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grandeur from the dark atmosphere ; looking like a tall white mass mounting up interminably into the night overhead.
The poets, who are the common friends that keep up the intercourse between nature and humanity, have in numberless passages done justice to these our melancholy visitors, and shown us what grand personages they are. To mention only a few of the most striking :-When Thetis, in Homer's “Iliad” (Book I. v. 359), rises out of the sea to console Achilles, she issues forth in a mist; like the gigantic Genius in the “ Arabian Nights." The reader is to suppose that the mist, after ascending, comes gliding over the water, and, condensing itself into a human shape, lands the white-footed goddess on the shore.
When Achilles, after his long and vindictive absence from the Greek armies, reappears in consequence of the death of his friend Patroclus, and stands before the appalled Trojan armies, who are thrown into confusion at the very sight, Minerva, to render his aspect the more astonishing and awful, puts about his head a halo of golden mist, streaming upwards with fire (Book XVIII. v. 205). He shouts aloud under this preternatural diadem ; Minerva throws into his shout her own immortal voice with a strange unnatural cry; at which the horses of the Trojan warriors run round with their chariots, and twelve of their noblest captains perish in the crush.
A mist was the usual clothing of the gods when they descended to earth; especially of Apollo, whose brightness had double need of mitigation. Homer, to heighten the dignity of Ulysses, has finely given him the same covering, when he passes through the court of Antinous, and suddenly appears before the throne. This has been turned to happy account by Virgil, and to a new and noble one by Milton. Virgil makes Æneas issue suddenly from a mist, at the moment when his friends think him lost, and the beautiful Queen of Carthage is wishing his presence. Milton—but we will give one or two of his minor uses of mists, by way of making a climax of the one alluded to. If Satan, for instance, goes lurking about Paradise,
it is “like a black mist low creeping.” If the angels on guard glide about it, upon their gentler errand, it is like fairer vapours
“On the ground
Now, behold one of his greatest imaginations. The fallen demigods are assembled in Pandæmonium, waiting the return of their “great adventurer” from his “search of worlds.”
" He through the midst unmark'd,
, -as from a cloud, his fulgent head
There is a piece of imagination in Apollonius Rhodius, worthy of Milton or Homer. The Argonauts, in broad daylight, are suddenly benighted at sea with a black fog. They pray to Apollo, and he descends from heaven, and, lighting on a rock, holds up his illustrious bow, which shoots a guiding light for them to an island.
Spenser, in a most romantic chapter of the “Faery Queene " (Book II.), seems to have taken the idea of a benighting from Apollonius, as well as to have had an eye to some passages of the “ Odyssey ;" but, like all great poets, what he borrows only brings worthy companionship to some fine invention of his own. It is a scene thickly beset with horror. Sir Guyon, in the course of his voyage through the perilous sea, wishes to stop and hear the Syrens; but the Palmer, his companion, dissuades
“When suddeinly a grosse fog over spred
With his dull vapour all that desert has,
That all things one, and one as nothing, was,
How to direct theyr way in darkness wide,
And with theyr wicked wings them ost did smiglit,
The whistler shrill, that whoso heares doth dy :
Whiles th' one did row, and th' other stifly steare." Ovid has turned a mist to his usual account, an amatory one. It where Jupiter, to conceal his amour with lo, throws a cloud over the valley of Tempe. There is a picture of Jupiter and Io, by Correggio, in which that great artist has finely availed himself of the circumstance; the head of the father of gods and men coming placidly out of the cloud, upon the young lips of Io, like the very benignity of creation.
We must mention another instance of the poetical use of a mist, if it is only to indulge ourselves in one of those masterly passages of Dante, in which he contrives to unite minuteness of detail with the most grand and sovereign impressiveness. It is
in a lofty comparison of the planet Mars looking through morning vapours; the reader will see with what (Pur., Canto II. v. 10). Dante and his guide Virgil have just left the infernal regions, and are lingering on a solitary sea-shore in Purgatory; which reminds us of that still and far-thoughted verse
“Lone sitting by the shores of old romance."
But to our English-like Italian
“Noi eravam lungh'esso 'l mare ancora,
That solitary shore we still kept on,
Like men who, musing on their journey, stay,
At rest in body, yet in heart are gone :
Red Mars looks deepening through the foggy heat,
Down in the west, far o'er the watery way;
A light, which came so swiftly o'er the sea
That never wing with such a fervour beat.
Of my sage leader, when its orb had got
More large meanwhile, and came more gloriously :
Of white about it; and beneath the white
Fann'd into wings; but soon as he had found
Who was the mighty voyager now in sight,
It is God's Angel."*
* These are the famous terzetti or triplets of the Italians, which are linked together like a chain; the fresh rhyme in the middle of every stanza being connected with the first and last lines of the next. We think we recollect that Mr Hayley has given a specimen of a translation of Dante in the original measure. If not, the present one is perhaps the first that has appeared in the language ; which we mention, of course, as a mere curiosity.
MAGINATION, though no mean thing, is not a proud one.
If it looks down from its wings upon common places, it
only the more perceives the vastness of the region about it. The infinity into which its flight carries it, might indeed throw back upon it a too great sense of insignificance, did not Beauty or Moral Justice, with its equal eye, look through that blank aspect of power, and reassure it ; showing it that there is a power as much above power itself, as the thought that reaches to all is to the hand that can touch only thus far.
But we do not wish to get into this tempting region of speculation just now. We only intend to show a particular instance, in which imagination instinctively displays its natural humility: we mean, in the fondness which imaginative times and people have shown for what is personally remote from them ; for what is opposed to their own individual consciousness, even in range of space, in farness of situation.
There is no surer mark of a vain people than their treating other nations with contempt, especially those of whom they know least. It is better to verify the proverb, and take everything unknown for magnificent, rather than predetermine it to be worthless. The gain is greater. The instinct is more judicious. When we mention the French as an instance, we do not mean to be invidious. Most nations have their good as well as bad features; and in “ Vanity Fair” there are many booths.