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eld, &c. amidst the richest decorations of moderu language, is to patch embroidery with rags. Even if these words had not been replaced by any substitutes, and if they were always correctly inserted, their uncouth appearance would be displeasing; but Lord Byron is not always correct in his use of them. For instance, when he says, (Canto I. st. 67.)
* Devices quaint, and Frolics ever new,
Tread on each other's kibes,' it must be supposed that he did not mean to personify devices and frolics for the purpose of afflicting them with chilblains. When, again, in describing Ali Pacha, hę censures (C. II. st. 62.)
those ne'er forgotten acts of ruth Beseeming all men ill, but most the man
In years, that mark him with a tyger's tooth,' &c. it is plain that the noble lord must have considered "ruth' as synonymous, not with pity, but with cruelty. In a third instance where we are told that Childe Harold had a mother, the equivocal meaning of the first word has evidently a ludicrous effect, which could not have escaped the attention of our author whilst writing in the language of his own day. On such errors as these, however, which obviously originate, not in any want of genius, but in accidental heedlessness, we do not mean to lay any stress; we complain only of the habitual negligence, of the frequent laxity of expression-of the feeble or dissonant rhymes which almost always disfigure a too close imitation of the language of our early poets, and of which we think that the work before us offers too many examples.
Spencer, it must be observed, is always consistent. He lived at a time when pedantry was the prevailing fault, not of the sedentary and studious, but of the flighty and illiterate; when daily attempts were made to introduce into our vocabulary the mangled elements of the more sonorous languages of Greece and Rome; and when this anomalous jargon was hailed, by many of his contemporaries, as a model of melody and refinement. Anxious to preserve the purity and simplicity of his native tongue, the well of English undefiled,' he appealed from the vitiated taste of the court to the good sense of the nation at large: he thought that significant words were not degraded by passing through the lips of the vulgar; his principal aim was to be generally intelligible: be formed his style on the homely models which had been bequeathed to him by preceding writers, and trusted to his own genius for the supply of the necessary embellishments. The extent of that genius. is displayed in the extraordinary variety and elegance of the decorations, thus composed from the most common materials. Spencer was in
VOL. VII. NO. XIII,
England, as La Fontaine in France, the creators of that style which our neighbours have so aptly denominated ' le genre naïf: The flowers which he scatters over his subject are, indeed, all of native growth: and they have a life and fragrance which is not always found in those more gaudy exotics, imported by succeeding poets, with which our language has been enriched and perhaps overloaded. Hence, though it is easy to catch his manner in short and partial imitations, it is almost impossible to preserve, throughout a long poem, his peculiar exuberance united with his characteristic sim
plicity. Lord Byron has shewn himself, in some passages, a toleraI bly successful copyist; but we like himn much better in those
where he forgets or disdains to copy; and where, without sacrificing the sweetness and variety of pause by which Spencer's stanza is advantageously distinguished from the heroic couplet, he employs a pomp of diction suited to the splendour of the objects which he describes. We rejoice when, dismissing from his memory the wretched scraps of a musty glossary, he exhibits to us, in natural and appropriate language, the rich scenery and golden sunshine of countries which are the
• Boast of the aged, lesson of the young;
Which sages venerate, and bards adore,
As Pallas and the Muse unveil their awful lore.' But we have not yet exhausted our complaints against the way. ward hero of the poem, whose character, we think, is most capriciously and uselessly degraded. The moral code of chivalry was not, we admit, quite pure and spotless; but its laxity in some points was redeemed by the noble spirit of gallantry which it inspired ; a gallantry which courted personal danger in the defence of the sovereign, because he is the fountain of honour; of women because they are often lovely and always helpless; and of the priesthood because they are at once disarmed and sanctified by their profession. Now Childe Harold, if not absolutely craven and recreant, is at least a inortal enemy to all martial exertions, a scoffer at the fair sex, and apparently disposed to consider all religions as different modes of superstition.
