Imágenes de páginas

armed with flint-headed javelins, slings, and stones. I saw combats between scanty tribes-festive entertainments and dances, with music and song of the rudest form-marriage ceremoniesfunerals celebrated with wild outcriesreligious worship, sometimes toward one material object, sometimes toward another, sometimes toward none that was visible, unless it were to sun and sky.

I instinctively recognized in these flitting forms ancestors of my own, and felt still an undefinable sense of kindred and lineage; until, as the last phantom vanished in darkness, I seemed to stand

alone on a sandy shore, from which the calm, mist-covered sea was ebbing, and on which amphibious creatures lay at rest. Suddenly, wild flights of seafowl wheeled and screamed above, and there broke out the yellow light of the sun rising warm and clear from the eastern horizon.


99 66

ERE is another of Mother Blackwood's naughty boys, who will not put his face in the corner, and suck his thumbs, for having written 66 Alton Locke," " Yeast," "Hypatia," "Amyas Leigh," "Phaethon," Village Sermons," and "Sermons for the Times," in all of which performances that peculiar kind of England which Mrs. Blackwood represents is vigorously delineated. Now he comes graceful in singingrobes, and holding the lyre. His songs are not idle ditties, but grave, sweet measures, full of the humane enthusiasm, masculine vigor, subtle perception, and essential poetry with which the readers of Kingsley are already familiar. That he is a poet no one doubted who has ever read "Alton Locke," or "Yeast," because in those novels are "The Sands of Dee," and "A Rough Rhyme on a Rough Matter." The first of these poems,


"O Mary, go and call the cattle home,"

is as pure a bit of lyrical melody as can be found in the language; and the other is the finest specimen of the corn-law poetry in literature.

The present volume contains "The Saint's Tragedy," a long dramatic poem; "Miscellaneous Poems," and "Ballads;" and before examining the volume in detail, we shall, perhaps, convey our general opinion of its merits by

I awoke in my chair, as the reader has, of course, anticipated, and told my vision to my wife, as the reader tells his dreams to his own. She listened to me with unusual attention, and said "there was a good deal in it,” and that I had better write it out for the pages of Putnam. So here it is.

saying that it s worthy to make a fourth with Tennyson's "Maud," Browning's "Men and Women," and Longfellow's "Hiawatha"-the three chief works of poetry published during the year. Of course, it is as entirely unlike all of these as they are unlike each other, and we institute no comparison of the authors as poets. But it is perfectly genuine, like them, and it is poetry full of music and meaning.

The volume is prepared with an introduction by the Rev. F. D. Maurice, a personal friend of Kingsley's, who is himself a clergyman. In this introduction, Mr. Maurice says some admirable things, which we have not room to quote. He thinks the English genius has a special aptitude for the drama, and, consequently, for history. He also defends a clergyman for writing a drama -a defense in which we have little interest, except as a curiously illustrative fact of the state of mind of a Christian people-fellow-citizens of Shakespeare -among whom a man has to be defended for doing what Shakespeare did. It only shows how far gone in formalism England is, in every direction. It sends old women to command in the Crimea, and requires that a poet should be justified for writing poetry. But we speak modestly, for our own withers are not altogether unwrung in this respect. About twelve months since, one of our

Poems. By CHARLES KINGSLEY. Boston: Ticknor & Fields. 1856.

own authors, Mr. Calvert, seriously offended the trustees of a church in New England, by reading a grave, dramatic poem, as a lecture. The trustees had laughed merrily, in the same church, at puns, and broad jokes in a lecturepoem; but a serious poem, dramatically divided, was desecration of the edifice. On the whole, the publishers have done wisely to reprint Mr. Maurice's preface. The Reverend Messrs. Chadband and Stiggins might else have denounced the Reverend Charles Kingsley for writing a drama. It is to be hoped that it is no offense in the laity to read the drama, and like it.


The Saint's Tragedy" is the legend of Elizabeth of Hungary. Kingsley has consulted the original authorities for the facts, and has treated them dramatically for certain specific moral ends, as he treats every subject upon which he writes. What his moral design in the drama is, he states in the conclusion of his preface:

"If, however, this book shall cause one Englishman honestly to ask himself, 'I, as a Protestant, have been accustomed to assert the purity and dignity of the offices of husband, wife, and parent. Have I ever examined the grounds of my own assertion? Do I believe them to be, as callings from God, spiritual, sacramental, divine, eternal? Or am I at heart regarding and using them, like the Papist, merely as heaven's indulgences to the infirmities of fallen man ?-Then will my book have done its work.

"If, again, it shall deter one young man from the example of those miserable dilettanti, who in books and sermons are whimpering meagre second-hand praises of celibacy-deprecating as carnal and degrading those family ties, to which they owe their own existence, in the enjoyment of which they themselves all the while unblushingly indulge-insulting thus their own wives and mothers,-nibbling ignorantly at the very root of that household purity, which constitutes the distinctive superiority of Protestant over Popish nations;-again my book will have done its work.

"If, lastly, it shall awake one pious Protestant to recognize, in some, at least, of the Saints of the Middle Age, beings not only of the same passions, but of the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, as themselves; Protestants, not the less deep and true, because utterly unconscious and practicalmighty witnesses against the two antichrists of their age-the tyranny of feudal caste, and the phantoms which Popery substitutes for the living Christ-then also will my little book indeed have done its work."

