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(no doubt, supplied from the reminiscences of Mr. West) of . the then existing society of Roine; and the description of an improvisatore with one of his animated effusions.
“ It was not, however, the native inhabitants of Rome who constituted the chief attractions of society there, but the number of accomplished strangers of all countries and religions, who, in constant succession, came in pilgrimage to the shrine of antiquity, and who, by the contemplation of the merits and glories of departed worth, often felt themselves, as it were, miraculously endowed with new qualities. The collision of minds fraught with learning, in that high state of excitement which the genius of the place produced on the coldest imaginations, together with those innumerable brilliant and transitory topics which were never elicited in any other city, made the Roman conversations a continual exercise of the understanding. The details of political intrigue, and the follies of individuals, excited but little interest among the strangers in Rome. It seemed as if by an universal tacit resolution, national and personal peculiarities and prejudices were forgotten, and that all strangers simultaneously turned their attention to the transactions and affairs of former ages, and of statesmen and authors now no more. Their mornings were spent in surveying the monuments raised to public virtue, and in giving local features in their minds to the knowledge which they had acquired by the perusal of those works that have perpe. tuated the dignity of the Roman character. Their evenings were often allotted to the comparison of their respective conjectures, and to ascertain the authenticity and history of the relics which they had collected of ancient art. Sometimes the day was consumed in the study of those inestimable ornaments of religion, by which the fraudulent disposition of the priesthood had, in the decay of its power, rendered itself venerable to the most enlightened minds; and the night was devoted to the consideration of the causes which contribute to the developement of ge.. nius, or of the events which tend to stifle and overwhelm its powers. Every recreation of the stranger in Rome was an effort of the memory, of abstraction, and of fancy."-p. 97.
“While they were sitting at one of the tables, a venerable old man, with a guitar suspended from his shoulder, entered the room, and coming immediately to their table, Mr. Hamilton addressed him by the name of Homer. He was the most celebrated improvisatore in all Italy; and the richness of expression, and nobleness of conception which he displayed in his effusions, had obtained from him that distinguished name. Those who once heard his poetry, never ceased to lament that it was lost in the same moment, affirming that it was often so regular and dignified, as to equal the finest compositions of Tasso and Ariosto.
“ After some conversation, Homer requested Mr. Hamilton to give him a subject for a poem. In the mean time, a number of Italians had gathered round them to look at Mr. West, who they had heard was an American, and whom, like Cardinal Albani, they imagined to be an Indian. Some of them, on hearing Homer's request, observed, that he had exhausted his vein, and had already said and sung every subject over and over. Mr. Hamilton, however, remarked that he thought he could propose something to the bard, and pointing to Mr. West, said, that he was an American come to study the fine arts in Rome; and that such an event furnished a new and magnificent theme. Homer took possession of the thought with the ardour of inspiration. He immediately unslung his guia
tar, and began to draw his fingers rapidly over the strings, swinging his body from side to side, and striking fine and impressive chords. When he had thus brought his motions and his feelings into unison with the instrument, he began an extemporaneous ode in a manner so dignified, so pathetic, and so enthusiastic, that Mr. West was scarcely less interested by his appearance than those who enjoyed the subject and melody of his numbers. He sung the darkness which for so many ages veiled America from the eyes of science. He described the fulness of time when the purposes for which it had been raised from the deep were to be manifested. He painted the seraph of knowledge descending from Heaven, and directing Columbus to undertake the discovery; and he related the leading incidents of the voyage. He invoked the fancy of his auditors to contemplate the wild magnificence of mountain, lake, and wood, in the new world ; and he raised, as it were, in vivid perspective the Indians in the chase, and at their horrible sacrifices. But,' he exclaimed, 'the beneficent spirit of improvement is ever on the wing, and, like the ray from the throne of God which inspired the conception of the Virgin, it has descended on this youth; and the hope which it ushered in its new miracle, like the star that guided the magi to Bethlehem, bas led him to Rome. Methinks I behold in him an instrument chosen by Heaven, to raise in America the taste for those arts which elevate the nature of man, an assurance that his country will afford a refuge to science and knowledge when in the old age of Europe they shall have forsaken her shores. But all things of heavenly origin, like the glorious sun, move westward; and Truth and Art have their periods of shining and of night. Rejoice, then, O venerable Rome, in thy divine destiny, for though darkness overshadow thy seats, and though thy mitred head must descend into the dust, as deep as the earth that now covers thy ancient helmet and imperial diadem, thy spirit, immortal and undecayed, already spreads towards a new world, where, like the soul of inan in Paradise, it will be perfected in virtue and beauty more and more.' The highest efforts of the greatest actors, even of Garrick himself delivering the poetry of Shakspeare, never produced a more immediate and inspir. ing effect than this rapid burst of genius."--p. 114.
