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an accurate notion of that cliff in particular, nor, as indeed Johnson's note on the passage points out, of the impressions naturally made on the mind of a person standing on the brink of a terrific height. But it is further to be observed, that the passage is not put into the mouth of a person on the spot, but of one who is essaying to make another, who is blind, believe that they are standing together on the summit of the cliff, when in reality they are at a distance from it. The description has therefore a dramatic propriety and a naturalness of its own, the sustaining of which, in its place in the drama, is of far more importance than the dressing it up as a recognisable picture of a given locality. Dover cliff, it must be confessed, has little enough to do with Scylla and Charybdis ; but it would be as unreasonable to argue from Shakspeare that Dover cliff has altered, as to argue from Homer that Scylla and Charybdis have altered. Before we criticise a description, we ought to understand what the writer wished to delineate. A scene truthfully portrayed, in prose or in metre, has its merits ; but the interests of a higher order of truth are consulted, when the features of the external world are made subservient to delineation of character.
IN THE STEAM-BOAT OFF THE COAST
THANKS for a night of calm upon the sea :
Is yon a planet sinking in the west ? No! 'tis the sleepless fire of Stromboli Beaconing far off. And we might say, dear friend, Our vessel hangs in a crystalline sphere; For the same heavens that glitter overhead Are mirrored far beneath; star echoes star. And at our bows, and look ! on either hand,” Starboard and larboard, how the waters gleam With something more than reflex, something more Than surface light, upcreaming from the deep, In apparitions delicate and rare; Refulgent globes, and sheets of watery flame Distinct with sparks, now quenched, now re-illumed, By fits, as throb the pulses of the sea To measured cadences we cannot hear. For, such the animation of the deep, Methinks the sea-nymphs with immortal shells In grots of pearl make melodies to-night,
That from the sea-halls vibrate through the waves, That cannot choose but make response in light. Two
ways the sea is starry, and our wake, Dividing the gross darkness far astern, Rivals the Milky Way! Hold now my arm ; Under the millrace of the paddle-wheels The foam is-constellated ? No—'tis light Immaculate, yet shaftless : light unwrought To brilliancy; like that the optic tube Discloses, far in space, in shapeless clouds; Materials haply to create more worlds. But with the glory of the spectacle, Its excellence and beauty undefined, Rest we contented. Will you to your berth ? Then lend me the capote you brought from Venice: To-night on deck I will outwatch the Bear, That fears to dip his outline in the main.
PISA, the storm-blasts of the Apennine
Had half congealed the Arno when I last Beheld thee: now the genial airs of spring Come from the vineyards and the olive groves, And fan thy ancient battlements, and pass Within, bringing perfume, and sound of bees, Into thy quiet precincts. Once again I tread the Campo Santo's hallowed ground, Waking the echoes of its gothic cloister, And dwell upon the frescos on its walls, A Bible history speaking to all eyes, With awe and love: again I contemplate The leaning Tower—the Duomo-Baptistery; And on the grassy plot without I sit To watch the progress of the bands of shade Cast from their rows of open pillar-work, Whose nice recesses, as the Sun moves on, He searches through and through ; from morn till eve Ripening the very stone to hues of gold; Then in unmitigated pomp goes down,
And on the rich cathedral gates of bronze
Yes I thou hast beauty, grandeur, truth; and they
Pisa, May, 1844.