Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

We fall upon our faces. trying to go :
And, underneath our heavy wyelids Irooping.
The reddest flower would look as pale as svow.
For, all day, we drag our burden tiring

Through tie coal-dark, underground-
Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron

In the factories, round and round.
For, all day, the wheels are droning, turning-

Their wind comes in our faces-
Till our hearts turu-our heads, with pulses burning,

And the walls turn in their places.
Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling-
Turns the long light that drops adowu the wall
Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling-
All are turning, all the day, and we with all.
And all day, the irou wheels are droniug,

And sometimes we could pray,
“Oye wheels "-breaking out in a mad moaning-

“Stop! be silent for 10-day !")
Ay! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing

For a moment, mouth to month !
Let them wouch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing

of their tender human youth!
Let them feel that tbis cold metallic motion
Is not all the life God fashiong or reveals.
Let them prove their inward souls against the notion
That they live in you, or under you, O wheels -
Still, all day. the iron wheels go onward,

Grinding life dov:n froin its mark;
And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward,

Spin on blindly in the dark. The 'Sonnets from the Portuguese' are as passionate as Shakspeare's Sonnets, and we suspect the title, ‘from the Portuguese,' has no better authority than Sir Walter Scott's 'Old Play' at the head of the chapters of his novels. The first of these so-called translations is eminently beautiful-quite equal to Wordsworth, or to Wordspor .!! Jodel, Milton:

Sonnet.
I thought once how Theocritus had sung
01 the sweet years, the dear and wished-for years,
Who each one in a gracious hand appears
To bear a gift for mortals, old or young:
And, as I mused it in hie antique tongue,
I saw, in gradual vision through my tears,
The sweet, sad years, the melancholy years,
Those of my own life, who hy turns had flung
A shadow across me. Straightwav I was 'ware,
So weeping, how a mystic Shape did move
Behind me, and drew me backward by the hair,
And a voice said in mastery. while I strove :
"Guess now who holds thee?!_Death!' I said. But, there,

The silver answer rang: Not Death, but Love.' An interval of some years elapsed ere Miss Barrett came forward with another volume, though she was occasionally seen as a contributor to literary journals. She hersme in 1846 the wife of a kindred spirit, Robert Browning, the poet, and removed with him to Italy. In Florence she witnessed the revolutionary outbreak of 1848, and this furnished the theme of her next important work, Casa Guidi Windows,' a poem containing the impressions of the writer upon events in Tuscany of which sne was a witness’ from the win. dows of her house, the Casa Guidi in Florence. The poem is a spirited semi-political narrative of actual events and genuine feelings. Fart might pass for the work of Byron-so free is its versification, and so warn the affection of Mrs. Browning for Italy and the Italians—but there are also passages that would have served better for a prose pamphlet. The genius of the poetess had become practical and energetic-inspirited by what she saw around her, and by the new tie which, as we learn from this pleasing poem, now brightened her visions of the future:

The san strikes, through the windows, up the floor :

Stand out in ii, my young Florentine,
Not two years old, and let me see thee inore !

And itx thy bruve blue English eyes on mine,
And froin my soul, which fronts the future so,

With unabashed and unabated gaze,
Teach me to hope for, what the angels know

When they smile clear as thou dost. In 1856 appeared • Aurora Leigh,' an elaborate poem or novel in blank verse, which Mrs. Browning characterises as the 'most mature' of her works, and one into which her ‘highest convictions upon life and art are entered.' It presents us, like Wordsworth's Prelude,' with the history of a poetical mind-an autobiography of the heart and intellect; but Wordsworth, with all his contempt for literary 'conventionalities.' would never have ventured on such a sweeping departure from established critical rules and poetical diction as Mrs. Browning has here carried out. There is a prodigality of genius in the work, many just and fine remarks, ethical and critical, and passages evincing a keen insight into the human heart as well as into the working of our social institutions and artificial restraints. A noble hatred of falsehood, hypocrisy, and oppression breathes through the whole. But the materials of the poem are so strangely mingled and so discordant-prose and poetry so mixed up together-scenes of splendid passion and tears followed by dry metaphysical and polemi. cal disquisitions, or rambling common-place conversation, that the effect of the peem as a whole, though splendid in parts, is unsatisfactory. An English Landscape.— From ' Aurora Leigh.'

The thrushen sang,
And shook my polses and the elm's new leaves
And then I turned. and held my finger tip.
And hade him mark, that how Op's the world
Went m. as he related. certainly
The thrnshee atill song in it At which word
Als hrow would softep-and he hore with mo
In melancholy patience, not unkind,

While breaking into volnble ecstacy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets ust--the ski s. the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets, hiding from the roads
The primroses ruu dowu to, carrying gold-
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Their tolerant horns and patient churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs--bedgerows all alive
With birds, and goats, and large white butterflies,
Which look as if the May-flower had caught life
And palpitated forth upon the wind-
Hills, vales, woods, neited in a silver mist;
Farins, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales.
And cottage chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. •See,' I said,
* And see, is God not with ue on the earth ?
And shall we put Him down hy aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile,
Save poverty and wickedness ? Behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,

And clapped my hand, and called all very fair. In 1860, Poems Before Congress' evinced Mrs. Browning's unabated interest in Italy and its people. This was her last publication. She died on the 29th of June, 1861, at the Casa Guidi, Florence ; and in front of the house, a marble tablet records that in it wrote and died Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who, by her song, created a golden link between Italy and England, and that in gratitude Florence had erected that memorial. In 1862 the literary remains of Mrs. Browning were published under the title of 'Last Poems.'

We subjoin a piece written in the early, and we think the purest style of the poetess :

Coroper's Grave.
It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart's decaying,
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying.
Yet let' the grief and humbleness, as low as silence, languish.
Earth surely now may give her cal to whom she gave her anguish.
O noets. from a maniac's tongue was poored the deathless singing!
O Christians, at your cross of hope, a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!
And now, what time ye all may read throngh dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell, and darkness on the glory,
And how when one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no lese a loving face because so broken-hearted.
He shall be strong to sanctify the poet's bigh vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration
Nor ever shall he he. in praise, hy wise or good forsaken,
Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken.
With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him-
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won bine,
Who suffered once the modness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently lea the blind along where breath and bird conld ind him

And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, barmonious influences.
The pulse of dew upon the grass, kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tenderues es.
The very world, hy God's constraint, from falsehood's ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving.
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing.
He testified this solemn truth, wbile frenzy desolated --
Nor man nor nature satisfy whom only God created.
Like a sick child that knoweth not his mother whilst she blesses
And drops upon bis burning brow the coolness of her kisses-
That turns his fevered eyes around-. My mother! where's my mother?'
As if such ten der words and deeds could come from any other
The fever gone, with leaps of heart he sees her bending o'er him,
Her face ali pale from watchful love, the unweary love me bore him!
Thus, woke the poet from the dream his life's long fever gave him.
Beneath those deep pathetic eyes, which closed iu deuth to save him.
Thus! oh, not thus ! no type of earth could image that awaking,
Wherein be scarcely heard ine chant of serupbs, round bin breaking,
Or felt the pew immortal throb of soul from body parted.
But lelt those eyes alone, and knew- My saviour not deserted!
Deserted! Who hath dreamt that when the cross in darkness rested, .
Upon the Victiin's hidden face, no love was manifested ?
Wbat frantic hands outstretched have e'er the atoving drops averted ?
What tears have washed them from the soul, that one should be deserted ?
Deserted ! God conld separate from His own essence rather ;
And Adam's rins kare swept between the righteous Son and Father.
Yes, once, Immanuel's or pbaned cry his universe hath sbuken-
It went up siugle, echoless, My God, I am forsaken l'
It went op from the Holy's lips amid bis lost crention,
That, of the lost, no son should use those words of desolation !
That carth's worst frenzies, marring hope, should mar not hope's fruition,
And I, on Cowper's grave, should see his rapture in a vision,

ROBERT BROWNING. The head of what has been termed the psychological school of poetry is MR. ROBERT BROWNING, who for more than thirty years has been recognised as one of our most original and intellectual poets. Latterly, the public—to use his own words

The British Public, ye who like me not

(God love you !), whom I yet have laboured for, have been more indulgent to the poet, and more ready to acknowledge his real merits. Mr. Browning first attracted attention in 1836, when he published his poem of Paracelsus.' He had previously published anonymously a poem entitled 'Pauline, a Fragment of a Confession.'

Paracelsus evinced that love of psychological analysis and that subtle imagination more fully displayed in the author's later works. It is the history of a soul struggling and aspiring after hidden know. ledge, power, and happiness

[ocr errors]

All ambitious, upwards tending:

Like plants in mines, which never saw the sunbut is thwarted and baffled in the visionary pursuit. For an author of twenty-four years of age this was a remarkable poem. Mr. Browning next tried the historical drama. In 1837, his tragedy of . Strafford was brought on the stage, the hero being personated by Macready, a favourite actor. It was played several nights, but cannot be said to have been successful.' Mir. "Horne, in his New Spirit of the Age,' characterises it as a 'piece of passionate action with the bones of poetry.' Van Dyck's portrait of Stratford, so well known from copies and engravings, will always, we suspeci, eclipse or supersede any pen-and-ink delineation of the splendiu apostate. The poet now went to Italy, where he resided several years, and in 1841 he sent forth another psychological poem--the richest puzzle to all lovers of poetry which was ever given to the world -a thin volume entitled Sordello.'

Mr. Browning's subsequent works were in a dramatic form and spirit, the most popular being 'Pippi I asses,' forming part of a series called • Bells and Pomegranates' (1841-44), of which a second collection was published containing some exquisite sketches and monologues. Pippa is a girl from a silk-factory, who passes the vari. ous persons of the play at certain critical moments, in the course of her holiday, and becomes unconsciously to herself a determining influence on the fortune of each.' In 1843 the poet produced another regular drama, a tragedy entitled 'A Blot in the Scutcheon,' which was acted at Drury Lane with moderate success, and is the best of the author's plays. Next to it is King Victor and King Charles,' a tragedy in four acts, in which the characters are well drawn and well contrasted. Altogether Mr. Browning has written eight plays and two short dramatic sketches, ' A Soul's Tragedy' and . In a Balcony.' Some of the others— The Return of the Druses,'Colombe's Birthday,' and `Luria'—are superior productions both in conception and execution. Two narrative poems, Christmas Eve' and 'Easter Day,' present the author's marked peculiarities--grotesque imagery, insight into the human heart, vivid painting, and careless, faulty versification. In principle, the poet is thoroughly orthodox, and treats the two great Christian festivals in a Christian spirit. Of the lighter pieces of the author, the most popular is · The Pied Piper of Hamelin, a Child's Story,' told with inimitable liveliness and spirit, and with a flow of rattling rhymes and quaint fancies rivalling Southey's

Cataract of Lodore.' This amusing production is as unlike the usual style of its author as ‘John Gilpin' is unlike the usual style of Cowper.

In 1855 the reputation of Mr. Browning was greatly enhanced by the publication of a collection of poems, fifty in number, bearing the comprehensive title of 'Men and Women.' In 1864 another volume of character sketches appeared, entitled . Dramatis Personæ;' and in

[ocr errors]

.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »