ePub 版

a-tête with his sister, or moralizing among mountain scenery. In truth, the love of Edith, and the heroism of Isabel, form the principle attraction of the piece; and when they are not in view, the interest always lingers. We readily admit the inspiration of the Abbot to be genuine : but it could not be very great, since it allowed the heroine whom he had known from childhood to attend him without being discovered. But how she contrives to reach the Isle of Sky; what she does there; how she imposed on the pirate the belief that she was dumb, or how, being dumb, she communicated the story he told to the warriors—we are not duly informed. Even an enchanter in the Arabian Nights would have allowed her some kind of conveyance--a dragon, a magical car, or some other equally comfortable carriage; but our author merely exhibits her in her wedding attire at Artornish, and then, in a few hours, she appears in a savage island in male attire, among a race of very civilised pirates. Ronald, too, is rather a singular personage: he consents to a marriage which he dislikes, without assigning any reason for doing so ; and finally, after paying zealous court to another lady through five cantos and a half, he transfers his affections to their rightful claimant, in time to conclude the sixth. In one respect, this poem is superior to any the author has produced: we allude to the total absence of the drunken revelries and stupid jests of the subalterns; and the tedious descriptions of blue velvet housings, and harness of approved fabric. We miss, however, the Strange witchery which threw so mysterious a shadowing over his earlier poems—and that solemn thrilling voice of the times of old, to whose expiring echoes we can listen with delight.

We now take our leave of Mr. Scott, with a pretty sure presentiment of soon having the pleasure to see him again. Most sincerely do we wish that he would follow the loftier dictates of his genius ; that he would think more, print less, and be content to secure a title to draw, not on his booksellers and bankers, but on posterity. He ought, for a while at least, to retire satisfied with the general and cordial applause with which he has been honored.

Art. II. Charlemagne, ou L'Eglise Délivrée. Poème Epique. Par

Lucien Bonaparte. 2 Vols. 4to. London, Longman. 1814. When we consider the circumstances under which this poem has been composed and published, together with the obscure birth, acquired rank, elevated connexion, and political pursuits, of the author, the latter seldom allowing to the mind leisure or compo

sure for literary employments, we cannot but view Charlemagne as a phænomenon of considerable interest; especially since we have had the opportunity of ascertaining from an undoubted source, that every line of the four and twenty cantos was actually written by Lucien Bonaparte, who had not been assisted in the structure of the poem by any of the Savans, who formed a part of his fifty retainers during his retreat at Thorn-grove. We cannot withhold the local compliment of observing, that the pensive spirits, which may be supposed to fit through the classic shades of Hagley and the Leasowes, have had no reason to start from the approximation of their poetical neighbour; the Membre de l'Institut de France has the same poetical sight of nature, and his muse sustains a loftier flight with an unwearied wing.

CHARLEMAGNE has been composed during an exile, if not voluntary, at least chosen by Lucien as a less evil than that of being subservient to the ambition of a brother, whose ability and ready

exér, tion of the means adapted to the end, had placed him upon the steps which led directly to the imperial throne of France. Lucien has never displayed any taste for the pageantry of courts, and that game of playing at kings and queens, at which his brother has gambled away so much human life and human happiness. Not choosing to be, like Jerome, divided from the wife of his choice, and married to a princess for the good of the grande nation, or, on refusal, to be treated like Luke in the City Madam, by the Emperor whom he made First Consul, Lucien Bonaparte came un-compelled and uninvited to England, the asylum and sanctuary of Europe.

Although, while a Commissioner of the French government in Portugal, the Prince of Canino had shewn himself sufficiently ready to seize and bear away every thing valuable which came within his grasp—and his rapacity has not been un-noticed by the biographers of the day-in England he was liberal and punctual in his expenditure, and rejected, with all the repugnance of an independent mind, the notion of having his wants supplied by the government of a country, to which, though in fact a prisoner, he chose to consider himself on a visit. He was extremely averse from availing himself of the privilege of bringing his immense cargo of pictures and other effects to England, free of custom-louse duties; and when, having tendered payment for the occupation of Percy Castle, where he resided previous to his removal into Worcestershire, he was informed that he was to be lodged at the expence of government, he immediately distributed the money among the different parishes of Ludlow.

