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verbal beauty, a poetry of sound is sustained throughout, let the thought be ever so poor, or vulgar, and almost any thing may find its way to the heart, that glides thither so musically. We have found ourselves humming with most thoughtless complacency, that aerial verse ;
• One blossom of heaven outblooms them all ;'
and there may be tenderer spirits, that have sung his less innocent lays, and thought that nothing impure could float upon such rich harmony. But so it is. The wind sweeps over the lyre, and there is exquisite minstrelsy, whether it steal with pestilence from the swamps, or as the sweet south, that breathes upon a bank of violets.”
But are we insensible to Mr. Moore's fancy? Certainly not~a more ingenious and indefatigable one we are unacquainted with-such an array of tropes and images may have never before been marshalled, even by the most downright oriental, as he has so beautifully set in order. Still we have a feeling to subdue within us, that these, for the most part, are mere ornaments and appendages-any thing but illus. tration or a poetical embodying of thought. They do not yield a warm, living illumination, that mingles naturally with the scenes it falls on, and is perceived only by the gladness and distinctness which it sheds. They are sought and finished with apparent diligence and anxiety, and instead of taking a subordinate place, they stand apart for independent notice and admiration, and glitter as if in pride of their own beauty. In many cases, the thought seems to be introduced, and in a particular shape and relation, for no other purpose than to justify some beautiful comparison. The image generally bears to the subject, which it pretends to illustrate, a cold, exact, quaint resemblance, affording, indeed, very pleasant surprises to those, who think the matter in hand too plain to need, or too poor to deserve illustration; but the imagination is quite still-it enjoys none of the associations, with which it is sometimes crowded by a single epithet, in its just place. On the contrary, the reason is made busy in following out the curious similitudes, and the exquisite art, with which the poet adapts them. And one must be under high poetical excitement, in the very humour to follow the subject, after stopping to try his ingenuity upon these gay conceits; and the artist must resume his
business with most absorbing zeal, after waiting so long and so happily to set a jewel. But in all probability there is no excitement on either side—the reader is looking for fanciful, artificial prettinesses, and the poet is busy in furnishing them.
We may expect to hear that these remarks are owing, after all, to our own insensibility to genuine warmth, and the colouring of beauty--that our taste, such at least as we have, is timid and cruel, too easily alarmed at violence and splendour. However this may be, the impression we have received from Mr. Moore's writings has always been, that his fervour, luxuriance and beauty, notwithstanding his easy flow of expression, are studied and artificial. The hurry and glow of composing,' the freedom of a full heart, have very unequivocal tokens, to make themselves known. No artifice can wholly conceal the expression of sincere feeling, and no artifice can absolutely imitate it. The distinction is essential and imperishable, between the burning language in which passion relieves itself, and that which is the mere substitute and hypocrisy of passion.-As for love, (without professing to be adepts that way,) we can readily comprehend the old fashioned criticism, that no man could hum upon it so elegantly and incessantly as Mr. Moore has done, who had ever known its inwardness and mute significance. But sometimes he assays to be seriously in love-he would be natural and tender, and touch you by that innocent vagueness of expression, which hides the want of feeling in the cold, and betrays its unutterableness in the ardent. But to us there is even here more of inanity than sentiment, of the Haram than the fire-side, of whine and effeminacy than of deep, self-sacrificing tenderness, and oftener perhaps than all, the elegant common places of gallantry, which a man whispers to those he does not respect, and is accustomed to flatter.
Mr. Moore has great ease and sprightliness of narrative, a graceful airiness in touching and leaving a subject, sufficient variety of thought, though too much sameness in the colouring, with verse that flows in perpetual song, and figures that scatter a sparkling brilliancy from beginning to end. This, certainly, is quite enough for modish poetry. He is never lost in the depths or fulness of his mind. He is rarely disturbed by great efforts; and if he venture at times beyond
the limits of the poetry, he has prescribed to himself as most congenial and manageable, he contrives to reduce his subject to such shape and proportions, as will allow him to play with it easily and gracefully. It appears to be his main object to do things elegantly, as if his readers were forever about him, and they too, perfectly fashionable and well drest. This disposition is especially manifest in his descriptions of external nature. The world is but dim and coarse in his eyes, and so he exhibits it in a sort of gay transparency, as if gairishness became it better than the vesture it received from its former, as if the array of the lily were not before all artificial glory. He delights in luxurious clusters of gorgeous, showy objects, upon which art has bestowed care and polish, more than in minute discriminations of nature in her simple, careless forms and colours and situations. He loves to tamper with creation and subdue it, even though he should make its serenity lifeless, its magnificence gaudy, and its wild grandeur trim and sedate. In a forest, we should expect to see him lead the vine about the rough trunks; smooth the roots with the ground and lay turf upon them; hang lights in the leaves, and stir them gently with sighs, while a ruder adventurer would love them in their own solemnity, as they rustled and glittered in the winds and moonlight. And yet he always glides along and works so gracefully, as if listening to musick, and offers so much to glance at, and so little to detain, that it is hardly possible to be wearied, even if we are never wholly satisfied. We must not expect him to make us better acquainted with nature, or more open to its moral and renovating influences by shewing us how the spirit of God still moves upon the work of his hands. We must look elsewhere for the remembered poetry, that mingles with our oldest and dearest thoughts, leaving enduring pictures with us, and sending thrills to the heart, that will never die.
