Page images
PDF
EPUB

jured up by the description of Una seen that only the first four lines are riding

poetic:
Upon a lowly ass more white than snow, * And therein sat a lady fresh and fair,
But she much whiter,"

Making sweet solace to herself alone : is a hideous image ; but it is evident

Sometimes she sang as loud as lark in air,

Sometimes she laughed, that nigh her breath was he does not follow the thought of the

gone ; poet, who, rapidly passing from snow Yet was there not with her else any one, as a material fact to snow as an emblem

That to her might move cause of merriment;

Matter of mirth enough, though there were none, of innocence, intends to say that the

She could devise; and thousand ways invent white purity of Una's soul, shining in To feed her foolish humor and vain jolliment." her face and transfiguring its expres- In Shakespeare's line, sion, cannot be expressed by the purest

“How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon that bank!" material symbol. The image of a woman's face, ghastly and ghostly white, the poetry is in the single epithet passed before Hallam's eye; we may“ sleeps"; substitute "lies," and, be sure that no such uncomely image though the rhythm would be as perfect, was in Spenser's mind. The real the line would be prosaic. The soul meaning is so obvious, that its per- of poetry, indeed, is impassioned imversion by so distinguished a critic agination, using words, but not necesproves that acuteness has no irrecon- sarily verse, in its expression. Bacon cilable feud with imaginative insensi- wrote verse, and execrable verse it is; bility, and can be spiritually dull when but was not Bacon a poet? Is not it prides itself most on being intellectu- Milton a poet in his prose ? Are not ally keen.

the prose translations of the Psalms of To this inwardness, - this ideal and David poetic ? The poetic faculty, idealizing quality of Spenser's soul, which is vital, cannot be made to dewe must add its melodiousness. His pend on a form which, even in undisbest thoughts were born in music. puted poets, is so apt to be mechanical. The spirit of poetry is not only felt in Even should we admit that verse is the his sentiments and made visible in his body of which poetry is the soul, canimagery, but it steals out in the recur- not a soul manifest itself in a body ring chimes of his complicated stanza.

which does not in all respects correAccordingly Spenser, rather than Shake- spond to it? Cannot the essential speare and Milton, who, as Coleridge spirit of poetry transfigure the rudest, has remarked, had “deeper and more unrhythmic expression, as the soul of inwoven harmonies,” is commonly ad- Socrates glorified his homely face? It duced in support of the accredited is not, of course, mere imagination dogma, that verse is as much an essen- which makes a poet; for Aristotle and. tial constituent of poetry as passion Newton were men of great imagination, and imagination. But it seems to us scientifically directed to the discovery that poetry is not necessarily opposed of new truth, not to the creation of new to prose, but to what is prosaic. It beauty. But imagination, directed by doubtless sometimes finds in verse its poetic sentiment and passion to poetic happiest and most vital expression; ends, does make the poet. And that but sometimes verse is a clog, and these conditions are often fulfilled in its management a mechanical exercise. prose, and a purely poetic impression Much of Spenser's, especially in the produced, cannot be denied without last three books of The Faery Queene, resisting the evidence of ordinary exis mere ingenuity in rhythm and rhyme; perience. and even in the first three books we And though there is a delicious charm continually light on passages which are in Spenser's sweetest verse, the finest essentially prosaic. Take, for example, and rarest elements of his genius were the following stanza, descriptive of Im- independent of music. That celestial modest Mirth, and it will readily be light which occasionally touches his

