Imágenes de páginas

selves. To the Court they cannot go; because the Court will not receive them, except as renegadoes and unconditional refugees,-because, coming in that character, they will never be able to infuse any of their wisdom or temperance into the courtiers,—and, finally, because such a measure would irretrievably ruin their characters with the people, and rivet in the public mind that distrust and contempt of all public characters, which is not among the least alarming symptoms of the present revolutionary temper. It remains, therefore, that they must associate themselves with the popular party and we shall explain, in a few words, both our reasons for urging this coalition, and the extent of the sacrifices by which we think it may be effected.

"The first and the most conspicuous reason for this election is, that it is from the people that the most immediate and irreparable evil is to be apprehended; and that there is no way now left to repress them, except by going among them as friends and advisers, by redressing their real grievances, and undeceiving them as to those that are either incurable or imaginary. Any attempt, now, to bully and intimidate the disaffected, must be as fruitless as it must always have been absurd and unjustifiable; and the prospect is just as desperate, of bringing them back to patience and submission by coldness and alienation-by dignified censures of their extravagance, or contempt of their rashness and folly. Every thing of this sort, now, will only irritate and offend; and unite the party more firmly among themselves, and alienate them more from all the rest of the community, without having the most remote tendency either to weaken or to reclaim them. Even those, therefore, who do not love or care for the people, are now called upon to pacify them, by granting, at least, all that can reasonably be granted; and not only to redress their grievances, but to comply with their desires, in so far as they can be complied with, with less hazard than must evidently arise from disregarding them.


Another obvious and strong reason for this reconciliation is, that a very great proportion of those who are now enrolled under the banners of democracy, would be very glad to flock to the standard of a legitimate Whig chieftain, if it were once openly unfurled in the cause of the people. While they are treated with a distant haughtiness and suspicion, they will stick to their own leaders; but they would be proud to march under a nobler guidance. And though the more desperate and ambitious and mischievous of the party might oppose such a coalition, all the respectable and temperate would hail it with delight, and submit to a far more efficient control than can well be anticipated by those who have only seen them when irritated by insult and disdain.

[ocr errors]

"The last invincible reason for a thorough reconciliation between the Whig royalists and the great body of the people is, that it is a gross solecism and absurdity to suppose, that such a party should exist without being supported by the affections and approbation of the people. The advocates of prerogative have the support of prerogative; and they who rule by corruption have the means of corruption in their hands : but the friends of national freedom must be recognised by the nation. If the Whigs are not supported by the people, they can have no support; and therefore, if the people are seduced away from them, they must go after them and bring them back; and are not more to be excused for leaving them to be corrupted by demagogues, than they would be for leaving them to be oppressed by tyrants. If a party is to exist at all, therefore, friendly at once to the liberties of the

people and the integrity of the monarchy, and holding that liberty is best secured by a monarchical establishment, it is absolutely necessary that it should possess the confidence and attachment of the people; and if it appear at any time to have lost it, the first of all its duties, and the necessary prelude to the discharge of all the rest, is to regain it by every effort consistent with probity and honour.

"Now, it is very true, that the present alienation of the body of the people from the constitutional champions of their freedom, originated in the excesses and delusion of the people themselves; but it is not less true, that the Whig royalists have increased that alienation by the haughtiness of their deportment-by the marked displeasure and contempt with which they have disavowed most of the popular proceedings-and the tone of needless and imprudent distrust and reprobation with which they have treated pretensions that were only partly inadmissible. They have given too much way to the offence which they must naturally have received from the rudeness and irreverence of the terms in which their grievances were stated, and have felt too proud an indignation when they saw vulgar and turbulent men presume to lay their unpurged hands upon the sacred ark of the constitution. They have disdained too much to be associated with coarse coadjutors, even in the good work of resistance and reformation and have hated too virulently the demagogues who have inflamed the people, and despised too heartily the people who have yielded to so gross a delusion. All this feeling, however, though it may be natural, is undoubtedly both misplaced and imprudent. The people are, upon the whole, both more moral and more intelligent than they ever were in any former period; and therefore, if they are discontented, we may be sure they have cause for discontent; if they have been deluded, we may be satisfied that there is a mixture of reason in the sophistry by which they have been perverted. To know, therefore, how their affections may be regained, and their violence disarmed, it is only necessary to enquire, what are their reasonable causes of discontent, and what are the demands in which it is right that they should be gratified.


