THE UNDYING ONE.*
A LADY-LIKE production. By which we mean, that the passion is decorously mild, the ideas are of the fashionable hue, and the phrases not inelegant. The subject is conceived in the accredited tone of the day; is to say, the story is darkly horrible, but at the same dwlt upon in that shadowy and mystical style which happily shrouds all resemblance to mortal existences, and conse- quently saves the reader from any painful sympathy. Lord BYRON led the way in establishing what may be called the dreamy school : his "Darkness," and several of his minor poems, are fair specimens of it ; and Mrs. NORTON is a hopeful pupil—nay, she may be called a promising mistress, not of the "gay science," as the troubadours used to call poetry, but of the moody or black art. One characteristic of the productions of this class is their uni- formity : every page is of the same colour—a very dark drab; the lines are simply traced upon a dusky ground by a grimy stick. The hero is a Beltenebros, abominably criminal, a prey to remorse, writhing with anguish, burning with passion, proud as Lucifer, but luckily, for the sake of variety, visited with occasional fits of melancholy softness, which (in the poem) inspires pity, excites interest, and invariably captivates youth and beauty. This is the eternal sing-song of Black Canto I. Then comes the headlong career of passion and crime : the wicked gentleman renews his youth and his sinfulness ; the lady weeps, and is miserable ; he storms, raves, and perhaps disappears ; and thus a second canto is brought about. The third generally contains a horrid murder or two, the death and burial of the heroine ; and the hero, with another crime on his head, is left alone, to enctor recommence the career of suffering. This style of writing can simply please by its novelty, or stand by the uncommon force or vividness of the ideas or images deve- loped by the writer in the course of his wild story. The original inventor, like the great Father of Evil, may attract a kind of admiration for the grand and commanding character of his power; but all imitators must share the fate of small criminals—be turned away from with contempt, dislike, or at most pity. It would be a libel On Mrs. NoRToN to say that she could ever eminently succeed in the style she has chasen : it would argue a
*The Undying One; and other Poems. By the Hon. Um Norton. London,
familiarity with feelings and passions with which we could not charge a lady. All that a person of her talents and experience can do, she has done—she has painted the horrible couleur de rote. The Undying One is, in older phrase, the Wandering Jew: Mrs. NORTON has called him Isbal ; and as it is to be supposed that this person had a good deal of experience in the world, considering the time he was in it, and possessed many oppor- tunities of makinglove and contracting marriage, she has told the' story of his amours—how he loved and writhed, how he : consoled, and how the object of his consolation died and left him alone : some of his spouses he murdered—for no reason that we can see, except that he could not die himself ; some he wearied and ennuyed to death ; and the last of all, that we hear 'of, he drowned—accidentally : of course he was left alone—that is to say, at liberty to proceed once more to the altar.
"Hark ! the wild howl that echoes through the laud, As his foot spurns the smooth and glittering sand That wave its floating weight on shore hath thrown, And the Undying One is left alone."
It is singular that, of all the numerous writers that have under- taken the history of the Undying One, each has adopted a tone of exaggerated seriousness. The idea of eternally remaining on earth, and witnessing the disappearance of successive generations, may be a painful one, and the subject of such a miracle might per- haps be a miserable person. The condition would nevertheless have its charms ; and we are surprised that no writer has ever contemplated the advantages of the position. Exemption from all fear of death might lead to great deeds, if it were not counter- acted by a want of sympathy which the Undying One would feel with frailer beings : it would certainly lead to great enjoyments, and an immortal person would be endowed with a gift that would place all the world at his feet. If he were inclined, for instance, to cheat, he might break all the annuity-shops ; and being by birth a Jew, it is natural to suppose he would take in a great many with his post obit bonds. Although the amendment of the Forgery Bill is thrown out, he need never fear the punishment of hanging, and consequently might execute any deed he pleases, and, instead of being executed himself, it is a chance that he would become the universal executor. The usefulness of such a person is extraordi- nary. He would be a sort of messenger to posterity : we might say, " Sir, I will thank you to inform the thirty-first century, that a great man of my name lived in this." Mrs. NORTON has felt that such a person was above punish- ments, and has made a scene of the vain attempt of some foolish mortals to put her Undying One to death for the murder of his wife. The passage is as follows, and forms a fair specimen of the poem.
" They bore her from me, and they laid her low, With all her beauty, in the cheerless tomb ; And dragg'd me forth all weak with pain and wo, Heedless of death, to meet a murderer's doom.
The wheel—the torturing wheel—was placed to tear
Each quivering limb, and wring forth drops of pain ; And they did mock me in my mute despair, And point to it, and frown—but all in vain. The hour at length arrived—a bright sweet day Rose o'er the world of torture, and of crime ;
And human blood-hounds and wild birds of prey
Waited with eagerness their feasting time.
And as I gazed, a wild hope sprang within
My feverish breast :—perchance this dreadful death
And my past sufferings might efface my sin, And I might now resign my weary breath. And as the blessed thought flash'd o'er my mind,
I gazed around, and smiled. To die—to die—
Oh little thought those wolves of human kind, What rapture in that word may sometimes lie I They stripp'd my unresisting limbs, and bound ; And the huge ponderous engine gave a sound
Like a dull heavy echo of the moans,
The exhausted cries, the deep and sullen groans, Of all its many victims. Through each vein Thrill'd the strange sense of swift and certain pain ;
And each strong muscle from the blood-stain'd rack,.
Conscious of suffering, quiveringly shrank back.
But I rejoic'd—I say I did rejoice : And when from the loud multitude a voice
Cried ' Death !' I wildly echoed it, and said
g Death ! Death I oh, lay me soon among the dead. And they did gaze on me with fiendish stare,
Half curiosity, and half the glare Of bloody appetite ; while to and fro, Nearer and nearer, wheel'd the carrion crow, As seeking where to strike.—A pause, and hark I The signal sound !
When sudden as a dream, the heavens grew dark
On all around : And the loud blast came sweeping in its wrath, Scattering wide desolation o'er its path : And the hoarse thunder struggled on its way; And vivid lightning mock'd the darken'd day
With its faint hellish lights.—They fled, that crowd,
With fearful shrieks, and cries, and murmurs loud, And left me bound. The awful thunder crash'd Above my head.; and in my upturn'd eyes
The gleams of forked fire brightly flash'd,
Then died along the dark and threatening skies :
AM the wild howling of the fearful wind Madden'd my ringing brain ; while, swiftly driven, The torrent showers fell all thick and blind, Till mingling seem'd the earth and angry heaven. A flash—a sound—a shock—and I was free— Prostrate beside me lay the sbiver'd wheel
In broken fragments—I groan'd heavily, And for a while I ceased to breathe or feel." _ There are minor poems, as usual, at the end of the volume. They perhaps had better have circulated in MS. and adorned the .albums of verse-collecting young ladies. The best is the last, ." The Arab's Farewell to his Horse."