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most curious circumstance of his malady, for it really appears to have been of the class of mental disorders, is the connection it has suggested to his imagination between the movement of English hexameters and the topic of his poem. It would have been well, indeed, if upon the ground of this supposed affinity, he could have been persuaded to put off the undertaking to the day of judgement, in the proverbial phrase: But, unhappily, the superior attraction has been on the side of the poetical project, and thus has been forced into being, a composition comprising absurdity, incongruity, bad taste, debasing imagery, mock majesty, and ludicrous description, on a greater scale of exhibition and exposure than we recollect to have seen instanced in any production of the British muse; and all this from the pen of a man of unquestionable genius, and fine poetical taste.
It is unnecessary to apprise our Readers that Mr. Southey has long been a very loyal subject, steadily, and we believe upon the best motives, attached to the Crown. The hero of his poem is his late Majesty George the Third, in the honour paid to whose memory we have shewn, in former parts of our journal, how feelingly we ourselves acquiesce;) whom he ventures to follow, upon the strength, we presume, of the congeniality, before remarked, between his great theme and the movement of his new metre, into the place where the spirits of the just and the unjust are to receive their final sentence and allotment. The table of contents, which is short, will let the reader, with some saving of trouble to ourselves, into the scheme of the poem. The heads are the 12 following:—The Trance The Vault-The Awakening-The Gate of Heaven-The Accusers - The AbsolversThe Beatification-The Sovereigns—The Elder Worthies The Worthies of the Georgian Age- The Young Spirits-The Meeting. To which succeed certain notes and specimens.
For the infusion of religion into the higher poetry, we entertain a strong predilection. This rank of poetry seems to us to derive a distinct and special advantage from the admixture,-to receive from the union a certain chastening and lustration, together with a vast accession of interest and dignity. Religion, too, in some of its parts, may well be adopted by the poet as his entire subject; but in this use of religion there is danger of abuse: there is a holy limit to which the muse must restrain herself. So transcendantly awful are some portions of this great argument,” that nothing less than real inspiration can reach them ;-the celestial task could only be accomplished by those who have been permitted to draw aside the curtain of the sanctuary. That inconceivably tremendous day, when we shall all stand before the seat of Christ, no longer our Mediator, but our Judge, is surely among the subjects, iť any, that are interdicted to the poet. Young has, indeed, just ventured on the confines of this overpowering theme; but he has left it under the pavilion of its own magnificent and awful generalities, not feeling himself licensed to trespass even in thought upon that holy ground, or venture in imagination beyond its flaming and appalling barrier : and yet his genius for such descriptions was chartered to the utmost extent of human capacity. Moreover, such a consummation is no subject of general sympathy, or of partnership in sensibility, but a deep, solitary, and personal concern. It affords no medium like that through which epic or, tragic composition works its way to the soul; but is regarded with an individual interest that absorbs all that we call sentiment, and beggars all the pomp of figurative description. In a word, the naked reality is too sublime in itself, and of a character toosevere to admit of the dress or drapery which fiction would throw around it; and the danger is too actual, instant, and substantial to be properly or decently adopted as the subject of fanciful representation. We are sorry Mr. Southey has felt this matter in a different way. We have no doubt of the sincerity of his religious principles; but we cannot help suspecting that he has not yet entered far enough into the subject to judge with, correctness of the extent to which it may be incorporated with the works of imagination. Incomparably the worst of his productions are those in which he has treated of religious men, and religious opinions; and we cannot help seeing that he has wrongly estimated his own theological attainments. It is not by an occasional diving into the depths of this vital subject for a few pearls to embellish our stanzas-it is not by turning over the pages of Jeremy Taylor, or Isaac Barrow, for. brilliant expressions and bold imagery-it is not by the use or discrimination of orthodox phrases or dogmas of divinity, or by the censure or exposure of the errors of dissent and enthusiasm, but by a constant, humble, and unwearied consultation of the Bible itself, with thorough pains-taking and earnest prayer to understand it aright,—that we become eminent or advanced Christians. We are far from undervaluing Mr. Southey, or his attainments. Very few writers have done more to raise and establish the literary fame of their country; but we cannot help thinking that he has gone beyond his knowledge in treating on certain subjects, and has dissipated his talents in the service of his ambition and of his employers over a wider field than has been consistent with their successful and beneficial exertion.