"And here, as a final reason for instantly associating with the more temperate of the popular party, we have no hesitation in saying, that the people appear to us to be clearly in the right in the greater part of the demands they have brought forward; and that their confidence may be won at any time, merely by a cordial and vigorous prosecution of some very laudable objects."*

These statements may be safely left to make their impression on the mind of the reader without any explanatory comments; nor will it be necessary, after what has been said, to add any further observations on the principles of the Edinburgh Review. The Editor has not discharged this part of his duty without a due sense of its importance, and of his inability to do it adequate justice. The only merit to which he presumes to lay claim is that of candour and impartiality. His object has been to give a fair representation of the character and merits of a journal, which, with all its defects, will ever be held in esteem for the beneficial revolution which it has effected in periodical criticism, for its masterly contributions to science and literature, and for the impulse it has given to the human mind. Without approving of all its critical judgments, or of all its views of philosophy and morals, he

* Vol. xv. p. 512.



has endeavoured to vindicate it from some of the charges with which it has been unjustly assailed, and has proved that it deserves the public gratitude for its unshaken devotion to the cause of truth and freedom. The essays contained in these volumes afford satisfactory evidence of the ability and energy, which it has manifested in defending popular principles. Nor should it be forgotten, that it fought the battle of the many against the few in times of despondency and peril, and in spite of ignorance, prejudice, and obloquy. The dearest interests of society are involved in the momentous questions in the discussion of which it has sustained so conspicuous a part; and it is not excessive praise to affirm, that it has displayed in their investigation more genius, learning, taste, judgment, and elegance of composition than any of its contemporaries. Its reputation is associated with all the great measures of public policy which have engaged the attention of philosophers, statesmen, and politicians for the last thirty years,-the Slave Trade, Negro Emancipation, the Penal Laws against the Catholics and Dissenters, and the Misgovernment of Ireland. To these may be added, Reforms in the Church, in Commercial Legislation, in Finance, in the Laws, in the Colonies, and in Education. It has been distinguished by its opposition to every dangerous stretch of power at home, and its honest defence of national independence abroad. The oppressed of every country, of every colour, and of every clime, have been cheered by its sympathy, and aided by its support. The omnipotence of public opinion was not felt, nor thoroughly understood, till the Edinburgh Review came forth to enlighten, animate, and direct the mass of the community. But its chief praise is, that it has powerfully advocated every project by which the minds of the people were to be emancipated, their moral character improved, their physical condition ameliorated, their political rights secured from the invasions of despotism, and their religious privileges from the encroachments of intolerance.





We are not aware that any successful attempt has been made to explain the nature of Poetry, or to show by what general characteristics it is distinguished from prose. Most of the discussions upon this pleasant art have been introduced with reference to the merits of particular pieces, and avoid the general question altogether. Some are occupied in analyzing the structure of the story; some in canvassing the probability of the incidents, the truth of the characters, the purity of the diction, or the correction of the metaphors; leaving the grand distinction between poetry and prose, as well as the component qualities of poetry itself, to the speculation of the reader. With the few who have taken a wider range, it has been usual to consider poetry merely as one of the fine arts, and to compare it accordingly with painting and music and sculpture and as this forms, no doubt, a branch of the discussion on which we are about to enter, we may as well begin by saying a few words on this comparative view of it.


In so far, then, as Poetry may be considered as one of the fine arts, we apprehend that it is undoubtedly the first of them; because it combines nearly all the excellences of the other arts, with much that is peculiar to itself. It has the vivid beauty of painting, the prominence and simplicity of sculpture, and the touching cadences of music, while it outlasts them all. For time, which presses on most things with so wasteful a force, seems to have no effect on the masterpieces of Poetry, but to render them holy. The "Venus" of Apelles, and the "grapes" of Zeuxis have vanished, and the music of Timotheus is gone; but the bowers of Circe still remain unfaded, and the "chained Prometheus" has outlived the "Cupid" of Praxiteles and the "brazen bull" of Perillus.

Poetry may not perhaps attain its end so perfectly as painting or sculpture; but that is because its end is so high, and its range so much extended. It deals with more varied and more remote objects,—with abstract ideas and questions of intellect which are beyond the reach of the other arts. It may be considered as a moral science, operating both upon the passions and the reason, although it never, strictly speaking, addresses itself directly to the latter. It operates through the medium of words, which, however inferior, in certain cases, to colours or sounds, are far more generally available, and, in fact, perform what neither sounds nor colours can accomplish. It may indeed be truly said, that the highest object of painting and sculpture has been to translate into another language, and for the benefit of

Specimens of the Earlier English Poets-S. W. Simpson. The Commonplace Book of British Poetry.-Vol. xlii. p. 31. April, 1825.

a different sense, what the imagination of the poet has already created. Almost all the treasures of Italy and Greece are copies, made by the chisel or the pencil, from elevated fable (which is poetry), or from Greek or Hebrew verse. That they have their own peculiar hues and symmetry, does not disturb this opinion; for the original idea existed entire before, and that sprang from the imagination of the poet. Painting, in fact, as well as sculpture, is essentially a mimetic art: but poetry is not essentially, though it may be casually, imitative; and when it is so, it is imitative in a different manner, and in a less degree. As a mimetic art, it is, in one sense, inferior to the others; but it is not limited, like them, to a moment of time; and it can display the characters, the manners, and, above all, the sentiments of mankind, in a way to which the others have no pretensions. The very nature of the medium through which it acts prevents it from being so strictly mimetic as sculpture and painting: for language cannot, in any way, copy directly from nature, unless it be in imitation of sound; and music, although said to imitate motion, in reality does little more than imitate the sounds which accompany motion. In comparison with Music, however, Poetry has a vast and acknowledged superiority, both as to the distinctness and variety of the impressions it conveys. The pleasure of music, in so far as it is not merely organic, and in some sort sensual, seems to consist merely in the suggestion of general moods or tones of feeling, without any definite image, or intelligible result; and, though it may sometimes prompt or excite the mind to poetical conceptions, it can scarcely of itself attain any intellectual or passionate character, except by being "married to immortal verse," and thus reduced to an accompaniment or exponent of that nobler and more creative art.

In regard to the difficult question, as to what poetry is, it may be as well to begin by negatives and to separate what may occasionally or accidentally aid its effect, from what is truly essential to its existence.

Poetry, then, is not necessarily eloquence, fiction, morality, description, philosophy, wit-nor even passion; although passion approaches nearest to it, when it spreads that haze before our eyes, which changes and magnifies objects from their actual and prosaic size. Passion, in truth, often stimulates the imagination, and the imagination begets poetry; but it operates also upon other parts of the mind, and the result is simply pathos, indignation, eloquence, or tears. Philosophy, again, is founded in reason, and is built up of facts and experiments, collected and massed regularly together. It is constituted entirely of realities, and is itself a thing no more to be questioned than an object that stands close before us, visible and tangible it is always to be proved. But poetry proceeds upon a principle utterly different; and, in the strict sense, never exists but in the brain of the writer, until it be cast forth in the shape of verse. Neither is Fiction always poetical; for it deals often in the most simple conceptions, and pervades burlesque and farce, where human nature is degraded, as well as poetry, where it is elevated. Again, a Maxim is never, per se, poetical, nor a satire, nor an epigram, although all may be found amongst the writings of our poets. Descriptions of nature are commonly assumed to be poetry, but we think erroneously; for a mere transcript of nature is, of necessity, prosaic. It is true, that the materials out of which poetry is compounded, lie, perhaps, principally in nature; but not poetry itself. Eloquence or rhetoric is nothing more than an exaggeration of prose. Words may be strong, glowing, stimulating, and yet, even though rythmically assorted, possess no imagination or fancy. In oratory, indeed, it may

« AnteriorContinuar »