Imágenes de páginas

“And if my voice break forth, 't is not that now

I shrink from what is suffered : let him speak
Who hath beheld decline upon my brow,
Or seen my mind's convulsion leave it weak;
But in this page a record will I seek.
Not in the air shall these my words disperse,
Though I be ashes ; a far hour shall wieak

The deep prophetic fulness of this verse,
And pile on human heads the mountain of my curse !

"That curse shall be Forgiveness. Have I not =
Hear me, my mother Earth! behold it Heaven!
Have I not had to wrestle with my lot?
Have I not suffered things to be forgiven ?
Have I pot had my brain seared, my heart riven,
Hopes sapped, name blighted, Life's life lied away?
And only not to desperation driven,

Because not altogether of such clay
As rots into the souls of those whom I survey?

“ From mighty wrongs to petty perfidy,

Have I not seen what human things could do?
From the loud roar of foaming calumny
To the small whisper of the as paltry few,
And subtler venom of the reptile crew,
The Janus glance of whose significant eye,
Learning to lie with silence, would seem true,

And without utterance, save the shrug or sigh,
Deal round to happy fools its speechless obloquy.

“But I have lived, and have not lived in vain :
My mind may lose its force, my blood its fire,
And my frame perish even in conquering pain;
But there is that within me which shall tire
Torture and Time, and breathe when I expire ;
Something unearthly, which they deem not of,
Like the remembered tone of a mute lyre,

Shall on their softened spirits sink, and move
In hearts all rocky now the late remorse of love."

This passionateness of Byron's nature is, as we have already observed, manifested in all his writings. But it is sometimes softened into delicacy and tenderness, and becomes remarkably pure and sweet in its flow. The passages of thoughtful beauty, which are scattered over his stormy and impulsive poems, – following, as they so often do, fierce bursts of passion, and the bad idolatry of hatred and despair, — are as pleasing to the eye as starlight after lightning, It is hardly necessary to enlarge on the fineness of his feeling for the beautiful, and the fertility of his imagination in images shaping it to the eye, and in tones suggesting it to the ear. A large number of his imaginations have become the language of the emotions they consecrate, and many are fast passing into the common speech of Englishmen. In the third and fourth cantos of “Childe Harold,” in “Don Juan,” in the narratives and meditations which he has cast in a dramatic form, passages might be selected of most witching loveliness, of deep pathos, of sad and mournful beauty of sentiment, of aspiration after truth and goodness,

of pity, and charity, and faith, and humanity, and love. These display “ how hard it is for a noble spirit to divorce itself wholly from what is good.” From among many illustrations of this softness and beauty of feeling, we select the following sonnet:

" Thy cheek is pale with thought, but not from woe ;

And yet so lovely, that, if Mirth could flush
Its rose of whiteness with the brightest blush,
My heart would wish away that ruder glow :
And dazzle not thy deep-blue eyes — but, 0,

While gazing on them, sterner eyes will gush,

And into mine my mother's weakness rush,
Soft as the last drops round heaven's airy bow.
For, through thy long dark lashes low depending,

The soul of melancholy Gentleness
Gleams like a seraph from the sky descending,

Above all pain, yet pitying all distress ;
At once such majesty with sweetness blending,

1 worship more, but cannot love thee less.' It is very difficult to connect the scattered characteristics of Byron's genius, so as to give a distinct notion of his personal character. Most certainly he was not a great man in action. He had no calm, self-sustaining energy of nature, few consistent opinions, little breadth of understanding. Irresolution, weakness, a reckless indifference to the consequences of his actions, a kind of settled feeling that he must yield to every impulse of his sensibility, a remarkable absence of any thing like a reference of his conduct to moral laws, — these absolutely stare us in the face, as we read his letters and journals. As regards reason, his whole strength lay in his insight; and bis momentary glimpses of truth were sometimes peculiarly vivid and clear. In his speculations, or rather declarations, on subjects disconnected with poetry, we often discern many bright hints of truth; but he had not sufficient patience or comprehensiveness to follow them to their results, or to bind them together in logical order. As regards strength of character, his force consisted in passion, not in principle. No vicious man ever lashed vice in others with more power. Not an inconsiderable portion of his writings, both in prose and verse, represents him as the critic of his contemporaries, and the censor and satirist of his age. When we read some of his fierce attacks on George the Fourth,

" The fourth of the fools and cowards, called George," and the bitterness of invective with which he treated the sins of other prominent culprits, we are ready to exclaim, with Sir Thomas Browne,“ While thou so hotly disclaimest against the Devil, be not guilty of diabolism. Again, no man volunteered his opinions with more freedom on literature, theology, politics, and society; but it is difficult to make any discrimination between his opinions and his antipathies, or to discover any law of change which regulated the passage of his antipathies into his loves. His taste was capricious in the extreme. His opinion of any person, or any institution, or any aspiration, varied with the physical variations of his body, and was often very different after a debauch from what it was after a ride. No one could infer his judgment of to-morrow from his judgment of to-day. The friend that appeared in the eulogy of one week was likely to point the squib of the next. His consistency in criticism was according to his constancy in hatred. Wordsworth and Southey he always disliked and always abused. As a critic, he has propounded some of the most untenable opinions ever uttered by a man of genius. He often mistook his whims and antipathies for laws of taste.

When Keats's poems appeared, he entreats Murray to get some one to crush the litile mannikin to pieces. After the article in the Quarterly was published, and the death of Keats was supposed to have been accelerated by its brutality, he abuses Murray for killing him, and discovers that there was much merit in the “mannikin’s” poetry. It would be easy to multiply examples of this instability and levity of character; but for any reader of his letters and journals, such instances would be needless.

The personal and poetical popularity of Byron is still great. The circulation of his works, even at the present time, exceeds that of Wordsworth, Shelley, Southey, and VOL. LX. - NO. 126.


Coleridge united. Scott is the only poet, among his contemporaries, who at all rivals him in the number of readers. Many of his gloomy creations will long frown defiance upon time. It is certainly a calamity to the world, that a poet possessing such wide influence over the heart should too often have exercised it in cultivating and honoring its base and moody passions ; should have robed sin in beauty, and conferred dignity on vice ; should have given new allurements to that Dead-sea fruit,

“ Which tempts the eye,

But turns to ashes on the lip"; should have shown such brilliant audacity in assaults on the dearest interests of society ; and, by the force of his example and the splendor of his mind, should be able to perpetuate his errors and his vices through many generations to come. It is of importance, not only to morals, but to taste, that there should be no delusion as to the nature of these perversions of his genius ; that his wit should not shield his ribaldry from condemnation, nor his imagination be received in extenuation of his blasphemy. In speaking of Byron, as in speaking of men of meaner minds, things should be called by their right names.

The method too apt to be pursued towards him is to gloss over his faults with some smooth sentimentalities about his temptations ; or to speak of them with a singular relaxation of the rigidity of moral laws. But it seems to us impossible to defend his character, even as we defend the character of many men of genius whose lives labor under some bad imputations. As soon as sophistry has dexterously disposed of one charge, a thousand others crowd up to be answered. He has written his own condemnation. The faults of his life blaze out in his verse, and glitter on almost every page of his correspondence. And the most that charity itself can do is to repeat the mournful regret of the good abbot over the sins of Manfred :

“ This should have been a noble creature : he

Hath all the energy which would have made
A goodly frame of glorious elements,
Had they been wisely mipgled; as it is,
It is an awful chaos - light and darkness - 1
And mind and dust — and passions and pure thoughts,
Mixed, and contending without end or order,
All dormant or destructive."

Art. IV. - Proclamations of His Excellency Sir Charles

Theophilus Metcalfe, Baronet, K. C. B., for dissolving the Provincial Parliament of Canada, and for the Election of a House of Assembly for that Colony. Canada Gazette Extraordinary, Sept. 23, 1844.

Although we seldom turn our attention to the affairs of our Colonial neighbours, we still regard an occasional allusion to them as within the line of our duty. The United States, being the ruling power in this hemisphere, cannot but feel a deep interest in the political condition of all who inhabit the same continent, especially of those who are still in allegiance to the crown to which we once acknowledged fealty. Beside the tie of common British origin, there exists between many of the people of the Colonies north and east of us, and many of our own citizens, the bond of kindred blood. The causes of this affinity were briefly noticed at the close of an article on the Loyalists of our Revolution, in our last number. In considering now the political discontents of the inhabitants of British America, we shall have some occasion to refer to this class of our countrymen again ; since they and their descendants are intimately concerned in these discontents, and in the public affairs of the British possessions in America, generally. Leaving them, however, and the French and English races who people these possessions, for the present, we propose first to consider somewhat in detail the disputes to which they and their rulers in the Old World are parties, and which have long disturbed the relations between England and her Colonies. Our remarks will be confined to Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick; and as these disputes commenced in the Colony first named, and still are far the most serious there in character, they claim our first notice.

It may be said at the outset, that Great Britain has hardly had a moment's quiet with this possession since the day when Wolfe rose from a sick-bed to “ die happy” in planting her flag on the walls of Quebec. To ascertain the reasons for the existing state of things, therefore, it may be necessary to trace the course of events ever since the treaty of Paris, in 1763, by which England annexed this province to her American dominions. After the conquest, and before the

« AnteriorContinuar »