklings seek the neighbouring pond,
And venturously trust its untried wave,

While the stepmother hen, ruffled with fear,
Clucks timorous admonition on the brink?
Why should the bird, who first a mother's cares
Feels fondly fluttering o'er her little heart;
A perfect, yet a self-taught architect,
Build her prime nest with uninstructed skill,
And spread the downy lining smooth and fair,
Like the soft cradle which its parent form'd,
Cautious of future wants?'

..We can find nothing better to add than the description of the vernal colours.

A thousand hues flush o'er the fragrant earth,
Or tinge the infant germs of every tree
That bursts with teeming life. Her various vest
The gentle Spring assumes, refulgent less
Than Autumn's robe, but O! how soft, how gay
The pleasing tints that steal upon the eye!

How white the fields with countless daisies drest!
Fair too the leafless hedge with the prime sweets
Of early thorn; the while the hawthorn bursts
With tender green. How blue the devious dell,
The rivulet's winding banks, the tangled copse,
With harebell flowers-See yonder sycamores,
Some with a sombre leaf expand, and some
Rich varied dies disclose. There, trembling hoar,
The group of silvery poplars waves beside
The mazy stream, that as it feeds the vale,
Reflects upon its breast in rippling lines
The gradual shades of ever spreading green,
That steal delightful on the ravish'd sight.'..

Art. III. A Popular Survey of the Reformation and Fundamental Doctrines of the Church of England. By George Custance, author of " A Concise View of the Constitution of England." 8vo. pp. 571. Longman and Co. 1813.


[ocr errors]

THOUGH this work may not be of such obvious utility as the "Concise View of the Constitution of England;" yet is by no means superfluous or unseasonable. No period in the religious history of this country, (except, perhaps, the present) affords such a succession of interesting events, or is

so rich in examples of virtuous exertion, heroic piety, and inexhaustible patience, as that of the reformation. An accurate acquaintance with the talents, virtues, and sufferings of the founders of the English reformed church, if it does not generate an attachment to her doctrines and worship, must at least confirm it where it previously exists: while the revival, almost in our own age, of the doctrines of the reformation, when they were falling into oblivion, and the controversies that have thereby been excited, concur to throw an additional interest upon that eventful period, and the men by whom it was adorned.

In the work before us, it is the author's object to combine a view of the rise and establishment of the Reformation, with an exposition of its doctrines and advantages; and to present the whole in a form sufficiently concise and adapted for popular reading. Of the merits of the " Survey,” a judgement may be formed from the brief account that we shall give of its contents, and the few words that we shall have occasion to say on the manner in which it is executed.

It is, as might be supposed, partly historical and partly didactic. The historical part, occupying nearly half the volume, presents, in the first chapter, a brief sketch of the introduction of Christianity into England and its various fortunes, till the appearance of the reformed doctrines under Henry VIII. The four following chapters narrate the incidents which accelerated or retarded the establishment of the Protestant religion, or were connected with that auspicious event. This part of the work appears to be on the whole accurate, neat, and interesting ; and it abounds with reflections that discover a liberal and devout mind. Compared, however, with the importance of the subject and the remainder of the volume, it seems too concise. Many incidents illustrative of the manners of that age, and of the genius of the agents in the reformation, are dispersed through the pages of Fox and Burnet, that might have been conveniently and advantageously introduced. Mr. Custance's laudable prejudices in favour of the reformed religion have led him to cast an additional shade over the evils connected with. the Catholic superstition in that age, and the vices of its adherents. To the same cause must be ascribed the strange assertions, that cruelty does not appear to have been the besetting sin' of Henry VIII, and that in his prosecutions he always proceeded according to law. To the same cause we should likewise have ascribed the feeble commendation bestowed on Sir Thomas More, had not the following terms in which our author speaks of Cranmer, of whom he yet entertains a high admiration, excited a suspicion of negligence and

« PrécédentContinuer »