[blocks in formation]

hurst has strong convictions. To retract them would simply be to play into the hands of those of the Chinese whose cherished object is not so much to crush the missionary, as to expel or, at any rate, to restrict the foreigner; to endanger the whole fabric of treaty relations, which has been erected at the cost of so much blood and treasure, and to plunge us possibly into yet deeper complications."


Hannibal : an Historical Drama. By John Nichol, B.A., Oxon.,

Regius Professor of English Language and Literature in the University of Glasgow. Glasgow: James Maclehose.

London: Macmillan and Co. 1873. For a drama dealing with any great historical character to be a perfect literary success, it is absolutely necessary that the dramatist should possess, in a greater or less degree, a very rare combination of qualities. He must have first of all great fund of enthusiastic admiration to bestow upon his hero, or he will not make him a hero in the eye of the reader; next, he must have keen insight into character and motive, and even that must be backed up with a certain knowledge of practical statesmanship; then he must have patience to put the action on largely without becoming diffuse, and impetuosity to hurry the action through when a dramatic blow, so to speak, has to be struck. Add to these necessaries an ordinary knowledge of rhetoric, prosody, and dramatic construction, and it is difficult to set limits to what may be achieved. From different combinations of these qualities very different results manifest themselves; as have, in our own days, had the opportunity of verifying, in contrasting the large, calm, patient, statesmanlike work of Sir Henry Taylor, with the subtle, impetuous, and thoroughly vivid work of Mr. R. H. Horne-two men of whose historic dramas we may well be proud in these days of clap-trap and tawdry play-making.

We are not so much concerned to classify the Hannibal of Professor Nichol—a task which we may fairly and fitly leave to later handsas to note some of the qualities shown so plainly in it, that a careful reader cannot choose but see them—as, for example, the fine enthusiasm with which the dramatist has followed and admired the character of the Carthaginian leader, and the ardour with which he has thrown his heart into a losing cause; the fiery impetuosity brought to bear on some of the scenes, without sacrifice of the artist's calmer judgment, and the excellent treatment of the Roman girl, Fulvia, whose relations with Hannibal are central in the action, and largely instrumental in the downfall of the Carthaginian cause. It is to be said, also, that . for those who care to see an historic action roll itself out in dialogues and monologues, the interest of Hannibal is thoroughly well sustained throughout what are virtually six acts of more than average length ; and that the style of the Regius Professor of Glasgow is rich, free, vigorous, and fitting for the subject of this drama, to which he has brought a great deal of learning and historic intelligence.

It is not often that one feels disposed to regard as other than an advantage an author's omission of preface or introduction to his play, because, as a rule, a play is either self-explanatory, or not worth explaining ; but in the present case we are disposed to think that the Professor's learning and intelligence, whereof a good deal is compressed into the notes at the end of the volume, might have been so brought into play in an historical introduction as to make the drama itself, so remote in subject and so distant in scene, unfold with a greater vividness, and become more enjoyable to readers less well read in the annals of Rome and Carthage than Professor Nichol is.

It is not fair to judge a work of this character by extracts; and it is specially impracticable to isolate, for purposes of illustration and example, passages from scenes of a strictly dramatic character. In Hannibal, the more strictly dramatic scenes are unquestionably the best; but there are many passages of descriptive dialogue and soliloquy that are much fitter for excerpts. We venture to cut out, for instance, the following reminiscence of the passage of the Alps, spoken by Sosilus, a Greek historian accompanying the army of Hannibal :

“ What sights, what sounds, what wonders marked our way!

