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POEMS BY COVENTRY PATMORE. Mr. Moxon is constituted, past all contention, the Poet's Publisher. The Muses have granted him letters patent, and excellent use he appears to make of his privilege in their service. The younger bards with their treasured manuscripts flock about his door, as laden bees return to their hive; and every now and then there is a new comer, whose song proves anything but a hum. But since the day (whenever that may have been) on which the last true poet (whoever he may be) was introduced to public notice, and blushed in the world's eye, we know of no such service rendered to the Muse as is performed in the bringing forth of the volume before us.
It is a first volume, by a hand untried in any order of literature,—as it well may be, being, we believe, as yet scarcely of age. These are a youth's first poems, and they have a youth's first faults scattered through them. But it is not necessary to claim for them any additional merit or interest on the score of early years, they have interest enough without that plea. Still less is it needful to ask on any such ground indulgence for their mistakes and obscurities; the poems can afford to be taken with their imperfections, and stand in need of no indulgence.
The poetry of the present age, which proves, taking it as a whole, so splendid a portion of our literature, is strikingly, and beyond any former example, various in its tone and sympathies. Each of our eminent poets has a manner of his own. Campbell (who has just left a deathless name behind him) has least apparent or prevailing originality, and yet his fine, grand, fresh-sounding odes have not the slightest resemblance to anything written before or since. Byron, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, all the masters who live or have lived in our time,
Who having been, must ever be,” each in his mighty line is distinct; and not one of them could, to the extent of a half-dozen verses in succession, be confounded with any past or contemporary poet.
There is also a distinctive mark upon the poetry of this volume. In it we may discern tokens, not few or to be mistaken, of a taste caught rapturously from the study of some modern writers, and perhaps of a partiality so strong as to influence insensibly the creative power of the mind-so far as to direct sometimes its choice of forms, and to suggest to thought its particular channels of interest and speculation. But in all the essential and distinguishing qualities of poetry, these poems belong entirely to the soil they have sprung from, and are the growth of an undivided and self-dependent power, bent on working out without fear its own purposes.
There are four chief poems in the collection. The stanza with which the first opens, illustrates, by an image, the bold simplicity often discernible in the
“ It is a venerable place,
An old ancestral ground;
Within its lordly bound.” The story is not of the rainbow, but the thunder-cloud. Darker than night is its course, like the current of “ The River," that gives to it a name; yet heaven's stars are reflected in it, dimly, but beautifully. We know not where to quote: Beyond the River, bounding all, “ Their shadows from the setting sun Å host of green hills stand,
Reach all across the plain; The manor-rise their central point, The guard-hound, in the silent night, As cheerful as a band
Stops wrangling with his chain, Of happy children round their chief To hear, at every burst of barks, Extended, hand in hand.”
The hills bark back again.” The last two lines exhibit a felicity often to be noticed—a singular harmony between sound and sense ; an effect which should always be unforced, as it always is here. The scene changes presently :
“ The sickly moon, among the clouds, “ Beneath the mossy ivy'd bridge, Is loitering slowly by ;
The River slippeth past ; Now in a circle, like the ring
That current deep is still as sleep, About a weeping eye;
And yet so very fast! Now left quite bare ; now merely like There's something in its quietness A pallor in the sky."
Which makes the soul aghast.” Sad and solemn is this tale, which moves the heart darkly through the imagination, and startles while it soothes. The time, the place, the scenery, befit the characters—the hurried, hopeless passion, the “calm household love;" the imagery, rich and various, is in perfect keeping, and the human interest is felt intensely, as we feel in a dream. It is a poem for poets.
The “ Woodman's Daughter" is simpler, and more in the light. It is exquisitely manly, tender, and full-hearted ; and the flowing, unaffected verse wanders and winds delightfully on, like the wood-walks of the youthful trusting pair-poor humble Maud and her high-born lover. The opening of the story is as calm and lovely as the close is ghastly and pathetic; every where the sentiment and the passion are true to nature, and singular force and delicacy are combined in the treatment of the subject. Maud and Merton were so young, so innocent:
* They pass'd their time, both girl and boy,
Uncheck’d, unquestion’d; yet
By wood and rivulet,
A reason why they met." The progress of love, the thrilling, confusing, delicious discovery of it, are among the things which are most happily pictured. They meet, and meetmonths roll on, and shame is blunted -
“ For they were of an age when sin
Is only seen in front." “ Poor Maud comes out to feel the air, The water's warm, and runs as if This gentle day of June;
Perpetually at play! And having sobbed her babe to sleep, But then the stream, she recollects,
Help'd by the stream's soft tune, Bears everything away! She rests along the aspen trunk,
There is a dull pool some way off, Below the calm blue noon.
That sleepeth night and day.
The weeds at length have closed and The shadow of her little babe,
shut Deep in the stream behold!
The water from her sight: Smiles quake over her parted lips : They stir awhile, but now are still.
Some thought hath made her bold; Her arms fall down ;—the light She stoops to dip her fingers in
Is horrible, and her countenance To feel if it is cold.
Is pale as cloud at night. The bright glances out of gloomy nooks, the happy natural touches of feeling, which sparkle up continually, evade all hope of quoting them, being inseparable from passages which our space excludes. It is beautiful exceedingly.
The tale called “ Lilian" is of a more exciting and singular character than any in the volume. Its purpose is to exhibit the corrupting and venomous influences of a false literature upon female purity and virtue, and to level at French romances in particular the most scornful and indignant shafts which high intellect can point and outraged morality direct. It is impossible to do it justice, save by lengthened examination and extract, and we forbear, in admiration of the daring and subtlety, the force and sweetness, the knowledge of the workings of passion and the keen insight into character, which demand for it a patient and thoughtful consideration. Had the poet not written “ Sir Hubert," with its deep and tender graces interlacing many faults and obscurities, or any of the noble, however imperfect, things we have so briefly glanced at, this poem by itself would have constituted a claim to be heard, in relation both to philosophy and poetry, and have secured for Coventry Patmore a distinguished—we may say, a surprised and honouring audience.
THE COURT OF QUEEN ANNE.
BY THE EDITOR.
BOOK THE THIRD.
CHAPTER THE FIFTH.
THE TRIAL OF DOCTOR SACHEVERELL.
ORIGINALLY appointed for the 8th of February, 1710, Doctor Sacheverell's trial was postponed to the 27th of the same month, on the ground that Westminster Hall could not be got ready for the reception of the court before that period. The length of time that elapsed between the impeachment and the prosecution was favourable to Sacheverell, inasmuch as it gave ample opportunity for the preparation of his defence; while no art was neglected to propitiate the public in his behalf, and heighten the feeling of animosity already entertained against his opponents.
His portrait was exhibited in all the print-shops ; ballads were sung about him at the corner of every street; reference was constantly made to his case by the clergy of his party in their sermons, and some
even went so far as to offer up public prayers
“ for the deliverance of a brother under persecution from the hands of his enemies ;" the imminent peril of the church, and the excellence of its constitution, were insisted on; the most furious zealots were made welcome guests at the board of Harley and his friends, and instructed how to act—the principal toast at all such entertainments being “Doctor Sacheverell's health, and a happy deliverance to him.”
The aspect of things was so alarming, that long before the trial came on, the greatest misgivings were felt as to its issue by the Whig leaders, and Godolphin bitterly repented that he had not listened to the advice of Lord Somers, who had recommended a simple prosecution in a court of law as the safest and most judicious course. But retreat was now too late. The task had been undertaken, and however difficult and dangerous, it must be gone through with. To quit the field without a struggle would be worse than defeat.
Warmly attached to the church, and led by Harley and Abigail to believe that it was really in danger, the queen was inclined from the first towards Sacheverell, and this bias was confirmed by the incautious admission on the part of the Whigs of the legitimacy of her brother, the Prince of Wales -- an admission which, coupled with her dislike of the proposed Hanoverian succession, exasperated her against them, and increased her predilection for one whom she believed to be undergoing persecution for promulgating opinions so entirely in accordance with her own. Additional confidence was given to the Tories, by the defection from the opposite party of the Dukes of Shrewsbury, Somerset, and Argyle, all of whom, either secretly or openly, exerted themselves to throw difficulties in the way of the impeachment.
Thus embarrassed, and with the tide of popular opinion running strongly against them, it became evident to the instigators of the trial, that whatever might be the decision as regarded Sacheverell, its consequences must be prejudicial in the highest degree to themselves. The only person who seemed unconcerned, and confident of a favourable termination, was the Duchess of Marlborough.
The council for the defence included Sir Simon Harcourt, Sir Constantine Phipps, and three others of the ablest Tory lawyers; while advice was given on all theological matters by Doctors Atterbury, Smallridge, and Friend. The managers of the prosecution comprehended Sir John Holland, comptruller of the household; Mr. Secretary Boyle ; Mr. Smith, chancellor of the exchequer; Sir James Montague, attorney-general ; Mr. Robert Eyre, solicitor-general; Mr. Robert Walpole, treasurer of the navy; and thirteen others.
The approach of the trial increased the public curiosity to the highest pitch, and all other considerations of business or amusement were merged in the anticipation of a struggle, which, though ostensibly for another cause, was to decide the fate of parties.
At length the day arrived. About an hour before noon, the courts and squares of the Temple, where Sacheverell lodged, to be near his lawyers, were crowded by an immense mob, with oak-leaves in their hats—the distinguishing badge of the highchurch party. A tremendous shout was raised as the doctor got into a magnificent open chariot, lent him for the occasion by a friend, and as it was put in motion, the whole concourse marched with him, shouting and singing, and giving to the affair rather the semblance of a conqueror's triumph, than of the procession of an offender to a court of justice.
The windows of all the houses in the Strand and Parliament-street were filled with spectators, many of whom responded to the shouts of the mob, while the fairer, and not the least numerous portion of the assemblage, were equally enthusiastic in the expression of their good wishes. Sachevereli, it has before been intimated, was a handsome, fresh-complexioned man, with a fine portly figure, and stately presence, and on the present occasion, being attired in his full canonicals, and with the utmost care, he looked remarkably well. His countenance was clothed with smiles, as if he were assured of success.
In this way he was brought to Westminster Hall.
The managers and committee of the commons having taken their places, Sacheverell was brought to the bar, when the proceedings were opened by the attorney-general, who was followed by Mr. Lechmere, after which the particular passages of the sermon on which the impeachment was grounded, were read.
The case, however, proceeded no further on this day, but the court being adjourned, the doctor was conducted back to the Temple by the same concourse who had attended him to Westminster Hall, and who had patiently awaited his coming forth.
The next day, the crowds were far more numerous than before, and the approaches to the place of trial were so closely beset, that it required the utmost efforts of the guard to maintain anything like a show of order. Groanings, hootings, and menaces, were lavishly bestowed on all the opponents of Sacheverell, while, on the contrary, his friends were welcomed with the loudest cheers.
It was expected that the queen would attend the trial, and a little before twelve, a passage was cleared for the royal carriage ; notwithstanding which, the vehicle proceeded very slowly, and when nearly opposite Whitehall, a stoppage occurred. Taking advantage of the pause, several persons pressed up to the window, and said, “We hope your majesty is for Doctor Sacheverell.”
Anne was somewhat alarmed, and leaned back, but Mrs. Masham, who was with her, answered quickly, “Yes, yes, good people, her majesty is a friend of every true friend of the church, and an enemy of its persecutors."
" “We knew it-we knew it!” rejoined the questioners. “God bless your majesty, and deliver you from evil counsellors! Sacheverell and high church-huzza !”
“I say, coachee,” cried one of the foremost of the mob-a great ruffianly fellow, half a head taller than the rest of the bystanders, with a ragged green coat on his back, and a coal-black beard of a week's growth on his chin—“I say, coachee,” he cried, addressing Proddy, who occupied his usual position on the box, “I hope you're high church ?”
“High as a steeple, my weathercock,” replied Proddy. “You've little to do with low church yourself, I guess ?” “ Nothin',” returned the man, gruffy: “But since such are
. your sentiments, give the words – Sacheverell for ever! and down with the Duke of Marlborough!'”
" I've no objection to Sacheverell,” said Proddy; “ but I'm blown if I utter a word against the Duke of Marlborough; nor shall any one else in my hearin'
. So stand aside, my maypole, unless you want a taste of the whip. Out of the way there! Ya hip—yo ho!"
” Scarcely had the royal carriage passed, than the Duchess of Marlborough came up. Her grace was alone in her chariot, and being instantly recognised, was greeted with groans and yells