Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

and the mists of a dream; but lapt in tion, was that the human n in i became a. purifying atmosphere, amidst the more capable of abstraction. They visible progress of an improving socie- made, on a large scale, the same step ty and the general ennobling of lofty as the mathematicians when they pass and free men, amidst the proudest from arithmetic to algebra, and from hopes, in the wholesome clearness of ordinary calculation to the computation experimental sciences. The oratorical of the infinite. They perceived, tha' age which declined, as it declined in beyond the limited truths of the ora Athens and Rome, grouped all ideas torical age, there were deeper unfold. in beautiful commodious compartments, ings; they passed beyond Descartes whose subdivisions instantaneously led and Locke, as the Alexandrians went he gaze towards the object which they beyond Plato and Aristotle: they un. define, so that thenceforth the intellect derstood that a great operative archi could enter upon the loftiest concep- tect, or round and square atoms, were tions, and seize the aggregate which it not causes; that Auids, molecules, ana had not yet embraced. Isolated na monads were not forces; that a spirittions, French, English, Italians, Ger- ual soul or a physiological secretion mans, drew near and became known to would not account for thought. They each other through the uphearing of sought religious sentiment beyond the first French Revolution and the dogmas, poetic beauty beyond rules, wars of the Empire, as formerly races critical truths beyond myths. They divided from one another, Greeks, Syr. desired to grasp natural and moral ians, Egyptians, Gauls, by the con- powers as they are, and independently quests of Alexander and the domina- of the fictitious supports to which their tion of Rome; so that henceforth each predecessors had attached them. All civilization, expanded by the collision these supports, souls and atoms, all with neighboring civilizations, can pass these fictions, fuids, and monads, all beyond its national limits, and multi- | these conventions, rules of the beautiply its ideas by the commixture of the ful and of religious symbols, all rigid ideas of others. History and criticism classifications of things natural, human spring up as under the Ptolemies; and and divine, faded away and vanished. from all sides, throughout the universe, Thenceforth they were nothing but in all directions, they were engaged in figures ; they were only kept as an aid resuscitating and explaining literatures, to the memory, and as auxiliaries of the religions, manners, societies, philoso- mind; they served only provisionally, phies : so that thenceforth the intellect, ad as starting-points. Through a comenfranchised by the spectacle of past mon movement along the whole line of civilizations, can escape from the prej. human thought, causes draw back into udices of its century, as it has escaped an abstract region, where philosophy from the prejudices of its country. A had not been to search them out for new race, hitherto torpid, gave the sig- eighteen centuries. Then appeared nal: Germany communicated to the the disease of the age, the restlessness whole of Europe the impetus to a rev. of Werther and Faust, very like that olution of ideas, as France to a revolu- which in a similar moment agitated tion of manners. These simple folk men eighteen centuries ago; I mean, who smoked and warmed themselves discontent with the present, the vague by a stove, and seemed only fit to pro desire of a higher beauty and an ideal duce learned editions, became sudden- happiness, the painful aspiration for ly the promoters and leaders of human the infinite. Ñan suffered through thought. No race has such a compre- doubt, yet he doubted; he tried to hensive mind ; none is so well adapted seize again his beliefs, they melted in for lofty speculation. We see it in his hand; he would settle ard rest in their language, so abstract, that away the doctrines and the sat'sfactions from the Rhine it seems an unintelligi- which sufficed for his predecessors, and ble jargon. And yet thanks to this he does not find them sufficient Ho language, they attained to superior launches, like Faust, into anxious re ideas. For the specialty of this revo- searches through science and history, lution, as of the Alexandrian revolu- / and judges them vain, dubious, good

"

a

[ocr errors]

