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"the Saint Bartholemew of the privileged orders," as Burke called it. So, he has been forced (Hugo, not Burke) to put his patent in his pocket for awhile—like Mozart, who on his way through the piebald principalities of Germany used, after his father's prudent advice, to hang out his Pope's Cross in some places, and put it up in others. However, things have already taken a turn in France— in Paris, at least—and Victor Hugo may shortly exhibit his patent at his button-hole if he likes—that is, if he may not actually do so as affairs stand in that republic of a year. Matters there are getting on a reculons, and some more restorations would seem to be in the wind. Victor Hugo is prouder of his title, we believe, than of the authorship of N6tre Dame. In this he resembles Lord Byron, (who considered an old English Baron the first of dignities—even when no longer a schoolboy)—and, must we add, Sir Walter Scott? Yes; for with that healthful Cervantic mind of his—so like Chaucer's in many of its features—Scott would rather be rated as descendant or kinsman of the cattle-stealing chief of Harden, than the man who drew Jeannie Deans, and the Jewess, Balfour of Burley, and the Baron of Bradwardine. And we may remark how much Scott resembles Shakespeare, in one particular—if not in others. Both were thinking more of building houses for themselves and their families, than of that edifice of immortality which the world has inherited in their names. Shakespeare, in one of his Sonnets written after he had made money as a stage-manager, complains of the degradation and loss of respectability he endured by writing and acting plays! How unlike Milton in this respect, who put himself under a solemn course of intellectual training, before he strode prepense upon the epic stage, and challenged a renown that the world should not willingly let die! Congreve, who also made his literature a subordinate consideration, was rebuked by Voltaire for his affectation, while it was probably no affectation, but a truth of character now countenanced by loftier examples. Perhaps there is something after all in that preference for high station, and that looking back to feudal times and pretensions, if philosophy would but hunt it out. It may be these great intellects have not exhibited such tendencies for nothing.
But, as we were saying, Victor Hugo is proud of his countship; it suits his name, which has something Merovingian in it. He has long been at the head of what the French have called, by a rather loose kind of nomenclature, the romantic school of poetry, contradistinguished from the classical. His genius, certainly, like that of Scott, exhibits a strong leaning to the chivalrous period of society, and
is at home among the courts, castles, cathedrals,
Howo'er it be, it seems to me
We will pursue this digression no longer, but
Coming to Victor Hugo:—he is one of the first of French lyric poets, not the first. His fame will rest less upon his NCtre Dame, a work truer to its Gothic details and the distinctives of a historic period than to human nature and probability (in this far inferior to Sir Walter Scott), less upon his dramas, which are more remarkable for a certain pomp of style and imagery, and an exaggeration of character, than for the sweet touches of humanity which make Shakespeare akin to the whole world—than upon his lyrics. Though he does not think so himself, probably; for, with a wonderful self-delusion, he fancies he could be to Shakespeare what Napoleon was to Charlemagne. But his lyric poetry gives him celebrity enough. In this he seems to run through all modes of the lyre, and be master of them. In 1822, being twenty years old, he published his Odes and Ballads. In his Odes he showed himself a legitimist—the poet of royalty and the denouncer of Napoleon. That did not hinder him, however, from worshipping the memory of the buried Emperor afterwards, and in a very little time, too! His father was a General of the Empire. But his mother was a royalist, and her sentiments early impressed
the mind of the young poet, giving one more instance of the truth of Napoleon's saying, that the mother greatly influences the character of the child. The Ballads contain some sweet pieces, breathing the simple spirit of the earlier times of knighthood and the troubadours—such as Ecoute-moi Madelaine, and LaFiancSe du Timbalier. The last is as follows. There has been a good deal said about translation—from Horace down; we think a man has the best chance of doing his victim justice who gives him as literally as possible. Horace advises a free translation; that is very good when your translator is equal to the original—a Shelley, a Coleridge, or a Hunt. But we have been much struck with a certain opinion of Chaucer's —to wit:—
"Whoso shall tellen a tale after a man,
and so in the matters following, we ha*e observed this fine-hearted old troubadour's advice, as much as possible.
THE CYMBALLER'S BRIDE.
My lord, the Duke of bold Bretagne,
Was to the battle boune afar;
Ills arriere-ban of war I
Barons were there whose blazons bold
Deck many a moated castle wall;
My true-love with them all.
To Aquitaine he went away,
One of the cymbal iers; but he
All golden-seamed to see.
Since then, distracted by my fear,
To send his guardian-angel here
To watch that wandering cymballer—
I've bid our Abbot pray a prayer
For all our valiant soldiers gone,
St. Gildas' shrine upon.
Our Lady of Loretto, too,
I've promised her, right sore distressed,
The scallop on my breast.
No token came to soothe my wo,
No absent lover's gentle gage;
The peasant maid no page
Tc~day he will return, I trow,
Back by his noble master's side,
My love it is my pride.
The Duke returns and brings, elate,
Maidens, come stand beneath the gate,
To see his Highness pass in state—
Come, see his charger harnessed gay
For this day's noble pageant, bound
Maidens, you dress too slowly, come
To see my soldier-love advance;
Make every bosom dance.
Come, see him, too, so proudly wear
The mantle by my fingers drest;
Bear bis steel cap and crest.
A gipsy woman yesterday
Behind a pillar called mo near.
A certain cymballer I
Truce to sad thoughts!—come, come along I
I hear the war-drum close at hand;
Now two and two the host comes by;
And first the pikemen, stout and slow;
And caps of velvet go.
Then priests in chasubles; then prance
While on their tabards they advance
Their master's proper cognizance
Next rides the Templars' dreaded van,
In Persian armour of the East;
In buff and steel go drest.
The Duke! the Duke! his banner borne
Floats o'er his noblo cavaliers;
Sisters, the Cymballers 1
She said: her eager glance was thrown
In his Orientates, Victor Hugo exhibits most of that glowing imagery and graceful pomp of versification which particularly distinguish his writings. He says he got the inspiration of them one evening while looking at a beautiful i sunset. But if he was looking at a sunset, he should have originated Occidenlales. Passing this by, we believe that his youth, spent in Spain and familiar with the architectural remnants, literary notices and traditions of the Moorish occupation, left on his mind impressions which afterwards revealed themselves. The Orientates, in fact, only refer to European scenes and characters—in Spain and part of Turkey. When we consider that they were published before he was twenty-five years old, we must hold a high opinion of Victor Hugo's poetical genius. The sentiment of these lyrics is generally true to the scene and character of their subjects, and there is a warm glow of mingled romance and orientalism in them, which took the public after the manner of Byron's and Scott's splendid poetic fragments and narratives, in English-speaking land. But with a difference. The latter possess an irregular p0wer—a fluent energy contrasting with the sentimental polish and point of the French lyrics. It is curious that, under a general view, this poetry of the Anglo-Saxon temperament should exhibit itself in narrative and movement, while the lively, subtle Gauls should diffuse themselves in the psychological and moral affections:—one would have inferred the very contrary. At all events, Victor Hugo has set forth the sentiment of his Orientalet, in a very graceful and attractive manner—" painted and chiselled" as he says himself—making them very difficult of rendering. There is truth and simplicity in the following:—
ADIEU OF THE ARAB HOSTESS.
Since nought in our fair clime can woo thy stay—
Nor tho ripe yollow maize, nor palmy abodes,
The loving bosoms of our gentle maids
Lest he should cast thee on the stony track,
Pawing the ground impatient, while his back
Still thou wilt roam :—why art thou not of thoso
Who calmly rest, to travel never won,
Who list recitals, dreamy, making none,
Perhaps, if it had pleased thy wandering thoughts,
To kneel and serve tbee in our open huts,
Weave a light fan of greenest leaves to keep
The wayward insects from thy cherished sleep.