Terrors of ice, and glories of the snow,
Wide treacherous calms, and peaks that rose in storm
To hold the stars, or catch the morn, or keep
The evening with a splendour of regret;
Or, jutting through the mists of moonlight, gleamed
Like pearly islands from a seething sea ;-
On dawn-swept heights, the war-cry of the winds;
The wet wrath round the steaming battlements,
From which the sun leapt upward, like a sword
Drawn from its scabbard; the green chasms that cleft
Frost to its centre; echoes drifting far
Down the long gorges of the answering hills;
The thunders of the avalanche; the cry
Of the strange birds that hooted in amaze
To see men leaving all the tracks of men ;
Snow-purpling flowers, first promise of the earth;
Then welcome odours of the wood less wild ;
Grey lustres looming on the endless moor;
The voice of fountains, in eternal fall

From night and solitude to life and day!”—P. 82.
The following passage, Hannibal's last speech after the death of
Hasdrubal, gives just a glimpse of the temper of the hero, and is a
fair sample of the author's eloquence :-

“ Over this sacred Head, and by yon Sun

That glares on infamy, I swear anew,
Few be my days or many, dark or fair,
In triumph or in trouble, far or near,
To live and die the enemy of Rome.'
Fools, who make hasty reckoning! Ere I flinch
From my strong vantage, or admit the worse
In my stern wrestle with reluctant Fates,
Or count the fight of Carthage at a close,

[blocks in formation]

Long your accursed race shall feel my brand,
And this derisive laughter turn to tears
Of mourning myriads. Many a frost shall melt
Over Italian fields to many a spring,
And many a summer into autumn fade,
While our unconquered and entrenchant arms,
Lie like a winter in your stubborn land.
Nor here the end. Hamilcar! I shall stir
Storms of incessant strife o'er seas and lands,
Till wave shall dash on wave in enmity,
Rock rush on rock, hills frown on wrathful hills,
And planets fight with planets in the sky.
For, while I breathe from earth's remotest niche,
No Roman shall have rest, nor mothers cease
To hush their babes with terror of my name.
Keep a brave front, my soldiers. The slow years
Foam with long tides of unexpected change ;
While, in abodes untouched by wind or snow,
The calm procession of the gods attend
The throne of Justice. Still, through many a field
We shall hope better morrows; if we fail,
We fall disdaining a defeated world.
Hasdrubal! thou hast tossed a life away
Worth twenty legions. Bear the relic hence
And place it on the altar with sad hearts,
But such as, in the breasts of valiant men,

Beat, 'neath the crown of sorrows, unsubdued.”—Pp. 269–70. Those of our readers who take a real pleasure in solid and thought

a ful verse, would do well not to rest content with mere extracts, but to obtain and acquaint themselves fully with Professor Nichol's book.

Lays of the Highlands and Islands. By John Stuart Blackie,

Professor of Greek in the University of Edinburgh.

London : Strahan and Co. 1872. The Professor tells us in his pleasant gossiping Introduction, addressed to tourists, that more than forty years ago he made a vow to visit some new district of his own country every year. This vow he faithfully kept; thus making the acquaintance of all the principal bens, lochs, and isles of Scotland, both those which are well known and those which lie out of the beaten track. Season after season found this jovial, kindly Scot, booted and plaided, footing it away through shower and shine, over mountain and moor, and by lonely glens and rock-strewn shores, taking in with an eye of pride and delight, all that wealth of grandeur and beauty with which Nature has adorned his native land, and ever and anon giving vent, in sonnet, ode, or song, to the fervour of admiration and patriotism which glowed within him. These effusions, written in situ, under the immediate inspiration of the scenes described, are now collected in the volume before us. We have read them with a good deal of pleasure. We take them just for what they are, and for what their author, we feel sure, would have us take them,—as simply the record in verse of the impressions produced in the heart of a genial, manly,


and somewhat poetic Scotchman, by the scenery and local associations of his own country. We should certainly have been disappointed if we had expected to find in these fugitive jottings of the professorial muse poetry of a high order,—if we had looked for anything like Byronic sublimity or Wordsworthian depth and suggestiveness.