However he might choose to palliate or disguise to himself the fact, Lucien Bonaparte, while writing his epic poem, was certainly a prisoner. It was in prison that the immortal Bacon composed

trose works, which contain the seeds of half that has been written since. It was in prison that Galileo pursued his scientific researches, with a zeal unquenched by prejudice and persecution. Ignatius Loyola formed the plan of the society of Jesuits, while immured in a Spanish fortress. Madame de Roland was a prisoner under the constant expectation of the order for execution when she wrote her eloquent Appeal to Posterity, and the entertaining memoirs of Madame de Stael are dated from the Bastile. Numberless are the instances which might be adduced of the elastic energy by which strong minds rise above the pressure of misfortune, and while shut out from the world and forced upon themselves, elicit the flashes of genius from the clouds of adversity.

The details of what Lucien Bonaparte has hitherto performed on the stage of public life, of his residence at Rome, of his favor with the Pope, &c., are in the hands of the public ; what part he may in future act, we presume not to predict; it is of his literary not political existence that we now feel ourselves called upon to speak; and we turn from the consideration of the writer to the investigation of his labors.

A French serious epic poem of considerable length may claim at once the advantage of novelty, and the merit of enterprize, since, while the presses of England swarm with cantos and duans, and tales in verse, whose divisions are distinguished by the modest appellation of “books,” scarcely any work of the kind has been attempted by our Gallic neighbours since the days of Voltaire, whose Henriade, in comparison with the other productions of that uniFersal genius, has been but little read, and coldly commended. Lord Chesterfield has indeed said, “the Henriade is a finer epic poem than the Iliad, the Æneid, or Jerusalem Delivered," but the decision of the noble Lord has not been confirmed by the public. Whether the temper of the people, or the structure of the language, present the greater obstacle to the attainment of success in the higher departments of the Epopee, we venture not to decide; among poems of sportive satire, the voice of the public, which, as Madame de Sevigné says, “is neither stupid nor unjust,” has transmitted to the admiration of posterity the Lutrin of Boileau, the Ververt of Gresset, and many other minor productions, but the attempts to attain the loftier flights of solemn poetry have most frequently encountered the fatal word “heavy." " Of the Henriade, not all the “ Esprit de corps,” and “ Esprit de paysof a literary Parisian, could prevent him from saying, that although it was “ tres beau,it was “tres ennuyeux," Whether either, or both of these epithets will apply to “ CHARLEMAGNE, ou l'Eglise délivrée,” we will not detain our readers from some im perfect means of judging for themselves.

By the Parnassian laws, it seems to be decreed that an epic poem must have machinery: neither the danger of becoming profane by resorting to sacred images, nor unintelligible by ransacking the stores of Hindû faith, nor wearisome by the school-boy recurrence to the mythology of the Greeks, (which can only be amusive or instructive when its occult meanings are rendered obvious by the torch of science,) can dispense from the observance of this formidable injunction ;-our author shall however speak for himself upon this subject, which he appears to have maturely considered :

