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remarked the same effect produced by the action of Mrs. Siddons, when, to give emphasis to some passage of overwhelming passion, she has seemed wilfully to assume a position constrained, stiffened, violent, diametrically contrary to the rules of grace, in order, as it were, to concentrate herself for the utterance of grief, or passion which disdained embellishment. In the same manner, versification, in the hands of a master-bard, is as frequently correspondent to the thoughts it expresses as to the action it describes, and the line labours and the words move slow' under the heavy and painful thought; wrung, as it were, from the bosom, as when Ajax is heaving his massy rock. It is proper, however, to give some account of the plan of the poem before we pursue these observations.
The subject is the same as in the preceding Cantos of the Pilgrimage.' Harold wanders over other fields and amid other scenery, and gives vent to the various thoughts and meditations which they excite in his breast. The poem opens with a beautiful and pathetic, though abrupt, invocation to the infant daughter of the author, and bespeaks at once our interest and our sympathy for the self-exiled Pilgrim.
Awaking with a start,
Whither I know not; but the hour's gone by,
Flung from the rock, on Ocean's foam, to sail
Canto III. pp. 3, 4. The theme of Childe Harold is then resumed, and the stanzas follow which we have already quoted, and which, it must be allowed, identify the noble author with the creature of his imagination more intimately than in the former Cantos. We do not mean to say that all Childe Harold's feelings and adventures must be considered
as those of Lord Byron, but merely that there is much of Lord Byron in the supposed Pilgrim.
On the plan itself we may briefly remark, that the localities of which it necessarily treats connect it with the real as well as the beautiful. An ingenious friend has well observed, that the plain, the rock, the hillock, which marks the scene of some distinguished event, has frequently an effect more powerful upon the mind than even the monuments of art designed expressly to preserve its memory. These localities have also the merit of imperishability, and carry back their associations to periods far more remote than art can refer to. Pictures fade and statues moulder and temples decay, and cities perish : but the sod of Marathon is immortal—and he who has trode it has identified himself with Athenian story in a manner which neither painter, nor poet, nor sculptor could have accomplished for him. Shakspeare, whom nothing escaped, hints, in the celebrated passage already quoted, that it is one of the highest offices of poetry to connect our ideas with some local babitation. In this respect, poetry has been falsely characterized as dealing in fiction. History may do so perhaps too often; but poetry, at least good poetry, is connected only with the realities either of visible or of moral nature. It is therefore with no ordinary pleasure that we follow the Pilgrim through scenes to which his poetry gives new interest, while it recals that attached to them by historical or moral associations.
He arrives on Waterloo,-a scene where all men, where a poet especially, and a poet such as Lord Byron, must needs pause, and amid the quiet simplicity of whose scenery is excited a moral interest, deeper and more potent even than that which is produced by gazing upon the sublimest efforts of Nature in her most romantic recesses.
That Lord Byron's sentiments do not correspond with ours is obvious, and we are sorry for both our sakes. For our own,-because we have lost that note of triumph with which his harp would otherwise have rung over a field of glory such as Britain never reaped before; and on Lord Byron's account --because it is melancholy to see a man of genius duped by the mere cant of words and phrases, even when facts are most broadly confronted with them. If the poet has mixed with original, wild, and magnificent creations of his imagination, prejudices which he could only have caught by the contagion which he most professes to despise, it is he himself must be the loser. If his lofty muse has soared in all her brilliancy over the field of Waterloo without dropping even one leaf of laurel on the head of Wellington, his merit can dispense even with the praise of Lord Byron. And as, when the images of Brutus were excluded from the triumphal procession, his memory became only
the more powerfully imprinted on the souls of the Romans,—the name of the British hero will be but more eagerly recalled to remembrance by the very lines in which his praise is forgotten.
We would willingly avoid mention of the political opinions hinted at by Childe Harold, and more distinctly expressed in other poems of Lord Byron ;—the more willingly, as we strongly suspect that these effusions are rather the sport of whim and singularity, or at best the suggestion of sudden starts of feeling and passion, than the expressions of any serious or fixed opinion. A French author, (Le Censeur du Dictionnaire des Girouettes,) who has undertaken the hardy task of vindicating the consistency of the actors in the late revolutions and counter-revolutions of his country, gives it as his decided opinion, that poets in particular are not amenable to censure whatever political opinions they may express, or however trequently these opinions may exhibit marks of inconsistency.· Le cerveau d'un poète est une cire molle et flexible où s'imprime naturellement tout ce qui le flatte, le séduit et l'alimente. La Muse du chant n'a pas de parti : c'est une étourdie sans conséquence, qui folâtre également et sur de riches gazons et sur d'arides bruyères. Un poète en délire chante indifféremment Titus et Thamasp, Louis XII. et Cromwell, Christine de Suède et Fanchon la Vielleuse.'
We suspect that Lord Byron will not feel much flattered by the. opportunity we have given him of sheltering himself under the insignificance which this Frenchman attaches to the political opinions of poets. But if he renounces the defence arising from the difficulty of resisting a tempting subject, and the pleasure of maintaining a paradox, it will be difficult for him to escape from the charge of inconsistency. For to compare Waterloo to the battle of Cannæ, and speak of the blood wbich flowed on the side of the vanquished as lost in the cause of freedom, is contrary not only to plain sense and general opinion, but to Lord Byron's own experience, and to the testimony of that experience which he has laid before the public. Childe Harold, in his former Pilgrimage, beheld in Spain the course of the 'tyrant and of the tyrant's slaves.' He saw.Gaul's vulture with her wings unfurled,' and indignantly expostulated with Fate on the impending destruction of the patriotic Spaniards.
• And must they fall,—the young, the proud, the brave,
To swell one bloated Chief's unwholesome reign,
The rise of rapine, and the fall of Spain! Childe Harold saw the scenes which he celebrates, and does he now compare to the field of Cannæ the plain of Waterloo, and mourn over the fall of the tyrant and the military satraps and slaves whose arms built his power, as over the fall of the cause of
liberty? We know the ready answer which will be offered by the few who soothe their own prejudices, or seek to carry their own purposes by maintaining this extravagant proposition. They take a distinction: Buonaparte, according to their creed, fell a tyrant in 1814, and revived a deliverer in 1815. A few months' residence in the Isle of Elba bad given him time for better thoughts, and had mortified withiu his mind that gorging ambition for which, Russia was not too great, nor Hamburgh too small a morsel; which neither evaporated under the burning sun of Egypt nor was chilled by the polar snows; which survived the loss of millions of soldiers and an incalculable tract of territory, and burned as fiercely during the conferences of Chatillon, when the despot's fate was trembling in the scales, as at those of Tilsit, when that of his adversary had kicked the beam. All the experience which Europe had bought by oceans of blood and years of degradation ought, according to these gentlemen, to have been forgotten upon the empty professions of one whose word, whensoever or wheresoever pledged, never bound him an instant when interest or ambition required a breach of it. Buonaparte assured the world he was changed in temper, mind and disposition; and his old agent and minister (Fouché of Nantes) was as ready to give his security as Bardolph was to engage for Falstaff. When Gil Blas found his old comrades in knavery, Don Raphael and Ambrose de Lamela, administrating the revenues of a Carthusian convent, he shrewdly conjectured that the treasure of the holy fathers was in no small danger, and grounded bis suspicion on the old adage · Il ne faut pas mettre à la cave un ivrogne qui a renoncé au vin.' But Europe-when France had given the strongest proof of her desire to recover what she termed her glory, by expelling a king whose reign was incompatible with foreign wars, and recalling Napoleon to whom conquest was as the very breath of bis nostrils-Europe, most deserving, had she yielded to such arguments, to have been crowned with the diadem, hight foolscap,' is censured for having exerted her strength to fix her security, and confuting with her own warlike weapons those whose only law was arms, and only argument battle. We do not believe there lives any one who can seriously doubt the truth of what we have said. If, however, there were any simple enough to expect to hail Freedom restored by the victorious arms of Buonaparte, their mistake (had Lord Wellington not saved them from its consequences) would have resembled that of poor Slender, who, rushing to the embraces of Anne Page, found himself unexpectedly in the gripe of a lubberly post-master's boy. But probably no one was foolish enough to nourish such hopes, though there are some-their number is few—whose general opinions concerning the policy of Europe are so closely and habitually linked with their party prejuVOL. XVI. NO. XXXI.
dices at home, that they see in the victory of Waterloo only the triumph of Lord Castlereagh ; and could the event have been reversed, would have thought rather of the possible change of seats in St. Stephen's, than of the probable subjugation of Europe. Such were those who, hiding perhaps secret hopes with affected despondence, lamented the madness which endeavoured to make a stand against the Irresistible whose military calculations were formed on plans far beyond the comprehension of all other minds ; and such are they who, confuted by stubborn facts, now affect to mourn over the consequences of a victory which they had pronounced impossible. But, as we have already binted, we cannot trace in Lord Byron's writings any systematic attachment to a particular creed of politics, and he appears to us to seize the subjects of public interest upon the side in which they happen to present themselves for the moment, with this qualification, that he usually paints them ou the shaded aspect, perhaps that their tints may harmonize with the sombre colours of his landscape. Dangerous as prophecies are, we could almost hazard a prediction that, if Lord Byron enjoys that length of life which we desire for his sake and our own, his future writings may probably shew that he thinks better of the morals, religion, and constitution of his country, than his poems have hitherto indicated. Should we fail in a hope which we cherish fondly, the disgrace of false prophecy must rest with us, but the loss will be with Lord Byron himself.
Childe Harold, though he shuns to celebrate the victory of Waterloo, gives us a most beautiful description of the evening which preceded the battle of Quatre Bras, the alarm which called out the troops, and the hurry and confusion which preceded their march. We are not sure that any verses in our language surpass the following in vigour and in feeling. The quotation is again a long one, but we must not and dare not curtail it.
And all went merry as a marriage-bell;