We fear we shall never give Mr. Moore credit for a single excellence, nor feel in good humour with him, till we leave this general criticism, and come to particular passages. Perhaps we have gone so far in our censures, that we can hardly call him a poet now, or admit that he has a delicate perception of beauty, without falling into inconsistency. But he has certainly written enough fine poctry, to make one lament, that bad morals and taste should have drawn from him so much that is worthless. He is thought by some to
have been in a good way of late, especially in his Irish and Gospel Melódies, and nobody will dispute that the present work fulfils very honestly, any expectations, which those or any of his former pieces, could have reasonably inspired. He has probably begun to think seriously of a more creditable immortality than his younger poems could have purchased. And it is a little unfortunate that, just as he had set about improvement, he should have made the East his poetical home, where his old relish for unwedded love, and never ending conceits and brilliancy, may be regaled more than ever, and where the poet himself, in the guise of an eastern minstrel, is tempted, and with less hazard, to repeat his early transgressions.
The work before us gives a very pleasant story in prose, of the journey of Lalla Rookh, a princess of Hindostan, from Delhi to Cashmere, where she was to be met for the first time, and espoused by the young king of Bucharia, to whom she had been betrothed. At first, she found enough to delight her in the beauty and novelty of the scenes she was passing through, and as these faded, in the songs and dances of her attendants. Her diversions, however, were at last all exhausted, when it was recollected, that among the attendants, who had been sent by the bridegroom, was a young poet of Cashmere, on whom the king had conferred the privilege of being admitted to the pavilion of the princess, that he might beguile the tediousness of the way by recitals of eastern stories. It was natural that the princess should love the poet for his beauty and song, and that he should love her for her charms and sympathy. It was equally in the course of things, that she should discover in the sovereign at Cashmere the humble minstrel, who had won her heart on the way. The great chamberlain, Fadladeen, is a very important personage, through whom Mr. Moore communicates much pleasant criticism on his own work; and we only regretted seeing it, from our conviction that a man never thinks seriously of correcting a fault, which he anticipates others in exposing. The story is very short, and from time to time, interrupted by the minstrel, who, in the course of it, recites four distinct poems. These we shall proceed to notice.
We shall give an outline of the first, both because the story is a curiosity, and as we shall be able in this way to
introduce more conveniently the few passages we wish to extract. We shall avoid as much as possible the treasures of Eastern learning, by which the poet strives to illumine, and succeeds in burdening and disfiguring every poem in the book.
The Prophet of Khorassan, according to Fadladeen, is an ill-favoured gentleman, with a veil over his face,' flung there, as he pretended, to hide the miraculous glory of his brow, but in fact to conceal his hideousness. He seems to have been set against mankind a little after the manner of Richard.
'But turn and look-then wonder if thou wilt,
Here-judge if hell, with all its power to damn, Can add one curse to the foul thing I am.' p. 43. He appears first in his Divan, surrounded by a gorgeous array of awe-struck followers, for the purpose of receiving a young, enthusiastick proselyte, who had just returned from bondage in Greece, full of liberty and perfectibility. Azim makes his obeisance, and Mokanna, the Prophet, (who is a thorough French Jacobin, in every thing but his white flag,) harangues the multitude.
this sword must first
Earth's shrines and thrones before our banner fall,
Shall walk transparent like some holy thing. p. 20.
He is equally ambitious to improve the condition of woman, and accordingly his Haram is supplied with the fairest Vol. VI. No. 1.