« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
siasm. The sketches which he has here collected and completed are well worthy of republication, and deserve to be carefully read both by the traveller who wishes to know the country through which the byways here spoken of run, and by the student of the Italian Renaissance. They are full of interest and instruction. We scarcely know which to admire most, their charming descriptions of natural scenery, or Mr. Symonds' skill as a critic dealing with the remains of Italian art, or as an historian recounting the vicissitudes of fortune or the terrible tragedies which more than one of the places he visited recall. As a piece of word painting, nothing can be more exquisite than 'Italiam Petimus,' or 'La Spezzia.' In 'Monte Oliveto' we have a thoroughly appreciative account of the works of Bazzi and Luca Signorelli; while in 'Montepulciano' we have the story of Aragazzi, who so 'thirsted for diuturnity in monuments,' retold, as well as a masterly critique of the 'sculpture for which he spent his thousands of crowns, which Donatello touched with his immortalising chisel, over which the contractors vented their curses, and Bruni eased his bile.' Perhaps the most interesting of the sketches is the 'Folgore da San Gemignano,' in which, besides a translation of Folgore's sonnets not already translated by Mr. D. E. Rossetti, we have a lively picture of Italian manners in the middle ages, and an account of some curious customs of the time in connection with the order of knighthood in Italy.
A Visit to Ceylon. By ERNST HAECKEL. Translated by Clara Bell. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1883.
The contents of this volume originally appeared in the Deutsche Rundschau, under the title 'Indische Reisebriefe,' and in our summaries of that excellent periodical have already been referred to. For the naturalist Ceylon has innumerable attractions and judging by his book Professor Haeckel seems to have spent there some of the happiest months of his life. Everything seems to have charmed him, and the account he has written of his visit is one of the most delightful books of travel we have seen. Unlike many German Professors Dr. Haeckel can make himself perfectly intelligible. He writes with both simplicity and elegance, and the charming scenes with which his pages are filled together with the large amount of information they convey respecting the fauna and flora of that wonderful island make the journal of his visit specially attractive. His scientific observations he has reserved, we presume, for publication by themselves. Here we have just as much science as is requisite to convey an accurate conception of the physical phenomena of the island; and to those who wish to learn what Ceylon and its people are and to those also who desire to read a really enjoyable book we strongly commend this of Professor Haeckel's.
Scottish Characteristics. By PAXTON HOOD. London: Hodder and Stoughton.
Mr Paxton Hood has, with great industry and adroitness, compiled a
very interesting and amusing book. His knowledge of the Scottish language cannot be said to be great; nor can he claim to have much acquaintance with his subject, except, so far as it is to be met with in books. The distinction between the Highlands and the Lowlands he scarcely seems to appreciate; nor does he seem to be aware that in the Scottish language there are various dialects, and that it is as little surprising that some Scotsmen do not understand Dr. George Macdonald's Aberdonian Scotch, as it is that a Cornishman does not understand the dialect of Cheshire or Yorkshire. On the other hand, he understands the Scottish language sufficiently to appreciate much of its wit and humour, and without touching the Laird of Logan, or Dean Ramsay's Reminiscences, he has brought and cleverly strung together a large number of stories illustrative of the humourous side of the Scottish character, which, even if old acquaintances will be read by most Scotsmen with pleasure, and by Englishmen with, we should say, a real sense of enjoyment. Before another edition is issued, Mr Hood might do worse than get some Scotsman wellversed in his 'mither' tongue to revise his Scotch. The errors are not many, but their correction would be an improvement, at least in the eyes of Scotsmen.
Jocoseria. By ROBERT BROWNING.
& Co., 1883.
London: Smith, Elder
This latest little volume from the pen of Mr. Browning will appeal mainly not to the profane vulgar of the reading world, but to the smallerthough growing circle of Browning-lovers and students; and even they are hardly likely to regard it as one of his most noteworthy and characteristic performances. In it he abandons the direct narrative style of the Dramatic Idylls, and returns to the elaborate analysis, edged with the thinnest narrative framework, which is to be found in such poems as The Inn Album and Fifine at the Fair, the only exception to this criticism being the poem entitled 'Donald' which is a simple story very forcibly told of an act of treachery so callously inhuman that one almost regrets having read it. There is, however, one very remarkable and suggestive study—the poem entitled 'Jochonan Hakkadosh,' which tells the story of how a dying Jewish sage had his life miraculously prolonged for a year by the self-sacrifice of four disciples, each of whom gives up three months of his own life in order that the sage may live three months as a lover, three as a poet, three as a warrior, and three as a statesman. Great results in the way of teaching are expected from this great experiment, but the result is altogether disappointing. The new wine gains no marvellous quality by being poured into the old bottle; it is simply flattened and soured; and the poem is a remarkable embodiment, from a different standpoint of the teaching of 'Rabbi Ben Ezra,’—
'As it was better, youth
Should strive, through acts uncouth,
Toward making, than repose on aught found made;
So, better, age, exempt
From strife, should know, than tempt
Further. Thou waitedst age; wait death nor be afraid!'
