« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim's with the actual life and manners of the early Progress.”
Romans ; with the bravery and fortitude of With this citation, we must close our obser- the Roman character ; and the patriotic deyovations on the Critical and Historical Essays, tion and fidelity, which was the distinction and proceed to the consideration of Mr. Mac- of the Roman citizen. Some of the singular aulay's poetry.
traditions which make up the early portions On this, it is not our intention to say much. of Roman history, and which, before the ad One small volume contains all he has written, vent of Niebuhr, were regarded as mere ridio or, at any rate, chosen to preserve by publica- ulous fables, Macaulay has here restored to tion. His Lays of the Roundheads, contributed us in shape which can be supposed to resem'in his college-days to Knight's Magazine, ap- ble that in which they were originally sung pear to bave been left uncollected in the pages by the early Latin minstrels. Identifying of that journal; and of the Lays of the League, himself with these minstrels, and adopting published in the same periodical, he has only what he conceives to have been the ideas and reprinted Ivry- A Song of the Huguenots; sentiments by which they were inspired, and a short fragment, entitled The Armada, has given us spirited versions of the stories as examples of those performances. His bril- of Horatius Cocles, the battle of the Lake liant reputation as a reviewer and an essayist Regillus, the death of Virginia, and the prophhas obscured the milder shining of his first ecy, of Copys. The style is bold, abrupt, pretical attempts ; and it was pretty well and energetic, and but little tinged with imforgotten that he had ever written verses, agery; and the narration proceeds with a when, in 1842, he surprised and gratified the rapidity and directness not unlike the hurry. public by his Lays of Ancient Rome. The ing movements of an army in the height of applause which greeted the appearance of conflict. this volume was rather more enthusiastic than The lay of “ Horatius” is supposed to have discriminating; owing, perhaps, somewhat been made about the year of the city 360," to the circumstance, that no such work had and describes how Horatius, with two combeen expected from the author, and also to panions, defended the bridge across the Tiber, the further fact, that, for some years previous- in the face of a large army brought against ly, there had been little poetry of any striking the city, under the command of Lars* Porsena morit published. There is no doubt that the of Clusium, in Etruria, for the purpose of reLays are masterly productions of this class ; establishing the kingly family of the Tarbut it is quite as certain that they do not quins, whom the Roman people had recently belong to the higher kinds of poetry. As a expelled. — “ The Battle of the Lake Regillus man of poetical genius, Macaulay cannot be is represented to have been produced about said to rank with the greater minds of his ninety years after the lay of Horatius. Some age ; not with Wordsworth, Byron, Coleridge, persons mentioned in the Horatius are introKeats, or Shelley, or even with Scott; his posi- duced again, and certain appellations and tion is on some lower elevation, on some ledge epithets used in that ballad are purposely reor pinnacle of Parnassus, where the air is less peated; "for," remarks Mr. Macaulay, " in ethereal, and where the awful voices of the an age of ballad poetry, it scarcely ever fails gods are heard with less distinctness. He is to happen, that certain phrases come to be not so remarkable for originality or compre- appropriated to certain men and things, and hensiveness of poetic power, as for his skill are regularly applied to those men and things, in dealing with poetical materials. His by every minstrel." This lay is supposed to prominent excellences are those of the gifted have been “sung at the feast of Castor and and well-practised artist. The Roman Lays Pollux ;” and it relates how the Romans are forcible and eloquent versifications of an- gained a victory over the Latines near Lake cient Roman legends ; but most of the essen- Regillus, through being visibly assisted by tial poetry they contain belongs rather to the those deities — the much-honored “great subjects than to the conceptions of the writ-twin-brethren ;” and how the feast, in comer. No man sees his object more clearly than memoration of their august services, came to Macaulay, or can paint it more vividly to the be first instituted. Of
course, the poet's obperceptions of his reader. No one is more ject, in this and the other ballads, is to fur studious of the effects of contrast, and the ap- 'nish us with animated descriptions of Roman propriate grouping, of events and incidents. scenery and manners, and to illustrate, as thorNo one can surpass him in the art of producing oughly as possible, the habits, actions, and a vivid and picturesque impression. With modes of feeling which characterized the Rotrue poetic syn pathy, he projects himself into man people. * Virginia" is the story of a the scenes and incidents to be described, and maiden who was stabbed by her father, to depicts them with a minute distinctness, as save her from dishonor ; and it purports to of one speaking with the authority of a wit- be « fragments of a lay sung in the Forum," ness. These abrupt martial chants of his do really make us, to some extent, acquainted * Lars, lar, signifies a lord or chief.
on the day when certain tribunes of the com- read continuously; their merit is not to be seen
opens with the announcement that Lars
Like an eagle's nest, hangs on the crest minstrel runs over some of the principal events
Of purple Apennine. connected with its early history. Copys is from many places specified by name; the an imaginary seer of the time of Romulus, united forces amounting to fourscore thousand old and sightless ; and his prophecy is repre- foot and ten thousand horsemen. “ Thirty sented as being addressed to that personage chosen prophets," esteemed “the wisest of the when he visited the seer, just before his de- land,” are officially consulted respecting the parture from Alba for the purpose of found- prospects of the enterprise, and they with one ing a new city. The lay is stated to have accord encourage Porsena to proceed with it, been “sung at the banquet in the Capitol, on and promise him a "return in glory.” Meanthe day whereon Manius Curius Dentatus, a while, from all the country about the liber, second time consul, triumphed over King the people, in tumult and consternation, hastiPyrrhus and the Tarentines, in the year of the ly take flight to Rome; and for two days and city 479." Like all the others, it is written nights the roads, for a mile around the city, with much spirit, but it is less attractive than were stopped up by the multitude. Aged the rest, on account of its lacking the inter- folks on crutches, women with young children, est which attaches to personal exploits and sick men borne on litters, and troops of sunadventure. Romulus is too remote and too burnt husbandmen with staves and reapinghypothetical a being for human sympathy to hooks, and droves of mules and asses laden be concerned with ; whilst the war with the with skins of wine, and endless flocks of catTarentines is referred to in terms too vague tle, and trains of wagons, creaking beneath and general to make anything approaching to the weight of household goods ; these, in thick a powerful impression. This may very well confusion and impatience, throng for entrance accord with the shadowy peculiarities of proph- at the gates. From the Tarpeian rock, the ecy, but it unquestionably impairs the in- pale burghers behold at midnight the line of terest of the ballad. The collection alto- blazing villages which marks the advances of gether, however, forms a lively representation the enemy; and every hour some hasty horseof some of the most prominent features of Ro- man comes in with new tidings of dismay. man life and manners, as far as such a pic- Eastward and westward, the whole country is ture can be rendered from the legends and ravaged and burnt up; the fortress of Janiotraditions in which the primitive facts of Ro- ulum* is stormed, and the guards thereof are man history are embodied.
Janiculum was a hill beyond the Tiber, which It has been observed that, to be properly had been incorporated within the city, and fortified appreciated, Mr. Macaulay's ballads must be as an outpost, or bulwark, against Etruria.
slain ; and now the way is clear for the destroy-) “ Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, ing foemen right up to the Tiber bridge. În
With all the speed ye may ; haste, and with aching hearts, the consul
I, with two more to help me, and the senate go down to the River-gate,
Will hold the foe in play. and there hold " council standing;” short
In yon straight path a thousand
May well be stopped by three. time, indeed, there was for “musing or de
Now who will stand on either hand, bate ;” and the consul instantly decides that
And keep the bridge with me?” “the bridge must straight go down ;" for Janiculum being lost, nothing else could save the city. Just then, a scout comes in to say, forward, and offer to support him in the un
Spurius Lartius, and strong Herminius, step that “ Lars Porsena is here;” and the consul, dertaking, and the consul expresses his apturning his eye westward, perceives the storm of dust which is raised by the army on its proval. march. And nearer comes the whirlwind of its motion ; and louder and more distinctly,
“ Horatius," quoth the consul,
“ As thou sayest, so let it be.” from underneath the rolling cloud, is heard the
And straight against that great array sounding of the trumpets, and the trampling
Forth went the dauntless three. and the nameless hum, that announce the For Romans in Rome's quarrel nearness of a multitude.
“In broken gleams Spared neither land nor gold ; of dark-blue light,” a long array of spears and Nor son nor wife, nor limb, nor life, helmets is gradually discerned, and the ban
In the brave days of old. ners of proud chiefs rise high above ; and, higher than all, is seen the “ banner of proud Then none was for a party ; Clusium.” The warlike lords of many cities
Then all were for the state ; are seen and recognized; and among them is Then the great man helped the poor, Lars Porsena, in an “ivory car," with
And the poor man loved the great Mamilius, Prince of Latium, riding by the
Then lands were fairly portioned ; wheel on one side, and on the other «i false
Then spoils were fairly sold :
The Romans were like brothers Sextus, that wrought the deed of shame,”
In the brave days of old. alluding to the outrage on Lucretia. The presence of Sextus excites the scorn and
While the three are tightening on their curses of the Romans.
barness, the consul and the people proceed to A yell that rent the firmament
break down the bridge ; and meanwhile the From all the town arose.
Tuscan army advances slowly to the spot On the house-tops was no woman
where the dauntless three stand waiting to But spat towards him and hissed : oppose the entire host. Presently three No child but screamed out curses,
chieftains from the hostile ranks confront And shook its little fist.
them, and are instantly struck down, and
slain by the brave Romans. Many others But the brow of the consul was sad, and follow, and fall in like manner. Horatius, his speech was very low; for he discerns that however, gets wounded in the thigh, whereat the van of the enemy is likely to be upon the Tuscans for a while rejoice ; yet he still them before the bridge goes down, and that, stands up with his companions, and the three unless something can be done to check their successfully defend the bridge against all asprogress, and so gain a little time, there is no sailants, until such time as the people behind chance left of keeping them out of possession them have loosened it ready for falling. As of the town.
it hangs tottering above the stream, the FaThen out spake brave Horatius,
thers call loudly to Horatius and the others to The captain of the Gate :
come back before it drops :
Back darted Spurius Lartius ;
Herminius darted back ;
And, as they passed, beneath their feet
They felt the timbers crack ;
But when they turned their faces,
And on the further shore
Saw brave Horatius stand alone,
They would have crossed once more.
But, with a crash like thunder,
Fell every loosened beam ;
And, like a dam, the mighty wreck
Lay right athwart the stream:
Alone stood brave Horatius,
And now, with shouts and clapping, But constant still in mind ;
And noise of weeping loud,
He enters through the River-gate,
Borne by the joyous crowd.
They gave him of the corn-land, “Now yield thee,” cried Lars Porsena,
That was of public right, “Now yield thee to our grace.”
As much as two strong oxen
Could plough from morn till night ; Round turned he, as not deigning
And they made a molten image,
And set it up on high ;
And there it stands unto this day
To witness if I lie.
It stands in the Comitium,
Plain for all folks to see
Horatius in his harness,
Halting upon one knee : “ Tiber! Father Tiber!
And underneath is written,
In letters all of gold,
How valiantly he kept the bridge
In the brave days of old.
And still his name sounds stirring
Unto the men of Rome,
As the trumpet-blast that cries to them Plunged headlong in the tide.
To charge the Volscian home;
And wives still pray to Juno
For boys with hearts as bold
As his who kept the bridge so well
In the brave days of old.
And in the nights of winter,
When the cold north winds blow,
And the long howling of the wolves All Rome sent forth a rapturous cry,
Is heard amidst the snow;
When round the lonely cottage
Roars loud the tempest's din,
And the good logs of Algidus
Roar louder yet within ;
When the oldest cask is opened,
And the largest lamp is lit ;
When the chestnuts glow in the embers, And spent with changing blows ;
And the kid turns on the spit ;
When young and old in circle
Around the firebrands close ;
When the girls are weaving baskets, Ne'er, I ween, did swimmer,
And the lads are shaping bows;
When the goodman mends his armor,
And trims his helmet's plume ; But his limbs were borne up bravely
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily By the brave heart within,
Goes flashing through the loom ;
With weeping and with laughter
Still is the story told,
How well Horatius kept the bridge “ Curse on him!” quoth false Sextus ;
In the brave days of old. “Will not the villain drown?
The reader must acknowledge these to be But for this stay, ere close of day strong and stirring verses, bespeaking a fine
We should have sacked the town !" “ Heaven help him !" quoth Lars Porsena,
talent in the author, such as entitles him to
no mean place among his poetical contempo "And bring him safe to shore ; For such a gallant feat of arms
raries. Excepting the metrical romances of Was never seen before."
Scott, we know of no poetry devoted to war
like subjects which can justly be considered And now he feels the bottom;
more vigorous and excellent. Indeed, in Now on dry earth he stands ;
many of the nicer touches of execution, MacNow round him throng the Fathers aulay surpasses Scott, and turns his matter To press his gory hands;
to a more graceful and adroit effect than Sir CCCCLXVIII. LIVING AGE. YOL, I. 22
Walter could have done. His versification is Charles II. - and the final contest between in general more flexible and Auent; rugged king and people, which resulted in the memo phrases and bald expressions less frequently rable Revolution of 1688. The second volume occur; and, upon the whole, Macaulay may closes with the proclamation of William and be said to have given the ballad-form of poe- Mary; and, as the preliminary sketch occutry a more polished and finished shape than pies but little more than half a volume, the it had ever reached in the hands of preceding work, so far as it has proceeded, may be propwriters. Of the specific worth of such poe- erly accounted a history of the great constitry, there need be little said. It is plain that tutional struggle which led to the expulsion it makes no appeal to the more profound in- of James II.,
and the settlement of the crown terests or emotions of human nature ; it re- upon the Prince of Orange. In subsequent veals no great or influential truths; it enforces volumes, the author purposes to relate " bow no lofty views of man and his relations; it is the new settlement was, during many troubled simply a refined divertisement - a beautiful years, successfully defended against foreign and pleasant product of the fancy, fit for the and domestic enemies; how, under that setentertainment of a vacant or a pensive hour. tlement, the authority of law and the security But it is not to be overlooked, that it has no of property were found to be compatible with pretensions to a higher aim; although, such a liberty of discussion and of individual action as it is, it completely fulfils its purpose. Nor never before known; how, from the auspicious let it he ever said, that the time spent in union of order and freedom, sprang a prosperreading it is thrown away; for, in presenting ity, of which the annals of human afairs had attractive pictures of ancient nobleness, in furnished no example ; how our country, from the sympathy which it excites for deeds of a state of ignominious vassalage, rapidly roso heroism, generosity, and faithfulness, it does to the place of umpire among European powunquestionably communicate a portion of that ers; how her opulence and her martial glory influence by which men are stimulated to grew together; how, by wise and resolute kindred deeds and virtues. The tone that good faith, was gradually established a public pervades the Lays is eminently healthful, ro- credit, fruitful of marvels which, to the statesbust, and manly: it has something of the old man of any former age, would have seemed Roman virtus in it — manliness, hardihood, incredible ; how a gigantic commerce gave intense appreciation of whatever becomes a birth to a maritime power, compared with man; and he assuredly deserves well of the which every other maritime power, ancient or community who, in enervated and artificial modern, sinks into insignificance ; how Scottimes, infuses into it any portion of that old land, after ages of enmity, was at length united invincibility of mind and spirit, or even to England – not merely by legal bonds, but arouses it to a temporary admiration of any by indissoluble ties of interest and affection; of the memorable manifestations of such a how, in America, the British colonies rapidly temper. Something of this service the Lays became far mightier and wealthier than the of Ancient Rome are calculated to render ; realms which Cortez and Pizarro had added to and they are further valuable, as having a the dominions of Charles V.; how, in Asia, tendency to counteract that feeble superfine- British adventurers founded an empire not ness of sentiment and imagery which has be- less splendid and more durable than that of come too much the characteristic of our recent Alexander." poetry. Young poets would do well to study But, in connection with these triumphs, he diligently these homely and but little-adorned considers it not the less his duty to record productions, and learn how incomparably faithfully the disasters which the country has more effective is a chaste and vigorous sim- at intervals sustained, as well as the great paplicity of style and diction, than can be any tional crimes and follies which are more huprofusion or display of elaborated ornament. miliating than disasters. He conceives, how
In his History of England, Mr. Macaulay ever, that “ the general effect of this checkered has purposed to write the history of our coun- narrative will be to excite thankfulness in all try, from the accession of James II. down to religious minds, and hope in the breasts of all a time which is within the memory of men patriots. For the history of our country durstill living. The two volumes that have been ing the last hundred and sixty years, is emiissued present us with a rapid survey of the nently the history of physical, of moral, and condition of Britain under the various forms of intellectual improvement. Those who comof social life and government which it under- pare the age on which their lot has fallen with went from the invasion by the Romans to the a golden age which exists oniy in their imagaccession of the Stuarts ; followed by a com- ination, may talk of degeneracy and decay ; prehensive account of the origin of the dis- but no man who is correctly informed as to putes which brought Charles I. into collision the past, will be disposed to take a morose or with his parliament -- the wars and confusions desponding view of the present.” that succeeded — the Protectorate of Crom In one important respect, this history differs well — the Restoration and the reign of materially from all preceding histories in the