Page images
PDF
EPUB

The sacrifice was done! and on its wing

The earth sent up the shout of thanksgiving.'--p. 59.* From these extracts our readers will probably pronounce the anonymous author of this work to be an admirable poet--and they will do him no more than justice; they may also be inclined to call the work itself an admirable poem, in which candour obliges us to declare that they will not be altogether so correct. It has some very considerable faults, and these happen to be of the kind that are least perceptible in extracts: namely, a general want of plan, much abruptness, and frequent obscurities. A poem, we admit, should not be a diary; and a poet is not bound to drive Pegasus in a cabriolet through the streets of Paris ;-but there are limits to poetic licence; abrupt transitions and obscure chasms break and

ܪ

* The author has subjoined a note on the subject of the battle of Waterloo which, for the beauty of its expression, the justness of its sentiments, and the originality of its views, we are satisfied our readers will thank us for laying before them.

• To those who may, like the writer, incline to think that a more glorious age is about to rise upon the world, and that Waterloo was the thunderstorm which was to give the last clearing to the air before that perfect vision, it assumes a loftier character than its mortal triumph. It seems to bear the features of a grand, immediate interposition of Superior Power. The final overthrow of the French empire, which was atheistic, jacobin, and revolutionary to its latest hour ; and the utter disgrace of Napoleon, the concentrated spirit of the revolution, were at least the results of the battle of Waterloo. They may appear to have been its providential objects. Had human judgment's been previously consulted they would probably have drawn a different plan of the battle. The Prussians would have at once joined the British, and swept the enemy before them ; or the British would have been in force enough to have driven in the French early in the day; or Napoleon would have fallen or been taken prisoner. But the battle was not to be so fought, to be most fatal to the atheistic power. If the French had been beaten in the broad day, they might have rallied, or retired before superiority of force, or in the last event have been made prisoners in

masses.

But the conflict held on, bloody and disastrous, till the moment when they could neither escape nor conquer. Retreating an hour before nightfall, they might have been saved ; fighting an hour after it, they might have had the night for retreat. But they broke on the edge of darkness. The Prussians came up, retarded during the day, to be unfatigued by battle, and fresh for pursuit. The night was made for remediless slaughter. “ l'hou moon, in the valley of Ajalon!" The distribution of the triumph was judicial. England had seen in France only an envenomed enemy, Prussia had felt in her a remorseless oppressor ; England had suffered no serious infliction, Prussia had been steeped to the lips in suffering; and to England, on this memorable day, was given the GLORY, and to Prussia the REVENGE.

• If Napoleon had been killed or wounded, or made prisoner, or borne from the field in the backward rushing of his army, there might have been some reserve of fame for him. But a stronger Will determined that he should be saved for immortal and cureless shame ; that he should be seen a coward, and ready fugitive; that no question should be left to the world of his abjectness of soul, and ihat lie should be reserved to be shewn as a monster to an English raible, and yet survive!

• If the French army, the authors of so much misery to Europe, were to have been finally punished, it was done by the battle of Waterloo. For the first time since the accession of Napoleon, their force was exclusively French; and it was trampled like a mire of blood. There has been no instance for these thousand years of such total destruction of an army. The flower of France, and the leading strength of the rebelLion, was the Imperiai Guard. It was reserved for the last and most complete sacrifice of the day.'---P. Ok.

ruffle

ruffle the stream of feeling down which the heart delights to glide ; and an over anxious desire of contrast and variety bas always the effect of distracting and wearying the mind. It is irksome, for instance, to be hurried in one page from the early markets of the Faubourg Mont Martre to the midnight festivities of the Faubourg St. Germain. In truth, we think we discover in several parts of the poem, sufficient proof that the author made on the spot the separate sketches, and that afterwards, desirous of making a whole, he joined them together, sometimes ungracefully, and not always intelligibly.

To this mode of composition we also should bave been inclined to attribute the variety of metre which the author has adopted, and which in his preface he attempts to defend as right in principle.

• The occasional changes in the metre have been adopted, not in the idle imitation of superior writers, but simply to avoid the monotony of a perpetual recurrence of the same measure. The diversity of the subjects in these pages might of itself require diversity of metre. Pompe and processions are not to be told in the same cadence with murders. But, independently of the subject, there is a physical delight in this Tariely. The ear, or that combined sense of ear, eye, and mind by which we enjoy the full charm of versification, requires change to give the fulness of ihe charm. No excellence of poetry has been perfectly able, in our most illustrious models, to resist the antagonist monotony of a thousand lines in the same stanza. The suitableness of adopting the practice at all may be dependent on the length of the poem : in a very short performance, the monotony can scarcely arise from the ineasure; in a very long one, the reader makes intervals for himself, and comes refreshed by the intervals; in the intermediate order, too long to be despatched like a sonnet, and too short to be reserved for another sitting, he may require more aids than the present writer has allowed himself to supply in diversity of metre.'-Pref. pp. xi, xii, xiji.

None of these reasons appear to us to be founded in fact or just in principle;-they are, or at least they look like, the after-excuses which a person sometimes invents to justify to bimself a practice which he is too indolent to correct. For instance pomps, processions and murders are not to be told in the same cadence;' and yet the liveliest pomp of the whole poem, the description of a ballroom,

• The buoyant, brilliant dance of tress and plume

Gleaming o’er diamond eyes and cheeks of bloom.'--p. 17. is immediately followed, and in the same metre and cadence, by the massacre at the Abbaye.

• That mass of cloven bone and shatter'd limb
And spouting brain and visage strain'd and dim,
And horrid life, still quivering to the eye,
As chok'd in blood the victim toil'd to die.'-p. 27.
PO

Again :

Again :--the gorgeous procession to Notre Dame is in the same stanza and cadence with the descriptiou of the death of the suicide, and the exposure of the body in the Morgue. Our readers will thank us for exemplifying this assertion by the last stanza on this melancholy subject, which describes the recognition of the body by the unhappy parent. The crowd pass on.

The hurried, trembling look,
That dreaded to have seen some dear one there,
Soon glanced, they silent pass. But in yon nook,
Who kneels, deep shrinking from the oriel's glare,
Her forehead veild, her lip in quivering prayer,
Her raised hands with the unfelt rosary wound?
That shrouded,-silent-statue of despair

Is she who through the world's delusive round Had sought her erringchild, and found, and there bad found!-p. 40. On what principle is it that, if the author really intended to suit his metre to his subject, the same form of stanza should be adopted for the following description :

* But musing 's done. The rabble round me press,
With every cry of earth since Babel's fall.
The world's in gala.-Poissarde lovelines3
Glides, faint and feather'd from her last night's ball,
Dispensing glances on the friseur small,
The tiptoe thing beside her,-all bouquet ;
His bowing head, a curly carnival ;

His shoulders to his earrings, grimly gay ;

All have put on their sıniles; 'tis the King's holiday.'-p. 28. These instances are sufficient to show that the author has not acted on his own principles, and that if he is right in his preface he is wrong in his poem; but the fact we take to be as we have before hinted, and that he is wrong in both. Nor does the length of his poem (which does not, we believe, exceed a thousand lines) appear to us to require or justify these variations, even admitting that such an irregularity could be, in any case, admissible. There are many other faults incident to this mixture of metre; one is that it alternately reminds the reader of Lord Byron and Mr. Crabbe, and excites in his mind an unjust and disparaging impression that the author is rather an imitator, than an emulator of the merits of those two admirable poets. If he reminded us of but one of them, the resemblance might be considered as accidental; but when he so frequently and so strongly brings both to our recollection, a reader will bardly admit the likeness to be fortuitous, and will be inclined to think that it belongs more to mimicry than to fair poetical imitation. Yet such suspicions would be essentially unjust to the author's real powers; he has a vigorous originality of thought, which places him rather by the side than in the train of those whom

he

he most resembles : but, as we have already said, the poem has evidently been composed of detached sketches, in which the author involuntarily fell into the stanza of Lord Byron or the couplet of Mr. Crabbe, as the recollections of these great poets happened, at the moment, to be uppermost in his mind.—The error, therefore, of being at once like Childe Harold and the Village is venial, and may be natural,—but it is an error, and it is our duty to warn the unknown author, that it will not on repetition be forgiven by the judicious part of the public.