But thou wilt go, lone journeying night and day,
Striking the sparkles from the rocky way,
The demons of the night will blindly hit
Their ghastly wings and rend them as they flit.
If thou return, come o'er yon far dark hill,
To find my faithful hut;—remember still
Its only door, still opened to the sky,
But shouldst thou not—ah! sometimes think upon
Who dance on the plateau at set of sun;
Pair passage-bird, remember, more than one
May hold thy memory dear, when thou art gone.
Adieu! thy path lies straight; avoid the sun That gilds the brown, but burns the white man's brow,
And our wide wastes impassable, and shun
The old and withered beldame, bending low; And those that with their white mysterious wands In tjhe dim eve make circles on the sands.
Coming back to the Morisco ground of Spain, Victor Hugo finds himself at home in a Gothic ballad.
A MOORISH ROMANCE.
Don Rodrigue est a la chasse, etc.
Rodrigo to the chase is gone.
But sword or corslet bears he none;
The summer's day to noon has rolled, And now, beneath the greenwood tree, On shady sward reposes he—
Reposes Don Rodrigo bold.
His heart with hate is burning sore;
Mudarra bight, his brother's son— Whose brethren seven, of kindred blood, By him had died in deadly feud,
And Lara's line had left but one.
Him to encounter, band to hand,
He would have traversed Spanish land,
From Figuer to Setuval,
Appeared a stalwart horseman tall.
"Christian or Moor, whate'er thou be, Sir Knight, beneath the greenwood tree,
God keep thee in his hand alway"— "Now Christ bis grace and benison Be thine, Sir Knight, that wendest on—
That wendest on the public way"—
M Christian or Moor, whate'er thou be, Sir Knight, beneath the greenwood tree,
Upon the shady sward at rest, Thy name and cognizance declare; That I may know if thou dost bear
A true knight's or a felon's crest"—
"If it imports thee to be told,
My sifter Dona Sancha is,
"I rest beneath the greenwood tree,
Bastard Mudarra near and far—
The Moorish king, Aliatar.
"Certes, unless he shuns my wrath,
He carries with him everywhere,
While sheathless hangs the blade and bare.
"Yes, by my Christian soul and faith,
His miscreant body doom but mine;
Bodrigo of De Lara's line?
"Then listen, lord!—The youth who now
He is Mudaira and thy fate!
Rodrigo said: "thou comest late!"
"L. son of the bold renegade
The royal Moorish potentate—
Rodrigo said: "thou oomest late!"
"For thee, Rodrigo, far too soon.
Of which thou'rt weary—Dost thou quake f
Thy angel's in the burning lake!
"Now, with my true Toledo blade,
Look on my eyes—they burn and start!—
Thy life from out thy beating heart!
"Yes, Dona Sancha's nephew here
Slake all this long-devouring thirst .
"Nephew, Mudarra, hear me first!
"Wait thee a moment, till I stand
"Delay, good uncle, shall be none
Where thou didst send them first, begone!
"If to this moment, everywhere,
Tis that I thought, and hugged the thought,
Find its red scabbard in thy throat!"
It should have found it four or five stanzas back;—though the harangue is bloody and
bitter enough; and anything in the way of prolixity has had excellent epic precedent in Homer.
Victor Hugo's sentiment is very often injured by very great extravagancies and exaggerations. He has a genius for gorgeous enumerations and graphic details. He gets a heap of grand and luxuriant images, and he "glides o'er them like a golden fish." He exhibits all the French taste for dramatic effect, and his movement sometimes, compared with Byron's— for instance—or Cowper's, is that stage carriage of which Mrs. Crummles's gait, walking up the aisle, in Nicholas Nickleby, is the caricature—a pausing, pronounced advance on a measured stride. Every stanza has its pointed rounding—and this, to an American taste, may, in some instances, be thought amusing enough. In his Greek Child—a boy lying amidst the ruins of Scio, which the Turks had desolated, is addressed, and asked what he looks for or mourns for; and all the beautiful and poetical attractives of childhood are poured interrogatively out, till they are completely exhausted, and then the child—"the child of the blue eyes"—a high-stomached young rogue!—cries out—no, none of these—
Jt veux de la poudre et des ball's.
