« AnteriorContinuar »
the public passions, and exercises a despotic sway over the great mass of the community; while the class inferior in numbers, but accustomed to authority, and infuriated at its loss, are thrown into formidable reaction. The most ferocious passions rage from one extremity of the country to the other. Hundreds and thousands of men, arrayed with badges, gather in the south ; and the smaller factions, with discipline and arms, are marshalled in the north. The country is strewed with the materials of civil commotion, and seems like one vast magazine of powder, which a spark might ignite into an explosion, that would shake the whole fabric of civil society into ruin, and of which England would not only feel, but perhaps never recover from, the shock.
EXERCISE LIV.-MARSEILLESE HYMN. -Translation. (An example of the style of declamatory recitation. The effect of the form of verse being added to declamation, is, of course, to heighten all its prose characteristics. The fire of lyric passion is, consequently added to the fervour of martial enthusiasm and declamatory eloquence; and the modulation becomès doubly vivid and effective. While the appropriate rhythm of the metre, is allowed free scope, it should be preserved from a mere chanting style.) On, countrymen, on! for the day,–
The proud day of glory,-is come !--
Are raised, and he dares to strike home!
The foe's fast approaching alarms ?-
And slaughter our sons in our arms!
To arms, gallant Frenchmen, to arms ! 'Tis the hour
Say, whom do these traitors oppose ?
These kings leagued together for ill ? Who for years have o'erwhelmed us with Tyranny's woes,
And are forging fresh chains for us still ? 'Tis France they have dared to enthrall !
'Tis France they have dared to disgrace! Oh! shame on us, countrymen, shame on us all,
If we cringe to so dastard a race!
Tremble, ye traitors, whose schemes
Are alike by all parties abhorred, -
Ye shall soon meet your fitting reward!
Past dishonour we've sworn to efface; And, rely on it, fast as one hero shall fall,
Another shall rise in his place.
Ye Frenchmen,—the noble,—the brave,
Who can weep, e'en in war's stern alarms, Spare, spare the poor helpless and penitent slave,
Who is marshalled against you in arms ! But no pity for Bouillé's stern band,
Who, with reckless and tiger-like force, Would fain tear to atoms their own native land,
Without e'en a pang of remorse.
We will speed on our glorious career,
When our veterans are low in the tomb; But their patriot deeds, when they fought with us here,
In our memory forever shall bloom: 'Twas their just,—their magnanimous boast,
That for us they lived,—battled,—and died;And we 'll either avenge them on Tyranny's host,
Or be laid,—to a man,—by their side !
Freedom, dear freedom, sustain
Our hopes of revenge for the past;
In triumph may float to the last !
Ere death lay his seal on their eyes,
And which dearer than ever we prize!
EXERCISE LV.HEROISM OF THE PILGRIM FATHERS OF NEW
[See introductory remarks to EXERCISE XX.] If one were called on to select the most glittering of the instances of military heroism to which the admiration of the world has been most constantly attracted, he would make choice, I imagine, of the instance of that desperate valour, in which, in obedience to the laws, Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans cast themselves headlong, at the passes of Greece, on the myriads of their Persian invaders. From the simple page of Herodotus, longer than from the Amphyctionic monument, or the games of the commemoration, that act speaks still to the tears and praise of all the world.
Yet I agree with a late brilliant writer, in his speculation on the probable feelings of that devoted band, left alone, awaiting, till day should break, the approach of a certain death, in that solitary defile. Their enthusiasm and their rigid and Spartan spirit, which had made all ties subservient to obedience to the law, all excitement tame to that of battle, all pleasure dull to the anticipation of glory, probably made the hours preceding death the most enviable of their lives. They might have exulted in the same enviable fanaticism, which distinguished afterwards the followers of Mohammed, and seen that opening Paradise in immortality below, which the Mussulman beheld in anticipation above! Judge if it were not so; judge, if a more decorated and conspicuous stage was ever erected for the transaction of a deed of fame. Every eye in Greece, every eye throughout the world of civilization, throughout even the uncivilized and barbaric East, was felt to be turned directly on the playing of that brief part. There passed round that narrow circle in the tent, the stern, warning image of Sparta, pointing to their shields, and saying With these to-morrow, or upon them.'
Consider, too, that the one concentrated and comprehensive sentiment, graved on their souls as by fire and by steel, by all the influences of their whole life, by the mothers' lips, by the fathers' example, by the law, by venerated religious rites, by public opinion strong enough to change the moral qualities of things, by the whole fashion and nature of Spartan cul. ture, was this : Seek first, seek last, seek always, the glory of conquering or falling in a well fought field.'
Judge, if, that night, as they watched the dawn of the last morning their eyes could ever see; as they heard with every
passing hour the stilly hum of the invading host, his dusky lines stretched out without end, and now almost encircling them around; as they remembered their unprofaned home, city of heroes and of the mothers of heroes,-judge if watching there, in the gate-way of Greece, this sentiment did not grow to the nature of madness, if it did not run in torrents of literal fire to and from the labouring heart; and when morning came and passed, and they had dressed their long locks for battle, and when, at a little after noon, the countless invading throng was seen at last to move, was it not with a rapture, as if all the joy, all the sensation of life, was in that one moment that they cast themselves, with the fierce gladness of mountain-torrents, headlong on that brief revelry of glory?
I acknowledge the splendour of that transaction in all its aspects. I admit its morality, too, and its useful influence on every Grecian heart, in that greatest crisis of Greece.
And yet, do you not think, that whoso could, by adequate description, bring before you that winter of the Pilgrims, its brief sunshine, the nights of storm, slow waning; the damp and icy breath, felt to the pillow of the dying; its destitutions, its contrasts with all their former experience in life; its utter insulation and loneliness ; its death-beds and burials; its memories; its apprehensions; its hopes; the consultations of the prudent; the prayers of the pious; the occasional cheerful hymn, in which the strong heart threw off its burthen, and, asserting its unvanquished nature, went up, like bird of dawn, to the skies ;-do ye not think that whoso could describe them calmly waiting in that defile, lonelier and darker than Thermopyla, for a morning that might never dawn, or might show them, when it did, a mightier arm than the Persian, raised as in act to strike, would he not sketch a scene of more difficult and rarer heroism? A scene, as Wordsworth has said, 'melancholy, yea, dismal, yet consolatory and full of joy;' a scene, even better fitted, to succour, to exalt, to lead, the forlorn hopes of all great causes, till time shall be no more!
I have said that I deemed it a great thing for a nation, in all the periods of its fortunes, to be able to look back to a race of founders, and a principle of institution, in which it might rationally admire the realized idea of true heroism. That felicity, that pride, that help, is ours. Our past, with its great eras, that of settlement, and that of independence, should announce, should compel, should spontaneously evolve as from a germ, a wise, moral, and glowing future. Those
heroic men and women should not look down on a dwindled posterity. That broad foundation, sunk below frost or earthquake, should bear up something more permanent than an encampment of tents, pitched at random, and struck when the trumpet of march sounds at next daybreak. It should bear up, as by a natural growth, a structure in which generations may come, one after another, to the great gift of the Social Life.
EXERCISE LVI.-ADDRESS TO THE SWEDES.-Gustavus Vasa.
[Declamation, in the form of blank verse, -as in the following instance, acquires all the additional advantage of sonorous rhythm, and expansive energy of tone. The object in view, in practice, should be to give the utterance full scope, but to avoid mouthing and rant. The attitude and action are, here, of the boldest character.]
Ye men of Sweden, wherefore are ye come?
ye not yonder, how the locusts swarm,