the age

for men like Wagner, * learned pedants Scottish puasant, Robert Burns: in and bibliomaniacs. It is the “beyond” fact, the man and the circumstancee he sighs for; he forebodes it through were suitable ; scarcely ever was seen the formulas of science, the texts and together more of misery and talent. confessions of the churches, through He was born January 1759, amid the the amusements of the world, the in. hoar frost of a Scottish winter, in a toxication of love. A sublime truth cottage of clay built by his father, a exists behind coarse experience and poor farmer of Ayrshire; a sad conditransmitted catechisms; a grand hap- tion, a sad country, a sad lot. A part piness exists beyond the pleasures of l of the gable fell in a few days after his society and family joys. Whether men , birth, and his mother was obliged to are skeptical, resigned, or mystics, they seek refuge with her child, in the midhave all caught a glimpse of or im- dle of a storm, in a neighbor's house. agined it, from Goethe to Beethoven, It is hard to be born in Scotland ; it is from Schiller to Heine; they have so cold there, that in Glasgow on a fino risen towards it in order to stir up the day in July, whilst the sun was shinwhole swarm of their grand dreams; ing, I did not feel my overcoat too they will not be consoled for falling warm. The soil is wretched ; there away from it; they have mused upon are many bare hills, where the harvest it, even during their deepest fall ; they often fails. Burns father, no longer have instinctively dwelt, like their pre- young, having little more than his arms decessors the Alexandrians and Chris. to depend upon, having taken his farm tians, in that splendid invisible world at too high a rent, burdened with sevin which, in ideal peace, slumber the en children, lived parsimoniously, or creative essences and powers; and the rather fasting, in solitude, to avoid vehement aspiration of their heart has temptations to expense. “For several drawn from their sphere the element years butchers' meat was a thing unary spirits, "film of flame, who flit and known in the house.” Robert went wave in eddying motion! birth and the barefoot and bareheaded ; at grave, an infinite ocean, a web ever of thirteen he assisted in thrashing the growing, a life ever glowing, ply at crop of corn, and at fifteen lić was the

T'ime's whizzing loom, and weave the principal laborer on the farm.” The vesture of God." +

family did all the lavor ; they kept no Thus rises the modern man, im- servant, male ûr female. They had pelled by two sentiments, one demo- not much to eat, but they worked hard. cratic, the other philosophic. From ".This kind of iife — the cheerless the shallows of his poverty and igno- gloom of a hermit, with the unceasing rance he exerts himself to rise, .ifting toil of a galiey slave brought me to the weight of established society aná my sixteenth year,” Burns says. His admitted dogmas, disposed either to shoulders were bent, melancholy seized reform or to destroy them, and at once him : "almost every evening he was generous and rebellious. These two constantly afflicted with a dull headcurrents from France and Germany at lache, wiicn at a future period of his life this moment swept into England. The was exchanged for a palpitation of the dykes there were so strong, they could heart, and a threatening of fainting and hardly force their way, entering more suffocation in his bed in the night-time.' slowly than elsewhere, but entering The anguish of mind which we felt," nei crtheless. They made for them- says his brother, was very great.' selves a new channel between the an- The father grew old; his gray head, cient barriers, and widened without careworn brow, temples wearing bursting them, by a peaceful and slow thin and bare,” his tall bent figure, bore transformation which continues till this witness to the grief and toil which day.

had spent him. The factor wrote him II.

insolent and threatening letters which

“set all the family in tears.” There The new spirit broke out first in a

was a respite when the father changed • The disciple of Faust.

his farm, but a lawsuit sprang up be Goethe's Faust, s. 1. tween him and the proprietor:

After

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

... The

[ocr errors]

three years tossing and whirling in the in him: "I had felt < xly some stir vortex of litigation, my father was just rings of ambition, but they were the saved from the horrors of a gaol by blind groping of Homer's Cyclor consumption, which after two years' round the walls of his cave. promises kindly stepped in.” In order only two openings by which I could to snatch something from the claws of enter the temple of fortune were the the lawyers, the two sons were obliged gate of niggardly economy, or the patke to step in as creditors for arrears of of little chicaning bargain-making, wages. With this little sum they took The first is so contracted an aperture, 1 another farm. Robert had seven never could squeeze myself into it; pounds a year for his labor ; for several the last I always hated-there was con years his whole expenses did not ex. tamination in the very entrance."! ceed this wretched pittance; he had Low occupations depress the soul even resolved to succeed by dint of absti- more than the body; man perishes in nence and toil: “I read farming books, them—is obliged to perish; of necesI calculated crops, I attended markets ; sity there remains of him nothing but a

I but the first year, from unfortu- machine : for in the kind of action in nately buying bad seed, the second which all is monotonous, in which from a late harvest, we lost half our throughout the very long day the arms crops." Troubles came apace ; pover- lift the same flail and drive the same ty always engenders them. The mas- plough, if thought does not take this ter-mason, Armour, whose daughter uniform_movement, the work is ill was Burns' sweetheart, was said to con- done. The poet must take care not to template prosecuting him, to obtain a be turned aside by his poetry; to do guarantee for the support of his ex- as Burns did, “think only of his work pected progeny, though he refused to whilst he was at it.” He must think accept him as a son-in-law. Jean Ar- of it always, in the evening unyoking mour abandoned him; he could not his cattle, on Sunday putting on his give his name to her child. He was new coat, counting on his fingers the obliged to hide ; he had been publicly eggs and poultry, thinking of the kinds admonished by the church. He said: of dung, finding a means of using only “Even in the hour of social mirth, my one pair of shoes, and of selling his hay gayety is the madness of an intoxicated at a penny a truss more. He will not criminal under the hands of the execu- succeed if he has not the patient dultioner.” He resolved to leave the ness of a laborer, and the crafty vigicountry; he agreed with Dr. Charles lance of a petty shopkeeper. How Douglas for thirty pounds a year to be could poor Burns succeed? He was bookkeeper or overseer on his estate out of place from his birth, and tried in Jamaica; for want of money to pay his utmost to raise himself above his the passage, he was about to “indent condition. † At the farm at Lochlea, himself,” that is, become bound as ap- during meal-times, the only moments prentice, when the success of a volume of relaxation, parents, brothers, and of poetry he had published put a score .sisters, ate with a spoon in one hand a of guineas into his hands, and for a book in the other. Burns, at the school time brought him brighter days. Such of Hugh Rodger, a teacher of mensu. was his life up to the age of twenty- ration, and later at a club of young seven, and that which succeeded was men at Tarbolton, strove to exercise ittle better.

himself in general questions, and de Let us fancy in this condition a man bated pro and con in order to see both of genius, a true poet, capable of the sides of every idea. He carried a most delicate emotions and the loftiest book in his pocket to study in spare aspirations, wishing to rise, to rise to moments in the fields; he wore oʻt the summit, of which he deemed him- thus two copies of Mackenzie's Man of self capable and worthy. *

Feeling: “The collection of songs was Ambition had early made itself heard iny vade mecum. I poured over them . Most of these details are taken from the • Chambers' Life of Burns, i. 14. Life and Works of Burns, by R. Chambers My great constituent elements are pride and 1851, 4 vols.

66

[ocr errors]

pascio.

driving my cart, or walking to labor, | honest contempt for whatever bore the song by song, verse by verse, carefully appearance of meanness and servility" noting the true, tender, sublime or fus- made him “ fall into the opposite erroi tian." He maintained a correspon- of hardness of manner.” He had also dence with several of his companions the consciousness of his own merits. in the same rank of life in order to “ Pauvre inconnu as I then was, I hac form his style, kept a commonplace pretty nearly as high an opinion of mybook, entered in it ideas on man, re- self and of my works as I have at this ligion, the greatest subjects, criticiz. moment, when the public has decided ing his first productions.' Burns says, in their favor." * Who can wonder “ Never did a heart pant more ardently that we find at every step in his poems than mine to be distinguished." He the bitter protests of an oppressed ai thus divined what he did not learn, rebellious plebeian? rose of himself to the level of the most We find such recriminations againsi highly cultivated; in a while, at Edin all society, against State and Church. burgh, he was to read through and Burns has a harsh tone, often the very through respected doctors, Blair him- phrases of Rousseau, and wished to self; he was to see that Blair had at- be a “vigorous savage,”. quit civilized tainments, but no depth. At this time life, the dependence and humiliations he studied minutely and lovingly the which it imposes on the wretched. old Scotch ballads; and by night in his “It is mortifying to see a fellow, cold little room, by day whilst whistling whose abilities would scarcely have at the plough, he invented forms and made an eight-penny taylor, and whose ideas. We must think of this in order heart is not worth three farthings, meet to measure his efforts, to understand with attention and notice that are withhis miseries and his revolt. We must held from the son of genius and poverthink that the man in whom these great ty." | It is hard to ideas are stirring, threshed the corn, cleaned his cows, went out to dig peats,

“See yonder for, oʻoriabowane

So here. Wenn ané ! waded in the muddy snow, and dreaded Wh, gsYotiis of the earth to come home and find the bailiffs pre

him leave to toil ; pared to carry him off to prison. We

And see his lordly fellow-worm

The poor petition spum, must think also, that with the ideas of

Unmindful, though a weeping wife a thinker he had the delicacies and

And helpless offspring mourn." I reveries of a poet. Once, having cast his eyes on an engraving representing

Burns says also: a dead soldier, and his wife beside him,

“ While winds frae off Ben-Lomond blaw, his child and dog lying in the snow,

And bar the doors wi' driving snaw, ..

