Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

dour of embellishment unsuited to the readers, have been prepared at the foreign presses. There is a papa; or instructor, in every village, who would expound this periodical document to the ignorant, and be glad by such means to increase his own influence. It is properly insisted, that the principal deficiency is not of magnificent editions of the classical writers, but those minor works which would be intelligible to every one, and which are the springs of knowledge, however much they may be despised, to ninety-nine out

of a hundred of those who largely partake of its benefits.

The late Empress of Russia particularly interested herself in the improvement of the modern Greek, and under her auspices appeared from the press at St. Petersburg a version into that language of Instructions to a Committee for a New Code of Laws. It was at one time the particular object of her policy to reduce the Greeks under the dominion of the Russian power. and the circumstances which obstructed the fulfilment of her purpose are briefly noticed in a preceding Review.* Prince Potemkin was the person whom she is said to have employed in the work of improving the Greek, and on a plan which he himself had found time to digest, notwithstanding the bustle of his miJitary life, and the projects of his inordinate ambition.

It is impossible to take our leave of this subject without a painful comparison between the ancient and modern state of Greece, even under the fond endeavour to keep alive the hope of the restoration of her former magnificence and glory. The degradation we see is certain, the improvement we wish is doubtful; and if, after the lapse of two thousand years, she should gradually return to her former rank, she will not reach this elevation until we, and many successive generations, are removed from the possibility of witnessing this glorious issue.

“ Ancient of days! august Athena! where,

Where are thy men of might? thy grand in soul?
Gone-glimmering through the dream of things that were.
First in the race that led to Glory's goal,
They won, and pass'd away. Is this the whole ?

« Catharine II. formed the plan of sending a squadron into the Mediterranean, to occasion a general insurrection of the Greek dependencies; but she was deceived by her own corrupt agents, and the scheme was abor. tive, as they plundered those they were sent to protect.” (Crit. Review, Vol. IV. Series Fifth, p. 218.)

A school-boy's tale, the wonder of an hour !
The warrior's weapon, and the sophist's stole
Are sought in vain; and o'er each mouldering tower,
Dim with the mist of years, grey flits the shade of power."

Childe Harold's Pilgrimage:

ART. VI.-Childe Harold's Pilgrimage : Canto the Third.

By Lord BYRON. London, John Murray, 1816. Svo.

pp. 79.

The first observation that every body will make upon the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage is, that the noble author assumes the character of its hero, and plainly, though not indeed directly, admits that it is his own. It begins about himself, his family misfortunes and disappointments, and it concludes in the same strain upon the same themes : the name of his daughter is almost as frequently introduced as that of Harold, who is only two or three times incidentally mentioned, more for the sake of varying the person than the sentiment; while nearly throughout the 118 stanzas of which this canto consists, Lord Byron speaks for himself of the countries he visited, and of the impressions they made.

It was uncharitable in the enemies, and in some of the mistaken friends of Lord Byron, to impute to him all the passions and qualities, the attributes of the hero of his two first cantos; and perhaps, even in the face of the positive testimony now supplied, we should be unwilling to draw such a conclusion, did we not find in the reading of what is before us, that Childe Harold is an altered man. We do not charge the noble author with a want of keeping or inconsistency in the character, because he never professed to régard strictly any rules of the kind; but Harold is no longer so completely an atheist with regard to Heaven, or a misanthrope with regard to earth, as in the first and second parts of his pilgrinage : he has been taught by the rich vallies of the Rhine, and the wild magnificence of Switzerland, a reverence he could not learn in the scenes of his former travels, and has claimed an intellectual relationship with his species, which in other countries he seemed ashamed and unwilling to acknowledge: he is no longer the maliga nant and gloomy hater of mankind, who can see nothing noble or beautiful in the structure of body or mind, but his detestation is qualified down to an impatient dislike of society, not so much because it is odious in itself, as because the author's feelings and dispositions are of such an unaccommodating and unbendingly-severe description, that he is unfit for its intercourse: this is illustrated by three stanzas about the middle of this canto.

“ To Ay from, need not be to hate, mankind;

All are not fit with them to stir aud toil;
Nor is it discontent to keep the mind
Deep in its fountain, lest it overboil
In the hot throng, where we become the spoil
Of our infection, till too late and long
We may deplore and struggle with the coil,

In wretched interchange of wrong for wrong
'Midst a contentious world, striving where none are strong.
"" There, in a moment, we may plunge our years

In fatal penitence, and in the blight
Of our own soul, turu all our blood to tears,
And colour things to come with hues of Night;
The race of life becomes a hopeless flight
To those that walk in darkness : on the sea,
The boldest steer but where their ports invite,

But there are wanderers o'er Eternity
Whose bark drives on and on, and anchored ne'er shall be.
“ Is it not better, then, to be alone,

