10 NOVEMBER 1832, Page 16


THERE are few writers of the present day we could name, who are in the enjoyment of a more poetical spirit than CORNEL I US WEBBE ; the author, we believe, of a prose volume of miscella- neous papers, published anonymously, which received our appro- bation in the Atlas. The name is probably not yet familiar to the public, since it is only lately that it has come to our ears; and after all, CORNELIUS may have only assumed his appellation in reverence to the tutor of JUVENA.L. For in some points at least our author is classical : these poems have been kept a year or two longer than is recommended in the precept of HORACE. We fear, however, that the motive was not altogether Horatian : the au- thor speaks of discouragement and inauspicious circumstances of health and opportunity. These the perusal of this volume leads us greatly to regret; for if CORNELIUS has not written poetry since the date of these compositions, then must the spirit of poesy be departed from him; and if so, as pretty a poet extinguished in his person as it has been our lot to review. The fulness of his fancy, the infinitude of his ideas, and the original character of his muse, affected us with a degree of astonishment; not the less, we believe, because the manner in which they are put forth is so un- pretending. CORNELIUS neither thinks himself worthy of broad margin nor fine paper—nay, he will not permit a single poem to possess the sole honour of an entire page. He thinks if a thing is good, the eye may condescend to commence its perusal at the bot- tom of a page. Consequently, there is as much verse crammed into this cheap duodecimo, as if expanded would fill a quarto. In fact, the whole publication, in manner and matter, carries us back forcibly to the times when men's thoughts run in much more poetical channels than they. do now. We can conceive DANIEL, or RANDOLPH, or BaowNE, putting forth just such a volume as this, scarcely more inartificially printed, and not more ably written. Often, indeed, CORNELIUS is inspired with the very muse of our classical poets : we could swear now and then to an echo of HERRICK ; at others, of MILTON—that is, the MILTON of Comus and E Allegro ; and yet withal, not servile imitation, but the resemblance of a kindred spirit under kindred circumstances. Had CORNELIUS WEBBE rejoiced in the condi- tion of those men to whom we have referred, his genius would have expanded far wider wings. Poetry was the passion of the times we speak of; and if a man felt the god, he let himself go the full swing of the inspiration. If his circumstances were favour- able, he sang his song under his own fig-tree : if not, all was abandoned to the passion—it was pursued at all events; under pretence of law, chambers were taken in one of the Inns of Court; and upon uncertain means, and often none at all, the taverns were frequented, the bailiffs defied, jovial society cultivated at the Three Tuns, or elsewhere ; Alsatia was a resort when all failed; and the prisons themselves have seen the birth of some famous poems,— witness both SKELTorr and LOVELACE, with many others. This species of existence was prejudicial enough to the man and his fortunes, but highly provocative of the muse. The various ex- perience it gave, the fluctuations of the temperament it caused, the different lights in which it placed both men individually and society at large, together with the reckless spirit it cultivated— and, not to omit the occasional reaction, remorse, compunction, vain regret—all these were highly favourable, not perhaps to the conduct of any long or regular work, but to the production of the wild poetical dramas of that day, and the multitude of occasional verses, small poems, songs, and madrigals, such as crowd, for in- stance, the pleasant pages of HERRICK S Hesperides. In our times, we make more respectable citizens and worse poets: the tenor of life is far more orderly and domestic than it used to be; and among our educated young men, there is as much worldly wisdom and care to get on as in the oldest heads. Lawyers are now lawyers, physicians physicians ; a profession is not assumed as a masque for poetry, but in order to pay rent and taxes,' provide for a family, and as .soon as possible set up a carriage. Literature is much pursued by way of relaxation and pastime, just as cards and music; but there is no passion either for writing or reading poetry,—which, in fact, lose§ great part of its hold upon a race of regular, careful, striving, thriving, and probably sensual individuals. If, then, by any accident, a genuine poet does spring up, be finds both soil and climate unconducive to growth : he puts forth a few leaves—nay, perhaps, a bud, or even a flower—but in a sickly fashion ; and soon droops his head, pines, and, as a poet, dies—though he may probably greatly flourish as an attorney or a banker. What circumstances CORNELIUS WEBBE has had to struggle with, we know not; but it is plain that his poetry has been nipped in the bud, or he never would now have published his works of ten or twelve years old, and scarcely favoured us with a line of later date. That he either is or ought to have been a poet, we will speedily convince those of our readers who have a taste that way.

Here are a few stanzas from a thing called "The Weaver's Wife:" it is somewhat in the "John Anderson my Joe" style, but of a touching simplicity and a sufficient originality.

Our daughters are a handsome race,—

You wished them like to me ; Our sons they have their father's face,— A better cannot be ;— Oh may their lot, as our's has been, Be neither high nor low, Then happy to their graves of green Like us, at last, they"11 go !

Then let me kiss that comely cheek, Where lingers still the smile That cheer'd me, when the world was bleak, With many a pleasant wile. This hand, that trembles now in mine, The tear that fills your eye, Confess our hearts know no decline, Nor shall they till we die!

Gad meant us for each other, Will, For both our lives have run Together, and are woven still Like many threads in one !— In infancy, I mind it well, Our mothers, in their glee, Paired Willy Gray with Lucy Bell, And so it came to be.

And I recall it fresh to mind, As 'twere but yesterday, When with our little hands entwined We straggIedmiles away, And in the sun and in the ;bade, And by the river's side, We prattled, slept, and waked and played. From morn, till eventide.

From "The Miller's Treat," we extract the following sprightly stanzas. The Miller, his guests, Tag the song-smith, Ned Guager, and merry old Matt—there. is a fervour here that might have animated ROBERT B URNS.

Why, Stave, you can smell out a feast As pat as our parson a tithe ! But welcome, old lad, to the best, If hungry, and drouthy, and blithe.

Tut, man, never stand by the stair,

Nor waste time in making;a leg;

Draw hither a stool or a chair, And hang up your bat on a peg.

Come, tell us the news of the day— You're burned, and likely to know ;- The church is in danger, they say,—

The steeple was ten years ago !

More friends !—by my mill, it is Tag !— I'll swear to the darns ie his hose ;— And with him comes Matty the wag,—

I feel all the warmth of his nose!—

You're welcome, good hoys,—sit,ye down ; And now, my own Dame, spread the board ; These rashers would make Cuddy Clown Refuse to change place with a lord !

Here's Guager !—'tis he by his halt!—

Well, Teddy, how works the excise ? Whose sins are the deepest in malt?

And how are the widow's bright eyes?—

But this is no time for a word, For here comes a dish for a king ; The eggs, look, are white as a curd, The rashers still bubble and sing !

The poems on the Seasons, especially "Summer," are admirable specimens of fervent fancy and nice observation. What can be more charming than the following images, which have the strong additional merit of bringing the better times of poetry vividly before us ?-- See there are few clouds in heaven,

And the central one is riven, And the sun comes bright between

Into ether, blue and sheen,—

Like a ship by ice-isles pent, Breaking all impediment, And in glory sailing on Till its enterprise is won.'

See ! the giddy-whirling swallow Leaves alone his hidden hollow, And careers around the river On white wings lie wetteth ever. And the Lesbia-fondled sparrow

Onward darteth like an arrow

Twang'd from bow of Robin Hood.

Hark ! the proud lark fills the sky With his anthem loud and high ;- And the cuckoo in the wood Gives a voice to solitude ;- And the blackbird whistles oft In the brake by fenced croft, Which the ploughboy halts to hear, And drawing to the thicket near, Mimics long with whistle shrill Something of his sweeter skill, Then treads on with hopeless heart, Learning only, to his smart, (What is soon or late discerned), That Nature is for Art too learned !.

Loud the mighty-throated thrush Sends his voice out, with a gush, And a lengthened, liquid note Seems to rend his strained throat.

'What is good may still be mended : Thus, his first rehearsal ended, He records his song once more, Sweetening what was sweet before. Now he falls, and now he rises, Till his own car he surprises, And, elately fluttering,

Claps his many-speckled wing,—

Like a poet pleased and proud When his lyre rings so loud, That the hard-worn worldly throng Hear, and praise his lofty sung.

Hark ! the bee about our ears

Hums a tune that ever cheers,—

Like yon merry maid at labour,

Wanting neither pipe nor tuber To make music for that spirit

Which her bright heart cloth inherit,. Where her lively pulses dance Till they flush her countenance ;- Happier girl than happy bee,

May you sing thus constantly !.

