Imagens das páginas

Paul, that I had been born richer.' And yet Paul's birth was poor enough; for, in another place, he adds: • The prisoner's

allowance is bread and water; and I had often only the latter.' But the gold that is refined in the hottest furnace comes out the purest; or, as he has himself expressed it, " the canary-bird sings sweeter, the longer it has been trained in a darkened cage.'

A man like Burns might have divided his hours between poetry and virtuous industry; industry which all true feeling sanctions, nay prescribes, and which has a beauty, for that cause, beyond the pomp of thrones : but to divide his hours between poetry and rich men's banquets, was an ill-starred and inauspicious attempt. How could he be at ease at such banquets? What had he to do there, mingling his music with the coarse roar of altogether earthly voices, and brightening the thick smoke of intoxication with fire lent him from heaven? Was it his aim to enjoy life? To-morrow he must go drudge as an Exciseman! We wonder not that Burns became moody, indignant, and at times an offender against certain rules of society; but rather that he did not grow utterly frantic, and run a muck against them all. How could a man, so falsely placed, by his own or others' fault, ever know contentment or peaceable diligence for an hour ? Wbat he did, under such perverse guidance, and what he forbore to do, alike fill us with astonishment at the natural strength and worth of his character.

Doubtless there was a remedy for this perverseness : but not in others; only in himself; least of all in simple increase of wealth and worldly respectability. We hope we have now heard enough about the efficacy of wealth for poetry, and to make poets happy. Nay, have we not seen another instance of it in these very days ? Byron, a man of an endowment considerably less ethereal than that of Burns, is born in the rank not of a Scottish ploughman, but of an English peer: the highest worldly honours, the fairest worldly career, are his by inheritance; the richest harvest of fame he soon reaps, in another province, by his own hand. And what does all this avail him ? Is he happy, is he good, is he true? Alas, he has a poet's soul, and strives towards the Infinite and the Eternal; and soon feels that all this is but mounting to the house-top to reach the stars ! Like Burns, he is only a proud man ; might like him have purchased a

pocket-copy of Milton to study the character of Satan ;' for Satan also is Byron's grand exemplar, the hero of his poetry, and the model apparently of his conduct. As in Burns's case too, the celestial element will not mingle with the clay of earth ; both poet and man of the world he must not be ; vulgar Ambition will not live kindly with poetic Adoration; he cannot serve God and Mammon. Byron, like Burns, is not happy; nay, he is the most wretched of all men. His life is falsely arranged : the fire that ia in him is not a strong, still, central fire, warming into beauty the products of a world; bat it is the mad fire of a volcano; and now-we look sadly into the ashes of a crater, which, erelong, will fill itself with snow !

Byron and Burns were sent forth as missionaries to their generation, to teach it a higher Doctrine, a purer Truth : they had a message to deliver, which left them no rest till it was accomplished ; in dim throes of pain, this divine behest lay smouldering within them; for they knew not what it meant, and felt it only in mysterious anticipation, and they had to die without articulately uttering it. T'hey are in the camp of the Unconverted. Yet not as high messengers of rigorous though benignant truth, but as soft flattering singers, and in pleasant fellowship will they live there: they are first adulated, then persecuted; they accomplish little for others; they find no peace for themselves, but only death and the peace of the grave. We confess, it is not without a certain mournful awe that we view the fate of these noble souls, so richly gifted, yet ruined to so little purpose with all their gifts. It seems to us there is a stern moral taught in this piece of history-twice told us in our own time! Surely to men of like genius, if there be any such, it carries with it a lesson of deep impressive significance. Surely it would become such a man, furnished for the highest of all enterprises, that of being the Poet of his Age, to consider well what it is that he attempts, and in what spirit he attempts it. For the words of Milton are true in all times, and were never truer than in this: • He who would write heroic poems, must make his whole life a - heroic poem. If he cannot first so make his life, then let him hasten from this arena; for neither its lofty glories, nor its fearful perils, are for him. Let him dwindle into a modish balladmonger; let him worship and be-sing the idols of the time, and the time will not fail to reward him—if, indeed, he can endure to live in that capacity! Byron and Burns could not live as idolpriests, but the fire of their own hearts consumed them; and better it was for them that they could not. For it is not in the favour of the great, or of the small, but in a life of truth, and in the inexpugnable citadel of his own soul, that a Byron's or a Burns's strength must lie. Let the great stand aloof from him, or know how to reverence him. Beautiful is the union of wealth with favour and furtherance for literature; like the costliest flower-jar enclosing the loveliest amaranth. Yet let not the relation be mistaken. A true poet is not one whom they can hire by money or flattery to be a minister of their pleasures, their writer of occasional verses, their purveyor of table-wit; he cannot be their menial, he cannot even be their partisan. At the peril of both parties, let no such union be attempted! Will a Courser of the Sun work softly in the harness of a Dray-horse ? His hoofs are of fire, and his path is through the heavens, bring: ing light to all lands : will he lumber on mud highways, dragging ale for earthly appetites, from door to door?

