Images de page

"There are still to be seen seventeen beautiful columns, the remains of one hundred and ten, which supported what is said to have been the Temple of Adrian. Before these is a threshing-floor, paved with its magnificent fragments. Between two of these pillars, a Greek hermit had made his dwelling a few years back, to live and die there,-more proud of the homage of the populace who feed him, than Themistocles of the acclamations of Greece. These detached columns excite a sort of pity, even by their magnificence. I asked who it was who had mutilated them, for it was easy to see that it was not the effect of time. I was told that they had been broken down for making mortar. I wept with very rage.

"Every where through the city is there the same cause for grief; not a threshold of a door,-not a step of a stair, which is not a fragment of ancient marble, torn by force from some monument, the whole one mixture of meanness and magnificence,—a wretched rafter of fir resting, perhaps, on columns that had supported the Temple of a God.

"With what a mixture of pain and pleasure did I see every where, some portion of an inscription, certainly the epitaph of a great man, an arm,-a foot that might have belonged to a Venus or a Minerva, fixed among common stones, in a common wall! I perceived, in a court, a marble fountain,-I entered, to take a nearer view, It had been formerly a magnificent tomb, adorned with the finest sculptures,-I threw myself prostrate before it, and kissed the tomb. In the heedlessness of my adoration I overturned the pitcher of a child who was laughing at my strange behaviour. From laughter he passed to tears and cries,-I had nothing on me to appease him with; and Heaven knows when he would have been comforted, if my Turks, good souls, had not threatened to beat him.

"Shall I tell you all the folly of the emotions which I felt? At the moment when I entered Athens, almost palpitating, the least relics of it appeared sacred. You know the story of the savage, who had never seen any pebbles. I did like him,-I filled first the pockets of my coat,-then the pockets of my waistcoat, with bits of sculptured marble; and, then, like the savage, but with how much more regret! I threw them all away."

I must not extend any further, however, a quotation which is

already too long. Some of the actions described, the prostrations, the tears, the kisses, may appear a little beyond the sageness of British enthusiasm. But the picture is not the less striking, for that air of national emotion, which runs through it,—an emotion which harmonizes so well with the quick feelings of that people, by the remembrance of whom it was kindled,--and which makes the visitor seem almost a native of the very soil which he describes.

Even to the sober temperance of our enthusiasm, however, such a spectacle as that of Athens, would be a little dangerous. We may think of it calmly,—we may read of it calmly. But he must be cold indeed, who could set his foot on the very soil, or see but a single column of all those ruins of which he had calmly read and thought, without some feelings that might have appeared extravagant, even to himself, if described as the feelings of any other being.

In such circumstances, the Genius of ancient Greece himself, might seem almost present to a poetic mind, like that which, warmed by the mere images of her departed glory, could so beautifully invoke his descent ;

"Genius of ancient Greece! whose faithful steps,
Well pleased, I follow through the sacred paths
Of Nature and of Science; nurse divine

Of all heroic deeds, and fair desires!
Descend, propitious, to my favour'd eye
Such in thy mien, thy warm exalted air,
As when the Persian tyrant, foil'd and stung
With shame and desperation, hid his face
Among the herd of satraps and of kings,
And at the lightning of thy lifted spear,

Crouch'd like a slave!-Bring all thy martial spoils,

Thy palms, thy laurels, thy triumphal songs,

Thy smiling band of arts, thy godlike sires

Of civil wisdom, thy heroic youth

Warm from the schools of glory. Guide my way
Through fair Lyceum's walk, the green retreats
Of Academus, and the thymy vale,

Where oft, enchanted with Socratic sounds,
Ilissus pure devolved his tuneful stream
In gentler inurmurs. From the blooming store
Of these auspicious fields, may I, unblamed,

Transplant some living blossoms, to adorn

My native clime ;-while, far above the mead
Of Fancy's toil* aspiring, I unlock

The springs of ancient Wisdom! while I join

Thy name, thrice honour'd! with the immortal praise
Of Nature; while to my compatriot youth

I point the high example of thy sons,

And tune to Attic themes the British lyre."+

It is this peculiar tendency of objects of perception, to throw a brighter colouring on the ideas they suggest, that gives the chief value to the monuments of national gratitude. The conquests of the Roman generals must have been known to all the citizens of Rome; but it was in the triumphal procession to the capitol, that they must have felt most proudly the grandeur of the Republic, and the honour of the individual victor; and must have caught that emulation, which was to lead them afterwards through fields of equal danger, to ascend the same glorious car. Themistocles, we are told, could not sleep, for thinking of the trophies of another distinguished chief; and it was thus, perhaps, that the victory of Marathon, in the combat of a later period, again delivered Greece. The trophy, the obelisk, the triumphal arch, would, indeed, be of little interest, if they were only to recal to us the names and dates of the actions they commemorate; but, while they record past honours, they are, in truth, the presages, and more than presages, of honours to come. In Sparta an oration was every year pronounced on the tomb of Leonidas. Is it possible to suppose, that, in such a scene, and with such an object before them, the orator, and the assembled nation, who listened to him, felt no deeper emotion, than they would have done, if the same language had been addressed from any other place, unconnected with so sacred a remembrance? "To abstract the mind," says Dr Johnson, in a passage which has become almost trite from frequent quotation, and which is strongly marked with all the pe

Fancy's plume.- Orig.

+ Pleasures of Imagination, v. 567, 604, with the exclusion of v. 571, 579; and the substitution, from the second form of the poem, (B. I. v. 707, 8,) of "hid his face," &c. to " Kings," instead of

"gnashed his teeth

To see thee rend the pageants of his throne."-v. 583, 4.

culiarities of his style," to abstract the mind from all local emotion, would be impossible, if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish, if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses,-whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future, predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends," he continues, "be such frigid philosophy, as may conduct us, indifferent and unmoved, over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. That man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plains of Marathon, or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of lona."*

When Antony, in his funeral eulogium of Cæsar, uncovered the body before the people, he knew well what powerful persuasion the wounds, which he pointed out, would give to his oratory. It has been well remarked," that never had funeral eloquence so powerful an impression, for it prepared the slavery of twenty nations. The dead body of Lucretia had freed Rome from the fetters of its tyrants,-the dead body of Cæsar fastened on it again its chains."

"This influence of perceptible objects in awakening associated thoughts and associated feelings," says Mr Stewart," seems to arise, in a great measure, from their permanent operation as exciting or suggesting causes. When a train of thought takes its rise from an idea or conception, the first idea soon disappears, and a series of others succeeds, which are gradually less and less related to that with which the train commenced; but, in the case of perception, the exciting cause remains steadily before us; and all the thoughts and feelings which have any relation to it, crowd into the mind in rapid succession; strengthening each other's effects, and all conspiring in the same general impression.Ӡ

This explanation of a very striking phenomenon, is simple and beautiful; and, it may be remarked, in confirmation of it, that it is not every object of perception, which renders the trains of ideas that succeed it more vivid, but only such objects, as are, in themselves, interesting; and, therefore, lead the mind to dwell on them, giving that time, therefore, which Mr Stewart supposes to

Journey of a Tour, &c.-Works, v. IX. P: 319. Edit. Edin. 1806.
+ Philosophy of the Human Mind, Chap. V. Part I. Sect. 1.

[ocr errors]

be necessary, for gathering and bringing forward the crowd of associate ideas, which conspire in heightening the particular emotion. The sight of any thing indifferent to us, may suggest various conceptions, without any peculiar liveliness of the conceptions suggested. In the instance of the pewter spoon, so pathetically related by Captain King,—an instance, I may remark by the way, which shews how much it is in the power of circumstances to give interest, and even a species of dignity, to the most vulgar object, there can be no doubt, that, often before the discovery of it, innumerable objects, familiar to all the crew, must have brought their distant home to their remembrance. But such a spoon, found in a country so distant, must have been an object of astonishment; and the importance which the surprise at the discovery gave to it, must have caused them to dwell on it, till it awakened all those tender remembrances, which an object more familiar, and therefore, less interesting, would have failed to excite.

Just, however, as I conceive Mr Stewart's explanation to be, to the whole extent to which the circumstances assigned by him can operate, I am inclined to think, that there is another circumstance, which concurs very forcibly in the effect, and is probably the chief source of the vivid emotion. That there is something more than the mere permanence of the object of perception, concerned in giving additional liveliness to the ideas it suggests, is, I think, evident from this, that, when the external object is very interesting, it produces a considerable effect, before the permanence can have operated so far as to have collected and condensed, if I may so express it, any very considerable number of ideas. After the first impulse of emotion, indeed, the longer the object continues present, so as to produce a greater number of associate thoughts and feelings,-all, as Mr Stewart says, "strengthening each other's effects, and all conspiring in the same general impression," the more lively, of course, or at least, the more permanent, must the emotion become. Yet still, the first burst of feeling almost at the very moment of the perception, remains unexplained. To a woman of lively sensibility, who, after many years of happy wedlock, has been deprived by death of the father of her children, and who has learned, at length, that sort of tender resignation which time alone inspires, so as to think of his memory, not indeed without sorrow, but with a sort of tranquil sadness,-to

« PrécédentContinuer »