Imágenes de páginas
[blocks in formation]

tremble, the sunne and the moon shall be dark, and the starres shall withdraw their shining."

In verse 20th also, which announces the retreat of the northern army, described in such dreadful colors, into a "land barren and desolate," and the dishonor with which God afflicted them for having "magnified themselves to do great things," these are particulars not inapplicable to the retreat of Massena ; -Divine Providence having, in all ages, attached disgrace as the natural punishment of cruelty and presumption.


The Vault of Destiny.-P. 280.

Before finally dismissing the enchanted cavern of Don Roderick, it may be noticed, that the legend occurs in one of Calderon's plays, entitled, La Virgin del Sagrario. The scene opens with the noise of the chase, and Recisundo, a predecessor of Roderick upon the Gothic throne, enters pursuing a stag. The animal assumes the form of a man, and defies the king to enter the cave, which forms the bottom of the scene, and engage with him in single combat. The king accepts the challenge, and they engage accordingly, but without advantage on either side, which induces the Genie to inform Recisundo, that he is not the monarch for whom the adventure of the enchanted cavern is reserved, and he proceeds to predict the downfall of the Gothic monarchy, and of the Christian religion, which shall attend the discovery of its mysteries. Recisundo, appalled by these prophecies, orders the cavern to be secured by a gate and bolts of iron. In the second part of the same play, we are informed that Don Roderick had removed the barrier, and transgressed the prohibition of his ancestor, and had been apprized by the prodigies which he discovered of the approaching ruin of his kingdom


While downward on the land his legions press, Before them it was rich with vine and flock,

And smiled like Eden in her summer dress ;Behind their wasteful march, a reeking wilderness.-P. 281.

I have ventured to apply to the movements of the French army that sublime passage in the prophecies of Joel, which seems applicable to them in more respects than that I have adopted in the text. One would think their ravages, their military appointments, the terror which they spread among invaded nations, their military discipline, their arts of political intrigue and deceit, were distinctly pointed out in the following verses of Scripture :

2. A day of darknesse and of gloominesse, a day of clouds and of thick darknesse, as the morning spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong, there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the yeares of many generations. 3. A fire devoureth before them, and behind them a flame burneth; the land is as the garden of Eden before them, and behinde them a desolate wilderness, yea, and nothing shall escape them. 4. The appearance of them is as the appearance of horses and as horsemen, so shall they runne. 5. Like the noise of chariots on the tops of mountains, shall they leap, like the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong people set in battel array. 6. Before their face shall the people be much pained; all faces shall gather blacknesse. 7. They shali run like mighty men, they shall climb the wall like men of warre, and they shall march every one in his wayes, and they shall not break their ranks. 8. Neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk every one in his path: and when they fall upon the sword, they shall not be wounded. 9. They shall run to and fro in the citie; they shall run upon the wall, they shall climbe up upon the houses: they shall enter in at the windows like a thief. 10. The earth shall quake before them, the heavens shall


The rudest sentinel, in Britain born,

With horror paused to view the havoc done, Gave his poor crust to feed some wretch forlorn.-P. 281. Even the unexampled gallantry of the British army in the campaign of 1810-11, although they never fought but to conquer, will do them less honor in history than their humanity, attentive to soften to the utmost of their power the horrors which war, in its mildest aspect, must always inflict upon the defenceless inhabitants of the country in which it is waged, and which, on this occasion, were tenfold augmented by the barbarous cruelties of the French. Soup-kitchens were established by subscription among the officers, wherever the troops were quartered for any length of time. The commissaries contributed the heads, feet, &c. of the cattle slaughtered for the soldiery rice, vegetables, and bread, where it could be had, were purchased by the officers. Fifty or sixty starving peasants were daily fed at one of these regimental establishments, and carried home the relics to their famishing households. The emaciated wretches, who could not crawl from weakness, were speedily employed in pruning their vines. While pursuing Massena, the soldiers evinced the same spirit of humanity, and in many instances, when reduced themselves to short allowance, from having out-marched their supplies, they shared their pittance with the starving inhabitants, who had ventured back to view the ruins of their habitations, burnt by the retreating enemy, and to bury the bodies of their relations whom they had butchered. Is it possible to know such facts without feeling a sort of confidence, that those who so well deserve victory are most likely to attain it ?—It is not the least of Lord Wellington's military merits, that the slightest disposition towards marauding meets immediate punishment. Independently of all moral obligation, the army which is most orderly in a friendly country, has always proved most formidable to an armed enemy.


Vain-glorious fugitive !-P. 282.

The French conducted this memorable retreat with much of the fanfarronade proper to their country, by which they attempt to impose upon others, and perhaps on themselves, a belief that they are triumphing in the very moment of their discomfiture. On the 30th March, 1811, their rear guard was overtaken near Pega by the British cavalry. Being well posted, and conceiving themselves safe from infantry (who were indeed many miles in the rear), and from artillery, they indulged themselves in parading their bands of music, and actually performed "God save the King." Their minstrelsy was, however, deranged by the undesired accompaniment of the British horseartillery, on whose part in the concert they had not calculated. The surprise was sudden, and the rout complete; for the artillery and cavalry did execution upon them for about four miles, pursuing at the gallop as often as they got beyond the range of the guns.


Vainly thy squadrons hide Assuava's plain, And front the flying thunders as they roar, With frantic charge and tenfold odds, in vain !--P. 282.

In the severe action of Fuentes d'Honoro, upon 5th May, 1811, the grand mass of the French cavalry attacked the right of the British position, covered by two guns of the horse-artillery, and two squadrons of cavalry. After suffering considerably from the fire of the guns, which annoyed them in every attempt at formation, the enemy turned their wrath entirely towards them, distributed brandy among their troopers, and advanced to carry the field-pieces with the desperation of drunken fury. They were in nowise checked by the heavy loss which they sustained in this daring attempt, but closed, and fairly mingled with the British cavalry, to whom they bore the proportion of ten to one. Captain Ramsay (let me be permitted to name a gallant countryman), who commanded the two guns, dismissed them at the gallop, and putting himself at the head of the mounted artillerymen, ordered them to fall upon the French, sabre-in-hand. This very unexpected conversion of artillerymen into dragoons, contributed greatly to the defeat of the enemy, already disconcerted by the reception they had met from the two British squadrons; and the appearance of some small reinforcements, notwithstanding the immense disproportion of force, put them to absolute rout. A colonel or major of their cavalry, and many prisoners (almost all intoxicated), remained in our possession. Those who consider for a moment the difference of the services, and how much an artilleryman is necessarily and naturally led to identify his own safety and utility with abiding by the tremendous implement of war, to the exercise of which he is chiefly, if not exclusively trained, will know how to estimate the presence of mind which commanded so bold a manœuvre, and the steadiness and confidence with which it was executed.


And what avails thee that, for Cameron slain, Wild from his plaided ranks the yell was given.-P. 282. The gallant Colonel Cameron was wounded mortally during the desperate contest in the streets of the village called Fuentes d'Honoro. He fell at the head of his native Highlanders, the 71st and 79th, who raised a dreadful shriek of grief and rage. They charged, with irresistible fury, the finest body of French grenadiers ever seen, being a part of Bonaparte's selected guard. The officer who led the French, a man remarkable for stature and symmetry, was killed on the spot. The Frenchman who stepped out of his rank to take aim at Colonel Cameron was also bayoneted, pierced with a thousand wounds, and almost torn to pieces by the furious Highlanders, who, under the command of Colonel Cadogan, bore the enemy out of the contested ground at the point of the bayonet. Massena pays my countrymen a singular compliment in his account of the attack and defence of this village, in which he says the British lost many officers, and Scotch.


But you, ye heroes of that well-fought day, &c.-P. 282. [The Edinburgh Reviewer offered the following remarks on what he considered as an unjust omission in this part of the poem:

"We are not very apt," he says, "to quarrel with a poet for his politics; and really supposed it next to impossible that Mr. Scott should have given us any ground of dissatisfaction on this score, in the management of his present theme. Lord

Wellington and his fellow-soldiers well deserved the laurels they have won-nor is there one British heart, we believe, that will not feel proud and grateful for all the honors with which British genius can invest their names. In the praises which Mr. Scott has bestowed, therefore, all his readers will sympathize; but for those which he has withheld, there are some that will not so readily forgive him and in our eyes we will confess, it is a sin not easily to be expiated, that in a poem written substantially for the purpose of commemorating the brave who have fought or fallen in Spain or Portugal-and written by a Scotchman-there should be no mention of the name of MOORE!-of the only commander-in-chief who has fallen in this memorable contest;-of a commander who was acknowledged as the model and pattern of a British soldier, when British soldiers stood most in need of such an example: --and was, at the same time, distinguished not less for every manly virtue and generous affection, than for skill and gallantry in his profession. A more pure, or a more exalted character, certainly has not appeared upon that scene which Mr. Scott has sought to illustrate with the splendor of his genius; and it is with a mixture of shame and indignation that we find him grudging a single ray of that profuse and readily yielded glory to gild the grave of his lamented countryman. To offer a lavish tribute of praise to the living, whose task is still incomplete, may be generous and munificent ;-but to departed merit, it is due in strictness of justice. Who will deny that Sir John Moore was all that we have now said of him? or who will doubt that his untimely death in the hour of victory would have been eagerly seized upon by an impartial poet, as a noble theme for generous lamentation and eloquent praise? But Mr. Scott's political friends have fancied it for their interest to calumniate the memory of this illustrious and accomplished person, and Mr. Scott has permitted the spirit of party to stand in the way, not only of poetical justice, but of patriotic and generous feeling.

"It is this for which we grieve, and feel ashamed ;-this hardening and deadening effect of political animosities, in cases where politics should have nothing to do;-this apparent perversion, not merely of the judgment, but of the heart ;-this implacable resentment, which wars not only with the living, but with the dead;-and thinks it a reason for defrauding a departed warrior of his glory, that a political antagonist has been zealous in his praise. These things are lamentable, and they cannot be alluded to without some emotions of sorrow and resentment. But they affect not the fame of him on whose account these emotions are suggested. The wars of Spain, and the merits of Sir John Moore, will be commemorated in a more impartial and a more imperishable record, than the Vision of Don Roderick; and his humble monument in the Citadel of Corunna will draw the tears and the admiration of thousands, who concern not themselves about the exploits of his more fortunate associates."-Edinburgh Review, vol. xviii, 1811.

The reader who desires to understand Sir Walter Scott's deliberate opinion on the subject of Sir John Moore's military character and conduct, is referred to the Life of Napoleon Bonaparte, vol. vi. chap. xlvi. But perhaps it may be neither unamusing nor uninstructive to consider, along with the diatribe just quoted from the Edinburgh Review, some reflections from the pen of Sir Walter Scott himself on the injustice done to a name greater than Moore's in the noble stanzas on the Battle of Waterloo, in the third canto of Childe Harold-an injustice which did not call forth any rebuke from the Edinburgh critics. Sir Walter, in reviewing this canto, said,

"Childe Harold arrives on Waterloo-a scene where all men, where a poet especially, and a poet such as Lord Byron must needs pause, and amid the quiet simplicity of whose scenery is excited a moral interest, deeper and more potent even than that which is produced by gazing upon the sublimesi efforts of Nature in her most romantic recesses.

"That Lord Byron's sentiments do not correspond with ours, is obvious, and we are sorry for both our sakes. For our own-because we have lost that note of triumph with which

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

his harp would otherwise have rung over a field of glory such as Britain never reaped before; and on Lord Byron's account. -because it is melancholy to see a man of genius duped by the mere cant of words and phrases, even when facts are most broadly confronted with them. If the poet has mixed with the original, wild, and magnificent creations of his imagination, prejudices which he could only have caught by the contagion which he most professes to despise, it is he himself that must be the loser. If his lofty muse has soared in all her brilliancy over the field of Waterloo without dropping even one leaf of laurel on the head of Wellington, his merit can dispense even with the praise of Lord Byron. And as when the images of Brutus were excluded from the triumphal procession, his memory became only the more powerfully imprinted on the souls of the Romans-the name of the British hero will be but more eagerly recalled to remembrance by the very lines in which his praise is forgotten."-Quarterly Review, vol. xvi. 1816.


O who shall grudge him Albuera's bays,


Who brought a race regenerate to the field,
Roused them to emulate their fathers' praise,
Temper'd their headlong rage, their courage steel'd,

And raised fair Lusitania's fallen shield.--P. 282. Nothing during the war of Portugal seems, to a distinct observer, more deserving of praise, than the self-devotion of Field-Marshal Beresford, who was contented to undertake all the hazard of obloquy which might have been founded upon any miscarriage in the highly important experiment of training the Portuguese troops to an improved state of discipline. In exposing his military reputation to the censure of imprudence from the most moderate, and all manner of unutterable calumnies from the ignorant and malignant, he placed at stake the dearest pledge which a military man had to offer, and nothing but the deepest conviction of the high and essential importance attached to success can be supposed an adequate motive. How great the chance of miscarriage was supposed, may be

estimated from the general opinion of officers of unquestioned talents and experience, possessed of every opportunity of infor mation; how completely the experiment has succeeded, and how much the spirit and patriotism of our ancient allies had been underrated, is evident, not only from those victories in which they have borne a distinguished share, but from the liberal and highly honorable manner in which these opinions have been retracted. The success of this plan, with all its important consequences, we owe to the indefatigable exertions of FieldMarshal Beresford.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