In the poem before us. Mr. Southey has, we suppose, given us a representation of the tremendous scene of that great day of decision, which is to fix the eternal destiny of accountable beings, such as in a general view it has painted itself upon his own imagination, or such as may stand at least with his own religious conceptions. If this be so, we do not exactly see from what authority or source he has derived those conceptions. One great person whom we should have expected to have found in this awful scene acting a very conspicuous part, is altogether missing in Mr. Southey's exhibition; and two descriptions of official characters, called the Accusers and the Absolvers, we know not where to find, save in the creative imagination of this adventurous poet. Adventurous, however, as our poet may sidered,' he does not rush without some formality upon this stage of wonders. The incantations and ablutions which have preceded the entrance of other heroes into the world of spirits, Mr. Southey supplies by a trance, from which he is awakened by the voice of some mysterious being who acts as his introducer into the august ceremonies, but who so far merges the propriety of situation in admiration of the poet, as to address him by the title of " Son of the Muses !” This son of the muses then finds himself in an arched vault, well furnished with coffins, palls, urns, and hatchments. This vault, it may well be supposed, was not without its curiosities:-its otherwise gloomy interior was illumined by a soft cerulean light, such as the sapphire sheds, and strains so heavenly breathed upon his ear, as induced him at once to credit all that the poets relate of Amphion and Orpheus. The whole scene soon changes; the apparatus and symbols of mortality vanish, and the dead awake from their long sleep. Immediately he sees the reverend form of our late good King rise from a cloud which covered the pavement, and bend heavenward his course. Some few words are uttered by the monarch as he mounts, expressive of his well-known trust in Him who is mighty to save; but his soliloquy is interrupted by the approach of his late minister, Mr. Percival, of whom he asks many questions respecting the conduct of his son and successor, and of the affairs of his kingdom, since his ceasing to hold the sceptre. Mr. Percival then relates to him the honourable termination of the war, with all the circumstances which attended it, and particularly the manner in which Buonaparte had been disposed of: which events, by the by, we cannot understand why Mr. Percival should have any more certain knowledge of than the King himself, seeing that that gentleman's acquaintance with these facts could have proceeded only from his being in the condition in which George the Third is supposed to be at the moment of this conference. The joy of the monarch on receiving these welcome tidings is somewhat damped by his being told of the efforts of the factious to bring fresh troubles upon his kingdom—an inference to which the faithful minister is led by his observing the ghosts of Robe
spierre, Danton, Hebert, Faux, and Despard upon the alert. George the Third now approaches the adamantine gates of heaven, and there an angel stands, who from the summit makes the following announcement: “ Ho! he exclaim'd, King George of England cometh to judgement ! Hear Heaven! Ye Angels hear! Souls of the Good and the Wicked Whom it concerns, attend! Thou, Hell, bring forth his accusers ! As the sonorous summons was utter'd, the Winds, who were waiting, Bore it abroad thro' Heaven ; and Hell, in her nethermost caverns, Heard, and obey'd in dismay.” (p. 13.) We have then a description of the multitudinous throng of the good on the one side, and the wicked on the other, surrounding the tribunal; in which description there is a display of considerable power of language shining amidst the poet's absurdest hallucinations.
The soul of the King now stands before the “ Presence" to receive his sentence;-proclamation is made for his accusers. The Demon of discord or democracy, or some such personage, makes his appearance, with two guilty souls in his train, whom he produces as the King's prosecutors. The persons executing this office turn out to be Wilkes and Junius ; the one distinguished by a cast of his eyes, and the other with his face concealed, and his secret perpetuated under an iron visor. The Accusers are, however, brought to the bar in vain; they stand confounded by the presence of the injured monarch, without the power of utterance, till the angry Demon, disappointed of his purpose, hurls them both back into sulphurous darkness, and is soon after constrained, by a whirlwind, to follow them, which reminds us of the melancholy fate of two distinguished persons whose memory nursery tradition has handed down to us, a subject well suited to the movement” of the hexameter verse:
“ Jack ascended the hill, and Jill he ascended it also,
Jack fractured his crown, but of Jill nothing more is recorded." We beg not to be understood as imputing plagiary to Mr. Southey; the similarity may have been purely accidental. There is certainly something more epic in the catastrophe of Jack and Jill, than in that of Junius and Jack Wilkes steeped in brimstone.
So much for the Accusers, and now for the Absolvers, who, it must be owned, are a very novel class, and have a very peculiar duty of purification and atonement to perform, as a prelude to the absolution they are to give the monarch. One of this number remains after the rest had retired, who soon discovers himself to be General Washington, and makes a long speech to his Majesty, in which he states and settles the account
between them in respect to the grounds and motives of their long contest upon earth. In the end, the Monarch and the Patriot General amicably resolve that no manner of blame is imputable to either; the General first asserting his own innocence, and then proclaiming his old opponent to be equally void of offence. The King, in his turn, gives the champion of American independence a similar release and discharge from all debts, trespasses, claims, challenges, and demands whatsoever, from the beginning of the world, and through all eternity, any statute or ordinance, divine or human, to the contrary thereof in anywise notwithstanding.
Washington retires, and the King of England being called upon to speak for himself, gives an account of his deeds done in the flesh, in which he stands upon the following pleas: “ King of England, speak for thyself! here is none to arraign theea Father, he replied, from whom no secrets are hidden, What should I say! Thou knowest that mine was an arduous station, Full of cares, and with perils beset. How heavy the burthen Thou alone canst tell! Short-sighted and frail hast thou made us, And thy judgments who can abide ? But as surely Thou knowest The desire of my heart hath been alway the good of my people, Pardon my errors, O Lord, and in mercy accept the intention! As in Thee I have trusted, so let me not now be confounded !”(p. 26.)
The Beatification then proceeds in the following manner; for Mr. Southey stops at nothing:
* Bending forward he spake with earnest humility. Well done, Good and faithful servant! then said a Voice from the Brightness, Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.—The ministring Spirits Clapt their pennons therewith, and from that whole army of Angels Songs of thanksgiving and joy resounded, and loud hallelujahs ; While on the wings of Winds uprais'd, the pavilion of splendour Where inscrutable light enveloped the Holy of Holies, Moved, and was borne away, thro' the empyrean ascending.
“ Beautiful then on its hill appear’d the Celestial City, Softend, like evening suns, to a mild and bearable lustre. Beautiful was the ether above; and the sapphire beneath us, Beautiful was its tone, to the dazzled sight as refreshing As the fields with their loveliest green at the coming of summer, When the mind is at ease, and the eye and the heart are contented.
“ Then methought we approach'd the gate. In front of the portal, From a rock where the standard of man's Redemption was planted, Issued the Well of Life, where whosoever would enter, So it was written, must drink, and put away all that is earthly. Earth among its
its creations of art and of nature,