But we must stop short in these considerations, which would lead us to boundless lengths. We had something to say on the public moral character of Burns; but this also we must forbear. We are far from regarding him as guilty before the world, as guiltier than the average; nay, from doubting that he is less guilty than one of ten thousand. Tried at a tribunal far more rigid than that where the Plebiscita of common civic reputations are pronounced, he has seemed to us even there less worthy of blame than of pity and wonder. But the world is habitually unjust in its judgments of such men; unjust on many grounds, of which this one may be stated as the substance: It decides, like a court of law, by dead statutes; and not positively but negatively, less on what is done right, than on what is, or is not, done wrong. Not the few inches of deflection from the mathematical orbit, which are 80 easily measured, but the ratio of these to the whole diameter, constitutes the real aberration. This orbit may be a planet's, its diameter the breadth of the solar system ; or it may be a city hippodrome; nay, the circle of a ginhorse, its diameter a score of feet or paces. But the inches of deflection only are measured ; and it is assumed that the diameter of the ginhorse and that of the planet, will yield the same ratio when compared with them. Here lies the root of many a blind cruel condemnation of Burnses, Swifts, Rousseaus, which one never listens to with approval. Granted, the ship comes into harbour with sbrouds and tackle damaged; and the pilot is therefore blame-worthy; for he has not been all-wise and all-powerful; but to know how blame-worthy, tell us first whether his voyage has been round the Globe, or only to Ramsgate and the Isle of Dogs.

With our readers in general, with men of right feeling anywhere, we are not required to plead for Burns. In pitying admiration, he lies enshrined in all our hearts, in a far nobler mausoleum than that one of marble; neither will his Works, even as they are, pass away from the memory of men. While the Shakspeares and Miltons roll on like mighty rivers through the country of Thought, bearing fleets of traffickers and assiduous pearl-fishers on their waves; this little Valclusa Fountain will also arrest our eye: For this also is of Nature's own and most eunning workmanship, bursts from the depths of the earth with

a full gushing current, into the light of day; and often will the traveller turn aside to drink of its clear waters, and muse among its rocks and pines !

Art. Ilin, from Accorhand LED HEB Londo

Art. II.-1. Narrative of a Journey through the Upper Provinces

of India, from Calcutta to Bombay, 1824, 1825, (with Notes upon Ceylon ; } an Account of a Journey to Madras and the Southern Provinces, 1826; and Letters written in India. By the late Right Reverend REGINALD HEBER, Lord Bishop of Calcutta.

Second Edition. 2 vols. 8vo. London, 1828. 2. A View of the present State and future Prospects of the Free Trade

and Colonization of India. 8vo. pp. 124. London, 1828.

This is another book for Englishmen to be proud of-almost

as delightful as the Memoirs of Lord Collingwood, and indebted for its attractions mainly to the same cause—the singularly amiable and exalted character of the person to whom it relates—and that combination of gentleness with heroic ambition, and simplicity with high station, which we would still fondly regard as characteristic of our own nation. To us in Scotland the combination seems, in this instance, even more admirable than in that of the great Admiral. We have no Bishops on our establishment; and have been accustomed to think that we are better without them. But if we could persuade ourselves that bishops in general were at all like Bishop Heber, we should tremble for our Presbyterian orthodoxy, and feel not only veneration, but something very like envy, for a communion which could number many such men among its ministers.

The notion entertained of a Bishop, in our antiepiscopal lati- . tudes, is likely enough, we admit, not to be altogether just :and we are far from upholding it as correct when we say, that a Bishop, among us, is generally supposed to be a stately and pompous person, clothed in purple and fine linen and faring sumptuously every day--somewhat obsequious to persons in power, and somewhat haughty and imperative to those who are beneath him with more authority in his tone and manner, than solidity in his learning; and yet with much more learning than charity or humility-very fond of being called my Lord, and driving about in a coach with mitres on the panels, but little addicted to visiting the sick and fatherless, or earning for himself the blessing of those who are ready to perish

-- Familiar with a round
Of ladyships-a stranger to the poor --

decorous in manners, but no foe to luxurious indulgences-rigid in maintaining discipline among his immediate dependents, and in exacting the homage due to his dignity from the undignified mob of his brethren; but perfectly willing to leave to them the undivided privileges of comforting and of teaching their people, and of soothing the sins and sorrows of their erring flocksscornful, if not openly hostile, upon all occasions, to the claims of the people, from whom he is generally sprung—and presuming every thing in favour of the royal will and prerogative, by which he has been exalted-setting, indeed, in all cases, a much higher value on the privileges of the few, than the rights that are common to all, and exerting himself strenuously that the former may ever prevail-caring more, accordingly, for the interests of his order than the general good of the church, and far more for the church than for the religion it was established to teach -hating dissenters still more bitterly than infidels-but combating both rather with obloquy and invocation of civil penalties, than with the artillery of a powerful reason, or the reconciling influences of an humble and holy life-uttering now and then haughty professions of humility, and regularly bewailing, at fit seasons, the severity of those Episcopal laboars, which sadden, and even threaten to abridge a life, which to all other eyes appears to flow on in almost unbroken leisure and continued indulgence.

This, or something like this, we take to be the notion that most of us Presbyterians have been used to entertain of a modern Bishop: and it is mainly because they believed that the rank and opulence which the station implied, were likely to realize this character in those who should be placed in it, that our ancestors contended so strenuously for the abrogation of the order, and thought their Reformation incomplete till it was finally put down-till all the ministers of the Gospel were truly pastors of souls, and stood in no other relation to each other than as fellow labourers in the same vineyard. If this notion be utterly erroneous, the picture which Bishop Heber has here drawn of himself, must tend powerfully to correct it. If, on the other hand, it be in any respect just, he must be allowed, at all events, to have been a splendid exception. We are willing to take it either way; though we must say that we incline rather to the latter alternative-since it is difficult to suppose, with all due allowance for prejudices, that our abstract idea of a Bishop should be in such flagrant contradiction to the truth, that one who was merely a fair specimen of the order, should be most accurately characterised by precisely reversing every thing that entered into that idea. Yet this is manifestly the case with Bishop He

« AnteriorContinuar »