« 上一頁繼續 »
he appears in the first of these dramas : in the second we have him, after a considerable interval of time, moving among different persons, and in a state of moral decline, as well as with adverse fortunes to encounter.
As regards the temperament of Artevelde, the aim seems to have been to represent the combination of energy with equanimity; the energy chiefly, indeed, intellectual; the composure, in a great degree, matter of mere temperament. It is here that the author, as indeed he hints in his preface—we wish he had spared that preface altogether-has been most desirous of opposing bimself, point-blank, to the practice of one of the most popular of recent poets, Lord Byron. Artevelde is, indeed, as unlike any one of Byron's heroes as they are all, in the main, like each other. Our author in this preface daringly describes them as 'creatures abandoned to their passions, and, therefore, weak of mind; ..... beings in whom there is no strength except that of their intensely selfish passions-in whom all is vanity; their exertions being for vanity under the name of love, or revenge, and their sufferings for vanity under the name of pride. This language is over-pitched, but it is quite intelligible, and contains truth, though not the whole truth; and Artevelde is accordingly pourtrayed as having indeed a large fund of feeling and even of passion in his nature, but as minded and nerved so as to command his passion. It is not superficially excitable, nor liable to escape in sudden ebullitions or uncontrollable sallies. He is, though not strictly and completely, yet, having regard to the circumstances in which he is placed, very adequately self-governed. His generosity, like his severity, is always well-considered ; his acts of vigour proceed in no instance from a restless or superfluous activity of disposition ; they are evoked by the occasion, and commensurate with it, and his administration of affairs is not more signalized by them, than by a steady diligence and attention to business— the watchfulness and carefulness of a mind calmly and equably strong.
The love of such a man, though partaking of the fullness and largeness of his nature, was not to be inordinately passionate. It belonged to him to be rather the idol than the prey of such a passion. His heroines devote themselves to him with as ardent a sentiment as the poet has been able to pourtray; he, on the other hand,
' smiles with superior love;' and may be imagined to have looked on the daughters of Eveeven in his earlier and better day both of heart and of fortune-in the spirit of that admonition which was conveyed to the lover of Eve herself-as
Fair, no doubt, and worthy well
Not his subjectionSuch is a general sketch of this character, according to our un. derstanding of the poet's meaning and design. The effect of it, as contrasted by the surrounding groups of vain, narrow, and barbarous men, reminds one of the noblest feature in the aspect of your old Flemish city-its tall massive tower rising into the clear air above a wilderness of black roofs and quaint gables. It is time, however, to come to the story of the Romance itself. .
We must pass rather hastily over the First Part, in which the youthful Philip, being suddenly tempted out of his calm and sequestered course of life, and happy, though as yet unspoken, love, becomes captain of Ghent by the election of the prevailing war-faction of the White-hoods;' develops the magnificent talents for command which had hitherto slumbered within him; and, Ghent being reduced at length to extreme misery by the closened lines of the Earl of Flanders, persuades the citizens to make a bold sally; guides them to the gates of the Earl's capital, Bruges ; defeats the forces of the sovereign, seizes his metropolis, and all but masters his own person in a midnight sack. Of this part, in itself a performance of great beauty and interest, we can afford our readers but a few brief specimens. We select passages in which we have been particularly struck with the style of our author's execution; the nervous vigour of his language; the stately ease of his versification; and his extraordinary skill in introducing profoundly meditative year, without interrupting the flow of passion or action. .
The immediate cause of Artevelde's elevation is the depressed condition of Ghent, after the defeat and death of one of her captains, Launoy; and the necessity which the White-hoods then perceive of either yielding to the peace-party within the city, and submitting to the earl—or summoning to the post of power some one of high name, whose interference (he being, as yet, personally uncompromised in the rebellion) shall overawe the populace by the impression that it must needs be purely patriotic. The fate of Launoy is told, closely after Froissart, in these energetic lines :• Second Dean. Beside Nivelle the earl and Launoy met.
Six thousand voices shouted with the last
When the earl's vanguard came upon their rear
The earl waxed wrothful, and bade fire the church.
And after that the rushing of the flames !
And so died John of Launoy,
A brave end. 'Tis certain we must now make peace by times; The city will be starved else. - Will be, said I ? Starvation is upon us.'- vol. i. pp. 27-29. The reflective spirit of Philip van Artevelde is first indicated in his conversation on this incident with his aged preceptor:• Van Artevelde. I never looked that he should live so long.
He was a man of that unsleeping spirit,
The world knows nothing of its greatest men.
But not by conquests in the Franc of Bruges.
Which makes the wonder of the many. Still
There'll some bright eyes in Ghent be dimmed for him.
All is in busy, stirring, stormy motion;
We have no time to mourn.
The worse for us!
But this thou know'st.'—pp. 40-43. When the notion of calling on Artevelde to assume the dictatorship of the city is first started, the sequestered habits of his life, and the apparent coldness of his temperament, are objected; but one who had more narrowly observed him, replies,
• There is no game so desperate which wise men
Philip van Artevelde is such a man.'-p. 35. The youth, with all his philosophy, appears to be consider ably wrought upon by the suggestion, that, in the place of power, he might avenge the slaughter of his father :
Is it vain glory that thus whispers me,
Oh! what a fiery heart was his! such souls
Whose paying off would clear my soul's estate.'-p. 52.
• Here on the doorstead of my father's house,
The blood of his they spilt is seen no more.
I heard the tale-which, like a daily prayer
All the base murder of the one by many.'-pp. 48, 49. His as yet silent passion for a noble damsel of the same city, Adriana van Merestyn, interposes some scruples. This twilight soliloquy at the gate of her garden-terrace, appears to us masterly. It must remind every reader of the Wallenstein; and yet there is no copying :
• To bring a cloud upon the summer day