“ L'anathème prononcé par Boileau contre la religion chrétienne comme peu propre à la poème épique, m'a toujours paru injuste et plus digne de l'auteur des Satires que de celui de l'Art Poétique; car il est plus propre à découra ger les poétes qu'à les éclairer sur la route qu'ils doivent suivre. Par la raison même que la mythologie est plus variée, elle me semble moins dramatique et moins épique que la religion véritable. La poésie légère aime la multiplicité des accessoires : mais la haute poésie dont le but est d'élever l'homme au dessus de lui-même, doit préférer l'unité d'une morale touchante et sublime à la variété frivole de quelques ornemens et de quelques allée goires souvent supposées par les commentateurs. Le critique Clément, dans sa septième lettre à Voltaire, donne des apperçus profonds sur l'épopée chritienne, que l'on chercherait en vain dans l'Art Poétique de Boileau. “Sans doute,” dit il, «l'intervention de Dieu, des anges et des saints ne doit pas être employée pour égayer nos poésies, comme Homère employait Mars, Junon, Vulcain, Vénus et sa ceinture. Le merveilleux de notre religion qui tend au grand et au sublime ne doit pas être prodigué et ne saurait être employé avec trop de sagesse et de précaution ; mais dans notre système, ainsi que dans celui des anciens, il faut que le merveilleux anime toute l'épopée ; il faut que le poète qui se dit inspiré, et qui doit l'être, soit saisi, pour ainsi dire, de l'esprit divin comme les anciens prophètes; qu'il lise dans le ciel les décrets de la Providence; qu'il voie la chaîne qui lie les evènements de ce monde à la volonté divine, et les hommes conduits et dirigés par les agents surnaturels. L'action entière du poème doit être liée au merveilleux ; que le ciel veuille et que les hommes se conduisent selon cette volonté. Du commencement jusqu'à sa fin, on doit voir les agents surnaturels donner l'impulsion aux acteurs et tou. jours l'homme sous la main de Dieu.” Pref. p. xiii.

The selection of such a sensible passage as the preceding extract, leads us to augur well of the piety and good moral taste of the writer of Charlemagne, not forgetting, however, the wide difference between the tact which discriminates excellence and the genius which creates it. : The stanza chosen, we believe we may say invented, for the poem under our consideration, does not appear to us to possess any peculiar advantages, but for a long composition it is perhaps preferable to what is termed in English heroic measure.

A short, but rather intricate detail of the state of the continent of Europe during the eighth century, and anterior to the commencement of the action of the piece, is prefixed to the poem. The hero, Charlemagne, does not appear to us in a very engaging or respectable point of view, since he is represented to have been drawn in to marry the daughter of Didier, King of the Lombards, although he was already provided with an unexceptionable wife of his own choice, in order that he might assist the attacks of his heretical father-in law, against the see of Rome, and the orthodox Christian princes. Charlemagne, having been left by his father and predecessor King Pepin, (of whom the readers of this poem must learn to speak with respect,) joint heir with his brother Carloman to the throne of France, takes an early opportunity of quarrelling with his co-partner in authority, who survives the displeasure of a powerful rival about as long as might have been expected in those barbarous ages, and the widow and her two sons, proscribed by the usurper, find a refuge at the holy see.

We will not crowd our pages with the obscure titles of all the inferior agents who are mentioned in the preliminary exposé, but commence our analysis of the first Canto. The time is fixed for the beginning of September, and comprehends six days, but the year is not specified. The argument runs thus:

ARGUMENT. Réunion des Lombards et des Grecs sous les murs de Spoléte. Sacrilége de Spoléte ; fuite des catholiques vers Rome. L'Eylise de St. Pierre ; tapisseries sacrées; cérémonies des cendres, le Paradis : oracle.

We present our readers with the narrative of the murder of Vilfrid, Bishop of Spoletum, a passage highly interesting, and capable of being insulated from the body of the poem, without sustaining injury from want of connexion with preceding details.

“ Vilfrid sacrifiait au milieu des latins.
Son froni est prosterné devant le sanctuaire ;
Ses sens sont absorbés dans le divin mystère ;
Il n'entend ni la voix, ni les pas des mutins.
Au centre de l'autel et sur la croix domine

Une image divine :
C'est l'image du Christ souffrant pour les mortels,
Et calmant par sa mort l'éternelle justice:
A cet aspect les grecs courent vers les autels;
Et leurs cris furieux troublent le sacrifice,
Ils s'approchaient déjà de la marche sacrée ;
Déjà la sainte croix cédait à leurs efforts
Vilfrid les voit, s'élance, et couvre de son corps
Du fils du Tout-puissant l'image révérée ;

« 上一頁繼續 »