Imágenes de páginas

Deserted his poor Bride, and Ruth

Thy corpse shall buried be; Could never find him more.

For thee a funeral bell shall ring, " • God help thee, Rutủ!”_Such pains And all the congregation sing she had

A Christian psalm for thee.'
That she in half a year was mad

In some respects Mr Wordsworth
And in a prison housed ;
And there, exulting in her wrongs,

may be considered as the Rousseau of Among the music of her songs

the present times. Both of them were She fearfully caroused.

educated among the mountains, at a

distance from the fermentations of so* Yet sometimes milder hours she knew, Nor wanted sun, nor rain, nor dew,

cial life, and acquired, from their way Nor pastimes of the May,

of existence, certain peculiar senti-They all were with her in her cell; mental habits of meditation, which And a wild brook with cheerful knell were pitched in a different key from Did o'er the pebbles play.

the callous, sarcastic, and practical 4 When Ruth three seasons thus had lain

way , of thinking, prevalent among There came a respite to her pain,

their contemporaries of the cities. She from her prison fled ;

Rousseau mingled in the throng ; but But of the Vagrant none took thought; found himself there like a man dropAnd where it liked her best she sought ped out of the clouds. The peculiaHer shelter and her bread.

rity of his habits made him wretched ; “ Among the fields she breathed again ; and his irritation perverted the emThe master-current of her brain

ployment of his genius. Mr WordsRan permanent and free;

worth has acted more wisely in keepAnd, coming to the banks of Tone,

ing aloof, and continuing to cultivate There did she rest ; and dwel alone Under the greenwood tree.

his mind according to its pristine bias,

and forbearing to grapple too closely * The engines of her pain, the tools That shaped her sorrow, rocks and pools,

with the differently educated men of

cities. Rousseau makes a fine encoAnd airs that gently stir The vernal leaves, she loved them still.

mium upon the mountains, which, as Nor ever taxed them with the ill

it is connected with the present subWhich had been done to her.

ject, we shall quote :-"A general “ A Barn her winter bed supplies ;

impression (which every body expeBut till the warmth of summer skies

riences, though all do not observe it) And summer days is gone,

is, that, on high mountains where the (And all do in this tale agree)

air is pure and subtle, we feel greater She sleeps beneath the greenwood tree, lightness and agility of body, and more And other home hath none.

serenity in the mind. The pleasures “ An innocent life, yet far astray !

are there less violent; the passions are And Ruth will, long before her day, more moderate; meditations receive Be broken down and old.

there a certain great and sublime chaSore aches she needs must have! but less

racter proportioned to the objects that Of mind, than body's wretchedness, strike us; a certain tranquil pleasure From damp, and rain, and cold.

which has nothing sensual. We are “ If she is pressed by want of food, there grave without melancholy ; quiet She from her dwelling in the wood

without indolence; contented with exRepairs to a road-side ; And there she begs at one steep place,

isting and thinking, all too lively Where up and down with easy pace

pleasures are blunted, and lose the The horsemen-travellers ride.

sharp points which render them pain.

ful; they leave in the heart only a p« That oaten Pipe of hers is mute, Or thrown away; but with a flute

slight and agreeable emotion; and thus Her loneliness she cheers :

an happy elimate makes the passions This flute, made of a hemlock stalk,

of mankind subservient to his felicity, At evening in his homeward walk

which elsewhere are his torment. I The Quantock Woodman hears,

question whether any violent agitation “ I, too, have passed her on the hills

or vapourish disorder could hold out Setting her little water-mills

against such an abode if continued for By spouts and fountains wild

some time; and I am surprised that Such small machinery as she turned baths of the salutary and beneficial air Ere she had wept, ere she had mourned, of the mountains are not one of the A young and happy Child !

principal remedies of medicine and “ Farewell ! and when thy days are told, morality." Ipl-fated Ruth! in hallowed mould

