Изображения страниц
[ocr errors]

état à lui en addresser de déplacées. Elle aurait désiré ne recevoir ehez elle que des hommes du rang le plus élevé et de mours irréprochables, parce que les femmes à qui elle frémissait d'être comparée se forment d'ordinaire une société mélangée, et se résignant à la perte de la considération, ne cherchent dans leurs relations que l'amusement. Ellénore, en un mot, était en lutte constante avec sa destinée. Elle protestait, pour ainsi dire, par chacune de ces actions et de ces paroles, contre la classe dans laquelle elle se trouvait rangée: et comme elle sentait que la réalité était plus forte qu'elle, et que ses efforts ne changeaient rien à sa situation, elle était fort malheureuse. Elle élevait deux enfans qu'elle avait eus du comte de P*** avec une austérité excessive. On eût dit quelquefois qu'une révolte secrète se mêlait a l'attachement plutôt passionné que tendre qu'elle leur montrait, et les lui rendait en quelque sorte importuns. Lorsqu'on lui faisait à bonve intention quelque remarque sur ce que ses enfans grandissaient, sur les talens qu'ils promettaient d'avoir, sur la carrière qu'ils auraient à suivre, on la voyait pâlir de l'idée qu'il faudrait qu'un jour elle leur avouật leur naissance. Mais le moindre danger, une heure d'absence, la ramenait à eux avec une anxiété ou l'on démêlait une espèce de remords, et le désir de leur donner par ses caresses le bonheur qu'elle n'y trouvait


elle-même. Cette opposition entre ses sentimens et la place qu'elle occupait dans le monde avait rendu son humeur fort inégale. Souvent elle était rêveuse et taciturne: quelquefois elle parlait avec impetuosité. Comme elle était tourmentée d'une idée particulière, au milieu de la conversation la plus générale, elle ne restait jamais parfaitement calme. Mais par cela même, il y avait dans sa manière quelque chose de fougueux et d'inattendu, qui la rendait plus piquante qu'elle n'aurait dû l être naturellement. La bisarrerie de sa position suppléait en elle à la nouveauté des idées. On l'examinait avec intérêt et curiosité comme un bel orage."

“ Ellénore thus brought before me (he adds) when my heart was in want of love, and in my vanity of success, she appeared a conquest worthy of me.” The conquest was achieved, but not without difficulty. Having endured for a time the restraints which the presence of the Count imposed, his absence allows them free and unrestrained intercourse; and then that change in the feelings of Adolphe took place which it is the peculiar morale of this work to exbibit, and which Rochefoucault has drily stated in one of the least offensive of his much too highly prized maxims“We are nearer loving those who hate us than those who love us too much."-"On est plus proche d'aimer ceux qui nous haïssent que ceux qui nous aiment trop."

This. moral however has been already very impressively taught in our language in the writings and life of a very in

and very

teresting and

unfortunate woman, Mrs. Woolstonecroft. It has always appeared to us from the perusal of her beautiful and pathetic letters to Imlay, that it was the ardour and strength of her attachment which oppressed him, and alienated him entirely from her. We know not whether he is still alive, but if he were, he would probably bear his testimony to the truth of the following representation.Adolphe being wounded in a duel which he fought in resentment of an affront cast upon his mistress, her love manifests itself in all its force, and he thus expresses the strength of his passion :-“ Affection overcame me; I was torn by remorse. I wished to find in myself what could reward an attachment so constant and tender. I called to my aid recollection, imagination, even reason and a sense of duty. Useless efforts ! The difficulty of our situation; the certainty of a future separation ; perhaps too an inexplicable repugnance to a tie I was unable to break—all internally tormented me. I reproached myself with ingratitude; I laboured to conceal from her I was in affliction when she appeared to doubt of a love which was so necessary to her: I was not less unhappy when she seemed to believe in it. I felt that she was better than myself, I despised myself for being unworthy of her. It is a dreadful evil not to meet with a return of love; but it is a much greater evil to be beloved without the power of returning it. The life which I had risked for Elénore I would a thousand tinies have sacrificed to render her happy without me.

In a critical postscript and preface our author bears testimony to the wretchedness inevitably consequent on such a connection as that of Adolphe with Elénore.

6 I have exhibited him," says he," because he loved but feebly; he would not have been less miserable had he loved her more. He suffered through her from want of feeling ; with a stronger passion he would have suffered for her. The scornful and reproachful world would have shed its poison over an affection which its laws had not sanctioned, and happiness requires that such ties should not be formed. When the career is opened, there is but a choice of evils.”

[ocr errors]



Art. III.-The Lay of the Laureate. Carmen Nuptiale,

By Robert Souther, Esq. Poet Laureate, Member of the Spanish Academy, &c. London, for Longman and

Co. 1816, 12mo. Pp. 77. ALL who read Mr. Southey's productions must allow that there has seldom appeared a poet who possessed more facility of composition; not that sort of facility which Mr. Samuel Rogers seems to enjoy in the smoothness of his versification, and which Waller (a poet very much of the same school) says in fact costs a man more labour than the polishing of a diamond, but an easy flow of language that originates in a long habit of writing, The list of poetical productions annexed to this volumé independent of his labours, when as he expresses, he patient pursued the historian's task severe,” may well induce us to believe that Mr. Southey writes currente calamo, and, as his friends report, that besides his other occupations, he regularly emits forty lines every morning before breakfast. The necessary consequence is, however, that deep thinking, profound remark upon the actions and motives of men, the result of the patient revolving and assorting of ideas in the mind, are in a great degree excluded, and we have little else but the superficies of things presented to us.

Mr. Southey is like the sea-fowl which glides a few feet above the surface of the waters with eye-fatiguing velocity, now and then stooping to pick up its small tinny prey, betrayed by the glittering of the sun upon its scaly sides, but never diving down to the sunless recesses of the ocean to survey wonders hidden since the creation of the world.

This is peculiarly the case with the Carmen Nuptiale, though it is more to be excused because the subject was of a temporary nature and required dispatch in the execution. We do not apprehend that its author wishes to rest either his poetical, or his political fame upon productions of this adulatory kind; as Milton asserted when writing against royalty, so Mr. Southey may perhaps say when writing in its favour, “ I never was so thirsty after fame, nor so destitute of other hopes and ineans, better and more certain to attain it." *

Nevertheless in several parts of the poem before us, the author has expressed confident hopes, almost an assured certainty of immortality :

• Preface to Eiconoclastes.

• Thus in the ages which are past I live,

And those which are to come my sure reward will give," are two lines from the very beginning, and in the last stanza but two he vaunts

“ The amaranthine garland which I bring

Shall keep its verdure through all after hours;-
Yea, while the poets name is doomed to live

So long this garland shall its fragrance give.” These are pretty positive anticipations of the future, and to a certain extent they will no doubt be realized. We once thought that it would be a curious, and in some respects a useful task, to select from the works of celebrated writers those passages in which, speaking of themselves they prognosticated their coming fame : we had made a few extracts for this purpose from noted poets, beginning with the wellknown conviction of Milton, before he commenced his Paradise Lost, that he should live to complete something which the world would not willingly let'die,” and the passage we have above quoted, when we met with the Memoirs of Mr. Perceval Stockdale; in these, as a matter about which posterity would be extremely anxious, he informs us of the precise spot where he stood when he wrote the lines upon a lady's Goldfinch: we threw our papers immediately into the fire, ashamed of our slow conviction that these anticipations were in fact common to all authors; the difference being that with the weak and yain it was a mere idle hallucination, a mistake of the will for the power, while with the great and excellent, it was a clear perception of future admiration, when the slow advance of knowledge rendered the age capable of appreciating their productions. Among the latter we are anxious to rank the above and some subsequent quotations from the Lay of the Laureate.”

To advert more particularly to this poem, we confess that when first the title caught our eye in its ostentacious black letter, we really imagined that it was a satire upon Mr. Southey, until by. what followed we were informed that it was a dutiful tribute from the Laureate upon the late marriage of the Princess Charlotte': but proceeding beyond the first

page or two we found that if it were a Carmen Nuptiale, as applied to her Royal Highness, it was a sort of Carmen Triumphale as applied to Mr. Southey, for quite as much of it is occupied with himself as with the event proposed to be celebrated. The proem and the epilogue are exclusively filled with various pieces of intelligence respecting the auCrit. Rev. Vol. IV. July, 1816.


[ocr errors]

thor's literary achievements, very well written, but not very closely connected with the main subject, or rather, with what ought to have been the main subject. The reader shall judge; the work thus opens :

“ There was a time when all my youthful thought

Was of the Muse; and of the Poet's fame,
How fair it flourisheth and fadeth not,

Alone enduring, when the Monarch's name
Is but an empty sound, the Conqueror's bust
Moulders and is forgotten in the dust.
• How best to build the imperishable lay

Was then my daily care, my dream by night;
And early in adventurous essay

My spirit imped her wings for stronger flight:
Fair region's Fancy opened to my view,
• There lies thy path,' she said ; do thou that path pursue !
" For what hast thou to do with wealth or power,

Thou whom rich Nature at thy happy birth
Blest in her bounty with the largest dower

That Heaven indulges to a child of Earth,
Then when the sacred Sisters for their own
Baptized thee in the springs of Helicon!
They promised for thee that thou shouldst eschew

All low desires, all empty vanities;
That thou shouldst, still to Truth and Freedom true,

The applause or censure of the herd despise;
And in obedience to their impulse given,
Walk in the light of Nature and of Heaven.
«• Along the World's high-way let others croud,

Jostling and inoiling on through dust and heat;
Far from the vain, the vicious, and the proud,

Take thou content in solitude thy seat;
To noble ends devote thy sacred art,
And nurse for better worlds thine own immortal part!
“ Praise to that Power who from my earliest days,

Thus taught me what to seek and what to shun;
Who turned my footsteps from the crouded ways,

Appointing me my better course to run
In solitude, with studious leisure blest,

The mind unfettered, and the heart at rest.”
A little further on, Mr. Southey in somewhat of a boast-
ful strain adverts to his “ laureate crown,” and replies with
rancour to those who on his acceptance of it accused him of

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »