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prized, to be allowed to perish; and we believe that not a single one has ever thus perished. If minor ones are forgotten, they can well be spared.
Such thoughts as we have now thrown out are of use to us in reflecting on the probable fate of cotemporary literature, and of still greater use to such writers as those whose poems we are now about to review. The volumes before us are the first publications of their respective authors, and to us they are of greater interest, since, with the exception of a small portion of Mr. Keene's volume, all their contents have been written in India. Their individual peculiarities render it necessary that we notice each one separately; but before doing so, they collectively suggest to us one or two observations.
The first has reference to their general characteristics, when compared with the style of poetry now most common in England. India has no school of literature; writers here, therefore, will take their models and receive their bias from the writers of our native land. Our readers need not be told, we hope, that the prevalent tone of poetic literature there is not worthy of imitation. It is what the Edinburgh Review happily designated of the "spasmodic" type, which being forced and unreal, must necessarily be short-lived. The three writers before us have happily avoided, to a very considerable extent, this unfortunate characteristic. Mr. Keene has done so entirely; but we cannot say quite so much for Miss Leslie, and the author of "A Dream of a Star." If the former has been influenced by any living writer, we suspect it has been Mrs. Browning; nor could she study a better living model, if, instead of freely and alone cultivating her own nature, she must have one.
Though these poems have almost all been written in India, they have but a very slight connexion with the land of their nativity; and singular enough, this remark chiefly applies to the two volumes which have been published in this country. Mr. Keene has evidently seen in Indian history and the incidents of oriental life, ample materials for the exercise of his poetic powers, whilst his own exile has suggested some of the most touching and beautiful sentiments to be found in his volume; sentiments which will find a response in the heart of every Englishman whose lot is cast in this land of the sun. We wish that the other two writers before us had derived more of their inspiration from the same sources. Surely in the history, the scenery, the social relations, and even in the superstitions of India, there are abundant materials for the poet to work upon. Not only might we suppose that writers would chiefly direct their attention to the land in which they live, especially if that land were one about which distant nations, through many ages, have fondly dreamed and ardently thought; but any writer,
RECENT ANGLO-INDIAN POETRY.
whether of fiction or of poetry, would have, in making Indian subjects his theme, the great advantage of working a mine hitherto comparatively neglected and overlooked. Ireland, Scotland, America, Italy, Germany, and the lands so pregnant with instruction to the philosophic historian, as well as of gorgeous recollections and imaginings to the poet, which, fifty years ago, formed the Ottoman Empire, have all in turn contributed rich materials to the suggestive minds of our English poets and romancers. India's time will surely come at last. As Campbell sang his funeral dirge over neglected Poland, as Rogers made us acquainted with sunny sensuous Italy, as Byron aroused attention in favour of degenerate Greece, as Whittier drew forth sympathy toward slaves, and excited wrath against their masters; so may we hope, that the labour of calling a yet deeper attention to India's wrongs and wants will not be left exclusively to statisticians, historians and political adventurers, but that some one or more of powerful genius, deeply brooding over the state of this land, will give forth to the world in "immortal verse" an account of its sufferings, its wants and its resources, which shall call forth English sympathy and energy, as, to this country, they have never been called before. Southey, in his "Curse of Kehama," has handled a purely Indian subject with marvellous accuracy and skill, and proved that even the huge and monstrous mythology of this country is rich in themes which might well engage the attention of a poet even of the highest order. Waiving the consideration of the capability of any of the writers before us, thus to arouse public attention, we are sorry we cannot say of them "they have done what they could." But we must proceed to a more detailed consideration of their respective merits. Two of the works before us will not demand so much of our time, since they were brought before the attention of our readers in the "Miscellaneous Notices" of this Review on their first appearance.
A "Dream of a Star" occupies nineteen pages of the pamphlet in which it appears; and we are bound to say, it should not have appeared at all. We find it quite beyond our power to give an intelligible account of it, simply because it is as devoid of incident as it is destitute of aim. All we know is, that it is intended to be about a brother and a sister, who, when children, wander about a good deal amongst flowers, churchyards and meadows, but not half so much as the author himself. Indeed, he wanders so much that he absolutely loses the poor children altogether, and at length, apparently conscious that, like the "Babes in the Wood," they are actually missing, exclaims :
"But where is he? that thoughtful boy!
And where that ever present joy,
His gentle sister ?”.
