Page images

"Smear'd with gore, and ghastly pale: "Far, far aloof th' affrighted ravens sail; "The famish'd Eagle screams, and passes by (o). "Dear lost companions of my tuneful art,

"Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes (1⁄21⁄2), "Dear as the ruddy drops that warm my heart, "Ye died amidst your dying country's cries"No more I weep [4]. They do not sleep. "On yonder cliffs, a grisly band,

" I see them sit, they linger yet,

66 Avengers of their native land:

(p) Dear as the light that visits these sad eyes.
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops

That visit my sad heart

[ocr errors]

(0) The famish'd eagle screams, and passes by.

Camden and others observe, that eagles used annually to build their ærie among the rocks of Snowdon, which from thence (as some think) were named by the Welsh Craigianeryri, or the crags of the eagles. At this day (I am told) the highest point of Snowdon is called the Eagle's nest. That bird is certainly no stranger to this island, as the Scots, and the people of Cumberland, Westmoreland, &c. can testify: it even has built its nest in the Peak of Derbyshire. (See Willoughby's Ornithol. published by Ray.)

Shakespeare's Ful. Cæsar.

[4] Here (says an anonymous Critic) a vision of triumphant revenge is judiciously made to ensue, after the pathetic lamentation which precedes it. Breaks-double rhymes-an appropriated cadenceand an exalted ferocity of language forcibly picture to us the uncoutrollable tumultuous workings of the prophet's stimulated bosom.

"With me in dreadful harmony they join,

"And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy "line (q)."

II. 1.

"Weave the warp, and weave the woof [5], "The winding-sheet of Edward's race [6]. "Give ample room, and verge enough "The characters of hell to trace.

(9) And weave with bloody hands the tissue of thy line.
See the Norwegian ode [The Fatal Sisters] hereafter.

[5] The Critic before-mentioned asks, “Can there be an image more "just, apposite, and nobly imagined. than this tremendous tragical "winding-sheet?" In the rest of this stanza the wildness of thought, expression, and cadence are admirably adapted to the character and situation of the speaker, and of the bloody spectres his assistants. It is not indeed peculiar to it alone, but a beauty that runs throughout the whole composition, that the historical events are briefly sketched out by a few striking circumstances, in which the Poet's office of rather exciting and directing, than satisfying the reader's imagination, is perfectly observed. Such abrupt hints, resembling the several fragments of a vast ruin, suffer not the mind to be raised to the utmost pitch, by one image of horror, but that instantaneously a second and a third are presented to it, and the affection is still uniformly supported.

[6] Dr. Johnson, in his spleen against our Poet, descends to a mean witticism: "Gray (says he) has made weavers of slaughtered bards. "They are then called upon to 'weave the warp, and weave the woof,' "perhaps with no great propriety; for it is by crossing the woof with "the warp that men weave the web or piece." We know not where Johnson acquired his knowledge of the weaving trade; but if our information be correct, the Critic has made a mistake, for it is by crossing the warp with the woof that men weave, &c.

"Mark the year, and mark the night, "When Severn shall re-echo with affright "The shrieks of death, thro' Berkley's roof that ❝ ring,

"Shrieks of an agonizing King (r) !

"She-wolf of France(s), with unrelenting fangs, "That tear'ft the bowels of thy mangled Mate, "From thee be born (t), who o'er thy country "hangs

"The scourge of Heav'n. What Terrors round "him wait!

"Amazement in his van, with Flight combin'd, "And Sorrow's faded form, and Solitude behind.

II. 2. "Mighty Victor, mighty Lord,

"Low on his funeral couch he lies (u)!

(r) Shrieks of an agonizing King!

Edward the Second, cruelly butchered in Berkley-castle.
(s) She-wolf of France-
Isabel of France, Edward the Second's adulterous Queen.
(t) From thee be born, &c.
Triumphs of Edward the Third in France.

(u) Low on his funeral couch he lies!

Death of that king, abandoned by his children, and even robbed in his last moments by his courtiers and his mistress.

[ocr errors]

"No pitying heart, no eye,

"A tear to grace his obsequies.

"Is the sable Warrior fled (x) ?


"Thy son is gone. He rests among the Dead. "The Swarm, that in thy noon-tide beam were "born?

"Gone to salute the rising Morn.

"Fair laughs the Morn (y), and soft the Zephyr ❝ blows [7],

"While proudly riding o'er the azure realm "In gallant trim the gilded Vessel goes;

"Youth on the prow, and Pleasure at the helm ; "Regardless of the sweeping Whirlwind's sway, "That, hush'd in grim repose, expects his even


(x) Is the sable warrior fled?

Edward the Black Prince, dead some time before his father.

(y) Fair laughs the Morn, &c.

Magnificence of Richard the Second's reign. See Froissard and other contemporary writers.

[7] This and the five lines that follow convey, perhaps, the most beautiful piece of imagery in the whole Poem.

II. 3.

"Fill high the sparkling bowl (z),

"The rich repast prepare,

"Close by the regal chair

"Fell Thirst and Famine scowl


"Reft of a crown, he yet may share the feast:

"A baleful smile upon their baffled Guest. "Heard ye the din of battle bray (a),

"Lance to lance, and horse to horse?

Long years of havock urge their destin'd course, "And thro' the kindred squadrons mow their

"way [8].

(z) Fill high the sparkling bowl.

Richard the Second, as we are told by Archbishop Scroop and the confederate Lords in their manifesto, by Thomas of Walsingham, and all the older writers, was starved to death. The story of his assassination by Sir Piers of Exton, is of much later date.

(a) Heard ye the din of battle bray? Ruinous civil wars of York and Lancaster.

[8] This Stanza (as an anonymous writer remarks) has exceeding merit. It breathes in a lesser compass, what the Ode breathes at large, the high spirit of Lyric Enthusiasm. The Transitions are sudden and impetuous; the Language full of fire and force; and the Imagery carried, without impropriety, to the most daring height. The manner of Richard's death by Famine exhibits such beauties of Personification, as only the richest and most vivid Imagination could supply. From

« PreviousContinue »