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The most pensive page of Young's is not to be compared with this page of Rousseau's:
“ When evening approached, I descended from the heights of the island, and loved to sit down on the margin of the lake, in some sequestered spot : there, the noise of the waves and the agitation of the water, engaging my senses and driving from my soul all other agitation, plunged it into a delicious reverie, in which night frequently stole upon me without my being aware of it. The flux and reflux of this water, its continuous noise, but swelling at intervals, striking incessantly my ear and my eye, supplied the place of those inward movements which reverie extinguished within me, and sufficed to make me feel with pleasure my existence, without taking the trouble to think. From time to time, there arose some faint and brief reflection on the instability of the things of this world, an image of which was presented to me by the surface of the waters; but these slight impressions were presently effaced in the uniformity of the continuous movement which rocked me, and which, without any active concurrence of my soul, did not fail to attach me to such a degree, that, when called at the hour and by the signal agreed upon, I could not tear myself from it without great reluctance."
Young has not turned to good account the reveries which such scenes inspire, because his genius was deficient in tenderness.
As for the recollections of misfortune, they are numerous in this poet, but without truth, like the rest. They have nothing of these strains of Gilbert's, expiring in the flower of his age in au hospital, and forsaken by his friends :
Au banquet de la vie, infortuné convive,
J'apparus un jour, et je meurs !
Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs.
Adieu, champs fortunés, adieu, douce verdure,
Adieu, riant exil des bois;
Adieu, pour la dernière fois !
Ah! puissent voir long-temps votre beauté sacrée,
Tant d'amis sourds à mes adieux !
Qu'un ami leur ferme les yeux !
Young declaims in several places against solitude: the tone of his heart, therefore, was neither that of the priest nor that of the poet. The saints sought food for their meditations in the desert, and Parnassus also is a solitary hill. Bourdaloue entreated the chief of his order to permit him to retire from the world. “I feel,” he wrote, “that my body is declining and hastening to its end. I have finished my course, and would to God that I could add, I have been faithful!.... Let me be permitted to devote the remnant of
life entirely to God, and to myself ..... There, forgetting all the things of this world, I shall pass in the presence of God all the years of my life in the bitterness of my soul.” If Bossuet, living amidst the pomp of Versailles, has, nevertheless, diffused over his works a holy and majestic melancholy, it is because he had found in religion a complete solitude.
Moreover, in this descriptive elegiac class of compositions, our age has surpassed that which preceded it. It is not, as formerly, vague descriptions, but precise observations that harmonise with the feelings, that charm by their truth, and, as it were, leave a sort of plaintiveness in the soul.
It is the nature of man to regret what he has lost, to dwell amidst recollections, to seek to be alone, as he approaches the grave. Images borrowed from nature have a thousand resemblances to our fortunes: this man passes on in silence, like a gushing spring; that makes a noise in his course, like a torrent; the other precipitates his life, like a cataract; it affrights, and disappears.
Young mourns then over the ashes of Narcissa, without affecting the reader. A mother was
blind; the circumstance that her daughter was at the point of death had been concealed from her: she was not aware of her misfortune till she embraced her child, and found upon her maternal lips the sacred oil with which the priest had touched the virgin brow. Here is a subject which moves the heart more than all the “ Night Thoughts” of the father of Narcissa.
GRAY. THOMSON. DELILLE. FONTANES.
From the author of the “ Night Thoughts” I pass to the bard of the rustic dead. Gray found on his lyre a series of accords and inspirations unknown to antiquity. With him commences that school of melancholy poets, which has transformed itself in our day into the school of despairing poets. The first line of Gray's celebrated “Elegy in a Country Church-yard,” is almost a literal translation of the last line of these delicious terzets of Dante's :
Era già l'ora che volge'l disio
E che lo nuovo peregrin d'amore
The curfew tolls the knell of parting day. VOL. II.