The Strayed Reveller ; and other Poems. By A.--Fellowes, Lud- gate-street.--1819.
If any one quality may be considered common to all living poets, it is that which we have heard aptly described as self-consciousness. In this many appear to see the only permanent trace of the now old usurping deluge of Byronism ; but it is truly a fact of the time,--less a characteristic than a portion of it. Every species of com-position--the dramatic, the narrative, the lyric, the didactic, the descriptive--is imbued with this spirit ; and the reader may calculate with almost equal certainty on becoming acquainted with the belief of a poet as of a theologian or a moralist. Of the evils resulting from the practice, the most annoying and the worst is that some of the lesser poets, and all mere pretenders, in their desire to emulate the really great, feel themselves under a kind of obligation to assume opinions, vague, incongruous, or exaggerated, often not only not their own, but the direct reverse of their own,--a kind of meanness that has replaced, and goes far to compensate for, the flatteries of our literary ancestors. On the other hand, this quality has created a new tie of interest between the author and his public, enhances the significance of great works, and confers value on even the slightest productions of a true poet.

That the systematic infusion of this spirit into the drama and epic compositions is incompatible with strict notions of art will scarcely be disputed : but such a general objection does not apply in the case of lyric poetry, where even the character of the subject is optional. It is an instance of this kind that we are now about to consider.

"The Strayed Reveller and other Poems," constitutes, we believe, the first published poetical work of its author, although the following would rather lead to the inference that he is no longer young.

     "But my youth reminds me :  'Thou
     Hast lived light as these live now ;
     As these are, thou too wert such.'"--p. 59.

And, in another poem :

               "In vain, all, all, in vain,
     They beat upon mine ear again,
     Those melancholy tones so sweet and still :
     Those lute-like tones which, in long-distant years,
     Did steal into mine ears."--p. 86.

Accordingly, we find but little passion in the volume, only four 85

pieces (for "The Strayed Reveller" can scarcely be so considered) being essentially connected with it. Of these the "Modern Sappho" appears to us not only inferior, but as evidencing less maturity both of thought and style ; the second, "Stagyrus," is an urgent appeal to God ; the third, "The New Sirens," though passionate in utterance, is, in purpose, a rejection of passion, as having been weighed in the balance and found wanting ; and, in the last, where he tells of the voice which once

      "Blew such a thrilling summons to his will,
          Yet could not shake it ;
     Drained all the life his full heart had to spill ;
          Yet could not break it :"--

he records the "intolerable change of thought" with which it now comes to his "long-sobered heart." Perhaps "The Forsaken Merman" should be added to these ; but the grief here is more nearly

approaching to gloomy submission and the sickness of hope deferred. The lessons that the author would learn of nature are, as set forth in the sonnet that opens the volume,

     "Of toil unsevered from tranquillity ;
       Of labor that in one short hour outgrows
       Man's noisy schemes,--accomplished in repose,
     Too great for haste, too high for rivalry."--p. 1.
His conception of the poet is of one who

          "Sees before him life unroll,
     A placid and continuous whole ;
     That general life which does not cease ;
     Whose secret is, not joy, but peace ;
     That life, whose dumb wish is not missed
     If birth proceeds, if things subsist ;
     The life of plants and stones and rain ;
     The life he craves :--if not in vain
     Fate gave, what chance shall not control,
     His sad lucidity of soul."--pp. 123-4.   (Resignation.)
Such is the author's purpose in these poems. He recognises in each thing a part of the whole : and the poet must know even as he sees, or breathes, as by a spontaneous, half-passive exercise of a faculty : he must receive rather than seek.

     " Action and suffering tho' he know,
     He hath not lived, if he lives so."
Connected with this view of life as "a placid and continuous whole," is the principle which will be found here manifested in 86

different modes, and thro' different phases of event, of the permanence and changelessness of natural laws, and of the large necessity wherewith they compel life and man. This is the thought which animates the "Fragment of an 'Antigone :'" "The World and the Quietest" has no other scope than this :--

          "Critias, long since, I know,
          (For fate decreed it so),
     Long since the world hath set its heart to live.
          Long since, with credulous zeal,
          It turns life's mighty wheel :
          Still doth for laborers send ;
            Who still their labor give.
          And still expects an end."--p. 109.
This principle is brought a step futher into the relations of life in "The Sick King in Bokhara," the following passage from which claims to be quoted, not less for its vividness as description, than in illustration of this thought :--

     "In vain, therefore, with wistful eyes
       Gazing up hither, the poor man
     Who loiters by the high-heaped booths
       Below there in the Registan

     "Says :  'Happy he who lodges there !
       With silken raiment, store of rice,
     And, for this drought, all kinds of fruits,
       Grape-syrup, squares of colored ice,

     "'With cherries served in drifts of snow.'
       In vain hath a king power to build
     Houses, arcades, enamelled mosques,
       And to make orchard-closes filled

     "With curious fruit trees brought from far,
       With cisterns for the winter rain ;
     And, in the desert, spacious inns
       In divers places ;--if that pain

     "Is not more lightened which he feels,
       If his will be not satisfied :
     And that it be not from all time
       The law is planted, to abide."--pp. 47-8.
The author applies this basis of fixity in nature generally to the rules of man's nature, and avow himself a Quietist. Yet he would not despond, but contents himself, and waits. In no poem of the volume is this character more clearly defined and developed than in the sonnets "To a Republican Friend," the first of which expresses 87

concurrence in certain broad progressive principles of humanity : to the second we would call the reader's attention, as to an example of the author's more firm and serious writing :--

     "Yet when I muse on what life is, I seem
       Rather to patience prompted than that proud
       Prospect of hope which France proclaims so loud ;
     France, famed in all great arts, in none supreme :--
     Seeing this vale, this earth whereon we dream,
       Is on all sides o'ershadowed by the high
       Uno'erleaped mountains of necessity,
     Sparing us narrower margin than we deem.
     Nor will that day dawn at a human nod,
       When, bursting thro' the net-work superposed
       By selfish occupation--plot and plan,
       Lust, avarice, envy,--liberated man,
     All difference with his fellow-man composed,
     Shall be left standing face to face with God."--p. 57.
In the adjuration entitled "Stagyrus," already mentioned, he prays to be set free

          "From doubt, where all is double,
          Where Faiths are built on dust ;"
and there seems continually recurring to him a haunting presage of the unprofitableness of the life, after which men have not "any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun." Where he speaks of resignation, after showing how the less impetuous and self-concentred natures can acquiesce in the order of this life, even were it to bring them back with an end unattained to the place whence they set forth ; after showing how it is the poet's office to live rather than to act in and thro' the whole life round about him, he concludes thus :

     "The world in which we live and move
     Outlasts aversion, outlasts love. . . . .
     Nay, and since death, which wipes out man,
     Finds him with many an unsolved plan,. . . .
     Still gazing on the ever full
     Eternal mundane spectacle,
     This world in which we draw our breath
     In some sense, Fausta, outlasts death. . . . .

     Enough, we live :--and, if a life
     With large results so little rife,


Tho' bearable, seem scarcely worth This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth, Yet, Fausta, the mute turf we tread, The solemn hills around us spread, This stream that falls incessantly, The strange-scrawled rocks, the lonely sky, If I might lend their life a voice, Seem to bear rather than rejoice. And, even could the intemperate prayer Man iterates, while these forbear, For movement, for an ampler sphere, Pierce fate's impenetrable ear, Not milder is the general lot Because our spirits have forgot, In actions's dizzying eddy whirled, The something that infects the world."--pp. 125-8.-- Resignation.

"Shall we," he asks, "go hence and find that our vain dreams are not dead ? Shall we follow our vague joys, and the old dead faces, and the dead hopes ?"

He exhorts man to be "in utrumque paratus." If the world be the materialized thought of one all-pure, let him, "by lonely pure-ness," seek his way through the colored dream of life up again to that all-pure fount :--

     "But, if the wild unfathered mass no birth
        In divine seats hath known ;
     In the blank echoing solitude, if earth,
     Rocking her obscure body to and fro,
        Ceases not from all time to heave and groan,
     Unfruitful oft, and, at her happiest throe,
        Forms what she forms, alone :"

then man, the only self-conscious being, "seeming sole to awake," must, recognizing his brotherhood with this world which stirs at his feet unknown, confess that he too but seems.

Thus far for the scheme and the creed of the author. Concerning these we leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.

Before proceeding to a more minute notice of the various poems, we would observe that a predilection is apparent throughout for antiquity and classical association ; not that strong love which made Shelley, as it were, the heir of Plato ; not that vital grasp of conception which enabled Keats without, and enables Landor with, the most intimate knowledge of form and detail, to return to and renew 89

the old thoughts and beliefs of Greece ; still less the mere superficial acquaintance with names and hackneyed attributes which was once poetry. Of this conventionalism, however, we have detected two instances ; the first, an allusion to "shy Dian's horn" in "breathless glades" of the days we live, peculiarly inappropriate in a sonnet addressed "To George Cruikshank on his Picture of 'The Bottle ;'" the second a grave call to Memory to bring her tablets, occurring in, and forming the burden of, a poem strictly personal, and written for a particular occasion. But the author's partiality is shown, exclusively of such poems as "Mycerinus" and "The Strayed Reveller," where the subjects are taken from antiquity, rather in the framing than in the ground work, as in the titles "A Modern Sappho," "The New Sirens," "Stagyrus," and "In utrumque paratus." It is Homer and Epictetus and Sophocles who "prop his mind ;" the immortal air which the poet breathes is

          "Where Orpheus and where Homer are ;"

and he addresses "Fausta" and "Critias."

There are four narrative poems in the volume :--"Mycerinus," "The Strayed Reveller," "The Sick King in Bokhara," and "The Forsaken Merman." The first of these, the only one altogether narrative in form, founded on a passage in the 2nd Book of Herodotus, is the story of the six years of life portioned to a King of Egypt succeeding a father "who had loved injustice, and lived long ;" and tells how he who had "loved the good" revels out his "six drops of time." He takes leave of his people with bitter words, and goes out

     "To the cool regions of the groves he loved. . . . . . . .
     Here came the king holding high feast at morn,
     Rose-crowned ; and ever, when the sun went down,
     A hundred lamps beamed in the tranquil gloom,
     From tree to tree, all thro' the twinkling grove,
     Revealing all the tumult of the feast,
     Flushed guests, and golden goblets foamed with wine ;
     While the deep-burnished foliage overhead
     Splintered the silver arrows of the moon."--p. 7.

(a daring image, verging towards a conceit, though not absolutely such, and the only one of that character that has struck us in the volume.)

     "So six long years he revelled, night and day :
     And, when the mirth waxed loudest, with dull sound
     Sometimes from the grove's centre echoes came,
     To tell his wondering people of their king ;{90}

     In the still night, across the steaming flats,
     Mixed with the murmur of the moving Nile."--pp. 8, 9.

Here a Tennysonian influence is very perceptible, more especially in the last quotation ; and traces of the same will be found in "The Forsaken Merman."

In this poem the story is conveyed by allusions and reminiscences whilst the Merman makes his children call after her who had returned to her own earth, hearing the Easter bells over the bay, and who is not yet come back for all the voices calling "Margaret ! Margaret !" The piece is scarcely long enough or sufficiently distinct otherwise than as a whole to allow of extract ; but we can-not but express regret that a poem far from common-place either in subject or treatment should conclude with such sing-song as

     ------"There dwells a loved one,
          But cruel is she ;
     She left lonely for ever
          The kings of the sea."

"The Strayed Reveller" is written without rhyme--(not being blank verse, however,)--and not unfrequently, it must be admitted, without rhythm. Witness the following lines :

     "Down the dark valley--I saw."--
     "Trembling, I entered ; beheld"--
     "Thro' the islands some divine bard."--

Nor are these by any means the only ones that might be cited in proof ; and, indeed, even where there is nothing precisely contrary to rhythm, the verse might, generally speaking, almost be read as prose. Seldom indeed, as it appears to us, is the attempt to write without some fixed laws of metrical construction attended with success ; never, perhaps, can it be considered as the most appro-priate embodiment of thought. The fashion has obtained of late years ; but it is a fashion, and will die out. But few persons will doubt the superiority of the established blank verse, after reading the following passage, or will hesitate in pronouncing that it ought to be the rule, instead of the exception, in this poem :

          "They see the merchants
          On the Oxus stream :--but care
     Must visit first them too, and make them pale :
          Whether, thro' whirling sand,
     A cloud of desert robber-horse has burst
     Upon their caravan ; or greedy kings,
     In the walled cities the way passes thro',


Crushed them with tolls ; or fever airs On some great river's marge Mown them down, far from home."--p. 25.

The Reveller, going to join the train of Bacchus in his temple, has strayed into the house of Circe and has drunk of her cup : he believes that, while poets can see and know only through participa-tion in endurance, he shares the power belonging to the gods of seeing "without pain, without labour ;" and has looked over the valley all day long at the Moenads and Fauns, and Bacchus, "some-times, for a moment, passing through the dark stems." Apart from the inherent defects of the metre, there is great beauty of pictorial description in some passages of the poem, from which the following (where he is speaking of the gods) may be taken as a specimen :--

          "They see the Indian
          Drifting, knife in hand,
          His frail boat moored to 
       A floating isle, thick-matted
     With large-leaved low-creeping melon plants,
       And the dark cucumber.
            He reaps and stows them,
       Drifting--drifting :--round him,
          Round his green harvest-plot,
          Flow the cool lake-waves :
            The mountains ring them."--p. 20.

From "the Sick King in Bokhara," we have already quoted at some length. It is one of the most considerable, and perhaps, as being the most simple and life-like, the best of the narrative poems. A vizier is receiving the dues from the cloth merchants, when he is summoned to the presence of the king, who is ill at ease, by Hussein : "a teller of sweet tales." Arrived, Hussein is desired to relate the cause of the king's sickness ; and he tells how, three days since, a certain Moollah came before the king's path, calling for justice on himself, whom, deemed a fool or a drunkard, the guards pricked off with their spears, while the king passed on into the mosque : and how the man came on the morrow with yesterday's blood-spots on him, and cried out for right. What follows is told with great singleness and truth : "Thou knowest," the man says,

                           "'How fierce
       In these last day the sun hath burned ;
     That the green water in the tanks
       Is to a putrid puddle turned ;
     And the canal that from the stream
     Of Samarcand is brought this way
     Wastes and runs thinner every day.


"'Now I at nightfall had gone forth Alone ; and, in a darksome place Under some mulberry-trees, I found A little pool ; and, in brief space, With all the water that was there I filled my pitcher, and stole home Unseen ; and, having drink to spare, I hid the can behind the door, And went up on the roof to sleep. "'But, in the night, which was with wind And burning dust, again I creep Down, having fever, for a drink. "'Now, meanwhile, had my brethren found The water-pitcher, where it stood Behind the door upon the ground, And called my mother : and they all, As they were thirsty and the night Most sultry, drained the pitcher there ; That they sat with it in my sight, Their lips still wet, when I came down. "'Now mark : I, being fevered, sick, (Most unblessed also,) at that sight Brake forth and cursed them. Dost thou hear ? One was my mother. Now, do right.' "But my lord mused a space, and said, 'Send him away, sirs, and make on. It is some madman,' the king said. As the king said, so was it done. "The morrow at the self-same hour, In the king's path, behold, the man, Not kneeling, sternly fixed. He stood Right opposite, and thus began, Frowning grim down : 'Thou wicked king, Most deaf where thou shouldst most give ear ; What ? Must I howl in the next world, Because thou wilt not listen here ? "'What, wilt thou pray and get thee grace, And all grace shall to me be grudged ? Nay but, I swear, from this thy path I will not stir till I be judged.' 93

"Then they who stood about the king Drew close together and conferred ; Till that the king stood forth and said : 'Before the priests thou shalt be heard.' "But, when the Ulema were met And the thing heard, they doubted not ; But sentenced him, as the law is, To die by stoning on the spot. "Now the king charged us secretly : 'Stoned must he be : the law stands so : Yet, if he seek to fly, give way ; Forbid him not, but let him go.' "So saying, the king took a stone, And cast it softly : but the man, With a great joy upon his face, Kneeled down, and cried out, neither ran. "So they whose lot it was cast stones, That they flew thick and bruised him sore : But he praised Allah with loud voice, And remained kneeling as before. "My lord had covered up his face : But, when one told him, 'He is dead ;' Turning him quickly to go in, 'Bring thou to me his corpse,' he said. "And truly, while I speak, oh king, I hear the bearers on the stair. Wilt thou they straightway bring him in ?-- Ho ! enter ye who tarry there."--pp. 39-43.

The Vizier counsels the king that each man's private grief suffices him, and that he should not seek increase of it in the griefs of other men. But he answers him, (this passage we have before quoted,) that the king's lot and the poor man's is the same, for that neither has his will ; and he takes order that the dead man be buried in his own royal tomb.

We know few poems the style of which is more unaffectedly without labor, and to the purpose, than this. The metre, however, of the earlier part is not always quite so uniform and intelligible as might be desired ; and we must protest against the use, for the sake of rhyme, of broke in lieu of broken, as also of stole for stolen in "the New Sirens." While on the subject of style, we may instance, from the "Fragment of an Antigone," the following uncouth stanza, which, at the first reading, hardly appears to be correctly put together :


       "But hush !  Hoemon, whom Antigone,
     Robbing herself of life in burying,
       Against Creon's laws, Polynices,
     Robs of a loved bride, pale, imploring,
          Waiting her passage,
     Forth from the palace hitherward comes."--p. 30.

Perhaps the most perfect and elevated in tone of all these poems is "The New Sirens." The author addresses, in imagination, a company of fair women, one of whose train he had been at morning ; but in the evening he has dreamed under the cedar shade, and seen the same forms "on shores and sea-washed places,"

     "With blown tresses, and with beckoning hands."

He thinks how at sunrise he had beheld those ladies playing between the vines ; but now their warm locks have fallen down over their arms. He prays them to speak and shame away his sadness ; but there comes only a broken gleaming from their windows, which

       "Reels and shivers on the ruffled gloom."
He asks them whether they have seen the end of all this, the load of passion and the emptiness of reaction, whether they dare look at life's latter days,

       "When a dreary light is wading
         Thro' this waste of sunless greens,
       When the flashing lights are fading
         On the peerless cheek of queens,
       When the mean shall no more sorrow,
         And the proudest no more smile ;
       While the dawning of the morrow
     Widens slowly westward all the while ?"

And he implores them to "let fall one tear, and set him free." The past was no mere pretence ; it was true while it lasted ; but it is gone now, and the East is white with day. Shall they meet again, only that he may ask whose blank face that is ?

       "Pluck, pluck cypress, oh pale maidens ;
          Dusk the hall with yew."

This poem must be read as a whole ; for not only would it be difficult to select particular passages for extraction, but such extracts, if made, would fail in producing any adequate impression.

We have already quoted so larely from the concluding piece, "Resignation," that it may here be necessary to say only that it is in the form of speech held with "Fausta" in retracing, after a lapse of ten years, the same way they had once trod with a joyful 95

company. The tone is calm and sustained, not without touches of familiar truth.

The minor poems comprise eleven sonnets, among which, those "To the Duke of Wellington, on hearing him mispraised," and on "Religious Isolation," deserve mention ; and it is with pleasure we find one, in the tenor of strong appreciation, written on reading the Essays of the great American, Emerson. The sonnet for "Butler's Sermons" is more indistinct, and, as such, less to be approved, in imagery than is usual with this poet. That "To an Independent Preacher who preached that we should be in harmony with nature," seems to call for some remark. The sonnet ends with these words :

     "Man must begin, know this, where nature ends ;
     Nature and man can never be fast friends ;
      Fool, if thou canst not pass her, rest her slave."

Now, as far as this sonnet shows of the discourse which occa-sioned it, we cannot see anything so absurd in that discourse ; and where the author confutes the Independent preacher by arguing that

     "Nature is cruel ; man is sick of blood :
     Nature is stubborn ; man would fain adore :
     Nature is fickle ; man hath need of rest :"

we cannot but think that, by attributing to nature a certain human degree of qualities, which will not suffice for man, he loses sight of the point really raised : for is not man's nature only a part of nature ? and, if a part, necessary to the completeness of the whole ? and should not the individual, avoiding a factitious life, order him-self in conformity with his own rule of being ? And, indeed, the author himself would converse with the self-sufficing progress of nature, with its rest in action, as distinguished from the troublous vexation of man's toiling :--

     "Two lessons, Nature, let me learn of thee,
      Two lessons that in every wind are blown ;
      Two blending duties harmonised in one,
     Tho' the loud world proclaim their enmity."--p. 1.

The short lyric poem, "To Fausta" has a Shelleian spirit and grace in it. "The Hayswater Boat" seems a little got up, and is scarcely positive enough. This remark applies also, and in a stonger degree, to the "Stanzas on a Gipsy Child," which, and the "Modern Sappho," previously mentioned, are the pieces least to our taste in the volume. There is a something about them of drawing-room sentimentality ; and they might almost, without losing much save in size, be compressed into poems of the class commonly set to music. It is rather the basis of thought than the writing of the "Gipsy Child," 96

which affords cause for objection ; nevertheless, there is a passage in which a comparison is started between this child and a "Seraph in an alien planet born,"--an idea not new, and never, as we think, worth much ; for it might require some subtlety to show how a planet capable of producing a Seraph should be alien from that Seraph.

We may here notice a few cases of looseness, either of thought or of expression, to be met with in these pages ; a point of style to be particularly looked to when the occurrence or the absence of such forms one very sensible difference between the first-rate and the second-rate poets of the present times.

Thus, in the sonnet "Shakspear," the conclusion says,

     "All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
      All weakness that impairs, all griefs that bow,
      Find their sole voice in that victorious brow ;"

whereas a brow's voice remains to be uttered : nor, till the nature of the victory gained by the brow shall have been pointed out, are we able to hazard an opinion of the precise value of the epithet.

In the address to George Cruikshank, we find : "Artist, whose hand with horror winged ;" where a similar question arises ; and, returning to the "Gipsy Child," we are struck with the unmeaning-ness of the line :

"Who massed round that slight brow these clouds of doom ?"

Nor does the following, from the first of the sonnets, "To a Republican Friend," appear reconcileable with any ideas of ap-propriateness :

               ----"While before me flow
          The armies of the homeless and unfed."

It is but right to state that the only instance of the kind we remember throughout the volume have now been mentioned.

To conclude. Our extracts will enable the reader to judge of this Poet's style : it is clear and comprehensive, and eschews flowery adornment. No particular model has been followed, though that general influence which Tennyson exercises over so many writers of this generation may be traced here as elsewhere. It may be said that the author has little, if anything, to unlearn. Care and consistent arrangement, and the necessary subordination of the parts to the whole, are evident throughout ; the reflective, which appears the more essential form of his thought, does not absorb the due obser-vation or presentment of the outward facts of nature ; and a well-poised and serious mind shows itself in every page.



Last modified 5/11/95