"I want powder and ball!" In another lyrio, a dervish witnesses the grief of a Pacha, and in nine stanzas sums up the probable, picturesque causes of his awful and ominous look, and you think it must be one of the finest and weightest of them, till you come to end, and find it is only
Son tigre de Nulrie est mart!
His Nubian tiger is dead 1 In another, called Mazeppa, the poet desires to say that a fated bard is like the Ukraine chief, carried in painful transit amidst perils and discomforts, till he sinks and then becomes a king—posthumously—as it were :—
11 court, il voU, U tombe Et te reitve roi!
This the poet says, in twenty-three stanzas— about one hundred and forty lines. He does not leave out a bound of the animal—a rood of the long way, or a pang of the victim— making all up into stanzas with a good point —a palpable hit, at the end of each. Byron would have put the matter into three rapid lines and a hemistich—Cowper or Moore into a couplet. These exaggerations, so incompatible with an Anglo-Saxon taste, could be easily multiplied. We are apt to smile at them; but our dramatic and sentimental neighbours of the other republic are vividly touched with them. Perhaps they laugh in turn, and deservedly, at some of our own literary complacencies. These things are, however, but the weeds—as we think them—of a rich soil, the exuberances of a glowing mind leaping, in its error^ over climax into anti-climax—making that step which, Tom Paine says, divides, at times, the sublime and the ridiculous. Victor Hugo has a crowd of countervailing beauties. The following Orienlale is picturesque and natural. An Arab is made to remember the French Sultan (Bonaparte) who sent the echoes of his name from the Pyramids and Tabor all through the East:—
Lo, Bounaberdi, the Frank Sultan, oft,
A giant, on a giant mount aloft,
The world's two parts are in his sight, at once,
Stretched far below him in profound expanse.
Thus on the summit stands he, lone and high:
Its clouds of dust to charm his wandering eye;
And, on the left sends up a rolling sound,
As bays about its lord a joyous hound.
And the old chieftain, as by turns he aees
Dreams as a lover dreams, and shapes from these
Marching before his shadow—going by
Beneath the horizon's edge, eternally.
O, Bounaberdi, when to yonder height
Upon the howling sands, my tent of white;
My horse, when I shout Allah! flies and rolls
Under hia eyelids fine, two living coals I
The poem called Vocu is considered one of the most graceful of the Orientatet. Here is the wrong side of the tapestry:—
Si j'etaia la feuille que roule, etc.
Were I a leaf, swept to and fro
And borne along the river's flow,
I would all freshly flee away
In the keen breath of opening day,
Beyond the river's stormy sweep,
Beyond the forest vast and gray,
My flight should be, away, away.
Beyond the she-wolfs grim retreat,
Beyond the plain where pilgrims meet
Beyond the rocks whence rudely go
Beyond the lake where, bending low,
Beyond the sands where sternly goes,
And wrinkled forehead swarth, that shows
O'er Arta's mirror-pond, afar,
Swift as the feathered arrow strays,
Corinth's and Mykos' mutual gaze-
I'd pause, in morning's early rays,
With its fair gleaming cupolas;
And to the priest's fair daughter gay,
Who at her window sings all day,
There, fugitive light leaf, would I,
Alight upon her brow and lie
There, tho' but for an instant's flight,
Than all the plumage waving white
Five years after his Orientalet, Victor Hugo published his Feuilles (VAutomne. These are of a graver and more subdued tone—treating chiefly of domestic feelings, affections, and remembrances. Some of the best and worthiest sentiments of the poet will be found in this collection. There is a household and pathetic interest in the two following lyrics, which induces us to offer them in American, in preference to others of more profound philosophy and higher pretensions.
When baby comes, tho family circle cries
Brighten all bosoms in that happy place,
Yes, whether June has greened the sward, or whether
Sometimes we apeak, while stirring up the fire,