Nor are they at all noticeable for either pathos or humour. But on the other hand they are entirely free from the whining sentimentality, and affectation of mystery and profundity, which disgust us in much of the minor poetry of the day. The thought and feeling of these poems are not at all of the rare and exotic order. They consist of animated description, and of such reflections, for the most part, as would naturally occur to men of cultivated minds and honest devout hearts, brought under the excitement of scenes of grandeur and historical interest. The verse itself is admirably clear, flowing, and energetic. Indeed, the author seems to have almost too great a facility of rhythm and rhyme. He is in danger of being betrayed by it into manufacturing mere commonplace into mere jingle. That which mainly attracts us in these poems is a certain union of manliness and fervour, simplicity and culture, which we believe are eminently characteristic of the worthy professor himself. There is, too, in him a sort of grim, half humorous realism, such as betrays itself in the following lines :

“ Dream, dream who will beneath the glimmering moon,
And commune with dim ghosts that flit about,
I have no brains to waste on hazy runes,
That being read but stir more doubtful doubt;
Shine on me, Sun! beneath thy clear strong ray

To live and work is all the bliss I pray." Several of these poems, such as “ The Highlander's Lament" and “ Bonnie Strathnaver,” are devoted to the expression of a just and manly regret for the depopulation of the Highlands, carried on of late years by the lordly owners of the soil, in order to make room for deer drives and sheep farms. The honest indignation of such lines as the following from “ The Ruined Clachan," will be appreciated by patriotic Scotchmen :

“My heart grew sad, my heart grew warm,
The tears adown my cheeks came rolling,
And in my breast there rose a storm
That kicked at reason's cold controlling.
Full in my thought there flashed to view
The rare old life that here had vanished-
The lusty thew, the heart so true,
The love, the joy, the manhood banished !
Who drove them hence? Oh, who was he,
Of hoarded rents a stern exactor,
A titled loon of high degree,
Close-fisted laird, or hard-faced factor?
I may not know: but I disburse
My bile on him, that ruthless actor,
And curse him with a hearty curse,
Close-fisted laird, or hard-faced factor."

Literary Notices.


The poems severally styled “ A Psalm of Loch Daich," " The Three Churches," and especially the “Sabbath Meditation in Arran," are pitched in a key of lofty and devout reflection, and are marked by just and tender feeling and great breadth of religious sentiment. “ Glencoe" is a spirited ballad, not unworthy of the tragic theme. Several of the sonnets are finely cut, and flash with thought and feeling. But the tourist spirit is that which characterises the volume as a whole, and in none of the poems does it find more apt and genial expression than in that entitled “ The Ascent of Cruachan," with the following lines from which our notice must close :

" Ha! thank Heaven! the mist is clearing,

Lo! beneath the curtained cloud,
Gleams in glory of the sunshine
Emerald field and silver flood !
Northward, at your feet, dark Etive
Mildly sbines with lucid sheen.
Land of Macintyres behind you
Glistens vivid with the green,
Through the giant gap where downward
Sheer the madded torrent pours,
In the weeks of wintry horror,
When the tempest raves and roars.
Southward, like a belt of silver,
Flooded from a thousand rills,
Stretches far Loch Awe, the lonely,
Through a land of dark brown hills.
Eastward, lo! the lofty Lomond.
And Balquidder's purple braes,
Land of stout, strong-armed, MacGregors,
Strangely loom through saffron haze;
Look! O look! that burst of splendour
In the West, that blaze of gold
Tells where round Mull's terraced headlands
Broad the breasted waves are rolled
At thy base, thou huge, aspiring,
Triple-crested, proud Ben More,
Known to Stafia's rock-ribbed temple,
To Iona's hallowed shore."

Songs in God's World. By Wade Robinson. London: Long

mans, Green and Co. 1872. When we ask ourselves what it is that, as we read these poems, won our regard, we do not find it easy to reply. Imagination, fancy, pathos, they certainly have; yet not in any very remarkable degree. Many poems have more of these that do not touch us so much. Love, religion, death, the beauty and the sadness of the world—the common themes of poetry, and those which appeal to the deepest feelings of our nature-form the staple of these poems; but there is nothing very new or striking in their treatment; at the same time there is an entire absence of commonplace. They neither grovel nor soar, but ever keep en rapport with all that is best in the common heart of humanity. They do not task us with weighty thought, nor startle us

« ForrigeFortsett »