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Where are the warrior-men of old?
Where are the realms on which they trod? While conquest's blood-red flag unroll'd,
And man proclaim'd himself a god!
What are they now but dreams?
The days when vigour arch'd each brow;
Although one parish gave them birth,
To reap the whirlwind for our pains ;
On the dark-day of need to find
All proffer'd ransom Time disdains ;All that was once our idle boast,
Weigh'd in the balance, dust shall be ; Death knocks-frail man gives up the ghostHe dies-and where is he?
Vanish'd for ever and forgot,
The place that knew him knows him not!
The still small tongue that whispers peace:
And know that, from this dream call'd life,
Unto the eager to be pure
The path is straight-the palm is sure!
Subdued in heart, and craving grace,
Whoever knocks an entrance wins:
And though their dye be black as night,
His blood can make-has made them white!
THE ANTEDILUVIANS; OR, THE WORLD DESTROYED.
"It is many years," says Dr M'Henry, "since I first entertained the design of writing a narrative poem, on some great event in the history of Man; but the selection of that event was a matter of no slight difficulty. A good subject, I knew, was the first step towards success in any literary undertaking; and I resolved to adopt none which I did not feel persuaded would form a recommendation to my work." Mrs Hannah and Mr Thomas Moore, and our friend Mr John Stewart, have furnished us with elaborate pictures of gentlemen respectively in search of a wife, a religion, and a horse; but none of the three is so impressive as the Doctor's of a poet in search of a subject. In that search his sconce has become slape his eyes have lost their lustre -his frame has been bent earthwards; so that, while yet little more than threescore, his semblance is that of extreme old age. Even we ourselves look-nay feel young, in his presence;
"The oldest man he seems that ever wore grey hairs."
This comes of devoting one's-self for many years to the selection-for the subject of a narrative poem-of some great event in the history of man. Their multitude is overwhelming and shifting as the clouds. An event that to the eyes of imagination overshadows the whole morning sky-at meridian looks but a speck-in the gloaming, is gone. Among great events, alas! how few good subjects!" mentally exclaims the solitary, with a sigh. But a good subject is "the first step towards success in any literary undertaking;" and till that is taken, lack-a-daisical indeed must be the aspect of the meditative poet-sitting by himself with his pen in his hand. Every year he grows harder and harder to please-subjects not to be sneezed at on the score of size, to his fastidious optics seem contemptibly small-mountains dwindle into molehills-rivers into rills-seas into ponds; and the consequence is, that, "resolved to adopt no subject which he does not feel persuaded would form a recommendation to his work," he
adopts none at all, and, after a term protracted far beyond the narrow span usually allotted to human life, he dies without his fame, and leaves no proof of his existence here below, except, perhaps, a few pieces of prose.
Such, however, will not be the fate of Dr M'Henry-though he has made a narrow escape. "The annals of mankind," he acutely remarks, "furnish many great and stirring events, well adapted to poetic narration; but I wanted one not only great in its character, but universal in its effects, that all men might feel an interest in its details." That was a noble ambition, and proved how just an appreciation the Doctor had been led to make of his powers, aspiring very early to the most extensive practice. "Neither the founding of a state," he exultingly declares, "the achievement of a victory, nor the overthrow of an empire, was therefore adequate to my wishes." "Tantæ molis erat Romanam condere gentem,"
a line by many thought to be magnificent, seemed almost mean to his imagination
Μήνιν άειδε, Θεός, Πηληιάδες ̓Αχιλλήος,
an invocation by all felt to be sublime fell far short of the reaches of his sou -and thus the Iliad and the Eneid appeared to the Doctor to be respectable poems in their way" on great and stirring events, well adapted to poetic narration "but because "not universal in their effects," sufficient for the genius of a Homer and a Virgil, but inadequate to that of a M'Henry, born in the fulness of time and for the illumination of the whole race of man.
"The discovery of the New World," he admits, "was an event of great and general interest; but it was already poetically occupied, and therefore forbidden to me by both courtesy and policy." America, it may be remarked as we go along, is not a new world, but merely one of the four quarters of the old-and the old world went on well enough for the purposes of poetry, while it was supposed to consist but of Europe, Asia, and Africa - yet do we cheerfully grant that the disco
James M'Henry, M.D. London. Cradock: 1839.
very of the fourth quarter was "an event of great and general interest," not unworthy even of the Doctor's muse in its humbler flights. But it is manifest that he left it, without envy, to the weaker wings of Southey; for he adds-" I was, in truth, desirous of a subject more universally interesting than even this"-and he leaves the less illustrious laureate to enjoy the circumscribed fame of his Madoc.
