Lucile Reviewed in Southern Literary Messenger, 1860
(Richmond , VA) 31:1 (July 1860)
LUCILE. By Owen Meredith, Author of “Clytemnestra," "The Wanderer," etc. Boston : Ticknor & Fields. 1860. For sale by A. Morris, Richmond , Va.
The world has never heard of the crapulo-eucumous style of criticism. Accordingly we proceed to furnish the first specimen in that line.
Old man Bulwer has a son, gifted with an imagination and a high social position. He has figured in the most elevated and artificial circles of fashionable life, has never done anything but flirt with titled ladies, play billiards, drink wine, drive fast horses, visit the great capitals and watering pieces, and piddle in diplomacy. A life of this sort has not sufficed to destroy his fancy. Hence he writes verse of a peculiar kind, what might be called the rouge et noir, or peg-top-breeches-andairy-aspiration kind. In the present pretty little blue and gold volume, he has given us the plot, very nearly, of "Sword and Gown" done into rhyme. A Lord Vargrave and a Duke de Luvois are in love with the Comtesse Nevers. The Nevers never marries either the Vargrave or the Luvois, but turns up in the last act as a Sister of Charity, and nurse in the Crimea . Now when your Vargrave gets after your Nevers and your Luvois steps in to play the devil generally, and your Nevers is undecided whet to do with your Vargrave and Luvois you know what to expect. It is possible that people who are blasè and "played-out," may retain in the depths of their fashionable being some romantic sentiment, but in probing down to it, one has to go through such a mass of flippancy and worldly wisdom that the sentiment ceases to be sentiment, and wears a certain doubtful aspect, of a good holiest dish spoilt by French Cookery. Love in your Vargrave, Nevers' style won't do. The thing is there, perhaps, but one gets only the flavour of the sauces.
Young Bulwer has been silly enough to show his dexterity in using a metre not at all adapted to a serious purpose. We do not judge of a poem as we do Hercules, ex pede, but it is too evident in the experiment before us that anapestic verse is fitted to be the vehicle only of parlour tittle-tattle.
But, apart from this fault, the poem is too long. We agree fully with Poe, that a poem to be effective must be short. His limit of a hundred lines is, of cunrse, out of the question, but so is the virtually illimitable stretch of 250 pages. Not one person in a thousand will read Lucile through from beginning to end. The gems will be picked out by the gleaners for the newspapers, and that will be the last of it.
To show how the clever young diplomat can handle the difficult metre he has chosen, we append a description of a storm--
Thick darkness descended the mountains among;
And a vivid, vindictive, and serpentine flash
Gored the darkness, and shore it across with a gash.
The rain fell in large heavy drops. And anon
Broke the thunder.
And the storm is abroad in the mountains!
The crouch'd hollows and all the oracular bills
With dread voices of power. A roused million or more
Of wild echoes reluctantly rise from their boar
Immemorial ambush, and roll in the wake
Of the cloud whose reflection leaves livid the lake.
And the wind, that wild robber, for plunder descends
From invisible lands, o'er those black mountain ends;
He howls as he hounds down his prey; and his lash
Tears the hair of the timorous wild mountain ash,
That clings to the rocks, with her garments all torn,
Like n woman in fear; then he blows his hoarse horn,
And is off, the fierce guide of destruction and terror,
Up the desolate heights, 'mid an intricate error
Of mountain and mist.
-------------------------"There is war in the skies.
Lo! the black-winged legions of' tempest arise
O'er those sharp, splinter 'd rocks that are gleaming below
in the soft light, so fair and so fatal, as though
Some seraph burn'd through them, the thunderbolt searching
Which the black cloud unbosom'd just now. Lo! the lurching
And shivering pine-trees, like phantoms, that seem
To waver above, in the dark; and you stream,
How it hurries and roars, on its way to the white
And paralyzed lake there, appall'd at the eight
Of the things seen heaven !"
Last revised: 18 August 2010