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very alarming shade upon the feelings or temper of the ancient sceptic. We should think a very great deal of this was owing to the brilliancy and activity of his southern fancy. The lighter spirits of antiquity, like the more mercurial of our moderns, sought refuge in mere gaïeté du coeur and derision. The graver poets and philosophers—and poetry and philosophy were in those days seldom disunited-built up some airy and beautiful system of mysticism, each following his own devices, and suiting the erection to his own peculiarities of hope and inclination; and this being once accomplished, the mind appears to have felt quite satisfied with what it had done, and to have reposed amidst the splendours of its sand-built fantastic edifice, with as much security as if it had been grooved and rivetted into the rock of ages. The mere exercise of ingenuity in devising a system, furnished consolation to its creators or improvers. Lucretius is a striking example of all this; and it may be averred that, down to the time of Claudian, who lived in the 4th century of our era, in no classical writer of antiquity do there occur any traces of what moderns understand by the restlessness and discomfort of uncertainty as to the government of the world, and the future destinies of Man.
There are three only even among the great poets of modern times, who have chosen to depict, in their
full shape and vigour, those agonies to which great and meditative intellects are, in the present progress of human history, exposed by the eternal recurrence of a deep and discontented scepticism. But there is only one who has dared to represent himself as the victim of these nameless and undefinable sufferings. Goëthe chose for his doubts and his darkness the terrible disguise of the mysterious Faustus. Schiller, with still greater boldness, planted the same anguish in the restless, haughty and heroic bosom of Wallenstein. But Byron has sought no external symbol in which to embody the inquietudes of his soul. He takes the world and all that it inherit for his arena and his spectators; and he displays himself before their gaze, wrestling unceasingly and ineffectually with the demon that torments him. At times there is something mournful and depressing in his scepticism; . ut oftener, it is of a high and solemn character, approaching to the very verge of a confiding faith. Whatever the poet may believe, we his readers always feel ourselves too much ennobled and elevated even by his melancholy, not to be confirmed in our own belief by the very doubts so majestically conceived and uttered. His scepticism, if it ever approaches to a creed, carries with it its refutation in its grandeur. Their is neither philosoVOL. XXX. NO. 59.
phy nor religion in those bitter and savage taunts which have been cruelly thrown out, from many quarters, against those moods of mind which are involuntary, and will not pass away ;the shadows and spectres which still haunt his imagination, may once have disturbed our own ;-through his gloom there are frequent flashes of illumination ;-and the sublime sadness which, to him, is breathed from the mysteries of mortal existence, is always joined with a longing after immortality, and expressed in language that is itself divine.
But it is our duty now to give our readers an analysis of the concluding Canto of Childe Harold; and as it is, in our opinion, the finest of them all, our extracts shall be abundant. The poem which it brings to an end is perhaps the most original in the language, both in conception and execution. It is no more like Beattie's Minstrel than Paradise Lost—though the former production was in the Noble author's mind when first thinking of Childe Harold. A great poet, who gives himself up, free and unconfined, to the impulses of his genius, as Byron has done in the better part of this singular creation, shows to us a spirit as it is sent out from the hands of Nature, to range over the earth and the societies of men. Even Shakspeare himself submits to the shackles of history and society. But here Byron traverses the whole earth, borne along by the whirlwind of his own spirit. Wherever a forest frowns, or a temple glitters--there he is privileged to bend his flight. He may suddenly start up from his solitary dream by the secret fountain of the desert, and descend at once into the tumult of peopled, or the silence of desolated cities. Whatever lives now-has perished heretofore-or may exist hereafter-and that has within it a pover to kindle passion, may become the material of his all-embracing song. There are no unities of time or place to fetter him, and we fly with him from hilltop to hilltop, and from tower to tower, over all the solitude of nature, and all the magnificence of art. When the past pageants of history seem too dim and fuled, he can turn to the splendid spectacles that have dignified our own days; and the images of kings and conquerors of old may give place to those yet living in sovereignty or exile. Indeed, much of the power which Harold holds over us is derived from this source. He lives in a sort of sympathy with the public mind-sometimes wholly distinct from it-sometimes acting in opposition to it--sometimes blending with it,- but, at all times, --in all his thoughts and actions having a reference to the publie mind. His spirit need not go dack into the past,--though it often does so,—to bring the objects of its love back to carth in more beautiful life. The existence he paints is-now. The objects he presents are marked out to him by men's present regards. It is his to speak of all those great political events which have been objects of such passionate sympathy to the nation. And when he does speak of them, he either gives us back our own feelings, raised into powerful poetry, or he endeavours to displace them from our breasts, and to substitute others of his own. In either case, it is a living speaker standing up before us, and ruling our minds. But chiefly he speaks our own feelings, exalted in thought, language, and passion. The whole substance and basis of his poem is, therefore, popular. All the scenes through which he has travelled, were, at the very moment, of strong interest to the public mind, and that interest still hangs over them. His travels were not, at first, the self-impelled act of a mind severing itself in lonely roaming from all participation with the society to which it belonged, but rather obeying the general motion of the mind of that society. The southern regions of Europe have been like a world opening upon us with fresh and novel beauty, and our souls have enjoyed themselves there, of late years, with a sort of romantic pleasure. This fanciful and romantic feeling was common to those who went to see those countries, and to those who remained at home to hear the nar-rations of the adventurers,—so that all the Italian, Grecian, Peninsular, Ionian and Ottoman feeling which pervades Childe Harold, singularly suited as it is to the genius of Byron, was not first brought upon the English mind by the power of that genius, but was there already in great force and activity.
There can be no limits set to the interest that attaches to a great poet thus going forth, like a spirit, from the heart of a powerful and impassioned people, to range among the objects and events to them most pregnant with passion,—who is, as it were, the representative of our most exalted intellect, and who often seems to disclose within ourselves that splendour with which he invests our own ordinary conceptions. The consciousness that he is so considered by a great people, must give a kingly power and confidence to a poet. He feels himself entitled, and, as it were, elected to survey the phenomena of the times, and to report upon them in poetry. He is the speculator of the passing inight and greatness of his own generation. But though he speaks to the public, at all times, he does not consider them as his judges. He looks upon them as sentient existences that are important to his poetical existence,—but, so that he command their feelings and passions, he cares not for their censure or their praise,for his fame is more than merc literary fame; and he aims in poctry, like the fallen chief whose image is so often be
fore him, at universal dominion, we had almost said, universal tyranny, over the minds of men.
Childe Harold is now in Italy; and his first strain rises from Venice,' the City of the Sea.' There is, unquestionably, much vigour in his lament over her fallen greatness,-yet we confess, that, during the first thirty stanzas of this Canto, the poet's mind seems scarcely to have kindled into its perfect power; and that there is not much in them beyond the reach of a far inferior intellect. It seems to us, also, the only part of the poem in which he forces his own individual feelings into reluctant words, instead of giving vent to them, as is usual with him, in impassioned music. The following stanzas are fine.
Statues of glass—all shiver'd—the long file
Too oft remind her who and what enthrals,
When Athens' armies fell at Syracuse,
Starts from its belt-he rends his captive's chains,
Thus, Venice, if no stronger claim were thine,
Abandon Ocean's children ; in the fall
I lov'd her from my boyhood-she to me
Perchance even dearer in her day of woe, Than when she was a boast, a marvel, and a show. p. 10–12. Escaping from Venice, he presents us with an exquisite moonlight landscape on the banks of the Brenta. Indeed, the whole of this Canto is rich in description of Nature. The love of Nature now appears as a distinct passion in his mind. It is a love that does not rest in beholding, nor is satisfied with describing what is before him. It has a power and being, blending itself with the poet's very life. Etherially and ideally beautiful and perfect, and therefore satisfying the longings of a poet's soul, Nature yet seems to woo with delight his very senses—to love him, frail, weak and lowly as he is, and to breathe upon him the blessedness and glory of her own deep, calm, and mighty existence. Though Byron had, with his real eyes, perhaps seen more of Nature than ever was before permitted to any great poet, yet he never before seemed to open his whole heart to her genial impulses. But in this he is changed; and, in the third and fourth Cantos of Harold, he will stand a comparison with the best descriptive poets, in this age of descriptive poetry.
The Moon is up, and yet it is not night-
While, on the other hand, meek Dian's crest
A single star is at her side, and reigns
Fill'd with the face of heaven, which, from afar,
With a new colour as it gasps away,