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We are glad to descend from the clouds to the poet's abode, even though he there introduces us to the company who are to hear his tale in such sad sportive simplicity as he imagines this to be.
To the stone table in my garden,
I see them—there they are!
There sits the vicar and his dame;
Of Peter Bell the potter. Miss Betsy is quite delighted with the bard's arrival from his aërial excursion, where it was likely enough that Peter Bell the potter would go to pot, and thus naturally exclaimed
Oh, here he is!' cried little Bess
Full nine of them, or more! However sickly and absurd this last line may be considered, it is no unfit prelude to the story itself, of which having given the outline, we shall now quote some passages. Among the hero's other rambles
he had been at Inverness;
On lofty Cheviot hills-
And he had trudged through Yorkshire dales,
And little lot of stars: With any thing less winding than scars (abrupt angular and precipitous ravines or faces of rock) we are unacquainted; the phrase is as much nature as the namby-pamby about little lots of stars is poetry. But of Peter? Peter, we have mentioned, is a worthless rascal
Of all that lead a lawless life,
Io city or in village small,
He had a dark, and sidelong walk,That is, like a crab; but how a walk can be dark, unless figuratively spoken of blindness, we do not comprehend. His particular nocturnal perambulation, and meeting with the ass, the subject of this poem, being fully and faithfully delineated, the tale advances, though slowly, through pleonasms.
All, all is silept, rocks and woods,
Thought Peter, What can mean all this? And we think what can all this mean? The pillory being put down by act of parliament, not only asses, but rogues, may now turn their long left ears on the pivots of their skulls, only, perhaps Mr. Curtis the aurist will object to the anatomy of the figure. If that celebrated practioner would think it a foolish, Peter Bell de. clares it to be a desperate trick.
• I'll cure you of these desperate tricks'-
He dealt a sturdy blow. He continues to belabour the ass, as the author continues to belabour his poetry; but nevertheless neither of them makes way. Indeed the parallel effect on ass and poem (if we may personify it) seems to run, as the saying is, on all fours.
Upon the beast the sapling rings,
• But I will bang your bones!' Having disposed of this birth of male twin groans, we have a sort of parody upon them in
• A loud and piteous bray,' which the banging elicited. The effect of this bray is quite supernatural, though the author pretends to have dispensed with its agency.
This out-cry (of the ass) on the heart of Peter
Was something Peter did not like. If this be not maudlin trash, we cannot tell what is: but it is the same throughout.
Among the rocks and winding crags
And the rocks staggered all about. At the braying of an ass-truly, the moon has too much to do in this business. Peter, in revenge, resolves to throw the donkey into the water, but meets a startling sight in the pool. After many equally pertinent inquiries, touching this sight, it is asked,
Is it a party in a parlour?
All silent and all damned! We suspect the conclusion is a pun on a water dam, but for the rest of the verse we again profess our ignorance of meaning, never having seen such a damned, silent, face-betrayed, punch-sipping, tea-drinking party in a parlour on earth, as is here alluded to. But after all, reader, what do you think the spectacle at the bottom of the river really is? It is, in short, the drowned body of the ass's master.
Ab well-a-day for Peter Bell!-
Meet statue for the court of Fear.
He falls into a trance, but wakes, again and feels the glimmering of the moon,' (still harping on the moon.) He then mounts the ass, and trusts to the wiser bryte to find out the dead man's relatives.
of a wood-boy, distrest,' by looking at a dark cave, and shrieking fearfully in consequence of discovering this appalling and wonderful phenomenon assails them on their route, and here our ass, which, like the Devil in Milton, may fairly challenge the post of hero in competition with Peter Bell the potter, proves
himself an uncommon scholar, for
Of that intense and piercing cry
This miraculous power in the ass works conviction in his rider, who from observing such knowledge in a beast, begins to think vengeance and visitation for his past crimes will overtake him. They trudge on, and one of their pieces of landscape is thus poetically described:
The rocks that lower on either side
And castles all with ivy green.
And while the ass pursues his way,
And look at Peter Bell. Would it not have been more natural if Peter Bell had changed countenance and looked at them? Peter's next alarm is at 'a dancing leaf,' where there is no tree nor bush, and his next at a drop of the ass's blood, as stated in our outset. The next fact in this poem, whence the supernatural is excluded, is in an episode about a word self-written in flame upon a pious book which a' gentle soul was reading; and the next again, introduced with due solemnity, for
The ass turned round his head-and grinnedis the appalling process of a 'murmur pent within the earth, and occasioned by a troop of miners blasting with gunpowder 'some twenty fathoms under ground. The next conscience strik. er is a ruined chapel, which reminds Peter of that in the shire of Fife,' where he married his sixth wife.' The last of all is an apparition of himself, and of a Highland girl whom he had seduced to death. What is most remarkable in this place is, that the ass does not heed these imaginary terrors:
Calm is the well-deserving brute,
His peace, bath no offence, betray'd; — What however crowns Peter's compunction and remorse is a voice from the tabernacle:
Within, a fervent methodist
Is preaching to no heedless flock. The poem now becomes, we doubt not with the best of meaning, but in truth very profanely sacred: the recognition of the ass by the drowned man's distracted family is however feelingly told, and with fewer puerilities than any other part, the sincere repentance of Peter Bell concludes the tale.
We gladly take our leave of it. There are perhaps half a dozen fine passages, but nothing can in our mind redeem the besetting absurdity of the whole. It convinces us more and more that the system on which Mr. Wordsworth builds his rhyme is radically wrong; that no talent can render that pathetic which is essentially
ludicrous, nor great which is decidedly vulgar, nor delightful which is glaringly disgusting. That any thing like genius should be employed on such a mass of folly as Peter Bell presents, is indeed both astonishing and vexatious. Having no view of it but as a gross perversion of intellect, we have freely delivered our sentiments: we should be sorry to hurt the author's self-love by applying the argumentum ad ridiculum, but considering his example as most injurious to the poetic character of our country, we cannot compromise our public sense of the error so far as to spare our personal feelings.
Art. X.-Memoir of Madame de Genlis.
[From the New Monthly Magazine.] STEPHANIE FELICITE DUIREST DE SAINT AUBIN
was born in the year 1746, near Autun, in the department of Saone et Loire. Though without fortune, she was distinguished on her entrance into life, for her personal attractions joined to a singular talent for music, and she soon gained introductions to several families of rank, though rather in quality of an artist than as a young lady of condition. Her situation afforded her the means of observing society, before fortune enabled her to fill that rank in fashionable life to which her acquirements so justly entitled her; thus, a perfect knowledge of the forms and etiquettes of the upper classes is discernible even in her earliest productions. Her accomplishments and personal graces soon attracted the notice of several exalted individuals; but, as it frequently happens, chance was the disposer of her hand. The count de Genlis, afterwards Marquess de Sillery, though he had never seen her, being struck with the style of a letter which accidentally fell in his way, ceived so high a sentiment of admiration for the writer, that he immediately made her an offer of marriage, and Mademoiselle de Saint Aubin became the countess de Genlis before she had completed her fifteenth year.
Whilst her superior talent commanded the admiration of the distinguished circles in which she moved, her ardent love of study induced her to shun the court and the frivolous society connected with it, and to devote herself wholly to the cultivation of science and the arts. She was too well aware of the advantages of a cultivated understanding, to neglect the education of her children. At an age when most young women of fashion think only of shining in the world, Madame de Genlis retired to the convent of Bellechasse, and devoted herself entirely to the education of her two daughters. In the year 1775, the eldest, who was then scarcely fourteen years of age, was united to the count de Valence, but shortly after her marriage the young lady was attacked with a dangerous fit of illness. Madame de Genlis was thus plunged into the deepest distress, and anxiety of mind joined to the fatigue occasioned by affectionate attendance on her child, produced a