The Album 3 (1823)


Anonymous, from "On Ancient and Modern Tragedy."
The Album 3 (1823): 1-31.

[The spelling, punctuation, and typographical conventions of the original have been maintained. The citation of material quoted from the play has been changed. The relevant comments on The Brides' Tragedy appear in the footnote below.]

          In this necessarily very brief review of the more prominent tragedies of late date, we are quite aware that we have omitted the mention of many, which, in more ample space, we should have been glad to notice. . . . It will be seen, that we have confined ourselves to acted plays—as it is with reference to the stage that the whole of our argument has been conducted;—and at the present moment, when so many poems are thrown into dialogue, it would be endless to give specific consideration to each.*

* We wish to make one exception to this, and to say a few words concerning a very remarkable production of this sort, which has lately appeared, entitled, "The Bride's Tragedy." We call it a remarkable performance, from its being the work of a very young man, (he states himself, in his preface, to be a minor,) and as conjoining very striking poetical merits with what we consider the greatest dramatic faults. It is "brimmed up and running over" with poetry of the wildest imagination and most beautiful fancy—but we have devoted great part of this article to prove that such writing is out of place in a play. The management of the plot is very inartificial and unskillful, as might be expected from so young a writer,—and the dialogue, as we have said, is nearly all entirely inappropriate, as regards the situation of the speaker; but regarded as poetry alone, it is (with the pardonable exception of occasional unsuccessful daring, and, here and there, of a little downright extravagance,) of a degree of originality and beauty with which even these most poetical days rarely present. We cannot forbear, long as this article has already stretched, transcribing the following passage, which will serve also to prove that the praise we give to the poetry of this piece is by no means overcharged. It is in a love scene, in which Floribel thus describes her dream:—

'Twas on a fragrant bank I laid me down,
Laced o'er and o'er with verdant tendrils, full
Of dark-red strawberries. Anon there came
On the wind's breast a thousand tiny noises,
Like flowers' voices, if they could but speak
Then slowly did they bend in one sweet strain,
Melodiously divine, and buoyed the soul
Upon their undulations. Suddenly
Methought a cloud swam swanlike o'er the sky,
And gently kissed the earth, a fleecy nest,
With roses, rifled from the cheek of Morn,
Sportively strewn; upon the ethereal couch,
Her fair limbs blending with the enamoured mist,
Lovely beyond the portraiture of words,
In beauteous languor, lay the Queen of Smiles:
In tangled garlands, like a golden haze,
Or fray-spun threads of light, her locks were floating,
And in their airy folds slumbered her eyes,
Dark as the nectar-grape that gems the vines
In the bright orchard of the Hesperides.
Within the ivory cradle of her breast,
Gambolled the urchin god, with saucy hand
Dimpling her cheeks, or sipping eagerly
The rich ambrosia of her melting lips:
Beneath them swarmed a bustling mob of loves
Tending the sparrow stud, or with bees' wings
Imping their arrows. Here stood one alone,
Blowing a pyre of blazing lovers' hearts,
With bellows full of absence-caused sighs:
Near him his work-mate mended broken vows
With dangerous gold, or strung soft rhymes together,
Upon a lady's tress. Some swelled their cheeks,
Like curling rose-leaves, or the red wine's bubbles,
In petulant debate, gallantly tilting
Astride their darts. And one there was alone,
Who with wet downcast eyelids threw aside
The remnants of a broken heart, and looked
Into my face, and bid me 'ware of love,
Of fickleness, and woe, and mad despair.

                                                                      (1. 1. 95-133)

          This is the perfection of graceful and poetical fancy. If Mr. Beddoes would write a poem instead of a play, we have no doubt that he would realize all the expectations which this brilliant first performance has excited.

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