Page images


There he arriving round about doth flie,
And takes survey with busie, curious eye:
Now this, now that, he tasteth tenderly. --SPENSER.


MISTS AND FOGS. The world never feels so cheerless as when it is undergoing mists. and fogs. As long as there are objects to look at, it is hard if we cannot find something to entertain our thoughts ; but when the world itself is shut out from our observation; when the same mists that shut it out, come clinging round about us with cold; and when we think what the poor are likely to suffer from the approaching winter, we seem to feel, not only that we are dreary, but that we ought to be so.

And so we ought, as far as our own dreariness will the more excite us to relieve that of others. Sympathy is our first duty, let it come either in the shape of pain or pleasure. But when we have done our duty to others; when we have refused, as much as in us lies, to take our own pleasures till we have done what we can to share them with others, whether by a fortunate power to bestow, or by other personal helping, less fortunate but sometimes more noble, or even by nothing but the dissemination of instructed and chearful thoughts, --smiles, which even a poverty-stricken hand may sometimes sow in the warm earth of humanity, then we have the fullest right to gather enjoyment from all we can; and then also, because we have the fullest right, we have the greatest power.

And yet at the same time, when we speak of right, we are strnck with the inconclusiveness which is to be found in decisions, apparently the kindest as well as most useful. Who shall say what is the greater right, which any one human being, under all the circumstances which modify his character, has beyond any other to be made happy? However, there seems a great difference between man and man in the actual amount of their enjoyments; and if the great silence of Nature keeps us in ignorance of the reason (for superstition does but perplex the matter, instead of unfolding it), it is a comforting reflection, not only that the general yearning of things is towards happiness, but that happiness is produced, in proportion as the yearning is general and sympathetie; in other words, in proportion as it tends to the greatest sum of happiness.

Behold one of the advantages of fogs and mists! If the southern nations, with their sunshine and clear air, are more ijoyous than we are, and have a greater but vaguer instinct to make others partake

2nd Edition,

of their pleasure, our greater share of melancholy sets us upon scheming how to turn that instinct of humanity to the best account. It is thus that England, though slow to enjoy, has of old been quick to relieve ;-has had the chief hand in giving those great lifts to the world in knowledge and liberty, for which the sunny Italian was too idle and contented.

It is from the same cause, that our great poets (with one exception perhaps as to grandeur of invention) are greater than those of Italy, They have seen the dark as well as the bright side of things; and their knowledge of both, gives to their writings a depth of charity as well as imagination, pre-eminently human. All the things that can be said for human nature, as well as about it's passions and imaginings, are to be found perhaps in Shakspeare, and in Shakspeare only; but his contemporaries had a good share of the same gentle spirit of arbitration.

On the other hand, where the English do not cultivate the more genial part of experience, they are likely to err more than most nations: for pain, when it does not turn into knowledge, is apt to turn into sullenness and malignity. It's reliefs also become of the grossest and most selfish nature; and nothing can be more disgustingly pitiable than a gross arrogant Englishman, who in the plenitude of his egotism talks against vanity; and in the midst of the most selfish and sordid vices,-money-scraping, or gormandizing, or drinking, or cock-fighting,--thinks himself entitled to despise other nations, whose vices are rather the excesses of sympathy.

Such a man is not worthy of his very fogs; for even they have their bright sides, and help to increase the comforts of our houses. And now then to say something of their merits and treatment.

Fogs and mists, being nothing but vapours which the cold air will not suffer to evaporate, must have body enough to present a gorgeous aspect next the sun. To the eye of an eagle, or whatever other eyes there may be to look down upon them, they must appear

like masses of cloudy gold. In fact, they are but clouds unrisen. of London, at the time we are writing this article, is literally a city in the clouds. It's inhabitants walk through the same airy heaps which at other times float far over their heads in the sky, or minister with glorious faces to the setting sun.

We do not say, that any one can " hold a fire in his hand," by thinking on a fine sunset; or that sheer imagination of any sort can make it a very agreeable thing to feel as if one's body were wrapped round with cold wet paper; much less to flounder through gutters, or run against posts. But the mind can often help itself with agreeable images against disagreeable ones; or pitch itself round to the best sides and aspects of them. The solid and fiery ball of the sun, stuck, as it were, in the thick foggy atmosphere; the moon just winning her way through it, into beams; nay, the very candles and gas-lights in the shop windows of a misty evening,--all have, in our eyes, their agreeable varieties of contrast to the surrounding haze. We have even halted, of a dreary autumnal evening, at that open part of the Strand by St. Clement's, and seen the church, which is a

The city

poor structure of itself, take an aspect of ghastly grandeur from the dark atmosphere; looking like a tall white mast 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 shewn us what grand personages they are. To mention only a few of the most striking. When Thetis in Homer's Iliad (Book 1, 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, re-appears 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 18, 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
Gliding meteorous, as evening mist
Risen from a river o'er the marish glides,
And gathers ground fast at the labourer's heel

Homeward returning. (Par. Lost. B. 12. v. 628.) Now behold one of his greatest imaginations. The fallen demi-gods are assembled in Pandæmonium, waiting the return of their great adventurer" from his " search of worlds."

