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The World before ike Flood; a Poem. This choice is certainly so far happyi, in: Ten Cantos. By JAMES
MONT that it adds to the difficulty of crisiGOMERY, Author of the Wanderer eism, and, even in the worst regult, of Switzerland; the West Indies, will afford a salvo for the poetical vi &c.
London: Longman, &c. reputation of the author ; for, in an 1. Third Edition. 1814.
undertaking so bold as that of an
antediluvian epic, though soccess is With respect to the former produc- an unequivocal test of merit, there cions of Mr. Montgomery, the pub are many considerations which exlic mind appears to have been much tenuate the disgrace of failure. To divided; and if he has experienced exbaust worlds, and then to imagine the severity, he has also enjoyed the new," is the achievement only of favours of criticism, By one set of some rare genius of the most exalued judges, he has been stignatized as a rank: but even to explore a new shallow sentimentalist; by another, creation, is a task less daring than invested with some of the highest that of inventing fictions appropriate honours of genius. That in this to be primeval state of ihe world discrepency of opinion, the judge which we imbabit. It is on a subment of each party has been fairly ject like this, at once obscure and exercised, does not appear probable: familiar, of which, while we know in the censure, there was, doubtless, but ljule, we know enough to limit much temerity of decision, and much the extravagance of fancy, ihat the indecent eagerness of ridicule; in inventive powers of the poet are the praise, a mixture of that gene- called into the severest exercise. LOUS heat, which, in seeking to Where the scene is purely imaginary, compensate injustice, falls into the he has at least the unbounded choice opposite extreme of excessive indul- of his materials ; bụi the quantity gence. Yet, we think that the ex. of established fact that is wholly planation of this difference of senti, inadequate to supply this wants, ment is also partly to be found in may, at the same time, considerably the real character of the composi- abridge his resources. stions to which it relates. In truth, Nor is this the only disadvantage they appear to us to display a cha- 'attending the subject of the present racter 80 mixed and qualifieds, so work. It is peculiarly exposed to unusual a combination of merit and an objection, commou to all poems demerit ; as to require some delicacy of which the narrative is founded of discrimination in those wbo on Scripture, or alludes to scriptural would judge them fairly, and more personages ; an objection so satisban sufficiently to account for any factorily stated by the great critic of contrariety of opinion, to which English poetry, that it would be inthey may give rise, between the justice to the reader not to quote it hostile and the partial critica in bis own words :
The present publication com- “ It is not only when the events prises several minor pieces, of which are confessedly miraculous, ahat we do not think highly enough to fancy and fiction lose their effect: make any, demand in their favour the whole system of life, while the upon the attention of our readers. Theocracy was yet visible, hasi an The Review will be confined to that appearance so different from all which stands first in the title-page, oiber scenes of buman action, that God which, bolb in point of lengil the reader of the Sacred Volume haand of importance, is the principal bitually considers is as a peculiar poem in the book.
mode of existence, of a distinct spec The Girst topic of consideration, cies of mankind, who lived and acted suggested by the “World before the with marners unconimunicable: so Flood," is the choice of the era. that it is difficult even for imaginaCHRIST. Oeserv. No. 154.
tion to place us in the state of them to provoke disgust; and the dulness whose story is related; and, by con. which in itself might pass with imsequence, their joys and griefs are punity, serves, by the contrast with not easily adopted, nor can the at- its lofiy associations, to render the tention be often interested in any 'connection even ludicrous. We do thing that befals them,"Johnson's 'not hesitate to pronounce the 'work Life of Cowley.
under review to be defective in in. The truth of this observation will terest, and weak in its general imnot only be felt by every reader, who pression ; but, for the reasons prewill retrace the impression made by mised, we do not think that from poems of this description upon his this fact is by any means to be demind, and wbo will take the trouble duced a conclusion fatal to its pó. to investigate the sources of that im- etical merits. If the disadvantages pression, but it is further confirm. incident to its subject be considered, ed by the universal fate of these it will be allowed, that, in order to productions, of which there is hardly appreciate properly the talent exone that has risen to a higher dis- pended upon it, we must proceed to tinction than that, of cold approba- consider with what degree of dextetion, and but few that have escaped rity the author bas conibated his from absolute neglect. Even of that formidable difficulties; and how far immortal work which, stands the the plan and execution of the poem first in this class of compositions, are entitled to praise, after due aland the effect of which is so unri- dowance is made for the imperfec valled in detached passages; it has tions incident to its antediluvian era. been said, upon the same authority The course of the fiction is as fol(and the remark will be confirmed, Jows. we believe, by the coincident ac- - In the land of Eden, on the eastknowledgment of every man notern side of the Euphrates, dwelt the afraid to make the avowal), that descendants of the younger children ... Paradise Lost is one of the books of Adam, who, after having been which the reader admires, and lays long distinguished from the rest of down, and forgets to take up again." the world as a righteous -pation, Indeed, if there be any truth in the have at length declined into idolatry. observation, that the subjects of Sa- From this general depravity, how. cred History are inapt to the pur- ever, is excepted one small glen, the poses of poetry, it is peculiarly true abode of Enoch and the patriarchs, as applicable to those parts of the and the only remaining spot in scriptural narrative in which the an- which God still " deigns to walk riquity is more remote, and the with man." The rest of the world, -course of events more peculiar. If having been long filled with vio." it is difficult for the injagination to lence and wrong,
lence and wrong," had at length place us” in the state of the heroes been subjugated by a giant warrior, of the Davideis, it is still more so to excelling all his brethren in know. concejve ourselves in Paradise, or in ledge and power. This warrior, at the World before the Flood. If the opening of the action of the David fails to interest us as the hero poem, hasm with a mighty Army, inof an epic poem, it cannot be ex- vaded and conquered nearly the pected that we should be much whole of the land of Eden'; and the more alive to the Enoch of Mr. small surviving remnant of its jabaMontgomery.
bitants, driven to despair, have entIn -such cases, indeed, it is well camped on the banks of the Eve if the absence of interest is the only phrates, resolute to defend them
In selves to the last extremity. high and venerabie Subjects of so
a character, that The post opens with the secret which does not excite respect is apt flighit of-se a youth”, from the
tents of Cain," to an airy height species of sentimental suffering. which overlooks the invaded, land. He had not left the land of Eden His name is Javan; formerly one without first experiencing a name of the children of Eden, and the less sympathy, more siveet, morte son of a widowed mother: he had dear than friendship, and i golin 1 owed the preservation and support Throughout the world the charts of Zillah's of his infancy to the charitable care of Enoch. Early distinguished by Repellid the touch of every meanet fante." his unrivalled skilt
, in song, he soop Our readers will be at no loss to exhibited all tbe properties belongo find a name for this sympathy, and ing of right, to a youthful poet: will perhaps be as unable as out " quick and changeable eye;'
selves to discover why the author a countenance " the mirror of his has chosen to call it nameless:' ". Of breast;a: love af “ reclining in
Under the influence of these feel lonely indolence, to watch the clouds ings, the minstrel had quitted the and listen to the wind." This youth, camp of the invaders, but, as it would who seems to bave been a very, ex- appear, without any distinct plan of aet prototype of the minsurels of later subsequent proceeding. Having asdays, had, during the life of bis mo
cended the airy summit to which ther," found bis home precious for he had directed his flight, he is for her sake;" but after her death, the
some time suspended in the choice counsels of Enoch being no longer of his future conduct. able to restrain him, he had been « Oh what a throng of rushing thoughts op; urged by ambition, and a thirst for freedom, to forsake the ways of God, In that vast solitude, liís anxious breast!
press'd, and sojourn in the land of Cain.
- To wither in the blossom of renown, Here he had cultivated his musical And unrecorded to the dust go down talent under Jubal, and had acquired Or for a name on earth to quit the prizeri! such skilt in the science as to be of immortality beyond the skies, come the favourite musician of the Perplex'd his wavering choice when con giaot-king...
Love rose against the world, and love pra Yet to delight the minstrel's bosom knew;
vaila; None, save the tones that frum, bis harp.be Passion, in aid of virtue, conquered pride, * drew;
And woman won the heart to Heay'n denied," And the warm visions of a wayward mind,
pp. 28, 29. Whose transient splendour lett a gloom be
His resolution taken, he descends Frail as the clouds of sunset, and as fair, towards the Patriarch's Glen, and Pageants of light resolving into aire”. discovers Zillah sleeping in the
was the secret of his griefs unknown; very spot in which he had last Amidst the universe he sighed alone. parted from her, many years before. The fame be follow'd, and the fame he found, He awakens her by a masterly se ITeal'd not his heart's impedicable wound; repade on the flute, an instrument Admir'd,' applauded, crown'd where'er he of, which (by a poetical licence
rov's, Tlie bárd was homeless, friendless, unbelova. hardly required by the occasion) he
is stated to have been the inventor, All else that breath'd below the circling sky,
The lovers meet, but mutual fear *109 Were link'd to earth by some enduaring tie; and distrust prevent any recognition He only, like the ocean weed uptorn, I. ".
of their former acquaintance; and And looge along the world of waters borne,
Jayan contents himself with reWas cast companionless froni wave to wave, ceiving from his mistress a ditection On life's souglı sea--and there was none to to Enoch's house, save," pp. 23, 24.
By Enoch, he is rapturously rer + He must know little of minstrels, ceived, and his wanderings are who needs to be informed ihat Ja- freely forgiven. A long conference van languished under yet another ensues between them, in which Ja
van informs the Patriarch of the rigidly examined, perhaps they candesign of the Giant King to exter. not be said to possess any very disminate the inhabitants of the glen; tinguished excellence. They are and in the course of the conversa- staiely, indeed, and sonorous, but tion receives from him a long ac- the images they contain are of a count of the deach of Adam, and his rather trité and obvious cast. Tbe. appointment of an annual sacrifice flight of the caule, the torrents of on the day
his fall. There is rain, the lightning and the earthsomething alarming in the couplet quake are the notorious commonby which this narrative is prefaced places of a storm-scene, and at once Thus through the valley, while they held occur to every one acquainted with their walk,
Virgil *. It certainly does not in Enoch of former days began to talk." p. 73. dicate any peculiar fertility of ima.
gination thus to recur to topics His talk, however, is by no means which have so long ago been touch$0 prosiog as
this introduction ed with a force and beauty that ren would seem to promise. The de, der all emulation bopeless. scription of the dying agonies of lo the next canto we are introour First Parent, ihough detailed duced to a very grave and solema with a prolisity that weakens its at least, if not a very poetical, group generál effect, and disfigured by the of personages-to wit, Seth, Enos, interspersion of some slovenly lines, Canaan, Mabaliel, Jared, Methuseis on the whole executed with con lah, and Lamech. These Patri siderable spirit. We will make one archs join with Enoch in offering a extract from it :
sacrifice commemorative of Adam's "The sun went down, amidst an angry glare fall. The sacrifice is accepted, and Of Aushing clouds that crimson'd all the air; Enoch breaks forth into a trian The winds brake loose; the forest bouglis phant prophecy of the coming of were tori,
the Messiah. The author has here And dark aloof the ěddying foliage borne; availed himself of the glowing Cattle to shelter scudded in affright; imagery so richly supplied by The florid evening vanish'd into night; Then barst the barricane npon the vale,
Isaiah and the Apocalypse, and In pcals of thunder, and thick-vollied bail;
the passage unquestionably abounds Prone rushing rains with torrents whelmed with beauties; and although they the land;
are beauties with which every read. Our cot amidst a river seem'd to stand ;
er of the Scriptures is already well Around its base, the foamy-crested streams acquainted, and which have always Flashi'd thru the darkness to the lightning's perhaps suffered by removal from gleans;
their proper soil, even when transa With monstrous throès an earthquake heard planted by the most skilfal hand, the ground,
yet it is impossible to read them in The rocks were rent, the mountains trem
Mr. Montgomery's page without bled round. Never since Nature into being canne,
renewed delight. After reposing Had such mysterious motion slook lier frame from the toils of ibis day, Javan We thought, ingulpht in flouds, or wrapt in goes forth the next morning to look
for his harp, which he bad left beThe world itself would perish with our sire." bind him in the woodland bower of
pp. 85, 86. Zillah. He there finds it, and wbile
employed in the operation of drying This passage exhibits, as we think, it, it occurs to him that it is time to a fair specimen of the standard or current style of Mr. Montgomery's
Ipse pater media nimborum in socte, con successful poetry: it is in the tone rusca most familiar to his lyre, when he Fulmina molitur deatra: quo maxima motu is in the good graces of his muse. Terra fremit :-fugere feræ, &c. &c. Yę if the merils of these lines be
VIBG. GBORG, Lib. L 39%
power to bind
seek another interview with that: “ Thus Song, the breath of Heaven, had forsaken maiden.
In chaios of harmooy the mighiest mind : “There is with leaves he dried the sculp. Thus Music's empire in the soul began ::: tured shell,
The first-born poet ruled the first-born man.! He thought of Zillah, and resolved too late
p. 135, To plead his constancy, and know his fate."
The next incident that occựrs, is Though we are told that this re- an incursion made on the Patriarsolution was too late, it turns out chal Clan, by a detachment from that he is in very good time to meet the hosts of Cain, who lead away her, and to make a full and formal the whole tribe captive, to the hosa declaration of his passion. This tile camp. This, though, one of declaration is couched in rather the principal occurrences in the more ardent terms than the pre- poem, is dispatched in a single vious deliberation and method of page, and is immediately succeeded his procedings bad led us 10 expect: by a long dialogue of twelve pages and indeed the invocation with held between Enoch and Jaran in which it begins is more «remark, the course of the march. On this able for warmıh than for ortho- occasion, the latter relates the hisa doxy.
tory of the giant king who was then "Stay, hear me, Zillah!—erery power, aborce warring in Eden. We cannot very Heuren, Earth, Thyself, bear witness to my much admire the fictions relative love !". p. 122.
to this personage. If they astonish He proceeds to assign rather a or elevate, it is by the easy process singular reason for his attachment.
of unrestrained exaggeration. They & I loved ibiee thro' the worlin dumb de. sions, but somewhat deficient, we
are bold and large in their dimenspair, Loved thee, that I might love no other fair," think, in contrivance and ingenuity
of construction. The formidable
warrior who leads the invading arThat is, as we understand him, he my was, it seems, of unknowu birth; loved her because he felt that it was and tradition traced him no farther the only way to prevent this falling than his infancy. Con:miited to in love with some other woman the seas in a fragile bark, he was Considering the vehemence of his cotifession, and the extraordinary abode ot a goatherd, and by him
carried by the ride. ,the dreary molive alleged 'for bis regard, we
was nursed and educated. This are not surprised to find, that the lady listens to him with obvious goatherd was bimself distinguished
by rather uncommon accomplish- 1 alarm, expresses doubts of the real
ments : ity of his passion, and refuses to accept him as a lover.
di 'Twas said his voice could stay the falling Javan's equanimity does not, how
flood, éver, long desert him. We find him Eclipse the sun, and turn the moun te on the evening of the day of his re- blood," &c. jection playing and singing to an admiring circle of auditors. In this Vader such a tutor, the infant song he relates the recovery of Cain could not but make surprising profrom despair and madness by the gress: influence of Jubal's music. This
"we as he sprang from green to florid age, short épisode is managed with spia And rose to giant stature, stage by stage, rit and elegance. In the conclud- He roand the vallies with his browsing ing lines, à compliment to music fock, and poetry of very ancient dae is And leap'd in joy of youths from rock to jurued with considerable neatness.
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