Where they are, he does not inform us, and we cannot discover. We think the sister dies at the dawn of womanhood, but the author leaves us to infer this rather than tells us so. If he intended the "Dream of a Star" to be an account of a lovely sister, prematurely snatched from an affectionate brother, he should have remembered that this alone is not sufficient to be the basis of a poem of any length; incident and purpose are demanded, and in this case we have them not. The discursiveness everywhere exhibited is excessive, and the writer resembles a child who wandering from its home, soon becomes lost amidst the mazes of a trackless forest. He preserves no sequence and connexion between the different parts of his poem. The lines are tolerably good, viewed separately; his choice of language is usually select, and there is a sylvan cast about his scenery, which not unfrequently reminds us of Keats; but there is no continuity, even in the thoughts and sentiments; it is like a piece of spar, the crystals of which jut out without any connexion the one with the other.
Such a poem as this should not have been published. It can bring no reputation to the author, nor can it minister enjoyment or instruction to the reader. We regret that we cannot pronounce a more favourable opinion on the literary production of one, evidently possessed of a mind deeply imbued with sentiments of a pure and healthful quality, and who writes, as all true poets do, because he feels deeply, and finds verse the most befitting form of utterance. But we have to judge of the intellectual character of this production, and thus viewing it, we pronounce that it is wanting in some of the essential qualities of a good narrative poem. Were it within our province to take account of the moral qualities of a writer of verses, we should willingly do so in this case, since it would then be our happiness to express a higher estimate of this small volume. It exhibits to us a heart at least which is the home of the social and domestic virtues, and very susceptible of all those influences which refine and elevate humanity.
The miscellaneous pieces are of higher merit. There is the same habit of running off from the subject into purposeless versification, the same want of thought, and not unfrequently a very prosaic style of expression. "The Missionaries in India" perhaps best illustrates these defects. The following lines to Mnemosyne" are in the author's best style :
Memory to gaze on thy land of shade,
Chequer'd with flashes of sunny light,
Joy, all so strangely with sadness blended,
As the smooth mirror, the form depicting,
"Ex Eremo" exhibits much more cultivated poetic power than the book we have just passed. Mr. Keene, we should infer, has here done his best, and the result is a volume, which will be read, not with enthusiasm, but with satisfaction, by most cultivated readers. There is little of fire, vigour and enthusiasm in his style; but whilst he never rises into the higher regions of poetry, he seldom falls into grave errors of composition, or below mediocrity. He is never sublime and seldom beautiful; but he is generally agreeable, and never fails to exhibit vigorous thought and devout sentiment. He may be found occasionally obscure, and, though usually a careful writer, now and then slovenly, whilst his transitions are sometimes too abrupt, and his exhibition of human feeling and passion is limited in its range; but those defects are combined with excellencies which we have no wish to overlook; indeed, we are inclined to give Mr. Keene a high place amongst our Indian minstrels.
Of the longest poem in the volume we shall say but little. It is the narrative of an adventurer who, at the commencement of Britain's sovereignty in the East, was led by the decay of his house to seek its restoration in India. It is a well told tale of bold adventure, and of baffled lust for gold. An air of naturalness and probability runs through the whole narrative, whilst the conclusion, though too abrupt, is finely conceived. Michael De Mas, after gaining and losing more than one fortune in India, and losing what is still more precious, his virtue and his honor, in his too ardent pursuit after wealth, leaves India with the wrecks of his fortune, that he may, to the eastward, make one more effort to gain the means of restoring the glory of his name, which however had been lost only for a season, for the family estate had been recovered by the fidelity of an old servant; but the heir could not be found:
“There was a nine days' wonder; men inquired,
"Where was the man whose wealth, without an heir,
(So lost, so wonderfully won again.
But after his departure, by the faith
Of an old servant, thought to have been slain,)
Was fabulously splendid ?" And some said,
A band of adventurers in California find his remains :
"Where summer is, there 'tis fresh and fair,
When the sun looks down on tower and town,
Still whispers in the yellow broom,
The oak-tree sheds a broader gloom,
The silence of a tomb.
But shades come o'er the face of day,
And nestles in the tall tree-heads,
The spraylets in the copse.
Another poem of some length is called "the Wanderer;" it has probably been suggested by Wordsworth's Excursion. It strikes us as being one of the least successful of Mr. Keene's efforts, for though it contains agreeable reflections and just sentiments, it is somewhat desultory and vague in its general outlines. The following extract from "Day Dreams" affords a very fair illustration of the prevailing character both of Mr. Keene's poetry and style of thought:
The earth-impeded soul,
Surmounts the bear-watched pole,
And the great space wherein the firm spheres roll;
Knows of a brighter sun,
Basks in his beams,
Sees crystal waters run,
And drinks their streams,
And spreads her wings and floats into the land of dreams."
"In the long dawn of vernal day,
How often have I burst away,
But he gives us unfortunately lines that are less carefully wrought; take the following as a specimen :