24 VOL. IV,

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

consider as of paramount authority in ON THE REVIVAL OF A TASTE FOR literature. OUR ANCIENT LITERATURE. Bụt be this as it may, the great fact

in literary history, with which we have The strong disposition that has of late supposed Mr Hume's remark to be discovered itself in this and other li- connected, will hardly be called in terary countries of Europe, to recover question. The feelings with which the vestiges of earlier times, and espe- our ancient poetry was generally recially to restore its ancient literature, garded at the beginning and at the may have been determined, perhaps, close of the last century, were essenin some degree, by accidental causes, tially different. In our Augustan age, and by such as cannot be traced. Yet we see the mind of the country tendit seems reasonable also to ascribe such ing with determined force from that a remarkable turn in the mind of a ancient literature; and in these later most cultivated age, appearing at the days we have seen it returning upon same time in countries of a very diffe- the treasures of those older times, with rent character, to some more general an almost passionate admiration. and necessary cause. And perhaps, How far this revolution of sentiment without seeming fanciful, something upon this particular point, may be may be shewn to this effect, which connected with that great change may dispose us to regard such an in- which, in nearly corresponding time, clination in the genius of an age like has manifested itself in the poetical our own, as so far from repugnant to temper of the country, would be a its character of extreme civilization, curious and interesting inquiry. It is that it may rather seem to arise ouí not what we have now in view. But of it.

we cannot help observing, in passing, Mr Hume has observed, that in the that the just estimate and passionate great poem of Spenser, the genius of feeling of poetry do really appear to have the author is encumbered and disguise declined and revived amongst us, in ed under the antiquated and fantastic point of time at least, in correspondence cal costume of chivalry, which he has with the temporary negleot and rechosen to assume. We believe there, turning love of our own ancient records, are few readers of poetry of the pre- And if some of our readers should be sent day, to wliom this very circum- scarcely aware what the estimate of stance does not constitute one essen- poetry has been in this country in the tial interest and beauty of the work, former part of the last century, we and few judges of the character of poets must remind them of that curious lito whom the spirit of chivalry does terary passage of Goldsmith, who, in. not appear to have raised, refined, and his Vicar of Wakefield, puts into the purified even the genius of Spenser mouth of a speaker, evidently intendthat genius which could itself raise, ed as a person of authority of judgrefine, and purify whatsoever it ment, high praise of the tragedies of touched.

that era of our stage, for their adher: The opinion of that writer upon ence to nature, contemptuously comliterature in general, and especially paring them with the monstrous and upon such a subject as poetry, may gigantic delineation of our elder drabe considered perhaps as the literary matists, not excepting Shakspeare.-opinion of his own, and still more, of It would be well, if those whose reada preceding age, much rather than ing leads them that way, would put as the offspring of his own mind.- together the evidence they find of the For judgments on such subjects as opinions which one age has entertained these can scarcely be conceived of as of another, to be taken in connexion native to a mind, in all its own habits with its own productions, as grounds of speculation so alien to them. Nor of the estimate of its mind. The is it very probable, that on subjects on two instances we have quoted may not which he could not feel himselt strong, appear, thus solitarily, to have so much he would in a work, not of ingenious weight to our readers as to us; yet and speculative argument, but of grave surely it must be admitted, that so history, have hazarded himself in opi- unpoetical a declaration from the hand nions, in which he did not secretly of a poet is at least a strong probable feel some countenance from those indication of the overpowering opinion judgments that he was accustomed to of his contemporaries, which could

[ocr errors]

far repress the native feeling of poetry degree, carried into accomplishment. in his mind. No man will believe During the period of this progress, an that Goldsmith, now living, would era arrives when so much of refinehave so judged.

ment is attained, and so much of the This return to our Ancient Poetry is pristine barbarism shaken off, that the with us a part of our general return to people of the present age perceives itself the Ancient Literature and the Ancient to be distinct by civilization from its History of the Country: Our press barbarous ancestors : and, it no sooner speaks to the fact of the reviving study discovers the distinction, than its of general ancient literature, better pride steps in to rend wider the sethan any statement. And, of the cha- paration, while a sort of feeling, even racter of our Historical researches, the of hostility, ensues, to that dark and history of England; by Hume, com- inveterate barbarism from which it is pared with the same history at a later accomplishing its deliverance. Against period, by Dr Henry, and with that, at feelings so deeply rooted and powerful, à still later date by Sharon Turner, which are motions indeed of the very may be taken in illustration at least, spirit of the nation, striving with full if not in evidence. Each of these last contention of its powers for hightwo works, as far as it carries down the prized and important purposes, those history, is marked by an encreasing feelings of imagination with which exactness of minute research, and a we look back upon antiquity, cari have fuller and stronger presentation of the no strength to stand. They are swept extant memorials of the times. In down; or, indeed, they scarcely rise reading the volumes of Mr Turner, we into existence;-for intellect and imamay be excused for expressing the re- gination, and all the higher and subgret which every student of our early tler faculties and affections of the mind, history must feel, that a work so are involved in that one great movevaluable by its contents, should have ment of the people's spirit ;--the been rendered less interesting, and whole mind of the nation looks foralmost, we might say, of less authority, ward to futurity. As soon as the pride by the style of the language in which of this deliverance is felt,--as long as the author has thought fit to convey a sense presses of the importance of them.

throwing back to a distance from themIt is to little purpose, however, to selves that antique barbarism; of makcite especial instances ; for, after all, ing wide and impassable the gulph of there is nothing to be done but to re separation ;--and, whenever some unfer the rearler, at last, to his own wonted conflux of events, inflaming knowledge for the faet assumed,--that anew the zeal of amelioration, carries there has been, of late years, and is, the whole passion of men's hearts into at this time, in the mind of the coun: the future ;--so soon, so long, and so try, as shewn in its literature, a strong often, will they look with estrangement determination of inquiry to the monu- and aversion on the mighty past, and ments of its earlier history, and an please and flatter themselves in this earnest desire to recover both for in- conscious exaltation, and in the dawn tellectual speculation, and for some ing illumination of a brighter day. thing perhaps of a moral love; the This self-separation of the

age faithful representation of ages which civilization from the age of darkness, had long been given up without regret may be observed, it is probable, in or regard, to be lost in the darkness of every nation, at different periods, in time. Taking the fact for granted, more or less fulness, according to the we wish to propose some conjectures circumstances of the times ; and the as to the natural causes of such a evidence of such a spirit may be change.

found very variously scattered through A people slowly emerging from a the records of human feeling and opicondition of barbarism into civiliza- nion, as they shew themselves now tion, regards the change it is undergo- in the workings of a solitary specula ing with great admiration and pride, tive mind, and now in the consenting and with a stedfast conviction of the passions of a people ; at one time ini indispensable necessity to its welfare literature, at another in dress, at años that this change should be, without re-ther in revolutions that overturn Ems mission, and to the utmost possible pires, and lay thrones prostrate,


To shew this spirit manifesting it It has been said by a great poet, self in its powerful operations during

“ The present and the past, the modern civilization of Europe, Upon whose wings harınoniously conjoined, will be a work for the historian of the Moves the great spirit of the universe." human mind. We have ventured to And certainly nothing can be imaginspeak thus hastily on so great a sub- ed more deplorable in the feelings of ject, merely to offer grounds of specu a people (except in that progressive lation to those to whom these changes, state which we have alluded to), than in the character of our own literature, the voluntary forgetfulness of the may have an interest. If there be mental achievements of their ancestors. such a spirit as this of which we have The living and creative spirit of literaspoken there will be a time when its ture is its nationality. Whatever is inoperation will cease or be suspended. troduced into it from abroad, or adWhen the security of civilization is ded to it from within, should be, and attained, when that first sense of es- if it is of any value, must be, in harcape and emancipation is past, and no mony with its past greatness. It was ferment of mind sends the thoughts the glory of the Greeks that their liof men with eagerness of desire into terature was native-it was the fatalithe future, then a natural temper of ty of the Romans that theirs was im. judging will take place, and to that ported. But when a nation reaches a natural temper antiquity will appear high point of civilization, and when in its own importance. For it is its literature is highly refined and pernot necessary to account for an opi- fect, it must then either turn itself to nion among men of the interest and the study, and consequently the imvalue of the remains of great ages that itation, of the literature of other naare past; it is the cessation and dis- tions, or it must revert to the ancient appearance of such opinions among spirit of its own. Happily for us, them that needs to be accounted for.

The ancient spirit is not dead, When the causes have ceased to act, Old times, we trust, are living here. by which that natural sense and opi- And while the worst part of our nanion were held oppressed almost to ex tional literature is forgotten,--all that tinction, it may be thought that the

was meagre and bloodless, or rotten simple feeling of long injustice com and impure, on the other hand, we mitted, as well as of great loss no doubt have raised up, as it were, from the actually incurred, will impart a tem tomb, a spirit that was only lying asper of eager zeal, and even passion, leep, and that how, from the dust to the returning admiration of a and the darkness, walks abroad among people for the memory of their fore- us, in the renovation of all its strength fathers, and to their renewed occupa- and beauty. tion of their own long neglected inheritance.