He must also, we would take the liberty of saying, endeavour to divest himself of a habit of inversion-the wretched expedient which Darwin employed to cover the weakness of his style, and the poverty of his imagination, and which we should be sorry to see sanctioned by one who so little needs these mechanical aids as the author of Paris. De needs no such helps, and the only passages in his poem which we have not read with unmixed pleasure, are those in which he has taken pains to be forcible or fine. Nothing can be better than his natural style; while it flows from his heart it is full at once of force, feeling, and simplicity; but sometimes, in search of a strong expression, he stumbles upon a hard one, and in his anxiety for the sublime, he now and then falls into the obscure. We have thrown out, we hope not in vain, these few observations on the defects of an author in whose future success we feel interested—who seems to exhibit a union, unhappily too rare, of piety and poetry, of what is right in politics, respectable in morals, correct in taste, and splendid in imagination.

Art. IX. Voyage de Découvertes aur Terres Australes, exé

cuté sur les Corvettes Le Géographe, Le Naturaliste, et la Goëlette Le Casuurina, pendant les Années 1800—1804.

Tome Second. A Paris. 1917. THE audacious attempt, which was made in the publication of

the first volume of this work, to rob Captain Flinders of the well-earned merit of his nautical labours and discoveries, while he was basely and barbarously kept in prison in a French colony, was regarded with becoming indignation throughout Europe, and with shame by the better part of the French nation. That volume was four years in preparation; yet such were the apparent marks of haste in bringing it out, that references were made to charts and plans which did not accompany it, and which, we verily believe, had no existence. We know that they were not made during the voyage; for the commander of the expedition told Captain Flinders that his charts would be constructed in Paris; which he never reached, having died on the passage home. M. Péron, the zoologist

and

P3

and historiographer of the voyage, knew nothing of charts; but his coasts, his capes, and his headlands, his gulphs, straits and harbours were enumerated with great care, and each of them dignified with some new name, generally of the august family of Napoleon Buonaparte, or of his Institute. Captain Flinders's book, accompanied by an Atlas of admirable charts and plans, was published in 1814; and now (after an interval of nine years) the second volume of the French voyage makes its appearance. This delay is, to us, quite inexplicable, as the volume has no plates to illustrate or to decorate it, and one half of it had, at different times, appeared in print : we shall only observe that the charts in the small Atlas which accompanies it, are very like those of Captain Flinders, only much inferior in point of execution. M. Péron died in 1810, when he had corrected the press as far as p. 230, leaving behind him several memoirs on different subjects, of which the maining part of the volume is chiefly composed; so that M. Freycinet, the surviving editor, had no very laborious task in bringing it forward.

Captain Freycinet, however, must have felt himself under considerable embarrassment in undertaking its publication. A new dynasty had succeeded, or rather the old and legitimate family had been restored, to that throne which ao usurper had too long filled. Under the auspices of this usurper the voyage had been made, and it was natural enough that the savans, sent upon the expedition, should wish to gratify their patrons by designating, under their names, the islands, headlands, bays, inlets, &c. which, no doubt, they had a right to do, where names not yet published, or capriciously given, had not received the public sanction; but the confusion which this arbitrary practice, but too common among all nations, creates in geographical researches, cannot be too severely reprobated. The French, however, attempted to abolish names which the duration of more than two centuries ought to have rendered sacred.

I feel,' says Freycinet, • all that annoyance and pain which certain parts of the geographical nomenclature, followed in this relation, may occasion to the reader; but I could not employ other denominations ihan those which are made use of in the first volume. Before I published my own nautical part of the voyage, and continued ihe relation oi Péron, I was desirous of changing a nomenclature which the present political and moral situation of France and of Europe renders obnoxious; but the first volume had already been in circulation many years, the second was immediately expected by a great number of subscribers, and without doubt it was right to suppose that it was of greater importance to satisfy the public than to suppress the conclusion of a work of which, in the final analysis, the nomenclature can neither injure the nature nor the importance of the facts. Besides, all those who have

partaken

« PreviousContinue »