page with an ineffable beauty, and both by their naturalness and their which gave to him in his own time the distance from common nature. Spenser name of the heavenly Spenser, is a really sees the objects as distant, and more wonderful emanation from his sees them through a visionary medium. mind than its subtlest melodies. We The strong-winged Shakespeare peneespecially feel this in his ideal delinea- trates to the region of spiritual facts tions of woman, in which he has only which he embodies; Spenser surveys been exceeded by Shakespeare. He has them wonderingly from below. Shakebeen called the poet's poet; he should speare goes up; Spenser looks up ; also be called the woman's poet, for the and our poet therefore lacks the great feminine element in his genius is its dramatist's familiar grasp of things loftiest, deepest, most angelic element. divine.” The tenderness, the ethereal softness It remains to be said, that though and grace, the moral purity, the senti- Spenser's outward life was vexed with ment untainted by sentimentality, which discontent, and fretted by his resentcharacterize his impersonations of fem- ment of the indifference with which he inine excellence, show, too, that the supposed his claims were treated by poet's brain had been fed from his the great and powerful, his poetry heart, and that reverence for woman breathes the very soul of contentment was the instinct of his sensibility be- and cheer. This cheer has no confore it was the insight of his imagina- nection with mirth, either in the form tion.

of wit or humor, but springs from his The inwardness of Spenser's genius, perception of an ideal of life, which the constant reference of his creative has become a reality to his heart and faculty to internal ideals, rather than imagination. The Faery Queene proves objective facts, has given his poem a that the perception of the Beautiful special character of remoteness. It is can make the heart more abidingly often objected to his female characters glad than the perception of the ludithat they are not sufficiently individual- crous. In the soul of this seer and ized, and are too far removed from singer, who shaped the first vague ordinary life to awaken human sym- dreams and unquiet aspirations of the pathy. It is to be hoped that the lat- youth into beautiful forms to solace ter part of this charge is not true ; for a the man, there is a serene depth of person who can have no sympathy with tender joy, ay, “a sober certainty of Una, and Belphebe, and Florimel, and waking bliss"; and, as he has not Amoret, can have no sympathy with locked up in his own breast this prethe woman in women. But it must cious delight, but sent it in vital curbe conceded, that though Shakespeare, rents through the marvels and moralilike Spenser, draws his women from ties of The Faery Queene to refresh ideal regions of existence, he has the world, let no defects which critisucceeded better in naturalizing them cism can discern hinder the reader on the planet. The creations of both from participating in the deep satisare characterized by remoteness ; but faction of that happy spirit, and the Shakespeare's are direct perceptions visionary glories of that celestialized of objects ideally remote, and strike us imagination.

LAGOS BAR,

PART L.

THEY say, sir, it's a bad place come down to sell their oil themselves.

1 where a sailor won't go to, and So the captain gives his powder and there's many a sailor won't go to the tobacco and cotton goods to the blacks West Coast of Africa; yet somehow, on the seaboard, and they take them when he does take to it, he can't fancy up into the interior where the oil is, and no other line ; it's like the moth and buy it there. Sometimes these middlethe candle : many a time I've been men cheat him outright, spending his singed for one, but back I used to go, goods and bringing nothing back. and I dare say I should have been burnt But that don't often happen, otherwise up at last if it had n't been for some- trade would end. What they chiefly thing as made me swear as I'd never do is to dawdle and dawdle, for they go to the Coast but only once again. hold no 'count o' time, till the captain

Yes, sir, I've made voyages for ev. staying there with his cargo on his erything almost. I 've been to Gam- mind is drove pretty well crazy with bia for ground-nuts and hides, and to delay. Well, perhaps he takes to Calabar, Brass, and Bonny for palm- drink to fill up his time, and what with oil, and to Gaborn for red-wood and that and worry of mind the fever makes teeth, and to the Gold Coast for dust. but easy work of him. Many and There's only one trade as I never many's the shipmate as I've had die went into, - black ivory, I mean. I in these arms. And if e'er a one can remember the day when there was came out fond of reading, and thinking no danger about it, and pretty well no a bit superior to us unedicated men, he shame; but I once saw a barracoon, and was sure to go, just as the best-bred that seemed to turn me like against it; dogs are always took off first by the I was only a lad at the time, but it was distemper. Ah, sir, I often thinks of long afore I got over that dreadful sight. them times now that I am old. Often

