« VorigeDoorgaan »
warbling of Lovelace's linnet; but it abounded in frisky, light, chirping, bold, quarrelsome sparrows; they are found every where, in the country, in town, on the balustrades of a mansion, along the gutters of a prison; they perch quite as cheerfully upon the instrument of death as upon a rose-bush. What matter the sufferings of earth to those who can fly away further.”
My song will not be more lasting than that of Lovelace. The Jacobites have left nothing to England but the anthem God save the King. The origin of this air is not uninteresting : it is ascribed to Lulli; the young maids, in the choruses to Esther, delighted, at St. Cyr, the ears and the pride of the great monarch by the strains of the Domine, salvum fac regem. The attendants of James carried to their country the majestic invocation; they addressed it to the god of armies, when they marched to battle in defence of their banished sovereign. Struck with the beauty of this loyal song, the English of William's faction appropriated it to themselves. It became an appendage to the usurpation and to the sovereignty of the people, who are ignorant at this day that they are singing a foreign air, the hymn of the Stuarts, the canticle of divine right and of legitimacy. How long will England yet implore the Ruler of the world to save the king? Reckon
the revolutions heaped up in a dozen notes, which, have outlived these revolutions !
The Domine salvum of the Catholic rite is, likewise, an admirable song : it was sung in Greek in the tenth century, when the hippodrome was graced with the emperor's presence. From the pageant it was transferred to the church : another era that has passed away.
With the reign of Charles II. a revolution took place in the taste and manners of English writers. Forsaking the national traditions, they began to borrow from French literature some of its regularity and character. The wandering life of Charles had given him a preference for foreign manners; Madame Henriette, the king's sister, the Duchess of Portsmouth, his mistress, St. Evremond, and the Chevalier de Grammont, both living in London in a state of banishment, urged with all their might the restored Stuarts to an imitation of the court of Louis XIV.; poetry lost by this external movement, which, however, proved advantageous to prose.
Without soaring to the height of eloquence, Tillotson refined the language of the pulpit. Sir William Temple was the D'Ossat of England; but in the views and the style of his Observations, his Miscellaneous Works and his Memoirs, he is far inferior to our diplomatist. Philosophy boasts of Locke; literature, properly so called, of Hamilton, a model of gracefulness and elegance; of Shaftesbury, the pupil of Locke, and the son of a dissolute father. Voltaire extols Shaftesbury as an enemy of the Christian religion. This author's works have been collected under the title of Characteristics of Men. The ideas of the Characteristics, besides being lamely expressed, have become common-place by the lapse of time.
Burnet wrote the History of the English Reformation in a partial, caustic, but interesting manner : his greatest honour consists in having been refuted by Bossuet. Burnet was a blunderer and a factious man, of a spirit akin to that of the Frondeurs : neither the revolutionary candour of Whitelocke, nor the republican enthusiasm of Ludlow, is to be found in his memoirs.
The name of Clarendon revives the double recollection of kingly and popular ingratitude. The History of the Rebellion is a work in which the indications of talent disappear under the impress of virtue. Some portraits are vividly coloured ; but the character of these portraits is easy of imitation; it is within the reach of the commonest minds; Clarendon himself is reflected in his pictures; his image is portrayed in every page.
Algernon Sidney created the language of politics; his Discourses upon Government have grown obsolete: Sidney's is but a great name, and by no means a great reputation. The tragical death of the son of the Earl of Leicester is the ostensible event which gave body to principles which are still vague in the wavering opposition of the Whigs. Dalrymple, and after him M. Mazure, have furnished evidence of the inconsistencies of Sidney; he had the misfortune to receive money from France. In the unskilful game played by Louis XIV., this monarch fancied that he was only fettering Charles, whilst he was overthrowing James; the corruption of this policy carried within itself its own punishment; integrity, in Bacon, did not keep pace with science; in Sydney, disinterestedness did not keep pace with energy. God preserve us from exulting over the meannesses from which the loftiest natures are not altogether exempt! Heaven never endows us with virtues or talents, without coupling them with infirmities; they are expiations offered to vice, to folly, and to envy. The weaknesses of a superior mind are those black victims, nigræ pecudes, which Antiquity sacrificed to the infernal gods;