Now the brooks in silence run, Lest their babbling tell the sun Where they in thick sedges hide ; For his warm and thirsty mouth Would drink them to the desert's drouth, Though they were of Nilus' tide. And the milky-breathing cow Tears the grass with frequent low;--. And the frog, no longer leaping, But in some sly hollow keeping, Which the ox made with deep heel, Hides as closely as he can, Lest the proudly-sailing swan Snatch him up for her moist meal.

See, the strong, unsparing mower Levels with his scythe of power Star-eyed daisies, and the flower Children hold beneatn their chins, So to learn who 'tis that sins When the butter wastes by night ; And whose chin looks yellow-bright, That's the rogue—if no such luck, Then 'twas teen by thievish Puck.

In what a fine vein "The Yeoman's Song" begins !1–unhappily,.

a yeoman of other times—

When maddening tempests lash the land, And rush along the sea, The poorest hut on England's strand A pleasant home must be !— Whilst lightnings from the heavens leap, And mariners grow pale, I sleep, as round the wild winds sweep, And find delight By day and night Within my native vale.

From "Fairy Revels," full of the spirit of old HERRICK, We' quote only the following lines of a long poem, by way of show ing the airiness with which our author handles these delicate sub] jects-

In sooth it is a curious sight to see

Them wind the verdant glade traced out to be The stage for dance, and rout, and revelry !— Soon as still Night upon the wakeful Hours Imposed her silence, and the day-born flowers Shut till the dawn their golden censers sweet,— In quaggy dingle, where their glancing feet, Soft as the down of swans, alone dare tread,— While yet the stars not half their course have sped, Ere Cynthia yet has turned her harvest beams Full on the earth, and silver-strowed the streams, The Fairy World, roused from their chinkv cells In grots unkenned by Man, and flower-bells

Oh Lilla is a lovely lass

As ever man did woo !

Her eyes all eyes on earth surpass, They kill and cure you too ! Her wnisome waist, however laced, A hand might span it all ;— Her shoulders fair, lit by her hair, Whose yellow tresses fall Like sunbeams shed upon a bed Of lilies in mid June, Orgolden light in summer night Soft streaming from the,moon These are charms which moral men May behold with 4areless eye; I, who am devoutest then, Love them to idolatry !

Her ruddy lips, like scarlet heps, The balmy breath between; Her soft sweet tones, who hears them owns The music which they mean ; Her hands and arms have each their charms ; Her nimble-stepping feet, The very ground loves their light sound, Soft as her bosom's beat :— Her winsome waist—her shoulders, graced

With sunny showers of hair—

Her voice, how sweet I—her dancing feet,

Her face, like heaven's, fair ;-

These are charms which moral men May behold with careless eye; I, who am devoutest then, Love them to idolatry!

Fairies are a favourite subject with our CORNELIUS; and we are not surprised—he takes them prisoners so prettily in his little gossamer net, woven of hepta-syllabies. We quote a few lines from the song of a sea fairy to a land fairy.

Come unto our coral caves,

'Where no winds of winter blow, But the smoothly-gliding waves Like the songs of summer flow! We have many a pearly shell Where you may in splendour dwell,

i Safe as n the perfumed chamber Of the lily or red rose, And be fair and sweet as those.

We have paths too, paved with amber ; And your tin/feet may tread On golden sands unto your bed, Or on thickly-sprinkled pearls, 'White as teeth of fairy girls In their tender virginhed. Grots we have of shining spar,

Light as lit with moon and star,—

Vast of arch and high of dome, Where the Triton-people come

To disport in halcyon seas,

And indulge such joys as please Creatures made for careless ease.

If any thing could task the originality of a modern poet, it would certainly be an Invocation to Sleep : this volume, however, con- tains a poem on the subject, conceived altogether in the author's fashion; full of homely images and pleasant fancies,—without entirely avoiding a little commonplace now and then, which was to be expected. It was, however, written fifteen years ago; and -we take for granted Mr. WEBBE is not an old man. The latter part, wherein the Invocation properly ceases and turns into a eu- logy of Light, is exceedingly good.

But hence, false Sleep, I scorn thy coming now; For lo ! the grey-eyed Morn, whose brightening brow One star sole gilds and that of lessening ray, Gently awakes, and wakes the tardy Day; Whilst every thing of life which death-like sleeps, But with death's semblance life more living keeps, Shakes off the dewy bands which Sleep did bind All nature in, with carefulness most kind, And finding life once more, that gracious gift Is theirs for one more day, their eyes uplift To heaven, if not their hearts, and mutely praise Rim who alone can make our years as days, Our days as years—who numbers out the sands 'Which through our life-glass run with even-handed hands.

Warmer and warmer grows the opening East With gradual rays, which usher in that guest Our world's best visitor, come to dispense Life, health, and food, and fair intelligence; While Darkness, like a guilty creature., crawls 'through sombre woods, and by ohl abbey walls, Back to his lightless home,—some world undone, Barred from all light of heaven—from cheerful Sun, Mild-beaming Moon and many-twinkling star— And every orb of light that shines afar, And, mingling beams, commix that blaze of light Which burns through day, and mildly fires the night. East comes the day—the day for which I yearn! Like startled deer, couched on the dewy fern, Light my heart leaps, and my sunk spirits rise! Oh not more welcome broke the day on eyes Of him, long darkling from deprived sight, 'Who felt the gradual dawn and day of light, 'When He who made the darkness and the day Touched his closed lids with finger salved with clay,

• Blooming afar from touch of human hand, I3y general summons to all Fairy Land, • Muster s soon as called, like summer swarm Of gnats that play when Evening fears no storrn.

The song entitled "Lille" we extract entire: it appears to us a morsel of great beauty and spirit, such as is not common now-a- -days.

Than &mai thy morn, all-WoraTaTfifid 'Envy:4 Tarritie-

Wan with this vigil lone, and Sleep'sinconstancy As that famed stream, which hides-its infant spring In lands remote from human wandering, Grows with the year, and from its natal. bed, The Hercules of waters, lifts its head, Till the prayed blessing its old bound o'erflows,

And full fruition follows where it goes,—

So comes the Light from its mysterious source, Floods the dark world, and fructifies its courses. And where it spreads, like Nile's parental ooze, Life, hope, and health, with sylvan wealth, diffuse.. The rising hills first greet its golden beams, The rallies now, and now the glossy streams. 'The woods, that winter's blasts have failed to bare, And forests hoar, the general glory share :

Their withered leaves a withered beauty shed—

The sered more yellow grow, the red more reds, Whilst silver-firs and hollies ever green With emerald glances light the lustrous scene.. And now 'tis day !—and not a stain of night

Dapples the west—fairas the:east with light.

' Darkness is gone, with all her solemn train Of swarthy Hours, across the western main : The dawn-bred mists and shadows, both have flown; And see ! the sun fast showers his glory. down, Till light and rosy radiance shine around, And fill the wondering soul, and wake the thought profound! Hail, holy Light! that comest with silver flood

To glad the earth and gratify the good—

To drive the ruffian from his darkling trade, And wake the honest, who with loom and spade Weave the warm web and delve the pregnant ground. Already,—hark I—the miller's wheel whirls round, And his loud song in louder noise is drowned. The shepherd boy, who stirred with morning's star, Unfolds his ravening flock, and drives afar

'Where verdure lives though scanty Winter reigns,—

To sheltered hills and pasture-cultured plains. The woodman, too, with sturdy step and slow, Winds to the wood, to lay its lofty low. The rural life is stirring everywhere; And sounds of summer murmur through the air! One voice alone—sweeter than oaten flute,

Or lover's passion melting o'er his lute— One rural sound and song alone is mute—

The Lark, the wakeful usher of the dawn, Pours no high orison, nor welcomes Morn. The Robin only, of the slimmer throng, Trills with short intervals his plaintive song ;—

Pleased with all seasons—autumn, winter, spring—

He sings through all, and gives them welcoming !— So should the Poet's serious anthem rise With holy airs and solemn symphonies, Whether the gladdening Spring and Summer reign,

Or raging Winter desolate the plain; .

In forest bare as in the clustered bower, His various voice should hymn the varying hour. Seasons may change, and with them change the song, But full the tide ot praise should pauseless pour along.

There are, besides a vast number of poems to which we have not even alluded, a half hundred of sonnets of various qualities; among which are eminent the author's gentle truth, his homely feeling, and his curiouS fancy. The price of this volume is three shillings : it contains one hun- dred and thirty-six closely-printed pages, and ninety poems of various lengths, by a true poet, who has been "discouraged." For the honour of the public, for the credit of literature, in the name of genius and intellectual superiority, we trust that such discou- ragement will not only cease, but be turned into patronage, solid and honourable.