I've had some queer days on the as I lays in my cot on a hot summer's Coast, and no mistake. More than night onable to sleep, I thinks and I once I've had my hair off and blisters thinks till I does n't know where I am; on my feet; and when Yellow Jack I hears the mosquitoes a humming broke out in Bonny, I was pretty well round me, and the splashing of the the only white man left. Once I got water agen the sides of the room, and wrecked in the Congo, and was kept the cries of the wild beasts, what are prisoner by the blacks till the agent only the people in the street. Then I paid my ransom. They used to make begins to doze a bit; my head swims; me sit over. a fire of damp leaves and dark things come round me; I see the red-peppers, and prod me with a spear stars shining above me, and the high to make me talk ; and as soon as I black trees upon the shore ; I smell opened my mouth, the thick biting the mud and the nasty river fog; and smoke would pour down my throat fit then I see Lagos Bar! and at that I to smother me outright. Then they'd wake up with a scream, and find myself all burst out laughing, and dance like in my little room at home, with my old mad. It made me think of the chafers missus a bending over me, a-wiping the I used to spin at school ; only I did n't sweat from my forehead and the tears like being the chafer.

from my eyes ; and then we lay and It's a bad place, the Coast, especially talk of the times gone by, — the times for them as trades. as trades.

In the oil rivers

In the oil rivers gone by, and mostly of Lagos Bar. I you have to go on trust. The Coast suppose that I 've told that tale to my natives don't let the country natives wife a thousand times; for often and

often its memory comes back to me about to show that we were n't at sea. and leaves me no rest till I 've put They would have to go back in the it into words. It does n't come always pilot-boat, with the wind and tide conlike a horrid dream, but more like a trairy, and the night fast coming on. spirit; and sometimes, sir, I think it It was plain to see that they were may be Mary herself. See how the mother and daughter, and that they'd sky shines over there, and the waters been crying together down below. seem to dance in gold! At a time like Their eyes showed red when they lifted this, when all is calm and still, and up the drooping lids, and their pale shadows are moving in the air, it never cheeks were all seamed with where the fails to come. I feel it now, -and then tears had run. Neither of them looked, something swells within me, and big at our skipper after he had brought thoughts which frighten me lift up 'em up, and it was this that puzzled my brain; I don't understand these me. There he stood, a little ways off thoughts. I can't bring them out in them, leaning agen the vessel's side ; speech. I can't raise them when I sometimes a-looking at them out of the wish. No, sir, they are not my thoughts corner of his eye, sometimes at the at all, they are too beautiful for a rude pilot, who was putting on his pea-coat. man like me; they come from her; it is Presently he caught my eye, and I Mary, dear Mary, sitting by my poor went up to him. * Let me know when old worn-out heart, and whispering to the pilot-boat comes up alongside, Mr. me of the happy world to come. Andrews,- quietly, you know." "It's

[The old sailor remained silent for plain enough," thinks I, “ that they're several minutes, his eyes fixed upon going back; I suppose they're his the setting sun; there was a kind of mother and sister, and that is why they light upon his face somewhat resem- 've been crying. But how is it that bling that of the improvvisatore, but they never give him a word, or so steadier and deeper. It gradually died much as a look, and seein altogether away as the sun dipped below the sea; so much wrapped up in themselves?” he glanced at me, looked a little con In a few minutes I looked at the fused, and asked me for a light. As captain, and touched my cap. The soon as he had lighted his pipe, he be- pilot went up to him and shook hands. gan of his own accord to tell me his The two ladies were sitting whispering story thus :-)

to each other, and did not notice it.

Captain Langlands, he looked about It was in the year '48 I shipped as him in an awkward kind of way, mate aboard the Saucy. Sal o' Liver- walked a bit towards 'em, and then pool. She was a fore-and-aft schooner, stopped short like a man who has clipper rigged, and as neat a little craft something to do which he does n't like as one would wish to see. As we to begin. Just then they looked up. dropped down the Mersey, with a sou'. The pilot in his pea-coat, the sailors westerly breeze, I felt quite proud of idling about, looking aft, and, more being in her. But I thought it a pity than all, our captain's face, showed 'em she should sail for the Coast, where, as the time was come. They got up what with sun and sea-worms, a vessel without a word, and walked to the waist soon loses all her good looks, and her of the vessel, and then I began to unseaworthiness, too, sometimes.

derstand. The old lady turned round When we got near the mouth of the and took her daughter in her arms, and river, the skipper went below, and squeezed her, oh, so hard ! and when brought up two ladies. If Queen Vic- Langlands took hold of her to help her toria had turned out to be aboard, I down, she looked at him full in the could n't have been more surprised. eyes, and said gently, “ May God forHere we were with the land dim in the give you, James !” At this his face distance, and only a red buoy tossing turned, and he trembled like a liare.

same.

Now she was in the boat, which up the sea (which likewise he promised slipped quickly astarn. “Haul aft the to do), gev him the girl. But before main sheets !" shouted the skipper in three months were gone, Langlands a hoarse voice. The girl ran aft and was taken with that feeling which all hung over the taffrail ; she was within sailors know. It ain't often a man can a foot of me then, for I was standing by shake off the sea while he's young. the wheel. In a moment the boat came She's a hard missus; but, even when in sight; her mother was standing up, we do get a chance to get away from her bonnet had been blown off, and her, we're bound to go back to her her gray hairs were flying in the wind; agen. We say the sailor's life is the • she stretched her withered hands roughest there is, and yet we wonder towards us, and she never said a word; how people can live ashore; though it's but her hands, her quivering, clutching, lucky as some do, else how would vesspeaking hands ! it seemed as if her sels be built, and goods stored ? whole blood and life had streamed into Well, to make it short, Langlands the limbs as was nearest to her child. felt sea-wards; and one fine morning

She reeled and I catched her in my his mother-in-law found out that he'd arms, and there she lay for a minute invested a good part of his money in with her head upon my breast. Her the Saucy Sal, with the agreement face was like marble stone, her eyes with his partners that he was to sail were shut, and her lips glued to- her and have captain's wages for the gether fast. I had never seen such a

To make matters vorse, she delicate thing afore. It seemed like found he was bound for the West Coast nothing to hold her; and her face – of Africa, and that her daughter was Ah! what a beautiful face that was! bent on going with him. I seemed lost-like a-looking at her, and All that she could say or do did n't never moved, and never turned my eyes shake 'em. Langlands was determined away, but stood there all helpless, that he would go: his wife was deterand her in a deathly swound. “Let mined that she would n't be left behind. me take her, Mr. Andrews,” said the People think the Coast is worse than it captain from behind, and he took her really is, and the old lady took on badly. up in his strong arms and carried her Langlands assured her that his vessel below. Then I heard him call out for should never lay inside a river bar, and the key of the medicine - chest, and that his wife should never go ashore. afterwards he ran up just to " take his But no : she had made up her mind departure,” that is to note down where that she was not to see her girl agen. we lost sight of the furthest point of That was why she'd come all the way land.

to the mouth of the river, though she I was sore puzzled at this, for I'd knew it, meant passing the night in seen her ring, and I knew it was dead rough waters in an open boat. agen reg'ler reg'lations for skippers to Well, I felt in bad spirits over this. take their wives with them to sea. I was sorry for the girl ; her face had But the second mate soon came up to wrought on me somehow, and I knew me and told me all about it. The cap- that the Coast was no place for a tain had been engaged to her, it seems, woman, let alone a weakly thing like a goodish while, but her mother had her. Her husband would have to go all along been dead agen the match: ashore if she did n't, and if we were first, because Langlands had the char- going to lay outside Lagos Bar, why acter for being wild, and then he was a he'd have to cross it pretty often, which sailor, and she had been a sailor's wife is a thing few men like to do. There herself. However, it happened that he are plenty of bad bars along that had a stroke of luck : a good bit of Coast, and I suppose Lagos is the worst. money was left him, and the old lady, It's so dangerous that companies won't thinking that now he'd be sure to give insure goods across it, -or would n't

« PreviousContinue »