Of the remaining contents we are touched most keenly by two lyrics— 'Wanting is-What' and 'Never the Time and the Place'-both inspired by an imaginative motive of which Mr. Browning never wearies and never treats otherwise than freshly. These are in the poet's finest lyrical manner; but we think on the whole that no volume of Mr. Browning's contains less really memorable work. That it is Mr. Browning's work is, however, sufficient to give it interest.
A Century of Roundels.
By ALGERNON CHARLES SWIN
BURNE. London: Chatto & Windus, 1883.
We do not know whether Mr. Swinburne, like Wordsworth, has felt 'the weight of too much liberty;' but in this volume he has for the time given up his unchartered freedom and voluntarily subjected himself to the trammels of an arbitrary form. The result is so charming that were it not for the remembrance of certain mighty choruses, unfettered lyrics, and passages of masculine dramatic blank verse, we might wish that Mr. Swinburne would go on writing 'roundels' for ever. In previous works Mr. Swinburne has provided material for such fierce ethical controversies that it may be well to say at once that this volume is, from its first page to its last, absolutely 'void of offence;' but it is something more than mere blameless work for it is full of high imagination, of noble emotion, of varied and exquisite music. The work may be roughly but not inclusively divided into poems treating of nature, of friendship, and of little children; and while those in the first class are perhaps the strongest and most sustained, those in the last have such captivating grace and tenderness, such homely universality of emotional interest that they will probably linger longest in the ear of the human, as distinguished from the merely critical, world. There is a series of seven poems on A Baby's Death' which we would transcribe entire did space allow; as it is, we must content ourselves with taking one from its fair companionship.
'The little hands that never sought
'We ask but love's self silent stands,
'Ere this, perchance, though love know nought,
The little hands.'
For just another quotation we must find room. It is one of a roundel sequence written in Guernsey and dedicated to that poet and friend of poets, Mr. Theodore Watts.
'Across and along, as the bay's breadth opens, and o'er us
'The whole world's heart is uplifted, and knows not wrong;
'Like children unworn of the passions and toils that wore us,
North Country Folk Poems. By WALTER C. SMITH. Glasgow:
This latest volume of Dr. Smith's lacks the largeness of grasp and the sustained interest which distinguish some of his earlier works. This is due mainly to the subjects he has chosen to treat of. We have here some six-and-twenty poems with no other connection with each other than that which they receive from the title page and the binder. Still, taken separately, they all bear ample evidence of the author's peculiar power. The same acquaintance with human nature, the same fine perception of the higher reaches of its experience, and the same artistic skill which belong to his larger works belong in a measure to these. Of the series 'Wee Curly Pow' is probably the best and most characteristic. In 'Dick Dalgleish' we have Dr. Smith's typical workman, whose confession is
'The Dord did not seek His own honour and glory,
Not to rise from our class, but to raise the class higher,
Not to turn from the hammer, the file and the fire;
And still win our bread by the sweat of our brow,
'Provost Chivas' and 'The Mad Earl' have considerable merit, and are written
'Mother will soon be here,
She is coming to curse the Law and the Judge'
The picture of
is particularly good. The whole poem however should be read.
The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. By Mr.
The value of this excellent facsimile reprint of good old George Herbert's Temple is greatly enhanced by a charmingly and sympathetically written introduction by the author of John Inglesant. Mr. Shorthouse tells us that the invitation to write the introduction reached him with a surprising appropriateness upon Easter Day,' and we cannot but think that the selection of one so well fitted by tastes and studies as the author of John Inglesant, to write the introduction, was an extremely happy thought on the part of the publishers, and equally appropriate. That he has performed his task almost to perfection, we need hardly say. We are inclined to think, however, that Herbert has many more admirers than Mr. Shorthouse seems to believe. But whether he has or not, we do not think we are far wrong in saying that, notwithstanding his quaintness and frequent obscurities, Herbert will continue to have a goodly company of readers as long as the English language is spoken. Henry Vaughan has given us several poems which, in our opinion, are much finer than anything Herbert has written. Yet his hold on the popular religious mind is scarcely so deep or enduring. There is tenderness and a breadth of Christian simplicity running through all that Herbert has written, which give both to his poetry and prose a perennial charm.