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Literary Lotices. The Prince of the Mountains ; a Syrian Romance. London: John Gladding,
and Hamilton, Adams, and Co. The author of this poem is a member of Trinity College, Cambridge, and as he draws his mental nourishment from the same Alma Mater as ourselves, we must confess that we are somewhat prejudiced in his favour, and disposed to regard his errors with fraternal indulgence. When he published “ Pannorum," a satire upon the respectable Tutors of Kingston College, although we could not help being disgusted with the virulent abuse of those worthy men with which it was filled, yet we were comforted by the thought that the work would be speedily forgotten, and charitably looked upon it as the temporary displ..y of a youthful vanity and thoughtless spleen of which the author would soon repent. Our partiality for him, howerer, as a Cantab, has all evaporated since we have found that our expectations of his reformation have been disappointed. This juvenile Juvenal has lately produced “ The Auto-biography of a Cantah,” a work which, we understand, has excited considerable displeasure among the University authorities, on account of its vehement and scurrilous attacks upon some of the best men in Cambridge. But our author was not satisfied with being an obscure scribbler of ungrateful satires upon his instructors" for he had heard of” poems, and he “longed to follow to the field some" first. rate poet. Hence the production of the “ Prince of the Mountains"-hence the imitations of Scott in almost every line. The author tells us in the Preface that the poem “is the production of his lighter hours.” If this is meant as an apology for the negligent versification and the continual plagiarism evident throughout the book, we can only say that we believe such faults can never be justified by such an excuse; and we are sorry that the author's time has not been spent to better purpose. If any undergraduate, after muddling his brains with mathematical formulæ,chooses to tag rhymes together for his own amusement, of course he is at perfect liberty to do so; but when he proceeds to inflict upon the public these productions of his lighter hours," and thuse productions happen not to be worth reading, we feel ourselves bound to warn that part of the public to which we have access through this Magazine, against having their taste vitiated, or their pockets plundered, by the purchase or perusal of his works. Don Quixote may flourish his spear as much as he pleases, when his valour and enthusiasm do nobody any harm; but when he attacks the windmill, or falls upon the flock of sheep, the miller and the herdsman very properly rise up against him.
We have been much amused by the flourish of trumpets with which the author introduces himself and work to the notice of his readers. The Preface says, “ It may be urged against the publication of the poem, that enough, and more than enough, has already been written; and so far as poetical excellence is concerned-for he firmly believes that the noble art attained its acme during the splendid era of Lord Byron and his cotemporaries-he owns the force of the objection ; but, alas! novelty is the shibboleth of the great mass of readers. And there are numbers, even in the present day-by whom, be it observed, the charge of superficiality would be most stoutly rebutted-who are totally unacquainted with the sublime effusions of some of our greatest poets, simply because they are the productions of an earlier age; and, therefore, no longer excite such general interest as those which are fresh sub judice."
Whaterer our readers may think of the anthor's prose style from the above extract, we are sure ihat they must be extremely anxious to know something about the poetry, which is calculated to "excite more general interest" than “the sublime effusions of some of our greatest pocts,” and “the productions of an earlier age.” Oh, fortunate readers, if you only knew how great an accession has lately been made to our national literature ! Surely we are nearer the poetical millenium than we had thought, and doubtless the author of the “Prince of the Mountains” will be found to be the bright herald of its approach!
“ Besides,” says the Preface, “the Muse has of late years been lamentably neglected, even by some of her once mighty champions; and it is for this reason more especially that the author has been bold enough to submit to public perusal the efforts of his pen.” The literary world, we are sure, will be delighted to hear, that though Campbell has hung his harp upon the willows, and Moore's right hand has forgotten its cunning, and the “poet's eye” of Rogers is covering with the films of approaching age, and Southey has sung himself hoarse, yet that Poetry will not die because these “ mighty champions have neglected her,” for-the “Prince of the Mountains” has been written. But some of our readers may say, that let the “Muse” be ever so much“ neglected,” we shall always have a rich and deep stream of poetry as our resource : we shall bave Shakspere, that “ monarch of all he surveys” in the realms of imagination; or Milton, who surpasses Alexander by finding out new worlds to conquer; or Pope, who can make an “Essay on Criticism” melodious, and "discourse eloquent music" upon the furniture of Belinda's toilet; or Thomson, who talks to us so sweetly of the “Seasons,” that while we are listening to him we “forget all time.” But these, “gentle readers,” are mistaken, for we understand from the author before us, that as the works of these men "are the productions of an earlier age,” they can, therefore," no longer excite such general interest as those which are fresh sub judice"-like “The Prince of the Mountains.” That this poem is to revise modern poetry and supersede the ancient, we thus learn upon the authority of its author; but in case any of the ill-natured among our readers should consider such evidence inadmissible, we shall proceed to examine into these pretensions, and so give those readers some opportunity of judging for themselves.
The “Romance” is preceded by an “ Address to the Syrian Harp," in which the said Syrian harp is reminded how long it has been hanging upon the willow with nothing to do, and how different this is from former times, when the young ladies of the Jewish persuasion used to get up country dances to its notes. The poet then begs to inform the harp, that he is about to " reach it from its ivy-mantled bough:"-(we never saw a willow with an “ ivy-mantled bough." It is true he would much rather some other gentleman would have taken it in hand, such as Tasso, or the “ Ariosto of the North ;” but as nobody has come forward, he takes the liberty of offering his own services, and begs pardon for intruding, in the following language:
“ Forgive, then, Syrian harp, the venturous hand
That burns to stray thy silver chords among,
Nor shall my youthful muse the idle strains prolong." Notwithstanding this promise, the “ youthful muse” has thought proper to“ prolong” the “idle strains” to about four thousand lines, most of which display the same confusion of metaphors as those we have quoted. The author mentions “ novelty" as being one of the chief recommendations of his poem. Our readers will be able to forin a proper idea of the “novelty" of the work when we tell them, that scarcely one character is introduced into the story, which Scott has not previously delineated. Richard Caur-de-Lion and his beautiful Queen Berengaria, both appear in this poem, and both have been exquisitely drawn by Scott. In this Romance, a soldier, disguised as a mouk, enters into the English camp, and afterwards turns out to be some
body. This at once reminds us of De Wilton in Scott's Marmion. In this poem, a palmer makes his appearance, piously swearing, as usual, by the blessed shrine ; a Trobadour, who is an ornamental sort of person, carrying a harp and wearing a blue velvet cap, the whole surmounted by a heronplume; a Templar dressed in steel, and looking dreadfully fierce ; a Page, a Leech, and two or three ladies riding on palfreys – all these characters appear also in Scott's works. Such are the borrowed feathers in which this jackdaw struts. Some of his depredations are still more shamelesstake the following instances :
“ And Gallia sends her gallant knights,
The heroes of a hundred fights.'
“ The music of thy matchless face.” Everybody knows where the first of these passages is to be found, and the second is evidently taken from Byron's beautiful line
6. The music breathing from her face." Whenever a thought occurs which is more than ordinarily beautiful, it can generally be traced to somebody else. The poemis made up of these variegated and glittering fragments, stuck on it back-ground of the author's own, like a May-day dress on a dirty chimney.sweeper. The following is a specimen of the author's own poetry :
“ 'Tis midnight, and yon silver moon
And still she sails as chastely bright
On her beauteous brow had failed to write
The darkness of her destiny." Several descriptions of the moon occur in the book, and it is not surprising that she has the honour of being so often referred to by this author, seeing that he has discovered so much that is new in her motions; for it appears from this passage that she is in the habit of “running' one-half of her course, and " sailing" the other. The epithet “gentle God," we leave those to admire who can; to us it appears something like profanity, unless, indeed, the author means by it the man in the moon, and even then we cannot ima. gine what this gentle-man can have to do with “ writing upon her brow the darkness of her destiny.” To this conclusion, however, we have come, that those poor critics who are compelled to read such execrable trash as the “ Prince of the Mountains,'' have a great deal of “ darkness" in their “destiny." We wish well to the poor young man, the unfortunate writer of this poem, and we are sorry that we cannot do our duty to our readers without wounding his vanity, but we must assure him that either nature never could have intended him for a poet, or else she has made a sad bungle of the business.
Several notes are interspersed throughout the book, most of which are either quite unnecessary, or else in very bad taste; the following are fair specimens :
“Morion--an open steel head-piece, without vizor or beard, shaped like a pot, and fitting closely to the head.” The description of the shape of the morion here, reminds us of the countryman who, giving evidence respecting the size of a stone which was thrown at his head, reported that it “was as large as a lump of chalk.”
" Leech-a surgeon or physician." “ The Paphian Deity-reference is here made to Venus.” “Saladin--Sultan of Egypt, Arabia, and Syria,” “Melee-general conflict.” “ Green-the colour exclusively reserved for the descendants of the prophets."
The author must really think bis readers are “jolly green” (as Charley Bates said to Oliver Twist), to need such information as this.
We shall give one more illustration from this "curiosity.shop," and then drop the work into tbat Lethe-that dark river of forgetfulness from which, we hope, for the sake of its author, it will never again be fished up. It is a scene after a battle:-
" And thousands lie on that desert shore,
Low slumbering, doomed to wake no more,
Who ne'er shall smile on their homes again." What may be meant by the “red rust” sheathing "the gory brand of his pride in each martyr's whitening hand,” we believe can only be known to the author. Perhaps, if we only knew the meaning of it, it would do much towards heightening the pathos of this passage, and we recommend the author to enlighten us upon the point, when the piles of this Romance which remain still unsold at his bookseller's are cleared off, and the delighted public call for a second edition. We wish, however, to whisper this comforting assurance in his ear, that we fully believe the public know better than 10 purchase or read such trash, aud that if the trunkmaker or butterman, while using up the “ Syrian Romance," should happen to catch sight of its miserable versification, he will certainly congratulate himself that he is no poet.
Capital Punishment Vindicated; by A Member of the City of LONDON LITERARY AND SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTION. Wertheimer & Co., Printers,
Finsbury Circus. This is a Tract, and a remarkably curious Tract it is. The author appears to be a rather unintelligible and very dogmatical gentleman, who, for want of something better to do, has conceived the extraordinary notion that an article on Capital Punishment, which appeared in our first number, is by no means to his taste, and that he can prove it to be wrong. Labouring under this whimsical delusion, this rather unintelligible and very dogmatical gentleman has composed-evidently with great exertion and trouble-eight pages of print, and with the rnost charming flow of spirits imaginable, has humourously christened his production “Capital Punishment Vindicated.” It is a funny wbim, but as the merry author has waggishly sent us his entertaining work for review, we will lend ourselves for a moment or two to his joke, and endeavour to help our readers to estimate this very comical gentleman's fun.
The sum of the eight pages is this: that the abolition of Capital Punishment is an important question that the subject cannot be settled without reference to religion, that the writer in the City of London Magazine wrote a very logical, metaphysical, gentlemanly, and talented paper on the Political view of the subject, but only promised to bring forward his Theological Argument, ergo he never meant to, and never could, do 80—that the waggish author of the pamphlet wonders very much how the writer of the article that is never to come will ever make Holy Writ prove Capital Punishment to be wrongthat revenge is a religious duty, and strictly in accordance with Christianitythat John Frost ought to have been hung-that banging is more merciful than transportation-that executions are highly delectable, decent, orderly, and soul-soothing spectacles—that it is the duty of an advocate to tell all the fibs he can conceive for the sake of his client--that the writer thinks he has proved his point-that he believes the essay to be written in plain, but intelligible language, and that he will write again when the author of the article referred to proves Capital Punishment to be opposed to religion, This is what the facetious author calls “Capital Punishment Vindicated !” 0! the playful gentleman!
We highly admire the pi eous pathos with which this merry " Member of the City of London Literary and Scientific Institution” lainents that nobody has ever discussed the question in a religious point of view; and very much do we feel inclined to extol the eagerness with which he jumps to the conclusion that the reason is because “the abolitionists fear to do so.” It is true that we might, were we in the mind, show the assertion that nobody has ever bandled the subject theologically to be a mere pleasant fable, invented by ignorance, and related by jocularity; and we might, were we su disposed, instance the luminous and convincing arguments of Sydney Taylor, Lushington, and many others, in proof thereof; but we refrain, for we like a joke, and we wish to give our author a little more rope before we pull him in. It is, how. ever, quite in accordance with the humour of the whole affair, for the “ Member, &c.” to lament the lack of a Theological Argument just at the very time when he was told that a Theological Argument was on the point of making its appearance. Much do we fear, and deeply do we regret, that the author's fun will have been spoilt by the contents of the last number.
Nobody but the facetious author could have argued with so much comicality, the pleasant fancy that revenge is a highly excellent and praiseworthy virtue, and, moreover, a religious duty. His fun upon this topic ranks him with the first wits of the day; we were most highly amused by it. Much did we enjoy, too, the quaint and jocular way in which he quotes that passage of Scripture “the revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer," to prove that the said revenger has no right to slay the said murderer, but that society ought to do it for him.
We are exceedingly delighted by the author's merry jestings relative to high treason and chartism; and we are quite in love with his entertaining little theory about the humanity of banging-we confess that it places the subject in quite a new light. To be sure it did strike us that in a former page the gentleman had defended Capital Inflictions because they were tbe severest punishments that could be awarded-but what of that? We can pardon a fault so trilling in an author so humourous ? When there is so much that is entertaining, a contradiction now and then goes for nothing.
A striking proof of the author's fun is to be found in the laughable assertion that executions are orderly and well-conducted spectacles; and exquisite is the playfulness with which he says that “these exhibitions are now so rare that they are considered very awful and solemn by the public :" but what a pity it is that he didn't in his own graphic manner bring a hangingscene more closely before us, and describe, in his inimitably humourous way, the chief moral features of the picture. He would have been able to tell us that, on a hanging-day, gin-palaces, public-houses, and places of that sort, are quite deserted and lonely; that the spectators of the scene walk orderly and gravely from their homes to the execution, place; that there's nothing like joking, or swearing, or fighting, or naughty language, or anything of that sort, but that the people are all quite pious and prayerful; that they look with profound solemnity and deep awe upon the proceedings on the scaffold, and never howl like wild beasts, nor say “ Vere's your pluck, Billy ?” “ Die game, old feller!” nor anything like that; that after the drop has fallen the crowd go home quite quietly and seriously, and never let the taste of anything but solemn reflection and religious meditation pass their lips-no, not for hours ! that there's never such a thing as a drunken man in the streets all day; that even the thieves and pick pockets are so awe-stricken by the sight that they give up picking and stealing-0, for ever such a long time! and that a great many idle and wicked boys are so overcome at thought of the criminal's dying "game” and “ plucky,” that they become penitent, and turn out exemplary characters ever afterwards. What a fine field this would have been for our merry author: and how sorry we are that he didn't tell us all this in his own :nirth-moving language!