Imágenes de páginas

ours, cannot prosper or exist without such possession. If the fact were so, we should then have a right to keep possession of what by our valour we had acquired-not otherwise. If these things were matter of mere speculation, they would not be worth talking about; but they are not so.

The spirit of conquest, and the ambition of the sword, can never confer true glory and happiness upon a nation that has attained power sufficient to protect itself. . . . Now, I think there is nothing more unfortunate for Europe than the present condition of Germany and Italy. Could the barriers be dissolved which have divided the one nation into Neapolitans, Tuscans, Venetians, &c., and the other into Prussians, Hanoverians, &c., and could they once be taught to feel their strength, the French would be driven back into their own land immediately. I wish to see Spain, Italy, France, Germany, formed into independent nations; nor have I any desire to reduce the power of France further than may be necessary for that end. Woe be to that country whose military power is irresistible! I deprecate

such an event for Great Britain scarcely less than for any other land. Scipio foresaw the evils with which Rome would be visited when no Carthage should be in existence for her to contend with. If a Nation have nothing to oppose or to fear without, it cannot escape decay and concussion within. Universal triumph and absolute security soon betray a State into abandonment of that discipline, civil and military, by which its victories were secured. If the time should ever come when this island shall have no more formidable enemies by land, than it has at this moment by sea, the extinction of all that it previously contained of good and great would soon follow. Indefinite progress, undoubtedly, there ought to be somewhere; but let that be in knowledge, in science, in civilization, in the increase of the numbers of the people, and in the augmentation of their

virtue and happiness. But progress in conquest cannot be indefinite; and for that very reason, if for no other, it cannot be a fit object for the exertions of a people, I mean beyond certain limits, which, of course, will vary with circumstances. My prayer, as a patriot, is, that we may always have, somewhere or other, enemies capable of resisting us, and keeping us at arm's length.

Do I then object that our arms shall be carried into every part of the Continent? No such is the present condition of Europe, that I earnestly pray for what I deem would be a mighty blessing. France has already destroyed, in almost every part of the Continent, the detestable governments with which the nations have been afflicted; she has extinguished one sort of tyranny, but only to substitute another. Thus, then, have the countries of Europe been taught, that domestic oppression, if not manfully and zealously repelled, must sooner or later be succeeded by subjugation from without; they have tasted the bitterness of both cups, have drunk deeply of both. Their spirits are prepared for resistance to the foreign tyrant, and with our help I think they may shake him off, and, under our countenance, and following (as far as they are capable) our example, they may fashion to themselves, making use of what is best in their own ancient laws and institutions, new forms of government, which may secure posterity from a repetition of such calamities as the present age has brought forth. The materials of a new balance of power exist in the language and name and territory of Spain, in those of France, and those of Italy, Germany, Russia, and the British Isles. The smaller states must disappear, and merge in the large nations and wide-spread languages. The possibility of this remodelling of Europe I see clearly. . . ; but military policy merely will not perform all that is needful, nor mere military virtues. If the Roman state was saved

from overthrow, by the attack of the slaves and of the gladiators, through the excellence of its armies, yet this was not without great difficulty;* and Rome would have been destroyed by Carthage, had she not been preserved by a civic fortitude in which she surpassed all the nations of the earth. The reception which the Senate gave to Terentius Varro, after the battle of Cannæ, is the sublimest event in human history. What a contrast to the wretched conduct of the Austrian government after the battle at Wagram! England requires ... a new system of martial policy; but England, as well as the rest of Europe, require what is more difficult to give it, a new course of education, a higher tone of moral feeling, more of the grandeur of the imaginative faculties, and less of the petty processes of the unfeeling and purblind understanding, that would manage the concerns of nations in the same calculating spirit with which it would set about building a house. Now the labours of the statesman ought to advance, upon calculations and upon impulses similar to those which give motion to the hand of a great artist when he is preparing a picture, or of a mighty poet when he is determining the proportions and march of a poem. Much is to be done by rule; the great outline is previously to be conceived in distinctness, but the consummation of the work must be trusted to resources that are not tangible, though known to exist. . .

[ocr errors]

*“Totis imperii viribus consurgitur," says the historian, speaking of the war of the gladiators.




COMPARATIVELY few poems were written by Wordsworth during his residence at Allan Bank. They were principally sonnets, and they referred chiefly to contemporary political events, and the struggle for liberty going on in the Continent of Europe. They were afterwards published in the second part of the series of " Sonnets dedicated to National Independence and Liberty;" and a very remarkable series of poems they are,—the outcome of the same mood of mind that produced the essay on the Convention of Cintra, and the letter to General Pasley. It is not too much to say, as Mr Myers has said, that these sonnets are "the most permanent record in our literature of the Napoleonic war," "worthy of comparison with the noblest passages of patriotic verse or prose which our history has inspired."

During the years at Allan Bank, however, a good deal of admirable work was done in other directions. The help given to Coleridge in the management of The Friend has been already referred to. In the seventeenth number (December 14, 1809) a letter appeared addressed to the editor by one who signed himself "Mathetes." This was written by the John Wilson who had previously sent the letter to Wordsworth on his poems, printed in vol. i., p. 390, of this Life. The letter to The Friend is a curious one. He writes of his own experience, and of what he believes is the experience of many, in passing out into the world from the

[ocr errors]

seclusion of youthful days; their speculative opinions being due to their early feelings, and their minds being at the mercy of fortune. He enlarges on the causes that concur to enclose the mind on every side from the influence of natural feeling, and to degrade its inborn dignity." The shock, which one, full of enthusiasm and belief in goodness experiences, when he comes into contact with illusion, and when the natural admiration of excellence-innate in everyone- -is given to inferior objects, is vividly depicted. Then, as most persons believe that human nature is progressing from age to age, the opinions of the present time are naturally supposed to be wiser than those of the past. From this follow self-confidence, and the disparagement of antiquity. What "Mathetes" hints as a remedy is the Voice of a contemporary Teacher, some one "conspicuous above the multitude as superior in power-to him all hearts would turn. . . . Of one such Teacher, given to our own age, you have described the power, when you say that in his enunciation of truths he seems to speak in thunders."

[ocr errors]

Coleridge - as was most natural handed over the task of replying to this letter to the person invoked by the writer, from whom indeed, and not from Coleridge, it is evident that Wilson wished it to come. A few paragraphs from Wordsworth's reply may be given. He began by saying that in every age there were objects to which even the wisest attached undue importance." There were two errors into which we easily slip in thinking of past times. "One lies in forgetting, in the excellence of what remains, the large overbalance of worthlessness that has been swept away. . . . The second is, that in this comparison of ages we divide time merely into past and present, and place these in the balance to be weighed against each other; not considering that the present is in our estimation not more than a

« AnteriorContinuar »