He through the midst unmarked,
In show plebeian angel militant
Of lowest order, passed ; and from the door
Of that Plutonian hall, invisible,
Ascended his high throne; which, under state
of richest texture spread, at the upper end
Was placed in regal lustre. Down awhile
He sat, and round about him saw unseen,

At last-ras from a cloud, his fulgent head
And shape star-bright appeared or brighter ; clad
With what permissive glory since his fall
Was left him, or false glitter. All amazed
At that so sudden blaze, the Stygian throng
Bent their aspect; and whom they wished, beheld,

Their mighty chief returned. There is a piece of imagination in Apollonius Rhodius worthy of Milton or Homer. The Argonauts, in broad daylight, are suddenly henighted 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 Fairy Queen (Book 2), 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. Şir Guyon, in the course of his voyage through the perilous sea, wishes to stop and hear the Syrens : but the Palmer his companion dissuades him;

When suddeinly a grosse fog over spred
With his dull vapour all that desert bas,
And heaven's chearefull face enveloped,

That all things one, and one as nothing was,
And this great universe seemed one confused mass.

Thereat they greatly were dismayd, ne wist
How to direct theyr way in darkness wide,
But feared to wander in that wastefull mist
For tombling into mischiefe unespyde :
Worse is the daunger hidden then descride.
Suddeinly an innumerable flight
Of harmfull fowles about them fluttering cride,

And with theyr wieked wings them oft did smight,
And spre annoyed, groping in that griesly night.

Even all the nation of unfortunate
And' fatall birds about them flocked were,
Such as by nature men abhorre and hate
The ill-faced owle, deaths dreadful messengere :
The hoarse night-raven, trump of dolefull drere:
The lether-winged batt, dayes, enimy:
The ruéfull stritch, still waiting on the bere :
The whistler shrill, that whoso heares doth dy:
The hellish harpies, prophets of sad destiny:
All these, and all that else does horror breed,
About them few, and fild their sayles with fear;
Yet'stayd they not, but forward did proceed,

Whiles th' one did row, and th’ other stifly steare. Ovid has turned à mist to his usual account, an amatory is where Jupiter, to conceal his a

amour' with lo, throws a cloud over the valley of Tempe. There is a picture of Jupiter and lo, by Corregio, 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 benig, nity of creation.

The poet who is the most conversant with mists, is Ossian, who

one. It

[ocr errors]

was a native of the north of Scotland or Ireland. But we have not his works by us, and must give a specimen or two next week.

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 2, 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 farthoughted verse

Lone sitting by the shores of old romance.
But to our English-like Italian.

Noi eravam lungh' esso' ) mare ancora, &c.
That solitary shore we still kept on,

Like men, whọ musing on their journey, stay

At rest in body, yet in heart are gone;
When lo, as at the early dawn of day,

Red Mars looks deepening through the foggy heat,

Down in the west, far o'er the watery way;
So did mine eyes behold (so may they yet)
A light, which came so swiftly o’er the sea,

That never wing with such a fervour beat.
I did but turn to ask what it might be,

Of my sage leader, when its orb had got
More large meanwhile, and came more gloriously:
And by degrees, I saw I knew not what

Of white about it; and beneath the wbite

Another. My great master uttered not
One word, till those first issuing capdours bright

Fanned into wings; but soon as he had found

Who was the mighty voyager now in sight,
He cried aloud,“ Down, down, upon the ground:

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.



In the time of the old kings of Portugal, Don John, a natural son of the reigning prince, was governor of the town of Veyros, in the propinee of Alentejo. The town was situate (perhaps is there still), upon a mountain, at the foot of which runs a river; and at a little distance there was a ford over it, under another eminence. The bed of the river thereabouts was so high as to form a shallow sandy place; and in that clear spot of water, the maidens of Veyros, both of high rank and humble, used to wash their clothes.

It happened one day, that Don John, riding out with a company,

« PreviousContinue »