And love Earth only for its earthly sake?
By the blue rushing of the arrowy Rhone,
Or the pure bosom of its nursing lake,
Which feeds it as a mother who doth make
A fair but froward infant her own care,
Kissing its cries away as these awake;-

Is it not better thus our lives to wear, Than join the crushing crowd, doom'd to inflict or bear?" By this identification of himself with the personage who before was more the vehicle of certain reflections and opinions, Lord Byron however, in some degree, interferes with the exercise of the true province of criticism, which properly has nothing to do with the author further than the work under review: with the structure of his mind, the passions and sympathies by which it is influenced, its advantages or defects, we have in general no concern; but his lordship forces them upon us, and compels a criticism of his temper and his failings as a man, as well as of his talents and acquirements as a poet: it is almost inevitable, too, that the judgment of the last should not be governed, and perhaps even misguided, by our opinion of the first. It is undoubtedly true; that the characters of all men are, more

or less, to be traced in their writings, but these indications are usually unconscious, and not of set purpose as with Lord Byron, who even goes to such an extreme as to make the public a party to the unfortunate disputes between himself and his most amiable wife, by the studious publication of painful particulars that would otherwise have remained in the seclusion of a domestic circle.

At least, this is unjust, if it be not cruel: Lord Byron availş himself of his popularity to make his own representations of the facts, and of the impressions which those facts have made upon him; while his unhappy lady, both unable and unwilling to retaliate, bears all the odium his statements are calculated to draw down upon her: he is to be regarded as a man driven from his home by the unforgiving hardheartedness of a wife, and she as a woman undeserving of the love of so beautiful a poet, and so noble a gentleman. Before we quit this subject, we will subjoin the passages of the third canto of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage which refer to this unhappy topic. It opens with the following stanzas :

Is thy face like thy mother's, my fair child!

Ada sole daughter of my house and heart?
When last I saw thy young blue eyes they smiled,
And then we parted---not as now we part,
But with a hope.

Awaking with a start,
The waters heave around me; and on high
The winds lift up their voices: 1 depart,

Whither I know not; but the hour's gone by,
When Albion's lessening shores could grieve or glad mine eye.
“ Once more upon the waters! yet once more !

And the waves bound beneath me as a steed
That knows his rider. Welcome, to their roar!
Swift be their guidance, whereso'er it lead!
Though the strain’d mast should quiver as a reed,
And the rent canvas fluttering strew the gale,
Still mụst I on; for I am as a weed,

Flung from the rock on Ocean's foam, to sail Where'er the surge may sweep, the tempest's breath prevail.” He then adds, that he resuines the tale of “ the wandering outlaw of his own dark mind,” to him “a not ungrateful theme,” if “ it fling forgetfulness around him;" and thus continues to advert to his own state of mind:

“ He, who grown aged in this world of woe,

In deeds, not years, piercing the depths of life,
CRIT. REV. Vol. IV. Nov. 1816.

SS

So that no wonder waits him; nor below
Can love, or sorrow, fame, anubition, strife,
Cut to his heart again with the keen knife
Of silent, sharp endurance: he can tell
Why thought seeks refuge in lone caves, yet rife

With airy images, and shapes which dwell
Still unimpair’d, though old in the soul's haunted cell.
“ 'Tis to create, and in creating live

A being more intense, that we endow
With form our fancy, gaining as we give
The life we image, even as I do now.
What am I? Nothing; but not so art thou,
Soul of my thought! with whom I traverse earth,
Invisible but gazing, as I glow

Mix'd with thy spirit, blended with thy birth,
And feeling still with thee in my crush'd feelings' dearth.

Yet must I think less wildly: I have thought
Too long and darkly, till my brain became,
In its own eddy boiling and o'erwrought,
A whirling gulf of phantasy and flame:
And thus, untaught in youth my heart to tame,
My springs of life were poison'd. 'Tis too late!
Yet am I chang'd; though still enough the same

In strength to bear what time can not abate, And feed on bitter fruits without accusing Fate.” The next stanza opens with the words, “Something too much of this,''as if bis lordship began to be sensible that he had no right to obtrude upon the world what we are unwilling to call by the harsh name of egotism, and which has hitherto been received with avidity, not so much for the sake of gratifying a malignant curiosity, as from the singularity of the story itself, and the interest felt for the parties concerned in it. At the end of the canto, however, his lordship again turns to the same subject, which he treats in a strain even more pathetic than in his celebrated verses on bidding “ farewell” to his home and country,

“ My daughter! with thy name this song begun

My daughter! with thy name thus much shall end
I see thee not, I hear thee not, but none
Can be so wrapt in thee; thou art the friend
To whom the shadows of far years extend:
Albeit my brow thou never should'st behold,
My voice shall with thy future visions blend,

And reach into thy heart, when mine is cold,
A token and a tone, even from thy father's mould.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »