Imagens das páginas
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fit our ages

illustrate this subject from a passage in Shakespear.

Politenes.-Shepherdess, (A fair one are you) well

you
With flow'rs of winter.

Perdita.—Sir, the year growing ancient,
Not yet on summer's death, nor on the birth
Of trembling winter, the fairest flowers o'th' season
Are our carnations and streak'd gilliflowers,
Which some call nature's bastards; of that kind
Our rustic garden's barren, and I care not
To get slips of them.

Polix.—Wherefore, gentle maiden,
Do you neglect them?

Perdita. For I have heard it said,
There is an art which in their piedness shares
With great creating nature.

Polix.-Say, there be,
Yet nature is made better by no mean,
But nature makes that mean ;, so o'er that art,
Which you say adds to nature, is an art,
That nature makes ; you see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentle scyon to the wildest stock,
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art,
Which does mend nature, change it rather ; but
The art itself is nature.

Perdita.--So it is.

Polix.—Then make your garden rich in gilliflowers,
And do not call them bastards.

Perdita.—I'll not put
A dibble in earth, to set one slip of them;
No more than, were I painted, I should wish
This youth to say, 'twere well ; and only therefore
Desire to breed by me."--Winter's Tale, Act IV.

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Madame Pasta appears to be of Perdita's mind in respect to her acting, and I applaud her resolution heartily. We English are charged unjustly with wishing to disparage the French : we cannot help it; there is a natural antipathy between the two nations. Thus unable to deny their theatrical merit, we are said insidiously to have invented the appellation, French nature, to explain away or throw a stigma on their most successful exertions :

“ Though that their art be nature, We throw such changes of vexation on it,

As it may lose some colour.", The English are a heavy people, and the most like a stone of all others. The French are a lively people, and more like a feather. They are easily moved and by slight causes, and each part of the impression has its separate effect : the English, if they are moved at all (which is a work of time and difficulty), are moved altogether, or in mass, and the impression, if it takes root, strikes deep and spreads wide, involving a number of other impressions in it. If a fragment of a rock wrenched from its place rolls slowly at first, gathers strength and fury as it proceeds, tears up every thing in its thunders to the plain below, there is something noble and imposing in the sight, for it is an image

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way, and

of our own headlong passions and the increasing vehemence of our desires. But we hate to see a feather launched into the air and driven back on the hand that throws it, shifting its course with every puff of wind, and carried no farther by the strongest than by the slightest impulse. It is provoking (is it not ?) to see the strength of the blow always defeated by the very insignificance and want of resistance in the object, and the impulse received never answering to the impulse given. It is the very same fluttering, fidgetting, tantalizing, inconsequential, ridiculous process

annoys us in the French character. There seems no natural correspondence between objects and feelings, between things and words. By yielding to every impulse at once, nothing produces a powerful or permanent impression; nothing produces an aggregate impression, for every part tells separately. Every idea turns off to something else, or back upon itself; there is no progress made, no blind impulse, no accumulation of imagination with circumstances, no absorption of all other feelings in one overwhelming one, that is, no keeping, no momentum, no integrity, no totality, no inflexible sincerity of purpose, and it is this resolution of the sentiments into their detached points and first impressions, so that they do not take an entire and involuntary hold of them, but either they can throw them off from their lightness, or escape from them by reason of their minuteness, that we English complain of as French nature or a want of nature, for by nature is only meant that the mind identifies itself with something so as to be no longer master of itself, and the French mind never identifies itself with any thing, but always has its own consciousness, its own affectation, its own gratification, its own slippery, inconstancy or impertinent prolixity interposed between the object and the impression. It is this theatrical or artificial nature with which we cannot and will not sympathise, because it circumscribes the truth of things and the capacities of the human mind within the petty round of vanity, indifference, and physical sensations, stunts the growth of imagination, effaces the broad light of nature, and requires us to look at all things through the prism of their petulance and self-conceit. The French in a word leave sincerity out of their nature (not moral but imaginative sincerity) cut down the varieties of feeling to their own narrow and superficial standard, and having clipped and adulterated the current coin of expression, would pass it off as sterling gold. We cannot make an exchange with them. They are affected by things in a different manner from us, not

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in a different degree; and a mutual understanding is hopeless. We have no dislike to foreigners as such : on the contrary, a rage for foreign artists and works of art is one of our foibles. But if we give up our national pride, it must be to our taste and understandings. Nay, we adopt the manners and the fashions of the French, their dancing and their cooking,—not their music, not their painting, not their poetry, not their metaphysics, not their style of acting. If we are sensible of our own stupidity, we cannot admire their vivacity; if we are sick of our own awkwardness, we like it better than their grace; we cannot part with our grossness for their refinement; if we would be glad to have our lumpish clay animated, it must be with true Promethean heat, not with painted phosphorus: they are not the Frankensteins that must per: form this feat. Who among us in reading Schil. ler's Robbers for the first time ever asked if it was German or not? Who in reading Klopstock's Messiah did not object that it was German, not because it was German, but because it was heavy; that is, because the imagination and the heart do not act like a machine, so as to be wound up or let down by the pulleys of the will? Do not the French complain (and complain justly), that a picture is English, when it is

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