I grudge a wee the great folks' gift, suddenly, involuntarily, he burst into That live so bien an' snug: tears. He writes :

I tent less, and want less

Their roomy fire-side; “ There is scarcely any earthly object gives But hanker and canker me more--I do not know if I should call it

To see their cursed pride. pleasure--but something which exalts me, some thing which enraptures me-than to walk in the It's hardly in a body's power sheltered side of a wood, or high plantation, in

To keep, at times, frae being scur, a cloudy winter day, and hear the stormy wind

To see how things are shar'd; bowling among the trees and raving over the

How best o'chiels are whiles in want, plain.... I listened to the birds and frequently

While coofs on countless thousands rant turned out of my path, lest I should disturb And ken na how to wair 't.” their little songs or frighten them to another But “a man's a man for a' that," and station.

the peasant is as good as the lord. Thero The slavery of mechanical toil and per. are men noble by nature, and they petual economy crushed this swarm of grand or graceful dreams as soon as

* Chambers! Life, i. 231.. Burns had a right

to think so: when he arrived at night in an inn, they began to soar. Burns was more the very servants woke their fellow-labourers to over proud, so proud, that afterwards come and hear him talk. in the world, amongst the great,

+ Chambers' Life and Works of Robert

Burns, ü. 68. • Extract fronx Burns' commonplace-book ; Man was made to Mourm, a dirge. Chambers' Life, i. 79

First Epistle to Davis, a brother part.

10 give

an

alone are noble ; the coat is the busi- He's greater than a Lord, man ness of the tailor, titles a matter of

King Lou thought to cut it down,

When it was unco siaa', man. the Herald's office. “ The rank is but

For this the watchman cracked his crown, the guinea's stamp, the man's the gowd Cut off his head and a', man." * for a' that.” Against men who reverse this natur: and which, in better style, resembles

A strange gayety, savage and nervous, al equality Burns is pitiless; the least that of the Ca ira. thing puts him out of temper. Read his “Address of Beelzebub, to the

Burns is hardly more tender 'o the Right Honourable the Earl of Breadal- tanical garment began to give way.

church. At that time the strait puri. bane, Fresident of the Right Honourable and Honourable the Highland So- Already the learned world of Edin ciety, which met on the 23d of May ed it to the fashions of society, decked

burgh had Frenchified, widened, adapt last at the Shakspeare, Covent Garden, it with ornaments, not very brilliant, it to concert ways and means to frustrate is true, but select. In the lower strata the designs of five hundred Highland, of society

dogma became less rigid, and ers, who, as the society were informed by Mr. Mackenzie of Applecross, were Arminius and Socinus. John Goldie,

approached by degrees the looseness of so audacious, as to attempt an escape a merchant, had quite recently

discussfrom their lawful lords and masters, ed the authority of Scripture. John whose property they were, by emigrating from the lands of Mr. M.Donald of Taylor bad denied original sin. Burns Glengarry to the wilds of Canada, in liberal and humane doctrines, had de

father, pious as he was, inclined to search of that fantastic thing-liber- tracted from the province of faith to ty!” Rarely was an insult more pro-add to that of reason. Burns, after his longed and more biting, and the threat is not far behind. He warns Scotch wont, pushed things to an extreme, members like a revolutionist, to with thought himself a deist, saw in the draw " that curst restriction on aqua- religion to an inner and poetic senti

Saviour only an inspired man, reduced vitae,” ,” “get auld Scotland back her

ment, and attacked with his railleries kettle:'

the paid and patented orthodox people. An', Lord, if ance they pit her tillt, Since Voltaire, no literary man in reHer tartan petticoat she'll kilt,

ligious matters was more bitter or An' durk an' pistol at her belt, She'll tak the streets,

more jocose. According to him, minAn' rin her whittle to th

isters are shopkeepers trying to cheat I the first she meets!”

each other out of their customers, de In vain he writes, that

crying at the top of their voice the

shop, next door, puffing their drugs in “ In politics if thou wouldst mix And mean thy fortunes be;

numberless advertisements, and here Bear this in mind, be deaf and blind, and there setting up fairs to pusb he

Let great folks hear and see." + trade. These "holy fairs" are gatherNot alone did he see and hear, but he ings of the pious, where the sacrament also spoke, and that aloud. He con is administered. One after another the gratulates the French, on having re- clergymen preach and thunder, in par. pulsed conservative Europe, in arms

ticular a Rev, Mr. Moodie, who ravca igainst them. He celebrates the Tree and fumes to throw light on points of of Liberty, planted “where ance the faith—a terrible figure: Bastile stood :"

“ Should Hornie, as in ancient days, Upo' this tree there grows xic fruit,

'Mong sons o' God present him, Its virtues a' can tell, man ;

The vera sight o' Moodie's face

To's ain het hame had sent him
It raises man aboon the brute,
It makes him ken himsel', man.

Wi' fright that day.
Gif ance the peasant taste a bit,

Hear how he clears the points o' faith

Wi' rattlin' an' wi' thumpin'! • Barnest Cry and Prayer to the Scotch

Now meekly calm, now wild in wath,

He's stampin' an' he's jumpin'! Representatives.

f The Creed of Poverty ; Chambers' Life, 'v. 4.

• The Tree of Liberty.

[ocr errors]

hilt

66

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »