Page images
PDF
EPUB

in composition, but a still greater perversion of principle, in that hideous morality of revolutionary madness, which, priding itself in an emancipation from moral obligation, levelled the boundaries of virtue and vice, while it contemptuously derided the most amiable and sacred feelings of our nature.

Disgusted with the cruelties exhibited by the French revolution, at a very early stage of its progress, and -viewing it as a consuming fire, which, in the course of its conflagration,threatened to destroy whatever was most valuable in society, the authors wished to contribute their efforts in stemming the torrent of jacobinism in America, and resolved to render THE ECHO subservient to that purpose. They, therefore, proceeded to attack, as proper objects of satire, those tenets, as absurd in politics as pernicious in morals, the visionary scheme of equality, and the baleful doctrine that sanctions the pursuit of a good end by the most flagitious means.

Whatever may be the merit of this work, the plan is presumed to be novel. The poetry of the AntiJacobin forms a species of the burlesque which, perhaps, the most resembles THE ECHO; but that resemblance is remote, and to be found in its general scope and character alone, not in the management of the subjects, in its great outline, not in the minute discriminations of form and feature. In those brilliant effusions of wit and genius, the satire is exhibited in a happy burlesque imitation of the peculiar style and sentiments of the writers intended to be ridiculed: in

[merged small][ocr errors]

The echo it consists in occasionally elevating the low style of the original to the solemn dignity of the mock-heroic, in introducing ludicrous images, or quaint and common sayings, and in'exhibiting the folly, or pernicious tendency of the opinions advanced, by pursuing them in a train of burlesque reasoning, or by giving a turn to the sentiments and expressions, which may serve to hold them up to ridicule or detestation.

If, like the Epopea or the Drama, satire was restricted by arbitrary rules, sanctioned by long established authority, TIE ECHO, as corresponding with no existing model of this species of writing, would, no doubt, be considered as an inexcusable innovation. But Satire, in its plan and conduct, appears to be unshackled by the forms of critical regulation; and is as various in its manner as the various objects which present themselves to the imagination, or the capricious and fanciful combinations suggested by its

In scourging the vices of the age or country, or the crimes of inclividuals, in ridiculing folly, or in delineating the odious or ludicrous traits of the villain or the coxcomb, satire is confined to no prescribed path or beaten road; but employs, at pleasure, the solemn severity of Juvenal, the sportive ease and sprightly wit of Horace, the mock gravity of Tassoni, or the sententious burlesque of Butler.

As a satirical poem, THE ECHO possessed some superior and appropriate advantages. From its free and unconfined nature, it readily admitted the intro

muse.

duction of any circumstance or character, however apparently remote or unconnected with its subject. It is distinguished also by its sudden transitions from the gay to the grave, from the burlesque to the se . rious ; this, and the frequent use of proverbs and vulgar phrases, form its peculiar characteristics. Should it be objected, that many of the lines are flat and prosaic, and the style, sometimes, too low for poetry, the authors would observe, that these circumstances are not only in general conformity with their plan, but in many cases necessarily arise from the nature of the subject. Uniformly to have clothed the ridiculous effusions which formed the subject of their satire in pompous verse, would, in their opinion, not only have rendered the versification more dull and monotonous, but have prevented the ludicrous effect intended to be produced by the striking contrast which it occasionally exhibits.

Though many of the subjects may be considered as localand transitory, and some of them merely sportive, it has been thought properto retain parts of the whole, excepting the second and third Echoes; from the others many passages have been expunged, but without essentially injuring the connection of their constituent parts. Whether the plan adopted by the authors was judicious, or otherwise, it is for the public to determine; they had reason to be pleased with the reception which these verses met with at their first appearance'; and they cannot but feel some degree of self-complacency from having, thus garly, evinced a

decided disapprobation of those pernicious principles which have since produced so much distress and misery to mankind. However unavailing their eforts may have been to check the progress of this alarming evil, they have the satisfaction to reflect, that they have endeavoured to oppose the destructive torrent which threatened to overwhelm every thing good and estimable in private life, every thing venerable and excellent in political society.

« PreviousContinue »