“I considered,” continues the Doc tor, "that the poet who had made the strongest impression on the world, had been enabled to do so by his fortunate choice of the most exalted and universal subject which space in all its extent, and time in all its duration, could afford the History of Creation and the Fall of Man. On that theme did the chief of poets not only find scope for the whole power of his genius, but his genius found excitement for unequalled elevation, and became invigorated by the grandeur and vast ness of the topics presented to its contemplation."
He does not inform us at what era of his search after a subject he first took into his serious consideration Milton's fortunate choice of Paradise Lost. Perhaps it was late in life. From that hour he set himself sedulously to look over "space in all its extent, and time in all its duration," for the subject next in exaltation and universality to the Creation and the Fall of Man. But that this allusion to Milton may not be misinterpreted, ho has the humility to add, "if I were indeed so vain as to imagine that I possessed talents like his, where could I find a subject on which to exert them like Paradise Lost? There never can be another poetic theme connected with human affairs of equal grandeur and sublimity. Nor will there probably ever be one so felicitously treated as this has been in that wonderful poem." We acquit Dr M'Henry of the vanity of imagining that he possesses the "talents" of Milton. But if he does not believe that he is a poet of the highest order—next to that where Milton sits supreme or sole-then he must be a great ninny. For who, short of a great poet or a great ninny, would "for many years entertain the design of writing a narrative poem on some great event in the history of man"-keep searching the "annals of mankind" for an event "not only great in its character, but
universal in its effects"-declare "the founding of a state, the achievement of a victory, and the overthrow of an empire, inadequate to his wishes”— be" desirous of a subject more universally interesting than the discoveing of the New World"-envy Milton his "fortunate choice of the Creation and Fall of Man"—and finally fix on the subject next in exaltation and universality to Milton's-" which space in all its extent, and time in all its duration, could afford ?"
Milton having anticipated M'Henry in the Creation and Fall, the Doctor, though often damped, was never dismayed-and on "the first of April morn by the chime"-A.D. 18—, by a desperate but triumphant effort of inven tive genius, he bethought himself of— THE FLOOD. "Still in the annals of mankind there remained one subject unappropriated by the Epic Muse, which, although to sustain it suitably required less daring flights than that which was chosen by Milton, was yet amply magnificent and universally interesting — namely, THE FORTUNES AND CATASTROPHE OF THE ANTEDILUVIAN WORld."
What a breakfast the Doctor must have devoured that morning! or was he too much agitated to eat?" Throw physic to the dogs-now shall I show that poetry is no drug-here goes a bumper to Apollo!" And so saying, the inspired M. D. turned up his diamond-ringed little finger-and in a cup of the "fragrant lymph that cheers but not inebriates," revelled beneath the beams of the god unshorn, and looked "rapt, inspired," as if he would
"Break Priscian's head, and ravish all the Nine!"
But after a few hours, the Doctor seems to have subdued his exultation to a pitch of sober and sustained selfcomplacency that has never since deserted him, and on that morning expressed itself in prayer.
"Oh! to sustain it till the strength be gain'd,
To which so earnestly my soul aspires; No hope have I but in His mighty aid Who bore the bard of Paradise to hea
And there disclosed to him such scenes sublime,
And glorious wonders, secrets fit for gods, As human thought had ne'er before conceived.
The most difficult department in the art of flying, is that which embraces the action of the wings in the first essays of the fowl-be he anceps or anserto assoilzie himself from the encumbrance of the earth. Once up, he has no real ground for uneasiness about coming down, especially if he has the sense to go large-before the windgoose-winged," and never attempt to tack. We have seen fowls of the earth enabled, by adopting such precautions, to keep company with fowls of the air, and perform more than respectably
"An arduous flight, More arduous than has oft been tried by man ;"
but the difficulty, we repeat, in getting off their feet, webbed or otherwise, "lies in the first step towards any aerial undertaking;" that feat achieved,
you would wonder to behold how they clear the chimneys, and keep soaring and soaring, as if it were not altogether inconceivable that they might even settle down halfway up Arthur's Seat.
But to return more immediately to the Doctor. "This was the subject," he goes on to say, "that appeared to me the best calculated of any yet unsung to impart dignity and interest to a narrative poem. After due deliberation, I had the boldness to adopt it, although I was fully sensible of the difficulty of nitude. doing justice to a theme of such magIt was certainly one exalted and sublime enough for the exercise of poetic talents of the highest order, and poetic ambition of the most fervid character. It presented a field in which the most active imagination could freely range, limited only by the dictates of reason and the laws of possibility." "Nay, it had," quoth the Doctor, "one advantage which Milton did not find in his mighty theme: it supplied abundant occasion for the display of human nature in its fallen state." Did the Doctor never read the Eleventh Book of Paradise Lost?
