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high, far deeper and higher baith than mony a modern poet, who must needs be either in a diving-bell or a balloon-His Rape o' the Lock o' Hair, wi' a' these Sylphs floating about in the machinery o' the Rosicrucian Philosophism, just perfectly yelegant and gracefu', and as gude, in their way, as onything o' my ain about fairies, either in the Queen's Wake or Queen Hynde,--His Louisa to Abelard is, as I said before, coorse in the subject matter, but, O sirs ! powerfu' and pathetic in execution-and sic a perfect spate' o' versification! His unfortunate lady, wha sticked hersel for love wi' a drawn sword, and was afterwards seen as a ghost, dim-beckoning through the shade-a verra poetical thocht surely, and full both of terror and pity
North. Stop, James—You will run yourself out of breath. Why, you said, a few minutes ago, that
did not care much about Pope, and were not at all familiar with his works -you have them at your finger ends.
Shepherd. I never ken what's in my mind till it begins to work. Sometimes I fin' mysel just perfectly stupid-my mind, as Locke says in his Treatise on Government, quite a carte blanche-I just ken that I'm alive by my breathingwhen, a' at ance, my sowl begins to hum like a hive about to cast off a swarm-out rush a thousand springing thochts, for a while circling round and round like verra bees—and then, like them too, winging their free and rejoicing way into the mountain wilderness, and a' its blooming heather-returning, in due time, with store o' wax on their thees, and a wamefu’ o' hinney, redolent of blissful dreams gathered up in the sacred solitudes of Nature. Ha! ha! ha! ha! isna that Wordsworthian and sonorous ? But we've forgotten wee Pop. Hae you ony mair to say anent him and Bolls ?
Tickler. Bowles also depreciates his genius.
wad never contradic Mr North. Tickler. Bowles also depreciates his genius. What infernal stuff all that about nature and art! Why Pope himself settles the question against our friend Bowles in one line :
“ Nature must give way to Art.”
1 Spate-stream in flood.
North. Pope's poetry is full of nature, at least of what I have been in the constant habit of accounting nature for the last threescore and ten years. But thank you, James, that snuff is really delicious !) leaving nature and art, and all that sort of thing, I wish to ask a single question: What poet of this age, with the exception perhaps of Byron, can be justly said, when put into close comparison with Pope, to have written the English language at all?
Shepherd. Tut, tut, Mr North ; you needna gang far to get an answer to that question. I can write the English language—I'll no say as well as Pop, for he was an Englishman, but
North. Well, I shall except you, James ;-but, with the single exception of Hogg, from what living poet is it possible to select any passage that will bear to be spouted (say by James Ballantyne' himself, the best declaimer extant) after any one of fifty casually taken passages from Pope ? —Not
Tickler. What would become of Bowles himself, with all his elegance, pathos, and true feeling ?-Oh! dear me, James, what a dull, dozing, disjointed, dawdling, dowdy of a drawl would be his Muse, in her very best voice and tune, when called upon to get up and sing a solo after the sweet and strong singer of Twickenham!
North. Or Wordsworth—with his eternal_Here we go up, up, and
up, and here we go down, down, and here we go roundabout, roundabout !-Look at the nerveless laxity of his Excursion |--What interminable prosing !—The language is out of condition :-fat and fozy, thick-winded, purfled and plethoric. Can he be compared with Pope ?-Fie on't! no, no, no !-Pugh, pugh!
Tickler. Southey-Coleridge-Moore ?
North. No; not one of them. They are all eloquent, diffusive, rich, lavish, generous, prodigal of their words. But so are they all deficient in sense, muscle, sinew, thews, ribs, spine. Pope, as an artist, beats them hollow. Catch him twaddling.
Tickler. It is a bad sign of the intellect of an age to depreciate the genius of a country's classics. But the attempt covers such critics with shame, and undying ridicule pursues them and their abettors. The Lake Poets began this sense
1 The friend of Sir Walter Scott
THE LAKE POETS ON POPE.
less clamour against the genius of Pope. You know their famous critique on the moonlight scene in his translation of the Iliad? North. I do. Presumptuous, ignorant trash !
But help yourself, Tim, to another jorum. What is the matter with your cigar? Draw it through your lips. It is somewhat arid. You will never be a smoker.
Tickler. Not I, indeed. There, that is better. Admirable old Roscoe has edited Pope well, and he rebuts Bowles manfully and successfully.
North. He does so. Yet, after all, Bowles is the livelier writer. Here's their healths in a bumper. (Bibunt Omnes.)
Shepherd. I care far less about Pop, and the character and genius of Pop, than I do about our own Byron. Many a cruel thing has been uttered against him, and I wish, Mr North, you would vindicate him, now that his hand is cauld.
North. I have written a few pages for my Feb. Number,
1 “As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night!
Pope's Homer, Iliad, viii., 687-698. Wordsworth's critique is as follows :—“To what a low state knowledge of the most obvious and important phenomena had sunk, is evident from the style in which Dryden has executed a description of night in one of his tragedies, and Pope his translation of the celebrated moonlight scene in the Iliad. A blind man in the habit of attending accurately to descriptions casually dropped from the lips of those around him, might easily depict these appearances with more truth. Dryden's lines are vague, bombastic, and senseless; those of Pope, though he had Homer to guide him, are throughout false and contradictory. The verses of Dryden, once highly celebrated, are forgotten; those of Pope still retain their hold upon public estimation—nay, there is not a passage of descriptive poetry which, at this day, finds so many and such ardent admirers. Strange to think of an enthusiast, as may have been the case with thousands, reciting these verses under the cope of a moonlight sky without having his raptures in the least disturbed by a suspicion of their absurdity.”—(Appendix to Preface.) The merit of Pope's description is fully discussed, and the soundness of Wordsworth's criticism again called in question, in Wilson's review of Sotheby's Homer, (Blackwood's Magazine, vol. xxx., p. 103-104.)
which I think will please you, James. Pray, what do you consider the most wicked act of Byron's whole wicked life?
Shepherd. I declare to God, that I do not know of any one wicked act in his life at all. Tickler there used to cut him up long ago—what says he now?
Tickler. The base multitude, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, got up brutal falsehoods concerning his private life, and these they mixed up and blended with their narrow and confused conceptions of his poetical productions, till they imagined the real living, fleshand-blood Byron, to be a monster, familiarly known to them in all his hideous propensities and practices. He was, with all his faults, a noble being, and I shall love Hobhouse as long as I live. What it is to be a gentleman!
North. The character of one of the greatest poets the world ever saw, in a very few years, will be discerned in the clear light of truth. How quickly all misrepresentations die away! One hates calumny, because it is ugly and odious in its own insignificant and impotent stinking self. But it is almost always extremely harmless. I believe, at this moment, that Byron is thought of, as a man, with an almost universal feel. ing of pity, forgiveness, admiration, and love. I do not think it would be safe in the most popular preacher to abuse Byron now,—and that not merely because he is now dead, but because England knows the loss she has sustained in the extinction of her most glorious luminary.
Shepherd. I hae nae heart to speak ony mair about himpuir fallow. I'll try the pickled this time—the scalloped are beginning to lie rather heavy on my stomach. Oysters is the only thing maist we canna get at Altrive. But we have capital cod and haddock now in St Mary's Loch.
Tickler. James !-James !James !
Shepherd. Nane o' your jeering, Mr Tickler. The naturalisation of sea-fishes into fresh-water lochs was recommended some years ago in the Edinburgh Review, and twa-three o’us, out-by yonner, have carried the thing into effect. We tried the oysters too, but we could mak nathing ava o' them—they dwindled into a kind o wulks, and were quite fushionless,' a' beards and nae bodies.
1 John Cam Hobhouse, afterwards Lord Broughton-the friend of Byron when living, and his defender when dead. 2 Fushionless—without sap. VOL. I.
Tickler. I thought the scheme plausible at the time. I read it in the Edinburgh, which I like, by the way, much better as a zoological than a political journal. Have you sent a creel of codlings to the editor ?
Shepherd. Why, I have felt some delicacy about it, just at present. I was afraid that he might think it a bribe for a favourable opinion of Queen Hynde.
North. No-no. Jeffrey has a soul above bribery or corruption. All the cod in Christendom would not shake his integrity. You had, however, better send half-a-dozen rizzered haddocks to Tom Campbell.
Shepherd. My boy Tammy wull never choke himsel wi' my fish-banes, Mr North. I care for nae man's good word, unless it be your ain, sir; howsumever, to speak truth, I cannot but think it verra paltry and mean-like in the author o' the Pleasures of Hope, never once in his born days, in that Magazine o'his,' to hae said a single ceevil, or kind, or britherly word about me.
What think ye? North. I think it to the last degree contemptible. Greater men than he, James, have done you justice. North, Scott, Byron, Southey, Coleridge, &c. &c. &c.
Shepherd. I'm no compleenin. Thank God, I ken my ain worth, as a man and a poet—and let mankind, or the women folk either, judge between Kilmeny and Reullura. It's for his ain sake, no for mine, that I could hae wished he had spoken kindly of a brother poet, who have had mickle to struggle against, but have got to the tap o' the tree at last—thanks to my ain speelin. North. Tom is fickle and capricious—and ever was so—
but he has a fine, a noble genius.
Shepherd. I'm no dispooting that, Mr North. No doubt, his Theodric is a grand, multifarious, sublime poem; although, confound me, gin the warst fifty lines in a' Queen Hynde are nae worth the haill vollumm. If ever there was even-down cheatery in this world, it is in axing eight shillings for a parcel o' auld bits o' poems that hae been in a' the magazines, and newspapers, and Cabinets and Mirrors, and so forth, in the kingdom. I'm sure if I had a pension from Government of £200 a-year, like Tam Campbell, I wad never play the public siccan a shabby trick. 1 A poem by Hogg, published in 1825.
2 The New Monthly. 3 Poems,—the one by Hogg, the other by Campbell.