Page images
PDF
EPUB

by escaping from that of the author himself. The strength of poetical conception, and beauty of diction, bestowed upon such prolusions, is as much thrown away as the colours of a painter, could he take a cloud of mist, or a wreath of smoke for his canvass.

Omitting one or two compositions of less interest we cannot but notice the · Dream,' which, if we do not misconstrue it, has a covert and mysterious relation to the tale of Childe Harold. It is written with the same power of poetry, nor have we here to complain of obscurity in the mode of narrating the vision, though we pretend not to the skill or information necessary to its interpretation. It is difficult, however, to mistake who or what is meant in the conclusion, and more especially as the tone too well agrees with similar passages in the continuation of Childe Harold.

• The Wanderer was alone as heretofore,

The beings which surrounded him were gone,
Or were at war with him; he was a mark
For blight and desolation, compass'd round
With Hatred and Contention.

- he lived
Through that which had been death to many men,
And made him friends of mountains : with the stars
And the quick Spirit of the Universe
He held his dialogues; and they did teach
To him the magic of their mysteries ;
To him the book of Night was opened wide,
And voices from the deep abyss reveald

A marvel and a secret-Be it so.'-pp. 44, 45. The reader is requested to contrast these lines with the stern and solemn passage in which Childe Harold seems to bid a long and lasting farewell to social intercourse, and, with exceptions so cautiously restricted and guarded as to be almost none, brands the mass of humanity whom he leaves behind him as false and. treacherous.

CXIII.
• I have not loved the world, nor the world me;
I have not flattered it's rank breath, nor bow'd
To it's idolatries a patient knee,-
Nor coin'd my cheek to smiles,--nor cried aloud
In worship of an echo; in the crowd
They could not deem me one of such; I stood
Among them, but not of them; in a shroud

Of thoughts which were not their thoughts, and still could
Had I not filed my mind, which thus itself subdued.

CXIV.
I have not loved the world, nor the world me,
But let us part fair foes; I do believe,

Though

Though I have found them not, that there may be
Words which are things,-hopes which will not deceive,
And virtues which are merciful, nor weave
Snares for the failing: I would also deem
O'er others' griefs that some sincerely grieve;

That iwo, or one, are alınost what they seem,That goodness is no name, and happiness no dream.'-pp. 61, 62. Though the last of these stanzas has something in it mystic and enigmatical, yet with the passage already quoted from the * Dream,' and some other poems which are already before the public, they remove the scrupulous delicacy with which otherwise we would have avoided allusion to the mental sufferings of the noble poet. But to uncover a wound is to demand a surgeon's hand to tent it. With kinder feelings to Lord Byron in person and reputation no one could approach him than ourselves: we owe it to the pleasure which he has bestowed upon us, and to the honour he has done to our literature. We have paid our warmest tribute to his talents—it is their due. We will touch on the uses for which he was invested with them—it is our duty; and happy, most happy, should we be, if, in discharging it, we could render this distinguished author a real service. We do not assume the office of harsh censors; we are entitled at no time to do so towards genius, least of all in its hour of adversity; and we are prepared to make full allowance for the natural effect of misfortune upon a bold and haughty spirit.

-- When the splitting wind
Makes flexible the knee of knotted oaks,
And flies fled under shade, the Thing of Courage
As roused with rage, with rage doth sympathise,
And, with an accent tuned in self-same key,

Returns to chiding fortune.'-But this mode of defiance may last too long, and hurry him who indulges it into further evils; and to this point our observations tend. The advice ought not to be contemned on account of the obscurity of those by whom it is given : the roughest fisherman is an useful pilot when a gallant vessel is near the breakers; the meanest shepherd may be a sure guide over a pathless heath, and the admonition which is given in well meant kindness should not be despised, even were it tendered with a frankness which may resemble a want of courtesy.

If the conclusion of Lord Byron's literary career were to be such as these mournful verses have anticipated if this darkness of the spirit, this scepticism concerning the existence of worth, of friendship, of sincerity, were really and permanently to sink like a gulph between this distinguished poet and society, another name will be added to the illustrious list to whom Preston's caution refers.

• Still wouldst thou write ?-to tame thy youthful fire
Recall to life the masters of the lyre ;
Lo every brow the shade of sorrow wears,

And every wreath is stained with dropping tears ! · But this is an unfair picture. It is not the temper and talents of the poet, but the use to which he puts them, on which his happiness or misery is grounded. A powerful and unbridled imagination is, we have already said, the author and architect of its own disappointments. Its fascinations, its exaggerated pictures of good and evil, and the mental distress to which they give rise, are the natural and necessary evils attending on that quick susceptibility of feeling and fancy incident to the poetical temperament. But the Giver of all talents, while he has qualified them each with its separate and peculiar alloy, has endowed the owner with the power of purifying and refining them. But, as if to moderate the arrogance of genius, it is justly and wisely made requisite, that he must regulate and tame the fire of his fancy, and descend from the heights to which she exalts him, in order to obtain ease of mind and tranquillity. The materials of happiness, that is of such degree of happiness as is consistent with our present state, lie around us in profusion. But the man of talents must stoop to gather them, otherwise they would be beyond the reach of the mass of society, for whose benefit, as well as for his, Providence has created them. There is no royal and no poetical path to contentment and heart's-ease: that by which they are attained is open to all classes of mankind, and lies within the most limited range of intellect. To narrow our wishes and desires within the scope of our powers of attainment; to consider our misfortunes, however peculiar in their character, as our inevitable share in the patrimony of Adam; to bridle those irritable feelings, which ungoverned are sure to become governors ; to shun that intensity of galling and self-wounding reflection which our poet has so forcibly described in his own burning language:

- I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy, boiling and o’erwrought,

A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame',—to stoop, in short, to the realities of life; repent if we have offended, and pardon if we have been trespassed against ; to look on the world less as our foe than as a doubtful and capricious friend, whose applause we ought as far as possible to deserve, but neither to court nor contemn—such seem the most obvious and certain means of keeping or regaining mental tranquillity.

- Semita certe Tranquillæ per virtutem patet unica vitæ.' We are compelled to dwell upon this subject: for future ages, while our language is remembered, will demand of this why Lord Byron was unhappy? We retort this query on the noble poet hiniself while it is called to-day. He does injustice to the world, if he imagines he has left it exclusively filled with those who rejoice in his sufferings. If the voice of consolation be in cases like his less loudly heard than that of reproach or upbraiding, it is because those who long to conciliate, to advise, to mediate, to console, are timid in thrusting forward their sentiments, and fear to exasperate where they most seek to soothe ; while the busy and officious intrude, without shame or sympathy, and embitter the privacy of affliction by their rude gaze and importunate clamour, But the pain which such insects can give only lasts while the wound is raw. Let the patient submit to the discipline of the soul enjoined by religion, and recommended by philosophy, and the scar will become speedily insensible to their stings. Lord Byron may not have loved the world, but the world has loved him, not perhaps with a wise or discriminating affection, but as well as it is capable of loving any one. And many who do not belong to the world, as the word is generally understood, have their thoughts fixed on Lord Byron, with the anxious wish and eager hope that he will bring his powerful understanding to combat with his irritated feelings, and that his next efforts will shew that he has acquired the peace of mind necessary for the free and useful exercise of his splendid talents.

I decus, i nostrum, melioribus utere fatis.'

Art. X. Letters written on Board His Majesty's Ship the

Northumberland, and at Saint Helena; in which the Conduct and Conversations of Napoleon Buonaparte, and his Suite, during the Voyage, and the first months of his Residence in that

Island, are faithfully described and related. By Williani Warden, Surgeon on Board the Northumberland. London:

Published for the Author. No date. 8vo. A NECDOTES of the private life of remarkable persons are n one of the most amusing and not least valuable departments of history; they bring the reader more intimately acquainted with the character of the individual than public events can do. The latter are never entirely a man's own; a thousand circumstances generally influence or contribute to them; it is in familiar life alone that a man is himself; there his character exhibits all its various shades, and thence we become best acquainted with the familiar chivalry of Henry the Fourth--the ingenuous and simple magnanimity of

Turenge

Turenne-the flegmatic temper' and fiery courage of William the Third—and the mean and audacious spirit of Buonaparte. But of this species of history, minute truth and accuracy ought to be, more than of any other, the essential characteristics : because the portraits are painted by faint and scattered touches, the falsehood of any one of which tends to destroy the value of the whole; and because the most important anecdote may depend on the single testimony of an individual; and we know, in the most ordinary

occurrence of life, how much men are in the habit of colouring their - report of any particular event.

It has been under these impressions that we have hitherto* traced the course of Buona parte, from the Russian campaign down to his seclusion in St. Helena. While we have admitted all those interesting and authenticated facts, which displayed his real character, we have rejected all that was apocryphal, and have not condescended to repeat even the minutest circumstance, of the : truth of which an accurate inquiry had not previously satisfied us. Of the necessity for this precision, Mr. Warden is so convinced, that of the Letters before us, he says, 'every fact related in them is true; and the purport of every conversation correct. It will not, I trust, be thought necessary for me to say more, and the justice I owe to myself will not allow me to say less.'Int. vii.

Now we are constrained to say, that, notwithstanding this pompous asseveration, we shall be able to prove that this work is founded in falsehood, and that Mr. Warden's profession of scrupulous accuracy is only the first of the inany fictions which he has spread over his pages. It will not, we trust, be thought necessary for us 10 say more, and the justice which we owe to our readers will not allow us to say less.

Our first proof will astound our readers, and, perhaps, decide the affair.

Mr. Warden's first letter is dated at seu ; he has indeed cautiously omitted to prefix to any of his letters the day or the month, the latitude or the longitude; but this prudence will not save bim from detection. In this he announces to his correspondent the surprize he must feel at receiving a letter which, instead of the common topics of a sea voyage, should contain an account of the conduct and information respecting the character of Napoleon Buonaparte, froin the personal opportunities which Mr. Warden's situa-' tion so unexpectedly afforded him.'--(p. 2.) And again he says, * such has been the general curiosity about Buonaparte, that he feels himself more than justified in supposing that particulars relative to him and his suite, will be welcome to the correspondent, and

[ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »