Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

And woe betide the man who tries,
Whether or

the spirit dies !
Though dormant long, it yet survives
With its full complement of lives;
The nature of the beast is still
To scratch and claw if not to kill;
For royal cats to low-born wrangling
Will superadd the gift of strangling.
Witness in modern times the fate
Of that unhappy potentate,
Who from his palace near the Pole
Where the chill waves of Neva roll,
Was snatched, while yet alive and merry,
And sent on board old Charon's ferry,
The Styx he traversed execrating
A Katharine of his own creating.

In evil hour this simple Czar,
Impelled by some malignant star
Bestowed upon his new Czarina,
The fatal name of Katerina;
And as Monseigneur l'Archevêque
Chose to baptize her à la Grecque,
'Twas Katerina with a K:
He rued it to his dying day.
Nay died, as I observed before,
The sooner on that very score.
The Princess quickly learnt her cue,
Improved upon the part of shrew,
And as the plot began to thicken,
She wrung his head off like a chicken;
In short this despot of a wife
Robbed the poor man of crown and life;

And robbing Peter paid not Paul,
But cleared the stage of great and small.

Besides these genial pleasantries, many shorter poems on local and temporary subjects enlivened the brilliant circle of which Miss Catharine Fanshawe formed so precious an ornament. Many have perished as occasional verses will perish, however happy. I insert one specimen to show how her lively fancy could embellish the merest trifle.

When the Regent's Park was first laid out she parodied the two well-known lines from Pope's “Elegy on an Unfortunate Lady :”

“Here shall the spring its earliest sweets bestow,

Here the first roses of the year shall blow,”

and by only altering one word of the first line, and a single letter of the second, changed their entire meaning, and rendered them applicable to the new resort of the Londoners :

“Here shall the spring its earliest coughs bestow,

Here the first noses of the year shall blow.”

One wonders what Pope would have thought of such a parody. It is really a great honour. But would he have thought so ?

VOL. I.

N

[graphic]

XIV.

MARRIED POETS.

ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING-ROBERT BROWNING.

MARRIED poets! Charming words are these, significant of congenial gifts, congenial labour, congenial tastes ;-quick and sweet resources of mind and of heart, a long future of happiness live in those two words. And the reality is as rare as it is charming. Married authors we have had of all ages and of all countries; from the Daciers, standing stiff and stately under their learning, as if it were a load, down to the Guizots, whose story is so pretty, that it would sound like a romance to all who did not know how often romance looks pale beside reality ; from the ducal pair of Newcastle, walking stately and stiff under their strawberry-leafed coronets, to William and Mary Howitt, ornaments of a sect to whom coronets are an abomination. Married authors have been plentiful as

blackberries, but married poets have been rare in" deed! The last instance, too, was rather a warning

than an example. When Caroline Bowles changed her own loved and honoured name to become the wife of the great and good man Robert Southey, all seemed to promise fairly, but a slow and fatal disease had seized him even before the weddingday, and darkened around him to the hour of his death. In the pair of whom I am now to speak, the very reverse of this sad destiny has happily befallen, and the health of the bride, which seemed gone for ever, has revived under the influence of the climate of Italy, of new scenes, of new duties, a new and untried felicity.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is too dear to me as a friend to be spoken of merely as a poetess. Indeed such is the influence of her manners, her conversation, her temper, her thousand sweet and attaching qualities, that they who know her best are apt to lose sight altogether of her learning and of her genius, and to think of her only as the most charming person that they have ever met. But she is known to so few, and the peculiar characteristics of her writings, their purity, their tenderness, their piety, and their intense feeling of humanity and of womanhood have won for her the love of so many, that it will gratify them without, I trust, infringing on the sacredness of private intercourse to speak of her not wholly as a poetess, but a little as a woman.

When in listening to the nightingale, we try to catch a glimpse of the shy songster, we are moved by a deeper feeling than curiosity.

My first acquaintance with Elizabeth Barrett commenced about fifteen years ago. She was certainly one of the most interesting persons that I had ever seen. Everybody who then saw her said the same ; so that it is not merely the impression of my partiality, or my enthusiasm. Of a slight, delicate figure, with a shower of dark curls falling on either side of a most expressive face, large tender eyes richly fringed by dark eyelashes, a smile like a sunbeam, and such a look of youthfulness, that I had some difficulty in persuading a friend, in whose carriage we went together to Chiswick, that the translatressof the “Prometheus” of Æschylus, the authoress of the “Essay on Mind," was old enough to be introduced into company, in technical language was out. Through the kindness of another invaluable friend, to whom I owe many obligations, but none so great as this, I saw much of her during my stay in town. We met so constantly and so familiarly, that in spite of the difference of age intimacy ripened into friendship, and after my return into the country, we corresponded freely and frequently, her letters being just what letters ought to be-her own talk put upon paper.

The next year was a painful one to herself and to all who loved her. She broke a blood vessel

upon

the lungs which did not heal. If there had been con

« AnteriorContinuar »