-the conquering shout of Græme.-P. 283. This stanza alludes to the various achievements of the warlike family of Græme, or Grahame. They are said, by tradition, to have descended from the Scottish chief, under whose command his countrymen stormed the wall built by the Einperor Severus between the Friths of Forth and Clyde, the fragments of which are still popularly called Græme's Dyke. Sir John the Græme, "the hardy wight, and wise," is well known as the friend of Sir William Wallace. Alderne, Kilsythe, and Tibbermuir, were scenes of the victories of the heroic Marquis of Montrose. The pass of Killycrankie is famous for the action between King William's forces and the Highlanders in 1689,

"Where glad Dundee in faint huzzas expired."

It is seldom that one line can number so many heroes, and yet more rare when it can appeal to the glory of a living descendant in support of its ancient renown.

The allusions to the private history and character of General Grahame, may be illustrated by referring to the eloquent and affecting speech of Mr. Sheridan, upon the vote of thanks to the Victor of Barosa.




SIR WALTER SCOTT commenced the composition of ROKEBY at Abbotsford, on the 15th of September, 1812, and finished it on the last day of the following December.

The reader may be interested with the following extracts from his letters to his friend and printer, Mr. Ballantyne.

"Abbotsford, 28th Oct., 1812. "DEAR JAMES,-I send you to-day better than the third sheet of Canto II., and I trust to send the other three sheets in the course of the week. I expect that you will have three cantos complete before I quit this place on the 11th of November. Surely, if you do your part, the poem may be out by Christmas; but you must not daudle over your typographical scruples. I have too much respect for the public to neglect any thing in my poem to attract their attention; and you misunderstood me much when you supposed that I designed any new experiments in point of composition. I only meant to say that knowing well that the said public will never be pleased with exactly the same thing a second time, I saw the necessity of giving a certain degree of novelty, by throwing the interest more on character than in my former poems, without certainly meaning to exclude either incident or description. I think you will see the same sort of difference taken in all my former poems, of which I would say, if it is fair for me to say any thing, that the force in the Lay is thrown on style, in Marmion on description, and in the Lady of the Lake on incident."

"3d November-As for my story, the conduct of the plot, which must be made natural and easy, prevents my introducing any thing light for some time. You must advert, that in order to give poetical effect to any incident, I am often obliged to be much longer than I expected in the detail. You are too much like the country squire in the what d'ye call it, who commands that the play should not only be a tragedy and comedy, but that it should be crowned with a spice of your pastoral. As for what is popular, and what peo

ple like, and so forth, it is all a joke. Be interest ing; do the thing well, and the only difference will be, that people will like what they never liked before, and will like it so much the better for the novelty of their feelings towards it. Du ness and tameness are the only irreparable faults!

"December 31st.-With kindest wishes on the return of the season, I send you the last of the copy of Rokeby. If you are not engaged at home, and like to call in, we will drink good luck to it; but do not derange a family party.

"There is something odd and melancholy in concluding a poem with the year, and I could be almost silly and sentimental about it. I hope you think I have done my best. I assure you of my wishes the work may succeed; and my exertions to get out in time were more inspired by your interest and John's, than my own. And so vogue la galère.

W. S."


Between the publication of "The Lady of the Lake," which was so eminently successful, and that of "Rokeby," in 1813, three years had intervened. I shall not, I believe, be accused of ever having attempted to usurp a superiority over many men of genius, my contemporaries; but, in point of popularity, not of actual talent, the caprice of the public had certainly given me such a temporary superiority over men, of whom, in regard to poetical fancy and feeling, I scarcely thought myself worthy to loose the shoe-latch. On the other hand, it would be absurd affectation in me to deny, that I conceived myself to understand, more perfectly than many of my contemporaries, the manner most likely to interest the great mass of mankind. Yet, even with this belief, I must truly and fairly say, that I always considered myself rather as one who held the bets, in time to be paid over to the winner, than as having any pretence to keep them in my own right.

