صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

to be said here, in justification of himself, which might seem to cast a reflection on the memory of one, who afterwards treated him with the most friendly attention, and promoted his interest by every means in his power.

The active imagination of Montgomery had induced him to suppose that the deprivation of liberty was the loss of every earthly good in confinement he learned another lesson, and he bore it with fortitude and cheerfulness. In York castle he had opportunities of amusement, as well as leisure for study, and he found kindness, consolation, and friendship within the walls of a prison. During confinement he wrote, and prepared for the press, a volume of poems, which he published in 1797, under the title of "Prison Amusements;" but his spirits and his hopes were now so broken, that he made no exertion to recommend this work to public attention. Since that time he has continued to live at Sheffield, and conduct his newspaper with tolerable quiet; but the wayward events of his youth, his political sufferings, and the disappointment of his fondest hopes at an early period of life, have hitherto borne him down, with such a weight of listlessness at one time, and despondency at another, that for the last ten years he has neither sought for fame nor fortune, with the diligence and perseverance that are necessary to their attainment. It is a fact well known among his friends, that his last volume was more than three years in passing through his own press, during which period most of the pieces of which it is composed were written, and the place now occupied by the Wanderer of Switzerland, was first filled by another poem, and of a very different character, which the author cancelled, after nearly the whole was printed off. The success this volume has obtained cannot be attributed to any exertions he has made to promote its circulation; had it depended on these only, it is probable it would have shared the fate of his Prison Amusements, and have been already forgotten, or rather never known.

Such are the principal events of the first thirty-five years of the life of James Montgomery, of whom it may be said, nature never infused into a human composition a greater portion of kindness and genuine philanthropy; a heart more sensibly alive to every better, as well as every finer feeling, never beat in a human breast; perhaps no two individuals, in manners, pursuits, character, and composition, ever more exactly correspond with each B-VOL. I.*

other, than the subject of this memoir, and the late William Cow. per, the Olney poet. The same benvolence of heart, the same modesty of deportment, the same purity of life, the same attachment to literary pursuits, the same fondness for solitude and retirement from the public haunts of men; and, to complete the picture, the same ardent feeling in the cause of religion, and the same disposition to gloom and melancholy, One who has been honoured with his confidence and esteem, and who, with very few exceptions, has passed hours with him daily, for the last fourteen years, may surely be permitted to bear testimony to his steady attachment as a friend, and his excellence as an associate. Little known even by his townsmen, he has been erroneously supposed to have a strong predilection in favour of politics, which though in some measure connected with his business, are but rarely permitted to interfere with his studies, or mingle with his amusements. His person, which is rather below the middle stature, is neatly formed; his features have the general expression of simplicity and benevolence, rendered more interesting by a hue of melancholy that pervades them. When animated by conversation, his eye is uncommonly brilliant, and his whole countenance is full of intelligence; he possesses great command of language; his observations are those of an acute and penetrating mind, and his expressions are frequently strikingly metaphorical and eloquent. By all who see and converse with him, he is esteemed; by all who know him, he is beloved.

If any are yet desirous of a more intimate acquaintance with Montgomery, if they wish to possess a more complete portrait of the man, and a fuller transcript of his feelings, these may be found in his last volume, particularly in the Lyre, the Pillow, Hannah, and the Grave, and depicted with a minuteness that almost obviates the necessity of this biography.

"Where the roving hill meander'd,

Down the green retiring vale,

Poor, forlorn Alcæus wander'd,

Pale with thought, serenely pale;
Hopeless sorrow o'er his face
Breath'd a melancholy grace,

And fix'd on every feature there
The mournful resignation of despair."

From the Lyre.

[blocks in formation]

"There is a winter in my soul,

The winter of despair;

From the Pillow.

O when shall spring its rage controul?
When shall the snow-drop blossom there?

Cold gleams of comfort sometimes dart

A dawn of glory on my heart,

But quickly pass away:

Thus northern lights the gloom adorn,

And give the promise of a morn

That never turns to day!" From the Snow-Drop.

A short enquiry into Montgomery's pretensions as a poet, will

conclude this memoir.

A Chatterton or a Dermody is not the growth of every soil, and I have not another wonder to add to the list of those, who, by their talents in early life, have attracted the admiration of the public. Poetic excellence is a quality so difficult of attainment, so far indeed beyond the reach of premature genius, that it can only be approached by slow gradations; and so lamentably deficient are juvenile compositions, in general, in the essentials that constitute poetry, that they are only at first perused to gratify curiosity, and leaving no impression on the mind, it never after. wards recurs to them. Montgomery's school-boy productions, which are more remarkable for boldness of conception than felicity of expression, are not entitled to a more honourable distinction. The following lines, written several years previous to his leaving Fulneck, may perhaps gratify the curious.

Night scene from an Ode to Solitude.

Let me wander slow, and rove
Thro' the solitary grove;
Universal silence reigns,
Save where Philomel complains,
And the turtle, for the fate
Of his lately murder'd mate.

But hark! what lamentable sound
Echoes thro' the groves around?
Sailing through the flutt'ring air,

The wailing owls the woodlands scare.
While thus musing on I stroll

Flaming constellations roll

Quick towards the midnight goal,

Lost in mists obscurely dim,

The shadowy landscape seems to swim:

Cynthia, sister of old Night,

Gilds his sullen brow with light;

Oft her modest face she shrouds
In a veil of silvery clouds,

Bursting forth with brighter beams,
As if wash'd in their white streams;
Rides majestic o'er the sky,
While the clouds around her fly:
This is thy nocturnal dress,

Solitude! sweet shepherdess,

Montgomery's earliest compositions had the stamp of seriousness impressed upon them; but, on receiving in London a check to his ambition, they assumed a very different character. Despairing of success in the higher walks of poetry, he cultivated the humorous and burlesque, and took for his model Fontaine and Hall Stevenson, the prototypes of Peter Pindar. This was an erratic wandering, not likely to terminate to his advantage, and imprisonment and serious reflection induced his return to the path he had forsaken. His "Prison Amusements," though on the whole very inferior to his last volume, contain many passages eminently beautiful, and some delightful little poems. The extracts which follow are from the "Bramin," a poem in two cantos, the only production he has yet given to the world in heroic measure. The first is a part of his description of the Brahmin, and will be read with pleasure; the second is a gem of the most exquisite finish.

"Like æther pure, expansive as the pole,
And bountiful as nature was his soul;
Benevolence, the friend of all distrest,
Had built her temple in his holy breast;
He heal'd the sick, the drooping spirit cheer'd,
Grief shunn'd his eye, and anguish disappear'd.
He spoke, despair, like midnight, fled away,
He smil'd, and comfort brighten'd like the day.

[blocks in formation]

On wings of winds magnificently borne,
A strong, imperial eagle mounts on high,
Cleaves the light clouds, and sails along the sky;
Broad to the sun his kindling breast he turns,
Till all his plumage in the radiance burns;
While from his eye, reanimated light
Breaks like the day-spring on the brow of night.
Now from the throne of noon his sight he bends,
Where far beneath the dusky world extends,
His boundless vision beams from pole to pole,
Where empires flourish, and where oceans roll;
The radiant palace of the morn he sees,

And the green vales that nurse the evening breeze;
The realms of ice, where tempests dwell forlorn,
And southern seas, where vernal showers are born.

« السابقةمتابعة »