The reflections which occur to him, when he surveys the preparations for the conflicts between the French and the allied armies, are that these hosts
Are met (as if at home they could not die)
Enough of battle's minions!- let them play
Who strike, blest hirelings! for their country's good,
he would not delight
In themes of bloody fray, or gallant fight,
C. 11. St. 39. Now surely, it was not worth while to conjure a 'Childe Harold out of some old tapestry, and to bring him into the field of Talavera, for the purpose of indulging in such meditations as these. It is undoubtedly true that the cannon and the musketry must often anticipate the stroke of time; and carry off, in the vigour of life, many who might have been reserved at home to a long protracted decay. It is moreover true that the buried will rot; that the umburied may become food for crows, and consequently, that the man who has bartered life for fame has no chance, when once killed, of coming to life again. But these truths, we apprehend, are so generally admitted that it is needless to inculcate them. It is certainly untrue that fame is of little value. It is something to be honoured by those whom we love. It is something to the soldier when he returns to the arms of a mother, a wife, or a sister, to see in their eyes the tears of exultation mixing with those of affection, and of pious gratitude to heaven for his safety. These joys of a triumph, it may be said, are mere illusions; but for the sake of such illusions is life chiefly worth having. When we read the preceding sarcasms on the 'bravo's trade,' we are induced to ask, not without some anxiety and alarm, whether such are indeed the opinions which a British peer entertains of a British army.
The second feature in Childe Harold's character, which was introduced, we presume, for the purpose of giving to it an air of originality, renders it, if not quite unnatural, at least very unpoetical. Of this indeed the author seems to have been aware; but instead of correcting what was harsh and exaggerated in his sketch of the woman hater, he has only had recourse to the expedient of introducing, under various pretexts, those delineations of female beauty which a young poet may be naturally supposed to pen with much complacency. This we think ill judged. The victim of violent and unrequited passion, whether crushed into the sullenness of apathy, or irritated into habitual moroseness, may become, in the hands of an able poet, very generally and deeply interesting, the human heart
is certainly disposed to beat in unison with the struggles of strong and concentrated feeling; but the boyish libertine whose imagination is chilled by his sated apetites, whose frightful gloom is only the result of disappointed selfishness; and whose kiss had been pollution,' cannot surely be expected to excite any tender sympathy, and can only be viewed with unmixed disgust. Some softening of such a character would become necessary even if it were distinguished by peculiar acuteness of remark, or by dazzling flashes of wit. But there is not much wit in designating women aswanton things,' or as “lovely harmless things;' or in describing English women as
Remoter females famed for sickening prate;' nor is there much acuteness in the observation that
- Pomp and
alone are woman's care, And where these are, light Eros finds a feere;
Maidens, like moths, are ever caught by glare,
And Mammon wins his way where seraphs might despair.' We utterly dislike the polyglot line compounded of Greek, Saxon, and modern English; and do not much admire the confusion of images in the others; but we wish to abstain from minute criticism, and are only anxious to remonstrate against those blemishes which, in our opinion, detract from the general beauty of the poem.
Having already given our reasons for thinking that the perversity of character attributed to the hero of the piece is far too highly coa loured, it is needless to comment on that settled despair,
• That will not look beyond the tomb,
But cannot hope for rest before.'—(p. 52.) This is the consummation of human misery; and if it had been the author's principal object, in delineating this fictitious personage, to hold him up to his young readers as a dreadful example of early profligacy, such a finishing to the picture might be vindicated as consistent and useful, In that case, however, it would bave been doubly essential to divest the Childe' of his chivalrous title and attributes; and the attention of the poet and of the reader being
engrossed by one dismal object, it would have become necessary to sacrifice a large portion of that elegance and animation by which the present work is confessedly distinguished.
We certainly do not suspect Lord Byron of having made a pik grimage to mount Parnassus for the sole purpose of wooing the muses to assist him in the project of reforming his contemporaries; but as we are, on the other hand, most unwilling to impute to him the intention of giving offence to any class of his readers, we much wish that he had assigned to his imaginary Harold, instead
of uttering as his own, the sentiments contained in the following stanzas.
• Even gods must yield—religions take their turn:
Vainly his incense soars, his victim bleeds;
Regard and weigh yon dust before it flies:
Is that a temple where a God may dwell?
Can all saint, sage, or sophist ever writ,
• It was not always the custom of the Greeks to burn their dead; the greater Ajax in particular was interred entire. Almost all the chiefs became gods after their decease, and he was indeed neglected, who had not annual games near his tomb, or festivals in honour of his memory by his countrymen, as Achilles, Brasidas, &c. and at last even Antinous, whose death was as heroic as his life was infamous.' N 3