« AnteriorContinuar »
BARTHELEMY in his Anacharsis gave this title to certain elegies which treated of the oppression of the Messenians by the Spartans: Delavigne invests it with a somewhat arbitrary generic acceptation, as descriptive of poems applicable to all analogous circumstances, of whatever nation. He seems to boast of having intro duced into the literature of his country a new species of poem. It is very evident that he would have been glad if events had not supplied him with the occasion. The "redeunt Saturnia regna" is not his motto.
There is accordingly a large portion of readers with whom the warelegies of Delavigne will not be popular. Neither his auspicious pronomen of Casimir, nor the budding promise of his sirname, will stand that poet in stead who profanely mourns over the catastrophe of Waterloo. Robert Southey (I like him best without the esquire the plain Robert reminds me of old times and old principles), Robert Southey once said, "I am one of those who cannot wish success to an unjust cause, because my country supported it; and if there be any one who can, I desire not that man's approbation." We might worthily sympathize with our countrymen's prowess; and in the instance of Waterloo, while the laurels were fresh, this prowess was not disjoined in men's expectations from the hope of rational freedom and the improvement and peace of nations. We had not yet learnt that parchment was only a bit of skin torn from a sheep's back, and that a seal to a public instrument was nothing in the world but a lump of coloured bees'wax mixed up with a little rosin. We were therefore rather surprised at the practical comment on manifestoes concerning the internal rights of nations, furnished by the fact of the desired king being escorted to the door of his senate by British troops with lighted matches. Simple men
are apt to imagine that the battle of Waterloo shows to disadvantage by the side of the old-fashioned battle of the Boyne: the effect of the latter was the putting down "the right divine of kings to govern wrong" at once and for ever: whereas among the results of the former they see a confederacy of kings, not against their own people only, but against the people of every country under heaven; a conspiracy of the few against the many; the press "curbed, and kept curbed;" "learned men not wanted;" the Inquisition re-settled warm in their seats, and the miracles of Prince Saint Hohenlohe in full bloom.
This, however, is a matter of taste. For the sentiment which supplies the inspiration of the French poet, he may defend himself by the plea that it is epidemic. "A lively demoiselle of the second class," relates a sensible writer, who published an inquiry into the duties of Christians with respect to war, "gave her suffrage for war and glory with much animation; and when I represented the attendant miseries, put to flight all scruples with the heroic argument, “Plutôt la guerre, plutôt la guerre, que la France ainsi avilie."
Some good-natured allowance may be made for the declamations of a Frenchman, whose pride has been "hurt past all surgery," and whose heart is in his verses. He has warm feelings and a short memory. Blenheim, and Quebec, and Maida, and Vittoria, are not in his chronological table. The space traversed by his eye is filled only with Waterloo. He thinks we have a single trophy. I think we have more in number and better in quality than this.
He will talk with us on the theme of France "until his eyelids can no longer wag." But he has a word to spare for Greece, and one (wormwood in its moral) for Naples. His elegies come forth "like angel visits,
* Letters descriptive of a tour through France, &c. by John Sheppard.
few and far between." It were to be wished that he had exerted the fire and tenderness of his heart and fancy more frequently and copiously on the theme of Greece. The pathetic and romantic incident which he has versified and adorned from the travels of Pouqueville, is an earnest of what he might effect in this free and fair career of poetic glory. His elegy "on the ruins of pagan Greece," though elegant and brilliant, is too much like the production of an artist. The appeal to Christian Greeks harmonizes ill with the licentious fable of Leda, and the restoration of the idols of heathen Athens. That they are Christians we are reminded by the reply of the old shepherd who, when interrogated about the tomb of Eurydice, answers that what the poet sees is the grave of his daughter; and that the blood, which he mistakes for that
of a sacrifice, is that of her brothers spilt by the hands of mussulmen. After this, we have no inclination for statues and metamorphoses.
Delavigne is the author of two tragedies-the Sicilian Vespers, and Paria; and a comedy-the Comedians: but his fame seems rather to rest on his elegies. He has a free flow and choice of metre and expression, and exhibits warmth and boldness of sentiment, with a power of condensing his thoughts in few. words: and he has added another proof of the facilities of his native tongue in the sweet and lucid diction with which he has clothed the sensible imagery, of nature. But his chief merit is his masculine energy and the fire of national honour which his pieces breathe; and which entitle him to the name of the French Tyrtæus. LACENTO.
BATTLE OF WATERLOO.
They breathe no longer: let their ashes rest;
They stoop'd not to confute; but flung their breast
And thus avenged themselves: for you they die.
Wo to you, wo! if those inhuman eyes
Can spare no drops to mourn your country's weal;
Shrinking before your selfish miseries;
Against the common sorrow hard as steel:
You may be forced yourselves to feel.
But no-what son of France has spared his tears
Though kings return, desired through lengthening years,
What veteran, who their fortune's treason hears,
Feels not the quickening spark of his old youthful flame ?
Great heaven! what lessons mark that one day's page!
Hide from me-hide those soldiers overborne,
Broken with toil; with death-bolts crush'd, and torn ;
And bloody corses upon corses piled:
In struggling rage, that pants for breath:
Spare us the bands thou sparedst-death!
Oh VARUS!-where the warriors thou hast led?
RESTORE OUR LEGIONS!-give us back the dead!
I see the broken squadrons reel;
The steeds plunge wild with spurning heel;
Our eagles trod in miry gore,
The leopard standards swooping o'er ;
The wounded on their slow cars dying,
Sway, shock, and drag their shatter'd mass along ;
Wrecks, corses, blood, the foot-marks of their way.
Sole 'gainst an army, pause-to die!
See then these heroes, long invincible,
Whose threatening features still their conquerors brave; Frozen in death those eyes are terrible;
Feats of the past their deep-scarr'd brows engrave;
For these are they, who bore Italia's sun,
Who o'er Castilia's mountain barrier pass'd; The north beheld them o'er the rampart run, Which frosts of ages round her Russia cast: All sank subdued before them, and the date
Of combats owed this guerdon to their glory,
On some proud day, that should survive in story.
O curst delirium! jars deplored
That yield our home-hearths to the stranger's sword!
The strangers raze our fenced walls;
Drain'd provinces their greedy prefects rue,
And Franks disputing for the choice of power
Haste-quench the torches of intestine war;
May bathe the thrice-dyed flag which Austerlitz endears.
And thou! oh people, flush'd with our defeat,
Those eagles wrested from our Varus' hand.
Messene's daughter, weeping o'er her hearse,
And ev❜n the names on which entranced we hung.
The flag profane that chased the blessed cross away?
Its watch-cry on the hollow-dashing strand?
The arquebuss is gleaming in his hand.
The sun hangs hovering o'er the ocean's bound,
One in a skiff is skimming the salt tide:
A servant of the temple, 'tis his care
He drops the oars; a lute his grasp supplies;
The hymn of David seems to breathe again :
"Haunts! where my foot-sole dares not rest,
That arch'd the streams of Babylon.
But they could still adore the Lord! though slaves
Thy ministers of wrath, they wrest
The wheat-ear glean'd upon our field ;
Gold! they have ravish'd it; the treasures fell
The aged man resigns the meal,
His children's board, the robber's booty; The mother hears their trampling heel With curses on her daughter's beauty.
The youthful Levite is their fury's prey:
In loathsome bonds they work his bloom's decay;
Kings, when our Greece their help demands,
Share and allot the tribes of men.
Speaks of our woes to hearts that cannot feel;
The bird that wings the fields has rest