Images de page
PDF
ePub

Stand forth! be men! repel an impious foe, | And beauteous island! thou hast been my sole
Impious and false, a light yet cruel race, And most magnificent temple, in the which
Who laugh away all virtue, mingling mirth I walk with awe, and sing my stately songs,
With deeds of murder; and still promising Loving the God that made me! May my
Freedom, themselves too sensual to be free,
fears,
Poison life's amities, and cheat the heart
Of faith and quiet hope, and all that soothes
And all that lifts the spirit! Stand we forth;
Render them back upon the insulted ocean,
And let them toss as idly on it's waves
As the vile sea-weed, which some mountain-
blast

Swept from our shores! And oh! may we

return

Not with a drunken triumph, but with fear, Repenting of the wrongs with which we stung

So fierce a foe to frenzy!-I have told,
O Britons! O my brethren! I have told
Most bitter truth, but without bitterness.
Nor deem my zeal or factious or mis-tim'd;
For never can true courage dwell with them,
Who, playing tricks with conscience, dare
not look

At their own vices. We have been too long
Dupes of a deep delusion! Some, belike,
Groaning with restless enmity, expect
All change from change of constituted power;
As if a Government had been a robe,
On which our vice and wretchedness were
tagg'd

Like fancy-points and fringes, with the robe
Pull'd off at pleasure. Fondly these attach
A radical causation to a few
Poor drudges of chastising Providence,
Who borrow all their hues and qualities
From our own folly and rank wickedness,
Which gave them birth and nurse them.
Others, meanwhile,

Dote with a mad idolatry; and all
Who will not fall before their images,
And yield them worship, they are enemies
Even of their country! Such have I been
deem'd-

But, O dear Britain! O my Mother-Isle! Needs must thou prove a name most dear and holy

To me, a son, a brother, and a friend,
A husband, and a father! who revere
All bonds of natural love, and find them all
Within the limits of thy rocky shores.
O native Britain! O my Mother-Isle!
How shouldst thou prove aught else but
dear and holy
To me, who from thy lakes and mountain-
hills,
Thy clouds, thy quiet dales, thy rocks and

seas,

Have drunk in all my intellectual life,
All sweet sensations, all ennobling thoughts,
All adoration of the God in Nature,
All lovely and all honorable things,
Whatever makes this mortal spirit feel
The joy and greatness of its future being?
There lives nor form nor feeling in my soul
Unborrow'd from my country. O divine

My filial fears, be vain! and may the vaunts
And menace of the vengeful enemy
Pass like the gust, that roar'd and died away
In the distant tree: which heard, and only
heard

In this low dell, bow'd not the delicate grass.

But now the gentle dew-fall sends abroad The fruit-like perfume of the golden furze: The light has left the summit of the hill, Though still a sunny gleam lies beautiful Aslant the ivied beacon. Now farewell, Farewell, awhile, O soft and silent spot! On the green sheep-track, up the heathy hill, Homeward I wind my way; and, lo! recall'd From bodings that have well nigh wearied

me,

I find myself upon the brow, and pause
Startled! And after lonely sojourning
In such a quiet and sorrounded nook,
This burst of prospect, here the shadowy
Main,

Dim tinted, there the mighty majesty
Of that huge amphitheatre of rich
And elmy Fields, seems like society-
Conversing with the mind, and giving it
A livelier impulse and a dance of thought!
And now, beloved Stowey! I behold
Thy church-tower, and, methinks, the four
huge elms

Clustering, which mark the mansion of my
friend;
And close behind them, hidden from my
view,

Is my own lowly cottage, where my babe And my babe's mother dwell in peace! With light

And quicken'd footsteps thitherward I tend,
Remembering thee, oh green and silent dell!
And grateful, that by nature's quietness
And solitary musings all my heart
Is soften'd and made worthy to indulge
Love, and the thoughts that yearn for human
kind.

THE VISIONARY HOPE.

SAD lot, TO HAVE NO HOPE! Tho' lowly kneeling,

He fain would frame a prayer within his breast, Would fain intreat for some sweet breath of healing,

That his sick body might have case and rest; He strove in vain! the dull sighs from his chest

Against his will the stifling load revcaling

Tho' Nature forc'd; tho' like some captive | under the name of a War-Eclogue, in which

guest,

Some royal prisoner at his conqueror's feast,
An alien's restless mood but half concealing,
The sternness on his gentle brow confest
Sickness within and miserable feeling:
Tho' obscure pangs made curses of his dreams,
And dreaded sleep, each night repell'd in vain,
Each night was scatter'd by its own loud

screams:

Yet never could his heart command, tho' fain,
One deep full wish to be no more in pain.

Fire, Famine, and Slaughter were introduced as the speakers. The gentleman so addressed replied, that he was rather surprised that none of us should have noticed or heard of the Poem, as it had been, at the time, a good deal talked of in Scotland. It may be easily supposed, that my feelings were at this moment not of the most comfortable kind. Of all present, one only knew, or suspected me to be the author; a man who would have established himself in the first rank of England's living Poets, if the Genius of our country had not decreed that he should

That HOPE, which was his inward bliss rather be the first in the first rank of its

and boast,

Which wan'd and died, yet ever near him stood,

Tho' chang'd in nature, wander where he

would

For Love's Despair is but Hope's pining
Ghost!

For this one hope he makes his hourly moan,
He wishes and can wish for this alone!
Pierc'd, as with light from heaven, before
its gleams

(So the love-stricken visionary deems)
Disease would vanish,like a summer-shower,
Whose dews fling sunshine from the noon-
tide bower!

Or let it stay! yet this one Hope should give

Such strength that he would bless his pains and live.

FIRE, FAMINE, AND SLAUGHTER.

A WAR-ECLOGUE,

WITH AN APOLOGETIC PREFACE.

Me dolor incantum, me lubrica duxerit ætas,
Me tumor impulerit, me devius egerit ardor:
Te tamen haud decuit paribus concurrere telis.
En adsum: veniam, confessus crimina, posco.

CLAUD. Epist. ad Hadr. There is one that slippeth in his speech, but not from his heart; and who is he that hath not offended with his tongue?

Ecclesiasticus, xix. 16.

Philosophers and scientific Benefactors. It appeared the general wish to hear the lines. As my friend chose to remain silent, I chose to follow his example, and Mr. ***** recited the Poem. This he could do with the better

grace, being known to have ever been not only a firm and active Anti-Jacobin and Anti-Gallican, but likewise a zealous admirer of Mr. Pitt, both as a good man and a great Statesman. As a Poet exclusively, he had been amused with the Eclogue; as a Poet, he recited it; and in a spirit, which made it evident, that he would have read and repeated it with the same pleasure, had his own name been attached to the imaginary object or agent.

After the recitation, our amiable host observed, that in his opinion Mr. ***** had over-rated the merits of the poetry; but had they been tenfold greater, they could not have compensated for that malignity of heart, which could alone have prompted sentiments so atrocious. I perceived that my illustrious friend became greatly distressed on my account; but fortunately I was able to preserve fortitude and presence of mind enough to take up the subject without exciting even a suspicion, how nearly and painfully it interested me.

What follows, is substantially the same as I then replied, but dilated and in language less colloquial. It was not my intention, I said, to justify the publication, whatever its author's feelings might have been at the time of composing it. That they are calculated to call forth so severe a reprobation from a good man, is not the worst feature of such poems. Their moral deformity is Ar the house of a gentleman, who by aggravated in proportion to the pleasure the principles and corresponding virtues of which they are capable of affording to vina sincere Christian consecrates a cultivated dictive, turbulent, and unprincipled readers. genius and the favorable accidents of birth, Could it be supposed, though for a moment, opulence, and splendid connexions, it was that the author seriously wished what he Tuy good fortune to meet, in a dinner-party, had thus wildly imagined, even the attempt with more men of celebrity in science or to palliate an inhumanity so monstrous would polite literature, than are commonly found be an insult to the hearers. But it seemed collected round the same table. In the course to me worthy of consideration, whether the of conversation, one of the party reminded mood of mind, and the general state of senan illustrious Poet, then present, of some sations, in which a Poet produces such vivid verses which he had recited that morning, and fantastic images, is likely to co-exist, or and which had appeared in a newspaper is even compatible with that gloomy and

deliberate ferocity which, a serious wish to realize them would pre-suppose. It had been often observed, and all my experience tended to confirm the observation, that prospects of pain and evil to others, and in general, all deep feelings of revenge, are commonly expressed in a few words, ironically tame and mild. The mind, under so direful and fiend-like an influence, seems to take a morbid pleasure in contrasting the intensity of its wishes and feelings with the slightness or levity of the expressions by which they are hinted; and indeed feelings so intense and solitary, if they were not precluded (as in almost all cases they would be) by a constitutional activity of fancy and association, and by the specific joyousness combined with it, would assuredly themselves preclude such activity. Passion, in its own quality, is the antagonist of action; though in an ordinary and natural degree the former alternates with the latter, and thereby revives and strengthens it. But the more intense and insane the passion is, the fewer and the more fixed are the correspondent forms and notions. A rooted hatred, an inveterate thirst of revenge, is a sort of madness, and still eddies round its favourite object, and exercises as it were a perpetual tautology of mind in thoughts and words, which admit of no adequate substitutes. Like a fish in a globe of glass, it moves restlessly round and round the scanty circumference, which it can not leave without losing its vital

element.

There is a second character of such imaginary representations as spring from a real and carnest desire of evil to another, which we often see in real life, and might even anticipate from the nature of the mind. The images, I mean, that a vindictive man places before his imagination, will most often be taken from the realities of life: they will be images of pain and suffering which he has himself seen inflicted on other men, and which he can fancy himself as inflicting on the object of his hatred. I will suppose that we had heard at different times two common sailors, each speaking of some one who had wronged or offended him; that the first with apparent violence had devoted every part of his adversary's body and soul to all the horrid phantoms and fantastic places that ever Quevedo dreamt of, and this in a rapid flow of those outré and wildly combined execrations, which too often with our lower classes serve for escape-valves to carry off the excess of their passions, as so much superfluous steam that would endanger the vessel if it were retained. The other, on the contrary, with that sort of calmness of tone which is to the ear what the paleness of anger is to the eye, shall simply say: "If I chance to be made boatswain, as I hope I soon shall, and can but once get that fellow under my hand (and I shall be upon the

watch for him), I'll tickle his pretty skin! I won't hurt him! oh no! I'll only cut the -to the liver!" I dare appeal to all present, which of the two they would regard as the least deceptive symptom of deliberate malignity? nay, whether it would surprize them to see the first fellow, an hour or two afterward, cordially shaking hands with the very man, the fractional parts of whose body and soul he had been so charitably disposing of; or even perhaps risking his life for him. What language Shakspeare considered characteristic of malignant disposition, we see in the speech of the good-natured Gratiano, who spoke an infinite deal of nothing more than any man in all Venice ;

the

words

-Too wild, too rude and bold of voice,

skipping spirit, whose thoughts and reciprocally ran away with each other;

--O be thou damn'd, inexorable dog! And for thy life let justice be accused! and the wild fancies that follow, contrasted with Shylock's tranquil I stand here for Law.

Or, to take a case more analogous to the present subject, should we hold it either fair or charitable to believe it to have been Dante's serious wish, that all the persons mentioned by him, (many recently departed and some even alive at the time) should actually suffer the fantastic and horrible punishments, to which he has sentenced them in his hell and purgatory? Or what shall we say of the passages in which Bishop Jeremy Taylor anticipates the state of those who, vicious themselves, have been the cause of vice and misery to their fellow-creatures? Could we endure for a moment to think that a spirit, like Bishop Taylor's, burning with Christian love; that a man constitutionally overflowing with pleasurable kindliness; who scarcely even in a casual illustration introduces the image of woman, child, or bird, but he embalms the thought with so rich a tenderness, as makes the very words seem beauties and fragments of poetry from an Euripides or Simonides;can we endure to think, that a man so natured and so disciplined, did at the time of composing this horrible picture, attach a sober feeling of reality to the phrases? or that he would have described in the same tone of justification, in the same luxuriant flow of phrases, the tortures about to be inflicted on a living individual by a verdict of the Star-Chamber? or the still more atrocious sentences executed on the Scotch anti-prelatists and schismatics, at the command, and in some instances under the very eye of the Duke of Lauderdale, and of that wretched bigot who afterwards dishonored and forfeited the throne of Great BritainTM Or do we not rather feel and understand, that these violent words were mere bubbles flashes and electrical apparitions, from the magic cauldron of a fervid and ebulliass

fancy, constantly fuelled by an unexampled | poem, so far was I even then from imaginopulence of language? ing, that the lines would be taken as more or less than a sport of fancy. At all events, if I know my own heart, there was never a moment in my existence in which I should have been more ready, had Mr. Pitt's person been in hazard, to interpose my own body, and defend his life at the risque of my own.

Were I now to have read by myself for the first time the poem in question, my conclusion, I fully believe, would be, that the writer must have been some man of warm feelings and active fancy; that he had painted to himself the circumstances that accompany war in so many vivid and yet fantastic forms, as proved that neither the images nor the feelings were the result of observation, or in any way derived from realities. I should judge, that they were the product of his own seething imagination, and therefore impregnated with that pleasurable exultation which is experienced in all energetic exertions of intellectual power; that in the same mood he had generalized the causes of the war, and then personified the abstract and christened it by the name which he had been accustomed to hear most often associated with its management and measures. I should guess that the minister was in the author's mind, at the moment of composition, as completely arans, avaiμóбapxoc, as Anacreon's grasshopper, and that he had as little notion of a real person of flesh and blood,

Distinguishable in member, joint, or limb,

I have prefaced the poem with this anecdote, because to have printed it without any remark might well have been understood as implying an unconditional approbation on my part, and this after many years consideration. But if it be asked why I re-published it at all? I answer, that the Poem had been attributed at different times to different other persons; and what I had dared beget, I thought it neither manly nor honorable not to dare father. From the same motives I should have published perfect copies of two poems, the one entitled The Devil's Thoughts, and the other The Two Round Spaces on the Tomb-Stone, but that the three first stanzas of the former, which were worth all the rest of the poem, and the best stanza of the remainder, were written by a friend of deserved celebrity; and because there are passages in both, which might have given ofreaders. I myself indeed see no reason why fence to the religious feelings of certain vulgar superstitions, and absurd conceptions that deform the pure faith of a Christian, should ridicule than stories of witches, or the fables possess a greater immunity from

of Greece and Rome. But there are those

as Milton had in the grim and terrible phantoms (half person, half allegory) which he has placed at the gates of Hell. I concluded by observing, that the Poem was not calculated to excite passion in any mind, or to make any impression except on poetic readers; and that from the culpable levity, betrayed by the grotesque union of epigrammatic wit with allegoric personification, in the allusion to the most fearful of thoughts, I should conjecture that the "rantin Bardie," instead of really believing, much less wishing, the fate spoken of in the last line, in application to any human individual, would shrink from passing the verdict even on the Devil him-likewise the second in his year's course of

self, and exclaim with poor Burns:

But fare ye weel, auld Nickie-ben!
Oh! wad ye tak a thought an' men!
Ye aiblins might-I dinna ken-

Still hae a stake

I'm wae to think upon yon den,
Ev'n for your sake!

who deem it profaneness and irreverence to call an ape an ape, if it but wear a monk's cowl on its head; and I would rather reason with this weakness than offend it.

The passage from Jeremy Taylor to which Christ's Advent to Judgement; which is I referred, is found in his second Sermon on

sermons. Among many remarkable passages of the same character in those discourses, I have selected this as the most so. "But when this Lion of the tribe of Judah shall appear, then Justice shall strike and Mercy shall not hold her hands; she shall strike sore strokes, and Pity shall not break the I need not say that these thoughts, which blow. As there are treasures of good things, are here dilated, were in such a company so hath God a treasure of wrath and fury, only rapidly suggested. Our kind host smiled, and scourges and scorpions; and then shall and with a courteous compliment observed, be produced the shame of Lust and the that the defence was too good for the cause. malice of Envy, and the groans of the opMy voice faultered a little, for I was some-pressed and the persecutions of the saints, what agitated; though not so much on my and the cares of Covetousness and the trouown account as for the uneasiness that so bles of Ambition, and the insolencies of traikind and friendly a man would feel from the tors and the violences of rebels, and the rago thought that he had been the occasion of of anger and the uneasiness of impatience, distressing me. At length I brought out and the restlessness of unlawful desires; and these words: I must now confess, Sir! that by this time the monsters and diseases will I am the author of that Poem. It was writ-be numerous and intolerable, when God's ten some years ago. I do not attempt to heavy hand shall press the sanies and the justify my past self, young as I then was; intolerableness, the obliquity and the unbut as little as I would now write a similar reasonableness, the amazement and the dis

order, the smart and the sorrow, the guilt | chief which all good and humane men must and the punishment, out from all our sins, of course desire, will, he takes for granted and pour them into one chalice, and mingle by parity of reason, meet with a punishment, them with an infinite wrath, and make the an ignominy, and a retaliation, as much wicked drink off all the vengeance, and force severer than other wicked men, as their it down their unwilling throats with the guilt and its consequence were more enormviolence of devils and accursed spirits." ous. His description of this imaginary punThat this Tartarean drench displays the ishment presents more distinct pictures to imagination rather than the discretion of the fancy than the extract from Jeremy Taythe compounder; that, in short, this passage lor; but the thoughts in the latter are inand others of the same kind are in a bad comparably more exaggerated and horrific. taste, few will deny at the present day. It All this I knew; but I neither remembered, would doubtless have more behoved the good nor by reference and careful re-perusal could bishop not to be wise beyond what is written, discover, any other meaning, either in Milon a subject in which Eternity is opposed ton or Taylor, but that good men will be to Time, and a death threatened, not the rewarded, and the impenitent wicked punishnegative, but the positive Opposite of Life; ed, in proportion to their dispositions and a subject, therefore, which must of neces-intentional acts in this life; and that if the sity be indescribable to the human under-punishment of the least wicked be fearful standing in our present state. But I can beyond conception, all words and descriptions neither find nor believe, that it ever occur- must be so far true, that they must fall red to any reader to ground on such pas-short of the punishment that awaits the sages a charge against BISHOP TAYLOR'S hu-transcendently wicked. Had Milton stated manity, or goodness of heart. I was not a either his ideal of virtue, or of depravity, little surprized therefore to find, in the Pur- as an individual or individuals actually exsuits of Literature and other works, so hor-isting? Certainly not! Is his representation rible a sentence passed on MILTON's moral worded historically, or only hypothetically? character, for a passage in his prose-wri-Assuredly the latter! Does he express it as tings, as nearly parallel to this of Taylor's his own wish, that after death they should as two passages can well be conceived to be. suffer these tortures? or as a general conAll his merits, as a poet, forsooth-all the sequence, deduced from reason and revelaglory of having written the PARADISE LOST, tion, that such will be their fate? Again the are light in the scale, nay, kick the beam, latter only! His wish is expressly confined compared with the atrocious malignity of to a speedy stop being put by Providence heart expressed in the offensive paragraph. to their power of inflicting misery on others! I remembered, in general, that Milton had But did he name or refer to any persons, concluded one of his works on Reformation, living or dead? No! But the calumniators written in the fervour of his youthful ima- of Milton daresay (for what will calumny gination, in a high poetic strain, that wanted not dare say?) that he had LAUD and STAFmetre only to become a lyrical poem. I FORD in his mind, while writing of remorseremembered that in the former part he had less persecution and the enslavement of a formed to himself a perfect ideal of human free country, from motives of selfish ambivirtue, a character of heroic, disinterested tion. Now, what if a stern anti-prelatist zeal and devotion for Truth, Religion, and should daresay, that in speaking of the insopublic Liberty, in Act and in Suffering, in lencies of traitors and the violences of rebels, the day of Triumph and in the hour of Mar- Bishop Taylor must have individualized in tyrdom. Such spirits, as more excellent his mind, HAMDEN, HOLLIS, PYM, FAIRFAX, than others, he describes as having a more IRETON, and MILTON? And what if he should excellent reward, and as distinguished by a take the liberty of concluding, that in the transcendent glory and this reward and afterdescription the Bishop was feeding and this glory he displays and particularizes feasting his partyhatred, and with those with an energy and brilliance that announ- individuals before the eyes of his imaginaced the Paradise Lost as plainly, as ever tion enjoying, trait by trait, horror after the bright purple clouds in the east announ- horror, the picture of their intolerable agoced the coming of the Sun. Milton then nies? Yet this bigot would have an equal passes to the gloomy contrast, to such men right thus to criminate the one good and as from motives of selfish ambition and great man, as these men have to criminate the lust of personal aggrandizement should, the other. Milton has said, and I doubt not against their own light, persecute truth and but that Taylor with equal truth could have the true religion, and wilfully abuse the said it, that in his whole life he never spake powers and gifts entrusted to them, to bring against a man even that his skin should be vice, blindness, misery and slavery, on their grazed. He asserted this when one of his native country, on the very country that opponents (either Bishop Hall or his nephew) had trusted, enriched and honored them. had called upon the women and children in Such beings, after that speedy and appro- the streets to take up stones and stone him priate removal from their sphere of mis-│(Milton). It is known that Milton repeatedly

« PrécédentContinuer »