Elizabeth, orphan daughter of the king of Hungary, has been brought to the court of Thuringia, and is betrothed to Lewis, the landgrave. The play opens with a conversation between Elizabeth and her nurse, in which the little prin

cess bewails her utterly forlorn condition. She has so much Christian democracy, which leads her to a life of good works, that she is despised by the mother of Lewis, and the court. They freeze her with cold blue eyes, and scoffing, and she longs, not even to be loved, but only to be forgotten. Even her betrothed, Lewis, who treats her like a young sister, she regards merely as a brother. But in one of his vassals, Walter of Varila, she has a friend. Lewis, a well-meaning youth, dreamy, and half despondent over his position and responsibilities, is reminded by Walter that the welfare of his realm depends upon himself; and, as they ride together, Walter shows him the thrifty domain of some monks. One of them, Conrad, the pope's legate, passing at the moment, is summoned by Lewis, to explain the secret of their prosperity. Conrad, an enthusiast, immediately begins to exhort the landgrave to the heavenly warfare, during which he is interrupted by the sarcasm of the count. The adjuration awakens in Lewis's heart the longing for love— the desire to serve an earthly mistress. But the thought of wedding the saintly Elizabeth seems to him not less than sin. And yet his heart cries:

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

But she is not content with theory, she must "headlong into seas of toil" to prove herself, and strengthen herself against herself. Yet the noble human heart protests:

Lewis awakens while his wife wrestles with human instincts and priestly sophistries, and as he hears her "beatify the ascetic's savagery," his own ductile mind yields to her pious frenzy.

[blocks in formation]

"A shallow, stony, steadfast eye; that looks at neither man nor beast in the face, but at something invisible a yard before him, through you and past you, at a fascination, a ghost of fixed purposes that haunts him, from which neither reason nor pity will turn. I have seen such an eye in men possessed-with devils, or with self: sleek, passionless men, who are too refined to be manly, and measure their grace by their effeminacy; crooked vermin, who swarm up in pious times, being drowned out of their earthy haunts by the spring-tide of religion; and so, making a gain of godliness, swim upon the first of the flood, till it cast them ashore on the firm beach of wealth and station. I always mistrust those wall-eyed saints."

Elizabeth surrenders herself to Conrad's absolute spiritual guidance, and

[ocr errors]

he assumes the training of her sainthood." Her nurse warns her that she will repent.. Alas! sweet lady, all a woman and noble in her errors, she replies:

"I do repent, even now.

Therefore I'll


And bind myself to that, which once being right,

Will not be less right, when I shrink from it.
No; if the end be gained-if I be raised
To freer, nobler use, I'll dare, I'll welcome
Him and his means, though they were racks
and flames."

The discipline begins. Not yet seventeen, and a queen, she goes about"Clad in rough serge, and with her bare, soft palms

Wooing the ruthless flint."

She visits the widow and the fatherless, and is an angel of succor wherever there is suffering. She describes to her nurse the scenes with which she becomes familiar; and the reader of "Yeast" and "Alton Locke" recognizes again the human-hearted Christian, Kingsley. But while she thus obeys the impulse of her heart, and seeks, in a thousand engrossing duties, to smother the warm earthly passion for her husband, Conrad sternly rebukes her. The monk believes in the church, not in Christianity:

[blocks in formation]

This discourse is apropos of a famine, in which Elizabeth has so manifestly interfered with the will of divine Providence, which designed that the poor should perish-else why permit a famine?-that the Thuringians are angry and come to complain of her to Lewis. She pleads against them, that it was for her husband's honor as a ruler, that she dared not lose one of the sheep committed to him. The loving Lewis. proud of his spouse, dismisses the complaints.

But it is still a struggle in her heart; there is yet no victory. The loving woman in training for a saint yearns after her natural kind. She sits with Lewis singing:

"C. Walter. How? Teach them to become men by leaving them brutes?

"Abbot. Oh. sir, there we step in, with the consolations and instructions of the faith."

"Oh! that we two were Maying

Down the stream of the soft spring breeze; Like children with violets playing

In the shade of the whispering trees.

Oh! that we two sat dreaming

On the sward of some sheep-trimmed down, Watching the white mist steaming

Over river and mead and town.

Oh! that we two lay sleeping

In our nest in the church-yard sod. With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth's breast,

And our souls at home with God!"

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

sighs the innocent victim. Perhaps stripes and nightly vigils upon freezing stones may so chasten the rebellious flesh that God will bring him back to me. If not, his will be done. His will is done, and Lewis is slain in Palestine. His mother, "made of hard light stuff," tells Elizabeth the dreary tidings, and resolves that Lewis's brother, and not his son-Elizabeth's son-shall succeed him. Elizabeth rushes wildly out, and, after a paroxysm of passionate remembrance and love, the poor heart breaks. Turned out into the world, with her children, she finds no charity at the convent doors-for convents are sternly conservative, and quote Scripture for the powers that be--and a rough baron shelters her. But, treated like an idiot and slave, she takes to the world again, finding comfort in prayer: "Guta. Oh! prayer, to her rapt soul, Is like the drunkenness of the autumn bee, Who, scent-enchanted, on the latest flower, Heedless of cold, will linger listless on, And freeze in odorous dreams."

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

"Thou hast him, Lord, Thou hast him; Do with us what Thou wilt! If at the price Of this one silly hair, in spite of Thee,

I could reclothe these wan bones with his manhood,

And clasp to my shrunk heart my hero's self...

I would not give it!"

The husband is dead, and the children must now be renounced. The wife has yielded to the terrible logic of superstition and to the mistaken self-sacrifice of a noble heart, and the mother must soon follow. With tears, and sharp struggles, and prayers, and shivering doubts, the mother also submits:

"All worldly goods and wealth, which once I loved,

I now do count but dross; and my beloved,
The children of my womb, I now regard
As if they were another's; God is witness,
My pride is to despise myself; my joy
All insults, sneers, and slanders of mankind;
No creature now I love, but God alone.

« AnteriorContinuar »