In studying the annals of mankind, the Doctor saw 66 one subject unappropriated by the Epic Muse;" but he
afterwards tells us, that whether" the title epic, according to the scholastic meaning of the word, be awarded to this poem, is a matter of no importance, provided its readers derive enjoyment from its perusal. My great aim having been to produce an interesting poem on an interesting subject, I feel but little concern as to what class of poetical productions the work shall be assigned." This is hardly fair-for the author of The Antediluvians could not have been ignorant of the existence of James Montgomery's World before the Flood. It is not an epic poem; but it is an "interesting poem, on the subject which the Doctor says was unsung-and it is a narrative poem. Byron's Heaven and Earth-if we mistake not-is about the Antediluvians- so is Moore's Loves of the Angels-so is Reade's Wanderings of Cain; and Heraud's Judgment of the Flood is an epic. In no sense of the word, then, could it be truly said that the subject was unsung; it had been sung in the English language-lyrically, narratively, dramatically, and epicly-and in many other tongues unknown to the Doc
tor, but nevertheless openly spoken by diverse nations. The Doctor, on that memorable first of April-to which "our free shepherds give a grosser name"-in the pride of his heart, discovered a mare's nest.
"In regard to the plan of this work, the events are related in their natural order, as they succeed each other in point of time. I preferred this method to that of the stale and easy artifice prescribed by the schools, for preserving what is technically called the unity of the action,' by beginning in the middle of the story, and causing some of the personages to occupy a large portion of the work, by relating anterior events." The worthy Doctor knows nothing of the prescriptions of "the schools." In no narrative or epic poem-spoken of in "the schools"-do any "personages occupy a large portion of the work, by relating anterior events." Heavens! can he mean to find fault with
"Infandum, regina, jubes renovare dolorem ?"
Homer employs the "stale and easy artifice" of beginning in the middle
-or rather near the end of the Tale of Troy divine. Milton-but, oh dear! Dr M'Henry! would you clap padlocks on the mouths of the fallen angels in Hell, or of the unfallen in Heaven or in Paradise? - Interdict Raphael from holding that " celestial colloquy divine" with Adam in the bower? Eve ever and anon going and coming; but never, when away, without the image of the first of men on her soul!
As to the order of time-it is good -no order can be better; but there are two kinds of times-believe usimperfectly as we now express ourselves outward and inward-of the succession of happenings or fallingsout of events in nature—among sun, moon, and stars--and of the sequences of states of our own souls-creative
in their immortality; and to them
even as to their Maker-but that is a mystery-present, past, and future, have interchangeable being, and a thousand years are but as one day.
"Stale and easy artifice," indeed! No-fresh as the life-deep as the law of the stars. Vitality and science!
The human maker imitates the Divine -his works, too, are immortal
"For he is not a child of Time,
Therefore, when you say, "the plan pursued in this work was not adopted from any desire for singularity, but simply from an opinion that the best mode of constructing an edifice of any description is to commence at the foundation," you forget that body is not soul-matter not spirit; that Michael Angelo hung a stone dome on the air; that a poemParadise Lost-is like the starry heavens revolving on an axis, to which time and space- mere circumstantial accidents are obedient — and at the bidding of the beautiful, which is illimitable, "hide their diminished heads"
withdrawing from the mind's empire, that owns them not, and extinguishes or restores them at the command of its own sovereign will, emanating from the Will that generated the universe.
Over and above all that, you never can have seen an old woman knitting a worsted stocking-for with her needles she takes the initial stitch far up the ham, and finishes with the toe"simply from an opinion that the best description is not to commence at the mode of constructing an edifice of this
"Scholars"-quoth the Doctor
may censure this deviation from epic rule; but they must decide that the work is an epic, before they can subject it to the compass and square, by which they have been taught to measure the merit of such a perform
This, however, is a topic too trivial for lengthened discussion."
The Doctor should tell us plainly whether or no his Antediluvians be an epic. He chose the subject, because it had not been appropriated by the Epic Muse. An epic poem is an edifice and an edifice cannot be built without compass and squareand but by a master mason. The topic is trivial! Not more so than the Solar System.
"I write not merely to please the adepts in syntax, and the initiated in
the Pandects of Aristotle. Such I have often found to be but poor judges of poetry. Give me for readers those, and systems, will estimate my work who, without regard to artificial rules by its influence on their feelings and fancies; and if they approve, I shall be safe in spite of philologists!"
Is the Doctor himself no 66 adept in syntax?" Syntax-according to Dr Johnson-is, 1. A number of things