In the mean time years crept on, and not without their usual depredations on the passing generation. My sons had arrived at the age when the paternal home was no longer their best abode,

as both were destined to active life. The fieldsports, to which I was peculiarly attached, had now less interest, and were replaced by other amusements of a more quiet character; and the means and opportunity of pursuing these were to be sought for. I had, indeed, for some years attended to farming, a knowledge of which is, or at least was then, indispensable to the comfort of a family residing in a solitary country-house; but although this was the favorite amusement of many of my friends, I have never been able to consider it as a source of pleasure. I never could think it a matter of passing importance, that my cattle or crops were better or more plentiful than those of my neighbors, and nevertheless I began to feel the necessity of some more quiet out-door occupation, different from those I had hitherto pursued. I purchased a small farm of about one hundred acres, with the purpose of planting and improving it, to which property circumstances afterwards enabled me to make considerable additions; and thus an era took place in my life almost equal to the important one mentioned by the Vicar of Wakefield, when he removed from the Blue-room to the Brown. In point of neighborhood, at least, the change of residence made little more difference. Abbotsford, to which we removed, was only six or seven miles down the Tweed, and lay on the same beautiful stream. It did not possess the romantic character of Ashestiel, my former residence; but it had a stretch of meadow-land along the river, and possessed, in the phrase of the landscape-gardener, considerable capabilities. Above all, the land was my own, like Uncle Toby's Bowling-green, to do what I would with. It had been, though the gratification was. long postponed, an early wish of mine to connect myself with my mother earth, and prosecute those experiments by which a species of creative power is exercised over the face of nature. I can trace, even to childhood, a pleasure derived from Dodsley's account of Shenstone's Leasowes, and I envied the poet much more for the pleasure of accomplishing the objects detailed in his friend's sketch of his grounds, than for the possession of pipe, crook, flock, and Phillis to boot. My memory, also, tenacious of quaint expressions, still retained a phrase which it had gathered from an old almanac of Charles the Second's time (when every thing down to almanacs affected to be smart), in which the reader, in the month of June, is advised for health's sake to walk a mile or two every day before breakfast, and if he can possibly so manage, to let his exercise be taken upon his own land. With the satisfaction of having attained the fulfilment of an early and long-cherished hope, I commenced my improvements, as delightful in their progress as those of the child who first makes

a dress for a new doll. The nakedness of the land was in time hidden by woodlands of considerable extent the smallest of possible cottages was progressively expanded into a sort of dream of a mansion-house, whimsical in the exterior, but convenient within. Nor did I forget what is the natural pleasure of every man who has been a reader; I mean the filling the shelves of a tolerably large library. All these objects I kept in view, to be executed as convenience should serve; and, although I knew many years must elapse before they could be attained, I was of a disposition to comfort myself with the Spanish proverb, “Time and I against any two.”

The difficult and indispensable point, of finding a permanent subject of occupation, was now at length attained; but there was annexed to it the necessity of becoming again a candidate for public favor; for, as I was turned improver on the earth of the every-day world, it was under condition that the small tenement of Parnassus, which might be accessible to my labors, should not remain uncultivated.

I meditated, at first, a poem on the subject of Bruce, in which I made some progress, but afterwards judged it advisable to lay it aside, supposing that an English story might have more novelty; in consequence, the precedence was given to "Rokeby."

If subject and scenery could have influenced the fate of a poem, that of " Rokeby" should have been eminently distinguished; for the grounds belonged to a dear friend, with whom I had lived in habits of intimacy for many years, and the place itself united the romantic beauties of the wilds of Scotland with the rich and smiling aspect of the southern portion of the island. But the Cavaliers and Roundheads, whom I attempted to summon up to tenant this beautiful region, had for the public neither the novelty nor the peculiar interest of the primitive Highlanders. This, perhaps, was scarcely to be expected, considering that the general mind sympathizes readily and at once with the stamp which nature herself has affixed upon the manners of a people living in a simple and patriarchal state; whereas it has more difficulty in understanding or interesting itself in manners founded upon those peculiar habits of thinking or acting, which are produced by the progress of society. We could read with pleasure the tale of the adventures of a Cossack or a Mongol Tartar, while we only wonder and stare over those of the lovers in the "Pleasing Chinese History," where the embarrassments turn upon difficulties arising out of unintelligible delicacies peculiar to the customs and manners of that affected people.

The cause of my failure had, however, a far deeper root. The manner, or style, which, by its

« AnteriorContinuar »