It may, perhaps, be said that, using lofty terms like these to speak of the changes that have taken place in a na He whose experienced eye can pierceth' array tion's literature, inspires a suspicion of past events, to whom in vision clear that we may be labouring to dress up Th' aspiring heads of future things appear in seeming greatness, what is of no Like mountain-tops, whence mists have real might in the momentous concerns

WORDSWORTH. of mankind. It may be so. It is One of the most curious treatises possible that the occupations of the of Cicero, is that on “ Divination,” intellect do more and more separate or the knowledge of future events, themselves from the real business of which has preserved for us a complete human life. Yet it would still be account of those state-contrivances difficult to believe that this is a neces- which were practised by the Roman sary condition of civilization, and that government, to instil among the peothe same mind which every one, in ple those hopes and fears by which whom it is cultivated, feels to be by they created public opinion. As our its high cultivation so important to his religious creed has entirely rendered own life, might not, through the the

Pagan obsolete and ridiculous, this same power, exercise an influence as treatise is rarely consulted; it will alhigh and important on the common ways however remain as a chapter in welfare of a nation.

the history of man.


rolled away.


To these two books of Cicero on saw the consequences of the SeparaDivination, perhaps a third might tists and Sectaries in the national be added, and the science of political church about 1530. The very scene and moral Prediction may yet not his imagination raised has been exhiprove to be so vain a thing. Much bited to the letter of his description which overwhelms when it happens two centuries after the prediction. may be foreseen, and often defensive “ Time will soon bring it to pass, if measures may be provided to break the it were not resisted, that God would waters whose stream we cannot always be turned out of churches into barns, direct. It is indeed suspected that and from thence again into the fields there exists a faculty in some men and mountains, and under hedges which excels in anticipations of the Fu- all order of discipline and churchture, or in the words of Bacon, “ ma- government left to newness of opinion king things FUTURE and REMOTE as and men's fancies, and as many kinds

There seems something of religion spring up as there are pain great minds which serves as a kind rish churches within England.” Are of divination'; and it has often hap- we not struck by the profound genius pened, that a tolerable philosopher has of Tacitus who foresaw the calamities not made an indifferent prophet. which have ravaged Europe, on the fall

There may be a kind of Prescience of the Roman empire, in a work written in the vaticinations of a profound po- five hundred years before the event. In litician, and we presume that the facts his sublime view of human affairs, he we shall produce will sufficiently esta observes, “ When the Romans shall blish this principle. No great politi- be hunted out from those countries cal or moral revolution has occurred which they have conquered, what will in civilized society which has taken the then happen? The revolted people, philosopher by surprise, provided that freed from their oppressor, will not be this man, at once intelligent in the able to subsist without destroying their quicquid agunt homines, and still with- neighbours, and the most cruel wars drawn from their conflicting interests will exist among all these nations. in the retirement of his study, be free Leibnitz foresaw the results of those from the delusions of parties and sects. selfish, and at length demoralising Barbarians make sudden irruptions, opinions which began to prevail through and alter the face of things at a blow ; Europe in his day, and predicted that but intellectual nations, like man him- revolution in which they closed, when self, are still advancing circumscribed conducted by a political sect of villainby an eternal circle of similar events ous men who tried “ to be worse than and like passions. Whatever is to fol- they could be," as old Montaigne exlow, like our thoughts, is still linked presses it--a sort of men whom a fato what precedes it; unless the force shionable prologue-writer of our times of some fortuitous event interrupts the had the

audacity to describe as “having accustomed progress of human affairs. a taste for evil.I give the entire pasIn general, every great event has been sage of Leibnitz--' I find that cerusually connected with présage or tain opinions (approaching those of prognostic. Lord Bacon has said, Epicurus and Spinosa), are insinuating & The shepherds of the people should themselves little by little into the understand the prognostics of state- minds of the great rulers of public aftempests, hollow blasts of wind seem- fairs, who serve as the guides of others, ingly at a distance, and secret swell- and on whom all affairs depend; beings of the sea, often precede a storm.” sides, these opinions are also sliding Continental writers formerly employed into fashionable books, and thus they a fortunate expression when they wish ure preparing all things to that general ed to have an Historia Reformationis revolution which menaces Europe; and ante Reformationem; this history of in destroying those generous sentiments the Reformation would have commen of the ancients, Greek and Roman, eed perhaps a century before the Re- which preferred the love of country, formation itself. We have indeed a and public good, and the cares of poletter from Cardinal Julian to Pope sterity, to fortune, and even to life. Eugenius IV. written a century before Our public spirits, as the English call Luther appeared, in which he clearly them, excessively diminish and are predicte the Reformation and its consequences. Sir Walter Raleigh fore * Public spirit, and public spirits were

« AnteriorContinuar »