Imágenes de página

they ever be found wandering about the foot of Parnassus, they ought to be chased away as spies sent to discover the nakedness of the land. We would wish to persuade him, if possible, that the poet is distinguished from the rest of his species, not by wanting what other men have, but by having what other men want. The reason of the poet ought to be cultivated with as much care as that of the philosopher, though the former chooses a peculiar field for its exercise, and associates with it in its labours other faculties that are not called forth in the mere investigation of truth.

But it is often said, that though the poems are bad, they at least show poetical power. Poetical power can be shown only by writing good poetry, and this Mr. Shelley has not yet done. The proofs of Mr. Shelley's genius, which his admirers allege, are the very exaggeration, copiousness of verbiage, and incoherence of ideas which we complain of as intolerable. They argue in criticism, as those men do in morals, who think debauchery and dissipation an excellent proof of a good heart. The want of meaning is called sublimity, absurdity becomes venerable under the name of originality, the jumble of metaphor is the richness of imagination, and even the rough, clumsy, confused structure of the style, with not unfrequent violations of the rules of grammar, is, forsooth, the sign and effect of a bold overflowing genius, that disdains to walk in common trammels. If the poet is one who whirls round his reader's brain, till it becomes dizzy and confused; if it is his office to envelop he knows not what in huge folds of a clumsy drapery of splendid words and showy metaphors, then, without doubt, may Mr. Shelley place the Delphic laurel on his head. But take away from him the unintelligible, the confused, the incoherent, the bombastic, the affected, the extravagant, the hideously gorgeous, and

Prometheus,' and the poems which accompany it, will sink at once into nothing

But great as are Mr. Shelley's sins against sense and taste, would that we had nothing more to complain of! Unfortunately, to his long list of demerits he has added the most flagrant offences against morality and religion. We should abstain from quoting instances, were it not that we think his language too gross and too disgusting to be dangerous to any but those who are corrupted beyond the hope of amendment. After a revolting description of the death of our Saviour, introduced merely for the sake of intimating, that the religion he preached is the great source of human misery and vice, he adds,

• Thy name I will not speak,

It hath become a curse.' Will Mr. Shelley, to excuse this blasphemy against the name ' in which all the nations of the earth shall be made blessed,



[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

pretend, that these are the words of Prometheus, not of the poet? But the poet himself hath told us, that his Prometheus is meant to be the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual excellence. There are other passages, in which Mr. Shelley speaks directly in his own person. In what he calls an ode to Liberty, he tells us that she

groan, not weep, When from its sca of death to kill and burn

The Galilæan serpent forth did creep

And made thy world an undistinguishable heap.'--p. 213. And after a few stanzas lie adds, •O, that the free would stamp the impious name Of

into the dust! or write it there,
So that this blot upon the page of fame

Were as a serpent's path, which the light air
Erases, and that the flat sands close behind!

Ye the oracle have heard :

Lift the victory-flashing sword,
And cut the snaky knots of this foul Gordian word,
Which weak itself as stubble, yet can bind

Into a mass, irrefragably firm,
The axes and the rods which awe mankind;

The sound has poison in it, 'tis the sperm
Of what makes life foul, cankerous, and abhorred;

Disdain not thou, at thine appointed term,

To set thine armed heel on this reluctant worm.
O, that the wise from their bright minds would kindle

Such lamps within the dome of this dim world,
That the pale name of Priest might shrink and dwindle

Into the hell from which it first was hurled,
A scoff of impious pride from fiends impure;

Till human thoughts might kneel alone

Each before the judgement-throne Of its own awless soul, or of the power unknown!'--p. 218. At present we say nothing of the harshness of style and incon gruity of metaphor, which these verses exbibit. We do not even ask what is or can be meant by the kneeling of human thought before the judgment-throne of its own awless soul : for it is a praiseworthy precaution in an author, to temper irreligion and sedition with nonsense, so that he may avail bimself, if need be, of the plea of lunacy before the tribunals of his country. All that we now condemn, is the wanton gratuitous impiety thus obtruded on the world. If any one, after a serious investigation of the truth of Christianity, still doubts or disbelieves, he is to be pitied and pardoned; if he is a good man, he will himself lament that he has not come to a different conclusion; for even the enemies of our faith

admit, that it is precious for the restraints which it imposes on human vices, and for the consolations which it furnishes under the evils of life. But what is to be said of a man, who, like Mr. Shelley, wantonly and unnecessarily goes out of his way, not to reason against, but to revile Christianity and its author ? Let him adduce his arguments against our religion, and we shall tell himn where to find them answered: but let him not presume to insult the world, and to profane the language in which he writes, by rhyming invectives against a faith of which he knows nothing but

the name.

The real cause of his aversion to Christianity is easily discovered. Christianity is the great prop of the social order of the civilized world; this social order is the object of Mr. Shelley's hatred; and, therefore, the pillar must be demolished, that the building may tumble down. His views of the nature of men and of society are expressed, we dare not say explained, in some of those beautiful idealisms of moral excellence,' (we use his own words,) in which the · Prometheus' abounds.

The painted veil, by those who were, called life, which mimicked, as with colours idly spread, all men believed and hoped, is toro aside ; the loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king over himself ; just, gentle, wise : but man passionless ; no, yet free from guilt or pain, which were for his will made or suffered them, nor yet exempt, tho' ruling them like slaves, from chance and death, and mutability, the clogs of that which else might oversoar the loftiest star of unascended heaven, pinnacled dim in the intense inane.'-p. 120.

Our readers may be puzzled to find out the meaning of this paragraph; we must, therefore, inform them that it is not

prose, but the conclusion of the third act of Prometheus verbatim et literatim. With this information they will cease to wonder at the absence of sense and grammar; and will probably perceive, that Mr. Shelley's poetry is, in sober sadness, drivelling prose run mad.

With the prophetic voice of a misgiving conscience, Mr. Shelley objects to criticism. If my attempt be ineffectual, (he says) let the punishment of an unaccomplished purpose have been sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivion upon my efforts.' Is there no respect due to common sense, to sound taste, to morality, to religion? Are evil spirits to be allowed to work mischief with impunity, because, forsooth, the instruments with which they work are contemptible? Mr. Shelley says, that his intentions are pure. Pure! They may be so in his vocabulary; for, (to say nothing of his having unfortunately mistaken nonsense for poetry, and blasphemy for an imperious duty,) vice and irreligion, and the

M 2


subversion of society are, according to his system, pure and holy things; Christianity, and moral virtue, and social order, are alone impure. But we care not about his intentions, or by what epithet he may choose to characterize them, so long as his works exhale contagious mischief. On his own principles he must admit, that, in exposing to the public what we believe to be the character and tendency of his writings, we discharge a sacred duty. He professes to write in order to reform the world. The essence of the proposed reformation is the destruction of religion and government. Such a reformation is not to our taste; and he must, therefore, applaud us for scrutinizing the merits of works which are intended to promote so detestable a purpose. Of Mr. Shelley himself we know nothing, and desire to know nothing. Be his private qualities what they may, bis poems (and it is only with his poems that we have any concern) are at war with reason, with taste, with virtue, in short, with all that dignifies man, or that man reveres.

Art. IX.-1. Vox Stellarum, a Loyal Almanac for the Year

of our Lord 1821. By Francis Moore, Physician and Philo

math. 2. History of Chemistry, prefired to a Manual of Chemistry, by

William Thomas Brande, Esq. London. 8vo. 1821. WE have

heard, and have some reason to believe, that the stars have, for some period, looked with a malignant aspect on the sale of the 'Loyal Almanac' of Doctor Moore, formerly the most popular publication of the kind. Its editors, the worthy Master and Wardens of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, continue, indeed, to present the public with the portentous hieroglyphic of the times,' accompanied by the dolorous predictions issued by the representative who assumes the name of the once venerated Philomath: but the purchasers, amongst whom this production yet lingers, only look to it for the falling of fairs and of markets, of Saints days and of holidays. Judicial astrology has been deprived of all its votaries; and a phenomenon, which at a period not far removed from the present age, caused the greatest apprehension in the minds of the learned and the wise, are now witnessed by the rudest vulgar with calm curiosity. If we enter the cottage, the barometer and the thermometer appear pendant from the wall. The labouring hind is well aware that those sure prognostications respecting the morrow's sky, its sunshine and its storms, which it would be in vain to seek in the meteorologic column of the almanac, are afforded by the instruments of philosophy. Although his comprehension of the power which raises and depresses the fluid metal in the glassy tubes may not be very clear or definite, yet he feels the profit which he derives from the common stock of knowledge; he is the member of a community in which vague conjecture has been succeeded by the security derived from useful learning. In à country where information is generally diffused amongst the better ranks of society, science exerts a power upon the uneducated classes of which they are not conscious; the atmosphere is permeated by its electric aura, and those who are farthest from the animating energy are nevertheless vivified by the influence, though they cannot discern the radiant orb from whence it flows.


Certainly, if man may ever found his glory on the achievements of his wisdom, he may reasonably exult in the discoveries of astronomy; but the knowledge which avails us has been created solely by the absurdities which it has extirpated. Delusion became the basis of truth. Horoscopes and nativities have taught us to trace the planet in its sure and silent path; and the acquirements which of all others now testify the might of the human intellect, derived their origin from weakness and credulity. No individual contributed more to the advancement of astronomy than Alonso of Castile, whom his friends called the Wise. His enemies, who triumphed in proclaiming that his wisdom had not availed him, though they too wondered at its failure, were accustomed to name him, Alonso the Astrologer. In his reigri, the sages of Chaldea were naturalized in Spain. Science formed a bond of union between strange races and conflicting creeds; and the Jew and the Saracen met in friendship with the descendant of the Roman and the Frank, beneath the sway of the Gothic King.

Rabbi Judas the son of Moses, obedient to the command of Alonso, interpreted the treatise in which Avicenna had named the One Thousand and Twenty-two Stars of the Firmament till then unknown in these our Western Parts.' The canons compiled by Mahomet Ibn Geber Albathem the Syrian were written again in a more intelligible tongue by Rabbi Zag. Jehuda El Conheso, the Alfaqui, and Guillen Aremon Daspaso, the Priest, translated the Book of the Constellations which are in the eighth Heaven, and the book of the Sphere.' And the Almagest of Ptolemy, which Al-Hazen Ben Yusseph had rendered into Arabic at the command of Almaimon the Miramamolin, received a new

version from Rabbi Isaac Ben Sid, the Chief of the Synagogue of Toledo.

Latin Europe was indebted to Alonso for these books, which gave a powerful impulse to the study of astronomy: but the formation of the celebrated Alfonsine tables was the most important of the tasks accomplished under his patronage. From the ancient proeme prefixed to these calculations, and written by Alonso himself, it appears that he summoned a council of the wisest Mathematicians and Doctors of the Astral Science-Aben Rayhel and


M 3

« AnteriorContinuar »