We cannot help noticing one peculiarity in the NorthBritish gentleman to whom the world is indebted for this volume. He very gravely mentions the ill-fated prince whom the generality of Englishmen call the Pretender, by the titles of King James, and His Majesty ;-distinctions which no English subject of any note ventured to give him while on the spot where he resided, and when mixing in bis society.-Mr. Galt is already known to the public, as the author of Travels in the Mediterranean. That work contained much useful information; and the present, on a very different subject, is executed with commendable fidelity, taste, and judgment.
ART. IV.-1. The Restoration of the Works of Art to
Italy: a Poem. By Felicia Hemans. Murray. London. 1816. P.p. 37. 2. The Tears of the Artists: a Poem. London. J. M,
Richardson. 1816. p.p. 15. These two poems--the former a finished performance, the latter merely a spirited sketch-embrace diametrically oppo. site sides of the same subject, and therefore may fairly be considered in contradistinction to each other.
In the mind of any liberal citizen of the world, any cordial judicious friend to the fine arts, or any lover of justice that first of virtues, without which all others are nugatory—there cannot, we should think, exist a doubt as to the expediency of restoring to defenceless Italy, the spoils which rapacious France had borne away. Policy demanded that one of the first measures of a reign begun under circumstances of severe responsibility and necessary caution, should be, to render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's. Good taste, and that veneration for the beautiful and sublime in every class, which ordinary minds term enthusiasm, had been violated by the spoliation of the trophied graves of Grecian and Roman art, and by the removal of those monuments of genius which derived interest from the surrounding localities, to crowded balls and saloons, where no corresponding emotions were awakened by their presence. Justice required that every vestige of the triumphs of the usurper should fall to the ground, and expire with that formidable power which he bad so grossly abused.
All this, and more than all this, has been warmly felt and beautifully depicted by the author of the first of these poems. It is also admitted, in effect, by the anonymous author of the Tears of the Artists, although he has exercised his ingenuity to make out all the best pleas in his power on that side of the cause on which he chose to constitute himself an advocate. We are told that “ Jove laughs at lovers'
perjuries ;” and we hope the olympic critic may be equally indulgent to the perjuries of poets. “You have fought so well against me, that I desire to have you in my service," was the well-known speech of a judicious prince to a general of the revolted party; and it would by no means surprise us, to be called on to review a poem on the orthodox side of the question from the same versatile pen which gave us the Tears of the Artists.
The name of the first of these authors has hitherto been unknown to us; and we hail the auspicious rising of a new star in the galaxy of living luminaries. The poem is ex. cellent, and all the accessaries are good. The motto is well chosen ; and the passage from Eustace, whicb heads the work, is selected with judgment, although we cannot allow the depredations of the modern Gauls to be paralleled with the destructive fury of the Goths and Vandals,' to whom that enlightened traveller compares them: the first bore away treasures to have and to hold; the latter seized in order to break and demolish. We must weigb the motives, and consider the temptations, when we judge of crimes; and we shall always think the man who steals a horse, in order to help him on an important journey, less an object of execration, than the wretch who hamstrings him from wanton cruelty to the animal and malice to his owner.
The notes are concise and appropriate; and good sense, and respect for the inoral fitness of things and rights of persons, give dignity and consistency to very fine verses adorned with splendid imagery.
The liberators of Spain (alas! to what purpose has she as yet been liberated?) are apostrophised in a lofty strain of eulogium; but we confess that we do not love political poetry; the muses are of no party; we therefore select, in preference, the following passages, of which the interest is not personal or local. The poet sings of the Italian works of art.
« Yes ! in those scenes, where every ancient stream
Feeling, Fancy, into grandeur rose.
Too long the spirits of thy noble dead
THE BELVEDERE APOLLO.
gaze, absorb'd in ecstacy, on thee !"
In every line supernal grandeur dwells.”
poem we have just been considering, assumes a di. dactic form, and maintains the dignity of enlightened moral